There were times when Romano really hated being so stupidly emotional—he'd just never been able to handle much social interaction without feeling completely worn out. As it was, he could easily be reduced to tears over the stupid things other people said, and then he might be over it ten minutes later when someone made him laugh. He was the type of person who could quite literally be content one second and angry or sad or overjoyed the next. For some reason he just couldn't help but throw his ridiculous feelings into everything he did, and he often thought that his life would be so much easier if he could actually be the heartless asshole everyone thought he was.
"You know," said Spain, smiling like sunshine as he squeezed Romano's hand, "I'm starting to get the feeling you don't think Germany and Ita are nearly as cute together as I do."
"You would be correct," Romano answered, tonelessly. He led them further and further through the trees, the fallen leaves and twigs that crunched under their feet startling birds from their perches. These woods were actually part of some kind of nature reserve, if Romano was remembering correctly, so he was fairly confident he wouldn't get them lost even if he tried—if they walked far enough down this meandering path they were on it would eventually wind its way around a small lake and lead them back the other way. "Now how much further do I have to drag you before you stop bringing them up?"
Romano stumbled backwards from a sudden tug on his arm, not realizing that Spain had come to a stop.
"Hold on, Romano."
"Well—is that why you wanted to come here all of a sudden? To get away from Germany and Ita? Because yesterday I learned that I understood things a lot less than I thought, and letting you fume is a really bad idea." Spain's tone may have grown somber, but he'd started to rub his thumb into Romano's palm. "And I also probably shouldn't have let France get anywhere near you, for one thing."
"Okay, not probably," Spain admitted. He sighed. "I've never thought this stuff was fair, you know. You and me and everyone else get to live for who knows how long, and we get loads of time to learn stuff and see things, and it's still like we never get any smarter. You'd think with all this life experience behind us we'd have all reached enlightenment by now or something, wouldn't you?"
"It's because humans are stupid and we aren't any different," Romano said, turning his head away. "So being dumb for an eternity is just how it works."
"Maybe. I think the world could really use more philosophers like you, Roma, you always get right to the point." Spain paused to laugh at Romano's unamused expression. "I'm sorry, I keep forgetting that I said I wouldn't tease. It's really hard to resist."
"I don't care, just stop saying you're sorry." Romano had heard him saying that way too many times yesterday. You'd think a person might consider a manner settled after the makeup sex was over and done with, after a person had practically gotten his pants torn off of him just to make him shut up, but of course real world logic never worked on Spain. "I swear to God, Spain, I am not above begging."
"Oh c'mon, you know I hate when I upset people and can't even realize how serious it is—"
"Yeah, but you know I don't stay mad at you for this kind of crap. It'd be like staying mad at a five year old, it's pointless."
"Well then you know how I deal with how unbelievably frustrating you are," said Spain, laughing again. "I really do mean it though, Roma. I don't want to make you sad again, so I think you should try explaining things to me so I can understand them. I know that's hard for you, but as bad as I might be at figuring your feelings I know I can at least listen."
Romano swallowed, fully meeting Spain's eyes for the first time since dragging him into the woods. He and Spain had always been like this, butting heads and pissing each other off, but it was nice to occasionally be reminded that Spain never meant some of the more devastating things that came out of his mouth—he was just remarkably accomplished at not getting it. Romano hoped that Spain could understand he didn't mean it either. Not usually, anyway.
"There's not much to understand," Romano told him, pointlessly evasive.
"You never make things easy, do you?" Spain observed him fondly, reaching out to tuck some wet hair behind Romano's ear. "Think of it this way—not having much to it just means it won't take very long to explain, right? I really don't care if it's short or long though, I just want to make sure I know what's going on with you."
"I'm just—" Romano huffed out a sigh, inwardly cursing him. Fucking Spain could be more comforting than a warm blanket sometimes. "I'm just mad because it's the same shit it always is. You know I get pissed just having to think about them, and I swear to God I try to ignore it all but it's a hell of a lot harder when they're right in front of my face."
