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Building Blocks and Condom Boxes

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As he sat in the kitchen by himself, sipping at a warm cup of coffee with a nice, wholesome bowl of Kellogs cereal the way he normally did every morning, he flipped through the newspaper in a haze of slowly growing disinterest. As of lately, Romano had been living with a roommate for around three weeks in his three-bedroom apartment now. Or should he say their three-room apartment.

Antonio Fernandez Carriedo, a handsome twenty-five year old Spanish man with a smile as bright and blinding as the darkness in the scowls Romano was capable of dishing out, was sleeping peacefully in his bedroom down the narrow hall beside the bathroom as Romano continued to skim over the newspaper. He eyed the weather for the following week, then turned the page.

For the duration of the Spanish man's two week stay, Romano had learned a few things about his new roommate. Like how he was much too comfortable with his body. Sometimes, when Romano would return early from work, he would catch the Spanish man sauntering around the apartment in nothing but his underwear or a towel after showering.

It wasn't that Antonio's body wasn't as nice as it really was. Romano, who was raised in a strict family, was just not used to the exposure of another person's body nor did he ever take it very well. The faces he would make and the redness in his face always made Antonio laugh. Also, in addition to his constant parading in little to no clothing, the man had already begun to bring home visitors.

Not only did he find Antonio with strangers over at stranger periods of the nightnight, but during the daytime as well. When Romano had gotten off work around noon instead of the usual 3:30 a few days back, he had entered the apartment to lustful screams, breathes, and words coming from Antonio's bedroom. It left his olive complexion flushed.

Though Romano had said he did not mind as long as Antonio and whomever he decided to sleep with kept it in his room and not in the living room or other parts of the suite, the amount of people he had over already was a little sickening. Or at least to Romano, the twenty-one year old virgin who had no intention of having intimate relations with anyone until marriage. Sometimes Romano would avoid any sort of physical contact with Antonio as a result of this; going even as far as to shower immediately after contact, not that he would ever admit that.

Bringing a spoonful of milky cereal to his mouth, he chewed quietly. The crunching sound of cereal in his ears was relaxing, and he continued to eat the contents of his yellow bowl.

The things about Antonio that Romano did not like were already piling up atop one another at an alarmingly fast pace, but, after seeing Antonio cover rent for the month after only having lived there for a few days, the Italian man found that he had no choice but to let Antonio stay, grateful, to say the least.

Cold fingers brushed against the rim of the white and blue coffee mug absentmindedly, moving in a clock-wise motion, and then counter-clock wise slowly, fluidly. Romano's eye brows knitted together at the burning frustration and his irked curiosity. For the past ten or so days, Romano had been trying to figure out what Antonio did for a living.

The man work, that was for sure. Despite waking up and leaving for work later than Romano, as well as arriving home before him, the man easily seemed to make much more than Romano raked in, and the intense curiosity that picked at the back of his head like a fire slowly burning away all it touched was too much at this point.

Without realizing, he began to tap his foot impatiently.

For some reason, Romano never asked Antonio straight-forward what he did for a living when he interviewed him. All he said was that he had a job he had fun doing that paid well, and had enough money and funds to keep them financially stable, which appealed to Romano at the time, who had been crawling up the wall worrying over how he was going to pay for his apartment's rent, so suffice to say he did not think too much about it.

Now, it appeared to be all he thought about.

As he got out of his seat to put his empty bowl of cereal in the dish washer along with his cup of coffee, he walked towards the bathroom to brush his teeth and hair, contemplating the idea of asking Antonio after work. The wooden floor of his living room felt cold under his sock covered feet as well as the white tiles of the bathroom.

There was a tiny feeling of uncertainty that rested in asking Antonio, though.

What if it was something weird? With the way things have been going, with all those times Romano would catch the Spanish man with people in bed with him, Romano only had one logical thought in mind: Antonio was a call-boy.

He felt a little guilty assuming that he sold his body for money, but nothing else seemed to match up with the evidence Antonio had laid out for him. Quickly brushing his teeth and then combing his hair as he gargled a bit of mouthwash, he stared at the mirror with a small frown. It pissed him off. Antonio pissed him off.

Romano fixed the collar of his shirt, and adjusted his jeans.

Swishing the minty green liquid in his mouth for another five seconds, he leaned his face down into the sink, and spat out the contents of his mouth. Just about everything about him pissed him off, and what pissed him off even more about Antonio was how damn likeable he was regardless. The mouthwash slid down the sink, and, when Romano stood up to wipe the corners of his mouth, he found Antonio's shirtless and smiling figure standing behind him through the mirror's reflection.

His shoulder jumped in surprise, and then tensed noticeably as the Spaniard's muscular arms wrapped around his middle, his chin finding a nice little spot at the junction where Romano's neck met his effeminate shoulders. "Good morning, Romano!"

Oh, and another thing that pissed off Romano: Antonio was exceedingly affection. This did not match well at all with Romano, who valued the belief in one's personal space.

He struggled against his roommate's hold like a fish caught in a net. "Good morning my ass. Let go!"

Laughing in that abnormally cheerful way Romano was growing reluctantly accustomed to, Antonio followed Romano out the bathroom.

"Will you put some clothes on?" Remarked Romano after glancing back at Antonio, who continued to follow him into his bedroom, a small hop in the Spaniard's step.

"Why? No one's around." Antonio flopped around on Romano's bed. Romano didn't seem to notice as his eyes were fixated on his school bag. " And I don't have work until, like, noon."

"Noon?" Back facing the Spaniard, Romano picked up his bag and made sure he packed all the supplies he would need for the day at his computer desk. He looked through each little pocket and opening to make sure everything was in order, and stuffed in an extra box of milk chocolate in there for good measure.

The kids in his kindergarten class loved it when he gave them treats. So he thought he'd use it to his advantage and only give them candies and chocolates when they behaved. Believe it or not, Romano had one of the most behaved classes in his school's entire division. Then again, from time to time, his students were equally as out of control as they were polite and obedient. "Then what are you going to do for the rest of the day?"

"I dunno, sleep?" Antonio gave a shrug as he rolled over onto his stomach to watch Romano prepare his bag. "They just said to rest up."

"'They?'" Muttered Romano under his breath. How dare he speak so vaguely! It drove Romano insane! He nearly snapped a handful of pencil's in half as he placed them in their proper case.

Who was this 'they'? And why would he need to 'rest up'? What would he be doing that involved getting enough sleep?

"Maybe I'll go watch TV since I'm in pretty good shape and ready for whatever."

It was starting to sound more and more like he made money through sex the more Antonio spoke. At the high possibility of such a thing plaguing his mind, he turned around with his bag slung over his shoulder. He picked up his keys and caught Antonio rolling around on his bed.

'Good shape' for sex and 'ready for whatever' during sex, while lying on his bed.

If he'd been avoiding any sort of physical contact with Antonio, seeing him roll about on his bed made him realize it was equally as bad.

Romano's eye twitched.

"What's wrong, Romano?" Antonio fell into step beside Romano as he walked his roommate to the door. Suddenly, the Italian turned to face Antonio.

"Do you have sex for money?" The question left Romano's lips without him realizing, and, dropping his keys, he slapped his hands over his mouth as if to take back his words.

Silently, they stood in front of the door staring at each other. Antonio's green eyes were wide in a shocked daze, while Romano's had filled with embarrassment and a twinge of guilt. While he had planned on asking Antonio, he hadn't planned on practically calling him a whore! He was ready for whatever sort of angry outburst from the Spanish man. It was only fair. If someone implied such a thing in regards to Romano, he sure as Hell would have had their head on a plate by now.

He bit his lip and braced himself wordlessly.

But, to Romano's surprise, Antonio burst into a raucous laughter that pierced through the silence of the apartment. He wrapped his arms around his bare stomach, and bent over at the waist to laugh hard as Romano watched in growing confusion.

"Wait, what? What's so funny?"

Antonio looked up, wiping a tear out of his eye. "Hahaha, you think I'm a prostitute? Hahaha!"

Romano began to chuckle and slipped on his shoes, realizing how silly he was to think such a thing. The two had a good laugh for a couple of minutes, and Romano stepped out into the hallway with a foolish snicker. Even he had to find the humor in the situation. He was being incredulously stupid.

"S-Sorry about that." Romano apologized embarrassingly. "I'll see you later."

As he turned to towards the stair case at the end of the hall, he shook his head as if loose with his hands planted firmly in his trouser pockets. Just as he was about to begin walking, Antonio said to him, in a disturbingly proud tone.

"Just so you know, I'm not a prostitute. I'm a pornstar." He smiled. "See you after work."

Antonio disappeared behind the slowly closing door.

Chapter Text

Every Thursday and Tuesday, Romano would leave school early. Instead of the usual 3:30 PM, he left school as soon as lunch was over, after all the kids had left for the day with their parents and guardians. After all, Kindergarten classes only lasted half of the day. It was in grade 1 that they began staying at school for the full six hours.

On every other day, however, Romano would stay to work at the Nursery across the hall from his classroom with that gentle Canadian man when he was done saying goodbye to his students for the day.

The Canadian man's name was Matthew Williams, and, while the differences between he and Matthew were great, to say the very least, Romano had taken a liking to the boy's soft-spoken personality, and incredibly good nature. He could appreciate someone who did not come off as a conceited prick or an overly happy douchebag. Some could say they were friends. They often spoke whenever Romano worked at the Nursery with all the toddlers, and, every now and then, they would go out for a movie or for a drink. Matthew never drank, though. He was the little angel who always made sure Romano got home safely.

Unlike people like Matthew, who just radiated sweetness in every little thing they did, people were often surprised to hear about people like Romano doing so well with children. His family found it hard to believe how nicely he treated his students after knowing Romano ever since he was in kindergarten himself, and especially how much children seemed to love him.

With the sun still high up in the seemingly cloudless blue sky, Romano walked slowly up the stairs with growing anxiety, each step up making his nervousness rise along with him. During nap time, he had tried coping with the fact that he now lived with a pornstar with some much needed input from his friend/paraprofessional, Arthur Kirkland.

The initial shock hadn't seemed to fade even the slightest since earlier that day, and Arthur didn't help him one bit with his snarky comments and jokes. While Arthur wasn't very similar to Matthew, Romano liked Arthur as well. Even though he occasionally pissed off Romano, he did it in a way that they would at least find humorous. He, Matthew, and Arthur were good friends that helped each other in any way they could. Whether it be favors or advice in or out of school, they gave and said their all.

Romano wondered how he was supposed to act around Antonio as he trailed up another flight of stairs. Like he didn't already feel awkward enough around Antonio and his stupid parading around half-naked the apartment, and frequent disregard for Romano's personal space.

Arthur advised him to act as if nothing was wrong with that, or with anything.

He said, "Things are only awkward if you think they're awkward." hoping it would help ease the Italian's nerves. Romano used to believe in the saying until then because matter how he looked at it, living with a pornstar was awkward in every way possible.

He mumbled softly under his breath as he dug around for his keys inside the pockets of his jeans. "Ugh, what am I going to do?"

As soon as Romano reached his floor, he began to fiddle with his keys nervously. It kept his mind off Antonio for a couple of seconds until he finally stopped at his apartment door. The sight of the familiar wooden door and the ever changing aroma of the hallway attacked his senses. The hallways always smelled of different kinds of food every day. Sometimes good, and sometimes bad, unfortunately. It helped calm him down a little. Just a little.

Just as he was about to insert his key into the metal lock, he noticed his hand shaking uncontrollably, and pulled away immediately. He was not prepared to see Antonio at all.

What was he to say? What was he to do?

Romano paced back and forth in front of his apartment door anxiously, twirling his house key around his fingers, his mind racing as frantically as the nervous beats of his heart. "What am I going to do? What am I going to do? That fucking bastard. What am I going to do?" He grumbled to himself.

As he continued to toy with his key between his middle and index fingers, the little piece of metal suddenly went flying to his left. With a small 'cling', it hit the cool cement wall, and then fell to the navy blue carpeted floor. He groaned at his clumsiness. "Ugh, fuck."

He turned to look for his key, and adjusted his bag's strap on one shoulder, inadvertently slamming his heavy backpack against his wooden door. Stepping to the side, Romano bent at the waist to reach for the key. He squinted his eyes, and brushed his fingers around across the hallway carpet.

Romano had terrible eyesight. He had been meaning to get new contacts for a while now, but had been much too lazy to get around to it. He didn't have enough money for a car, and taking a bus took too much time out of his life. Plus, he didn't want to bother Matthew or Arthur to take him. With the dim hallway lights making it much harder on him, it took even longer for the man to find his key. Romano cursed. It was just his luck.

Just as he was about to throw in the towel, his knuckles brushed against something flat. Cool. And more importantly, metal.

He grabbed his key quickly.

Suddenly, his apartment door swung open from behind him slowly.

Antonio opened the door, but, strangely enough, was met with no one. Maybe someone had come to the wrong door, and made a run for it? Or maybe there were stupid teenagers around playing a game of Ding Dong Ditch. Or maybe no one was even there. But he was sure he had heard a knock on the door. A loud knock, at that. One loud enough to wake him up from a warm nap on the couch.

He looked to his left, and then his right, and then forwards. He looked up, and then down, his eyes landing immediately on Romano's rear. A wide grin that stretched from ear to ear appeared on his tanned features, and he leaned against the door frame with his muscular arms crossing in an amused manner. He stared for a long moment, admiring the way Romano's faded grey jeans hugged his buttocks and long legs. He'd always stared at Romano's arse every now and then, but never like this. It was too blatant.

It felt just too easy like this, as if he was being tested.

"Welcome back, Romano!" Antonio cooed loudly.

Apparently Romano did not hear the soft squeak the door made whenever it was opened or shut, for, in a surprised manner, he immediately straightened and turned to face Antonio stiffly, face reddening.

Romano cussed loudly, almost dropping his key as he fumbled it in the air. "Merda!"

"Nice butt, Romano."

"Shut the fuck up!" Romano stormed past Antonio in an embarrassed fit.

"Now, now, Romano.~" Antonio, who closed the door behind him gently, trailing after Romano with his arms still crossed, found it entertaining. It was almost as if the kids Romano took care of were starting to rub off on him, as he stomped through the living room like a child throwing a temper tantrum.

The train of thought was a little concerning, though. If Romano was this influenced by little children, he hoped the Italian's interesting choice of language did not affect the young, impressionable minds of his students.

"Hey, Romano, wait up!" The two stopped in the kitchen.

"Put a fucking shirt on, you bastard!" Romano threw his bag at Antonio, who caught it by a strap effortlessly, and placed it on the table. The Italian turned away from him as he begun to skim through the cupboards above the sink. "And while you're at it, put some pants on, too!"

"I don't want to dress up, though!" Antonio whined.

"You don't have to dress up, just cover up!" Romano looked over his shoulder. Behind him, Antonio sat at their round, glass table, legs crossed as he leaned into his seat comfortably. The neon lining of the Spaniard's boxer's caught his attention, and his eyes fell absentmindedly to his crotch. Antonio caught him instantly.

"Does Romano like what he sees?" He teased. Romano caught the seductive glance he was given, and returned it with a weak scowl before turning to look forwards into the opened cabinet.

Olive skin flushed darkly, and he returned to going through the cupboards. The sound of man's chuckling from behind him grated his ears. Fortunately, his over-joyous laughter faded, and they were met with a dull silence.

Antonio couldn't help but let his eyes move on their own accord towards the teacher's rear. While Romano made it clear that he did not want to be touched at all, whether it be an accidental graze of the hand or inappropriate gropes on purpose, he never said a thing about staring.

He watched wordlessly as Romano pulled a container of his favorite Italian coffee out of an opened cupboard, and then pulg in the kettle after filling it with a good amount of tap water. He did not seem to notice either, so he continued eying the him before a harsh set of knuckles collided with the side of his face.

Romano hollered. "You bastard!"

Antonio returned the glare Romano shot him through him with a modest grin. "What did I do?"

"You were staring at my… my…" He trailed off. The heat that rose to his face doubled. He made sure to remind himself, "It's only awkward if you think it's awkward. This is only awkward if I think this is awkward."

Antonio settled his arm on the glass in front of him, his sore cheek in the palm of his hand, with a widening smile that Romano begrudgingly found it to be charming as it grew. "Your…?"

Romano pursed his lips before shouting, his voice cracking and then wavering. "Fuck you!"

"Man… You hit pretty hard." The Spaniard said with a chuckle. "Besides, you have a cute butt."

He was ignored, mainly as a result of Romano's speechlessness, but acted as if he were mad, so as to not let Antonio have the satisfaction of knowing that he left him without anything to say for once.

Despite the incredibly forceful slap to the face, Antonio continued to ogle Romano as he reached for the cupboard he thought contained cups and mugs. He frowned as he was met with a pile of bags of Lays Chips falling on him. He had completely forgotten. After Antonio moved in, Romano had to move a few things around to accommodate the Spaniard and his belongings. Instead of his colorful arrangement of mugs and glass cups his mother had sent him, he found even more stacks of junk food and candy.

With a groan, he quickly stuffed all the fallen bags of chips back into the cupboard they were originally in, and then turned for the other cabinets behind Antonio.

Romano gritted his teeth.

Smack.

"That hurt!" Antonio pouted. "Stop hitting me, I haven't touched you at all!"

"But you're staring at me so much, it equals you touching me!"

"Man, you keep hitting me in the same spot, too…"

For someone with a figure as lean as Romano's, the boy hit hard. It was surprising, to say the very least. Not only did he have venom in his words, but the fire power to back it up in his fists. Antonio couldn't help but laugh at it as rubbed at the stinging sensation running through his cheek.

"Then learn to keep your eyes away from my butt. Look up here!" Romano fumed, motioning to his cross hazel eyes. Antonio swore he saw smoke file out of Romano's ears as he caught him staring at his front instead. "Ugh, honestly!"

Awkwardly, Romano maneuvered his way around Antonio to look into the cabinets behind the Spaniard. Romano nearly fell into the other's lap, but caught himself.

"Why? What's wrong with just looking at you?" He asked. In an unusually mirthful tone, he said, "Besides, there are much worse things I can do to you and your butt, you know."

As Romano grabbed a plain blue and white striped coffee mug, stopping on his way back to the beeping kettle, he made sure to fix Antonio a blank stare, as if saying, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

Antonio replied cluelessly. "What's with that look?"

Romano continued to ignore Antonio until he was done making his coffee despite the older man's constant nagging and attempts at conversation. Sure, they had to live together. But that did not necessarily mean they had to be friends. Or at least to Romano, who left wordlessly after dodging a surprise hug, sauntering as he sipped at his dark coffee all the way to his bedroom, leaving Antonio lonely and pouting.

—-—

"Remember, Romano, it's only awkward if you think it's awkward."

"Hnn…" Romano rolled around, cussing in his sleep. "Fuck you… Arthur… Awkward… Fucking bastard…"

Romano woke up from a comfy nap at around 6:00 PM in the evening.

Blinking and rubbing away the sleep from his tired eyes, he pushed himself up weakly. It was cold, and the air from outside his warm bed sheets attacked his skin harshly. The air conditioning was acting up again, leaving the apartment much colder than it needed to be. Even in the heat the city was in, the cold of his apartment made it almost unbearable whenever it malfunctioned.

