Title: Of Vending Machines and Night Clubs (a story in three parts)
Characters/Pairings: Spain/Romano
Rating: T
Summary: AU (human names used) ; Lovino Vargas is an aspiring artist who struggles with the pressure of having a world-renowned landscape artist as his brother. Antonio Fernandez Carriedo is a jobless man, who enjoys living in the present (too much, actually) and takes life one step at a time. A chance meeting one winter night by a certain bright red vending machine leads to another and another until they form an unlikely friendship. One day, Antonio is offered a job as a bartender at his friend's bar and he asks Lovino to work with him there. As they begin to spend more time together, Lovino is confronted by Antonio's new feelings for him and his own feelings for Antonio. But, is he ready to accept them?
Warning: Romano's and Prussia's cursing, kissing, very implied sex scene and every romantic cliche available to man. Also, 13,000 word monster of a fic. You've been warned.
AN: written for the aph minibang event at livejournal (in case you're wondering, in a minibang, a writer and an artist collaborate to make a fanwork. the writer writes a 5000+ word fic and the artist draws a fanart for said fic. if you guys are interested to see my artist-partner's AMAZING artwork, feel free to visit my profile. the link's there :D). many thanks to Twilight Rose2 for beta'ing this!
Disclaimer: I do not own Hetalia.


It was a dark winter night at a certain suburban park.

Said park lacked proper maintenance, to put it mildly. It was poorly lit and the few benches scattered on the grounds were already rusty and in need of a fresh coat of paint. And the grass that grew there in tuffs was badly in need of a good mowing. The lawn was already more like a collection of short bushes than grass, with said grass almost reaching the knees of an average-sized man.

Sadly, no one minded the melancholy state of this park. It was, after all, located in the back alley of the city's night district. The rather seedy customers of the various nightclubs and bars nearby enjoyed the cover the tall and thick undergrowth had to offer.

Lovino Vargas minded though. You would too, if you had to pass through this sad excuse of a park to get to your apartment every single night.

Fortunately for him, the snow and the frost the harsh winter had brought with it prevented any barhoppers, and other nighttime vagrants in their right mind from frolicking in the grounds. (Though, if they were really in their right minds, they wouldn't even think of frolicking in the grounds, winter or not.)

Unfortunately though, the thick snow made it extra hard for Lovino to pass through. Lovino trudged slowly through the sludge of snow and dirt, cursing every step of the way. And to make matters even worse, he had forgotten his gloves at home. His fingers were already starting to feel like icicles; they'd be frostbitten by the time he got home, Lovino was sure.

Somewhere in the distance, Lovino could see a brightly-lit structure he vaguely recognized as the vending machine.

The vending machine (which was happily working properly, thank goodness) had always been there for as long as Lovino remembered, out of place in the neglected park. He rarely noticed it but tonight, its presence seemed like a bright ray of hope in this gloomy frosty darkness.

Lovino tried to quicken his steps, as much as the thick snow allowed. If he did not reach the vending machine soon and get himself a warm drink, he was sure he'd fucking freeze to death in this godforsaken place.

Whenever a person uses a vending machine, it can be said that he has some control over his destiny. After all, whatever beverage he chooses is the only thing he will get.

But it seemed this was not the case for Antonio Fernandez Carriedo, at least not for tonight.

Because instant coffee was not the only thing the vending machine dropped after Antonio had pressed the correct button.

"Wow…" Antonio whispered to himself excitedly. He picked up the strange coin lying beside his coffee and inspected it under the moonlight.

"Probably a Mexican coin," he murmured to himself. "Though, I can't be sure-"

A loud (and seemingly irritated) cough interrupted his thoughts.

"Hey, mister." A muffled voice snapped. "Can you do whatever the fuck you're doing somewhere else? You're blocking the fucking vending machine."

Antonio turned around. A very annoyed young man stood behind him, half of his face covered by a plaid scarf. Only his eyes were visible and they were glaring furiously at Antonio.

"Sorry." Antonio murmured sheepishly. He picked up his coffee and shuffled quickly out of the way.

He watched as the other man dug through his coat pockets, his face growing redder and redder in apparent annoyance. "Where is that motherfucking wallet, goddammit?" the young man muttered to himself.

Antonio dug through his own pockets too. He still had some spare change left. Maybe-

He walked forward and inserted some coins into the vending machine. He could feel the other man's intent stare as he went on to press the correct buttons on the machine.