"Yeah, I guess I didn't really consider that doing this might just make it worse." Spain looked thoughtful. "The theory was that if you just got to know Germany you'd stop feeling that way, but… I'm starting to realize that maybe it's not just your differences that gets you all grumpy with him. I know that Germany might be a little—stiff sometimes, but I can tell that your brother really likes him, so you must have a good reason for not wanting to accept that. Right?"
"You're really misunderstanding this on a fuckin' fundamental level," Romano muttered. "It's how they act, alright? Veneziano turns into this whole other person around Germany. He's always doing some kind of song and dance for him and Germany's always been a complete dick about it. It's exactly the same as it was seventy years ago and you don't see how that could possibly concern me? Fuck, I bet they've probably never even had a fight!"
"Never had a—?" Spain had seemed to follow pretty well until this point; now he just looked confused. "You don't like it that they don't fight?"
"Well it's not normal! It feels like—it's like I'm looking at some old married couple or something!" Romano was a little surprised at himself for making what seemed a pretty apt comparison, despite his usual ineloquence on the matter. "They're this old couple, and they don't even argue anymore but they hate each other, you know? They're fucking miserable, that's how bad it is, but they've been stuck together so long they can't remember what they saw in each other and they also wouldn't know what to do with themselves if they actually separated! That's what they remind me of!"
"Okay stop, wait a second." Spain took both of Romano's hands this time, ending his tirade. "Do you realize this Ita and Germany we're talking about here? Somehow I doubt they have much to argue about when one of them doesn't complain much and the other one probably—schedules meetings instead of getting into fights, or something."
"That doesn't mean—"
"You know, Romano, it is actually possible that you wouldn't fight with somebody because you just get along with them." Spain smiled a little. "I think this might be one of those cases where you'll want to go with the simple explanation, okay? Maybe something just seems wrong to you because they show their affection in a way that doesn't fit your standards."
"My standards aren't the problem," Romano said, stiffening.
"That's—" Spain sighed and shook his head, somehow managing to sound both adoring and exasperated at the same time. "That's not what I was trying to say. What I mean is that maybe you're expecting something not everybody looks for, you know? Not everybody has a relationship that's all—fireworks and confetti all the time. And that's fine! Being in love like that can he really exhausting even when everything's going well." Spain took a meaningful pause. "So… I guess I'm saying it might not sound very romantic, but I think the kind of love that's gentle can definitely be just as strong as the kind that's passionate."
Romano blinked at him.
"Somehow I doubt that's an original thought of yours."
"Well—no, I think Prussia might've said that originally. Actually I don't remember, I just think it's true!" Spain laughed at himself. "C'mon, Roma. There's nothing wrong with treating somebody you love like your best friend, right? People fall in love with their best friends all the time. Like me!"
"You call everyone your best friend. Normal people only have one."
"Hey, don't you go telling me how to live my life." Spain grinned at him playfully. "Okay, so—the reason you don't like Germany is because of his personality, basically? That doesn't make much sense to me though. I mean, it's sweet of you to want what's best for Ita, but I don't think glaring at them all the time and telling them to quit acting lovey-dovey gets your point across very well. Personally I think it's great as long as they're happy, so why worry about them?"
"For fuck's sake." Romano tore his hands back away from Spain, just so he could gesticulate with appropriate violence. This was why he never talked about these things—he could never think of the right words to say and Spain could never connect the dots. "You think I don't care whether Veneziano's happy?"
"You're putting words in my mouth," Spain protested. "I'm just saying—"
"Veneziano being happy is exactly the reason Germany gets me so pissed off. If his shitty personality was all I cared about don't you think I should start getting mad at myself first?"
"I'm not done. Look—Veneziano might be an idiot who went and fell for the dullest motherfucker on Earth, but you know what? Whether I like Germany or not doesn't fucking matter because it's Vene's life and not mine." Romano's voice tore slightly, and he hated that it did—he tried to pretend it didn't happen, even as Spain reflexively reached out for him. "I told you, the problem is how much Veneziano changes when he's with him. He goes all quiet, practically brainless, and it's like he has to sit down and shut up just to get Germany to give him the fucking time of day. Do you know Veneziano's got to fucking ask him about his schedule just so he can fucking see him?"
