Title: Tunnel Vision
Pairing and Characters: Romano/Fem!Romano/Spain/Fem!Spain, brief Germany/Fem!Italy, Fem!France makes an appearance
Notes: COFFEE SHOP AU. Sequel to Six in One.
The official opening of Caffé Quadrato was finally, finally set for January 20th, and Antonia honestly thought it was the best birthday present ever. They'd wanted a September opening, but some issues with the building Romano and Lovina had chosen pushed the date back, and back again, and yet again, until there was no way they'd be able to get things set up until after the new year. Romano, sweet thing that he was, had insisted they could do the opening a different day, but Antonia had insisted more, Antonio had decided they'd just have a party for Antonia's birthday at the café after closing time, and Lovina had muttered a, "Thank god, our apartment is too small for all your insane friends," so everything was settled. A huge, sparkling GRAND OPENING sign had been made, courtesy of Antonia herself, and she knew a smaller, yet equally as sparkly HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANTONIA banner was sitting in the store room of their café (their café, their café, Antonia was so proud of Lovina and Romano), just waiting to adorn the inside walls when the time came.
Antonia was interrupted from her half-nap, half-Romano-and-Lovina-are-socute daydreams by a loud, annoyed, "Antonia!" coming from the kitchen.
"What, Roma?" She rolled off the couch and began making her way to the kitchen, stopping when she was met halfway by a very flour-covered Romano. "Did the flour attack you?" she asked with a laugh.
"No, the flour did not attack me. You have awful handwriting and I can't read the coffee cake recipe you wrote down worth shit so I used too much."
It took her a moment to realise which recipe he meant, and another to remember why her 5s looked like 8s and her 6s somehow managed to look like 2s again (a very Lovina-like shriek had come from the bathroom while she'd been writing and she'd jumped to her rescue, but that was a totally different story), but after her two moments and another for good measure she slid into the kitchen to correct her mistake. "Sorry, sorry. I know you really want to use the recipe for the café."
"I don't. You kept begging me to."
Romano had a very funny definition of people begging him, Antonia thought. "Of course, of course. There you go, everything is all fixed!"
Romano glanced over the rewritten recipe and Antonia beamed at him when he gave her a nod of approval. "This better be good. We're opening tomorrow." Antonia knew the coffee cake was just fine, and she also knew that Romano knew this as well, because he'd been eating it for years, ever since her mother had first made it for him to bribe him during his Spanish lessons with her, but another thing that Antonia knew was that Romano was a very silly person when he was nervous, and this lead to him doing silly, silly things like "test" a recipe he knew was just fine a billion and three times before he declared it good.
"It's good, Roma. Everything is fine for tomorrow, stop worrying so much."
"Well somebody has to," Romano replied with a pout, returning to the kitchen to start his baking anew. "Lovina has been sleeping all day and you and Antonio just keep spouting nonsense at me."
"We're just trying to he-"
"I have not been sleeping all day, fuck you." Antonia didn't mind all too much that Lovina's sudden entrance interrupted her, because she'd probably said, "We're just trying to help," during this whole ordeal more times than Romano had told her and Antonio to fuck off, and that sure was saying something. "I was up all night stocking shit for the shop."
Lovina looked exhausted, but so did Romano, so Antonia refrained from whining at the man about making poor Lovina stock things all night, because she knew he'd most likely been right there with her. He whined a lot about doing all the work, but Antonia knew if that was at all true it was only because he was being all cute and gentlemanly and not letting Lovina lift any big, overly heavy boxes and such. "How about I make the coffee cake?" Antonia suggested. "I don't have work today or tomorrow, and you two need a nap or you'll be all tired and grumpy at the café tomorrow and nobody wants that. I have a key to the place, I'll go over and finish the baking."
"I just took a n-"
"No." Antonia took the recipe card out of Romano's hand and patted both her favourite Italians on the cheek. "Romano go clean up and then go to bed. You too, Lovina." She made her very best stern face, though she completely failed when the two made twin faces of exasperation and stomped off to one of the rooms together.