Antonio picked up the can of coffee the machine dropped and handed it to the other man. "Here." he offered with a grin. "Warm yourself up."

"No thanks." he muttered. "I don't need it." But Antonio knew, with the way the other man was staring at the drink, that he did need it.

"Come on." Antonio insisted. "It's cold out here."

"Well, since you insist." The other man took the can (rather eagerly, to Antonio's amusement) from Antonio's hand.

Then he walked away, drinking the coffee as he left.

Antonio chuckled. "Well, that was strange." He threw his now-empty can of coffee in a nearby trash can and proceeded to walk away too-

-when his foot accidentally bumped against something on the pavement.

He looked down. It was a leather wallet, lying all alone on the frosty ground.

Lovino's wallet was nowhere to be found.

He had expected to find it at home but it wasn't there. And he was sure he had not accidentally overlooked it. His house was so fucking small that it was impossible to overlook anything there.

It wasn't in his school either. Lovino had to go through his classes without a proper lunch because of his lost wallet, making him even crankier the rest of the day. (He'd rather miss anything, just not a proper meal. And a siesta, of course.)

Lovino could only think of only one other place where he could have left his wallet. It was that cursed park, if you could even call that godforsaken place a park.

There was no way Lovino could find his wallet in the fucking thick snow. And even if it wasn't winter, he'd still have a hard time scouring for his wallet through the wild undergrowth. Looks like his wallet was lost forever.

Lovino sighed as he stood in front of the vending machine. At least, he still had some spare change left to buy a drink. Made accepting the fate of his damned wallet a little fucking easier.

"Excuse me, sir." A voice called, hesitating a little.

Lovino turned. "What?" he snapped sourly.

It was that stranger from last night. The one who had blocked his way to the vending machine then proceeded to buy him a drink.

Tonight, he was holding out something very familiar to Lovino.

Lovino snatched his wallet from the stranger's hand. Quickly, he browsed through its contents. Every single cent was inside, nothing missing. (Not that he had much, actually.)

"Don't worry. I didn't touch anything." The stranger told Lovino cheerfully, apparently not offended by his actions. "You're Lovino Vargas, am I right?"

Lovino looked up, surprised. "How did you know my name?" he asked, suspicious.

The stranger laughed. "I saw your ATM card while trying to look for something to help me contact you." He shrugged. "There was no other clue so I figured I'd just wait for you here."

(Well, Lovino didn't have to worry about the contents of his bank account. He had long since spent the monthly allowance his grandfather had sent him.)

Lovino narrowed his eyes at the stranger. "What if I didn't come back here tonight? What would you do then?"

The stranger looked shocked, as if he had only thought of that possibility now.

Finally, he shrugged and chuckled sheepishly. "Honestly, I don't know. I don't really think too much about future possibilities, you see. I guess you can say I take life one step at a time."

"That's fucking stupid." Lovino scoffed. He felt inside his coat pockets for his spare change.

The stranger stepped in line leisurely behind Lovino as he wondered what drink to choose. "Why's that so?" The stranger asked, genuinely confused.

"Because-" Lovino's words trailed off into silence as he realized that he honestly didn't know too. What's with this man anyway, asking such idiotic questions. "Because I said so!" he finally finished irritably.

Lovino could hear the stranger chuckling behind him as he picked up his soda. He turned around sharply. "Are you fucking laughing at me?"

"Don't get me wrong!" The stranger quickly clarified, grinning widely. "I just find you-" he paused, grappling for the right word, "-interesting, I guess."

Interesting didn't sound like a compliment to Lovino's ears and the dangerously sharp glare he sent the stranger told him so.

"Anyways," the stranger said cheerfully, deftly changing the topic, "My name's Antonio Fernandez Carriedo but you can call me Antonio for short. Figured I should tell you my name since I already know yours."

"What a fucking mouthful." Lovino muttered. At least he didn't have to mentally refer to Antonio as 'that fucking stranger' now.

He emptied his soda and tossed the can into the wastebasket. Then, making sure his wallet was securely in his pocket, he started to leave.

"Lovino!" Antonio called out behind him. "Will I see you here again tomorrow?"

Lovino paused in his tracks. He turned and narrowed his eyes at Antonio. "Why would you want to fucking see me again?"

Antonio shrugged (and fuck he was beaming again. Lovino could swear he had never seen anyone smile as fucking often as this guy.) "I enjoyed the company, I guess."

