That was the amount of time that it took Italy to realize what had been bothering his friend.
Three days. Three days after that Buon San Valentino.
The first day had been spent in panic, of course. Germany being nice was okay and all—and he was being really nice! Playing soccer with him, bringing him flowers, giving him hugs, inviting him out to dinner and everything…it was really nice, and Italy was happy to be spending time with him!
…but it wasn't like Germany at all!
At first Italy thought that maybe Germany had just eaten something funny…but as the days went on and the behavior continued, he couldn't help but become wary. There must have been something wrong with Germany for him to act like this, right? A cold…the flu? It wasn't like him at all!
Wariness only turned to distress when the German arrived at the restaurant they had arranged to meet.
It…didn't start out well. Even when the German walked into the restaurant, he had already started yelling at him, something that sent the Italian's mind reeling. Why was Germany suddenly angry with him? He had been so nice before, but now he had started yelling again? What had he done to get Germany so angry?
And when the strange behavior only intensified, the only conclusion he could come to was that Germany had to be upset with something. Maybe he wasn't sick; he didn't look sick, although his face was really red…did he have a fever?
And in the middle of dinner, it donned on him: maybe Germany wasn't sick, maybe he was just upset. And not just upset; upset with him. Or even angry! The blond had started out the evening yelling at him after all…but then why was he being so nice before? It didn't make any sense! Did he ask him out to dinner just to yell at him?
Maybe…maybe all the niceness was a strange German punishment! Germany was usually so strict…but he had been acting all weird, still acting weird, even now! It wasn't the skipping out on training for pizza, was it? Or when he ate all of the pizza and gelato and got sick…or not when he drew Germany a picture on his tank?
…maybe it was all those things!
The realization only sent Italy into another spiral of distress and dread. Germany must be really mad, really REALLY mad to do all of this stuff! That had to be the reason for the strangeness; Germany was actually FURIOUS with him!
The thought cemented in his mind, and every new strange action from the German led to more panic, the brunet spiraling down every horror scenario imaginable. Was Germany just being nice to yell at him later? Was it a German way of saying he didn't want to be friends anymore? Was Germany just trying to mask how mad he really was, and was on the verge of exploding with anger right now?
At any rate, the best thing he could do was apologize, right? And with every passing second, and with every new weird thing Germany did, the need to apologize only seemed to intensify.
But he never got to apologize.
Because then…Germany broke.
Or at it seemed like he did.
The German had suddenly given him a hug and then just…froze. What did he do? What had happened?
Flowers, a ring, more yelling, a hug and then…nothing?
No matter how much he tried, he couldn't seem to break the blond from whatever happened to him. It was really scary, Germany was being really scary! What was going on?
Panic moved over to allow worry to come through; time seemed to drag on the longer they stood in that restaurant and with every passing moment that the German didn't respond to his cries. Was he even breathing? Was he too angry to speak?
He tried tugging at the blond's sleeves, grabbing his hands, shaking his shoulders, and even sobbing, but nothing seemed to help! Germany really was broken! Would he stay like this forever? This was really scary; he didn't mean to break Germany! He should've been better; he shouldn't have done so many things to make the German mad!
It was only when the Italian reached up and touched the blond's cheeks did he seem to come back to life.
Germany had jerked back from the touch, almost startling the life out of Italy. He looked so pale…But he had moved, and movement was good, right? And that gave Italy a chance to make things right!
Just as he had opened his mouth to apologize for all he had done, the German had already stuttered something that the Italian could barely understand; and before he could reply, the blond had given the waiter a wad of cash and hurried out of the restaurant, leaving Italy with flowers, a ring, and more confusion than he could handle.
…which led to his first day of panic.
It was a long time before Italy himself could move from that spot, mind reeling from the moments prior. He…didn't understand what had just happened! Was Germany really that mad at him? He looked to the waiter for support, but his tears only seemed to scare the man away.
What…what was he supposed to do?
Italy ran outside after another long moment of frantic debate—maybe he could still catch up with his friend?—But the German was nowhere in sight, and the Italian's panic only increased.
He looked down at the flowers and the ring, body physically drooping with his mood.
Germany must've been really mad—more mad that he had even been before! The stern man had scolded and punished and yelled at the Italian more times than he could remember…but he had never acted this strange! And the worst part was…he didn't even know what he did wrong! He thought he had been really good lately, too!
Sure, there were a lot of things that he had done in the past to make the German mad…and some things, like skipping out on training, was a normal occurrence…
…but, still! He had at least behaved the last few days! He even made it to training (almost) on time! And he didn't skip out in the middle for a siesta or anything!
So, why was Germany acting so weird? What did he do to upset him?