She couldn't help but to finally burst into laughter at the, "Yes, Mom," she got from Lovina, because that had to be the funniest thing she'd heard all day.
The next day, all four of them were up bright and early, though Antonio wouldn't be able to come into the café until after the pre-school class he taught was over for the day. Antonia had been told a billion and three times each by Romano and Lovina to just go back to bed, but there was really no other way she wanted to spend her birthday.
"Are you nervous, Lovi?" she asked on the car ride over when she noticed Lovina picking at non-existent lint on her shirt. When she'd asked Romano he'd just grunted at her, but maybe she'd be able to get something more out of a still really sleepy Lovina, she though.
Or maybe not, because Lovina just kept picking at all that invisible lint. Antonia poked her stomach, gently, and was quickly answered with a slap to her hand. "Knock that off, Antonia. I'm not fucking nervous."
"Whatever you say, dear."
"I'm not! Everyone will fucking love this place and we'll run all the other coffee shops around here out of business and then we'll see who's fucking nervous."
Antonia was pretty sure it was still Lovina who was the nervous one, but she didn't say that. "Who said I was talking about the coffee shop?"
Lovina looked startled for a moment, and then she looked more like she was about to go off into a new rant, but a, "Shut up both of you, we're here," cut her off and the three of them were soon making sure everything was set for their first business day
Antonia started filling their little pastry shelves with the treats she'd baked the night before, but Romano stopped her halfway through, once he'd finished making sure all their machines were up and running and brewing delicious coffee. "Antonia you don't work here, go do something else."
Antonia ignored him. "It's my birthday!"
"And the birthday girl wants to pretend she works a coffee shop today, so shhh. And don't you even start Lovina, put those chairs down I'll set them up."
Antonia also ignored Lovina's protests and Romano's grumpy mumblings, but she didn't ignore the fact that when customers started showing up in droves the complaints ceased entirely.
"Antonia! We're out of cups, why are we out of cups?" Antonia looked at Lovina, then at the stack of cups to her right and thought maybe it was about time for the other woman to take a break. Romano apparently thought otherwise because he just shoved a cup into Lovina's hands and went back to cleaning up a mess of spilled coffee beans under one of their tables. "Stop mumbling at me you're the one who spilt them."
"You bumped into me."
"You were in my way."
"You were in my way."
Antonia tapped her nails against the cash register and watched the front door, thinking that maybe she should put up one of those fun bells that rang every time the door opened. She also thought about bringing up the idea to Romano and Lovina, but considering how long the two of them had spent arguing over colour schemes and paintings and furniture, she thought it would just be better if she snuck over one night and put the thing up without asking. They'd never be able to get it down, and if she told Antonio not to he wouldn't take it down for them either. A nice little gold bell, right above their dark green door...
"If you're going to help, could you actually take the orders and not stare into space mumbling our names?"
It was a warm, sunny day in April and Romano, while glad their shop was doing so well, really wanted everyone to stop fucking ordering iced tea. It wasn't hard to make, and they had more than enough to go around, but he was just so fucking sick of making it, it wasn't even funny.
He nudged Lovina out of the way of the cash register and pointed at the latest pitcher of brewing tea. "Switch me places, I'm bored."
"Fine by me." Lovina fiddled with the apron wrapped around her waist and Romano rolled his eyes for the fifteen-billionth-and-third time that day before fixing the damned thing for her. Again. "I hate working the register all da- ew. Ew. This stuff smells like shit."
A woman sitting nearby with a toddler covered the child's ears and sent them an irritated look, but Romano really couldn't give two shits about that. If people couldn't get used to the unique charm of their café, that was seriously their problem, not his.
"...You really need to stop using that as an excuse to get out of things."
"Stuff it, I'm not using anything as an excuse."
"Yesterday you said mopping the floor made you sick."
"Well it did! You bought the wrong soap again! And you're the one who is always knocking shit over when we're cleaning up."
"You two going to argue all day, or can I get a cup of coffee?"
Romano was about to fire off a, "I'll get you your cup of coffee when I damn well want to," because that was the sort of customer service he gave, don't you know, but then Lovina was rushing off to the store room looking green and oh fun, Antonio had just walked in through the front door.
