Title: Stay With Me
Pairing and Characters: Spain/Romano
Notes: counterheist/kixboxer asked for humanafterunification!romano/country!spain for a headcanon meme on Tumblr and then demanded I write a real fic and so I did because I am easy to persuade with demands. I'm not usually jazzed about the whole being human/disappearing after reunification thing but oh the fuck well. Wrote it anyway. Hope you like it!
It's March 19, 1861 and Spain is trying to think of how best to congratulate Romano (and Veneziano too, but mostly Romano) on the recent unification of Italy. He's been trying very hard to think of the best way to let Romano know how proud he is for the past two days, but he's yet to come up with anything. He knows how hard the two of them have fought, he's seen all the pain and suffering Romano's had to go through, he knows that no matter how many doubts Romano's ever had about this, this is what he wanted and he's finally got it and a simple pat on the back just isn't good enough to let Romano know that despite any misgivings, despite the fact that he misses him desperately, Spain is so, so proud of him. Spain also knows that Romano will probably be very busy, meeting with his boss and continuing to sort things out, because even though this has been something they've worked for for so long, there's still so much more work to do. Spain knows he might not see Romano for awhile, and his congratulations might have to wait or else be written in letter form, but Spain is okay with this. Spain is prepared for this. He may not like it, but he is prepared.
Spain is not prepared for Romano to show up at his door in the late evening, a suitcase in each hand.
"Romano?" he asks, utterly confused when Romano just brushes past him without a word and heads upstairs. "Romano is something wrong? I thought you'd have work to do...?"
Romano finally turns around, fixing Spain with a watery glare, half-snapping at Spain with anger before thinking better of it and just shoving a suitcase at him instead. "I can't visit you?" he asks, demeanor quickly changing from angry to something more akin to defeat and Spain seriously has no idea why.
"Of course you can, Roma," he replies gently, taking the second suitcase as well and leading Romano to the guest bedroom. "I just don't... never mind. It's nice to see you." Spain thinks he might push the matter later, because that's what he always does, but there are dark circles under Romano's eyes and he can hear a faint rumbling in his stomach and really, why would he ever want to argue against Romano voluntarily paying him a visit?
"I'm sure it is." Romano flops out onto the now rarely used guest bed, the frame creaking as it adjusts to the sudden addition of weight. Spain carefully places the heavy suitcases down against the closet door, pausing only briefly to wonder how long Romano has planned on staying with him, and how he even has time with all that should be going on back home.
Spain doesn't ask aloud, though, because Romano is drifting off to sleep, stomach still loudly protesting against its lack of food despite Romano's clear exhaustion. Spain brushes some hair out of his face, smiling when Romano mumbles a curse at him and swats his hand away. "I'll go make something to eat, you just get some sleep, okay?"
Romano doesn't need to be told twice and Spain quietly exits the room.
When he comes to get Romano for dinner, the other man is still sound asleep and refuses to even blink an eye open when Spain tries to shake him awake, so Spain slips back out, coming back only to drop off a tray of food for whenever Romano awakens.
It's May now, Romano is still at Spain's house, and no explanation as to why has been offered. Spain is a very nosy host, however, and has maybe combed through the few letters Veneziano has sent to his older brother- but even those aren't giving him any idea about why Romano's boss hasn't written to him, asking for help with all the work Spain knows a nation has to do.
Veneziano's letters are lacking any requests for help as well. How are you doing?, Are you eating lots of pasta?, and Do you like being back at Big Brother Spain's house? are the only questions being asked, and while the letters are full of everything from what Veneziano ate yesterday to a detailed account of his visit with a neighbour's cat, any talk of business is strangely absent. If Romano is doing any work at all back in Italy (which it doesn't appear he is), he's very good at hiding it.
Every day that Spain leaves the house to meet up with his boss, he leaves a plate of food out in the kitchen because Romano is still sleeping. Sometimes when he comes home, this is still the case, and he struggles to get Romano up and out of bed so he can force some food down his throat (gently, of course). Other times he comes home to a spotless house and a freshly prepared lunch- though Romano just scoffs when Spain thanks him for all his hard work.
"Romano," he says between bites one afternoon. "You know I love it when you help out around here-"
"I'm not helping around here, jackass."
Spain ignores the comment. "But aren't there other things you need to be doing? Back home?"