Lovino couldn't see what was so enjoyable about a few snapped remarks from him and a few stupid remarks from Antonio.

But sheesh, whatever. He was going to pass by the vending machine tomorrow anyways, even if Antonio hadn't asked him to.

"Yeah, yeah. I'm gonna pass by tomorrow." Lovino replied with a dismissive wave of his hand.

"R-really? That's great! I-"

"Don't act so fucking excited, stupid." Lovino snapped with a roll of his eyes. Seriously, this guy was one fucking idiot.

It was a dark winter night at a certain suburban park.

And Antonio was walking happily through the snow that covered its grounds.

He could see the vending machine in the distance, a bright speck in the darkness. He wondered if Lovino was already there (waiting for him, he hoped).

Antonio had to admit it was strange, even for someone like him who made friends easily, to actually look forward to seeing someone again after only two days of meeting each other.

They weren't even good meetings, Antonio realized as he replayed them in his head. Lovino seemed to snap at him at every possible moment (and Antonio honestly couldn't see why).

But Antonio rather liked Lovino. Maybe it was because of his eyes, hazel and blazing with passion from above his plaid scarf. And there was nothing else that Antonio appreciated more in a person than fierce burning passion (even if it was spent directing cuss words at him).

Or maybe it was the way Lovino's face turned bright red, from the cold and from his inexplicable (at least to Antonio) annoyance at Antonio and everything he did. It reminded Antonio of a bright red tomato, honestly. And, well to put it simply, Antonio loved tomatoes.

Antonio chuckled to himself as he continued his trek towards the vending machine. Yes, he was really looking forward to seeing Lovino again.

"What took you so fucking long?" Lovino greeted Antonio sharply.

"Sorry." Antonio replied guiltily. "Did I make you wait long?"

(And Lovino realized belatedly that asking someone 'What took you so long' somehow implied that you were waiting for said someone. This was totally not what Lovino wanted to imply.)

"Of course not!" Lovino snapped back hotly. "What makes you think I'd fucking wait for you, idiot. I just happened to be faster that you that's why I'm here earlier." He leaned casually on the front surface of the vending machine and sipped his coffee (his fourth one, in fact).

Antonio bought himself a can of coffee too and leaned on the vending machine beside Lovino, completely blocking its front (future customers be damned. Not that there would be any, actually.).

They stood like that for quite some time, in somewhat comfortable silence, sipping their drinks.

It was Antonio who decided to break it.

"So Lovino," Antonio asked casually. "Where do you live? Near here, I suppose?"

"Why?" Lovino asked sourly. "Planning to fucking stalk me or something?"

"Of course not!" Antonio replied, chuckling. "I'm just curious. You always pass by here and I've never seen anyone else come to this park as often as you."

"You're always fucking here too." Lovino pointed out.

"That's because I live near here." Antonio explained. He pointed towards the night district, neon lights behind a smoky haze. "I live in one of the apartments there."

"I live there too." Lovino said simply. They settled into silence again, until Antonio decided to ask another question.

"What do you do for a living?" he asked before completely draining his coffee.

"Why do you ask so many fucking questions?"

"I want to know more about you, Lovino!" Antonio insisted.

"You go first then." Lovino replied. "I'm busy here." He made a show of pulling out an aluminum foil-wrapped pizza from his backpack.

"Okay." Antonio agreed. "I don't have a job." he said, beaming with so much pride that Lovino almost wanted to laugh.

Instead, he spluttered out: "What? How do you fucking live?" Lovino could barely live on the monthly allowance his grandfather sent him.

"I'm not completely jobless." Antonio explained, laughing. "I take odd jobs here and there, like delivering newspapers, feeding cats, stuff like that."

"And besides," he added, "this is just some sort of, uhmm, phase, for me."

"Still part of your 'I take life one step at a time' motto, I assume?" Lovino said dryly.

"I used to have a tomato farmer phase, back in Spain." Antonio murmured wistfully. "I was surrounded by tomatoes everyday so I thought I wouldn't wish for anything more. But, after years of toiling over tomatoes, I realized I wanted to do something else, something more than tomatoes. So here I am." He finished, beaming widely at Lovino.

"You'd rather be a fucking bum than be surrounded by tomatoes all the days of your life." Lovino stared at Antonio liked this was the single most scandalous statement he had ever heard in his life. "How could you?"

"I didn't know you liked tomatoes too, Lovino!"

