Hey, y'all. ^_^ Just so you know, "football" in the vast majority of the world is our "soccer." Really hope you guys enjoy this little story, please read and review! I certainly wouldn't mind trying more UsUk if I get the time…but will try not to publish any new material until I finish most of the stories I already have up. No promises, though.

Michelangelo's David is completely nude. FYI.

Yes, I know I misnamed the cats. England being England probably wants his cat to be more Britishy. Don't kill me. ^_^ And yes, this story was extended-there will only be three chapters at most, though. I am adamant on that. Au revoir, my loves, please R&R!


By the time he'd finally woken up stiff and aching on the bar's restroom floor, his shirt soaked in his own vomit and with a splitting headache to boot, thin rays of afternoon sunshine were streaming on his body from a nearby window.

Thankfully he hadn't missed his flight yet, so England stumbled home to lie in a stupor on his own bathroom floor. Coffee wouldn't help him break past the opaque fog still clouding his brain, so England generously spiked the hot beverage with plenty of rum, not caring that the combination tasted awful. He took a few hearty swigs of the mixture, staying close to the toilet in case his stomach decided to reject its contents again.

Bleary-eyed and exhausted, England pulled out his cell phone, only to find that he had four unread messages. Excited, he immediately scrolled to his inbox, only to visibly wilt with disappointment when he saw the messages were only from his irate prime minister, who wanted to know why the hell England hadn't emailed the lists he'd promised to finish.

The flaxen country leaned against the door and hugged his knees to his chest, disappointment resounding in him like an echo in a hollow cave. When the phone shrilly started to ring, England irritably switched the sound off—he'd make up some flimsy excuse later—and switched to his contacts, pulling up America's number and the picture that went beside it. Alfred was hugging an irate Arthur's shoulders, dressed up like a cowboy. That was last year's Halloween party….

Arthur smiled slightly and slid down onto his back, lifting an eyebrow when he saw his own dark scowl in the picture. Well, of course he was upset, considering America had begged and pleaded him to wear that stupid cow suit….and he'd actually been talked into wearing the blasted thing. Anyone would be a little disgusted with themselves. France had mocked him, called him the most 'whipped' thing he'd ever seen. Arthur huffed in irritation. At least HE hadn't tried to come to the costume ball as Michelangelo's David…thank god he hadn't taken any pictures of THAT.

He flicked through his photos absentmindedly, slightly soothed when he came across the picture of him and Alfred wearing Hogwarts school uniforms together, Alfred's arm once again around Arthur's shoulders while the older nation browsed through a large book. He hadn't thought America would actually do it, but he'd agreed to, if England wore that awful animal costume. He was never going to live that one down, had felt like going into hiding shortly after France uploaded the rotten scenes, but America had just held his head up and laughed heartily at the whole thing, even when the pictures of him in those godawful and strangely adorable rabbit ears were posted.

Arthur chuckled humorlessly. That HAD been a strange New Year's Eve. Little embarrassed America. While it was classless, England thought it rather charming and freeing in its own way, not that'd he would actually tell Alfred that.

A hint of sadness appeared in his eyes, but England blinked it away, going through his online photo album.

There was America again, at that pie-eating competition he'd finished off almost singlehandedly, with a green-faced England looking away….America at the beach, making a sandcastle, looking as excited as a child….America taking his shirt off, looking startled as he looked into the camera, just having realized it was there…

When the bloody hell did I take THAT picture?

Coloring significantly, England immediately slammed his phone shut, his already parched throat prickling unpleasantly.


Later that evening, when Arthur was lying on his couch, still in sullied clothes and too tired to care, something leapt onto his stomach. He opened his eyes wearily to see a pair of blue eyes staring back at him, purring happily.

"Sod off, Biscuit," England muttered, though he started scratching the white feline behind the ears, feeling it nuzzle his fingers appreciatively. At least someone liked him at the moment, though England was feeling fairly rotten seeking solace from a cat.