Spain tried to speak again but Romano cut him off. He had to say all of this before his temper cooled and all his stupid little anxieties made him lose the will to do it.
"My point," he ground out, "is that it's fucking painful to watch Veneziano forgetting who he is and what's important to him just because he's got some boring prick he's constantly trying to please. He's setting himself up for getting his heart broken and he doesn't fucking deserve that shit again. I swear to God, I am not going to watch Veneziano spend the rest of his life wasting his love and energy on some fucker who keeps acting like my fucking little brother, fucking northern Italy, is just a pain in his fucking side and always will be!"
Spain had been rendered momentarily speechless.
"Wait. So you're saying—?"
"I really don't give a fuck about Germany either way," said Romano, glaring furiously at the ground, "but no one dates Italia Veneziano and gets away with all his shit. End of story."
"Oh my God." The strain of trying to understand all this was evident on Spain's face and now he looked like he'd just had a few hundred years shaved off his life. "But all this time you—Jesus, Romano. How the heck is anyone supposed to figure this stuff out?"
Romano's gaze snapped back to his, and he come so close to shouting in Spain's face that he'd already opened his mouth just as he came to realize that perhaps this wasn't actually the stupid question he wished it was.
He knew Veneziano was constantly hounding him, asking why he couldn't just be nice, and Romano wondered whether he'd ever actually given him the whole reason, or whether the stupid things he said when he was angry were the only things to get through. In truth, it was incredibly difficult for him to talk about these things, or even just accept that his little brother had grown up while he wasn't looking. It was embarrassing to admit he cared, and whenever the subject did come up at all they were usually shouting uselessly at each other long before the crux of the issue even had the chance to come to light.
Romano deflated, his anger feeling more senseless than ever. He'd been living with Veneziano for these last few centuries, for Christ's sake, and it'd still done jack shit for their communication skills. If anyone needed proof that nations were really fucking stupid, he thought, they would be a prime example.
"I don't—fuck. I don't know." Romano leaned into Spain, secretly hoping he'd get a hug out of all this—he felt his heart do an idiotic flip in his chest as Spain immediately pulled him close, like it was the most natural thing in the world for him to do. "I'm too fucking stupid to do anything right. Everything that comes out of my fucking dumbshit mouth just makes things worse."
"Not all the time," Spain assured him, rubbing his back. "You're just—very complicated? I'll be honest though, I think this is one of the most confusing conversations I think I've ever had with you."
"How do you think I feel?"
"I'm going to take a wild guess and say frustrated. So how about we try calming down? It's never a good sign when you start cursing like it's punctuation."
Romano sighed, fisting his hands into Spain's shirt as he relaxed against him. He noticed that the remaining sunlight that streamed through the trees had turned everything red and golden, and he supposed even if they started right now, there would be very little light still left by the time they walked back to where Germany and Veneziano were. Still, Romano would much rather end up stumbling back to the beach in the dark than to pull away from Spain's embrace even a second before he had to.
"Actually," Spain began again, "I'd like to tell you that you should have just asked Ita's opinion on all this stuff, but—I kind of did the same thing, didn't I? I was trying to help you get along with Germany for your brother's sake, but I never asked what was really going on. So I can't really yell at you for this or else I'd be a hypocrite."
"Especially since you were still the bigger jerk about it," accused Romano, half-heartedly.
"Nice try, but after hearing all that I'm starting to think the bigger jerk was definitely you." Spain pecked him on the cheek. "You know, even if I think you're probably trying to protect Ita in the worst way possible, hearing you say all that stuff still kind of made me want to cry. I don't even remember when the last time was you actually told me your feelings instead of just— storming off or whatever."
"Dealing with me is like dealing with a five year old. You knew that going in to this."
"I know," Spain agreed. "But I still basically love you so much you give me chest pains, which is kind of concerning sometimes."
"What?" Romano couldn't help it, he snorted against Spain's hair and moved back, wiping at his face. "Jesus, you say so much weird shit I don't know when to start worrying."
