Credit: Thank you so much my beta reader, the fabulous AlluringFlameLight
Disclaimer: Hetalia is never mine to possess, ye readers
Warning: Fluff, fluff, and fluff
Under the Twinkling Stars
Herakles Karpusi couldn't have been more content with his visit to Japan's homeland. The tour, provided by the graceful host himself, had nothing to complain about. The contrast between the electrically-decorated Tokyo skyscrapers and the time-enduring ancient shrines of Kyoto fascinated him. The cuisine's austere beauty and unparalleled hygiene, combined with lighter seasoning when compared to most dishes from other Asian nations, were treasures to the tongue.
Today, the raven-haired nation took his guest to their last destination, Hokkaido. The journey on a sleeper train was pleasant, as well. Naturally, it would have been faster to travel by air, but that would rob the guest of the opportunity to experience the fully en suite onboard accommodation that the host took such pride in.
"An outdoor ice-skating rink?" Greece, who had craned his neck toward the train window, hummed as he observed some skaters twirling on a frozen lake, their cheeks rubicund from cold and their scarves fluttering. "How nice."
"The climate of Northern Japan allows us to have several of those. Would you like to try skating outdoor, Greece-san?" offered the nation beside him.
Greece smiled. "That would be lovely."
"Ah, but if we skate this afternoon, we shall not have enough time to visit the Shintoku Farm, where the Sakura Cheese is produced. Shintoku is two hours away from Sapporo on train and your flight back to Athens will depart early tomorrow morning."
"Oh, the one that won the gold medal in the flavored soft cheese category at the third Mountain Cheese Olympics in Switzerland six years ago?"
Japan's eyebrow rose upon hearing the taller nation's question. Aware though he was that Greece had more varieties of cheese than Japan had, he did not suspect in the slightest that a nation like Greece would remember such minor detail. After all, a country normally had a lot to think about—labor strike, election, taxes, the natality and mortality rates of its citizens, among countless other matters. "Yes, but do forgive my ignorance, Greece-san, for I failed to realize the profoundness of your interest in cheese."
"It's not the cheese that captures my interest." The reply came accompanied by a smile.
Albeit Japan's expression became even more puzzled, he chose to uphold his politeness.
The same relaxed smile lingered on Heracles' lips as he delivered his answer for the question which Kiku's reserved nature had desisted from asking. "I merely follow all the news about you."
Sparks of heat crept over Japan's cheeks. Unsure of how to respond, he reached for his can of honey lemon-flavored green tea. Greece's hand, however, followed his hand.
Japan's breath hitched at the sight of the short tunnel ahead; could Greece possibly thinking of holding his hand in public?
The train passed a snow shelter that protected railway switches from possible freezing. In the shade, Japan felt his heartbeat thumping as wildly as the sound of a taiko drum with the prospect of holding hands with Greece.
However, it turned out that Greece was aiming for his own drink, which lay next to Japan's.
How could he be so full of himself? More blush daubed Japan's cheek, and he knew no method to conceal it, as light was restored to them the moment the train came out from the snow shelter. He sipped his drink again, even though he was not thirsty.
"At any rate," Japan spoke again after swallowing his drink, his gaze was transfixed to the fields of snow that now came into view through the window, "Since the farm's visiting hours don't extend to the evenings, may I suggest that we visit the farm first, then go ice-skating tonight?"
"Skating under the stars?" replied the taller nation dreamily, "That sounds wonderful."
When the night came, the host and the guest headed to the outdoor skating rink, each carrying a pair of skates. They strolled with satisfied bellies after dinner, thanks to Hokkaido specialty red king crab, or taraba gani, which was in season. Greece hummed the tune of 'Furusato'—a folk song about hometown that Japan had taught him a couple of days before. Japan took delight in the other nation's mellifluent voice and listened intently. He walked slightly in front of his guest, since the temptation to entwine his hand with Greece's would be too hard to suppress if he kept their bodies aligned.
The skating rink had already been deserted when the two nations arrived. They had taken curvaceous roads full of snow to get there—this was why snow tire came as a compliment with most Hokkaido rent cars during the winter.
Stepping out of the rent car, Greece stretched his arms overhead and inhaled the frosty air. Behind the parked car was yonder mountain lined with a forest of pines. The benign moon poured its light on the dew-sprinkled shrubs that surrounded the thick layer of ice. The ground endured stalwartly beneath the blanket of snow.
"It sure is cold here," He adjusted his muffler, "but breathtakingly beautiful." A wisp of vapor slipped from between his lips and his perfectly straight nose had started to turn rubicund.