Seeking solace for what? He asked himself dully. I didn't do anything wrong. It's America who's blowing this all out of proportion.

Biscuit wriggled his warm body under Arthur's arm and renewed his rumbling purr, tail flicking side to side as England started to stroke the ring of dark brown fur around Biscuit's neck. His fingers wandered to the little half-circles around his cat's eyes, and a vague smile appeared on the dispirited country's face.

Had it really been only two years ago?

"C'mon, Artie, a pet'll do you good! Teach you responsibility."

England had been taking a sip of tea from a Styrofoam cup the shelter staff had offered him, only to spew it all over the tiled floor.

"You git—teach ME responsibility?" he'd sputtered, flabbergasted and unnerved. "I—YOU—I don't even need to—you're not—you're such a—"

America had thrown his head back and laughed; England threw his cup at him. "Dude, can't you take a joke? I think one of these guys would do you good."

"Correction," England had snapped when America bent over to coo at one of the cats leaning against the bars to take a better look at them both. "YOU want a cat, you feel like it would teach YOU responsibility, do YOU good, so YOU drag me out of a conference telling me it's a matter of life and death—"

"But it is!" America had insisted, petting a cat awkwardly through the cage bars. "If some of these cats don't get adopted soon, they'll be taken to the BACK ROOM! We can't have that, can we?" America clasped his hands and gave England an imploring look; England had immediately rolled his eyes and looked away before America could pull out his secret weapon, the one probably deadlier than his atom bomb.

"—and of course, it turns out all you want is for me to help you pick out one of these beasts," England finished disapprovingly as America turned his attention back to the cats. "Just grab one that looks nice and we'll be off."

America shook his head in mock sadness. "Oh, Artie, you know it doesn't work like that! Besides," he added, grabbing a startled England's hand, "It isn't like they're dogs, which bark and tear around and need to be taken out a lot! Cats are good company when you need a lap buddy!"

England just gawked at him, feeling his ears burn as he pulled his hand away. "Blast it all, do you have any idea what that sounds like?"

America scoffed. "Whatever. Mattie said he got a cute little red cat named Maple which is the most adorable thing ever, so DUH I have to get a cat too!" he exclaimed, holding up a trembling fist. "And you as well!"

"Why should I?" England had sneered. "You want an unfortunate feline, pick one. There's no reason I have to be dragged into this."

"C'mon, Artie, do it for me!" America begged, clasping his hands together and England had to look away again, a reluctant smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Do it for the poor, poor kitty who'll have to meet Mr. Needle if you don't have a heart. Cats can take care of themselves, and you're probably real lonely coming home to an empty house every day—"

Infuriated and humiliated, England tried to sputter out a negative, but America went on:

"—and you have a housekeeper, so she can look after it when you're away, so please, Artie, c'mon, just LOOK at one, pretty please, pretty please, pretty please?"

Had America been this trying when he was a child, running around the yard with his rabbit friends?

At last, worn down by the incessant whining and lip quivering, England agreed to look, but no more. The two wandered up and down the many rows of cats, America stopping every now and again to peer into a unit or to call out a greeting. England just glanced at the cages, his eyes wandering uneasily over the felines, who didn't seem to be taking a shine to him. When he passed by, they tended to curl up into balls. Some actually hissed. Well, that didn't surprise England in the slightest; he and animals tended to go together like oil and water. Unfortunately, it was the same case with children, which was why no one went trick-or-treating at his house on Halloween night.

America had been a very rare exception, he had mused to himself as he finished walking down the third row, already ready to call it quits. While being initially afraid of England, he'd certainly warmed up to him once England had already resigned himself to having lost his bid for America and cried. That hadn't been one of his brightest moments to be certain, but it had felt good rocking America to sleep, having a trusting hand slide into his own and pull him to flowery glades….felt the strange and almost frightening earnesty of unconditional love when he'd tended to America when he was sick…

An incessant meowing caught his attention, and England had glanced behind himself in surprise. A large white cat was pushing at the cage at his paws, his large eyes fixed on England. The green-eyed nation found himself wandering back to the cage, cautiously extending out a finger, which the cat immediately began to nuzzle, purring like a motorboat. He rubbed his chin against the finger for more, and soon England was kneeling next to the cage, scratching the happy cat's back as well as he could through bars. The cat started playing with his own bushy tail, the half-moon markings under his large blue eyes reminding him of spectacles.