A strange feeling washed over him, and he rolled onto his side thoughtfully. He had dreamt of his conversation with Arthur during naptime that day at school. And now that he thought about it, he could get used to Antonio if he tried. "Whatever floats his boat, right?"

He hadn't done anything bad to him either, and, if he had been planning to rape Romano, he probably would have by then.

Probably.

Pulling himself out of his bed reluctantly, he made sure to put on a sweater, and change out of shorts. As soon as he slipped into a comfy pair of dark sweats, he glanced over at the mess of pillows and enticing white sheets. He missed the warmth and comfort of his bed. It was a little too late to return at that point, though. He had fully gained consciousness, and, as nice as it felt to just lie around in his bed, it would be nearly impossible for him to fall asleep now, and he didn't feel like wasting time just lying in bed until work the following morning.

"Romano, it's only awkward if you think it's awkward."

As much as he hated to admit it, Arthur was right. If things only felt awkward because he thought it was awkward, maybe acting normally things feel normal. Or at least something that was close enough to 'normal'.

"Stupid British bastard. He has a point." He thought to himself.

Romano made a beeline around the clothes he wore to work that day that now laid on the floor in crumpled heaps of fabric, with a silent yawn, to grab his cellphone charging in the corner of his bedroom.

He had two missed calls. They were both numbers he did not recognize at all, so he brushed them off and dropped his phone on his bed. Exiting his room, he dragged his feet and fell stomach first onto the couch in the living room. Maybe he'd watch some TV to pass the time. Just until either Matthew or Arthur called with plans to go out and drink or something.

It had been almost half an hour later until Romano heard the sound of a faint buzzing as he shifted around on the couch. It didn't seem to be coming anywhere from the living room, or the kitchen, so he got up and walked over to his room. To his surprise, it wasn't his phone. Come to think of it, the noise seemed to have faded as he left the couch.

Romano paused. He searched through the silence for the buzzing, and caught onto it almost immediately. Curiously, he tip toe'd towards the noise quietly. The sound brought him all the way back to the couch until he realized it was coming from the couch.

He kneeled down, and put his ear against a cushion. "What the…"

Standing up, he lifted up the couch cushion and paled.

"Hey, Romano," Antonio walked into the living room, clad in nothing but his boxers as usual. "Have you seen my…"

"What the fuck?" Romano pulled out a bright pink toy, in the shape of something he'd rather not think about. He froze on the spot, unable to do anything else but stare with reddening cheeks as the lewd object vibrated in his hand.

With a smiled, Antonio walked over to the man.

"Oh, you found it!" He slung an arm around Romano's shoulders, his chin finding a spot to rest comfortably on Romano's shoulder, as he grabbed the vibrator out of the latter's trembling hands. "Thanks, Romano! I've been looking for that thing everywhere. I need this for tomorrow's shoot!"

He pecked Romano's cheek gratefully, and walked back towards his room with the thing in his hand. Silently, Romano stood there, mouth hanging, eyes wide, and face flushed. What exactly did he mean by "tomorrow's shoot"?

More importantly, did he want to know what "tomorrow's shoot" meant?

He face palmed.

Nope. Things were still awkward, and no amount of acting normal would do anything to change that.

Chapter Text

"And then he pulled what out of where?" Arthur asked in disbelief, nearly choking on his food. He sat at a wooden desk beside the daycare door across the hall from Romano's classroom, and coughed. It was Friday afternoon, and they were working at the daycare with Matthew. After giving his chest a good strike, he cleared his throat and proceeded to take a bite out of his vibrant red apple. The pomaceous fruit danced across his tongue, sweet, and juicy.

"It's was fucking disgusting!" Romano replied in disgust. He shook his head, as if to shake the thought out of his mind permanently. If only it were that easy. "What the fuck was he even doing with a dildo, anyway?"

"How the hell would I know?"

"B-Boys! Please, not around the children!" Matthew said with a flustered blush. Both men turned to look at him, and he visibly shrunk under their eyes. "I-I mean, what if they end up hearing you t-two and repeating whatever you both say to their p-p-parents?"

"Matthew, who cares? We're off in ten minutes!" Romano countered. "Besides, they're loud as fuck. Like they'll actually hear us."

"Then c-can you not talk about stuff like this for me? This kind of thing m-makes me u-uncomfortable…"

Arthur sighed, and Romano frowned. He felt an insignificant ounce of guilt poke at the back of his mind incessantly. One would think Matthew was an angel with his incredibly white heart, and, while he possessed the maturity of the adult he was, the essence that flowed from his very being that equalled innocence of a young child.

Things such as sex, and matters relating to sex made Matthew incredibly uncomfortable. After hearing the little things Romano picked up about Antonio, just mentioning the Spaniard made him uncomfortable at that point. Romano wasn't sure whether or not he should let the guilt take over, or supress it by laughing at Matthew's distress.

"Oh, let the boy be." Arthur advised. He quickly finished the handful of bites left of his apple, and then tossed it into the black garbage bin beside the door. He patted his handkerchief against the corner of his lips to clean off the small bit of apple juice softly. "Let him preserve whatever innocence he has left."

Romano shot the British man a strange look. "What do you mean by 'has left?' The worst thing he's ever done was forgetting to say 'thank you' to the lady who gave him a free sample of crackers at the mall that one day you had to go buy new curtains."

"Well, he is friends with you, a walking string of curses." Arthur grimaced. "And, if I am correct, wasn't the reason behind my needing new curtains because of you?"

"All I did was offer you a drink, not to get fucking drunk out of your mind."

"I was not drunk!" Arthur countered defensively. Matthew sat silently, trying to remember the events of that day just a few months prior. It was vague, but he did remember getting an extraordinarily satisfying poutine at the food court.

Romano snorted. "Are you kidding me? You thought your curtains were 'too plain' looking, so you thought pouring the whole bottle of wine I bought for you on them would make them more 'interesting', you idiot!"

Arthur's pride was taking much too many hits for him to ignore. He stood up with his hands in tightly knotted fists at his sides, his face red. "You git, you don't know what you're talking about!"

"And neither did you! 'Oh, Flying Mint Bunny, don't my curtains look exquisite?'" Romano imitated a British accent, driving Arthur up the wall. He never did like it when people did mock-British accents, especially when Romano was doing one to mimic him.

As Arthur hollered back in a poorly done Italian accent that made Romano get out of his chair to buttheads with him, Matthew reached for his coffee mug on the desk in front of him. He took the red and white handle, and brought it to his lips, showing off the red maple leaf on the front of it. He took a sip out of his tea, the immense mixture of flavors flooding his taste buds in a warm rush of almonds and maple syrup.

It was when the two men settled down, that Matthew asked, in a timid manner, "So, what are you two dressing up as for Halloween Day next Friday?"

At William Rose Elementary, it was a tradition that on Halloween, or on the Friday before Halloween if it happened to fall on a weekend, that students and teachers came to school dressed up for the occasion. The kids loved coming to school in their costumes, and having a little party in their classrooms. Teachers like Romano, however, dreaded the day. The thought of going to work disguised as something was silly, and he didn't like it.

With a shrug, he crossed his arm and fell back into his seat. "Pfft. I don't know. I'll just put on some stupid cat ears again. What about you two?"

"Not sure yet." Said Arthur truthfully, and thoughtfully.

"What about you Matthew?" Asked Romano.

The Canadian man smiled softly, as if he'd been waiting an entire lifetime to be asked. "It's a surprise."

Romano's brow twitched at the word. Whether or not it involved him, he never liked surprises.

—-—

"Hah… Antonio…"

"H-Harder… A-Ahh!" The Spaniard arched his back, and white danced across his vision, his body trembling as pleasure hit him hard.

Antonio lay on the floor panting heavily. His muscular chest struggled as it heaved up and down roughly to take in and let out large breaths of air at a time. Licking and then biting down on his bottom lip seductively, he winked up at the camera with a soft moan.

"And, cut!"

Sitting up, Antonio, was handed a wet cloth. The blue towel was icy, and soothed his flushed skin. Sweat coated his body along with other interesting fluids. The Spanish man made sure to wipe off the white substance off his defined abdomen, hissing at the cold material but sighing at the refreshing feel of it against his boiling skin, he had trouble trying to steady his breathing and temperature. Holding the towel to his neckline, Antonio panted for air like a dog, his lips parted and desperate.

In his ears, the sound of his partner conversing with the cameraman was drowned out by the raucous, erratic throbbing of his heart. He could feel its beating harshly in his chest, in his throat, and pulsing at his temples beneath the dark strands of hair that stuck to his face, clinging to his skin by a thin layer of sweat that acted as glue.

Antonio had just finished filming for his website with a man from a sister website. Antonio's boss used to manage his partner a few months before he entered the porn industry, so setting up the two men was as easy as pie.

"So sore…" Antonio groaned under his breath as he rolled his shoulders backwards. He heard a crack. Were shoulders supposed to crack the same way knuckles did? Or were they not? He shrugged it off, ignoring it to continue cooling himself down with his wash cloth. If it turned out to be bad, then he'd go see a doctor or just let whatever he hurt heal on its own.

Beside him, a naked blonde man was busy wiping himself off as well. He nodded at the things the cameraman said to him absently, occasionally adding on to a few ideas with his own opinions and comments. He sat with his legs crossed, and looked to be extremely out of breath as his sweaty chest heaved for air like Antonio's. He was glad to see he wasn't the only one who had been working hard.

The man covered his face with his towel for a quick second, relishing in the cold feeling that took over his heated sense. He sighed.

When he pulled the cloth off his face, he found Antonio on his knees in front of him, licking the remains of their session off the corners of his lips seductively. "Tim.~"

Tim fixed Antonio a blank look. "Please, don't ever do that to me again unless we're filming."

With a chuckle, Antonio cleared the rest of the pearly residue off his face with his cloth. "Oh, well. It was worth a shot?"

"Where's the bathroom?" Asked Tim.

"First door on the right." Immediately, the Dutch man got up to gather his scattered clothes. Antonio returned the wordlessness Tim offered him with his own silence. He scooted to his left to let Tim reach for his shirt behind him before exiting the bedroom.

"Extra towels are under the sink! Oh, and could you clean this off? There's disinfectant and stuff there, too!" Antonio called as Tim walked down the hall. Reaching for a vulgar looking toy on the floor, he threw it at Tim. The toy hit his back, and began to vibrate as it hit the floor.

Begrudgingly, Tim reached for the toy and stepped into the bathroom.

"Hurry, please!" Antonio hollered as he heard the door of the bathroom click and the gentle running of water. If he heard Antonio, he ignored him.

"So, how's living with your new roomie been? Is he, like, still being a total dickwad towards you?" Antonio's attention was caught by the man behind him. Getting up, he stretched his back and arm muscles with small grunts. Reaching out to his right, he gave his wrist a hard flick, and closed his bedroom door.

"Things have been pretty good." He cracked his neck before dropping onto his bed with a grin. "Romano just found out about this the other day, though."

"Are you serious? How? You're, like, as loud as a dying cat."

Antonio sat up with a pout. "Are you saying I sound bad, Feliks?"

Feliks was his Polish manager, director, cameraman, and pretty much everything that had to do with Antonio's career. He would sometimes film for Antonio the same way he had just moments ago, assist him in updating and maintaining his website, and arrange appointments to meet up with other pornstars. The blonde man was rather… unique, to say the very least.

It was a little strange having him as a manager, though. Antonio didn't mind his strange way of talking or behaviour. But, what struck him as odd was that Felicks was younger than he was. While the exact amount of years was unsure, Antonio knew he had to be at least three or four years older than him. It also didn't help that sometimes he felt like he was being recorded by a teenager, what with the Polish man's young features.

"I'm not saying that, I'm just saying you're, like, super loud in the sack!" He said as he put his camera down on Antonio's desk. "Besides, looking good isn't the only thing that matters, you know. Audio is, like, really important and stuff, too!"

Antonio caught Felicks' eye him from across the room, and he pulled on a pair of boxers, suddenly feeling self-conscious.

The blonde shook his head and snickered. "I've seen you naked, like, a bazillion times! I recognize your head more than your head, if you know what I'm saying."

Snapping the elastic, Antonio sat on the edge of his bed with a laugh, "Good one!" Antonio ran his hand through his sweaty hair, pushing the damp locks out of his forehead to let it cool. "So, how did I do today?"

Felicks tossed a water bottle to Antonio, who caught it with a slack hand. "It'll definitely be super popular like everything else you've done so far, but, like, there totally wasn't any chemistry going on! Were you not feelin' it or something?"

Antonio smiled timidly, and shrugged his broad shoulders. "To be honest, he was really good—Like, really good. But… Yeah, about that… Tim doesn't like me, so we pretty much just tried to get it over with as fast as possible."

"Huh? But this is, like, the first time you've both met!"

"Turns out this one girl I dated for a few weeks was his sister." He said reluctantly, the words feeling wrong as his lips curled into a slight grimace.

Felicks hissed, as if witnessing something painful, and replied. "Oh, no wonder. When he used to work for me, he'd sometimes tell me about his family. He is all like, protective about his sister and junk."

"You don't say." Antonio took a long swig of water. It was cold, and the condensation that formed on the outside of the plastic made his hands numb. He hadn't realized how thirsty he was until he had taken a sip.

Tim's sister was a nice girl. That's how Antonio always knew and remembered her. She was a tall girl, with a cheerful fire in her green eyes that some said would match well with Antonio's. At first, Antonio was only after her body. It was the only reason he ever dated her. He was a man with needs, and college was just crawling with single girls looking for a fun time and break from all the school work and studying. But, after Antonio got to know her a little more, he realized he didn't have the heart to sleep with a person as sweet as her, so he dumped her.

Surprisingly, she took it well and they remained friends until Antonio moved. They still kept in touch via facebook and twitter, but it didn't feel right to him. "I wonder how she's doing." He wondered. She was a dear friend, so maybe he'd give her a call later in the evening after dinner.

He continued drinking his water. The icy liquid was like a jolt of energy running through his system. Before he knew it, he was finished with his water, and he squished the plastic in his hand with ease.

"I kinda get where he's coming from, though. If I had a little sister or something and someone came along wanting to have sex with her, I'd totally not be okay with it!" Felicks seated himself on the floor in front of Antonio with his legs loosely crossed. In a hushed tone, he said, "So, did you two ever…"

Antonio shook his head. "She was too nice, I couldn't! We ended up just being friends when I realized I didn't want to have sex with her."

"Awh, that poor girl." Felicks feigned sympathy.

"She didn't seem that upset, though. Guess she felt the same." Antonio said, tossing his crumpled water bottle into the trash bin in the corner of the room

"That's good. Some girls go, like, crazy when a guy decides it's over, you know?" The Polish man glanced at his watch. Tim had been in the shower for a while now. Antonio seemed to be thinking the same thing, as he turned his head to look at his door.

"Man, he's taking forever to shower. He better hurry." Said Antonio with slight concern.

Felicks raised his eyebrows. "Why?"

"Well, beca—"

"MERDA—WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU AND WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN MY BATHROOM?" Came a frightened screech from the hallway. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING—PUT SOME CLOTHES ON—HEY, D-DON'T COME CLOSE TO ME, YOU BASTARD!"

There was the sound of someone falling and an arrangement of unknown items hitting the floor at once, and Antonio was preparing for the worst at this point as he cringed.

"G-GET AWAY FROM ME. WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST TRIP ON—WHY IS IT VIBRATING?"

"Because my roommate will be home." Antonio finished with a defeated sigh. The door flew open, nearly slamming into Felicks, who jumped to his feet, and the Spaniard shot Romano a nervous grin. "Surprise, surprise?"

"ANTONIO…"

He gulped.

Romano was going to murder him.

Chapter Text

Things died down surprisingly fast back at the apartment.

A week had passed since the horrific incident and Romano decided to let it go. When he was done blowing off some steam, which was another way of saying 'yelling furiously into his pillow', every night before bed, he was able to calm himself down and forgive the apologetic Spaniard. This came as a surprise to the both of them; to Antonio, who had already been searching the paper for new places to live, and Romano, who was this close to kicking the man out the same way he did with his buddies.

However, Romano was a man with dignity who still felt the need to repay Antonio for letting him pay for last month's rent, and if he were to force Antonio out the door after that, his conscious would never let him live it down. Arthur and Matthew wouldn't either.

After he was done buttoning up his shirt, he stopped by his bed side table to eye the black headband with dark cat ears, thin strap-on tail, and stupid fingerless gloves that gave off the appearance of paws. This was what Romano dressed as every Halloween for the school's Halloween Day for two main reasons—It was simple, and easy to put on and take off.

He cursed the school. Every year, they forced all of the teachers to dress up with their classrooms in an attempt to 'raise the school's morale' and to 'bring the community closer together', which was absolute bullshit. Romano lived 30 minutes away from the school—Right outside of the William Rose community. Even if he did live in the community, getting closer to the people who lived in it was something he'd refuse to do regardless.

While the costume was incredibly embarrassing, despite its childish simplicity, it would do.

Grabbing the black accessories, he nearly tripped on his schoolbag on the way into the hallway. Balancing himself, he stepped into the bathroom and turned on the light with a soft swing of his arm. He dropped the accessories onto the counter beside the sink, and fumbled around with the tail as he snapped it onto the back of his belt. Shaking his butt a few times to make sure it would stay, he proceeded to pull on the gloves. They were a little tight since the last time he'd worn them, so he flexed his fingers, and clenched and then unclenched his fists until they gave his fingers enough room to wriggle comfortably.

People often said to 'it's better to save the best for last.'

Growing up, his mother would tell him this as she handed him his gifts for his birthday. And, true to her word, it was better to save the best things for last as they left people with good impressions. However, this was different.

Romano had decided to save the absolute worst for last in order to prolong the inevitable fate that was his stupid Halloween costume. Begrudgingly, he glared down at the cat ears that lay lifelessly against the shiny marble counter. He thought that maybe—just maybe—if he stared at them long enough, they'd burst into flames. Unfortunately, no such thing happened, and he was left to put them on with an increasingly deep frown.

"E ci va il mio orgoglio per la giornata." Grumbled Romano under his breath at the sight of his reflection. If his child self could see him now, adult Romano would totally understand the beating mini Romano would give him.

After washing his face with some cold water, he turned off the bathroom lights, and stepped out into the hallway with a yawn. Closing the door behind him softly, he paused. He was nervous about Antonio seeing him in his costume. Knowing him, he'd probably tease him about it. The teacher was already pissed off about dressing up; the last thing he wanted was for Antonio to make fun of him.

So, as quietly as possible, he tip toed into his bedroom to gather his things, seeing as the Spaniard was still fast asleep behind his closed bedroom door. He hiked his heavy backpack on one shoulder, removing the white charger out of the side of his cellphone and placing it in his back pocket, before turning on one heel into the living room.

Dropping his bag onto the couch in the living room, he strolled into the kitchen to prepare a quick bowl of cereal and some toast. A faint beeping from his cellphone rang softly, and he pulled out the small black device to see it was a text from Arthur.