Japan eyed him in a stupor, secretly admiring how beautiful Greece's mouth was when it articulated the word, "beautiful." Only after Greece's curious gaze found his did Japan free himself from the other's trance and make a hasty reply, "Come for another visit in February and you will see even more beautiful things."
"What sort of beautiful things?"
"There will be meticulously carved snow and ice sculptures in the Sapporo's Snow Festival," explained the raven-haired nation.
"Will any of them be half as beautiful as yourself?"
"G-greece-san, please refrain from speaking in such a jest." The reply came five seconds too late, with the tinge of panic was apparent in the tone, and accompanied by a prominent blush adorning Japan's countenance. However, he quickly hid his "embarrassing" side from view by walking in front of Greece.
"But I'm not jesting."
The taller nation followed his friend's steps, their footprints trailing behind them, in the snow. Ice claws jutted from Japan's pocket as he made a rather robotic march toward the rink.
Even after they had reached the field of ice, Japan did his best to keep some distance from his friend. He possessed not the grace of a figure skater, but could, at the very least, glide smoothly over the ice. He glanced over to the other side of the rink and noticed Greece struggling with the footing. The taller nation's stance was shaky, and, at last, when he managed few strokes, he tripped.
"Ow!" Greece winced as he landed butt-first.
The raven rushed to the brunet's side, guilt weighing in his mind and sparks of shaved ice trailing behind his blades. "Are you all right, Greece-san?"
Relief washed Japan's worried face as the olive-skinned nation gave him a nod.
Offering his hand to help Greece stand up, the dark-haired nation said, "I am not a proficient skater myself, but I shall I do my best to assist you."
"Caught you, at last." Greece took Japan's hand with a serene smile gracing his lips.
Face turning crimson, Japan remarked with a shaky voice, "Was all that no more than a pretense to fetch me to your side?"
Greece halted skating. He locked Japan with his intense gaze. "If I say 'Yes, it was.'?"
Much to Greece's dismay, Japan glided away from him. The look on the shorter nation's face was unmistakably hurt. Betrayed. "I have always regarded you as a man of honor. Never had it crossed my mind that you would resort to trickery. I am disappointed in you."
Placidity settled in Japan's expression. Yet, he increased their distance, rapidly stroking over the ice.
Greece pursued his adversary with a speed Japan had never expected such a slothful nation to possess. He stopped right in front of the younger nation and grabbed him by the shoulders.
"Remove your hands from me." The timber of Japan's voice was no less cold than the wintry montane airstream, and his adversary's courage nearly faltered.
Yet, bracing himself for the worst, the taller of them tightened his grip and affirmed, "Not until you listen to what I have to say."
Japan looked away, fully knowing his resoluteness would stand no chance against the remorse in Greece's eyes and the beseeching tone in Greece's voice. "Not looking" was the only way to buy him time.
However, Greece wielded the power to compel Japan to look back at him with a single word, spoken in Japan's native tongue. His pronunciation was nowhere near perfection, his accent was provincial, and his intonation rose and fell at the wrong places. Nevertheless, when emanated from this particular nation's mouth, the word became the one Honda Kiku longed and feared most.
It was not how he had planned it. It was not how his partner was supposed to react. Yet, it happened regardless—his love confession was taking place.
The oriental nation struggled not to gulp, probably forgetting that the high collar of his jacket perfectly concealed his bobbing Adam's apple.
"You're the love of my life. I want you so much that I selfishly neglected your feelings and I'm sorry for that. I should have asked you honestly instead." With that, Greece withdrew his fingers from Japan's duck down jacket.
Japan still spoke nothing, even though his gaze had softened significantly.
"I want you even more than all cats in the world."
As soon as the words left his mouth, Greece realized that no sane person would like to be compared with cats, but it was too late. It was his most favorite thing—something that had naturally burst out of his mouth before he gained any chance to think about it. He swallowed. Hard.
"Is there anything I can do to make amends to you?"
No response came.
The shorter nation quivered slightly at the sound of his name, though it might be a bit presumptuous for Greece to assume so; it was, winter, after all.
"Close your eyes," Japan replied at last.
Greece complied. At first, he sensed nothing, save for the iciness of the air. Then, a soft pressure of Japan's palm was applied onto each of his shoulders. The shorter nation was leaning over him. He felt breath drifting from Japan's lips as the raven's face drew closer and closer. Suddenly, the gap between them no longer existed.
Japan looked flustered as he turned away after their mouth contact came to an end.
With a smile, Greece traced his lips with his fingers, where the nation he loved and adored had just captured them. Under the twinkling stars, the day's adventures were through, but the taste of Honda Kiku's kiss lingered forever.