"I don't just like them. I love them." Lovino threw his empty can of coffee and crumpled up foil into the wastebasket. Then, he grabbed Antonio by the arm and harshly pulled him along.

"L-Lovino, what are you doing? You haven't answered my question yet!"

"Shut up! You have to pay for your blasphemy against tomatoes by treating me to a good spaghetti dinner at a genuine Italian restaurant. Understand it, bastard?"

They ended up at Lovino's apartment.

"Be careful!" Lovino called out behind him. He could hear the creaking of the stairs as Antonio gingerly stepped on them, maneuvering his way through the narrow staircase.

"Tsk." Lovino muttered to himself as he stood in front of his apartment door, whitewashed with paint peeling off at parts to reveal distressed wood underneath. He began to fumble inside his coat pockets for his keys.

Soon Antonio was there too, standing behind him. "Why didn't you tell me you didn't have any fucking cash on you?" Lovino snapped at him.

"I tried!" Antonio replied, raising his hands defensively. "But you kept muttering something about tomatoes and I couldn't get a word in!"

Lovino turned and narrowed his eyes at Antonio. "Then, what are you still doing here? Planning to leech your dinner off me?"

Antonio looked confused. "When I did finally get a word in, you still refused to let go of my arm so I figured you were going to treat me to dinner instead."

"You were the one who refused to let go of my hand! Don't fucking turn the situation around, bastard."

(Antonio had been positive that it was Lovino who was holding on to him the whole time. Well, he wasn't so sure now.)

Lovino sighed. "Well, it's not like I can still do anything about your presence. You're fucking here so might as well let you in."

"Really? Thank y-"

"Shut up! I might fucking change my mind if you don't." Lovino inserted his keys into the hole and opened the door.

It was no surprise to Lovino that Antonio went straight to the bean bags. That fucking bum of a bastard.

Lovino's apartment lacked space and he had decided to replace the usual coffee table-and-couches setting of the living room with patched-up bean bags. It was more economical that way too.

And Antonio seemed to be extremely comfortable in them. He was currently buried in one bean bag, looking absolutely contented.

Lovino rolled his eyes. "Well, since you're looking so fucking comfortable already, I'm going to go get us some dinner."

"Thanks Lovino!"

"Hmmph. Fucking leech." Lovino muttered under his breath. Still grumbling, he stalked off towards the kitchen.

Lovino's apartment was nothing exceptional.

Yes, it was quite small but Antonio's apartment was around this size too.

There were two doors, one smaller than the other and Antonio assumed they lead to the bathroom and bedroom respectively.

The living room led directly to the kitchen and from his comfortable position, sitting on a bean bag, Antonio could see Lovino rummaging through cupboards.

Very typical apartment set-up, Antonio thought. Probably the reason why he immediately felt comfortable in the house of a practically-stranger.

Probably another reason was the bean bag he was lying on. Because, unlike the rest of Lovino's apartment which was very typical, Lovino's living room was nowhere near typical. For one, instead of the usual sofas and center table, Lovino's living room had bean bags. Lots of bean bags. (Around five of them actually)

And Antonio realized, as he looked around from his very comfy bean bag, that furniture was not the only thing not-so-typical with Lovino's living room. There was also an unusually large number of painting materials scattered about on the floor too.

There were canvasses, with paintings differing in levels of completion. There were brushes, stiff with paint, oil paint tubes squeezed out of shape and palettes stained with color. Frankly, it looked like an artist's workshop.

It probably really was an artist's workshop.

Lovino wanted to eat pasta.

But he couldn't find anything else but instant noodles and cans of beer in the kitchen.

He sighed as he placed two cups of instant noodles and several cans of beer on a tray. They'll have to do, he guessed. (And Antonio better not fucking complain about the food. Not that Lovino was actually sure he would.)

Lovino stepped out of the kitchen and found Antonio admiring a familiar looking canvas.

Antonio's back was facing him and Lovino could only catch glimpses of the painting but he only needed a short glimpse to know what it was. It was his work, after all.

It was a painting of a sunset turning to dusk, furious shades of orange and red blending with velvety purple and blue. The sunset overlooked a red vending machine, proudly standing in the midst of tall undergrowth and wild grass.

Lovino thought it was one of his best works. Proudly, he submitted it to his professor.

His professor eyed it with a dismissive air. "Impressive work, Mr. Vargas."

And Lovino beamed with pride. Maybe, one day, he could make it big in the art scene too.

