My name is Antonio Fernandez Carriedo. You may know me as Spain. As a nation, who has fought many battles and formed many alliances and faced many hardships. You may be expecting me to tell you about my endeavours as a pirate or my rich history of war and arts and people and nationhood. But I'm not going to tell you about those. I want to tell you about my Lovino.

My Lovino is my South Italy. No one calls him that, though. To everyone else, he is Romano, nothing more. His brother is Italy. Rarely do I hear him referred to as Veneziano the way Lovino is referred to as Romano. I know it upsets Lovino; I've seen the hurt in his eyes when someone who knows him as Romano addresses his little brother as Italy. I've listened to him wondering aloud why no one views them as equals. Each time, he gives himself the same answer: no one likes him. Everyone loves Veneziano, who is sweet and bubbly and kind, and everyone hates Romano, who is vulgar and aggressive and rude and disobedient, who they all think is nothing more than a whiny brat. Each time, I want to call out to him, to hold him and tell him that he is wrong, because as much as I love his little brother, I love him so much more. But I don't because then he would be upset that I was eavesdropping as he spoke his most private thoughts to himself. The last thing I ever want is to see Lovino upset.

He's not really vulgar and aggressive and rude and disobedient. He certainly makes it seem as though he is, yes, but I've been fortunate enough in my lifetime to break through those defenses and to hold the hand of the Lovino underneath. The Lovino who is caring and gentle and hopeful and fearful. I love that Lovino. I love everything about him. I don't tell him that often enough. I wish I could.

When he was a child, before he began to trust me, I often wondered whether or not that Lovino really existed. Surely this violent, broken thing had been a barrier, hiding something else? After a while I was certain that there was indeed something else. Something much sweeter and much more caring than he let on. I only needed to find a way to make him trust me enough to show it.

He had been so small back then. Even now, he seems so small and vulnerable, the baggy shirt and boxers he wears as pyjamas much too large for his tiny frame, pressed so closely and desperately against me as though he were drowning and I was oxygen. I feel proud that I raised him on my own, despite being little more than a child myself when he'd first become a member of my household. I had thought I would break him, that I would ruin him somehow and that would be it and he'd hate me forever. I had been afraid of myself back then. But I hadn't let it show, because I didn't want him to know.

And when he fell and scraped his knee in the garden and lay there wailing until I came running to his rescue, I wanted so badly to hold him as tightly as I could and never let go, and to protect him from anything and everything that could ever hurt him or scare him again. When he accidentally broke something and tried to run away because he was afraid of getting into trouble, I would stop him and tell him that it was okay and that accidents happen so that he would know that he could trust me and there was no need to be afraid. He always swore and screamed and complained and I always smiled and laughed because I knew that he didn't mean it. That he actually did care and he was expressing it the only way he knew how. He still does that quite often.

The time I walked into his bedroom to find him trying on a dress, he had been so embarrassed and flustered that he almost started crying, and it had taken me almost 20 minutes to assure him that I didn't mind and that I honestly did not think it was stupid or girly (I actually thought it was rather adorable and that was one of the first times I remember wanting to kiss him). So the next day when I showed up at his door with a lock and another dress that I had thought would look cute on him, he had accepted them grudgingly, still looking fairly humiliated. And so it had been while he was around the apparent age of 16 that I had realized how deeply I cared for him.

The day that Lovino saw me coming home after a particularly vicious fight with England, he had been in tears before he even reached the end of the path that led to my house, and he didn't even try to hide it as he pushed back my cloak to study the gash in my side and the blood staining my clothes. He didn't listen to me as I told him that I had done much worse to England and he should stop worrying because I would be fine, I swore, I would be just fine so please stop crying. Instead he hissed profanities and bawled and called me innumerable awful names before apologizing for them and spewing out more anyway.

But the next morning, after my wounds had been treated and I had had a good night's rest, I woke to find him next to me, having evidently snuck into my room in the middle of the night. He hadn't said much when I'd woken him, nor had he reacted the way I had expected (flustered and denying that he had done anything; pretending that he had no idea how he got there). He only told me good morning and left to make breakfast for himself and, much to my surprise, me. The next day had been the same. And the next. For almost a month he would sneak into my room every night and act as though nothing had happened the next morning. Finally, when I gave up wondering if he would ever stop (though of course I did not want him to) and I had fully recovered from my injuries, I swept into his bedroom one night as he sat reading a book and slung him over my shoulder, carrying him back to my own room as he shrieked and kicked and protested, unbelievably flushed by the time we finally reached our destination, but making no further protests when I opened my arms to him and held him close under the blankets.