Romano stares at Spain, for a moment, for an eternity, who knows. His expression isn't quite angry, but it's definitely not calm either, and Spain gets so caught up trying to put a finger on the exact emotion in those hazel eyes that he almost misses Romano's reply. "If I had shit I needed to be doing, I'd be doing it." His gaze shifts down to his own plate of mostly uneaten food (and Spain wonders for the millionth time when exactly Romano started failing to finish his meals). The, "Mind your own business," is tacked on almost as an afterthought.
Both of them know Spain has never been good at doing that.
Spring fades into summer, summer into fall, and though Romano has slowly shed his habits of sleeping for days and being oddly calm and quiet, he's still at Spain's house. He never mentions his home land, never returns for a visit. Spain's heard from France all the hard work Veneziano's been doing, and he finds it so very odd that nobody has come to drag Romano back home. If Spain had gone to Italy for months at a time, he knows his boss would have sent somebody after him, would have at least written a stern letter telling him he needs to return to his duties.
But Romano's received nothing of the sort. The short letters from Veneziano haven't stopped, but those are never anything more than a boy writing to his big brother.
Spain loves having Romano with him, though. He loves how Romano is always there when he gets home, loves having somebody to go to the market with, somebody who will tell him off for almost forgetting half the items on their list because he's been distracted by a churro vendor again. He loves how when the temperature drops, he now has somebody to curl up with to keep from getting too cold. He loves the fact that Romano stopped sleeping in the guest room long before the chilly night air could be used as an excuse.
Spain loves Romano, and though he still desperately wants to know what is going on with him, Spain is a little selfish sometimes and he would never deny the fact that he enjoyed having Romano around, even if he honestly thought Romano really ought to be elsewhere.
They settle into a routine, questions never leaving the back of Spain's mind despite the comforting arms wrapped around him each night, but as fall fades into winter, the odd calm that's settled over things is broken.
Spain wakes up one night to find Romano shivering intensely, his every breath laboured and more of a sharp, pained inhale than the soft, even breaths of sleep. His cheeks are deeply flushed, more so than when they redden in anger or embarrassment, the colour sharply contrasting against the ashen appearance the rest of his skin has adopted.
"Romano," Spain gently nudges Romano's shoulder, not wanting to cause him anymore pain. "Romano wake up, can you hear me?"
Amidst a cough, Spain hears a soft, "Yes," followed by a groan of pain.
"Is something going on back home?" Spain asks, brushing a hand over Romano's forehead to check for fever before wrapping the blankets covering them both tightly around Romano's chilled form.
"You don't know...?" Spain checks again for even the slightest hint of fever, but despite Romano's flushed appearance he just feels cold. When he goes to fetch another blanket he wakes up one of the few live-in maids he still has and asks her to send a telegraph to Veneziano. She grumbles about it being past midnight as he quickly scribbles down what he wants her to send, but all Spain cares about is figuring out what is wrong with Romano, and who would know better than his brother?
Spain comes back with a pile of quilts to find Romano's curled himself into a miserable, weepy ball under the blankets he already has and he nearly drops the bundle in his arms rushing over to see what's wrong. "I'll go get the doctor in the morning," he whispers, laying one of the quilts over Romano and tucking the edges under him. "Evelinda is sending a message to your brother, maybe-"
Spain is cut off by a pained, "What?" from Romano and he's soon trying to push Romano back down onto the bed, careful as he can be to not actually hurt him while still keeping him from fleeing the room. His voice is hoarse, most likely from the wet coughs escaping his lips every so often, but Spain hears him loud and clear despite that. "Who said you could do that? Go tell her not to send the message, Veneziano doesn't need to know. I'm fine damnit, what's wrong with you?"
Spain shushes and pets Romano's hair, rubbing his back and helping him sit up when laying on his back only makes the coughing worse. "Wouldn't he already know though? If you're sick, he's probably sick too..." Spain doesn't quite know how being two halves of the same country works, but he knows that countries normally only get sick when something is going on in their land, and he just assumes that anything going on in Italy will now affect both brothers. But he could be wrong.
"He's not," Romano whispers. He's quickly losing steam and he stops struggling against Spain, choosing instead to curl up next to him, desperate for anything to ease his shivers. "He's not sick. It's just me."
Spain wants to ask why that is, wants to ask if he should contact Romano's boss, if there's anything he can do to help, wants to know why he hasn't heard about anything going on in the southern part of Italy that would make Romano so sick, but then Romano is coughing again and an almost transparent, reddish-brown fluid is leaking from the corner of his mouth as he tries to catch his breath and Spain knows something is very, very wrong.