Spain grinned at him.
"I'll let you know when you do."
He stepped closer, catching Romano's lips in one smooth movement. It caught him off guard—and though Romano normally had a no-tolerance policy towards such things out in the open, the explosion of fluttery feelings in his stomach forced him to make an exception. They were practically in the middle of nowhere anyway, Romano reasoned, and he was no mood to turn this down anyway, so he wasted no time in reaching up to hold Spain's jaw with his hands and pressing back into him. The kiss was surprisingly passionate for something that had come out of the blue, quickly even becoming a little indecent, but if there was anything Spain could do to make everything okay, this certainly got the job done.
"Nope, nope, wait—" Spain pulled his mouth away suddenly, turning his blushing face off to the side. "Bad idea, I'm getting excited. Let's just stick to the hugging part."
Romano let out a tiny snort and bumped his forehead against Spain's shoulder.
Germany woke at half past nine, jerking out of a dream that involved Italy and a notable lack of clothing. Though the details were disappearing from his mind faster than he could recall them, what he did remember was quite enough to be embarrassing.
He sighed and turned over to face the actual Italy, who was of course still asleep even after the mattress had been disturbed. Germany hadn't actually fallen asleep last night while still hugging him—the room was just a little too warm for that—so now he needed to reach out to him so he could touch Italy's cheek in wordless apology. It seemed incredible to him that he could look at Italy like this, with his cherubic features and expression of peaceful slumber, and he could still think that if he didn't sort things out with himself soon he was probably going to end up really losing it.
Germany decided he'd had enough sleep to get him through today, so he should probably get up and… collect his thoughts in the bathroom. Something like that. He pulled himself out of bed, careful not to make the springs creak too much, and he snatched up the clothes he'd laid out for himself the previous night.
Whoever had designed the layout to their suite had clearly not considered that maybe a person might someday want to get to the bathroom without having to awkwardly pass by the people in the other bed. Even Germany's near mastery of self control could not keep him from glancing over, and he saw that Spain and Romano had indeed come to bed sometime after Germany had gone to sleep. Somehow they'd performed a minor miracle in being quiet enough that Germany hadn't been woken up by it, but now they were cuddled up together in a position that couldn't possible be misconstrued as friendly or even accidental.
Germany realized just how far he'd come since two days ago when he caught himself thinking that Spain probably did have a very pleasant relationship with Romano so long as one of them was unconscious. His second thought was to wonder if this was the real reason for yesterday's hissy fit about sleeping in the same room.
Romano's hand twitched where it lay across Spain's waist, so Germany quickly raced off to the sanctuary of the bathroom before things took a turn for worse.
The state of Germany's sunburn, once he'd gotten the chance to look at himself in the mirror, was really rather appalling. He'd wanted to avoid burning his back, but it seemed he had only accomplished being sunburned everywhere else instead—his shoulders and neck had turned pick overnight, the outline of his tank top clear as day, and even his nose and cheeks were a little rosier than before. Fortunately it only really stung if he touched it, but he'd been applying sunscreen just about every hour yesterday, so how on earth had he gotten himself burnt when it had been so cloudy?
Germany sighed. If there was any benefit at all to being a nation, it was that he would heal quickly. Besides, he'd experienced enough truly horrifying sunburns that he could be grateful for sunscreen even existing now.
He soaked a washcloth in cold water from the sink and pressed it to the sunburn for a while, allowing himself some blissful solitude in which to mull things over. He'd made a few discoveries over the last few days that had nothing to do with Spanish culture or the people he was with, but rather about himself—he'd come to realize that he was probably more in love with Italy than he thought, for one thing, and now that he'd forced himself away from his duties and seen that the world had not collapsed around him, it was remarkably easy to examine the things he truly wanted to spend his time doing. He'd never considered it this way before, but maybe he could take much better care of himself and his citizens by doing the pointless things that made him happy. He supposed he could at least make Italy happier that way, but thinking about that subject again brought a fresh wave of memories of his dream that he quickly tried to will away.