Some of the other teachers are throwing a Halloween get-together later tonight around 9:30, want to come with Matthew and I?

His thumbs flew across the miniature keyboard, the buttons clicking softly from under them.

Sure. Where is it at?

I don't remember. I'll tell you the address at school after I ask around again. By the way, do you need a ride this morning? I heard there was a car accident a few blocks from your apartment, and busses had to change their routes while the wreckage is being cleared.

Sure, thanks. Just text me or something when you get here.

With all of his attention on the tiny screen of his phone, Romano lost balance and stumbled over his own two feet. A surprised yelp passed through his lips loudly, and, ironically, he stumbled onto all fours like a cat, his phone flying across the kitchen floor along with his cat ears, landing somewhere in front of him.

A frown tugged on his lips as he groaned. Just his luck. If this was how his day was off to, even before he had a good breakfast and hot cup of coffee, he was sure things would only go downhill from there. Swearing under his breath, he reached for his cellphone.

It wasn't that he was one of those people who can't go without a cellphone. It was just that he needed it around in case anything came up; job wise, friendship wise, or family wise. He didn't even want to think of what would happen to his idiot brother if he had no means of reaching Romano, who already had trouble paying for bills and rent for his apartment. Buying a new cellphone would only complicate his money problems further.

Worriedly, he examined the screen for any major nicks, and played around with its features and buttons to make sure everything was okay. When everything looked to be just fine, he sighed in relief. Good. A small scratch on the corner of the screen, but good.

It was as he made a move to get up that he heard a tired voice above him.

"Oh, so you've finally decided to take me up on my offer to roleplay, huh?" Remarked Antonio. Yawning openly and softly, he scratched at his bare stomach and reached for the dark cat ears on the floor beside his feet. He picked them up, and inspected the furry headband with amusement. "Roleplay as a cat, huh? Haven't done that in a while."

"W-What—When did you get into the kitchen?" Sputtered Romano with a surprised blush.

"Just now. Haha, I went to go check the mailbox downstairs, and came in to see you like this." Answered Antonio. He was still in nothing but his boxers, and held two envelopes in one hand while the other twirled and played around with Romano's cat ears. The Spaniard crouched down until he was at eye-level with Romano. "If you're roleplaying as a cat, does that make me your owner? Hahaha, I never knew you were this kinky."

Romano was completely speechless; eyes wide like a deer caught in headlights. The Spaniard's sleepy, yet cheerful, emeralds met with the teacher's flustered amber orbs as Antonio offered Romano a charming smile while fastening the dark headband on the top of Romano's head. Antonio noted silently the way Romano held himself on his hands and knees completed his cat-like appearance. He looked a little sexy, too; on all fours, doe-eyed and blushing.

"You know," Started Antonio with a seductive lip bite that sent unexplainable chills down Romano's spine. The Italian froze instantly, as the other took his chin into his hand and leaned in close, their lips only an inch or two away. "You make a pretty sexy cat."

"I-I-I—" Despite his brain sending signal after signal to his body and mouth, willing himself to move and speak, he found himself unable to come up with any sort of witty remark or strength to break his body free of the statue-like trance that kept him plastered on his hands and knees like an actual feline.

Antonio turned for a brief second to place the mail on the glass table beside him. "Now, why don't you let your owner take good care of you?"

Pushing roughly on Romano's shoulders, the Spaniard crawled onto the teacher's lap with a throaty chuckle. The Italian's Blackberry fell to the floor beside Romano softly, but he didn't notice as all of his attention fell onto the half-naked man looming above him. If the phone rang, he didn't hear it. Romano's mouth dropped as he balanced himself on his elbows and took in the appearance of the man straddling his waist. There was an alluring expression resting upon Antonio's tanned features that made his breath hitch.

Romano made sure to let his eyes roam the muscular expanse of Antonio's upper body, and defined abdomen that lead his wandering gaze the hem of the pornstar's brightly colored boxers without the man above him noticing. As much as he hated to admit it, the feeling that began to boil deep within his gut was… excitement. A part of his subconscious was telling him to sit back and see exactly where things go, while another part told him to get away from Antonio as soon and as far away as possible before things went too far. While his feral side wanted things to go further than he would normally like them, his more rational side poked and poked and poked at him.

It was embarrassing how conflicted he was.

"Heh, let's get this kitty out of these stuffy clothes." Muttered Antonio enticingly. He reached for Romano's top to begin unbuttoning the teacher's grey pinstripe shirt slowly. Teasingly.

Romano's entire being trembled. "S-Stop it, you b-b-bastard! I'll fucking k-kill you—"

"Now, now, is that any way for a cat to speak to his master?" Interrupted Antonio, after untying the Italian's silky necktie. " In fact, I don't remember cats talking to begin with."

He'd never seen the Spanish man so serious before. In the short amount of time he'd live with Antonio, he only known the man as the cheerful goofball with immense amount of energy that drained Romano of his. It was actually kind of hot seeing him like this.

As soon as Antonio was done unfastening the dark buttons of Romano's shirt, he tugged the shirt off of the latter's shoulders to reveal the smooth, delicious looking skin of his shoulders and chest, and protruding collarbones. Licking his lips, they immediately found their way to Romano's collarbone. He nibbled and licked softly. Romano shivered as kisses trailed across his collar, and up his throat to his quivering jaw.

Working his way up to Romano's ear, he gave the soft lobe a gentle bite, causing Romano to moan in response. "That's a good pet." Whispered Antonio softly.

Romano gritted his teeth in a mixture of pleasure and slowly growing annoyance. "I'm not a d-damn pet."

He groaned at the loss of contact as Antonio leaned back to sit straight. With a widening grin, he grabbed Romano's discarded necktie and wrapped it around the man's mouth to work as a makeshift gag.

"Wha fa fak?" Mumbled Romano against the silky gag. He made a move to pull off his neck tie, when Antonio took a hold of the Italian's small wrist to stop him.

"Nuh-uh. I'm just making sure my cat doesn't talk." Antonio smirked. "Now it's time to play.~"

Finding a spot on the cold floor in between the teacher's legs, Antonio began to trail butterfly kisses down Romano's chest and flat stomach. He relished in the soft gasps and way the soft skin seemed to jump from under his lips the lower he kissed. At this point Romano found himself indulging in the teasing kisses and expert touch of Antonio's hands as they groped at the insides of his thighs and tweaked his highly-sensitive nipples.

A warm hand pressed against the front of Romano's growing need through the fabric of the latter's black jeans. He rolled his hips as his eyes rolled back into their sockets. "H-Hah…"

Romano was so consumed in the pleasure and friction the Spaniard was giving him, that he didn't register the sound of the door knob clicking and footsteps drawing closer.

"Romano? Are you in here? Did you get my text—R -Romano?" Screeched a mortified Arthur who stood in the door way in a well-done pirate costume and fake sword. "W-What are—Dear, God. I'm s-so sorry for interrupting."

Romano jumped to his feet, knocking his knee into the side of Antonio's face. The Spaniard followed as he gripped his aching temple, and straightened beside Romano, who was waving his hands in front of his chest. "N-No, iz nuh wha you fink!" He shouted. His words came out as gibberish thanks to his neck-tie/gag. He untied it, and repeated, even more flustered. "N-No, it's not what you think—"

"I-I'll wait in the car." Arthur turned around and walked out the door, closing it behind him softly. Just when Romano thought things were finally calm and okay, something like that just had to happen.

In an embarrassed rush, Romano shoved Antonio away from him to grab his bag on the couch, and make a dash for the door. He ignored the Spanish man's calls, who ran after him with Romano's phone in hand. He had completely forgotten about it. But, by the time he had reached the door, Romano was already down the hall and running down the stairs.

With a shrug, he walked back into the apartment to look through the envelopes he had brought back with him. He laughed to himself as he ripped open one of the envelopes containing his pay for the week. "Pfft, that guy's eyebrows looked like caterpillars!"

Meanwhile in the car, Arthur and Romano sat in uncomfortable silence as the latter buttoned up his shirt and fixed his tie.

"So…" Arthur started awkwardly. "Do you want to talk about it—"

"NO."

Chapter Text

"Okay, take care, you two! Have a safe Halloween!" Matthew waved goodbye to the remaining daycare children and their parents. It was finally time to clean up the daycare, and leave for the day.

"We will, Mr. Williams!" Replied a young girl as she walked off with her mother. "Happy Halloween!"

"You too. Have a happy Halloween." He smiled at her and her mother as they exited the daycare.

"Hey, Matthew, don't forget about me!" Whined Alfred as he ran to hug the man's leg. The five year old boy was dressed up as Captain America, and ran around yelling, 'I'm the hero!' to all the other kids at the daycare that day. While Matthew found it cute of his younger brother, Romano and Arthur found it to be more incredibly annoying than anything else. The two had it up to here with the hyperactive boy, but bared with it with forced smiles anyway. Alfred was Matthew's little brother, and there was absolutely nothing they could do about it or the boy's untameable energy.

Romano and Arthur had their fair share of irritating brothers, so it was understandable. Plus, Alfred was still a child. But, if being a kindergartener was Alfred's excuse, what was Feliciano's excuse for being an annoying, air-headed fuck? Wondered Romano for a quick second as he followed Arthur to clean up some toys.

"Man, where the fuck could my cellphone be?" Groaned Romano.

"Maybe you left it at home." Replied Arthur.

As Romano and Arthur tidied up the scattered pieces of Lego in the middle of the colorful floor made up of child-friendly, rainbow colored foam tiles, Matthew stopped to pay some attention to Alfred. Smiling at the way Alfred clung to his thigh, he pulled of the plastic Captain America mask to ruffle his baby-soft locks. Because of the absence of their parents, Matthew was forced to raise Alfred himself and give the boy all the attention he could to make up for the lack of parental affection and consideration. As a result of this, it made Alfred clingy when it came to Matthew. But he didn't mind it.

With the mask in his hand, he pried Alfred's arms off of him gently to crouch down. Now at eye-level, Matthew leaned forward to give his brother a kiss on the forehead.

"How could I ever forget about the hero?" Asked Matthew with a smile. His words literally turned Alfred's heartbreaking frown upside down.

With a smile bright enough to blind, Alfred placed his tiny fists on his hips and lowered his voice, as if to sound manly, as he said. "Of course! The hero is always important! After all, without us heroes to help, the world would be in huge trouble!"

After handing the boy back his mask, Matthew stood up and straightened his black slacks, and adjusted his hat. While Alfred was busy adjusting the elastic of the mask around his small head, Matthew asked him, "Heroes help people out, right? Want to help Romano, Arthur, and I clean up?"

He could see his brother's pout through the small opening at the bottom of the plastic. "But I already cleaned up after myself!"

"And you did a good job. You can sit near the door and watch out for any villains trying to break in, okay?" Instructed Matthew with a grin. "Watch carefully, we're counting on you to protect us!"

"Understood!" Alfred straightened immediately, and saluted Matthew. Matthew did the same in return, and watched as the boy ran excitedly towards a small orange stool near the daycare door.

Turning around, he dropped to his knees to pick up a stack of crayons. Some were broken and snapped into numerous pieces, and some were still in perfect condition. He made sure to place those ones extra carefully into the large white bin where they kept all of the other crayons.

"How you are able to keep up with Alfred is beyond me, Matthew." Said Arthur to Matthew as he fixed a few picture books on a bookshelf nearby. "I know he's your brother and all, but he really is a ball of energy."

"Yeah, how do you handle him?" Added Romano, who was now leaning against the window sill beside the bookshelf Arthur was crouched down in front of. Matthew shrugged. As Romano fiddled around with his fake tail in one hand, he stared Matthew up and down with his head slowly tilting to the side. "Man, when you said your costume was going to be a surprise, I was expecting something mind-blowing. I'm not really surprised you came as a fucking Mountie."

After dropping the last few broken crayons into the bin and standing up, Matthew looked down at his costume with a small frown. "R-Really? I thought it would surprise you two."

"You're a true Canadian in and out, Matthew." Came in Arthur, who flicked at Romano's cat ears in amusement much to the latter's dismay. "I was kind of expecting it as well, to be honest with you. It is really nice, though."

"Thank you; it was actually my grandfather's." Replied Matthew with a smile. He put down the crayon bin on a nearby desk and proceeded to ask. "So, are we all going to the party together?"

"Wait, you still haven't told me where it is." Romano turned to look at Arthur.

Lucky for him, the British man completely disregarded what he had seen that morning. Even though Romano was expecting annoying teasing and jokes from Arthur, he had yet to receive one or anything remotely close. In fact, the topic that was Antonio had yet to be brought up that day. It was the first time his name hadn't been mentioned ever since the man moved in.

"Oh, I almost forgot. Apparently they had a change of location. They said it'll be at the pub around seven o'clock, and you can bring anyone you want." Was Arthur's response as he adjusted the collar of his pirate costume. If it was anywhere as stuffy as it looked to Romano, the man must have been as hot as a furnace. "They're forcing me to help decorate, so I can't drive you two home today. I can pick you both up later when it's time to go, though."

"That's fine." Said Matthew and Romano, who continued to ogle the other two's costumes.

When Romano thought it over, he felt a little underdressed with the way Matthew and Arthur went all out on their costumes; Matthew looking like an actual Mountie, and Arthur looking as if he was a real life pirate who had been zapped into the future. Romano always imagined pirates to have accents like Arthur's, so it kind of worked out well for him—Arthur's accent was much too civilized and proper sounding to be that of a pirate's, but still.

"I don't think I'll bring anyone, but are you both going to?" Asked Matthew. Arthur and Romano shook their heads in unison. They were the trio of single child-professionals; Matthew always being forgotten about because of his quiet demeanor that rarely caught the attention of people around him, Arthur coming off as too unintentionally cold towards any possible suitors, and Romano being, well, Romano. Amongst various other things, that included coming from wealthy families, having to deal with annoying younger brothers, and what not, their mutual lack of happening in their romantic lives was another thing they had in common and bonded over.

"Why don't you bring Antonio, Romano?" Suggested Matthew. The Canadian didn't seem to catch the way both Romano and Arthur stiffened at the mention of the Spanish man. With tensed shoulders and arms, they looked at one another awkwardly through their peripheral.

Sensing something to be off, Matthew asked in concern, "Is something wrong, Romano? Did something happen between you and Antonio?"

Before Romano even had time to gulp, the sound of Alfred yelling caught their attention. In the corner of the room, Alfred swung his fake shield around as he stood in the doorway. "What's wrong, Alfred?" Called Matthew as he walked over to the boy.

"You said to attack anyone who came near!"

After following his younger brother's gaze, he immediately apologized for his brother's behaviour. Alfred had taken his order a little too literally.

"I-I'm so sorry, sir! I hope he didn't hurt you!" Said Matthew.

The other man shook it off and smiled down at Alfred. "I think I'll live. He sure is one strong little hero." He said as he patted the boy on the head. Alfred immediately took a liking to him as he smiled at being called a 'hero'. He leapt forward and hugged the unknown man.

"I like you! My name is Alfred, and I'm a hero!"

The man looked up at Matthew and then back down to Alfred, whose deep ceruleans bore into him in childish mirth. "Well, it's an honor to meet a real strong hero, Alfred. My name is Antonio."

Matthew's eyes widened at the name immediately. Unlike Arthur, he'd only heard of the man.

"It's nice to meet you, Antonio!" Alfred greeted as he let go of the Spanish man. "I'm sorry for hitting you! Matthew told me to stand guard and protect him, Arthur, and Romano from any bad guys!"

"I forgive you; you were just doing your job as a hero." Antonio turned to a surprised looking Matthew, and asked, "Is Romano still here?"

Matthew nodded. He told Antonio to wait for a moment while he fetched the Italian, who seemed more than reluctant to leave his spot by the window as he was dragged by both Matthew and Arthur to the door. Matthew, Alfred, and Arthur scurried away into the room to play with Alfred in an attempt to distract the child as Romano more or less yelled at Antonio. With a slight red painting his olive complexion, the teacher scowled. "What the fuck are you here for?"

Antonio was taken aback by Romano's cold tone as he hissed at him. The Spanish man stepped back absentmindedly, and rubbed the back of his neck with a smile. Then again, after living with him for almost a month now, he should have learned Romano wouldn't have been happy to see him after that morning's incident.

"I just thought you'd need a ride home or something since you're off work now."

Romano's angry expression softened into one of slight surprise and growing confusion. As they stood in the empty hallway outside of the daycare, he asked, "A ride? From you? You don't have a fucking car!"

"I bought one today around lunch." Revealed Antonio with a smile. Romano's eyes widened at how he was capable of attaining a car in such a small amount of time. He remembered Antonio whining about wanting a car, but that was nearly a month ago when he first moved in. "So, what do you say? It is better than being stuck in a stuffy old bus."

Romano pursed his lips. "Let me get my things."

—-—

"T-Thank you for the ride, Antonio."

"Yeah, thanks a lot!" Alfred hopped out of Antonio's shiny, new 2011 Ford Fiesta into Matthew's awaiting arms. As he released the boy, Matthew motioned for Alfred to take his hand. The two waved farewell once more before the turned to walk towards their modest bungalow. The brothers walked up the small cements steps and before Romano knew it, they were already back at the apartment.

"I didn't know you meant your friend and his brother by 'my things.'" Chuckled Antonio. "He's nice, and his brothers a sweetie, so I don't mind."

Matthew lived closer to Romano than Arthur did by only a handful of minutes by car. As soon as the car stopped, Romano unbuckled his seatbelt and rushed out of the car. He had no intention of being anywhere near Antonio after that morning's incident. Just the thought brought a heinous blush to his face. After unlocking the apartment door, he dashed up the stairs until he reached his floor.

Fumbling around with his key as he adjusted the strap of his bag, he groaned in displeasure when he saw Antonio walking towards him from the staircase. The bastard caught up with him. When Romano inserted the key into the keyhole, Antonio placed a hand over his. The sudden touch, though innocent enough, sent chills throughout Romano's sensitive body. Romano blushed.

"Uh, are you sure you want to go in?" Questioned Antonio just a tad nervously. "I mean, I was thinking we could go for a walk or something."

Romano raised an eyebrow, his suspicion blatant. "What the fuck did you do to the apartment? I swear, if you got any sort of substance on any of my stuff, I'm going to freaking murder you—"

"N-No! I didn't have sex or anything today, I swear! I just, uh, need to tell you something…"

"Oh, boy…" Crossing his arms, Romano pulled the key out of the doorknob and leaned his side against the wooden door. If Antonio was going to explain some horrid thing that happened in the apartment, he figured he'd at least hear him out and prepare himself before stepping into God knows what awaited them on the other side of the door.

Romano was silent. Antonio took this as his cue to explain himself. Romano had yet to give him time to talk without any interruptions and, by the looks of it, this would be the only chance to do so. He wondered how the Italian would react. He already seemed to dislike the Spaniard, so the latter could only brace himself and hope for the best.

"If you're not going to say shit, I'm going inside."

"No, wait!"

"Well?"

"Well… Uh… You have to promise not to be mad at me, okay?"

Romano nodded. Antonio gulped.