"Aww, see, you're already besties with him!"

England whipped his hand away, and the cat mewed contently. Blushing, Arthur had looked up at Alfred, who was clutching a large orange and white Scottish fold, which was glaring at Arthur suspiciously with sharp green eyes. Arthur found himself scowling back, especially when the cat buried its face in Alfred's elbow. "What's that little monster?"

"My newfound partner in crime," Alfred sang, giving the cat a friendly poke in the back of his neck. It turned its head up to give Alfred an injured look before hiding his face again, tiny tail wagging slightly. "Isn't he just the cutest thing? He reminds me of you."


"Aw, c'mon, he was grooming himself all fussy-like when I came to visit him and he gave me a look that said all too clearly 'well, what the hell are you looking at?' So I knew I had to have him. He's actually quite cuddly—" The cat started scratching at Alfred's shirt. "—but for some reason or another, the management says he's been here for some time. Poor little guy." He kissed the cat's head, and it let out a sound that seemed to Arthur like a strange cross between a yowl and a purr. "I'm gonna call him Hero. What're you namin' yours?"


Biscuit was quiet next to him when he called once, twice, only to get Alfred's secretary on both attempts. Since when did Alfred have a bloody secretary? The thought was unnerving. After the woman promised Mr. Jones would call 'at his greatest convenience,' Arthur irritably hung up the phone, burying his face in his hands.

You're such a child.

He tried emailing an angry letter, thought about it and sent an apologetic one, and in the morning, when he had yet to receive a reply, sent another angry one. A knot of dread conjoined with something like despair had begun to tighten in his stomach.

Why won't you answer me?

He wrote a letter and waited for two weeks; still no response ever came. The morning papers were now littered with articles of Russia and America's growing relations, and England read them all over carefully, never failing to draw hideous things on any picture of Russia, sometimes so viciously that he tore up Russia's smiling face.

He started calling the secretary on a daily basis, and while she assured him that yes, America truly is very busy right now, and he'll be back with you just as soon as the workflow slows, he never got any answer. England then began leaving furious messages for America that were sometimes clustered with the damn emotion that gathered at his throat, choking him when he was doing his best to shout at the woman.

I'm sorry.

The mail came and went, but the postman never brought any letters to England from America.

What do you want me to do?

The phone calls were being ignored.

I'm so sorry.

He felt helpless. He felt helpless and he felt angry and he felt lost.

The fall came and the rain wouldn't go away. And neither would England's foul mood. His dreams were becoming stranger and stranger at night, until he came to the point where he didn't fall asleep so much as he passed out. He very often woke up groggy and with a bad taste in his mouth, with Biscuit mewing dolefully nearby.

He got through his work, as was expected of him, went to the events he was asked to attend and called the people he was meant to, but there was very little joy involved in the little activities he used to take pleasure in, from reading to gardening to a cup of tea on his porch with Biscuit. Even talking with his delightful friends no one else could seem to see had lost its charm; he was curt on the phone, and felt like seeing no one. America never returned his calls. His day planner remained painfully blank, his duties aside. It was painful remembering just how busy America normally kept him, so he turned to the bottle for relief, or at least for a temporary numbness.

Biscuit seemed to have lost his appetite, which was strange because it was normally voracious. Instead of running gleefully to the kitchen whenever he heard the can opener, he merely trudged to his dish an hour or so after his lunchtime passed. Biscuit might sniff at the contents, take a nibble or two, but even after England offered him his (very well overdone) bacon, Biscuit just remained curled up in a ball, dispirited and melancholy. England tried to get him to play once or twice for Biscuit's sake, but the cat wouldn't respond, so what was the point? He wondered if Biscuit missed Hero—England sometimes brought the cat with him when he went to visit America for extended periods of time.