"Pneumonia," the doctor finally says after what feels like hours of examinations. Hours of poking and prodding and receiving stern glares whenever Spain tried to rush to help Romano when he was coughing or grumbling at the doctor to fuck off. Hours of staring at a hasty telegram reply letting Spain know that no, Veneziano wasn't sick because Romano being sick has nothing to do with Italy.
Because Romano has nothing to do with Italy. Not anymore.
"Pneumonia," Spain murmurs back, eyes tearing up despite the fact that he really wishes they weren't, because Romano's looking paler than before, if that was even possible.
They both know what pneumonia can do to humans.
"Not too severe," the doctor adds, looking back and forth between the shell-shocked faces of the two men in the room with him. Spain just nods as the doctor explains how to care for Romano, watches as he covers Romano's left side with some sort of poultice and wraps the area tightly. He pays close attention- he'll have to change the wrapping- and writes down everything he'll need to pick up (or rather, send someone else out to pick up, there's no way he's leaving Romano alone). The doctor administers a powder to Romano, despite his weak protests, instructing Spain to be sure and buy more of it, as it should help keep the fever Romano's apparently developed overnight at bay.
He leaves and Spain has to excuse himself as well, before the itch in his throat turns into anything more.
"Why're you doin that?" Romano looks up at Spain, confusion just as obvious as the sweat Spain is wiping from his brow.
"Because you're sick, baby." Spain continues to wipe the cool cloth over Romano's face and chest, careful not to jostle him too much. When Romano's more coherent he yells at Spain for any minute nudge against his side, but Romano isn't really coherent right now and Spain hates the tears and disorientation more than he could ever hate being yelled at. In fact, he rather prefers being yelled at.
"M'not." Romano grabs at Spain's hand, sweaty palms wrapping around the wet cloth. "Stoppit."
And Spain listens, for once, because Romano's bandage doesn't need to be changed for another couple of hours and his cough isn't sounding bad enough to justify another dose of medicine. "Okay," he says, setting the cloth down next to the bed and laying down next to Romano. He cards a hand through Romano's disheveled hair, silently noting he should probably try to get Romano into the bath later if he's feeling up to it. "Your brother wants to visit, when you're feeling better."
Romano keeps a tight grip on Spain's hand and shakes his head, though the movement stops immediately. "Dizzy." Romano closes his eyes and Spain just keeps petting his hair, hoping the movement isn't causing anymore distress because Spain likes to think it comforts Romano just as much as it comforts him.
"I know," he replies. "Just breathe. You'll feel better soon." Spain sure hopes so, anyway, because the idea of Romano not getting better is really too much to bear.
When Romano finally reopens his eyes, Spain isn't met with the confusion of before, nor is he met with anger or annoyance, just with clear determination when Romano croaks out a, "Damn right I will, bastard."
Spain plants a kiss on Romano's flushed cheek and if Romano notices the moisture gathering there isn't of his own doing, he doesn't mention it.
Luckily, after a week or two, Romano's fever finally breaks. His breathing becomes less laboured and when he turns down Spain's offer of medicine, Spain doesn't worry quite so much because he knows Romano isn't being stubborn or irrational, he's really not in as much pain as he was before.
Romano's freshly bathed, new bed sheets loosely wrapped around his legs, bowl of warm broth in his hands, and for the first time in weeks, a small smile graces Spain's lips. "Romano?"
Romano lowers his bowl. "What? I'm eating, leave me alone."
"You know Boss'll always love you, right?" He knows it's out of the blue, but it needs to be said. Because they may not have that "always", but that doesn't make the sentiment any less true and Spain would rather make random, overly sappy comments than let this thing they have slip into nothingness.
Romano rolls his eyes, though he mutters, "Unfortunately, yes," before raising the bowl to his lips once more.
The doctor finally declares Romano fully recovered, though he warns him against anything and everything that may cause him to "take cold". Romano was lucky (and Spain feels so very lucky too, because he needs any time with Romano he can get), but he may not be so lucky should he fall ill again.
This keeps Spain and Romano inside on snowy days, but it doesn't stop them from attempting some semblance of normality, of going on about things as they always have.
They make it through the winter without further incident, and through the next few as well, and they push their unfortunate circumstances to the backs of their minds, because really, that's all they can do.
Little things here and there make cracks in their plans, though. Its spring and Spain and Romano are working in the tomato fields, just as they have for centuries. Spain trips over a branch and lands in the dirt, the bewildered look on his face causing Romano to burst into laughter.
Spain joins in and soon enough they are both sitting on the soft, moist earth, forgetting entirely what they are even laughing about. "Stop making me laugh, bastard," Romano says when the laughter dies down. "You're going to give me wrinkles."