"First, I want to apologize for this morning. Secondly, I kinda have f-f…" Antonio trailed off, leaving Romano's mind to play around and add in the few extra words.

With heat rushing to his cheeks, he felt his heart thud harshly. "Was he going to say he 'kinda has feelings for me'?" He thought to himself nervously. If that were the case, then the whole fiasco earlier that day was starting to make sense to him. If that was Antonio's way of showing he had feelings for Romano, then he really had to find a better way of confessing. Or at least that's what his head said. The rest of his body preferred the touches and kisses it received.

"Since it's too late to really change anything, I guess I'll just tell you right now that I have f—"

"Antonio, what did you bring back for us? We're starving in here—Whoa!" The door had swung open to reveal a tall albino. Romano, who had rested all of his weight against the door, fell against the albino, who caught him with strong arms.

"Mon ami, did Antonio return?"

—-—

"Like I was going to say, I have friends over." Said Antonio. Though he was sure he was hearing things, there seemed to be a strong emphasis on the word 'friends' that rung in Romano's ears.

How stupid did he have to be to think Antonio had feelings for him? Not that he was disappointed or anything, but still.

Somehow, Romano found himself sitting on the couch in the living looking up at Antonio, and two unfamiliar faces beside him. To Romano's left stood a blonde man with shoulder length hair with slight stubble on his chin giving him a mature, almost sophisticated appearance. From head to toe he was dressed in expensive clothes that looked all too familiar. He wouldn't be surprised if he was told they were designer. In fact, he expected them to be. Antonio motioned to him and said, "This is my friend, Francis Bonnefoy."

Francis smiled and reached for one of Romano's hands. He brought it to his lips, and smiled against the fabric of his fingerless gloves. Romano blushed. "It's a pleasure to meet you, mon cher."

He released Romano's hand as he received a small boo-ing from the other two. "He's a huge flirt, so don't mind him." Chuckled Antonio.

To his right stood a tall man with light skin, even lighter hair, and piercing red eyes that caught Romano off guard. He'd be lying if he said he'd seen someone like him before. This man was the one who opened the door and caught Romano. He was dressed much more casually than Francis. With a slight slouch in his posture, he stood in slimming grey jeans, a plain black t-shirt that made Romano realize how pale he really was, and a red plaid scarf was tied loosely around his neck.

Nodding to his side, Antonio introduced the albino. "And this is Gilbert Beilschmidt."

"The most awesomest guy you'll ever meet." Added Gilbert. He flopped onto the couch beside Romano, and threw an arm around the Italian. "So, you single?"

Gilbert lifted a hand to play with Romano's cat ears and meow'd. Instantly, Romano shifted towards the other end of the couch with a grimace, leaving Gilbert to look after him in surprise. Obviously he wasn't used to being rejected so immediately and wordlessly. Every time he tried to move closer, Romano moved away until he finally ran out of room on the couch that he got up to stand beside Antonio. Francis snickered into his hand while Romano stood beside the Spaniard.

"Oh, I get it. You're dating Antonio. That's cool. But if you're ever free…" Gilbert's wink was returned with a sharp frown from Romano. This seemed to irritate the man more than he thought possible.

"We are not dating." Barked Romano.

"If that's the case, why don't you come and sit over here like a good cat." Gilbert replied as he patted lap, which irritated the teacher further.

"If you don't mind me asking," Started Romano as he turned to the man beside him. "What the fuck are they doing here?"

"They said they wanted to drop by and check out where I moved into." Answered Antonio honestly.

"My deepest apologies for not warning you in advance, I hope you can forgive us." Francis stepped forward to gaze at Romano affectionately. He reached for the man's hand and gave it a gentle kiss once more. He didn't know just how he felt about Francis, but, so far, he hadn't done anything to majorly piss him off.

Yet.

When he decided Antonio's friends were trustworthy enough to not fuck in the middle of the living room or walk around naked, Romano retreated into his bedroom. It was about 4:30 PM, so he decided to keep his costume on while he surfed on the internet. While he wasn't very fond of scrolling down his Facebook homepage, he thought he'd kill some time watching some episodes of his favorite TV shows he had missed before Arthur and Matthew arrived to pick him up.

The rest of the afternoon went along surprisingly smoothly, despite Gilbert and Francis' continuous poor excuses for barging into Romano's room every couple of minutes. Surprisingly enough, Antonio seemed to be the one to keep the other two in check. It was around the eleventh time his door flung open that Romano decided to give into the growing hunger in his stomach.

Gilbert and Francis followed curiously. Grabbing into the fake tail and pulling on it gently, Francis asked, "Why are you still wearing a cat costume?"

They followed him into the kitchen. As Romano began to whip himself up a small quick sandwich, he said, "I'm going to a Halloween party soon."

The two men, and now Antonio, sat in the kitchen watching Romano. The sound of a party seemed to appeal to Gilbert, his slouching suddenly straightening, interested piqued. "A party? Oh, can we come?" He asked excitedly.

When Romano was finished making himself a sandwich, he placed all the ingredients back into the fridge. As the German looked at Romano expectantly, the latter frowned and shook his head. "No."

While the three men sat on one side of the glass table, Romano sat on the other. Though he would have much rather eat in his room, where he could eat in peace without any disturbance, the clean freak in him would never allow even a single crumb to touch the floor of his room. As he scarfed down his sandwich, Gilbert begged like a child. Not soon after, Francis and Antonio joined in.

"Please, can we go?" Gilbert pouted, thinking it would win Romano over. Unfortunately for him, it seemed to have the opposite effect of what was intended, for Romano's frown deepened into a full on glare.

"We'll promise to behave?" Came in Francis with a charming smile. It seemed to do nothing to Romano, who continued to eat his sandwich completely unmoved.

"Yeah, Romano! It'll be fun!" Shouted Antonio mirthfully. "Come on, please?"

Romano swallowed the last of his sandwich, and placed his plate in the dishwasher carefully. "No." Just as he exited the kitchen, a knock came from the door. Without having to check the little eyehole, Romano immediately knew it to be Matthew and Arthur.

Opening the door, he greeted his two friends. Attracted to whoever was at the door like bugs drawn towards the light, Gilbert and Francis followed Romano to the door. It ticked Romano off.

"Arthur, do you know who those two are?" Matthew asked, nudging the British man softly.

Arthur shrugged in response. "I don't. However, judging by the look on Romano's face, it's probably best that we don't."

"I'm off to the party now. You guys better fucking not get anything on any of my things." Threatened Romano. He made sure to finish with a glare in Antonio's direction in the kitchen. Before Antonio, Gilbert, or Francis could plead to the Italian once more, the door slammed shut and the latter two found themselves back in the kitchen with Antonio, who jumped in his seat at the sound of something beeping.

Pulling out a familiar Blackberry out of his pocket, he facepalmed. He had completely forgotten to return Romano's cellphone. Just when he was about to put the phone in Romano's room, a text popped up at the screen. Antonio couldn't help but read it.

Okay, everyone, meet at the pub just a few blocks away from China Town around 7:00 PM! Please come dressed up, and bring whoever you'd like!

An idea sprouted in Antonio's mind instantaneously. "Hey, guys!" He called, and motioned for the other two to read the text. The three shared the same grin and Gilbert pumped his fist into the air. Antonio chuckled. "Haha, we better get dressed up if we're going."

"This is great. That man at the door in the pirate costume was pretty alluring, don't you think?" Remarked Francis. "Maybe I can get his number?"

Gilbert snorted as he stood up. "You can have him. I like that one with the glasses in the Mountie costume is way cuter."

He examined the Blackberry's wall paper. It was picture of Arthur, Matthew, and Romano. As the two conversed over which one of Romano's friends was cuter, Antonio found himself smiling down at the cellular device foolishly.

"The other two are pretty cute, but Romano's the cutest." He thought to himself.

Chapter Text

Kids often don't see their teachers as real people. It wasn't until Romano hit the fourth grade that he realized teachers had lives and matters pertaining to things outside of school. If any of the younger children at William Rose were at the pub, which would have been rather concerning, they would have been shocked to see their teachers unwind, dance, drink, and socialize like normal people.

The party was bumping. Black and orange streamers hung from the ceiling; plastic bats mingled with the black and orange as if flying overhead, while fake graves and covens sat against the walls, around the dance floor, and beside the DJ. Floating just above the floor, a thin sheet of mist could be seen and colorful lights flashed and danced across the interior of the spooky pub while music played loudly in one corner further into the back.

It was spectacular; Romano and Matthew couldn't help but stop in the doorway, completely awestruck. Arthur had outdone himself. And to think he was capable of accomplishing all of that in a mere 2-3 hours' time. The British man could have made a living out of decorating for special events and parties such as this one, if he really wanted to, of course.

Though people began to slowly file in at around 7:00 PM, the boys ended up taking Alfred trick-or-treating driving for about two hours, and then drove for a bit trying to find someone that would babysit Alfred so late. Luckily, one of their friends, a warm Chinese man down the street, offered to watch over the boy.

On the right side of the pub, opposite to where the dance floor and DJ were, decorated tables, with unique ornaments that provided a dim light and varied from table to table, were set up. Arthur led the duo to a table, and the three sat. Romano caught the glimpse of some familiar faces he'd seen at school, and strangers scattered about dancing, sitting at the bar, and at tables around them.

Regardless as to what he or she was doing, everyone seemed to be having a blast. Whether or not it was a result of an added alcohol boost, Romano couldn't tell. Everyone looked to be having as much fun as the next.

Off in his peripheral, a tall, ominous figure appeared behind Matthew and Arthur. His shoulders stiffened, and he jumped in his seat, his knee hitting the gum-covered bottom of the table loudly. Arthur and Matthew turned around in their seats. Romano noted the way their shoulders stiffened as well.

Standing at six feet tall, and with an incredibly dominating aura, was Ivan Bragniski, the owner of the pub, dressed up as what Romano assumed to be a serial killer. With a hockey mask lifted up to see his mature face, and purposely tattered clothes, fake blood marred his costume and plastic knife that, for some odd reason, looked shinier and much sharper than any plastic Romano had ever seen.

"Do any of you guys want a drink or something to eat?" Inquired Ivan in a thick Russian accent. The three boys jumped back in alarm as the tall man dropped the knife onto the table in front of them to pull out a small notepad and black pen. The knife sure sounded a lot heavier than any plastic Romano had ever seen as well. Its tip was pointed directly at Romano, who nervously reached forward to give the tip a poke.

He gulped. It was a real knife.

"Okay, so, that's real fucking concerning." Thought Romano.

At that point, the imitation blood on the man's clothes was starting too real for comfort in Romano's eyes.

With a stutter, Arthur and Romano requested a few beers, and, as usual, Matthew asked for an iced tea. Ivan jotted down the order and was gone in a flash, knife clenched tightly in his large palm. As soon as he disappeared behind the bar counter, the tense air faded instantaneously, and the three fell back into their chairs in relief.

"That bloke absolutely terrifies me." Arthur uttered in a hushed tone.

"You saw that knife, right? That was fucking real." Remarked Romano.

"Dear God—Who on earth just drops a knife on the table like that? He must be mad, that Ivan—"

"You called?"

"That was fast!"

Romano and Arthur yelped in surprise as the Russian man returned with a tray in one hand, and his knife held high in the other. Smiling innocently despite his frightening appearance, he placed the beers on the table along with Matthew's iced tea. He told the boys to call on him if they needed anything, and left without seeming to notice the fear that flickered in the trio's eyes. In reality, Ivan was never as scary as the boys thought. While they were aware of Ivan's relatively good nature and intentions, the intimidating air that surrounded him was much too strong to ignore.

As the party continued to rock despite it only being 10:00 PM, Romano knew it would only get wilder from that point on. The boys drank and conversed with one another happily. Matthew came out of his shell ever so slightly while Arthur was starting to feel an interesting buzz after his second beer.

At the sound of Arthur's proper pronunciation faltering, Romano caught Matthew shooting him a glance from the corner of his eye. Oh, boy. A drunken Arthur was always something. Thankfully, Arthur was still sober enough to hold a conversation.

"I'm glad we can just have guy time like this." Matthew said.

Both Romano and Arthur agreed.

Every now and then, someone would stop by the table to offer one of the three a drink or ask for a dance only to be turned down. Matthew was much too shy to accept, Arthur was being his usual cold self, and the thought of showing the slightest interest in any of the men and women that tried to hit on him didn't appeal to Romano. They'd converse with whoever dropped by, but that was it. They were a tight-knit group, and they promised to spend the night together.

At around 11:00 PM, Romano found himself sitting alone as Matthew left to check on Alfred, while Arthur went to order more drinks. He busied himself by playing around on Arthur's phone. He groaned at losing his own cellphone as he stared down at his lap, slouching in his seat in a bored manner as he waited for his companions to return.

Romano heard the sound of a chair moving against the wooden floor and groaned slightly, eye never leaving his phone as he read a text from Matthew that popped up on the screen, "Finally, you're here. Took you long enough, I was fucking waiting here for you—"

"Oh? My little cat waited all night for his master?"

Romano's eyes shot up at the familiar accent. Seated to his left, Antonio sat, decked out in a full on matador costume with surprisingly intricate gold details that fluttered across the snug red jacket in expert designs, and fitted black slacks, with an exceedingly happy look on his face. Nearly dropping Arthur's phone, Romano sat with wide eyes.

With a chuckle, Antonio said, "Haha, you're really are cute as a cat, you know?"

"Shut the fuck up!" Snarled Romano.

"Come on, Romano, we came all the way just to see you and your friends, and—"

"How the hell did you know where the party is, what do my friends have to do with this, and who the fuck 'we' is?" Demanded Romano in growing irritation. His eyebrow twitched, and his grip on Arthur's cellphone tightened.

"Well, this was a big help in finding the place." Started Antonio as he pulled out a familiar looking Blackberry from his pocket. Romano immediately recognized it as his, and grabbed it as the Spaniard waved it in the air in front of him teasingly.

"My phone! How did you—"

"You dropped it this morning before your little friend interrupted us." Romano slapped himself in the forehead. Of course. He would lose track of his phone the moment he let his guard down and left it unlocked for anyone to use. There was a slight pout poking at Antonio's bottom lip that got on the teacher's nerves. "And things were just getting interesting!"

"Fuck you!"

"And to answer your other questions, Gilbert and Francis wanted to come see your friends." Romano sputtered at Antonio's words. Gilbert and Francis what? "Gilbert thinks the shy one is cute, and Francis thinks the pirate looks 'delicious.'" Antonio made quotation marks in the air with his fingers that Romano immediately swiped at in annoyance.

"Okay, now that I know, get the fuck out of here, and take those two along with you, wherever they are!"

Antonio furrowed his eyebrows slightly. "What's the big deal? It's not like we're causing trouble."

"The big deal is that you three weren't invited, and shouldn't even be here!" Countered Romano. "Just go!"

"Your friends look like their having fun with Gilbert and Francis, though!"

"My friends—What? They wish! Matthew and Arthur would never actually like being around those two!" Romano hollered.

Antonio pointed to somewhere behind Romano. In a secluded corner of the pub where a pool table sat, two figures stood playing a game together. One figure stood noticeably taller with a stronger looking build in comparison to the other figure, who looked to be thinner and more fragile. With their backs facing Romano, it was hard for him to really tell who they were in the dark. It was when the smaller figure walked around towards the other side of the table that Romano realized it was Matthew playing with Gilbert. There was a genuine expression on his face, and, through the dimly lit pub, he could see that the man was really enjoying himself.

"Eyebrows over there seems to be having a good time, too!" Added Antonio, who motioned to the bar behind him. True to his word, seated at the bar was a familiar looking pirate and Frenchman, chatting over a few beers nearby.

Just like Matthew, Arthur seemed to be having fun as well, though sometimes it was hard to tell when the British man was having a good or bad time. But, judging by the way he hadn't told Francis to leave him alone, he guessed Arthur was enjoying himself.

Sighing in defeat, Romano fell back into his chair with a slouch, cursing to himself under his breath. "Way to have my back, you guys."

"Besides, I was thinking maybe this would be a good time to really apologize for this morning." The hairs on the back of his neck stood up at the memory. He'd been trying to avoid thinking about it the same way he had avoided all thoughts relating to vibrator in the couch incident and time he caught that stranger naked in his bathroom.

Crossing his arms, Romano frowned. As much as he did not want to even think about it, let along talk about it, he figured he'd bear with it if it meant it'd be the last time ever mentioning it. Antonio was a little surprised by the way Romano sat quietly, obviously expecting the latter to throw a fit. It was like earlier in the hall.

Smiling bashfully, he said, "Like I said, I'm really sorry. I was a little drugged up, so I—"

"You do drugs?" Interrupted Romano with worry flickering in his wide eyes.

Antonio waved his hands in front of him. "No! Not those kinds of drugs! Like, sex drugs that make you horny and stuff."

Romano didn't understand why he had sighed in relief, or why he had felt concerned at the thought of Antonio doing something as dangerous as drugs. While he had heard stories about some drugs being less effective than others, he still found them all to be harmful, and, though he couldn't quite understand why, the idea of the Spaniard doing something potentially harmful to his health didn't sit right with him.

As Romano sat silently, he couldn't quite decipher the odd feeling that began to bubble in his chest.

"B-But yeah. The other night, when you left for a bit to go do a little grocery shopping, Francis and Gilbert sent me some treats that were actually aphrodisiacs in disguise. I had them around midnight when I got hungry, and tried sleeping it off, but they were pretty strong." Antonio admitted with a chuckle. Romano didn't understand why the man found it to be laugh worthy; if Arthur or Matthew ever did that to him, he would have given them Hell. "So… Yeah. Sorry about that, it was because of the drugs."

They sat awkwardly for a moment as Romano thought it over and accepted the man's apology. "Fine. Apology accepted."

"Really? Great! Now that that's out of the way," Started Antonio with a wide smile that overflowed with enthusiasm. "Why don't you let me buy you a drink? You know, to say you forgive me?"

Romano pursed his lips. The night was still young, and a drink or two was starting to sound better by the second. Feigning reluctance, he gave in. After leaving to go order a few beers at the bar, Antonio returned with drinks. The two drank, and Romano sat silently as his attention skittered on and off during Antonio's incessant talking and rambling.

The mysterious feeling that fluttered around in his chest was the exact same as the one he had felt earlier that day when he realized Antonio hadn't planned on confessing to him. Though it felt a lot like it, he refused to admit he had felt and was feeling disappointed.

—-—

Romano woke up the following day with a harsh pounding in his head. The ache was unbearable—Almost unbearable as the stinging in his eyes as he looked around the bright, sunlit room. He squinted his eyes as he rubbed at them with the back of his hand, and sat up in bed with the soft sheets wrapped around him tightly. Romano normally slept in his underwear since he never liked waking up hot and sweaty after being cooped up in the pajamas his mother had sent him.

The sheets held a familiar scent Romano couldn't place his finger on, reeking lightly of laundry detergent and cologne. He sunk into the warm blankets as he wobbled ever so slightly when he moved to pull himself into a sitting position. Romano caught himself as he brought an arm down onto the mattress to balance his center of gravity.

