I want to get the historical stuff out of the way before you read – I hate A/N's at the bottom… so here it is:
This is based off of the Battle of Lepanto, in 1571, part of the Ottoman-Habsburg wars. The main players were the Ottoman Empire (including Greece, etc.) versus the Habsburg navy, the bulk of which was Spanish because the Spanish navy kicked ass until about 1588 when Artie did bad things to it. However, there were a lot of helpers, including Hungarians and Venetians, and the leader of the charge was Austrian. It was also partially a response to an Ottoman attack on Venetian holdings in Cyprus. The battle took place near Corinth. I don't know why this was chosen, but my best guess was that Spain was trying to stop the Ottomans from sailing to Rome, where they were headed to try and capture. If that is confusing, please try Wikipedia. ^^;;
Ah… note about names – in head cannon, they refer to each other by human names, but I refer to them by countries. Does that make sense?
WhatisthisIdon'teven. Is it horribly obvious I haven't done a heck of a lot of editing?
That Bastard Spagna had left bed when it was still dark.
Romano wouldn't have known that; shouldn't have known that, but that night the first of the summer storms swept into Barcelona and brought the creaming, rumbling cries of thunder and lightning and despite everything at least Spain made him feel safe.
He looked to be almost sixteen already, Romano did. He hated the signs of slow aging, the way that his body was growing and changing and the hormones that lasted for years because he lived for centuries.
Nevermind that the older that he grew , the stranger his midnight flights to Spain's room became.
Romano had fallen into a fitful, tossing sleep soon after Spain welcomed him with warm quilts and warm arms. He shocked awake, however, at a clap of particularly vicious thunder. He squeaked, swore colorfully, and unconsciously curled tightly against … nothing but the cool sheets behind him.
How dare that bastard leave him alone -!
There were echoes from down the stone-paved halls, hushed murmurs and a scrape of cracking logs in a fire. There was someone else in the house.
A midnight visit was unlikely to be a good thing.
Spain settled onto his armchair, letting the poker for the fireplace drop with a clatter into its rack. At the knock to the door, he had hurriedly stuffed on his discarded breeches from the day before and a pair of unlaced boots, and his nightshirt was only half-tucked-into his waistband.
"So Sadik has finally made his move?" he tiredly asked the nation arrayed primly on the couch in front of him.
Austria, rumpled and worn but with his continual edge of aristocracy, nodded once, pursing his lips.
"He… took Feliciano…" Austria bit out. "I let him go on his own to survey his lands in Cyprus and Sadik found him there."
Spain frowned heavily, dazed and upset by the unexpected move. "How –"
"He's headed toward Peloponesia as we speak," Austria interrupted urgently. "I think that he's headed for the Adriatic, for Venice and… and Rome, eventually."
Spain's blood, for a single instand, turned molten and he sat completely rigid. It must have been fearsome, the spark in his eyes, because Austria twitched backwards at the sight of it.
From his position, Spain could see down the entire hall, and he saw when, creaking open the heavy door, Romano snuck into view.
Spain frowned even more deeply, relaxing his body with only a great effort and gesturing to Austria. The German saw the wayward young nation in the hall, as well, and nodded.
"No specifics, Spain, I understand, but if you wish to protect him –" Protect Rome, protect Romano "- we need to take the navy and leave. Tonight."
Spain tightened his grip on the chair arms. "I have the best navy out there. We can cut Sadik off, and take back Feliciano, too."
A gasp echoed from the hallway, and Spain cursed himself. He had wanted to keep Romano from worrying, and now mentioning the capture of his brother...
"Then raise them as soon as you are able," Austria ordered.
"They will be ready to sail by noon." A roll of thunder pealed as if to herald the heaviness of his words.
Spain heard the mumbled curses, a stream of invectives as the celestial battle outside cracked and groaned again.
Spain stood abruptly, slipping out into the hall to find Romano crouched next to the doorjamb, eyes squeezed shut and face buried in his forearms. Crack, loud enough to shake the tapestries.
Kneeling in front of the shaking boy, Spain placed his hands over Romano's ears. He felt like his palms were so big and heavy, and the boy beneath him so fragile. And yet he had grown; he was no longer a child.
Still, moments like this...
Romano's head shot up as Spain covered his ears, the sudden descent of silence startling and comforting him. He looked up into the other's face, his own eyes magnified and darkened by tears that he was stubbornly trying to hold back. Spain smiled down at him, something sad and soft in his gaze.
His lips moved, and Romano couldn't hear the words but he could feel the warmth of air against his skin.