That same afternoon, Lovino overheard his professor tell his colleague: "-a shame. I mean Lovino Vargas' works are impressive but I'd always expected him to have the same masterful…technique as Feliciano Vargas. They're brothers after all.

Lovino would have killed them right then and there, the laughing gleeful bastards. But then, it would have been useless.

He'd still be in his brother's shadow.

The warm soup that splashed from the bowl of noodles to his fingers shook Lovino from his thoughts.

He walked towards Antonio and set the tray on the floor loudly. Then he sat beside Antonio, picked up a cup of noodles and began to eat.

Antonio turned and showed the painting he was holding to Lovino excitedly. "This painting's so beautiful. Don't you agree, Lovino?"

Lovino slurped his noodles loudly. "That's just fucking trash."

"How could you say that Lovino?" Antonio exclaimed. "I'm sure you wouldn't buy a painting that's trash."

"Do I look like I can fucking afford a painting?" Lovino replied, rolling his eyes. "I painted that."

"So you're an artist?" Antonio asked excitedly.

"Let's not talk about it." Lovino replied curtly.

And that was that.

Several cans of beer later and it was Lovino who brought up the topic again.

"Even when I was still a kid, I knew that all I wanted to do in my life was to be a painter, d'you know that?" Lovino slurred. "But goddammit, I didn't have the fucking talent for it."

"No talent?" Antonio exclaimed, shocked. "How can you say that?" He pointed to the canvasses on the floor. "Do you think just anybody can create artworks like that? Well, I know I can't."

Lovino emptied his current can of beer and reached for another. "Say, Antonio, have you heard of the name, Feliciano Vargas?"

Antonio paused, thoughtful. "I can't say I have." he admitted. "Am I supposed to know him?"

"Figures." Lovino muttered. He took a swig of his beer. "Feliciano Vargas,' he told Antonio, "is one of the most promising landscape artists today. The art world is watching him, waiting eagerly for whatever masterpiece he would come up next. He's currently touring Europe, last I heard."

"Ah well," Antonio said sheepishly. "I'm not really well informed about the art scene. I see a painting, I admire it and that's it. Besides, why are we talking about him anyways?"

"Well," Lovino replied matter-of-factly, "He's my brother."

Lovino waited patiently as Antonio made the connection in his head. "So that's why you have the same surname!" Antonio exclaimed. "Vargas and Vargas."

"Yep, he's my brother." Lovino said. "Younger than me by a year. And he liked painting as much as I did. But, unlike me, painting was as natural to him as eating, as breathing."

"So one day," he continued, "my grandfather came for him. My grandpa, you see, was a fucking art genius. He could paint, he could sculpt, and he was a damn good architect too. And he chose Feliciano to be his protégé. Several years later, Feliciano returned home and became a landscape artist. And a fucking good one at that. And he was what, thirteen?"

"But!" Antonio interrupted. "That's unfair! Why teach him but not you? You both wanted to be a painter."

"It seemed unfair at first." Lovino admitted. "But I realized that Feliciano had the potential to follow my grandfather's footsteps while I didn't have it. I'm actually lucky my grandfather decided to support my decision to study art at the university." Lovino emptied his beer and slammed the can angrily on the floor. "Feliciano's the master while I'm just a fucking dreamer."

Lovino realized that his surroundings were starting to get blurred. "Oh fuck." he wiped his misty eyes with the back of his hand. Goddamn, he hated it every time he got teary-eyed whenever he was wasted.

"You can cry on my shoulder, you know." Antonio offered softly.

Crying on the shoulder of someone you've literally just met could be difficult and embarrassing, especially for the person doing the crying.

But Lovino realized, as he began sobbing on Antonio's shoulder, than it came easily when you were drunk.

He could always pretend he didn't remember a thing the next morning.

The noonday sun shone its rays through the window.

Lovino shifted as he felt the warmth hit his face. He tried to open his eyes but the light blinded him every time he tried to do so. Plus, it made his fucking monster of a headache even worse. (His head felt like ten thousand bulldozers were ramming through it, dammit.)

So, eyes squeezed shut, Lovino remained on his back.

Whatever it was he was lying on certainly wasn't his bed. His bed may not be the softest, most comfortable thing in the world but Lovino was sure it wasn't this hard and cold. His back was already aching all over, dammit.

He was most probably lying on the floor. He wondered how he got there.

Lovino vaguely remembered eating his dinner and drinking beer on the floor. And talking a lot, though what he was talking about he couldn't exactly remember. Nor who he was talking to.