And…what was he supposed to do now? Did he follow him? Call him? If Germany was upset with him, was it a good idea to try to find him? He didn't know what to do!
It took some pacing and fretting before the Italian decided to try to catch up with his friend again. He still needed to apologize, even if Germany was being really scary right now! And maybe if Germany would let him apologize, then everything would go back to normal, too!
He wasn't in town, or at the park, or at the bar, or even at the grocery store…
So maybe he went home?
The Italian was out of breath by the time he made it to Germany's doorstep—he really wasn't built for running! However, after a few knocks and a few minutes of waiting…
…it seemed like he had rushed there for nothing. Germany wasn't here, either! It was already so late; the sun had long since sunk below the horizon, Italy was getting tired, and Germany was nowhere to be found!
Italy slunk home after a few more attempts, staring at the flowers and the ring still clenched in his hands.
His second day was filled with worry. What if Germany really didn't want to see him anymore?
Italy couldn't sleep at all (much to his brother's chagrin, who was awoken multiple times by the younger Italian's constant tossing and turning), his mind filled with more and more horror scenarios as time went on. What if Germany was home, but didn't answer the door? What if Germany was so mad, he didn't even want to see his face anymore? What if he got kidnapped or something? What if he was really sick, and passed out somewhere? What if that's why he was being nice, because he was actually really, really ill?
He fidgeted and whined all through the night, unable to get his mind to quiet down. And by the time morning came around, he still had no answers to the German's strange behavior.
What was he supposed to do?
He tried asking his big brother for advice, but after a long string of potato-related curses and a few smacks to the back of the head, the younger Italian found himself at square one still, only with a few more bruises than before.
Then again, Romano wasn't very helpful about these things on his bests days…and today certainly wasn't his best day…
Ah! But the Italian did know someone who was good with these kinds of things!
After all, France had helped last time he needed help with his friends…maybe he could help this time!
He ignored his brother's ranting (mostly about how it would be a good thing to have less of that potato-head around and that Veneziano should forget about him or something), plopping down on the couch in the living room and grabbing the phone.
France seemed to be in a good mood from the first sensual slur of words that flitted into the phone, and Italy wasted no time in getting the Frenchman up to speed, starting from the beginnings of Germany's weird behavior to the breakdown at dinner.
And for the most part, France was a good listener, waiting patiently for Italy to finish his tale, seeming intrigued…
…until he started to laugh.
"Ohoho, mon cher, you are so slow sometimes! The answer is obvious, no?"
Italy found himself flailing, almost trying to portray what he was feeling physically to someone who couldn't even see him. The only answer he could think of was that Germany was mad at him, and if that was the case, what should he do?
"Now, listen to big brother a moment! I assure you, Monsieur Germany is not mad, not mad in the least! These are matters of the heart; you should know these well!"
No matter how hard he tried, the brunet couldn't get anything else from France other than cryptic messages and lots of laughter. France was supposed to help, but he was just making him more confused than before! Why wouldn't he just tell him what to do?
"Now, now! I must go, I'm having a rendezvous with Spain and Prussia, but if you must have something else from me…why don't you think for a moment what you would do on a date with someone you loved, hmm?"
Italy stared at the phone after France had hung up, feeling no more informed than he had before the call had began. What did dates have to do with Germany being mad at him?
It was only on the third day that realization finally hit him.
He was a nation of lovers, after all; the answer should've come easily to him! However…that didn't make the answer he came by any easier to believe.
Italy froze, halfway through his morning pastry, eyes widening as the thought crossed his mind.
Maybe…maybe France was right. Maybe Germany wasn't mad at him at all.
Maybe…Germany loved him?
The jam-covered treat fell from his fingertips, hands flying up to cover his flaming cheeks. A whole ocean of strange feelings and thoughts washed over the hapless Italian, leaving him floundering.
Love…love? Was the strangeness due to love?
Wait, love? How could Germany love him?
A distressed gurgle was the only sound the Italian could make, mind whirling. No, that couldn't be right, right? He was always messing up and skipping out on training, and begging the German to save him when he got in trouble after NOT listening to Germany in the first place…he couldn't love him, right? He had more reason to hate him!
Germany couldn't…he couldn't love him, right?
The brunet buried his face in his hands as he thought, shaking his head in distress. Well, it wasn't like he didn't want the German's affection; he really did like the hugs and everything! And he was so worried that the German had hated him or something, and the thought that he might actually be really mad at him had hurt a lot!
But the thought that he might love him was just as confusing!
His friend…his best friend actually loved him?
But after the thought crossed his mind, he couldn't really deny it…after all, the hugs, the flowers, the dinner, the ring…
…it was all something he would do on a date with someone he loved, right?