He couldn't stand to put it off any longer, so Germany decided to dress himself properly and get on with starting his day. He also thought about what he might do to pass the time until the others got up—right, he remembered that he still wanted to check whether Prussia actually had anything important to say to him last night, or whether his incredible talent for ruining moments of intimacy had finally worked on him as well. He practically had a sixth sense about it, or so France claimed: he had way too more stories about barging in on various couples to be normal.
Germany tried to make a stealthy exit from the bathroom to the sitting room, but this didn't go as smoothly as he would have liked as he soon discovered he was no longer the only person awake. He quietly called out Italy's name, not realizing that he may have been mistaken until after Romano had finished pulling his shirt on over his head. In his own defense, they did look awfully similar when he couldn't see their faces.
"Oh," said Germany, surprised. "You're not Italy."
It took both of them a moment to process the intense stupidity of what he'd just said.
"I'm not Italy," said Romano, echoing him.
"You're not—Veneziano, rather." Germany cringed—he knew from dealing with his brother that Romano probably hated it when others spoke in a way that suggested he was the less important one, and he actually did feel bad for letting that slip out of his mouth. "That was obviously not what I meant."
To be quiet honest, Germany had been almost certain that Romano would go right back to his irritable ways today; that he'd fiercely deny everything that went on the night before. And yet he hadn't—he was deathly quiet, and it was already very unusual for him to barely even react to Germany's words when normally he might have already started a confrontation. Romano just seemed tired this morning, almost numb, and Germany couldn't comprehend why.
Then he noticed Romano's gaze shifting from the carpet and over to Spain's sleeping face, and the brief look of distress that appeared across his features.
The reality of the situation dawned on him, sudden and horrifying—in his haste to escape to the bathroom, Germany had completely failed to realize the terrible consequences of Romano finding him up before he was. He also realized, in that moment, that Romano had probably woken up exactly as Germany had last seen him, and they both knew there was almost no chance that he'd passed by the second bed and not noticed anything.
It was a very rare feeling for Germany, but he was all at once at a loss for what to say or even ought to do. If he had only known beforehand that this would happen, he would have gladly laid back down and played dead for as long as it took to avoid this unfortunate situation.
"There's coffee downstairs," Romano said, finally, after a tense silence. "I'm leaving."
"I thought you didn't like coffee," said Germany, inanely. He had no idea why he tried to latch on to this as a subject of conversation, except maybe out of sheer desperation. He wasn't exactly surprised that it didn't work.
"Does it matter? I'm only telling you because I'm taking the room key with me."
"Shaddup already, 'mano." Both of them jumped—Spain, apparently only semi-conscious, stretched his arm out from under the blankets and swatted ineffectually at the back of Romano's leg. "Lemme sleep."
He rolled over onto his stomach, stole one of Romano's pillows for himself, and was out like a light once more.
"Fuck," Romano whispered. He stood there for a few painful seconds longer before walking past, going to the bedroom door and wordlessly slipping out.
Then there was only silence. Germany gazed longingly at the other bed, wishing he could just crawl back in next to Italy and sleep this whole episode off. Instead, he allowed himself only a moment in which to acknowledge how immensely grateful he was that Italy had not grown up to be nearly as difficult, then turned on his heel and exited the room.
I made a very brief mention of hand gestures in this chapter. It's actually true that Italians talk with their hands a lot, whether just gesturing for emphasis or conveying something that your words alone do not or using gestures with more specific meanings. There are way more hand gestures that Italians might use compared to the rest of the world, so I would suggest looking them up.
I don't think I've really mentioned Italy or Romano gesturing much, but I imagine they try to tone it down around people who don't understand it. Plus, Germany's probably used to Italy's gesturing by now and him making specific note of it in the story wouldn't make much sense to me.
Headcanon Note - This is absolutely never going to come up, but one of my Prussia headcanons is that he's never had a relationship work out but he's spent so much time pining over (insert your favorite character to ship him with here) that he has some pretty wise things to say about love. Normally I see people writing France this way, and while I do think he loves telling other people his opinion I think France would probably either have a completely romanticized or jaded way of looking at love, so his advice is pretty useless in this one area.