"Th-they took Feli away…?" Romano asked. Antonio nodded, relieved that Romano hadn't heard the rest of the conversation, regretting that he could not hide it all.
"Lovi, go to bed," Spain told him gently.
Romano shook his head, glare magnified by the saltwater in his gaze. Sighing, but unable to hold back a fond smile, Spain worked his arms under Romano and swung him up against his chest. Romano squawked in surprise. Even now, even though he was taller and stronger and more mature than his maid days, Spain could still lift him effortlessly. It just reminded Romano how much he had to grow, still.
"Put me down, put me -!"
Crack growled the thunder again, and Romano let out a cry, burying his head against the Spaniard's chest. Spain let him, making no comment, laying the child back in his bed – back in Romano's bed, cold, and too big, despite the fact that it was made for only one.
"Take me with you," Romano ordered as Spain tucked him carefully beneath quilts.
"Stay safe, Lovino, and I will come back to you," Spain promised. He strode out, shutting the door behind him.
Romano laid stiff-still, eyes locked on the ceiling. Feli was … in danger? That explained the fear on Spain's face, explained the man's urgency. A sick sourness of jealousy rolled through him before he violently quashed it. If it was Romano that was in danger, would Spain be so willing to save him?
Maybe not. Most likely not. Only perfect little Feli –
Feliciano would go to save him, Romano realized with a start. He rubbed the heels of his palms against his eyes, forcing the tears violently backwards. His own brother, weak and scared though he might be, would always come for Romano.
So Romano was going to come for him.
By nine hours past midnight, the first few ships of the Spanish fleet had been mobilized. The bulk of the forces would come a few days later, when they could properly arm and provision, but Spain's whole body ached with the need to stop Turkey now, before he oozed any further west.
Spain found himself perched on the wide prow of his fleet's fastest ship, curled up in the slightest shelf where the deck met the bowsprit, his chin resting against the wood, staring out to sea.
Hungary crept behind him. She had been brought on board by Austria due to her general usefulness against Turkey in the past. She put a hand on his shoulder.
"You haven't got your entire fleet mobilized just because of Feliciano, am I right?" she asked gently.
Spain looked up at her, eyes wide and startled by the sudden approach, but they were still thick with worry.
"Of course I'm anxious about Feliciano! He's like my little brother, after all."
"That's not what I asked. Not 'if you are worried', but 'who you are doing this for'."
Spain took a breath, then slowly let it out, turning his eyes back to the ocean. "I will protect my land with everything that I have. I'll protect Lovino."
"Strange, coming from someone who wanted to trade him in."
"That was a long time ago… I don't feel that way anymore, Eliza, don't you dare think that I do."
"It's not me who thinks it," Hungary replied pointedly. Spain only nodded absently in response, eyes focused on the water.
"You have the best navy on the seas," Hungary told him after a long moment. Spain nodded again.
"I'm not worried about defeating Sadik. I will destroy him. I only hope that I can get there in time."
"My question still stands, Antonio. Who are you doing this for?"
"Lovino," Spain answered without hesitation.
It had taken approximately two hours for a conscientious seaman to investigate the banging and cursing from inside the crate of sun-dried tomatoes, and half an hour after that for Romano to be dragged up on deck, screaming invectives and dispensing head butts that held less power than he liked. His head throbbed with ineffective blows, and someone had twisted his arm behind his back to keep him still, but nothing hurt worse than Spain's face as he was forced to his knees in front of the man on the deck.
"We found a stowaway," one of the sailors announced. Romano glared at the deck, unable to look at Spain's face again. Why was he so… Angry didn't seem to be the right word; Spain looked as if someone had stabbed him. Did Spain hate him that much?
"Romano…" Spain murmured, eyes glassy. Romano's heart hurt. Lovino, his name was Lovino, Lovi, Lovinito, his country was Romano and Spain never called him by the name of his country.
"Romano…" Spain blinked, shaking his head. "Let him go, " he told the sailors that had the boy subdued. They shuffled, disbelieving their ruthless and powerful captain would ever –
"Let him go!" Spain snapped. Romano winced at the tone, feeling the anger trapped there. When Spain was angry it… really scared Romano. He was not the Spagna that Romano knew, he was a soldier, a pirate, a dangerous man with a sword at his hip. Spain knelt beside him and rubbed his arms, but Romano flinched away. Spain frowned.
"Eliza?" he called. The woman had been on deck, and walked over to Spain. She had an expression of disapproval on her features. "Eliza, take Romano below and keep him there, alright?"
"Alright, but I'm not babysitting," she told him sternly.
