Disclaimer: Himaruya Hidekaz has the rights, not I

A/N: Written for as a part of the Secret Santa challenge hold_the_tomato on LJ.

During the biyearly world summit, America and Romano overhear a gossip session from their convenient location under the stairway. America was trying to coerce Romano into a quick make-out and groping session before the lunch break ended. When the sound of laughing voices and someone crudely imitating Germany floats up, they share a look and then press themselves against the staircase in order to hear better.

As Romano tells him to shut up with fondness in his eyes, America can't help but press a kiss to the Mediterranean nation's throat. A mutual love of secrets is just one reason they work so well. As the nations on the other side of the stairs stop to talk, America can immediately pick two of them out. Prussia is the one mimicking Germany, while France offers up throaty chuckles every now and then. Romano, who claims to hate Germany's guts, is muttering darkly about that. Really, America thinks, Romano can be a real softie.

"Hey, Denmark!" Prussia shouts suddenly. "Why'd you skip out on lunch with the awesome me?"

"Important research."

Romano mouths 'stalking Sweden', which makes America grin. Their fellow nations are boring to listen to for a while -Prussia demanding to know what kind of research while Denmark tries to be evasive- and Romano's hands are holding his hips loosely, so America gets a little distracted. He leans in close to kiss the other nation, but then hears his own name and snaps to attention.

"So, did you guys hear that America's got some hot piece of ass now?"

Denmark is obviously trying to change the subject and it works, because then Prussia is badgering him to know whom exactly. Then, he moves onto guessing and Romano's face gets redder with every name on the list. ("It has to be Russia! No? Lithuania then! England? What about Belarus? She's hot in a crazy way.")

America presses his nose to Romano's collarbone, because he knows that the spot is ticklish and he's rewarded when he feels Romano's neck heat up with pleasure rather than annoyance. The moment is ruined once France opens his big mouth after making a tutting sound. "You're wildly incorrect, my friend. I have it on very good authority that America is courting the Southern half of Italy."

Romano is halfway through saying that he is definitely the one doing the courting, (not that they're courting of course, don't be stupid) when a gagging sound cuts him short. It's Prussia, without a doubt, and the way Romano immediately wilts makes America want to punch things. Prussia, for example, would be a great start.

"If America claims to be the greatest country in the world, why is he with the lame version of Italy? I mean, Veneziano is a real cutie and he can cook."

The others murmur assent and Denmark, being a total bastard adds. "Not to mention Romano's kinda a huge dick to everyone."

"And his culture is, like, nonexistent." Prussia points out, because he's a huge hypocrite.

"Love is a mysterious thing." France says loftily. "I'm sure that Romano must have some redeeming qualities, deep down. Right, Spain?"

All America can think then is shit, because Romano's grip on his hips is getting close to painful and the Italian's eyes are wide like an animal's. For as much as Romano claims to hate Spain, the former empire was the one who took him in and they still eat paella together when the mood strikes them.

America knows this because one time Romano came home reeking of saffron and scowling like no tomorrow, but his eyes were smiling softly. So, pressing up against Romano under a stairwell as the Mediterranean nation's breathing gets rapid and shallow, America prays that Spain doesn't screw this up.

"He was cute back when he was little." Spain finally says with a sigh. "Even if he was a really weak henchman."

Prussia calls Spain an idiot then and they talk for a little while longer before going up the stairs, towards the meeting room. Their footfalls sound like thunder, but America hardly notices, because he's staring at Romano.

Romano cries when he's frustrated or being threatened or when they watch sad movies. Except, right now he's not even close to tearing up. All he's doing is staring down at the ground and his hands are shaking as they grip at America's hips until he pulls away as if he's been burned. America immediately misses the warmth and goes to touch Romano's cheek. "Hey, don't listen to-"

"I gotta go." Romano interrupts, pressing a kiss to the corner of America's mouth before disappearing.

America just stands there for a while, feeling and looking very much like an abandoned puppy. When he makes it back to the meeting, he's five minutes late and Germany gives him a lecture on punctuality. Romano is nowhere to be seen and America is delighted to be sitting kitty-corner from Prussia, because he can kick the older nation in the shins and then nod towards Denmark every time Prussia looks around suspiciously.

Prussia ends up launching himself across the table in the last hour of the meeting, fully intent on getting revenge on Denmark. It's pandemonium after that and America sneaks out after landing a parting stomp to Spain's hand.

Romano gets home a few days later after going on a drinking binge in Sicily. There's something taped to his door and he curses, because it figures that he'd come home to find a bill or some shit waiting for him. Except it isn't a bill, just an envelope with 1/5 written on it.

Inside, there's a note in America's handwriting that says One of my favorite foods is your eggplant thingy. (The one that you put on the bread with tomato and onion?)

Romano feels something funny rise up in his chest and then goes inside to call America. All he says is 'caponata' but it sounds like 'thank you'.

2/5 arrives in the mail along with an invitation to a wedding taking place six months from now in Miami. The Vento family had lived next door to Romano for years, but they had moved to America two or three generations back. The girl getting married, Nichole, looks just like her great-great-aunt and Romano wonders if she knows this.