"No worries, sir," Antonio easily slid behind the counter and, after putting up with Romano for so many years no doubt, was completely unfazed by the glare being directed at him. "They're just playing, Romano and Lovina make the best coffee ever."
Romano hated/really appreciated it, but shh don't tell anyone he said that, when Antonio came to help in the shop after work. Most customers just came for the delicious coffee and homemade cakes and pastries, and didn't care if it took a little longer than it might at a larger coffee shop or if Romano and Lovina were arguing yet again over whose turn it was to take a break. Some, like that crazy French friend of Antonio and Antonia's, found their "banter" charming or some shit, based on the review of their shop she'd written for one of the local newspapers (Romano still had no idea how that bitch had gotten hired as a restaurant reviewer, but whatever), and were actually disappointed when they came in on a slow, quiet day, or a sleepy, calm morning and found that Lovina and Romano could actually get along (which Romano thought was fucking stupid, of course they could get along). There were those few, though, that had never been to the shop or had only been in when Antonio was working, and they didn't really like it when Lovina told them to get some fucking patience or Romano told them to take their change and stop looking at his girlfriend's tits, I don't care if you think they look bigger today, wino bitch, stop talking about them too.
Romano had half a mind to ban all of Antonia's friends from the shop, but only half because at least they bought things. Unlike Lovina, who kept eating all their scones (okay maybe he helped a little with the whole scone eating thing, but it was mostly her).
"It's so nice out, Roma, why don't you and Lovina go take a break? I'm sure you could both use the fresh air!"
That did sound tempting... "Stupid, I'm not leaving you alone in my shop. You have paint all over you clothes."
"We did finger-painting in class today."
"And you couldn't clean yourself up before coming to bother us?"
"Well I cleaned up my hands and face!" Somehow, Antonio had taken over both the register and actually making the drinks, and Lovina was still back in the back. Romano was so not amused.
"Whatever. Don't come crying to me when it gets too busy for you to manage by yourself."
"Mamá! My teacher!"
"Aw, hey Alba!"
Romano went to retrieve Lovina while Antonio drew a ridiculous face on a cup of juice for the little girl and started making a coffee for her mother. "Stop fiddling with the stupid apron and just take it off, we're going outside for a minute."
"I don't know why we wear these damn things anyway."
They mostly wore them because Romano thought they looked nice, but. Well. "They keep shit off our clothes, stop complaining."
"Roma, Lovi! Go outside~!"
"Shut up, Antonio!"
Nobody was surprised when both Romano and Lovina said that in sync. Or when Lovina threw her discarded apron at Antonio's head on their way out. "If he catches our espresso maker on fire again I'm hiring him a babysitt- oi, asshole, no smoking outside my shop." Romano shooed away the teen attempting to light up just outside their front door. "I didn't say go inside the. Fuck it. Antonio can deal with it."
"He won't have to." Lovina tossed the unlit cigarette at Romano before walking off down the sidewalk.
Romano followed and ignored it when Antonio's name flashed on his cellphone five minutes later. They had an extra espresso machine in the stock room.
Lovina had decided she hated summer time in her and Romano's coffee shop the most. Antonio had decided to spend his summer break working in the shop instead of, you know, taking a break like a normal person, and Antonia also stopped by on her days off because, "All of you are here, I don't want to be at home alone!" Sure, maybe the customers enjoyed the two idiots more than they enjoyed Lovina and Romano's "customer service", but… actually, that really was what bothered Lovina the most.
That and the fact that it was obnoxiously hot and uncomfortable. "You turned the air conditioning off again."
"It's still on."
"Well turn it on more."
"It's up as high as it goes and people have been complaining about it being too cold all day long."
Lovina scowled at Romano and then shifted her angry gaze over to Antonio when he had the audacity to laugh at her. "You two suck, I'm going home."
"We only brought one car."
"Good." Lovina reached into Romano's back pocket and stole the only set of keys they'd brought with them. "You can walk home, bitches."