England remembered once upon a time when America had sent him letter after childish letter begging England to return to the colonies for a visit, and England had eventually stopped answering. What point was there? In his old letters, England would assure America that he would be back in a matter of months, when what he really meant was a matter of years. There was no point in disillusioning a child who was probably too busy to care what England did or where he was, so he'd simply ignored the problem in the hopes of it going away.

And one day, he'd returned, only to see America all grown up. Gone was the child who had run to the docks to meet him, gone was the boy who loved wooden soldiers and came crying to England after having awful nightmares. There had been a tall and handsome lad slightly surprised to see England in his house, but mostly nonchalant. Indifferent.

Strange dreams started to plague his subconscious. He might be looking on little America picking daisies in a meadow and try to run towards him, only to get farther and farther away as America started shooting up like a bean pole, unattainable, beautiful, ignorant to England's calling.

And suddenly, there was Russia at his side, his hand on America's shoulders, guiding him away to a place England couldn't reach and leaving him alone, unwanted, in a glassy and empty universe.

Russia. The very name made England's insides contort like angry snakes, and he longed to sock the Slavic nation until he was as purple as his eyes, with a long, broken nose. England hated him with the gusto he normally reserved for France, which both surprised and scared him.

HE was likely the one leading America away from him, because of his own old grudges with England. Probably encouraging America to make England so tremendously guilty that he wanted to tear out his hair. God, but America had forgiven him for LESS than this!

One late Autumn morning, after reading about another stupid article with America and Russia holding hands and taking a good look at himself in the mirror, England decided that he had had enough. He called America once, twice, three times—evidently, the woman was now screening his calls—and then tried another route. Scooping up a dispirited Biscuit in his arms, England immediately called Japan.

"Moshi moshi," he heard the Asian nation greet politely.

"Hello, Japan? It's England," said the country wearily, dragging a hand through his yellow hair. God, he needed another drink.

"Konnichiwa, England-san. How are—"

"You can skip the formalities," snapped England. He didn't mean to be so short, but he was desperate.

"I want to ask you how America is doing."

Kiku's voice came back somewhat crossly:

"If you want to know how America-san is, I suggest you call him…"

"I can't. His wretched secretary keeps picking up and promising me that she'll have him return my calls, but I've heard nothing!" Arthur raved, getting carried off in the rush of his anger and resentment. "Nothing for over two months and he won't pick up his cell! I think he's gotten a new number and he won't even tell me what it is!"

Japan was silent. After a few deep breaths, England collected himself, complexion pink with embarrassment. Well, at least he'd humiliated himself over the phone rather than in person… "And I get nothing from him via post or email, so please Japan—you know America better than anyone else." He tried to keep the envy out of his plea. "Do you know if there's something wrong with him?"

"I do not know. He does seem much more formal than usual." Japan paused, and then added, "My boss approved wholeheartedly. I do as well."

England rolled his eyes. Perhaps calling the person who agreed with America regardless of the circumstances had not been the hottest idea he'd had in a while. "Please, Japan, you're his close friend. Tell me what YOU think."

A shuddering sigh. Japan seldom liked to share his personal opinions.

"I think…he is much quieter and more subdued than normal," said Japan hesitantly, stalling for time. England longed to wrap the phone cord around Japan's neck and strangle him. What did he expect from a country that stressed group harmony? "If America-san is happy, I am happy also. Oh, and he and his boss came over to talk with mine for a little while today…he certainly seemed quite down."

"You mean America?" asked England anxiously.

"What? Oh no, I meant America boss. He bowed to China's boss and now China's country and his own country are laughing at him. He was very embarrassed, but I guess that is what you get for being polite, iie?"

"But how was America?" Arthur pressed.

