And so the deluge of Christmas stuff that I wrote for the fanbook begins! Enjoy Christmas Past, Spain x Romano!

The letter had come on the first day of the Novena and left Romano gasping as his chest constricted. He was about to – no he was not going to cry. Not because of some… idiotic… foolish hope that maybe that bastard was going to come through for once. Of course not.

The letter was much-handled, ink messy and badly-mixed because of course Spain was unable to perform even the simplest tasks without help. The handwriting was slanted and horrible and familiar. It read like this:

My Darling Lovino:

Ai, by the time you read this, it will be the middle of December! I'm sending it as fast as I can, but it might not even be there in time for Christmas. Still, I wanted to let you know that I was thinking about you, even if letters take forever. And I never seem to get any back.

I wrote a letter to Roderich, too, you know! A few months ago, when you got your last one. And I have good news for you! He and Elizabeth and little Feli are going to come and visit you for Christmas and Epiphany! Isn't that great? I invited them because I didn't want you to be alone this Christmas…

There was more to the letter: thousands of questions about the tomato harvest that year and random Spanish musings about, seemingly, whatever the man saw at the moment – albatross, the sunset, a crew-mate with one eye and a scratch across his cheek, all rendered in loving detail. He never talked about himself, though. Not about his battles with that fucking Englishman and his stupid armada. Normally, Romano would be furious at the continuous lack of detail, unable to understand the situation his boss was in.

This time, however, he stopped reading after the second paragraph.

I am not going to cry, he told himself harshly, just because one bastard isn't going to be home for Christmas.

Because, obviously, that is what Spain meant. He was inviting that stupid German contingent over because he wouldn't be home. Romano felt, dimly, that he was supposed to be grateful for the company. All that he felt was fucking cold. Must be some kind of draft; the castle was huge. Huge and unbearably empty.

Romano threw the letter into the fire and stared at it until the dancing flames scorched after-images into his eyes. He should probably clean up a little, if those northerners were coming down. Instead, he fell asleep on the rug.

"Holy fuck there is no way I am letting that monstrosity into our – my –Spain's house!" Romano screeched, tripping over his skirts in an attempt to claw Gilbert's eyes out. Yes. Gilbert had come with the prissy bastard and the crazy bitch and Feliciano, and now he was… he was attempting to drag a tree into the house.

"Gah, get off of me, you little insect!" grunted the albino, trying to shake off the young Italian that was hanging on his arm. He was about to drop the tree.

He vaguely registered his brother wrapping little arms around his shoulders, hanging off of him like a cloak. A really heavy cloak. "Ve~ fratello! Stop! It's a special tree!"

"It's a fucking plant! And the albino bastard is tracking mud on the good carpet."

"No, no, its special!" insisted Feliciano faithfully, dragging Romano away from Gilbert and into the kitchen, where Elizaveta was pleasantly bustling around. She had a large fish in her hands. Romano felt a vein in his forehead twitch.

"Why is she holding a fish?" demanded Romano. He was used to seafood at Christmas-time – they were in the house in Barcelona, after all, it was a time-honored tradition for shellfish or something – but…

"It's cod! For Christmas!" said Feliciano happily, running over to the counter to steal some of the turron almond candy from the dish. "Austria-nii has it every year! It's really yummy."

"Fish and trees. What in the heck? What happened to regular Christmas?" demanded Romano, feeling a pressure behind his eyes.

"This is regular Christmas!" insisted Feliciano. "Aren't you excited? And we can put presents under the tree –"

"B-but…" Romano's head spun. "…what about Epiphany?"

"No, no!" said Feliciano patiently, pulling his brother to sit by the fire, still munching on turron. He patted his twin's hand, trying to explain. "Christkind comes at night and brings presents to good boys. We don't do so much on the Epiphany."

"There is no fucking 'we'!" shouted Romano, tearing out of the kitchen.

He was furious. How could these… these damn foreigners just come into their house and hijack their Christmas?

Roderich was in the main hall of the house, playing unfamiliar hymns on the piano. Gilbert was with him, lighting candles and attempting to place them in the fucking plant. He had already managed to light one of the branches on fire.

Romano ran up the stairs. He wanted to scream at them all, but suddenly he couldn't find the strength. He was so angry that he could not do anything at all. Instead, he slowed, walking down the stone hallway, one hand trailing along the wall, brushing cold granite and soft, fading tapestries. Everything was fading.

He did not go to his room. Instead, he entered Spain's quarters. He grabbed a pillow off of his bed and sat on the wide windowsill that dominated one wall. Spain had always loved that window, paneling it fully in expensive glass and staring out of it for hours. It looked down on the tomato fields, frost-silver and bare now.

Romano curled at the edge of the sill and leaned up against the cold glass, staring out at the horizon as if he could see the ocean.

Dinner was a painful affair. It was too damn happy. The Germans had just made themselves at home, hadn't they? They all sat around the table, laughing and passing their weird food and Feliciano was all part of it, too, laughing with the rest of them and eating that fucking fish as if nothing were wrong. Nothing seemed right; it was as if Romano were a stranger in some foreign culture, instead of the host, instead of being in the only place that he had considered home. Although it wasn't as if it had felt like home for a long time. Too empty. Far too empty.

The guests didn't go to midnight mass, either. And that was just the last damn straw – after dinner and more weird, uncomfortable psalms on that stupid piano they all just went to bed. Gilbert had stretched and belched, leaving without preamble. A few minutes later, Roderich and Elizaveta had excused themselves as well. Elizaveta kissed Feliciano as she left.

"Sleep well, and don't stay up too late, alright?" she cautioned, smiling.

"Okay, Elizaveta!" Feliciano had said cheerfully, his eyes drooping already.

Elizaveta had tried to kiss Romano goodnight as well. Romano had simply glared at her until her face turned puzzled and slightly hurt, and she turned away with a little half-wave.

It was only Romano and Feliciano and the crackling of the dimming fire in the fuzzy darkness.

"Go to sleep Feli," Romano said quietly.

"No, fratello, I need to go to the chapel at midnight…" he mumbled. "I haven't got to do it since I've been living with Austria-nii."

Romano didn't bother getting angry. He was too tired for that anymore.

"Just go to bed. Skip it again. It doesn't matter. I'll go and pray for the both of us."

The logic was flawed, but Feliciano was stupid and tired and so he smiled and trundled off to bed.

Romano curled up on the couch, staring at the flames and wishing for a real Christmas. He resolved to stay up until midnight so he could pray for the only thing he wanted.

Please, I just want it to be Christmas with Spain again…

He didn't make it past the stroke of eleven.

It was late – or perhaps early, before the dawn had first broken, in the hour when the night was the deepest and most suffocating. A figure crept in the house, crunching over the spilled, cold ashes from the fireplace. He was dressed in red, suit sooty and frayed but spangled in the right places with gold.

On the couch was the boy he was sent to find, the boy who had made an impossible Christmas wish. The boy was draped over the edge of the couch, his head leaning back at an awkward angle, his mouth hanging open and breathing in small gasps.

The figure crept closer, dropping his sack, which made little noise as it fell to the hearth. The figure's eyes smiled and twinkled, and he let out a deep chuckle, making his shoulders shake merrily.

He scooped the boy up in his arms and headed upstairs.

Boy, was Romano going to be surprised in the morning, Spain thought.

Merry Christmas, mi querido. I came back for you.