Well, it would probably be easier to think, Lovino decided, if he was standing up.

So, eyes still stubbornly shut against the sunlight, Lovino sat up.

Or at least, tried to. Because something was pressing him down.

Lovino froze. And it felt like someone's arm was draped right over his bare stomach.

His eyes flew open. Squinting against the blinding light, he glanced sideward.

Antonio was there, sleeping beside him on his back, his arms and legs spread outwards like a starfish, wearing only a pair of gaudy tomato boxers. One arm lay right across Lovino's stomach.

And Lovino (he just realized), was wearing nothing but a blanket draped right across his lower torso.

Now, sleeping naked was nothing new to Lovino. It was actually how he slept, every night.

But sleeping naked with a stranger who was wearing nothing but tomato boxers (and no, Lovino was certainly not staring at said stranger's lean and tan stomach, thank you very much) was a different matter all together.


Antonio was surrounded by tomatoes.

And not just any normal tomatoes, mind you. No, they were plump, juicy, life-sized tomatoes. The whole space was filled with tomatoes, in every direction, as far as Antonio's eyes could see.

It was tomato heaven.

Antonio clapped his hands gleefully. He tried to wrap his arm around a nearby giant tomato-

-when the still air of tomato heaven was suddenly broken by a shrill cry.


Antonio's eyes flew open. Instead of tomatoes, his eyes met a ceiling, its plaster cracked and peeling.

Slowly, he turned to his side. His eyes then met another pair of eyes, hazel and very very furious.

"Didn't I tell you to fucking get off me?" Lovino said through gritted teeth.

Antonio moved his arm off Lovino. He couldn't help breathing a sigh of relief. "I honestly thought a tomato was talking to me."

"What kind of stupidity is that?" Lovino muttered with a roll of his eyes. Antonio watched as Lovino, without sitting up, deftly tied a blanket around his waist.

Then, very carefully, so as not to loosen the knot, Lovino sat up.

"Sit up, bastard." he barked.

Antonio assumed that he was the 'bastard' being referred to (though he honestly couldn't see why) and promptly sat up.

Lovino jabbed a finger against Antonio's chest "Tell me what the fuck exactly happened last night."

Antonio scratched his head and tried to remember last night through the haze of sleepiness and hangover.

"Well," he began slowly, giving Lovino a confused look, "we ate dinner, had a few beers. Then we started talking and you told me things about your life like how you wanted to be a painter-"

"I didn't tell you anything embarrassing, did I?" Lovino's tone dared Antonio to say yes and face the consequences.

"Well," Antonio replied, uncertain, "I'm not really sure if the things you told me were embarrassing for you but they weren't for me, honestly."

Lovino took a deep breath (Antonio had the impression he was trying to hold back his temper). "Alright, alright, let's cut to the fucking chase, shall we? How the hell did we end up sleeping naked together?"

"I'm not exactly naked." Antonio pointed to his boxers.

"But what if you were at some point last night?" Lovino's voice was getting higher, almost hysterical. "What if something happened to us, between us without you knowing fucking anything? I swear to god I'm fucking killing you if something did happen, bastard. And don't you fucking pretend that you don't know what I'm talking about."

"Relax, okay?" Antonio was getting more and more confused by Lovino's strange behavior (but then, who was Antonio to decide whether Lovino was acting strangely or not? Who knew, maybe Lovino acted like this after every late-night drinking session). He laughed sheepishly in an attempt to calm Lovino's nerves. "Seriously Lovino, you're acting like a virgin."

The fist hit him before Antonio even knew it was coming.

"Goddammit, bastard." Lovino spluttered out. "What gave you the fucking idea? Just explain what happened before I strangle your fucking life out of you."

"Alright, alright!" Antonio rubbed his aching cheek. "I'm sure I can explain this, just wait a bit."

For the sake of Lovino's sanity, Antonio tried to remember last night through his (mild) hangover and dazed-from-sleep senses. Somehow, he could catch glimpses of last night's events. It was looking good.

"Well?" Lovino said impatiently. "I'm fucking waiting."

"I remember last night!" Antonio chuckled. "Well, sort of actually; it's still kinda hazy."

"Anyways," he narrated, "You were really really drunk last night so I tried to carry you to your room. But then, you started throwing up all over my shirt so I had to leave you here for a while so I could wash my shirt in the sink. Which reminds me, I'm so sorry about your sink! I'll clean it up later, I promise!"