"He did not have nearly so much to say as he normally does. I did think it was strange that he did not immediately beg to play some of my video games or demand we head to Harajuku…" he mused, and Britain's hopeful heart started to sink. "America-san and I just…just talked for awhile. Quite a change. He seemed very tired and preferred to listen."

America normally talked so much and so loudly that it was a miracle anyone managed to get a word in. So it wasn't just for England America had been determined to convince. He wasn't certain if that conclusion made him feel better or worse. "Anything else? I mean, anything else out of the ordinary for Alfred?"

"Well, we often get food together when one of us comes to visit, and he orders five or six helpings of large fries in my country because the servings are not big enough for him," commented Japan dryly, and England chuckled in spite of himself. "But this time he ordered just one and picked at it for awhile. Then, he fed the contents of his lunch to a few stray birds."

"You're lying." Perhaps the end of all things was truly coming this year.

"Iie. He said that he was on a diet and that he didn't want to give his personal trainer any more reason to run him into the ground."

"Is this a prank call?" asked England weakly.

"Surely there can't be….anything else?"

"Well, normally by this time of year, he is already reminding me of annoying Christmas spectacle with ugly food he means to have in winter and blackmailing me if I express any desire not to attend." England absently nodded in sympathy. He had received a number of America's warm, bubbly, and threatening party invitations over the years. "But I do not think America even means to take off Christmas this year. His boss and family are going to Hawaii, but America will stay in DC and take care of business."

"What?" Arthur exclaimed in astonishment. "You mean he means to spend Christmas all by himself? Working?"

"Hai." Japan's voice was unemotional to England's numb ears. Then again, Christmas was not so dominant in Japan as it was in Europe and the States.

But still...

America alone, on his favorite day of the year?


Deer England,

Merri Krismus Day! I miss you and I love you. There is a lot of snow on the grond. Is there a lot of snow in your hoowse. I want you to be heer. I asked Fathr Krismus to breeng you but he did not. I am sad but glad becoz they say you will be heer in Spring. The bunnys will be out and it will be gren and you will be heer and I will be so hapi. I love you England, so come here reel soon. Merri Krismus and Happee New Yeer.

England was afraid to touch the centuries old parchment—it looked like it could fall apart any second—but his hand still brushed against the faded, clumsy script, smiling sadly.

I want to see you, too.

What if he tried to storm up America's drive and slammed his knuckles on the door? What if America sent him away, didn't want to see him?

Well, then I'll make him see me. But his heart sank. Alfred was one of the most easy-going people Arthur had ever met, but he was still incredibly stubborn. What if this whole ridiculous affair spanned months?

Years? Arthur bit his lip. The idea of not talking to Alfred for years or not spending his Christmasses with him was unbearable. He wanted to bake cookies with the nation while Alfred spread metric tons of icing onto unsuspecting gingerbread men, tarted them up like whores….he wanted to go walking with America and listen to the dear idiot babble on about the snow and about gifts and about the latest scandal at one of his ridiculously ludicrous Christmas parties. Hell, he would be willing to get dragged around a mall, staggering under the amount of packages America would buy for friends and acquaintances and sorry-looking people on the streets if it meant that he could be pressed up against America's warm side on a quiet Christmas Eve, staring into the fire.

Warmth rushed into England's face. How nice would it be, in one of America's tacky sweaters, to be dragging a hand through America's hair as Alfred lay in his lap, smiling sleepily, eyes twinkling? What would it be like to notice hot chocolate still on Alfred's lips, and to bend over him, Alfred's breath tantalizing mixing with his own as he pressed their mouths together and—

England's coffee cup fell and smashed to the ground, its contents spilling everywhere. Biscuit leapt out of his arms with a startled yowl, and England blinked, out of dismay as much as it was out of disorientation.

What did he do?

England swallowed heavily, wringing his hands.

