The cabbie was shuffling around in his seat, grumbling about something but keeping his mouth shut for some reason. Antonia tensed and looked up from the warm, soft folds of Lovino's coat. "No problem," She whispered, relaxing back when it wasn't a problem.

"Don't fall asleep," He told her quietly, moving his arm just a little. "We're almost there."

Antonia nodded, her eyes opening to watch as they-

—went through a gate?

Oh, oh. She was so not looking at the outside of this place when it had a gate.

They were at the end of his road, the cab drawing near to the other end of the street, so he had to shrug her off with a little apology while he fished out his wallet.

The cab drew up in front of a tall building. Its base was old, but it had been modernized and extended, like many of the buildings in the area, to put new apartments on the market. Lovino paid and went to drop him a rather paltry tip - grumpy old bastard kept muttering and complaining under his breath, it wasn't as if he controlled the weather —but in the end, he was more generous, and opened the door to help Antonia onto the street.

Antonia was a little less than graceful getting out of the car. From a by passer's prospective she probably looked drunk or worse. Still, she was able to walk, with the help of Lovino's slender arm.

So handsome, he was so handsome... She thanked him again, shutting the door so he wouldn't have to.

He had the decency not to laugh at her, but he was slightly amused as he pressed the button to get into the building, letting her lean on him as they walked across to the elevator. For the first time, it struck him how potentially awkward this whole thing could transpire to be, and for the first time, he realized he didn't give a shit, and would show her up to his apartment anyway.

Her flat was already compared to a pile of shit to this jeweled up state of living. She sniffled, mostly from the cold air, but also from envy. "It's really nice." She answered as she leaned against the elevator wall— you didn't even have to close the doors; and they didn't even seem like a death trap when you walked in. The mall's elevators were a pile of shit as well, compared to this one. "It's really, really nice."

He chuckled, watching her wrap her arms around herself, her nose and cheeks red and flushed as she looked around, eyes wide and impressed, like a child. She looked beautiful like that, but freezing, and he lamented not having the guts to take just a little step closer to heat her up. "This is just the elevator," He told her, with no intention of sounding stuck-up or obnoxious.

"Yeah," She laughed, just utterly amazed. When it hit his floor, which Lovino kept blocking with his body, she looked at him, her smile probably all child-like and awed. "It's just so..." She whispered, blinking at the floors, which were so clean she didn't even want to step on them to make them dirty. "... nice,"

"Thank you." The doors pinged open, and he smiled and stepped back, allowing her to go first, nervous to see her reaction. Shit, he couldn't remember if he'd tidied up from breakfast or not...

Antonia took a delicate step, her hands knotted together with pent-in excitement. This was not her home, but god, how she wished it were. The marble below her clicked with the soles of her flats, and she tried to imagine herself walking home from work to here, her heels clacking on the floor as they would here.

"I don't know where it is," She lied, seeing the fancy ringer and the door, the flat number right beside it, even had the mailbox right there. God.

"...Right!" nodded Lovino, stepping forwards, finding his electronic key and swiping it at his door. "Just in here..." He held it open for her. Whether he'd left his shit out or not, manners cost nothing, and she could go in first. Well, they did cost, in his line of work, but not in front of Antonia.

Antonia slipped of her shoes, not wanting his floors that he probably cleaned himself to get all dirty. She looked around; straight into the living room to the best view of London, she had ever seen. She'd gone on the Eye once, but nothing compared to this. The lights were flickering on in the city, the snow blowing down... Antonia let out whimper of amazement; her feet all cozy in the carpet.

Shit. Sugar was lying out. There was a newspaper on the couch, a half-empty mug on the table... "Sorry," He muttered, edging past her to tidy up. "You can just put your things anywhere..."

"What are you sorry for?" She asked, turning around to him. She set her purse on the floor beside her feet in a little corner, as if the things would spread an air of cheap-bought this on my moving money mood. "It's so nice, you have really great place."

"It's a mess," He told her, embarrassed, dumping his cold drink in the sink and giving the mug a quick rinse. Great, now she would think he was a slob...

If this was a mess, her place was a garbage dump.