Roderich, straight-backed and stationed against one of the railings, nodded as well. "Neither am I. We have more important things to do."
More important that Romano, the Italian knew. It was alright. That was why he was here.
"I came along so I could help Feli!" he spat at Spain. "You can't keep me below; I could help!"
"No you can't!" Spain yelled back at him. "Stay out of the way or else you'll get all of us into trouble. I can't get distracted by you."
Romano bit his lip, going limp. Right. He was a distraction. Useless. As usual. A lead weight sank to his chest as he realized… maybe he shouldn't have come. It was wrong; he was only going to get in the way. Shit. He fucked up again.
"I just want to help…" he mumbled.
Elizaveta put a firm hand on his shoulder, leading him below decks. "I know, Lovino, I know. Antonio just wants –"
"I get it!" Romano interrupted her. He had a soft-spot for Hungary, but right at this moment she was just another person telling him that he was useless. Besides, she had been one of the people that rejected him, that wanted his brother. "I get it, okay, so just leave me alone. I'll be good. I'll stay below." He shook off her arm. "I'll be obedient and shit, okay?"
Hungary sighed, pushing open one of the spare rooms in the hold, one that she had hoped to use herself; but it was alright, she could sleep with Austria. She patted Romano's shoulder, but he only flinched away again, slamming the door behind him.
"Teenagers…" she sighed.
Romano, locked in the cramped, dark room that was lit only by a tiny porthole, flopped onto the tiny bed bolted into the corner. "Is there anything that I don't screw up?" he growled into the scratchy fabric of the sheets. There was, unsurprisingly, no reply. He screamed into the mattress. It made him feel less frustrated, but it hurt his head more.
"I just wanted to help, bastard…" he mumbled into the sheets.
Over the next week, Romano stayed locked in the room but for two things: bathroom breaks, and when Hungary brought him food. He thought he was going to go crazy. The first day, he had enough self-hatred, remorse, and general pissy-ness to keep him committed to his self-seclusion. The days after, it got harder; being alone was mind-numblingly boring, but he didn't dare leave. He didn't want to see the look on Spain's face, that devastation and anger, not when he knew that it was him that caused it.
Hungary brought him paper and pencils to keep him company. Although he wasn't as good at sketching as Feliciano, he still enjoyed it enough.
Hungary tried to talk to him, too, but he turned away and cut her off whenever she began. He didn't want to hear another lecture. He didn't want to hear why he should have stayed home. He just wanted to be at Spain's side, and damn it that wasn't going to happen, was it?
Spain had come down, only once, but Romano had buried his head in his pillows and yelled obscenities because he didn't want to see him upset anymore.
It was the seventh day on the water that things began to happen, and when they did, it was all at once.
Out of the porthole, Romano had noticed that they were beginning to skirt the edge of some body of land, sailing into an inlet with high cliffs and hills and dirty-white puffs that looked to be goats hanging on the edges. They must be in Greece –
There was a loud scuffle, almost directly above his head. He was straight underneath the main deck, and could hear as sailors ran back and forth, cussing at each other and shouting to "Look to port!" and "There they are –" and there was so much activity so much sound shit this was it, wasn't it?
Romano sprang to his feet, torn. He wanted… he didn't know what he wanted. He wanted to be on deck, surely, to do his best to look for his brother, to be by Spain's side. He wanted to be with Spain. If nothing else, Spain made him feel safe.
But he would only be in the way. Always useless, always –
Romano was thrown bodily against the far wall of his cell as the hold shook once, twice, sharp rapports and deep thrumming and the smell of gunpowder assaulting him – they were firing the cannons, what had they seen?
Romano stood, hissing in pain and rubbing his shoulder. If something was happening, he had to be up there; he couldn't stay hidden if there was any chance of being helpful.
Working up his courage – because, fuck, those figlio di puttana were loud – Romano pushed open the door to his cell. Even though the walls were thin, slipping out of his room brought sound and gunsmoke and panic to an even more unbearable level.
It smelled like ozone, it sounded like thunder che cazzo how could it be so frightening –
Romano only got about three steps down the hallway before he was flung against the wall again, the sound of cannon vibrating in his bones. He whimpered, curling into himself and throwing palms over his ears but it didn't help, not at all, not when the sound was so intense, so pervasive.
Spain… he wanted to find Spain.
A crash echoed again but with a great effort of will, Romano forced himself to stand, and, hands still over his ears, stumbled down the hall.
