"T'no," Berwald called, approaching the little blond nation calmly. He saw the little beret –white as snow- twitch when the Finnish man jerked to a halt. Tino looked around anxiously, sighting the Allies at the other end of the room, and swallowed noticeably.

Now Berwald was right beside him.

"T'no, wh't's wr'ng? Y' l'k t'ns'."

"Uh, I've got stuff to do." Tino said uncomfortably, dodging the hand Berwald tried to put on his sloping shoulder. "I'll… see you later, Su-san."


The Finnish man was already gone.

Later, in the dining room, Berwald saw Tino with the younger Italy brother and frowned.

"T'no," he said lowly, his voice heard under all the noise. Other nations around Tino looked up at the call, grinning widely at his Finnish partner. Alfred said something that made Tino duck his head.

"Hey." Tino said tightly, "Su-san, I can't talk now. You know, nation stuff."

"C'n I h'lp y'?" Berwald asked, sitting next to Tino under the gaze of the whole room. He caught Eduard –Estonia- staring sadly at Tino and narrowed his eyes. "Y''re m' w'fe, 'ft'r 'll." Across the table, Sadik –Turkey- coughed a word loudly that Berwald didn't catch; he had been staring pointedly at Tino, who looked down in red-faced shame. "T'-"

Slamming his hands onto the long banquet table, Tino stood up and left, his usually cheerful face twisted and red. Berwald was shocked; he'd never seen the littlest Nord so hurt since Mathias –Denmark- had criticized one of his new festivals a few years ago.

They still weren't the same.

Forgetting his food, the Swedish giant left his seat and hurried back to Tino's room.

When he ran in, he found Tino in his bathroom, sobbing loudly.

"T'NO?" he cried, pressing against the locked door. "T'NO?" The sobs settled down to whimpers and Berwald found that his heart was going a mile a minute in the deafening silence. "…T'no?" he whispered fearfully, praying for an answer.

"I-I'm fine," said the Finnish young man thickly, "just hurt me head…" Tino coughed – a bad liar- and sniffled. "You can go, Su-san…"

Berwald groaned in relief, leaning on the doorframe as tears pricked his eyes.

"'h th'nk G'd!" Berwald said, his own language spilling out when English failed him. "'h G'd, T'no!" The door opened halfway and Berwald met Tino's eyes, taking in their wetness and the red puffy circles.

Beautiful Tino. His wife was okay.

Berwald pushed past the door, making Tino jump, and pulled the young man tight against him in an intimate hug. He dropped to his knees, head spinning with relief, and kept whispering the young man's name in his ear- his shoulder- his silky hair.

"S-Su-san?" Tino gulped, his tears returning to his eyes at the unusually emotional display. "Wh-What's wrong?"

"I th'ght 'd l'st y'!" Berwald groaned, stroking the young man's hair and pulling back from the embrace. Keeping an arm around Tino, Berwald cupped his wife's face and tried to kiss him, so as to convey all he was feeling.

Tino pulled away before he could.

"Don't…" he mumbled tearfully, looking away.

"W-Why n't?" Berwald protested anxiously, feeling cold settle in his stomach. "Wh't's wr'ng, w'fe?"

"That!" Tino sobbed, pointing accusingly at him. Berwald was confused. "That's what's wrong! That's why- why…!" Tino looked weak and gave up his angry shouts for heavy sobs. "I-I don't want this!"

Those four words speared Berwald's heart, taking his breath away.

"'Th's'?" Berwald gulped breathily,

"I'm not strong enough!" Tino wailed, sitting on the edge of the tub heavily. He buried his face in his arm, still, speaking, and all Berwald could decipher was 'faggot'.

"f'gg't?" Berwald snapped, wounded. Was Tino insulting him now? "Wh't d'd y' s'y?"

"I don't wanna be a faggot!" Tino snivelled, sitting up and tossing his head back as his voice rose to a scream. "I'm not! I'M NOT!"

"Wh' c'll'd y' a f'gg't?" Berwald demanded, making Tino jumo a little and cry harder. He sighed, cupping his partner's face with both his massive hands, then brushed the tears away with his thumbs. "Wh' s'd th't, T'no?"

"E-Everyone!" Tino sniffled, rubbing his eyes. "They all say we're-" Tino looked into his eyes and mouthed the last part. "fags: disgusting, dirty fags."

Berwald was horrified and pressed Tino's face to his shoulder, pulling him into his lap and rocking him. His mind was going supersonic; he'd heard none of these taunts at all.

"I d'dn't kn'w…" he mumbled, kissing Tino's head softly.

"Of course not," Tino mumbled, pulling back to lock eyes with him. "they can't insult you- you're big and strong!" Tino touched his muscled arm for emphasis, looking at it as he continued. "But if you're out of the way, they'll hurt the next best thing." Tino's voice got quieter and quieter as he spoke, until Berwald could hardly hear him. Tino looked up, teary-eyed. "And that's me."

Berwald sighed and touched his forehead to Tino's, trying to apologize without his clumsy words to ruin their tender moment. As he watched, Tino's cheeks dusted pink and he oh-so-carefully tilted his head to kiss his wife.

"'m h'r'…" Berwald whispered in between chaste, soothing kisses. "'m w'th y', 'lw'ys. 'm s'rry…"