"Ugh, why won't the room stop freakin' shaking?" Groaned Romano.

Yupp. Just as he had expected; he was hungover.

Thank God it was Saturday. Going to school, where he worked with noisy, hyperactive children, would have been torture. He remembered the last time he had gone to school with a hangover. To that day, Romano still regretted not calling in sick.

Silently, he questioned how much he had to drink, but found himself unable to remember. He had a strong feeling he had quite a lot as nausea soon became apparent in the back of his throat. Gulping, he took deep, even breaths, and held down last night's drinks. Romano stayed still for a moment, and waited until the nausea subsided before he turned to look at his alarm on his bedside table, throat dry and his voice hoarse.

Testing out his voice, he mumbled softly to himself. His throat hurt, and there was an uncomfortable strain. He really needed some water. Luckily for him, instead of finding his old beat up alarm, he found a tall glass of water. He reached for it immediately, and drank it all in one go. The liquid was at room temperature, but still refreshing.

Romano tested his voice once more. Though a little painful, it felt a whole lot better than it had just moments ago. He slowly laid back down, and rolled over on his side to return the glass to its original spot on the nightstand sleepily. He found that sleeping off hangovers was always the best solution, so he curled up in his warm sheets as he eyed the nightstand with a peculiar expression. Since when had it been such a dark shade? He had that thing for about three a year now, and he knew it was more of a light-colored mahogany.

It was a little strange. Maybe it was just the lighting?

As he looked around, the ceiling looked a little higher up than usual. Though it might have been because he was lying down, it did not seem to explain how on earth his bed ended up right beside the window when it had always been pressed against the opposite wall.

He held his aching head and brought the sheets over his nose. His hangover was making him delusional. Sleep was what he needed. As he moved around a little to make himself comfortable, he couldn't help but notice the strange color of his sheets. Pulling the fabric out of his face just a smidge, he looked down at the blanket. Immediately, Romano paled.

Since when did the plain patter on his white sheets suddenly turn into the Spanish flag?

He gulped as he felt the bed shift and something warm and breathing press against his back.

Chapter Text

With heightened senses and growing nausea that flared in the pit of his stomach, Romano crawled out from under Antonio's red and yellow covers as cold air hit his bare legs from the window behind him. He noted the way his underwear seemed to be missing, and the baggy Spanish soccer jersey that covered him, stopping slightly above his knees. He walked in silence, clutching the ends of the shirt. Luckily, he made it out of the Spaniard's room without any problems, and spent the rest of the day without coming into any sort of contact with Antonio.

… Or at least that's how Romano imagined the outcome to be after getting out of bed as he shifted closer towards the end of the mattress, careful not to wake the sleeping man behind him. He had realized he was in one of Antonio's jerseys when the tag began to rub against his shoulder. It was starting to itch, but, as much as he wanted to scratch at it, there was not much he could do without waking up Antonio, who seemed to be pressed against him. Romano blushed.

The further he seemed to move away, Antonio seemed to follow. As if attracted by the heat radiating off his body, Antonio rolled closer and closer each time. When Romano finally slipped a leg out from under the covers, he felt a strong arm wrap around his waist and pull him close effortlessly.

Weary amber eyes went wide, and Romano's face began to heat up incredulously at the sound of hushed words being mumbled into his ear sleepily as warm breath tickled the shell of his ear. Antonio was more or less talking in his sleep. Though Romano couldn't seem to figure out whether he was speaking in Spanish or English, the only thing he was able to make out was his name being repeated over and over. It seemed to bother Romano to no end.

"Fuckin' bastard, what are you dreaming of? Pervert." He grumbled to himself.

With surprising speed and grace despite his extreme hangover, he lifted Antonio's arm as he moved out from under of the covers, and left a random pillow lying on the floor beside the bed in his place under the Spaniard's arm. Antonio didn't notice at all, still fast asleep as he buried his face into the pillow with a smile in a way Romano almost found endearing.

Almost.

Just like in his head, he tip toed his way across the cold floor in absolute silence. The teacher continued to pull on the ends of the jersey as he made it to the door without waking up Antonio. Romano nearly stumbled over as a dizzy feeling hit him hard, and vomit began to rise in his throat. He made sure to hold it down to the best of his ability.

As he reached for the door, he could not help but look at himself through Antonio's full-length mirror in one corner of the room. With a string of soft curses, he groaned at what he saw staring back at him. His hair was a ruffled messy of dark brown, his face looked as if he had been awake for three days straight, and the red jersey hung loosely off on shoulder to reveal hickeys marring the soft skin. He slowly began lifting up the jersey. Romano scowled deeply at the sight of more hickeys sitting haphazardly on his thighs. "Dear God, what have I done?"

An uncomfortable breeze that entered from the slight crack in the window reminded Romano of his lack of clothing, and he pulled down on the jersey as he looked over his shoulder. Oh shit. His underwear. Where the fuck was his underwear?

He scanned the floor for his boxers, but found it nowhere. Romano gave up quickly. His underwear was the least of his problems at the moment. With furrowed brows, he noted the way empty candy wrappers and loose pieces of what appeared to be Skittles were strewn across the floor clumsily. It was just like Antonio to leave his room in such a mess. Slowly, Romano twisted the doorknob. When there was a big enough opening for him to slip through, he maneuvered his way into the hallway, and closed the door behind him cautiously with one hand, while the other gripped at the ends of the jersey.

Romano's tense shoulders relaxed at the sound of a soft 'click', and, closing his stinging eyes, he leaned against the door with a sigh. He muttered lightly under his breath, his throat still sore and his voice scratchy. "Fuck was that close…"

"Was what close?"

Romano practically jumped out of his skin, nearly falling face first if it weren't for the strong arms that caught and held him up by his shoulders firmly. With an annoyingly cocky smirk, Gilbert released Romano to cross his arms to look down at the teacher knowingly.

"Looks like we've caught our little Romano's doing the walk of shame, no?" Declared Francis from the kitchen. He got up from his seat at the table, and walked over with what smelled like a warm cup of coffee. In the lower corner of his eyes, Romano could see Francis' thumb move in a semi-circle against the rim of the black mug. As he repressed the insistent urge to vomit out his insides, Francis stopped to stand by Gilbert. With more amusement than concern, the blonde asked, "How are you feeling, mon cher?"

Before Romano could even come up with some sort of witty remark, Gilbert interrupted loudly as he pointed at the teacher's exposed shoulder. "Hah, man, look at how dark that thing is!"

"That looks like a doozey of hickey." Agreed Francis with a nod. Gilbert moved his hand forwards to touch the mark on Romano's shoulder, but had his hand slapped away venomously.

"Don't fucking touch me!" He hissed despite the awful sting in his throat every time he'd speak. Romano coughed and brought a hand up to cover his mouth.

"Sore throat, mon ami?"

Gilbert snickered. "Gee, I wonder why."

"Shut up and tell me why you two bastards are here!" Demanded the Italian. It was all Romano was able to say before he began to cough once more. He tried clearing his throat a couple of times to relieve his aching throat, but to no avail. Romano felt terrible; like he had stayed up all night vomiting, which wouldn't have come as a surprise judging by the strange, unexplainable taste in his mouth.

Gilbert and Francis exchanged glances silently.

"You really don't remember anything?"

The Italian shot Gilbert a strange look. What was it that he did not remember?

"He was pretty drunk last night, Gilbert. I doubt he has the slightest clue." Scolded Francis light with a shaking head. "How insensitive of you."

"I guess you're right." Romano's eyes narrowed at the sound of Gilbert's raucous laugh. "He probably has no idea what happened last night. He was pretty hammered; it was freakin' awesome!"

As he stood in front of Antonio's door in the middle of the hallway, fingers digging deep into the fabric of the red jersey, irritated, Romano's patience grew dangerously thin. He had about enough of the conversation the two men were having. He wanted answers, and their stupidity was getting in the way. Obnoxiously clearing his throat into his hand in order to catch their attention, Romano asked, "Since I'd rather not see that Spanish bastard right now, and you two morons are the only people I can ask, just what the fuck happened last night?"

—-—

The three of us separated; Antonio off to go sit at a nearby table with Romano, and Gilbert off to go chat up the shy blonde man in the Mountie costume.

In the corner of my eye, I caught the glimpse of a certain pirate sitting by himself with an annoyed expression at the bar, just a few seats away from a drunken couple kissing sloppily. While I was never one against public displays of affection, no matter how extreme, this man seemed to be feeling the exact opposite.

Music was pounding in my ears at ungodly volumes as I sauntered my way over to the bar. I offered a few men and women who happened to look my way winks and enchanting smiles, though they were all given with very little to absolutely no meaning.

"Damn those two. Get a bloody room, would you?" I heard the pirate grumble in annoyance. The couple seemed to be bothering him more than I had thought.

Tapping his shoulder gently, I watched with growing excitement as a pair of emerald orbs turned to looked up at me. His expression was blank and just a tad bored, as he had been waiting for a few beers for Romano, that other boy, and him.

Smiling down at the picate as charmingly as I could, I asked, "May I have a seat next to you?"

His rather prominent eyebrows furrowed slightly, as if confused, but he nodded. Pulling the bar stool out from under the wooden counter, I hopped into place next to him. As he watched me carefully, I shifted in my seat to extend a hand towards him. "My name is Francis Bonnefoy."

The man stared down at my hand accusingly, but shook it nonetheless. Lifting his glove covered hand, he gave it a firm, uncertain shake. "Arthur Kirkland. It's nice to meet you."

My brows shot up at the British accent that laced his words. I was so sure that he was French, not that it really mattered to me. He was still as delicious as I had thought initially. Though our conversation started off a little awkward, I managed to get the man's number, despite the way our personalities seemed to clash. I was surprised to see how we ended up quarrelling, and how extreme our argument became, though he did not seem to want me to truly leave despite the annoyed look on his face. While we seemed to instantly hate each other the way Gilbert hated the sun for leaving him with horrid sunburns in the summer, I was a firm believer in opposites attracting.

Not to mention hate sex has been some of the best sex I had ever had in my life—

—-—

"Slow down, there, Frenchie!" Interrupted Romano. Francis' mouth hung open, as he had been in the middle of retelling his time at the pub with Arthur. "While it bothers me that you were somehow able to get my friend's number, I don't give a fuck about that right now!"

"Yeah, Francis. No one gives a fuck!" Gilbert gave Francis a soft shove, and started. "Now, I'm going to tell you guys what is really worthy of being given a fuck, okay? Okay, so—"

—-—

The three of us separated; Antonio off to go sit at a nearby table with Romano, and Francis off to go hit on that blonde dude with the bushy eyebrows sitting by himself looking miserable beside that couple sucking face like no tomorrow.

In the corner of my eye, I saw a couple of people sitting at a table drinking, and thought that I'd might as well go buy myself a drink, too, when I saw that cute guy that showed up at Romano's apartment earlier that day. I didn't realize it was him as he walked a couple steps in front of Antonio, Francis and I into the pub until he turned around. He seemed to be looking in the direction of the Asian market down the street through a nearby window. Concern was apparent on his gentle features, but that might have just been me.

Music was pounding in my ears like alarms; loud and with a pretty awesome bass line. It kind of felt like I was in a club or something. I made a beeline towards the boy and shot him my signature Gilbert-is-so-awesome smirk that's had a long history of leading to hooks-ups and hot make out sessions. Then again, the smirk might not have had a thing to do with any of that. People just see me and want me. I am sexy, after all. Being this good looking—It has to be a gift.

"I wonder if he'll be alright babysitting Alfred." I heard the Mountie grumble in concern. The boy seemed to be worrying over Alfred, whoever that was. Since I heard him mentioning babysitting, I assumed he was talking about his little brother or something. It was pretty cute.

Tapping his ass roughly, I watched with growing amusement as a pair of violet orbs looked behind him. His expression was one full of panic, alarm, and a tad of fear as he seemed to be uncomfortable with someone touching him in such an intimate area. It was kind of expected of him, seeing as how he did not look at all like someone with an active sex life like me.

Smiling down at him as unsuspicious as I could, reaching for a pool stick leaning against the wall next to us quickly, I asked, "Wanna play some pool?"

His eyebrows furrowed slightly, as if unsure as to whether or not I should be trusted, but he nodded. Pulling another pool stick from its spot against the wall, I handed it over to him. As he watched me carefully, I lead us closer the pool table. "By the way, my name's Gilbert Beilschmidt. What's yours, cutie?"

The man stared down up at me unsurely, but introduced himself nonetheless. Lifting his glove covered hand, he began to fiddle with his glasses a little. "M-My name's Matthew Williams. It's n-nice to meet you, G-Gilbert."

My brows shot up at the timid expression that laced his words. I already had a feeling that he wasn't as outgoing or extroverted as me, but I had no idea he was that shy. What was a shy little fellow like him at a party like that, anyway? He seemed more like a homebody than a party animal, not that it mattered. Either way, he was cute. Though our game of pool started off a little weird, I managed to get the man to open up a little despite his obvious reluctance to let loose. Even though he had every chance to end our game and leave, he didn't. While we seemed to be from two completely different walks of life just going by his demure personality, I was kind of a sap that believed differences between to people made things all the more interesting.

Not to mention the thought of an innocent little guy like him moaning like a whore turned me on like a mother fucker—

—-—

"Okay, you guys are really starting to piss me off." At this point, finding out what had happened to him was turning out to be more of a pain than it was worth. "And, ewh. I could have lived the rest of my life not knowing how you have some sick fantasy for Matthew. Pervert."

"Hey! It's better than Francis' weird, 'hate sex has been some of the best sex I've ever had. Honhonhon, mon cher!'" Imitated Gilbert in a piss-poor French accent.

Francis turned his attention to look at Gilbert angrily. "Excusez-moi? I do not sound like that at all!"

"But you do, mon ami, honhonhon!" Continued Gilbert. He began to dance around foolishly as he continued to impersonate Francis. Gilbert looked like an ape as he hopped around on the spot. Romano couldn't help but snicker at how dumb the albino looked. "Blah blah blah, bonjour, everyone! Le, I wish I wasn't as big of a la loser as I am! Why can I be as la totally kickass as Gilbert, honhonhon!"

"Knock it off and quit making a mockery of the French language!"

"Le, I am not as le awesome as une Gilbert because je m'appelle Francis Boner-Fire—"

"Don't call me that!"

"Le fucking make me, une bro!"

"Stop your idiocy this instant, Gilbert Beil—"

"LE CROISSAAAAANT."

"THAT'S IT."

At this point, Romano was left holding Francis' coffee as the Frenchman began to strangle Gilbert. Romano wondered whether or not he was to be amused or concerned. While he couldn't care less about what happened to those two, the prospect of being blamed for the death of one of them because they were fighting in his apartment was something that didn't appeal to him. Romano opted for jumping in when things got out of hand. This was just too funny.

The Italian was taken aback to see the albino continue firing insult after insult despite Francis effectively blocking his airway with his large hands wrapped firmly around Gilbert's neck. Just watching all the movement coming from Gilbert's stupid dancing was making Romano queasy. The desire to vomit had not gone away, as he found himself constantly needing to swallow back the bile he felt rise in his throat.

"Ugh, I feel like I'm going to throw up a small child." Romano thought to himself.

There was a soft 'click' from behind Romano, and the three boys turned to look at sound of a sleepy, familiar Spanish accent.

"What's with all this noise? What happened? Is someone hurt or something?" Questioned a half-awake Antonio. He stood with a weary slouch, his hair bedridden and unruly, as he glanced over to Romano, clueless. As usual, he was in nothing but a pair of boxers. The moment his eyes wandered over to Francis, who had Gilbert in a rather impressive headlock, Antonio seemed to understand the situation and, with a yawn, turned to retreat to his bed, finding nothing wrong with the two men fighting in the hallway outside his room. Romano couldn't help but wonder how often those two fought in order for Antonio to brush it off so lightly and easily like that.

As the tired Spaniard closed the door behind him with a weak flick of his wrist, Romano slid his foot forwards against the floor to keep it open and grabbed onto the Spaniard's wrist tightly. Antonio looked back at Romano, dazed and confused, as the teacher looked up at him with annoyed gold eyes. "Okay, you're going to tell me what the fuck happened last night, and you're going to tell me now. You got that?"

The sooner Romano learned of the previous night's events, the better. Antonio nodded in understanding.

"Well? Spit it out, damnit!"

Shaking Romano's vice-like grip on his wrist, Antonio turned around to face the Italian full on. While he normally would have found the image of Romano in one of his jerseys adorable, he was much too exhausted to notice.

With a yawn, Antonio said simply, "Isn't it obvious? We slept together, remember?"

Romano threw up in response.

Chapter Text

Romano was drunk out of his mind. Or, at least drunk to the point where he didn't want to murder me for touching him. He also called me by my name a few times instead of the usual curse he'd say in its place. I really liked the way it rolled off his tongue.

We had lost count of how much he had to drink, and, at some point, I found him attempting to do a cartwheel into the dance floor. Seeing his drunken side had made me realize that all the fun he'd lacked when sober, rushed straight into his body all at once when intoxicated. The man still swore like a pirate, though, but I never really minded it. At first I thought he was kidding about the cartwheel, but when I saw him get out of his seat and lift his arms over his head, readying himself, I jumped out of my chair to stop him.

He was inebriated, and I felt the need to take care of him; as a gentleman, and as a good roommate… Though I highly doubted he would have done anything more than make fun of or avoid me when and if he ever saw me drunk. But still.

If we ever drank together, I always imagined him having to be responsible for me—never the other way around. Then again, unlike him, I can hold down my alcohol very well. It was one of the perks of being friends with Gilbert so long. That man downs Vodka like water. Even though his drinking puts his health at risk, you have to admit, he drinks like an absolute champ.

Emptied glass bottles sat around lifelessly at our table as we talked and talked and talked. One thing I had learned during this time was that alcohol made him incredibly honest. I mean, I had no idea he had tried so hard to avoid physical contact with me when we first started living with each other. He said it was because he was so disturbed by having heard and seen me sleep with and bring people home, which was understandable. I didn't need an explanation since the confession didn't bother me at all, really.

When he was done spilling his guts out, the both of us even danced together for a bit when a song Romano found familiar came on. Our bodies swayed to the music and grinded against one another the moment he threw his arms around my neck. As his thin limbs flung around me to drag me closer, I brought my hands to his waist. Instinct took over, and all I remember after that was him dragging me into the bathroom. I was really surprised he was touching me after admitting just how much the thought bothered him.

I thought he was about to pass out, so I made sure to walk a step or two behind him to catch him in cased he fell. Luckily, he made it to the bathroom without taking any tumbles. He pushed the washroom door with one hand, while his other one pulled me by the wrist.

For a pub, the bathroom was pretty clean, and it didn't smell bad either. It smelled like disinfectant and girly hand soap, and looked even nicer than the actual pub itself. Bright vanity lights hung above the large mirrors at the sinks, with no graffiti on the stalls. Either the owner took extremely good care of the place, or the customers were super polite.

There were five stalls lined up, and Romano led me into the one at the very end. There was a yellow 'Wet Floor' sign that Romano nearly tripped over. It was funny seeing him stumble a little over the sign instead of the actual wet floor. Oh, the irony!