The ladder to ascend to the deck posed more of a problem. IN a period of relative silence from the guns, Romano dropped his hands, gripping the rungs of the ladder and beginning to scramble up –
Romano let out a whimper, his limbs seizing up and locking onto the ladder, clutching himself to it, too stiff to even shake.
The sound was too much, too loud, it felt as if the world were crashing down around him – maybe it was, the light from the hatch just above him was suddenly blocked out as something fell through it, plummeting past his head and whistling in his ear. He didn't see what it was, eyes tightly shut and face pressed against the wooden rungs of the ladder, but he heard it hit the deck beneath him with a heavy thunk and a pained grunt.
"Shh, Lovi, I'm here."
And then there were those broad, rough hands over his ears, warm breath on his neck – Spain was behind him, reaching on his toes to be close enough to the Italian to cover his ears and protect him from the sound and the fire. Th-that fesso – he must have jumped from the deck; that must have been what fell from the hatch…
Spain lifted his fingers on Romano's right ear just enough to be able to whisper to him. "It's okay, Lovi, it's alright. Can you let go of the ladder?"
Romano shook his head, mouthing invectives that he couldn't hear himself. The boat rocked again and he clenched tighter to the wooden rungs, but he didn't hear the thunder, this time – the world was underwater, under honey, stopping up the sound.
As the boat moved, Spain was thrown against him and the ladder, stumbling but still keeping his hold around Romano's ears.
"Come on, querido, I won't let anything hurt you," Spain coaxed, and Romano believed him, he always believed him, allowed himself to relax into the larger nation's hold. He let go, dropping a few feet before Spain caught him firmly and placed him easily on his feet. There was the sound of cannonfire again, but Spain let Romano grip his hands and smiled tightly. "Go back to your room, Lovi, okay? Stay in there."
"No!" Romano managed to bite out. "I gotta be up there, for Feli. And for – I – "
Spain reached out for him and Romano headbutted the nation in the stomach, leaping up the ladder before he could allow himself to be startled out of it, making it on the deck before Spain recovered and followed him. He ran out into the sun for what felt like the first time that week, tripping to the railing before he could properly take in the magnitude of the shocking sight around him.
The seas were solid, absolutely solid with boats. They stretched as far as he could see in either direction, behind him for a long way, and Spain's ship was at the head of the formation. They waved so many different colors – the colors of Habsburg Austria, the colors of Venice, the colors of Rome – and they were all there to back up… Feli?
Romano whipped his head the other way, catching a glimpse of the other ships – the Ottomans. They swarmed around a tall, black-sided monolith in the middle, significantly smaller than the Habsburg force but not unthreatening, shrouded as it was in gunsmoke and flame. One had pulled up just alongside their own, circling it, still hazy with the last rapport fired at the boat. Their boat.
On the bow, proud and gloating, stood Turkey.
Romano hissed, recognizing the nation, and the other, smaller creature tied up beside him.
"Feli!" Romano roared, gripping the rail with desperate fingers, leaning halfway over. "Feli, we're coming for you!"
Turkey turned his eyes to Romano, perhaps hearing him. He shouted something at the other boat.
"I thought this was the one Antonio would be sailing on; am I right?" He laughed, and his voice carried easily over the spoiled water. Romano turned to see Spain scampering over the edge of the hatch, running across the deck with the same desperate, devastated look on his face that he had when he saw Romano a week ago. Romano winced, but Spain didn't stop running.
"Lovi, no –"
Romano heard the crack and felt as he struck wood, tackled to the ground by a furious, frenzied Spaniard.
There was blood on Romano's face. There was blood – it was spilling from Spain's shoulder, seeping through the fabric of his jacket and he had been shot, shot from so far away by Turkey – and Spain gritted his teeth and sat up with effort just as the grappling hooks gouged the sides of their ship. They were being boarded.
There was a frenzy as the sailors on their ship tried to stop it from happening, frenzy as guns were fired and cannons went off and planks were hastily laid from boat to boat, but all Romano could do was stare. Spain had taken a bullet. For him. It was all his fault…
Spain stood, swaying a bit, but with a glare on his face, determination, watching as Turkey strolled easily on board the ship, leaving Feliciano tied up just on the other side of the plank. The Turk had his gun drawn, pointed toward Spain, grinning widely.
"Hello, Antonio," he said cheerfully, his smile made more eerie as his eyes were covered by the mask. "Fancy meeting you here."
Spain growled something unintelligible at him. Turkey just smirked.
"I'm glad to see you, too. Now. What have you come here for, blocking all my ships and firing at me?"
"To protect – to retrieve Feliciano," Spain snapped. "Return him to me."