We've been sharing a room ever since.

I love a lot of things about Lovino. I love the good things and the bad things alike. I don't mind that he has a foul mouth and a sharp tongue. It's the way he is and it's part of what makes him Lovino. I think it's cute how he sometimes cries a bit when he is particularly frustrated, and how he curls up as small as he can make himself whenever he sleeps alone but must always be pressed flush against me when we sleep together. I love that he isn't afraid to voice his opinion, no matter what it is or what effect it will have. And I really, really love his smile, so much that I would do literally anything to see it. So much that whenever I DO see it, my heart nearly collapses in on itself with elation and sometimes my breath will catch in my throat and I can just never stop myself from returning it.

There are a lot of things he pretends to hate about me. And yet there are a lot of things anyone can tell he loves. When I hold his hand, he growls and grumbles but does not let go. When I kiss his cheek, he kisses mine. He likes kisses. Which is good, because I like kissing him. His lips have the strangest tendency to taste like icing sugar no matter what he's eaten recently. Even now, lying here with him in my arms, I know that when he wakes up and gives me a peck on the lips like he does every morning, he'll still have the sweet taste lingering there.

I sigh quietly. When he wakes up, I know I might cry. I'll cry because right now, more than anything, I want him to wake up. I want him to open his eyes and mumble a sleepy 'good morning,' while he sits up and stretches and rubs at his eyes and kisses me and tells me he loves me, because I'm scared and I can feel his eyelashes against my throat and his nose against my collarbone but there's nothing else. At some point in the night, 'when he wakes up' became 'if he wakes up' and I hate his brother for doing this and I hate myself for hating North Italy for it. Italy. Just Italy now. There is no Romano and Veneziano. Not anymore. Because everyone loves Italy, everyone always loved Italy, everyone only recognizes the northern brother as Italy and they all took my Lovino away so I can't blame just him for it.

I told him I would fix this. I told him months ago that I would help him and I swore to myself that I would never let him fade. I was going to marry him. That I had promised myself decades ago. And yet even as he was dying and I did everything in my power to stop it I still could not summon the courage to ask him, let alone to actually go through with it. I wonder what it would have been like, to stand before all of our friends and family and tell him just how much I loved him and watch his face turning pink as he tried to find the words to tell me the same. To finally, finally let him know just how desperately I wanted to spend the rest of my obscenely long existence with him. I tried to tell him last night, but I couldn't find the right words and I could feel a painful knot at the back of my throat as I watched him trying so hard to listen and comprehend and I knew he was trying to say exactly what I was trying to but he couldn't either because he was slipping so fast.

The last thing he'd done before falling into unconsciousness was pull me forward and kiss me with those icing sugar lips and breathe a barely audible 'I love you.' And for how many times I had repeated it he would not wake up again.

At some point, when the sun has long since slid past our window to tell us to get out of bed for another day, and the only warmth I feel is my own, a sort of sudden acceptance falls over me like a blanket. Not the kind of acceptance that says, "I know what has happened and I'm okay with it," but rather one that says, "I understand what has happened and I can't just lay here all day and pretend that it hasn't." It's a painful one, so painful that my throat suddenly burns and there are pinpricks in my eyes and a gaping, tearing wound in my chest so deep and agonizing that my entire body convulses as my arms tighten around Lovino. My Lovino who is now as limp and lifeless as the worn, red fabric of his shirt and whose skin is now cool and pale.

The noises tearing themselves from my throat sound awful and broken and inhuman but I can't I stop them and they only increase in strength and volume as I press my forehead against his hair and weep. Everything hurts suddenly, a harsh, lonely ache. I want to shake him and scream and I want him to just open his eyes again and I want to feel him breathe and hear his heart beat because it's not fair it's not fair it's not fair. I tell him how much I love him, nearly unintelligible through the sobbing and tears that I am trying so desperately to stop. I tell him how I wanted to propose to him, and what our wedding could have been like, and wonder whether he ever thought about it, too. I tell him that I'll take care of his little brother and that I'll keep the garden we planted together safe and maintained. And I ask him – beg him – to just wake up one more time, for me.

But I know I've lost him and I've lost his smile and his voice and his tears and his icing sugar kisses and the world is suddenly a terrifying and lonesome place.

My name is Antonio Fernandez Carriedo. You may know me as Spain. There is only one thing in the entire universe I want.

I want my Lovino back.