Spain chuckles and runs a hand over a soft line starting to appear in Romano's brow. "Looks like it's a little too late for that."
He immediately regrets saying that when Romano shoves his hand away and his smile quickly turns into a dark frown. "That's not funny."
"I didn't mean anything by it, Roma."
Romano just keeps on frowning away and Spain leans in, planting a soft kiss on the now scrunched up forehead. "I'm pretty sure frowns cause more wrinkles than smiles. Don't be upset?" Romano snorts with laughter and rolls his eyes, but the deep frown lines disappear for the time being.
"How are you two doing?" France is visiting one cold February afternoon, a few days after Spain's birthday. The two of them are sitting inside, settled down near the fire while Romano naps on the couch. Spain glances over when he hears a soft noise of discontent, but turns back to the fire when he sees nothing seems to be amiss.
"Fine," he responds as cheerfully as he can. "We're a little bored, it's been a cold winter and there's not much to do around the house sometimes, but you know how it is."
France flicks Spain on the forehead and gives him a knowing look. "You don't have to lie to your big brother, Spain. You're an awful liar."
Spain wants to protest that this isn't true, but then that really shouldn't be what he's protesting, should it? "Things are..." hard. unreal. heartbreaking. "Different."
"That's one way of putting it, I suppose," France agrees. "Our little meetings are certainly different without him around. A lot quieter." It's impossible to be quiet when any of the nations get together, really, but though Spain sees Romano almost everyday, he does miss seeing him argue with the other European countries whenever any of them get together, because although he's still invited to balls and parties and any non-official get togethers the other nations might hold, Romano stopped bothering to go years ago.
"It'd be a lot quieter here too if you'd both shut the fuck up."
France just laughs when Romano's pillow hits him square in the face. "Ah, fiery as ever I see."
France takes his leave after a late lunch, giving both Spain and Romano's cheeks kisses that linger longer than they need to. He ruffles Romano's greying hair like he always has, earning him a slap on the hand, before finally bidding them both adieu.
"If all this... this... is too much for you, just say so, jerk." A tense silences has settled over them in the kitchen while Spain does dishes, and when Romano breaks it Spain has no idea how to respond. Romano continues on, though, giving Spain a minute to gather his thoughts in order to properly argue against whatever Romano is about to say. "I can leave. I have other places to go."
Romano jerks around in anger, almost knocking over the chair he's sitting in. "I do too. If that's the only reason you're keeping me around, then fuck you, I don't need to stay here."
Spain doesn't point out that Romano is the one who chose to come here in the first place, because nothing could ever possibly describe how grateful Spain is that Romano chose him, chose to come back to him when he could have very well stayed in Italy or gone off into hiding anywhere he pleased. Spain doesn't want to use that beautiful gift as a point in what's looking to be an argument in the making. Spain doesn't even really want to argue anyway. "I want you here." He sets the dishes down, rushing over when Romano gets up from his seat to stop him from even thinking about leaving with a tight embrace. "I don't want you to leave," he whispers against Romano's hair. "I don't want you to ever leave."
It only happens once in a blue moon, but Romano returns the embrace, burying his face in Spain's shoulder and muttering, "I'll have to leave sometime," in response.
Spain just shakes his head and continues to hold onto Romano, refusing to be the one to let go first.
His fingers slide through once chestnut hair, hair that is still soft and familiar despite the ever growing amount of grey tainting the strands. When Romano pulls back Spain just takes the opportunity to let his fingers ghost over laugh lines and sun spots. "You're still as cute as ever, why would I want you to leave?"
"You're an idiot."
Spain knows this. Knows things might be easier if he didn't cling to Romano so desperately, knows in his heart of hearts he'd rather take back every wish he ever made for Romano to come back to him if it meant they'd have a fate other than this. But Spain can't help himself, can't force himself to ever wish Romano gone, and he knows this isn't going to change.
They're laying in bed together, same as they have for years now, though only Romano is sleeping, as Spain has decided watching him is far more important than getting any sleep himself. He watches the unsteady rise and fall of Romano's chest, watches the way his lips flutter open with soft murmurs. Spain watches that face he loves so much twitch when he mutters Romano's name, watches it smooth back out in contentment after a moment or two.
Spain always wondered, after centuries of watching couples in the villages he's lived in grow and change together, what it might be like to grow old with somebody. He's wondered how it would be to watch the person you love slowly change before your eyes, knowing that even as they age, your love for them isn't growing old at the same time.
He just never thought, in all his years of innocent, curious wondering, what it would be like to have that somebody being the only one growing old.