His words were accented by gunpowder flashes from the boats to either side of them, Habsburgs firing at Ottomans as their leaders argued.
"Mm…" said Turkey. "Ya want him that bad? Odd enough for you to get off your lazy ass and come and meet me."
Spain looked uncomfortable, looked furious. "Return him!" he repeated.
Romano was still sprawled on deck, watching the proceedings with wide and frightened eyes. He had to do something, he had to do something –
"I don't want to. Nothing in it for me," said Turkey with a widening of his grin. He pulled out another pistol from his belt, stroking it thoughtfully.
"Don't point that at me," said Spain. "I won't be killed, and before I can hit the ground the rest of my fleet will destroy yours."
Maybe Romano was imagining things, but Turkey winced a little. He was painfully outnumbered, but at the same time he could just as easily turn and run and take Feli with him and –
"Seems we're at an impasse, huh?" Turkey said, bluster in his voice. "So desperate to get the little one back? Don't have a hell of a lot of use for half of Cyprus, really, I can get it back any other time. How about you trade with me. Something more useful to me?"
Romano watched all of the muscles in Spain's shoulders stiffen in rage. He had never seen the cheesy, smiling Spaniard so angry, so… terrifyingly wild. The larger nation glared at Turkey. "Me cago en la madre que te parió!"
Romano blinked. He had never heard Spain swear before. Even when he cut himself on a knife or when Romano had used to wet the bed or when he had fallen off a horse, Spain had never said anything even remotely close to an invective.
Feli was still leaning against the railing on the other boat, gagged by a piece of cloth and eyes watering pitifully. He stared at Romano, begging him, so scared that the whites of his eyes were showing. He didn't look to badly hurt, but there was a bruise forming on his cheekbone and a scratch on one arm. Romano stared at him, stared at Spain, realized that this had to stop, that he could stop it.
Romano lurched to his feet.
"I'll do it. Trade Feliciano for me!" he yelled.
Spain whirled in an instant. "Lovi –"
Romano ducked out of his grabbing arms, and dashed past him towards Turkey. "I'll trade you – you want Rome, don't you?" Turkey smirked at him with a grin full of avarice. "I'll trade you!"
"Yeah, I'm cool with that," Turkey said, reaching out, and Romano ran toward him, watching as one of the other sailors began to drag his brother over to their ship. He was almost within Turkey's grasp, when –
An arm clamped around his waist, another around his hips, yanked backwards into a strong chest as hot breath was hissed into his ear.
"You will not take what is mine. I will not allow you to take Lovino from me."
Spain had him in a locked grip, his blood soaking into Romano's shirt, so strong and warm that Romano thought he was going to break apart.
"Hey, the kid agreed –"
"You will not take him from me!" Spain yelled.
Romano went limp with shock, just as an oddly familiar thunk-clang greeted his ears. Before his astonished eyes, Turkey collapsed to the ground in a heap, then was shoved over the edge of the railing by a woman wielding a cast-iron frying pan and a satisfied smirk.
"And stay out," called Hungary after the unconscious body in the water.
Immediately, the Ottoman sailors turned to ropes and the daunting task of dragging a comatose man out of the water. One of them looked to haul Feliciano back to the Turkish boat, but Austria, moving surprisingly fast, decked him across the face neatly and brought the young Italian on board.
And Romano collapsed against Spain's chest who, in turn, fell onto his knees on the deck, holding Romano tightly to him, whispering to him in Spanish too low and fast to understand.
"B-bastard, get off me," Romano whispered, eyes closed. "You're hurt. So get up."
He felt Spain shake his head, face brushing against Romano's back. "You'll run away."
Their ship was already pulling away from Turkey's, leaving the more experienced fighting ships to finish the one-sided battle. The Ottoman fleet would be decimated by sundown. Feliciano was being doted on by an overjoyed Hungary and a reserved Austria.
"Let me go, go see Feli," Romano told Spain, shoving his arms away with more force. Still, they didn't loosen, only tightened, and Romano gasped as his chest was constricted. "S-stop, bastard, stop, let me go –"
"Don't leave me, Lovi…"
"Why do you care?" shouted Romano, struggling in earnest now, trying to get away. "Just let me –"
"I sailed across the sea to make sure you would be safe," Spain said quietly. "I'm not going to let you run away after that."
Romano stopped struggling abruptly.
"You sailed to save Venice."
"I sailed to protect Rome."
"I don't understand."
"Lovino, I'm doing everything to keep you safe, don't run away."
Behind them, the ships still surged and shot and fired, thunder rolling in constant blankets. Somehow, Romano didn't feel afraid anymore.