In all honesty, he's feeling so nostalgic about the wedding, Romano almost misses America's note all together. It had been sent in the same type of cream envelope as the invitation and when he opens it, Romano can see why. Inside is a Polaroid of Alfred and Nichole Vento (soon to be Nichole Cetrulo), hugging and laughing at the camera. In the white square at the bottom, it says I hope that even one of my people who leave will love me as much as yours do.

Romano stuffs the picture in his junk drawer, because it's not like he's going to hang it on the fridge or anything, because he isn't a sentimental ass. Still, he waits until it's a decent time in Miami to call the Vento family in order to RSVP.

They're in Chicago, because America wants to take Romano down his alleged 'Magnificent Mile'. It's kinda fun, Romano grudgingly admits, because the shops are nice and America is eager to let Romano do all his shopping. At the end of the day, the younger county has a coat to replace his ratty bomber jacket and several suits that will be tailored to fit properly.

America drags him down to Navy Pier after that, because it's getting colder out and soon they won't be able to go. He grins as the Italian next to him swears about the weather and pulls his coat tight. (It's barely November and they haven't even had the first snow fall, nothing to complain about).

They ride the Ferris wheel and when Romano kisses him at the top, America starts laughing like a little kid. And, later as he waits for his delayed flight at O'Hare, Romano allows himself a small grin when he finds a note slipped into his coat pocket. Your type of passion is different that your brother's. That's what makes it amazing.

People underestimate how strong you really are, but I remember the good ol' days. Underneath that, it says 4/5 and Romano would really like to know how and when America broke into his gun cabinet, because he's never told a soul about its existence. He's got his reasons though.

People assume he's in the mafia, which technically isn't true. Romano may or may not have been part of some shady business deals in the 1920s, but who wasn't? After the war, it all went to hell and Romano still owes people favors because of it. It's something he doesn't like talking about.

That's why he keeps his collection of guns, all Berettas, of course, hidden from any nosy houseguests he might have. Hell, Romano only ever finds the time for target practice every month or so. (And that's when his boss doesn't hear about it beforehand, apparently it's not good for PR when the someone spots their nation firing rounds effortlessly.)

Romano sends America back a postcard for the first time since this note exchange started a few months ago. In his loopy cursive, he writes: Those were hardly good days, you bastard. And how would you like it if I kept breaking into your house?

And after a brief internal struggle, he puts a little X next to his signature.

When Romano doesn't find the fifth note right away, he gets annoyed. First, he assumes that America's forgotten like an idiot or hid it where it'd be impossible to find. After all, he shouldn't have to tear his whole house up looking for a stupid little note. (Not that he even really tried looking for the note, what kinda sap do you take him for?)

Briefly, Romano worries that something has happened to America to stop the notes that showed up every month or so. Except America still calls him on Saturday night so they can talk to each other for a while. Neither one of them mention the missing note and Romano winds up hanging up before America can start the 'no-I-love-you-more' game.

When he finally goes to bed, Romano can't help but go over all the possible reasons that America would stop sending the notes. The simplest answer is the one that says the most about the both of them. America, being overly optimistic and eager, decided that five would be a good number to stop at.

Except then he couldn't even find five things there's actually is to like about Romano.

The second biyearly summit is taking place in Italy and Romano does his best to avoid America for the first two days by sticking close to his brother. The fact this also doubles as cockblocking Germany can't even make him smile, though, and all he wants to do on the third day is slink back to his hotel room (the summit is in Milan, because neither Italy brother lives there) and go to sleep.

Except, when he gets to his hotel room, Romano finds a hitch in his plan. Mainly, America is trying to break into his room using something with lots of blinking lights that makes a whirring sound. Mentally putting lock picks down as a future birthday gift for the other nation, Romano clears his throat and asks. "What the fuck is going on here?"

"Uh." America says, his eyes growing bigger with each passing second. "I'm definitely not trying to sneak into your hotel room."


Romano quirks an eyebrow before pushing America aside in order to unlock the door. The younger nation just stands pathetically in the doorway, like he's going to be scolded if he comes in. The Italian resists the urge to roll his eyes and instead makes his voice a little softer as he invites America in.

He doesn't have to repeat himself, because then America is bounding into the room, wrapping his arms around Romano, and kissing him fiercely. Then, before the Italian even has time to enjoy the kiss, America is mumbling under his breath and shoving a scrap of paper into Romano's hands.

Any grievances he might have had disappears once he reads the note. It's written in half-decent Italian, which makes his heart stutter just a bit, because America is usually hit or miss when it comes to different languages. Still, Romano understands the note completely, even if half of the verbs are conjugated incorrectly.

I know this is the fifth note and that means that what I put here is supposed to be better than all the other notes combined, but the thing I like most about is that you're you, Romano. And so much of you makes up a whole lot of me and maybe it's arrogant or whatever, but that's the one of the reasons that I love you so much. And anyone who says different is really lame and doesn't matter. Don't forget that, okay?

"Romano? You're not crying are you?"

That's how America, idiot that he is, decides to break the silence a little while later. Romano turns beet red and swipes at his eyes a few times, cursing about allergies. Any effect the cursing might have had is ruined by the soppy grin that may or may not be spreading across his face.

The note flutters to the ground then as Romano pulls America in to kiss him, because he'll be damned before it seems like America is the only one who knows how to be romantic.