What did he do? Blast it all, Alfred was his little brother, like his son! England swallowed, growing incredibly hot under his shabby clothes. Well, he certainly didn't need to confide in his superiors about such a thing—they would only commit him, and he wouldn't blame them. Hell, if he had any decency, he would commit himself! England let out a strangled moan and buried his face in his hands, coffee still dripping down from the table onto the growing puddle below.

He wanted to hold Alfred. He wanted those blue eyes fixated on him, and only him—he'd wanted that for years—but he wanted Alfred in his arms again, but in such a different context than what he wanted when Alfred was still just a child!

But it was sick. Alfred was a boy. And he'd raised the boy as his ward. Had he harbored these sick thoughts for years now, lurking in the darkness when Alfred was still running to his room, stricken with night terrors?

England let out a strangled sob and fell to his knees, disregarding Biscuit's anxious meowing.

What did he do? Who could he possibly ask about this? A psychologist? England snorted at the thought. Right. Like any human idiot could comprehend the thoughts and feelings of a country, an ancient country which had seen and done so much in a thousand years!

A thousand years….

Am I really that old? England let out a strangled giggle. Even if Alfred was a fellow country, he was still seven hundred years younger than he was! Still untouchable, still in a gilded cage. England would have to suck it up and let it go, the way he left every lover go, as he had no other choice to. Either they would wither away in what felt like days or they would just…disappear. Flutter away.

But the idea of Russia getting America into his filthy hands made England's blood boil. No. Russia was savage, childishly sadistic, a schemer.

No. England started taking deeper breaths, slowly beginning to calm down.

The love was brotherly. Perhaps strange images were blooming in his head; what of it? He was lonely. He was lonely and he hadn't gotten laid in a long time. He would find America, find some random girl or bloke and get laid, and everything would be normal.

Just as soon as he could get an assurance from America that his relationship with Russia was strictly businesslike. Russia was a dangerous child on the playground, and England wouldn't let him go near America, clueless, kind, gullible America. He was not a pervert. He was simply feeling his old big brother role, yes, he was fine. England inhaled deeply, and slowly exhaled, relaxing.

What he was feeling was natural, he supposed. Natural he should feel protective, natural he should want to make sure America was safe, natural that he should want to tie Russia up and toss him into the sea.

Well, that particular feeling might not be so brotherly. England blinked.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to take time out of the office for working on international relations….

More uncertain than ever, England picked up the phone.

Italy had been waiting for him at the airport, his brown eyes sparkling.

"Ciao, England!" he exclaimed merrily, leaping forward to kiss the disgruntled nation on the cheeks. "Is very nice to see you!"

England grumbled, wiped at his burning face and looked away. Italy's cheeriness was hardly deterred. "Would you like to get a bite to eat? I'm starving and haven't eaten since forever ago!"

"You mean since this morning?" asked England grumpily, squinting angrily into the sunlight streaming down into the Leonardo DaVinci Airport. "God, that light's bloody bright. Should have just stopped at two shots on the flight, I suppose…"

Italy blinked, taking in England's lackluster appearance. His hair was disheveled, his normally neat tie loose, his jacket wrinkled, and he wore two mismatching socks. Had England been beaming, Italy would have assumed that he were in love or something, but he reeked no joy.

"You seem very sad, si? That is no good," said Italy consolingly, patting England's green tweed jacket, not seeming to mind when England irritably glanced away again. "I tell you what, we will fill your sadness hole with good food, good wine, and then a good game of football!"

"Isn't that your way of handling everything?" England asked, smiling grudgingly.

"Ve. It works," Italy agreed happily, pulling England down a flight of stairs to the baggage collect. "If that does not fix something, then problem too large for me and I ask Germany how to serve it. Anyhoo, we must hurry!" he chimed. "I got tickets for a game that starts this afternoon!"


The stadium was packed; much to England's dismay, they'd had to push and shove their way through and several people had cut ahead of the two in line. But at last they'd found their seats, and England felt his mouth wandering as the audience stared at the happenings below as if they were all witnessing the birth of their firstborn.

"Italy, what do you think of the…." England was at a loss for a moment. "The um, new America?"