Giving the stall a gentle kick, he stepped in and pulled me along with him. While I had expected him to immediately vomit all over the place, and was ready to run out of the bathroom to get him some water or something, he collapsed onto the floor, nearly hitting his head against the shockingly spotless toilet seat, if it weren't for the hand I brought to cup the back of his head, catching him.

With jumbled phrases strung together incoherently, I remember him mumbling something about the room spinning vaguely. At this point, the drinks must have been hitting him hard and at once. He described the way the world spun around before his eyes as if he had just gotten off a wild rollercoaster, and how his legs refused to work in partnership with his mind. Romano struggled a little as he tried to get up, but ended up falling against the wall. I stood by his side, supporting him with hands on his frail shoulders.

It was at that exact moment that I found myself able to roam his soft features without his usual 'the fuck you looking at?' he'd normally shoot me with. It wasn't until then that I truly noted how handsome he was. I mean, I knew he was handsome, but this was the first time I had ever really admired his face. Scowl or no scowl, his clear skin, deep golden orbs, soft yet defined jawline and cheekbones, and enticing lips were incrediblyattractive. I was surprised he hadn't found someone by now.

Then again, living with Romano had taught me he was one incredulously tough cookie. And a picky one at that. I mean, he was able to turn down Gilbert and Francis, who both possessed the strange ability to attract anyone they wanted if they gave it a go. They had been like that since high school. We were all a little surprised that Romano had knocked them down like bowling pins effortlessly.

"Ugh… I feel like shit… Take me home…" Romano muttered with small hiccups. The way he leaned forward into my chest in an exhausted manner was endearing, but a little concerning. I shook him by his shoulder gently to make sure he was still conscious. Luckily, he was still very much awake. Just a little dizzy was all.

Before we left the bathroom, he coughed up a little over the toilet, but didn't vomit. I gave him soft pats on the back thinking it would help, but it only seemed to annoy him. When he was done hacking and spitting, I helped him to my car.

—-—

Despite having arrived to the pub with Francis and Gilbert, I left with Romano. I was a little worried about those two since they were bigger trouble makers than I ever was, but not by a lot. I had faith in them to not do anything majorly stupid.

The drive back to the apartment with the Italian was… entertaining, to say the very least. As we sat in the car going about 100 km/h instead of 50 km/h, Romano sang along to each song that played on the radio while clinging onto his seat for dear life. Other than his boisterous singing, the drive was overall uneventful.

We arrived at the apartment shortly. After seeing him nearly bail face-first into the cracked up pavement, I offered to let him hop onto my back to save him any trouble and further embarrassment.

Because Romano was so light I really didn't mind having to carry him on my back from the underground parking lot and up the few flights of stairs to our floor. It was easy, really. Though, the way he kept wriggling every time he thought I was trying to touch his butt made it kind of difficult; Romano would shift from side to side trying to avoid my hands, only to inadvertently bump his rear into the other.

Words couldn't even begin to describe how hard he had slapped the side of my head the first time my thumb brushed against his bottom. I wasn't sure whether he was sensitive or uncomfortable, but I settled on it being a small mixture of both.

At some point, I dropped him down a few stairs, but not the entire flight, as a result of his constant struggling. Luckily, he was fine. In pain, but nothing broken.

At this point, we had come to the conclusion that a piggyback was a terrible way of carrying him. So instead, I lifted him up the following flight of stairs the way a newly-wedded man carried his wife. He was a little embarrassed, which was to be expected of him. Even if he was drunk, he was still Romano and he still had that enormous amount of pride, and he immediately rejected the idea of being carried in such a manner. He struggled less after realizing how easier it was for the both of us, though.

As he mumbled incoherent things into the cozy jacket of my matador costume, the tips of his cat ears tickled my jawline. When we reached our floor, I leaned against the push door that lead into our hallway. As usual, the lights were flickering and dim, the dark carpet dull and boring, and the aroma of cooking floating thinly in the air.

It smelled a little like chicken, and I was starting to feel hungry. There was the soft grumbling of his tummy, so I guessed he was feeling the same thing, too. Before pulling out my keys out of my matador bottoms, I made sure to put Romano down softly.

He was tipsy and had a hard time standing on his own, so I wrapped an arm around his waist to keep him from falling. I was so used to the Romano that would bark at me for touching him; I flinched the moment my arm came in contact with his middle. When there was no yelling or harsh slap to the face, I was able to relax and pull out the keys into our apartment.

How we got the lights on, I don't even remember. All I remember was Romano and I fumbling around like idiots, and the door closing behind us as I kicked it with my foot. Staggering towards Romano's room, kicked the door open and dropped him onto his bed. He groaned and I apologized. Throwing him like a doll probably wasn't the best idea, but it wasn't like he'd really remember once he sobered up, so it was okay. I made sure he was tucked in and comfortable before deciding to leave him alone to go cook some food.

"Hey, bastard, the fuck you going?" I turned around. Romano was sitting up. He was clutching a pillow to his chest, his cat ears tilted off to the side, with a soft hiccup.

"Why? Do you want me to stay with you?" I teased, stepping forwards to lean against the doorway. An embarrassed look spread his already flushed face, and he fell back onto his bed, throwing his pillow over his face, poking a hand out from under his sheets to shoot me the finger. While I didn't hear a 'no', I decided to leave him alone. Teasing Romano was fun, but so was eating.

The moment I entered the kitchen, I realized I had no idea as to what I wanted to eat. I was craving food, but nothing in particular. All I wanted was something to ease the growling of my tummy, really.

Since I wasn't sure what exactly we had, I took a couple of minutes to look through the fridge and cupboards. Romano was always the one going grocery shopping while I usually stayed home and gave him some money whenever he went. You know, that way we'd be paying for food equally.

There seemed to be an overwhelming amount of tomatoes and some pasta, so I decided to make some spaghetti. It was simple, and easy to make. Plus, Romano would probably like it much more than anything else I would have probably made for us. He never did like my cooking. Then again, I don't believe he'd had anything prepared by me before. There was this one time I tried giving him some soup I made one night. He gave the bowl one look before rejecting it immediately. So, as I walked over to his room carrying a tray with two plates of pasta and two glasses of water, I couldn't help but feel nervous he'd turn down my cooking again.

Judging by the way he didn't seem to react as I entered the room, I assumed he was sleeping. Placing the tray on his nightstand carefully, I hopped onto his bed and shook him a little by his shoulders. "Hey, Romano, wake up."

Slowly pulling away the pillow that covered his face, I paused for a moment to admire the way he looked when he was sleeping. He was cute, but the moment was short lived. I made sure to burn the image into memory as he woke up and slowly sat up. There was a scowl on his face, and he squinted his eyes as they adjusted to the light.

We ate in silence and I was glad to see him enjoy it from my spot on the edge of the bed. Or, at least I was sure he enjoyed it since he had finished his plate before mine. When we were done eating, I made sure he drank a good amount of his water, before bringing back our dishes. I left his water by his bedside table in case he got thirsty, making sure to etch the image of his sleepy face into memory.

—-—

When I was done washing the dishes, I turned off the lights in the kitchen and living room, and went to my bedroom for a good night's sleep. I was feeling lazy, so I left the plates and glasses on the rack beside the sink to dry. Little fact about me; when I am tired, I lose all senses and turn into a klutz, whose clumsiness knows no bounds. So if I even tried to dry or put back any of the dishes, I'd without a doubt end up dropping them, breaking them, and pissing off Romano.

Pulling off my matador jacket, I threw it onto the floor of my dark bedroom lazily. All I wanted to do was strip down and sleep. I'd take care of my costume the following morning the way I usually did with other priorities. To my surprise, instead of hearing the sound of the jacket hitting the wooden floor, there was a painful hiss.

I yelped in surprise, and jumped back as I turned on the lights. Sitting on the floor against my bed, Romano threw the jacket back at me and rubbed his face. "Antonio, why'd you go and throw it at my face? Dumb bastard…" He growled, cheeks red and his words drunk.

Rather than having my jacket fly at my face the way it had with him like Romano intended, it merely flopped onto the floor in front of him weakly. As it hit the wood with a small 'cling' from the small metal ornaments, opened candy wrappers I hadn't noticed shifted across the floor. A small red wrapper caught my eye.

It looked familiar, so I stepped forward to sit in front of Romano and pick it up. I feared he had gone through my secret candy stash.

"H-Hey, you bastard, was the pasta I ate still okay? I'm n-not feeling so good…" I heard him say. I couldn't quite catch the end of his sentence; for I was too busy staring at the wrapper in my hand with swelling fear and painstaking concern.

Luckily for me, it wasn't any of my secret-stash candy.

Unfortunately for Romano, it was one of the 'special treats' Gilbert and Francis sent me.

Without much thought, I went to reach for Romano to carry him to his bed. But the moment my hands came in contact with his sides, his back arched and he fell forwards into my chest. His harsh breathes were hot against my neck, and the heat of his body was incredible.

"Ugh… I d-don't like this…" He groaned. I could tell by the way his words were meshed together messily and drunken that the alcohol in his body was still strong and flowing. "So help me, if th-this is a result of your d-d-damn cooking… Hnn…"

I tried to gently pry him off me, but, once again, the moment I touched him, he lost it and leaned into me some more. With his face buried against the nape of my neck, the warmth of his breath and unknowing pleasure in his moans left the warmth in my body to rush down south, and pleasure to build in my matador slacks the moment he crawled onto my lap. I could feel him press against my crotch, hot, needy, and hard.

However, as much as I would have liked to help relieve the stiffness pressing against me through the fabric of our slacks, I had to remember that he was drunk and, judging by the concerning amount of opened candy wrappers lying on the floor beside us, drugged out of his mind with aphrodisiacs.

Doing anything with him in his current state did not sit right with my morals at all, nor would it with him if he were to remember, so I refrained from letting my hands fall anywhere lower than his bellybutton.

"Hnn… Antonio… I d-don't like this… Ahh…" He muttered breathily into my ear, his legs trying to lift himself up, only to inadvertently grind against me the moment his legs refused to cooperate. I had to repress a groan by covering the satisfaction with pain as I bit on my bottom lip harshly, digging my teeth in rough and deep the way I did other interesting things to him in my mind. "I feel strange… someone, make this go feeling go away…"

While the thought of fulfilling his innocent demand in a sinful manner seemed appealing in my head and to my head, I had to remember that he was intoxicated, and I was absolutely not going to allow myself do anything to him like this. Unfortunately for me, he was making it hard with the way he pressed his torso to mine, wrapped his legs around my waist, and unintentionally moaned my name into my ear. "A-Antonio… H-Help, I feel like s-shit…"

With concentration and discipline, I forced myself to pull him off my lap, apologizing immediately as my hands wrapped around his arms. I hadn't realized how hard I had been breathing as I caught my breath or how hot Romano's body was as air came to fill the space on my thighs and stiffening need where he once sat, cold and icy. Apologizing once more as he groaned, I lifted him onto my bed. Silently, I noted the spilled pack of aphrodisiacs disguised as Skittles littering the floor.

"F-Fuck… I feel like I'm on f-fire… Why am I so hot?"

"Okay, w-wait here, I'll go get you some cold water." I told him before rushing to the kitchen to pull out a freezing bottle of water from the fridge. I pour the entire thing into a large class, and ran back to my room.

He sat up weakly, leaning against the wall I pressed my bed against for support, and helped him drink his water by holding and tilting it at his tempting lips for him. When he seemed to be satisfied with the long sip of water, I placed it on the nightstand by my bed, and reached for my phone in the pocket of my pants.

"W-Who you calling? Are you c-calling the p-paramedics or something?" He asked, still sitting against the wall. I shook my head, but reassured him that help was on the way.

—-—

At some point, I decided it would be best to get Romano out of his stuffy work clothes and into something more comfortable and airy to let his body cool. He was complaining about being too hot, so I left for a quick second to go look through his closet and dresser for something else he could wear. But it was just my luck that I ended up empty handed, and having to look through my things for something for him to put on. Everything looked too big, so I opted for a smaller Spanish jersey sitting at the back of my closet. It was my favorite one.

I tossed it over to him, and instructed him to change into it. To my surprise, he complied without so much as a glare. I figured it was because he was thinking the same thing and a result of the alcohol, seeing as he seemed to be much more cooperative under the influence. It wasn't until he shoo'd me out of the room that he began to change, though.

When he was done, I heard him call to me through the closed door. I walked in backwards into my room, just in case he called me because he was in trouble or something. But, when I turned around, he was done changing, and his clothes were in crumbled heaps on the end of the bed.

"Hah… So much freakin' b-better… Mmm…"

Romano writhed around against my Spanish flag-styled blanket in nothing but my favorite soccer jersey with a flushed face, moaning, eyes glazed over. There were a few bruises on his enticing long legs from his fall down the stairs, as well as a nasty bruise on his shoulder. I had to look away the moment my eyes landed on him. I don't think I would have been able to handle myself with him in such little clothing, so I excused myself to go toss his clothes into his plastic laundry hamper sitting in the corner of his bedroom.

For the following hour or so, I continuously checked my phone for any calls or texts, only to find the screen of my iPhone blank. Though Romano wasn't dying or in critical condition, time was ticking away and he still didn't look any better than he did an hour ago. If anything, he seemed to be twice as feverish and red. Whether it was from the aphrodisiacs or the horrid embarrassment that arose from his current position, no one could be too sure.

As another hour passed by, and still no sign of help came, I decided the best thing to do at that point was to let Romano sleep the drug off and hope for the best when he woke up.

Rain began to pour outside, and thunder could be heard from far away as I sat on the floor against the bed. I wanted to stay with him in case he needed anything, but I did not want to look at Romano. Like I said, I don't think I would have been able to handle myself if I did. As the sound of pouring rain lulled me to sleep slowly, I stood up groggily to undress into my boxers, and dragged myself to the door. Romano would sleep in my bed since helping him to his bed would only weaken my resolve at the sound of him moaning at my touch, while I would sleep on the couch.

Shirtless, I slipped out of my black pants and toed off my socks until I stood in nothing but my boxers. I made sure to keep my back turned as I stripped down. I heard Romano shift uncomfortably on the bed behind me, but I reassured him that I was just getting myself ready to go sleep in the living room.

I felt his stare on my back like flashlights as I walked over to the door. Thunder roared softly from far away, like loud orchestra drums resonating in a theatre. The noise almost completely drowned out Romano, who said, "A-Antonio? D-Don't go… You bastard, y-your dumb cooking did this to me… so you b-better stay with me until I feel better… G-Got that? If you want to s-sleep, you can sleep with me h-here."

I turned around to look at him in genuine surprise. Not at his endearing request to stay with him, but at the fright that laced his slurred words. Romano was scared of thunder.

Later on, I heard my phone buzzing on the nightstand, and left to let in Gilbert and Francis, who were five or six hours late. I told them things were fine, and let them crash in the living room as I returned back to bed, slipping under the sheets carefully beside Romano, holding him tight as thunder continued to thrash about loudly outside.

—-—

"So… yeah. We slept together, but we didn't sleep together." Antonio said timidly. He chuckled lightly as he brought a hand up to rub the back of his neck, grinning innocently. "Guess I probably should have made it a little clearer."

Romano frowned, and a harsh fist slammed against the side of Antonio's smiling face sharply. "You think?"

Chapter Text

Ever since the Halloween incident, things had taken a turn for the worse for Romano. The teacher felt in debt to Antonio after being taken care of that night by the Spaniard, that he quickly found himself caving in to all of the man's stupid desires as a way of saying 'thank you' because he was much too stubborn to actually say it aloud. They were never anything big or bothersome, though.

And thank God none of them were even remotely sexual. Instead, they would be little casual things like asking to have his laundry done with Romano's to save time and energy or a small meal cooked for him whenever he got hungry. Because he would always ask for something so simple, it was nearly impossible for Romano to say no to the Spanish man.

However, there was one request Romano refused to comply to immediately. The part of him that wanted to thank the man for taking care of him said yes, but his sanity raced around in circles saying no. It was a tough decision. But, in the end, he gave in. Though he couldn't quite remember how in the world he ever agreed to the man, the Italian found himself living with not only Antonio, but his idiotic friends, Gilbert and Francis—Which was one of the biggest mistakes he had ever made. The two drove him mad.

After having lived with the trio for about two weeks now, Romano grew incredibly tolerant towards Antonio as a result of how unbearable the other two were. The only thing Romano really disliked about Antonio was his cluelessness, which seemed to pale in comparison to Gilbert's massive ego and Francis'… Well, Francis-ness. Not to mention how he would sometimes find one of them trying to enter his bedroom late at night in his sleep, or the bathroom while he showered.

The urge to kick them out raged wildly almost every time they got on his nerves, which happened every time they came into a three feet radius of Romano. But, every time he found himself about to do so, Antonio would jump in to reassure him that it was only until they found a place of their own.

Which he hoped would be soon, because he wasn't sure how much more his sanity would be able to endure before he completely lost his mind. His patience, though already thin, was nearly at its breaking point.

As he turned the street, making his way down the sidewalk towards the apartment from the corner store, he adjusted the weight of the heavy paper bags in his arms. He always hated grocery shopping, but it wasn't like he had much of a choice. If he let Antonio do the grocery shopping, he would have found himself eating junk food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not to mention the man asked for some of Romano's special tortellini for dinner that evening.

After struggling to fish his keys out of the pocket of his jeans, he entered through the heavy front doors and made his way up the stairs to his floor. As he slowly treaded up the stairs, he wondered how much longer it would be until he no longer felt the need to repay the pornstar… As awful as that sounded.

Maybe he'd buy him a large amount sweets or something. The man had the mentality of a small child, and certainly ate like one. In fact, he couldn't remember ever seeing him eating anything even slightly healthy for the past month or so, so maybe that would be the answer? Hand him heaps and heaps of candies and hope it would be enough.

With a groan, Romano looked up the last flight of stairs reluctantly. Stairs were a pain, especially on days where he'd return with armfuls of groceries. Nearly dropping a carton of eggs halfway up, he hurried up the remaining steps quickly and adjusted them before making his way down the hall towards his suite, knowing no amount of candy would change a thing. Struggling to balance his paper bags as he opened the door, he closed it behind him with a soft bump of his elbow, and dropped the bags on the kitchen table.

"Hey, bastard, you home?" Romano called as he opened the fridge to begin unloading his groceries. There was not response, so, with a small shrug, he continued to fill the fridge until it was time to start cooking dinner, figuring the man was probably still sleeping. All he ever did at the apartment was sleep, eat, or… Work. Romano shuddered at the thought.

That mental image had to be exterminated immediately, and with heavy military weaponry, before it contaminated him completely.

It was about half an hour past six in the evening, and Romano was almost done the finishing touches of his mother's homemade pasta. Sprinkling a little parmesan over both plates, he began to seat up the table, placing the cutlery beside them, and pouring a cool glass of water for the both of them as he hummed quietly.