"Get back to the story, idiot." Lovino snapped.

"Sorry." Antonio replied meekly. "Anyways, when I came back from the kitchen, you were already naked and sleeping soundly. So I covered you up with a blanket (I swear, I didn't peek!). And since it was really warm here in your living room, I decided to just sleep in my boxers." He grinned at Lovino. "See? Nothing to worry about."

"I actually remember I slept pretty far from you." Antonio added helpfully. "So I don't really know how I ended up right beside you."

Antonio waited as Lovino remained silent, as if processing everything Antonio narrated in his head. "Are you sure about all this?" Lovino finally asked doubtfully.

"Positive." Antonio replied solemnly. "I won't take advantage of you even though I do find you cute."

"Don't say embarrassing things, you idiot!" Lovino exploded, his face turning scarlet.

(And Antonio couldn't help but feel giddy over how cute Lovino looked as he blushed.)

Afterwards, Antonio asked Lovino if it was alright if he asked for some breakfast please? The nerve of the bastard.

Lovino pointed him towards the kitchen. "Don't touch the pizza in the fridge or I'll fucking choke you."

"I won't touch it, don't worry." Antonio assured him cheerfully. (How could he stay so fucking happy? Didn't he have a fucking hangover? Lovino's head felt like it was about to split in half and his mouth felt like it was filled with cotton.)

As soon as Antonio was out of sight, Lovino had some time to look for his clothes among the scattered beer cans and cups of noodles, and to reflect on the rather shitty events of the morning.

He should have known, from the moment he saw Antonio, that the bastard was going to give him headaches (and not just alcohol-induced ones). Fuck it, why did he even agree to meet up with Antonio last night?

"Well," Lovino thought as he picked up his shirt and pants from the mess on the floor. "I can still remedy this problem."

All he had to do was to stop meeting up with Antonio, starting today.

Easier said than done, Lovino mused as he quickly pulled his shirt over his head and zipped up his pants, but he had to try, if only for the sake of his sanity.

He had too many problems already. He didn't want to add another one in the form of a certain Spanish bum.

As soon as he was dressed, Lovino ran out of the room and out of the apartment building.

His morning (or noon) may have been ugly but Lovino's afternoon looked like it was taking a turn for the better.

Especially now that Lovino spied a very pretty lady, with chocolate brown curls and round dreamy eyes, walking towards him while carrying several bags of groceries in her arms.

Lovino walked (or rather, glided) towards her and smoothly took her burden in his arms.

"Thank you." she murmured, bowing her head apologetically.

"It's nothing, bella." Lovino replied. "Pretty hands such as yours should never be made to work hard."

"By the way, I'm Lovino." he added after a while, "What's your name, bella?"

"Beatrice" she replied shyly.

"Such a beautiful name suits you." Lovino couldn't help feeling pleased as he observed Beatrice blushing (looking quite pleased herself).

They walked on together and for all her initial shyness, Beatrice proved to be a very lively woman. They engaged in energetic conversation.

Lovino wondered where he should take Beatrice for coffee. Or maybe he could treat her to a good Italian dinner (that is, if his budget allowed it).


Lovino froze. Goddammit, just when he thought his afternoon was going so well.

"Hey," Beatrice nudged him, worried by his sudden silence. "Are you alright?"

"Yes, I'm fine. Don't worry, amore." Lovino replied hastily. "By the way, I know this really good café round the corner. We can grab a few drinks and talk all we want there. What do you think?"

But he was too late. Lovino felt a warm hand grab his shoulder tightly. "It is you, Lovino! I didn't expect to find you here."

"What the hell are you doing here, Antonio?" Lovino asked through gritted teeth.

"I delivered some groceries to a house near here." Antonio replied cheerfully. "One of my odd jobs."

Antonio turned to Beatrice. "Ah! Why didn't you tell me you knew such a beautiful lady?" (Lovino rolled his eyes and thought: "Why should I tell you? I just barely met you!")

He took her hand and kissed it. "I'm sorry, lovely señorita, but is it alright if I borrow Lovino here for a while? I really need to talk to him."

"Oh it's alright." Beatrice replied, surprised. "I don't mind, really."

But I mind!" Lovino spluttered out.

Antonio took the bags of groceries from Lovino's arms, ignoring Lovino's furious curses and protests. (Unfortunately for Lovino, Antonio was much much stronger than him.)