"I don't know," said the chestnut-haired country indifferently. "I suppose he seems more…put-together and such, which Ludwig thinks is very good! Germany says I should follow his example." Italy beamed and slowly shook his head. "Ludwig makes some very funny jokes sometimes, ve?"

England snorted. Italy thoughtfully turned his attention back to the game and began to muse aloud:

"I wonder what made America change so suddenly. Is very strange. I guess washing cream pie out of his hair had something to do with it…."

England swallowed and looked at his hands. Suddenly, it felt like his stomach was home to a host of frantic butterflies flapping around inside of him.

"W-well, I might have had something to do with it…."

"Fuck you!" exclaimed Italy, jumping to his feet. England's eyes almost popped out of his head.

"E-excuse me?!"

But Italy's angry brown eyes weren't focused on England; in fact, it seemed like he had forgotten him entirely.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…..oh, Limbardi, you donkey-brained, son of a whore, how could you let that one through, you are a disgrace, big disgrace, you will never be half the man your mother is, you cunt, why don't you get out of the way and let Mosca….yes, yes, oh, wonderful, closer, closer, you're nearly there, beautiful—aaaaaaagggghhhhh! FUCK YOU, MOSCA! FUCK YOU ALL!"

Italy turned to the frozen man beside him with a pleasant smile.

"Now, Mister England, what were you saying? Oh, wait…." He turned back to the field and proceeded to cuss out an opposing player's mother when he successfully kicked the ball into the goal. "Please go on."


Italy's team lost. While the country had seemed quite depressed about it when the two trudged out of the stadium (And England thought HE felt down; "Stiff upper lip, old chap, no one died, for goodness' sakes"), by the time they had headed onto the street again, he seemed in quite good spirits, especially when he suggested that the two go out somewhere. England thought he'd meant a bar, but instead Italy had led the confused country to an out-of-the-way little bakery, and had ordered two large desserts for the two of them.

Italy had found them a place to sit by a canal, and England watched the water slurp and sway against the centuries' old stone. How long would it stay so, an obstinate city on the sea?

"I never knew you could ever be so intense…about anything." England tentatively sniffed the pastry Italy had given him, trying to look bored instead of intrigued. It smelled absolutely mouthwatering.

"Oh, only ever about football," said Italy dismissively, waving his hand casually as he popped the sweet into his mouth and munched contently. "You should see Romano…he is very…enthusiastic fan!" Italy swallowed, wiped his mouth, and smiled appreciatively. "As in he will run onto field and start beating up people before guards drag him away! But at end of game I am usually happy, ve? Because at end of game I remember is just a game and I can go out to bakery and eat doughnuts whether team wins or loses. Nothing like America's donuts on which he normally runs on," he added hastily, making a disgusted face. "Good ones…."

"Still, it's…rather a surprise, coming from you." England turned his sweet over in his hands, and he wondered aloud, "It makes me wonder what other sides of countries I'm missing…"

"Oh, many countries have lots of different faces," Italy responded, squatting down on the cobblestone curb beside England. "Some you see often, others not so much, others hardly ever. Japan makes a funny one whenever we get into a car together…almost as if he's afraid for his life…"

"Yes well, the one America's wearing now is all business, all for 'the good of the nation,' and all that rot. Don't get me wrong, I think it's marvelous," England said quickly, slowly biting into the powder-covered, chocolate-filled pastry, his eyes rolling backward. God, that tasted wonderful! "But he doesn't have time for me anymo—time for any leisure with anyone, I mean! He's accepting more and more responsibility than he really needs to, and I think it's slowly starting to crush him."

Italy wrinkled his nose. "Too much work and no play makes America a dull boy. I think you should go to him and take him plenty of pasta."

Arthur smiled wistfully.

"I don't think this a problem pasta can fix."

Feliciano looked about as thunderstruck as if a horse had just kicked him in the head.