When he stepped back to look at the dinner table, all prepped up, in place, and perfect, Romano felt unwanted heat rise to his cheeks. He'd seen this scene in movies and on TV before. It looked as if he had prepared a meal for a date with Antonio. Shaking his head furiously, he tried to fight down the growing blush before calling the man out for dinner, the thought making him uncomfortable and inexplicably nervous the longer it lingered around in his head. It was a strange mixture of emotions, and he didn't like it.

Taking a deep breath, his reddened cheeks slowly fading into their usual flawless olive complexion, Romano walked down the hall and brought a hand to reach for the doorknob, his other hand clenched in a soft fist as he knocked on the white door gently. "Hey, bastard, are you awa—"

"Hey, what's for dinner?" Romano heard a voice, but couldn't tell which of the three mouths it came out of, too shocked and mortified to do anything more but stand in the door way, lips parted and eyes wide.

Okay, so maybe he'd need to have more than one mental image exterminated.

—-—

Antonio's usual smile faltered ever so slightly as he looked down at himself, naked and dirty with pearly residue running down his toned abdomen. With heavy breathing, he stood up shakily to turn off the camera sitting in its spot on the tripod before moving to retrieve a wet washcloth on his nightstand. Because Felicks was out of town for the week, Antonio decided to take filming into his own hands. It wouldn't have surprised him much if it turned out really crappy, though. He never was good with cameras.

Sharp, unexplainable pain ached in places much too private to talk about, and he hissed in discomfort as he limped across the wooden floor. It had been a while since he last found himself 'at the bottom of the food chain', and he had completely forgotten how much of a pain it was.

It was just like them to leave a crude mess on him, and hurting.

Sitting carefully on the edge of his bed, he brought the cold cloth to his forehead and pulsing neck, sighing at the icy feeling against his heated skin, and then down to wipe at his stomach, groaning miserably as two bodies jumped onto the bed beside him, his rear hurting from the bounce and shake in the mattress as it accommodated the added weight.

"Mon amis, you've missed a spot." Antonio carefully scanned the tanned expanse of his stomach, finding nothing but the water from his dripping towel and sweat that slicked his sun-kissed skin.

There was an obnoxious snicker, and a hand in his damp brunette locks. "Hahaha, no, he means you've got some in your hair, bro."

"Gilbert, your aim is terrible." Commented Francis with a sarcastic chuckle. Antonio laughed as well, and reached up to pull Gilbert's hand away. There wasn't much point to cleaning off the residue out of his hair if he was going to take a shower soon, anyway.

Gilbert, who had just wriggled into his Prussian blue boxers from his spot on Antonio's comfy bed, sat up and offered Francis a glare, red eyes shooting half-heartedly over to him like deep crimson lasers. "My aim is awesome, okay! I even tried writing my name on 'Toni over here." He finished with a friendly pat on said Spaniard's back.

While he and Antonio laughed, Francis grimaced at Gilbert's immaturity as he ran a hand through his hair in an exhausted manner. The three were breathing harshly, and refrained from any real chit-chat until they were able to catch their breath and slow down the speedy beating of their hearts.

Since moving in with Romano, the three men hadn't had the chance to do any sort of work with each other. It felt as if they'd spent a dreadfully long year away from each other, and it felt good to finally record with Gilbert and Francis in the sense that it was not only pretty good sex, but great that three best friends were reunited. Wordlessly, Gilbert fell back onto the mattress to lie down with his arms spread out to his sides, his legs hanging off the edge of the bed lifelessly, while the only noise that came out of the other two were their audible, almost dog-like, pants for air. The silence they sat in was more than comfortable, as they have become accustomed to the calm that always seemed to follow after filming. Talking amongst the three of them was always a good time, but they were desperate need to catch their breath.

"Hmm… I wonder how the video turned out." Wondered Antonio as he looked over to the camera thoughtfully. They'd probably end up having to re-film again if it turned out poorly once Feliks returned from his trip. Antonio didn't mind, though. One would think he'd be opposed to sleeping with his close friends, but neither Antonio nor the other two seemed to care even the slightest. It was their job which involved absolutely no feelings. Unless the scene called for feelings, then feelings were involved. But you get the point.

It was only until Francis brought up the bathroom that an argument over who would shower first broke out amongst the trio. Just like every other argument they'd ever have in the past, it usually included Gilbert and Francis yelling at each other while Antonio sat quietly, watching in amusement and only jumping in when he felt like it.

Gilbert claimed that he deserved to go first, seeing as he 'worked the hardest' while Francis brought to attention 'how much more' he did for the group. Both stated their cases and began to shout in that friendly and amusing way they always did until Antonio pointed out that they had just filmed in his apartment, which meant that it was his bathroom, which ultimately meant that he was more deserving of the first shower than the other two. In the end, the Spaniard won over them. Antonio decided he'd go in once his body cooled down enough, though.

"Man, something smells good." Said Gilbert wondrously as he sniffed at the air in an almost dog-like manner. "'Wonder what Romano's cooking."

"How do you know Romano's cooking something?" Asked Antonio.

"Well who else would be out their cooking? Francis?" Was Gilbert's reply. The German received a friendly punch to the arm by Antonio, who laughed along with him.

"We better get cleaned up before eating." Said Francis. "Antonio, go take a shower now."

"And you should put on your girly French boxers." Said Gilbert. Francis' eyebrow twitched.

Antonio quickly wriggled painfully into his boxers. To his surprise, he received a harsh slap to the bottom from Gilbert, who laughed openly and loudly at the uncomfortable groan that escaped the Spaniard's lips. Turning around, Antonio came face to face with Gilbert, who snickered in his face obnoxiously. "Hah! I totally got you!"

In return, Antonio pants'd the albino and pushed him onto the bed. He fell back in a fit of laughter just as the door slowly opened. A strange, but familiar curl came into view, and they heard Romano say, "Hey, bastard, are you awa—"

Before Romano could finish, his eyes had seemed to have fallen on the naked pair on the bed; to Francis, who sat hunched over naked, and then to Gilbert, who was lying back on the bed on his elbows, boxers hanging around his ankles. Antonio didn't seem to notice the trauma that began to flicker in the depths of Romano's shocked ambers, and asked mirthfully, "Hey, what's for dinner?"

The door slammed in his face and on the other side of it, Antonio swore he heard Romano yelling.

"FANCULO. I MIEI OCCHI. IT BURNS."

Antonio tilted his head, and turned to look at Gilbert and Francis. "What's up with him?"

Francis shrugged, and Gilbert snickered. "Obviously he's in shock over my five meters of awesome."

Francis snorted. "Pfft. More like five centimetres."

"More like le fuck you."

—-—

Dinner was awkward.

Romano had completely forgotten about cooking extra for Gilbert and Francis as he was too focused on making something for Antonio, that he had to whip up another bowl of pasta for the two men. Since he still had sauce and some bits of chicken left over from his first batch, all he had to do was prepare the pasta. With a clean white plate of tortellini in each hand, he placed them in front of Francis, who sipped at his wine, and a starving Gilbert.

The men said their thanks as Romano sat in between them at the circular table in the brightly lit kitchen. He mumbled a grumpy 'you're welcome', unable to look either one in the eye in fear of turning as red as Gilbert's fiery orbs. As Romano sat uncomfortably, the trio began to scarf down their meals as if they had been starving for the past few days.

When Antonio complimented Romano on his brilliant cooking, the Italian found himself incapable of looking at the man directly. Out of all the embarrassing moments that have happened between the two of them, walking in on Antonio, Francis, and Gilbert had to be the worst so far. Even if they didn't seem to be in the middle of… it, the fact that they were lacking a large amount of clothing still made it a horrible sight. Chewing on a forkful of hot pasta, Romano tried his best not to think about it as he ate.

Gilbert and Francis did porn as well, and he felt a little silly for not seeing it coming. Romano thought back to those horrid aphrodisiac candies he had the misfortune of eating, which now seemed like the first signs of their rather… unique careers. He grimaced a little at the thought, and reached for his glass of water, slowly, but surely, losing his appetite.

Thankfully, he was able to get through the first half of his plate without any troubles or annoying small talk from any of the three men at the table. Gilbert was too busy reach for seconds, Francis was in the middle of sipping at another glass of wine, and Antonio just sat across the table from Romano happily, basking in the company of his friends and roommate, who seemed a little less than happy to be around them at the moment.

An uncomfortable frown rested upon Romano's lips, and Antonio smiled at him from across the glass table. It was so blinding, Romano had to squint a little at the sight. That man was much too happy.

Surprisingly enough, the dinner ended in complete silence, and leaving Romano to do the dishes by himself as the trio left the apartment to go check out a few open houses in the area. Though he was pissed that he was stuck doing the dumb dishes himself, he was glad to see the other two making an attempt at finding a place of their own. After having seen a little too much of Francis and Gilbert—literally—Romano's patience was at its absolute limit. He was surprised he got through the meal without vomiting everywhere.

Saying goodbye and cursing at them as the apartment door closed behind them on their way out, Romano walked over to the TV to turn it on. Doing the dishes in absolute silence sometimes made it feel much duller than it really was, and at least with music or talking in the background, he'd be able to forget about how mind numbingly boring it was. He made sure to flip to the music channel before returning to the sink. With the right song, doing something as dreadful as dishes could be fun.

As he finished cleaning the bowls he used to serve and cook the pasta with, a familiar song began to play on the television. The tune was upbeat and rhythmic, and enough to get Romano's stiff hips moving to the loud music. Romano wiped his hands on a dry cloth as he went over to turn up the volume. With the living room and kitchen bumping with music, he left the bowls on the rack to dry before moving on to the rest of the dishes, body moving along to the music and sharp beat.

As soon as the chorus hit, Romano found himself unable to resist the strong urge to sing along.

"YOU DON'T KNOW-OH-OH, YOU DON'T KNOW YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL."

Without him realizing, the door opened slowly from behind him, and a strong set of arms wrapped around his swaying waist. Alarmed and completely off guard, his shoulders jumped and he screamed.

"Awh, Romano, thank you! I didn't know you thought I was beautiful!" Yelled Antonio gleefully. His arms around Romano tightened as he moved closer to press his chest against the teacher's back. Slowly resting his chin on Romano's shoulder, he gave Romano's cheek a quick peck and smiled against the quickly flushing skin. "You're pretty hot yourself!"

"Shut up, you bastard! You fucking scared me!" Romano shouted, a tiny bit in shock, and a tiny bit in annoyance and embarrassment. The man leaned his head away a little to look at the Spaniard behind him, who offered him a wide, coy grin. Looking at him irritated Romano, and he tried to wriggle out of Antonio's hold forcefully.

Instead of being released, Antonio held on tighter as he chuckled into Romano's ear, his hot breath ghosting over the shell, lips brushing against the sensitive skin of the lobe. Why Antonio was laughing was something Romano never figured out, for his mind had suddenly become too occupied by the feeling of warm fingers dipping into the waist line of his skinny jeans playfully to think about it any further. Instinctively, Romano dropped the plate he had been cleaning into the sink to swing a tightly clenched fist into the Spaniard's gut.

It was humorous how monstrously strong Romano was. The blow had Antonio on the floor, hunched over and gripping his stomach. Despite the apparent pain he was currently in, he still smiled. From his spot on the tile floor, he looked up from under his messy brunette locks to smile at Romano with gleaming emeralds. "Man, Romano, that's one arm you've got there!"

Romano ignored him to ask, "Why are you here? Shouldn't you be out with those two morons to check out places for sale and to make sure they don't end up in jail?"

With support of a nearby chair, he pulled himself to his feet, a slouch in his back, as he replied in a sheepish manner. "To be honest, I felt bad about leaving you with all the dishes, so I came back to help you with them!"

Romano fought down a blush. "What about the other two?"

"Don't worry about them. They're just a few blocks away so I doubt they'll do anything real bad!" Romano pursed his lips into a crooked line as he looked over at the other man in slight suspicion. He sure was a strange man, running back just to help him do dishes. But, at the same time, Romano was a little touched to see Antonio come back to help him. Just as he was about to instruct Antonio to dry and return the dishes to their cupboards, the pornstar continued, replying in an somewhat bashful manner Romano found almost to be endearing. Almost.

"Besides, I kind of wanted to spend a little time with you—You know, without Gilbert and Francis?" Admitted Antonio, who offered him an exceedingly charming smile. Romano was taken aback as he fought down the heat he insistent warmth rising to his face.

What the fuck was that supposed to mean exactly and why on earth was it making him feel the way he did?

"Haha, so, what did you need me to do? Should I dry these off?" Antonio motioned to the metal rack beside the sink. The teacher nodded, and watched through the corner of his eye as Antonio reached for a dry cloth on the counter to begun wiping down the dripping bowls.

For the following handful of minutes, Romano listened idly to Antonio talk about how he, Gilbert, and Francis worked together. Apparently the three ran their own website called , and how they generally filmed with one another. Romano stopped listening at some point due to the incredibly crude nature of the unwanted one-sided conversation to drown himself in the music coming from the TV and thoughts that seemed to be annoyingly persistent on having and keeping his attention.

"Besides, I kind of wanted to spend a little time with you—You know, without Gilbert and Francis?"

As hard as he tried, Romano tried to read into the Spaniard's words to no avail. However, he came to two equally reasonable and realistic conclusions; either Antonio was starting crush on him, or he was being his usual stupid affectionate self again. Though both situations seemed to annoy him just as much as the other, uncertainty clouded his mind as he thought over the first scenario with furrowed brows. He'd have to talk to Arthur and Matthew about it. Romano was just as horrible at feelings as Antonio was with not being so fucking clueless.

"And there goes the last one!" Antonio cheered as he placed the last glass into the cupboard in front of him, a grin on his face.

Romano turned to look at him. As he thought it over, Romano realized wasn't as annoyed or uncomfortable with the thought of Antonio having feelings for him as he thought he'd be, which was strange. He should have been feeling annoyed and he should have been feeling uncomfortable as fuck, but he wasn't! Instead, the teacher felt his heart flutter, and cheeks darken as Antonio continued to grin at him.

"Haha, man, doing stuff like this sure is easy when you've got someone to help, huh? I—"

"Thank you." Antonio looked at Romano, his smile replaced with a surprised 'o', who refused to return his gaze as he stared down at his feet.

"Huh?"

"I fucking said 'thank you.'" Answered Romano, eyes still down. "You know, for taking care of me and shit on Halloween."

"Oh. Haha, no worries, Romano—"

"If there's a-any way I can r-repay you, tell me, okay?" Said Romano as he looked up. He didn't like the feeling of owing another person, so he was determined to show his gratitude by repaying the Spanish man for that night. "As long as it doesn't involve letting those two idiots stay with us for the next month, then I'll do it."

"So, like, a favor to say thanks?" Romano nodded. "Hmm… I'll be sure to save it for something big!" Antonio said like a young boy saving and taking his time on wishes as he blew out his birthday candles. Words seemed useless at trying to describe just how confused Romano felt as he noted how cute and endearing Antonio was at the moment.

—-—

Meanwhile, on the way back from the open house, Gilbert and Francis walked down the street sharing their thoughts on the house they had just visited. The place was nice and very spacious, but they weren't really looking for anything too extravagant. All they needed was a nice cozy place big enough for the two of them and maybe Antonio in case Romano ever decided to kick him out, not a place big enough to house an entire barnyard.

"Hey, Gilbert," Started Francis, who broke Gilbert of his irrelevant train of thought. "Romano and our dear friend, Antonio, would make a wonderful pair, no?"

With hands folded behind his head, Gilbert walked alongside Francis thoughtfully. "Hmm… Now that I think about it, they would be pretty cute together." A mischievous smirk broke out across his pale features, and he looked over to Francis. "You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?"

"After all, it's about time we show Romano how thankful we are of him letting us stay with him and Antonio, no?"

The two bumped knuckles.

And so the Bad Touch Matchmakers were born.

Or at least until they came up with a better name,

Chapter Text

It was another boring Monday at the daycare with the Not So Bad Touch Trio, compromising of Romano, Arthur, and Matthew. As usual, the kids were doing their thing as they played around mindlessly and loudly while the three men sat by the door behind the desk conversing and snacking on whatever they brought with them. Since Arthur and Romano finished off whatever munchies they packed for the day, Matthew had packed them some cookies for the three of them the other night just in case.

The three ate thoughtfully as they relished in the heavenly flavor that was Matthew's wonderful baking. Just like his heart and nature, the cookies were sweet and loving. Each bite Romano and Arthur took from the cookies felt like little pieces of heaven flooding their mouths. Matthew said the other night he and Alfred had ended up baking more cookies than they were capable of eating, so he decided to give some to Romano and Arthur in order to get rid of them. Not to mention he knew how much they loved his special chocolate chip cookies.

The two men downed the cookies quickly and happily.

"Hey, Mattie!" The three men turned to look at Alfred, who stood in front of the desk with his hands out in front of him, palms up towards the ceiling, with a childish pout resting upon his lips. "May I please have a cookie?"

Matthew nodded and reached over the desk to hold the container out for Alfred, who took the biggest one he could get without digging his way through the others. After all, the one you touch is the one you take!

"Thank you! But can I get one for Kiku, too?" He asked as he motioned towards the quiet Japanese boy coloring at a desk beside the window. Matthew nodded once more, and Alfred grabbed a second one before running back to his friend, yelling, "Hey, Kiku, look! I got us both a cookie!"

They watched for a moment as the Japanese boy took the cookie with a small bow before returning to their current discussion. Once again, the subject revolved around Romano and his unique living conditions. Arthur and Matthew were both surprised to see Romano willingly agreeing to having the Gilbert and Francis live with them after his considerable amount of whining over just having Antonio as a roommate alone. It was also obvious that those two were much harder to keep in line than Antonio after hearing concerning stories about the men trying to climb in bed with Romano in the middle of the night.

Arthur, being a caring friend, which sometimes made him an annoying friend, asked how things were going back at the apartment and if he was facing any sort of problems. Romano didn't really feel in the mood to describe or even bring up the monstrosity he witnessed the other day before dinner, so he shrugged it off with a frown. He'd answer enough questions like that for Arthur to accept it without protests or further probing.

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.

Sitting on the modest wooden desk was Romano's vibrating Blackberry that caught his attention along with the other three boys. He ignored it at first. After being submitted to Antonio's stupid little orders, he figured it was just the Spaniard phoning in for a dinner request later. It wasn't the first time he called Romano at work for something so insignificant.

The buzzing noise irked Arthur, who glanced over to Romano, expecting the man to answer whoever it was calling him. Romano reassured him it was just Antonio, and to leave it alone. It was only a matter of seconds until he would end the call and give up, anyway. A few seconds after the vibrating came to a halt, it started up once more before stopping, and then repeated once more. It was around the fourth time that Arthur had had enough and answered the call himself, much to Romano's dismay.

"Arthur, you dickface'd Brit, don't you dare—"

"Hello, Romano Vargas' friend, Arthur Kirkland, speaking." He greeted politely. Romano and Matthew watched and listened carefully to Arthur and tried to paste together the conversation with only what they heard leave the British man's mouth. Romano wasn't sure whether or not he was imagining the lighter tone in the blonde's voice, sounding almost as if he were talking to a child than to an adult. "Oh, okay. Mhm. Is that so? Well, I'll be sure to tell him. He'll see you soon. Goodbye."