"No it isn't," She rushed, slipping off her coat, hat, and gloves, setting them under her purse. Out of sight, out of mind, she always said.

He hurried to take them from her and hung them up... they'd still be wet by the time she was leaving, if she folded them up on the floor. "Can I get you anything?" He asked, out of manners. It was a strange experience for him. Satisfying, though.

"No." She shook her head, smiling at him. Ah, and the night of fasting would begin. She bet Lovino had caviar, angel wings, maybe even the zest of a unicorn horn in his cupboards. "No, thank you."

Wow. That was definitive. "Nothing at all?" He pressed. He wasn't sure if he was a terrible host or she was a shitty guest.

"I'm fine," She insisted, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you."

He looked back at her, wondering what he was supposed to do. "Well, uh... there's some bruschetta and little... ham things in the fridge..." He told her, just in case. "Feli likes to cook," he explained, shrugging. "But the bedroom's through there, if you're tired."

She looked over to the bedroom, not even wanting to put her feet in such a nice bed. "Where are you gonna sleep?" She asked, looking up at him.

"On the couch," he answered, without a beat. Obviously.

Antonia shook her head. "You can sleep in your bed." God, she felt like such a poor person in here. It was terrible. "Or you could sleep with me." From the looks of it, the bed was probably the size of the sea.

He had to pause and restart his brain before he could say anything that made a lick of sense. "... That would give them something to talk about," He joked awkwardly, unable to answer 'yes' or 'no'.

"No kidding," She giggled, fidgeting like a nervous little kid in front of her distant family. "Still, it's kind of weird sleeping in someone else's place without someone there to talk to..."

"I can talk," He nodded, relieved at seeming to find a compromise and walking through to the bedroom with her at his tail. He'd sit with her until she fell asleep. There was nothing weird about that.

Oh god, how embarrassing this all was.

She rubbed her face, wanting to go home where she could wait on herself. "I'm sorry," She whined, resting on the edge of the bed. "I'm really sorry, Lovino," Although, in the heat of the moment, she didn't catch that she wasn't supposed to call him by his first name by instinct.

He paused, holding a pair of grey cotton trousers and a white t-shirt. He couldn't really expect her to call him 'sir' while she was sleeping in his bed. "It's nothing," He finally replied, stepping out and handing her the makeshift pajamas.

She looked up from knees on the bed, stepping up to get them. "I'm a terrible guest," Antonia whimpered, shoving herself into her boss's chest.

Lovino stiffened and put an awkward hand on her back to calm her down. There, there. Only a little. "No, of course not..."

"I feel like such an intruder, I do, I really do..." She mumbled, sniffling into his suit. God, he smelled so good. She swore, if she ever wanted to date a man, this man would be it.

"I would have told you if it was a problem," he answered, keeping his head up, so he wasn't too close to her. Granted, she was making that difficult for him.

She shoved away from him, not much to seem like that was very unacceptable and that this person practically hated her, but she graciously took the soft clothes that seemed like they've never been worn and scurried off to the nearest room with a lockable door. The closet.

Lovino wondered if he had offended her. Well, it couldn't really be helped if he had... he was just doing the right thing and distancing himself from Antonia, so he didn't get back into the loop of going weak at the knees every time he saw her. A few weeks ago, he'd wanted to have sex with her. Then, wanted to sleep with her, and then, wanted to wake up with her. In addition, she was going to step out at any second with his clothes on, and get into his bed. It was too much, too strange. However, kicking her out now would be worse, knowing she'd take it personally and probably resent him. He mouthed a few curses silently and took off his jacket, slinging it over his arm and breathing deeply. Just push through it, she'd be asleep in minutes.

Antonia wandered out in her makeshift pajamas, having to hold the waistband of her pants up so they wouldn't slide down and show her lacy tighty whities. She had gotten a little lost on the way, though. It was hard maneuvering around the multimillion dollar flat without trying to kill anything. Like a vase or two. When she showed up in the doorway, she could tell Lovino was fighting something mentally. Shit.

"Y'know, I really appreciate what you've done for me," She tried, sitting on the side of the bed that wasn't hers.