The Italian knew he was slow, but there wasn't really anything else something like that could be.
Okay, so the German loved him…
…that was…good, right? Surprising, but a good thing! After all, the Italian really liked Germany too! He loved the other's hugs, and his kisses, and he loved when he got to sleep with Germany because the blond was so warm, and even his funny wurst tasted good when the German cooked them, and he looked so cute when he was working hard and his forehead got all crinkly when he was looking through papers, and his muscles were really nice, and Germany always looked after him even when he caused the blond a lot of trouble…
Did that mean that he loved Germany too?
He really did like Germany a lot…and he liked being together with Germany, and eating together, and sleeping together…and he liked hugs from girls, but Germany's always felt better! And Germany always worked really hard to protect him, so he always felt safe around him…
He wanted to be around Germany always…
…so, he loved him?
The Italian could almost feel his face sizzling with heat. He…he hadn't really loved anyone since his first love had left with a promise to come back to him. And although there were a lot of similarities between the two…
…what was he supposed to do now?
It took the Italian two weeks to finally make a move.
Of course there was a lot more panic and worry in those two weeks; panic about what to do, worry that his conclusions had been wrong and the German was actually just mad at him.
…and a lot of fretting about his newfound view on his friend.
Italy had always liked being close to people, and Germany was no exception…but when he thought about it more, he never even realized how much he loved and needed to be around the German.
…it was almost strange…but nice, really nice!
And after the brunet had accepted his feelings—that he actually loved Germany more than just a friend—it was much easier for him to make a decision. After all, the love was the important part, right?
So, after two long weeks, the Italian finally put his plan into motion. Germany had been really nice to him before, and he always helped him no matter what…so now it was his turn to do something nice for Germany to show how much he meant to him!
Things had mostly went back to the way they were before that Buon San Valentino; the German mostly acted as if nothing had happened (although he had offered a lengthy apology that the Italian assured him wasn't necessary the next time they met), and the Italian acted the same.
It wasn't bad…but there still was something in the way. Germany only seemed to avoid him more, and that wasn't good, especially now that he wanted to get even closer!
The Italian finally got the opportunity after training one day, cornering the German before he could scurry off to his office to work the rest of the day.
He wasn't so good at planning things, but a nice dinner at his house couldn't be bad, right? It was one of the things he had thought about when France asked him about dates…and the German always seemed to like his food! He was almost nervous to be asking…but after swallowing his nerves and with a little bit of coaxing, Italy finally got the German to agree.
The happiness and anxiousness felt much better than the panic and worry, that was for sure!
It wasn't surprising that Germany would be right on time; seven o'clock, right on the dot.
And it wasn't surprising that Italy was running late, putting the finishing touches on the little cakes that would be their dessert, rushing to get the food out of the oven and pop the cork of their wine for the night, calling out as the doorbell rang. "V-ve! I'm coming, I'm coming, just a second!"
Italy skid across the wood floors, almost slamming into the front door in his rush to answer it. "Ah, Germany! Ciao! You really came, I'm so glad, ve!"
Germany was dressed nicely—not in a suit like last time, but the Italian did take notice of how the German cleaned up, with a crisp shirt and tie, and black pants that fit him nicely…
…ah, when did he start noticing these things? It was almost embarrassing!
The German coughed before answering, face already bright red. "Ah…yes, I did. You did invite me…and I said I would come…"
"Oh, that's right! I guess I thought Germany wouldn't come for some reason…"
There was a long moment where neither of them spoke, the Italian fidgeting nervously and the German avoiding all possible eye contact with the brunet in front of him, looking intently at the frame of the door.
…when did things become so…awkward?
The Italian snapped from his spell, face as bright as the blond's as he grabbed Germany's arms and dragged him inside, bubbly yet nervous laughter escaping him. "Well, come in, Germany, come in! You shouldn't stand outside, you might get sick, ve! And that wouldn't be good, you haven't even got to eat any food yet!"
Italy rambled on in his sudden bashfulness, trying to do anything to get the feeling to go away. He dragged the German into the dining room, asking about everything and anything; from his dogs to his brother, to how his work was going and his boss and how he was keeping up with his training and if he was getting enough sleep and eating properly and taking enough breaks, because vacations were important too…
And before he even realized it, the strange awkwardness was gone the more they talked, replaced with comfort as the room filled with easy conversation.
The brunet brought out dish after dish for the German to try; soup, pasta, various fruits and cheeses, and a roast to top it all off, waiting eagerly for his reaction to each one, and insisting him to eat up to his heart's content.
He was working hard to make sure Germany was having a good time…and somehow, he was having a lot of fun doing it, too! Cooking was always fun, but when he was cooking for someone like Germany…it didn't even seem like work at all!