Somebody on the other side of the counter cleared their throat and all three of them looked over, Antonio immediately jumping back into customer service mode and going to stand by the cash register while Lovina and Romano just scowled at the blond man standing at the front of the short line.
"I'm sure some people come here for a show, but I'd really just like a drink."
"Ve, Ludwig, we came here to see my sister too!"
"...I know that, Felicia."
"Oh. Oh! You were trying to make a joke, I get it haha."
Lovina squeaked when Romano wrapped at arm around her waist, and then slapped that damned hand away when she realised he was just trying to be all sneaky and steal the keys back out of her dress pocket. She would not be fooled, she knew what he was doing! "Knock that shit off, I'm still leaving."
"You can't leave, I don't want to deal with your potato-headed in-law." The hand came back to rest softly on her side, but this time no key stealing attempts were made. Lovina still eyed Romano warily.
"If he's my in-law, he's yours too," she argued back, though she knew it didn't really make sense. As her mother liked to remind her on a regular basis, she wasn't exactly married to Romano, nor to Antonio or Antonia (though her mother would never in a million years want her to be married to Antonia anyway). That still didn't mean she wanted to bear the burden of having stupid Germans in her family alone.
"How come you're still working, Sorella?" Lovina looked over at her younger sister (while ignoring the man standing next to her, thank you very much) and raised an eyebrow.
"Why the hell wouldn't I be working? It's my shop."
"I know, but Mamma said-"
Lovina didn't have the time to listen to what her mother said when her mother was actually the one saying it, so she cut Felicia off. "Mamma says a lot of dumb shit."
She tried to ignore the, "She does have a point," that came from the vague direction of the space next to her sister, but Felicia's enthusiastic agreement made that rather difficult.
"You said you were going home anyway, Lovi, if you want to go hang out with your sister we can manage the shop, it's fine." Lovina threw a cup at the goddamned traitor that was Antonio and he just gave her a sheepish smile. "I just thought you might want to! Not saying I want you to leave."
"Who the fuck said I wanted to." Lovina pulled away from Romano and shoved Antonio out of the way of the cash register. "I can work just fine, fuck you all. Felicia, order something or go away."
The woman in line behind Felicia and her obnoxiously tall shadow readily agreed with the sentiment. "See? You're holding up my line."
"Can I at least-"
"NO. I'll see you later tonight."
"...Can I have a cappuccino before I go? Please please please?" Felicia made puppy dog eyes at her and it was totally ineffective but hey, a customer was a customer, even if said customer was her dumb little sister. "And two of the little cakes Antonia makes?"
Lovina was going to have to have a talk with Antonia about sending baked goods to her relatives again. "Fine. Romano, make the cappuccino. Antonio, bag up two of the cakes. Felicia, pay up and stop making that face at me."
A chorus of, "Yes sir!" met her ears and Lovina felt very pleased with herself, even if Romano's wasn't quite as sincere as the ones from Antonio and Felicia and Felicia somehow managed to snake her arms around Lovina's belly in an odd sort of over-the-counter hug.
"Knew you weren't really going to go home," Romano whispered as he passed Felicia's cup over the counter, the car keys once again dangling from his thieving fingers.
Summer was soon behind them as August faded into September, and even though Antonio really, really loved his job as a preschool teacher, he was going to be just a little sad when he wasn't spending everyday working with Romano and Lovina. Sure, the two mostly just argued all day (with one another as well as with the customers) while Antonio took all the orders, but that was the fun part!
The other fun part was watching Romano intercept every single attempt Lovina made at lifting any boxes or moving any tables. It was just too cute how he worried over her, though he insisted that wasn't what he was doing at all.
"My my, the boys still have you doing work around here? And in your condition?" Antonio wanted to laugh at the look on Lovina's face when Francine entered the shop, but he knew that probably wouldn't be appreciated. Definitely wouldn't be appreciated. Romano was glaring at him as if he knew what he'd been about to do, how mean!
"We're not making her do anything. What do you want?"