"Don't mention it..." He brushed her off and went to hang up his jacket, having to force himself to look past her.

Hatred. Resentment. Scorn.

She sighed, curling up onto the bed and under the— shit. These were nice covers... Antonia watched him as he preformed each movement fluid and careful.

Why is it you don't love me, her mind hissed, her nails gripping the loose folds of the sheets. All of this care and tenderness was driving her mad. She wanted to be more than just friends were, but obviously, Lovino didn't want any part of that.

He was just her boss.

Lovino closed his eyes and took a breath while he faced the other way, flashing an awkward smile when he turned and going to sit at the end of the bed. "You still want to talk?"

"You're probably not going to like what I have to say," She told him, her voice barely above a whisper. "It might make you hate me forever but right now, I don't know why, but I need to get it off my chest..."

Then don't say anything. Just go to sleep. Just go to sleep and we'll go to work tomorrow and pretend this never happened.

He just stared at her, confused, panicked, intrigued. "Okay."

"Do you remember when I just started out? How I hated coming to work after that day?" She asked him, scooting closer but keeping a large distance away from him. "Well, after you started showing me who you really are, I really liked it... And soon I couldn't wait to get to work and see you..."

It took a minute, but he nodded, looking her over and imploring her to continue. She couldn't be saying this. It couldn't be happening.

It took her a moment to continue, since she was shaking like a leaf at how nervous she was being. How many of these did Lovino get a week, she thought and let out a half-cry half-laugh. She took a deep breath and fiddled with her position. "But now, every time I see you I don't see my boss any more, I see someone I want to hold and love, and support. And I can't do that because you really don't want to,"

He let out an odd breath, somewhere between relief and grief, looking up at her. He could have cried for her then, awkward and desperate and scared... "Why are you shaking?" He croaked, moving closer and trying to still her hand with his own, and he couldn't believe it was all he could say. He couldn't even tell her that he wanted that, he wanted it so much...

"That's because I've been keeping this inside for weeks!" She nearly shouted, quickly silencing herself. "You're the reason why I lost sleep last night. It's because you're just so— beautiful on the inside and the outside. And I can't have you for my own!" She felt tears leak from her eyes, feeling like a selfish little brat.

How ugly, how sick...

His grip tightened on her hand, and before he could stop himself, his lips were against hers. He wasn't sure why. It was wrong, and it was unfair on her, because he would have to stop and tell her that it wouldn't happen, couldn't happen, but he needed to do it. He needed to kiss her, he needed to let her know that it wasn't his choice that they weren't together, and he'd be damned if he had any actual words lined up that could describe even a fraction of how he felt.

She really, really hadn't expected anything of that sort to happen. Her hand was locked in his, her lips were being touched, and Antonia couldn't tell as the tears ran down and blurred her vision if it was out of relief and love or out of pity. She shook underneath him, wanting to grab onto anything she could to keep him close, to keep him near and dear to her. She kissed him back with all the passion she could muster from her very being. She had to prove to him—

He shook his head and pulled away, frowning at himself.

He was a sick, sick, selfish man...

"I'm so sorry..."

"No," She shook her head. "No, no, don't be, please, Lovino, don't be." Antonia begged, gripping onto his hand.

"I shouldn't have..." He pulled his hand away from hers and ran it over his face, groaning. "I shouldn't have done that, I'm sorry..."

The woman, now crippled and emotionally tattered, turned away and slid her feet down into the covers. "I don't care, because I really loved it." She said quietly, like a child. "Imagine what it would be like if we did it everyday..." She smiled at the thought, now that it had been proved to her from the tingles on her lips that she traced ever so slightly with her fingertips. "Leaving to go to our flats, under the desk like the rumors said..."

"I thought you hated them saying things like that." He asked quietly, turning to look at her, so full of guilt and shame he wasn't sure what to do with himself.

"Because they would never happen," Antonia replied, staring at the pattern of his bedspread. "But after that..."

"Antonia, the things they'd say about us, about you..." He pressed, finding it harder and harder to justify himself. "You know how they'd twist it any way they liked."

"Who cares anymore?"