"Sorry, señorita." Antonio told Beatrice, sheepishly handing her back the bags. "I'll make it up to you one day, I promise! You can ask for me at the grocery store if you need someone to help carry your groceries. I work there part time. Alright?"

Beatrice nodded, still a little stunned.

"Well, it's not alright with me!" Lovino exploded angrily. "What do you think are you fucking doing?"

But Antonio grabbed Lovino's hand, and with one last apologetic smile at Beatrice, quickly pulled him away.

It was sunset nearing dusk, and there was still enough light left for Lovino to see where Antonio was taking him.

They had already entered the oh-so-familiar godforsaken park but, surprisingly, they only walked past the vending machine.

"Where are you fucking taking me, bastard?" Lovino demanded angrily.

Antonio glanced at Lovino and winked. "Don't worry, we're almost there."

"Dammit." Lovino muttered. "I was on a fucking date, you know."

"I know." Antonio chuckled. "Didn't know you were such a ladies man, Lovino. You know how to make those women fall for you. I mean, the way you stared intensely into that señorita's eyes. No sane lady can refuse that."

"How the hell did you see that?" Lovino spluttered out. (But then, he couldn't help feeling rather pleased. He always couldn't help but feel good when someone complimented his flirting style. It was the only thing he was good at, he honestly believed.)

"Anyways, we're here." Antonio announced in a sing-song voice.

"Well?" Lovino said impatiently after a while. "We're still here in the fucking park."

"You're not looking." Antonio chided patiently. "Look."

And that was when Lovino saw it.

It was a huge tree, branches gnarled and twisted upward towards the quickly darkening sky. But it was not like any other old tree.

Because this tree was lighted up by a million specks of light, somewhat like a Christmas tree. Except much more breathtaking.

"W-what's that?" Lovino asked, amazed.

"Come." Antonio pulled him along excitedly.

As they moved closer towards the tree, Lovino saw that it was lighted up by fireflies, moving quickly in between the tree's gnarled branches. Lovino had never seen these many fireflies before. There must have been a hundred of them here.

"I saw that tree, lit up by all those fireflies, right before I accidentally met you." Antonio told him. "I told myself that I wished I knew a painter who could paint me this scene. And then I met you by the vending machine. And when I found out that you were studying to be a painter, I thought 'This must be fate!'"

"But a while ago this morning, when I came out of your kitchen and I saw that you were gone, I panicked. What if you were mad at me for sleeping beside you almost-naked, for that foul joke I cracked this morning, for whatever reason that I didn't know? I haven't even shown you this yet! So I walked around aimlessly, feeling depressed. And then, when I came out of the grocery store, there you were!" Antonio grinned at Lovino triumphantly. "And I thought, 'Here was fate again, giving me another chance!'"

"First things first, I don't believe in fate. That's bullshit. Second," Lovino's voice grew fainter as he felt more and more uncomfortable, "I-I wasn't mad at you, okay? Just because I felt like leaving my apartment doesn't mean I was angry or anything like that."

Well, I was annoyed at you or probably irritated. Because you brought in my simple life complexities that I don't fucking need. And you have a way for making me tell you the truth, even though we're practically strangers. Because, goddammit, I now remember what I told you during last night's drinking session: my whole fucking life story, dammit. So yes, I was annoyed at you. But not now, not anymore. Not after this…

They watched the fireflies flit around the twisted branches of the old tree in silence.

"Hey Lovino." Antonio finally said. "Can I ask you something?"

"If you're going to ask me to paint that then no, I fucking won't"

"That's not my question but why?"

"Because I can't. You'll just be terribly disappointed."

"Yes you can." Antonio looked at him meaningfully. "You can paint that tree better than anyone else, if you just believe you can."

It might have sounded cheesy if anyone else had said it (and Lovino would have laughed in their faces) but there was something about Antonio's gaze that almost made Lovino believe in himself.

Instead, he changed the topic. "If that wasn't your question, then what is it?"

Antonio grinned at him. "Lovino, can we be friends?"

Lovino would later blame his decision on the influence of a certain old tree brightly lit by a hundred moving stars.

"We can be acquaintances." Lovino replied.

"Really? That's great!" Antonio enveloped Lovino in a tight embrace.

"Get off me, dammit!" Lovino protested breathlessly.

"Sorry." Antonio said sheepishly, letting go of him. "I have another question though."


"Can I call you Lovi?"

"No, you fucking can't."

"How about Lovinito?"

"That's worse, you bastard."