"A cup of coffee, a chance to spend more time with my favourite little small business owners, the usual." Francine pinched Romano and Lovina's cheeks before moving the table they were arguing over herself and making her way to the counter Antonio was working behind. "Honestly, you are so lucky I write you such good reviews in the paper, how do you have any customers when all you do is argue?"
"So mean Francine." Antonio winked over at the still bickering Italians and handed Francine a small coffee cup. "Did you come in to do another interview?"
Francine stuffed a few bills in the tip jar like she always did and took the seat nearest the cash register. "Well yes, but I think 'Coffee Shop Owners Make Pregnant Woman Move Heavy Tables' has a far nicer ring to it than anything else I could come up with."
"I am one of the owners, bitch."
"I keep telling her I can move it myself!"
The bell above their door chimed as Antonia entered the shop, still in her nursing scrubs. "Are they still arguing about that table?"
Four voices answered her back, an equal amount of no and yes, but Antonio knew which answer Antonia believed. Lovina and Romano had been arguing about arranging the tables all week, but of course they were going to deny that. "You two are so funny. Sorry Roma, you'll have to continue this argument later because I'm here to steal Lovina away for her doctor's appointment."
"We weren't arguing." Antonio glanced at the door to make sure no new customers were coming in and then went into the back to grab Lovina's coat for her. The bell chimed two more times while he was doing so, but he knew Romano was more than capable of running things for two seconds. For more than that, Romano and Lovina ran the shop just fine all by themselves, no matter how much Antonio or anyone else joked about them scaring off all their customers.
He came back with Lovina's jacket, only to find the two chimes had come from an older couple that apparently hated him. He didn't know why, but anytime he was working with Lovina they scowled at him and muttered under their breaths, but they always brought Romano presents and asked him if everything was going okay. He didn't know what he'd done to deserve their ire, but at least some of their customers liked Romano more than they liked him, right? Maybe it was all just in his head...
"What's all in your head, stupid?" Lovina asked, snatching her coat from him.
"Oh haha, thinking aloud. That couple doesn't seem to like me very much, do they?" Antonio looked over at the same time Lovina did to find them waiting at a table for their coffee while giving Antonio and Lovina conspiratory glances.
"Oh fuck them." Lovina leaned in and up, her belly bumping into Antonio's as she pulled him into a kiss. A shocked gasp came from the old woman sitting at the table, an indignant, "And in front of her husband," coming from the man.
Oooh. So that's why they hated him! How silly, Romano wasn't Lovina's husband.
"Bye, Antonio." Lovina fixed the collar of his shirt and then she was walking over to Romano and repeating her actions. From the lack of any shocked noises or coffee spilling on Romano's part he'd been completely expecting her to do something like this.
"Ciao, Lovina." Romano winked at the now silent customers and set their coffee cups in front of them.
Antonio couldn't help but laugh at the looks on their faces when Lovina dipped Antonia as best she could and laid one on her as well before the two women walked out of the shop, a harmony of, "See you two at home!" following behind them.
"This is exactly why I always give this café five star reviews," Francine piped in. "Coffee and a show, my favourite."
"You're not even here for the newspaper this time, are you?" Romano picked up Francine's empty coffee mug and scowled. "You always get your damned lipstick on our cups, I told you to knock that shit off."
And Antonio told Romano to just give her paper cups, but oh well. "Of course I am!" Francine glided over to the table the still-shocked couple was just about to vacate and pulled up a chair, sliding into it and grinning at them. "Leaving so soon? And here I was going to interview you for my next piece. I'm thinking 'Caffé Quadrato Owners Caught in Crazy Love Square' sounds nice, no?"
"...Oh, hey, Romano! I get it! You and Lovina are so funny."
"Yeah yeah, we're fucking hilarious. Took you long enough."
The couple were eyeing them oddly again, or maybe silently begging for them to help them get away from Francine. Either way, in that moment Antonio decided that Lovina wasn't the only one who got to have all the fun, and Romano looked just so adorable concentrating on working their espresso machine that he had to pull him into a kiss as well.
The sound of pen on paper was the only noise that filled the shop for a moment. "So what are your thoughts on this development, hm?"
Antonio was definitely going to miss being here everyday.