He looked at her, thinking of her scorn for his obsession with his image all that time ago, thinking of how much he'd hated to see her disappointment every time he would jump to defend himself at the risk of sacrificing integrity or any real morals. He thought of how hard he'd worked to overcome that, just to please her. He brought up a hand and put it to her face, using his thumb to wipe her tears. It was all he could do. "I care what they think of you."

"I do, too. That's why I just so mad about it," She whispered, craving each little touch he gave her. She didn't meet it; for she was afraid, like he'd back away and leave her by herself again. Her mind was just a mess of emotions, confusion, lust, doubt, exhaustion, and regret.

"You... you're none of the things they make you think you are," He insisted, making her look at him, realizing the irony in everything he was saying. His voice was uneven and unsure. "How they see you doesn't change you. It doesn't matter."

"I just wish— I just wish they could see the real you. You're not so self-centered; you're not dying for an image like everyone thinks you are." She whispered, her hand reaching for his on her chin.

She closed her eyes for a moment, wishing that touch, even if it was a forceful one, could last forever.

"Lovino, please,"

He closed his fingers around her hand.

"I thought that until I knew you," He admitted quietly, looking over her beautiful face, tainted with tears that he had caused, and for what— for his own pride, and that she deserved so much more from him. "I thought I knew everything until I knew you."

She smiled and breathed out, shaking her head. "You really did." Antonia whispered, reaching a free hand to move the hair from his face.

"And it really needed more red," He chanced, with a slight smile back. It grew more serious when he plucked up the courage to lean into her, but still present. "I need you more than I care about what any of them have to say."

All right, he had to give him that one. She laughed and gave him a soft peck on the lips before sliding back. Antonia tried to do that math in her head, but finally gave up. She didn't know what it meant now, but she was sure it meant something amazing. "Me too," She nodded, after a short yawn she hid behind her hand.

He waited for her to finish and smirked, trying to look mock offended. "Is that it?"

Panic suddenly cut through her cloud of emotions like a knife through butter. "No, no, no!" She rushed, gripping his hand. "No, I need you more than..." She bit her lip. She was now running on no sleep at all. "A tomato plant needs sunshine and water."

He shook his head, confused, but happy, God, so happy. "No, not that..." He pecked her lips, mimicking her. "Is that it? At least let me try to make it up to you."

Oh. She nodded, tucking a piece of his hair behind his ear. "Lovino, you still don't know much do you?" Antonia teased, brushing her cheek up against his. "You just did."

Lovino shook his head, putting one hand up through her hair and pressing his lips against hers again, without embarrassment, without panic and without guilt.

He broke off, just for a second.

"I'll never thank you enough," He told her, going slightly red, but starting to see what she had meant about the whole 'honesty' thing being a high card to play. However, to save himself from over-thinking and ruining it, which was probable, he kissed her, easing her back against the bed.

She caressed his lovely red cheeks, her favorite color of them all. It was hard to believe this man, now setting her against the mattress with the ease and touch of an angel's wing, was the one under seven darts she had thrown at her dartboard only a month earlier.

"Thank me later," She breathed in between his kisses, her nails gripping into his shirt. She had waited weeks for this moment; or at least, dreamed of such things; was told she dreamed of such things.

He nodded, straightening up and stroking her hair behind her ear until she closed her eyes. He stood up off the bed, and went to go through to the front room. There was no way he'd sleep beside her unless she gave him the green light.

"Hmph," She huffed, staring at him leaving. "I would have thought a gentleman like yourself wouldn't go off and leave a girl after she confessed her love to you, but then again, I can be mistaken." She called after him leaving, curling over to her side with the covers ripped over. She was almost too happy to be offended.

He was going to say something smart-assed, honest, but he just turned and looked at her, realizing how pathetic his excuse was, and laughing awkwardly before he even had a chance to say it. You're already wearing all the night-clothes I have."

Antonia processed that for a second, before rushing out of her covers. "Hope this means we're going steady," She mumbled, slipping out of his pants that already slid down to her ankles. She tossed them to him, keeping the shirt for obvious reasons.