"That sounds very serious!" exclaimed Italy, wringing his now sweet-smeared hands together. "Then you must go to him with a dozen red roses, kiss up, exclaim 'Te amo!' and make fast, sweet love to him—"

England abruptly spewed out the bit of pastry he'd been chewing to the ground, coughing furiously. "W-what—"

"—and then you must make good breakfast in morning. But that might be hard for Signor England, so I suggest you take him out to nice and therefore expensive restaurant!"

England glowered at him.

"You're bloody kidding me." He growled. "You have got to be bloody killing me, you little wanker," Italy looked quite taken aback.

"Ve? Why would I kid about something like that? If we all solved world problems like such, I think world would be much nicer, happier place! What I just said is what I do when Ludwig and I have argument and I want there to be happiness again. Or when I think he works too hard," he added, putting his chin in his hands and sighing lightly, wistfully. "He does always work very, very hard."

England glanced at him and turned his gaze to the water front, the wind playing lightly at his hair. "So…it's…it's true then?" He'd heard a good number of rumors. "You and Ludwig are…ah….are an…item?"

"Ve," murmured Italy happily, rocking back and forth, his light brown eyes glowing in the late afternoon sunlight. "Ludwig makes me happy even when he is yelling, which he does a lot, like an Italian Mama! Is nice, one of very many things I love about him." Arthur's heart sank.

"But what if…what if your relationship should happen to take a turn for the worse?" asked England in such a low voice that Italy had to ask him to repeat his question. "You would have to spend…Lord knows how many years….looking at him in the face, knowing it had gone wrong….and because of your duties of nations, you would never be able to just….slip away, slip away and never see each other again. You would have to see each other several times a year, relive the whole miserable—"

"Love is pain, Signor England," said Italy with a sad, kind smile. "That is thrill of it. Would be no fun if it was just pretty person and sweet amor, ve? The risk is like gambling, lots and lots of fun, but can ruin you if you throw everything in and lose!" He threw his head back and admired a pair of larks circling overhead.

"Austria and Hungary knew what dice they were throwing in when their turn came around. I think they have balls!"

"And look what happened to them," snapped England bitterly. "Divorced. They can probably hardly stand to look at each other, let alone be in the same room—"

"Not true, signor," said Italy with a surprising firmness. "Their bosses decided it would be good idea for them to marry. It did not last. These things happen. Does not mean that Hungary still does not come to Mr. Austria's house when he is sad and has stayed inside for too long. Does not mean that Mr. Austria does not send her flowers and yummy things to eat on her birthday! Does not mean that I can't hear them going at it when we are all staying in same hotel and my room is next to theirs and—"

"I get the picture," snapped England, embarrassed once again. Italy shrugged.

"They must obey the voices of their people. Does not mean they do not still love."

"What makes people fall in love to begin with? Bloody hell, whatever would remain of your relationship with Germany if you two lived together and—"

"Oh, is good we don't live together. I would drive Germany insane," said Italy matter-of-factly. "I miss him when he is gone, and I believe he misses me…it makes our visits together very happy! Ludwig is very often bitterness, which makes sweetness of our relationship so nice! Is fun to discover more and more sweetness within sourness, and in Ludwig, I find a lot! Soon you love even the not-so-fun parts of amor, even if they hurt like crazy, even if they are ugly and unbearable."

How can anyone drive themselves to love quite so much as to love ugliness?

"I love love. Love is bitterness, like Ludwig, ergo I love Ludwig. Love is chocolate so bitter you almost don't want to eat it. But is chocolate, ve? You want to eat it because it is so good even with bitter taste when you first bite into it! Is sweet and toxic and dangerous, like Mr. England's sweets!"

"Hey!" England blustered. "Excuse me, but I'll have you well know that I'm rather proud of my confectionary—"

Italy ran down the street, laughing.

Ah, Italy's got an answer for everything, huh? :) Yeah, England's going round asking people for countries on love. *Holds up bullet proof glass* He's got some tough questions to ask himself, if Russia doesn't beat him to the punch! ;) See you guys soon!