Italy brought out the final platter of little cakes he had been working on and poured the wine, feeling more pleased about his decision with every moment. It would be great if he could do this all the time!
Everything was going to great! But then, Germany paused, staring at his cake for a long moment before looking up at the Italian with almost a critical eye, a slight frown tugging across his lips.
Italy met his gaze quizzically, head tilting a bit. "Ve? Are you full, Germany?"
"Italy…you never told me what all this was for."
The Italian stopped in his tracks, arms laden with dishes to be carried back into the kitchen. "Huh? What's what for?"
"You know…the dinner and everything. You made so much food and everything, so I just assumed…"
"…Oh! Umm…n-nothing really!" A bright smile stretched across his cheeks to rival the German's frown, laughing through the sudden attack of nerves again. "Just…a thank you, you know? Eh heh~"
The blond looked unconvinced, and remained unconvinced by the time Italy came back to the table, scowl only deepening. "There has to be something."
"There's nothing! Nothing, really! I mean, eh heh, Germany does so much for me, and you know, I-I just thought, wouldn't it be nice for me to do something nice back? Ve, j-just you know, I'm…um, I'm not good at much else besides cooking!"
The Italian wasn't very good at lying, and the German was well aware of this.
"…if you don't want to tell me, then that is your business." However, the German's face spoke clearly that it wasn't all fine, turning his focus back onto the cake, taking a small bite.
Oh no, the wall had popped up again! Italy fidgeted, torn between what to do. He wasn't even sure why he was trying to avoid the subject anyway! His plan was to tell Germany his feelings, so he should just do it, right? With the way things were going, he would never get to tell!
He should…just do it!
"Um…ve, but it really is a thank you! For that…um, that date…"
Italy almost had a heart attack with the way Germany had started choking on his cake. He jumped up to help him, bringing him a cup of water to wash down the crumbs.
Germany cleared his throat when he was finally able to breathe again, face redder than it had been all night. "I-Italy…I-I had a-apologized for that, y-you didn't have to…reconcile for my actions."
"No, no, I just want to repay you, Germany! You were being so nice to me, and I didn't do anything nice back for Germany, and I just thought that Germany was mad at me or something! So now…so now, I want to do something nice for Germany!"
The blond shook his head, finding the wall extremely interesting as his eyes bore holes into it. "I…I assure you, you don't need to repay me for anything, I-I'd…I'd much rather just forget about the whole issue…"
The Italian plopped down on the German's lap, face inches from the blond's as he pouted, face beginning to become just as flushed. "Germany!"
Germany immediately began to stutter, trying to push the other from his lap, but Italy would have none of that, wrapping his arms around the other's neck and hanging on for dear life, face buried in Germany's shoulder.
"D-Does Germany love me?"
Italy's face was sizzling again, but he had to tell Germany! "I-I mean, I thought the date was a really scary thing, but that was just because I thought Germany was mad! But if Germany really isn't mad, and he did all that stuff for me because he loves me, then I really want to repay him and make up for that date, because I-I love Germany too, and Germany always does nice things for me and I never show Germany how much he means to me, s-so I just wanted to show Germany for once!"
The German's body had gone limp, hand over his face and head hanging over the back of the chair. Italy pulled his face away from the blond's shoulder; he worried that he broke him again!—but fidgeted as the German let out a ragged breath, anxiousness eating away at his heart.
"S-So…does Germany love me?"
It was almost too much for the Italian to take, holding his breath as he waited for the German's answer.
The blond shifted in the chair, slowly uncovering his eyes to glance at Italy, seeming defeated. "I…I guess I do…love you—"
This time it wasn't cake to choke Germany, but the Italian's tight hug as the brunet giggled with complete glee, a weight lifted from his heart. "I'm so glad, I'm so glad, Germany! Ve, I love you too, I love you a lot, eh heh, grazie, grazie!"
"I-Italy! Italy, p-please get off of me, this isn't a-appropriate—"
"Kiss me Germany, give me a kiss!"
Germany froze again, face becoming even redder (if it was possible at this point), mouth gaping before he could find words to force out of it. "W-W-What are you talking about? W-Why would…t-that's completely out of the question!"
Italy would have none of that; Germany loved him, he really loved him! Nothing could stop him now. "But Germany, kisses are what lovers do, and we both love each other, then we're lovers, right?"
"I-I don't think that is how that works—"
"Oh, please, Germany, please, pretty please? Ve, just one kiss, just one!"
Germany let out a sigh at the Italian's constant begging, covering his face for another long moment before placing his hands firmly on the Italian's hips, giving him a stern stare despite the heavy blush on his cheeks.
"…Just one kiss."
One kiss was enough to seal the deal.