"Uh," he stammered, looking her over instead of aiming to catch them and fumbling at the last second. Phew. Saved it. "Of course,"

She grinned, slipping back under before he took too much of a look. "Oh, that's nice." She whistled, setting her head back on one of the many throw pillows. "I Love you, love you, then"

He glanced over, making sure her head was back, but turning around anyway to get changed the most carefully he had ever done in his life. Trousers off, pajamas on, then shirt off, so he was never unclothed head to toe. He edged to the bed and slid in beside her, realizing he probably wouldn't sleep for hours. Oh, well. There were worse ways to spend an evening.

Antonia had dreamed her little, fourteen-year-old head off about how it would happen with the dip of the soft, foamy mattress and then the hesitation of whether or not he would join you in a nightly embrace. She breathed out, her smile still plastered on her twenty-three year old face, shoved deep under a mountain of sheets that smelled exactly like Lovino and something much more...

"Can I tell you something?" He asked, scooting over until he was beside her, turning his head so that half of his pillow was her dark brown curls. "It's stupid and you'll laugh."

"Hmm?" She asked, unmoving. Antonia could feel the warmth of his body close to hers; close enough to feel the dip in his heat waves.

Ah, shit. He immediately regretted saying anything, but she had bared more tonight, so he took a breath and muttered against her hair. "I wanted to kiss you at New Year's."

She raised one of her slack hands to her mouth to cover her happy little grin and the tiny giggles that caused her chest to shake. "Really?" Antonia asked, thinking back three days ago, how he had seemed a bit on the friendly side, how he had stuck around to watch the countdown; but after that, he seemed frustrated and a bit hard to be around. Now it all made sense.

"Told you you'd laugh at me," he murmured, feeling the mattress shift under her trying to suppress her giggling.

"I was wondering why you were acting like you had something up your ass," She laughed, scooting closer to him. How cute.

"You're supposed to..." He started, trying to defend himself, and realizing it would make it even worse, so he dropped his tone, embarrassed. "You're supposed to start the year how you want to finish it, so..."

Antonia's giggles stopped when he had finished that little statement, so she turned around, scooting back to give them breathing room. "I'm sorry, Lovi, we're a bit late. But better late then never, right?" She smiled, kissing him as he had done.

'Lovi', he thought, responding at putting a hand on her waist. That was new. "Do you think that'll count?" He asked after they'd broken apart, trying to ask seriously and pretty much failing.

"Count for what? I think it will." She nodded, although she was the Exception Queen of Exception Town.

"Good," He murmured, giving her a little peck just to punctuate everything. "Go to sleep."

"I want to but I can't now," Antonia smiled, scooting down to lean against his chest. "I'm too happy."

"What will we do tomorrow?" He asked, bringing his head down until it rested against the top of hers. "Will we let them know?"

She cradled her hands between them, feeling the pulse of his heart right up on her ear. Slow and steady. "Isn't having two people together working in the workplace strange enough? I could quit if you want,"


He wanted to see her during the day, he wanted to see her smile when she got something right, as childish as that seemed. Moreover, he'd never get anything done, he'd resent whoever took her place, even if he told himself not to.

"If you think that's best," He muttered, kissing her hair.

Antonia smiled at the peck, relaxing back into his hold. "Hey, I said whatever you wanted. We could act like we fought for a few days and then we'd make up and be normal, no relationship." She offered, because she literally could not stand losing that pay. She had even planned to get a better flat.

"Why would we do that?" He asked, frowning in confusion. Literally, what could be gained from that plan?

"Well, that way, no one assumes anything, since we took off the entire day today." She mumbled, closing her eyes.

"... and we can't act like we're together?" He asked uncertainly, not sure if he was distraught or excited for the challenge.

"Whatever's..." She yawned, wiping her eyes. "... easiest for you, Lovi."

"We can sleep on it," he told her with a soft squeeze. "Good night."

"'iight." She hummed; smiling like a little dork as she finally got that content, happy sleep she had been hoping for with the one lover she adored.

Thank you for reading our story!

Lovino : pilkopants (kate)

Antonia : shooptastic (maria)

those are our urls on tumblr, so send us your thoughts, we'd appreciate it! c:

Have a very nice day, Reader!

Kate + Maria