Arthur ended the call and placed the black cellphone in its original spot on the clean desk as Romano frowned at him, eye brows knitting in annoyance. "Why'd you say I'd see him soon? If Antonio's standing at the main office waiting for me or something, call him again and tell him I'm busy working so I can't run back and make him a snack or something."

Arthur reached for another cookie as he folded a leg over the other. "It wasn't Antonio, though."

—-—

Romano had no idea how in the world it happened, but he found himself staring at a miniature version of himself in the office just down the hall to the right. At six years old, Feliciano Vargas smiled up at his older brother from his shiny white iPhone before running with open arms to hug Romano's leg. With a smile, Feliciano smothered his face into the worn out blue denim affectionately as he clung to his older brother.

The secretary watched with adoration as Romano crouched down to hug his little brother properly. Kneeling down in front of the small boy, he opened his arms to invite Feliciano for a warm hug. The moment Romano's arms were wide enough for him to run into, Feliciano ran into them. Practically tackling him, Romano caught him effortlessly as he ran a loving hand through the boy's silky hair. Thankfully there weren't a lot of people around, for it was almost embarrassing how affectionate he was towards his brother in contrast to how snarky he was to the other teachers.

"I missed you so much, fratello!" Chirruped Feliciano as he leaned back to look at Romano properly.

Romano noted the way his parents still seemed to dress Feliciano up as a girl, but didn't mind it too much. He'd gone through the same thing as a child as well. He wondered if it was their parents' not-so-subtle way of saying they wanted a girl instead of the two sons they ended up with. Standing up and taking Feliciano's hand into his, he led them out of the office and down the empty hallway towards the daycare. The secretary said goodbye to Romano, but he ignored her coldly.

In a casual tone, he asked Feliciano what he was doing away from home and if anyone in the household knew of his whereabouts. Knowing his family, they would probably blow the whole thing out of proportion and send out 'missing child!' flyers everywhere. In a cheerful tone, the young Vargas replied, "I just wanted to spend my week off of school with you!"

"Wait, week off? It's only November, winter break isn't until December. What do mom and dad have to say about this?"

"There was an accident in the high school and they do not want us to be effected, and do not worry, fratello, I made sure to tell mamma and papà!"

Romano quirked an eyebrow as the turned an empty corner. "And they're okay with you staying with me?"

Feliciano nodded. "Yupp! Rody packed some of my things so I can stay at your apartment with you! He said he'll come by to drop them off later in the evening. Isn't that great?"

"W-Wait, dropping off some stuff? What stuff?"

"A change of clothes and pajamas and stuff! It'll be like a sleep over with you! Yay!" As Feliciano's smile grew, Romano's frowned seemed to deepen with dread. Romano stopped in the middle of the hall to stare in horror at Feliciano. So he was planning on staying with him, while Romano was already housing Antonio and his pornstar buddies around, too? When he said he was planning on spending the week with him, he didn't know he meant that he would be sleeping over at the apartment for a full seven days!

With that cleared and out in the open, Romano had to either; a) Force Feliciano to return to their mother and father, b) Force Gilbert, Francis, and maybe even Antonio out of the apartment for a week, or c) Run like the wind and never look back. The first two would be hard since the people involved were all stubborn and inconceivably stupid in their own unique yet equally irritating ways, while the third option seemed to be the easiest.

"Huh? Is something the matter?" Questioned Feliciano worriedly. Romano shook his head despite the immense anxiety and horrid feeling in the back of his head. Something bad was bound to happen, and it was absolutely agonizing not knowing what out of the large list of possibilities could go wrong.

—-—

"What's up with you guys?" Groaned Antonio as he sauntered down the smooth pavement behind Gilbert and Francis. They had just returned from a few more open houses, and decided it was time to call it quits for the day and maybe check out a few more the next day. Gilbert and Francis decided that their little stay at casa de Antonio and Romano was much more than a 'little', and were in a rush to find a place of their own. Or, at least that's what they told Antonio, who insisted they take their time, when in reality all they wanted was to get those two alone. They decided that if they just spent a little more time alone with each other, maybe something would end up sparking. That's how feelings and relationships started in some of the porn they filmed, so they figured they try it and see.

At just a half hour past three in the afternoon, the sun was still high up lingering amongst the blue sky and puffy white clouds as soft wind ran through the air and in their hair. It was the perfect whether for a walk, so they settled on walking back to the apartment instead of taking the bus. Even if it would have only been a ten minute ride as opposed to the twenty or so minute walk, how would Gilbert and Francis pass up the chance on the perfect moment alone with Antonio to get some dirt out of him.

As a part of the idiotic duo's plan, they first had to hear about their current relationship from both sides before making any real moves. Since Antonio was the easiest to get information from, they decided to start with him first before moving on to deal with the tougher cookie of the two. During the long walk back, their irrelevant conversation about the last home they saw quickly shifted into a more or less interrogation.

"We just want to know about you and Romano some more." Answered Gilbert casually in his long sleeved shirt and jeans. Antonio took a brief moment to eye him up and down as he stared at his choice of clothes curiously. It was a nice outfit, and it suited his taste and body type well, but not so much the warm weather they were currently situated in. It was nearly 30 Celsius outside! But Gilbert burned rather quickly, so he guessed it did make some sense. "I mean, you two are, like, two peas in two completely different pods."

Sitting to the far left of his peripheral, Francis nodded. "He's right, mon amis. Since you're both so different, we were just wondering how you two work with one another."

"But we don't work together." Antonio's mind flew off elsewhere to some far off land as his cheeks suddenly reddened. "Imagine it, though. Romano working with me…"

Gilbert and Francis shared a quickly glance at the sight of the dazed expression on the Spaniard's face, and openly facepalm'd and slammed their hands into their foreheads. Like always, Antonio's… Unique way of thinking was bound to pose as a problem and major obstacle. Even for the two who stood in his life as his closest friends.

Shaking him out of his sudden and short-lived daydream, Francis placed a hand on his shoulder with a gentle shake of the head. "No, no, no. I meant, how do you two act around each other? What's the relationship like?"

"Oh. Well… Uh… Good, I guess. I'd like to think of us as good friends!" Was the man's cheerful reply.

"Friends, huh?"

Antonio looked over to Gilbert with a nod. "Yupp, friends!"

"And how do you feel about being just friends with him?" Asked Francis.

"Pretty good. I mean, since we live with each other now, we might as well have a good relationship with one another, you know?"

"Do you guys have a good relationship?" Questioned Gilbert.

Antonio paused. "Hmm… I think so! I'm not completely sure whether or not we actually do, though."

"Well, do you want a good relationship with Romano, or a good relationship with Romano?" Asked the German, making sure to add the incredulous amount of emphasis for the man to pick up on. Luckily for him, Antonio caught it, and looked over to him with his head tilted.

"What do you mean by that?"

"You know, would you ever consider or even want anything special with Romano? Like, date him? Maybe be in some sort of intimate relationship with him? Like the ones you see on TV?" Replied Francis. "Be lovers? Take one another out on romantic walks or dinners? Celebrate anniversaries for being with one another for so long and what not?"

"You know, just general things." Added Gilbert.

Antonio shot them a skeptical, but still very much clueless, expression as he chuckled.

"'General things'? That sounded pretty specific, don't you think?"

"But what do you think about it?" Asked Gilbert.

"I've only ever thought he was attractive and that was it. To be completely honest with you guys, I've never really thought about being involved with Romano in any way before…" He trailed off in sincere consideration.

"Oh? Well, we're all friends here, aren't we? Why don't you talk to us about it?" Offered Francis.

"Hmm…"Pursing his lips as he hummed thoughtfully, Antonio mulled over the thought as cars passed by on the street beside them speedily.

An intimate relationship with Romano? The prospect had rarely crossed his mind, and when it somehow did, he didn't give it much attention or pay the thought any mind. In that usual absentminded way of his, sure, he'd flirted with Romano quite a bit, but Antonio never meant much. It was just how he was; he was a flirt, whether or not he was aware of what he was saying or doing, as well as naturally affectionate by nature after having been raised by an incredibly loving mother and father.

For a brief moment, his thoughts left Romano to reminisce in the memories of his childhood and times he'd spent with his family back in Spain. Oh, how he had missed the beautiful weather and scenery, and homemade cooking. He practically drooled at the thought of his mother's special churros, but was brought back to the topic at hand by a distinct cough to the hand made by Francis.

"Well, what do you think, mon ami?"

Antonio tilted his head, his short attention span getting the best of him. "About what?"

Gilbert and Francis exchanged sideways glances before dropping their foreheads into their palms.

—-—

Walking hand in hand down the pavement from the bus stop, Romano noted the warm weather when it should have been cooling down significantly now that it was the middle of November. But he hated cold weather, so he didn't mind it much. He found it strange was all. Turning his attention to his younger brother, he asked what he would like to have for dinner. His brother always came first, so whatever Antonio could have wanted was out of the question.

Feliciano couldn't decide, so settled for whatever Romano was in the mood for. He wanted a 'surprise!' which Romano was somewhat thankful for. He was feeling a little sluggish and settled with cooking up something easy. Maybe he'd make some soup or something. He had to think about it a little more as they entered the building and walked up the stairs.

Even though it required much more effort than an easy bowl of fettuccine, Romano had his mind set on whipping up some pizza. It was always Feliciano's favorite, and he thought he'd treat his brother. He didn't mean to toot his own horn, but he did make the best pizza ever.

"So this is where you live? It's really small." Stated Feliciano innocently as he hopped onto the couch in the living room. Romano looked to his little brother in annoyance as he dropped his bag onto the kitchen counter beside the sink. Feliciano checked the time on his iPhone before slipping it back into one of the pockets of his skirt.

"So, mamma says you live with a roommate named Antonio. Is that true?"

"Yeah, I do."

Feliciano looked over to him excitedly. The boy loved meeting new people. Romano was the exact opposite as a child, and compared their differences with an amused snort. "What is he like?"

Romano made sure to avoid anything inappropriate as he thought over ways of describing the man without leaving anything opened ended. Open ended things often lead to Feliciano's never ending 'why's' and childish curiosity which Romano had no power to fight against. This seemed to prove to be difficult, though. Everything he would have said about the Spanish man somehow seemed to lead to something much too mature for Feliciano that Romano thought maybe a few white lies couldn't hurt.

Forcing a smile, he glanced over to his brother and said, "Well, his name is Antonio and he is really nice. He's actually so nice, that we have extra guests staying over."

"Extra guests?"

"Yepp. His two friends, Gilbert and Francis."

"What are they like?"

"Uh… Gilbert and Francis are both very… Tall? Gilbert has very light hair and… Uh, Francis is blonde?" Was the only response he could think of. It was half-assed, but Feliciano seemed pleased with it.

Romano searched around for his wallet in one of the small interior pockets of his bag and quickly stuffed it into his pocket. From the corner of his eye, he noticed Feliciano, who seemed to have stopped listening, looking around for the TV remote. Romano found it sitting on the kitchen table, and brought it to the young boy as he called into the hallway.

"Hey, ba—" He saw Feliciano looking at him in his peripheral, and caught himself instantly. Feliciano was the only person he tried not to cuss around as well as anyone else in his family. "Antonio, are you home?"

Despite having left just an hour earlier with Gilbert and Francis, Romano figured the man was fast asleep while the other two were out being idiots as usual. Checking the time on his phone, Romano made a move to walk towards the door, placing the dark Blackberry on the kitchen table forgetfully. If he wanted to make pizza by dinner, he knew he was to gather up ingredients and get started as quickly as possible. As he turned the doorknob, he heard his brother ask where he was going.

"I'm just going to be at the corner store real quick to pick up some groceries." Replied Romano. When he turned back to face the door, the sound of gentle footsteps behind him drew nearer as warmth was pressed against the back of his calf. He looked down with a small smile at Feliciano.

"Have a safe trip, fratello!"

"Make sure you don't open the door for anyone, okay?" Feliciano nodded. "If anyone comes in, it's just Gilbert and Francis, so you don't have to worry."

Romano had been gone for ten or so minutes when the apartment door opened. Feliciano, who sat quietly on the couch watching TV, looked over to the large wooden entrance in silent curiosity. Was Romano back already? That was fast. The last grocery store Feliciano saw on the way over appeared to be a couple blocks down, so there was no way his brother could have been back. This only meant one thing to the young Vargas, who ran to the slowly opening door.

—-—

"Hey, Romano, I'm home!" Antonio called to the empty apartment. The Italian was usually home around that time, so he assumed the man was taking a sleep in his room when there was no reply or shout to shut the fuck up. Behind him, Gilbert and Francis followed and closed the door behind them.

Antonio heard the soft voices of people speaking coming from the large flat screen TV in the living room and stepped closer. He swore no one was in the living room. The couch was bare except for two circular cushions, and no signs of life were in the small kitchen as Antonio followed his friends towards the fridge for a snack. Maybe Romano wasn't asleep. Maybe he was watching television, and stepped away to use the bathroom.

Taking a step forward, Antonio bumped his knee into something hard. There was a high-pitched whine, and he looked down immediately.

On the floor, a small child sat, holding his forehead in his hand with tears filling the corners of his eyes. This caught the attention of the two men in the kitchen, who closed the fridge door to crouch down beside Antonio to look down at the boy with the strange, yet eerily familiar curl they knew to be one of a kind.

Silently, the three men shared the exact same thought; Romano had been turned into a child. There was absolutely no way around it. He was turned into a child. There was just no way anyone else possessed that curl that was Romano's alone.

While Antonio found himself unable to apologize due to the shock, Gilbert and Francis exchanged glances through the corners of their eyes.

Well, if they thought getting those two together was hard, how in the world were they to make it happen with one of them turned into a child?

Chapter Text

Romano smiled at the young cashier over his shoulder as he exited the small corner store with a large paper bag of groceries in his arms. The familiar sound of wind chimes jingling after him as he opened the worn out wooden door rung in his ears and soft breeze that greeted him on his way down the steep cement steps onto the pavement left him feeling unexpectedly refreshed.

Romano looked up to the sky to see the sun setting and the once deep blue mix with a small bit of lively orange and light peach as night drew closer. It was a littler darker than earlier, but the streetlights had yet to turn on. The tall surrounding buildings began to cast large shadows as a pair of rollerbladers skated by down the bumping sidewalk noisily.

Just like every other November, the sun would go down early, and it would grow somewhat colder outside. As he walked down the pavement he reached with a free hand into his pocket to check the time on his Blackberry. For a minute or two, he felt around at his pockets frantically. Had he dropped his phone back in the store? Knowing him, he had probably just left it at home or something. He found himself doing that a lot, so he continued walking with a small shrug. He picked up his pace ever so slightly, remembering not only did he have his cellphone lying around back at the apartment, but his beloved little shit of a brother.

He wondered if the three men were currently with him, and the thought alone scared him to the point where he found himself practically sprinting down the sidewalk just to get home faster. If Antonio was able to cause enough trouble by himself, and cause absolute chaos when he was with Gilbert and Francis, Romano didn't even want to think about what could go wrong with having the three men and his airheaded sibling together in one room.

After entering the apartment through the main entrance, he ran up the stairs to his floor. With more force than needed as a result of his growing concern, he opened the door leading into his hallway with more force than needed and inadvertently bumped his forehead against the cold metal as it swung open.

Reaching up to grip his aching forehead, Romano made his way down the hall with a frown.

—-—

The three men were huddled up in Antonio's room for about thirty minutes. They were each as confused as the other as to what to do about Romano. For a couple of minutes, they sat in a circle on the floor in the middle of the room trying to come up with a reasonable explanation as to what happened to the angry Italian, their assumptions growing much more far-fetched as time ticked by on the Spaniard's alarm clock. With legs crossed, Antonio thought maybe that wasn't Romano, but the other two men reassured him that there was no way in Hell that the curl protruding out of the young boy's locks could belong to anyone else. And, when they put it like that, it made a lot of sense to him.

Being the overall loving person Antonio was, the man had a soft spot for children and was a natural caretaker when it came to young kids. Gilbert and Francis always teased him about it, calling it creepy considering what he worked as, but he didn't seem to care. The instant he realized he had physically hurt someone not even half is size or age, guilt grabbed a hold of his conscious. And if it wasn't bad enough, it was Romano, too. Sitting with his legs crossed in a slack manner, he dropped his face into his hand with a sigh. "I can't believe I hit him in the face…"

Leaning back with his leg's spread out into the center of their triangle, hands glued to the floor behind him firmly to keep himself up, Gilbert added, "Don't forget you made him cry, too."

"Mon dieu, Gilbert!"

"What?"

"Dios mío..." Groaned Antonio. Gilbert received a sharp slap to the forearm from Francis, who fixed him with a small, scolding glare, as Antonio fell back onto his back on the floor.

As he stared up at the ceiling, Gilbert and Francis whispered to each other in hushed tones. Antonio didn't seem to notice the two as they wondered to one another what in the world was going on. It was like some fucked up scene from an anime or something. Or at least that's what Gilbert said before receiving another slap from Francis.

"I told you this already—You're way too old to still be watching anime!"

"I'll watch whatever I want, damnit!" Countered Gilbert as Antonio pushed himself off from the wooden surface. The man headed for the door when Gilbert asked, "Hey, where are you going?"

"I thought I'd just apologize to Romano for, you know…"

"Kicking him in the face with your knee or leaving him crying or both?"

There was another rough slap to his side from Francis as Antonio opened the door.

—-—

Reaching up to grip his aching forehead, Feliciano sat on the couch with a pout as he watched some TV. Antonio, Gilbert, and Francis had retreated into the former's room after apologizing for kneeing him right in the head awkwardly and in a hurry to run into his bedroom. Despite the pain that throbbed right below his hairline, due to his childish innocence, Feliciano still thought Antonio seemed like a nice person. The same went for his two friends. He couldn't remember their names very well, though.

As he watched cartoons on the large flat screen in amusement, Feliciano would sometimes open up a game of Angry Birds on his slick iPhone during the commercials to pass the time. Television commercials were the worst, and boring. With his young mindset, he couldn't quite wrap his head around the reason advertisements on TV existed. But, as far as he knew, they were there and he couldn't do anything to stop them from popping up every ten or so minutes.

Sliding his small index finger across the cold touch screen, he watched with kiddie amusement as a red bird flew across an open field and laughed happily as it crashed into some glass and knocked into green pigs that looked as disgruntled as the bird looked angry. There was still one pig left standing, and he knocked it down in his second turn. He advanced onto the next stage when an ad for cleaning supplies had finished and his cartoon continued from where it had left off.

Feliciano set down his iPhone on the couch beside him when the door opened.

Struggling to balance the large paper bags and house keys, Romano half-stumbled into the apartment. He bit back a string of curses, knowing fully well Feliciano was within hearing-distance. Feliciano saw his brother and ran over to help him as best as a five year old could. Standing in front of his brother, he reached up with short arms, as if asking for something, for anything, to carry.

Romano didn't trust his brother's clumsiness, so he ignored the little boy's endearing attempt at assistance as he made his way into the kitchen. He closed the door with a small bump of his hip, and placed the groceries on the kitchen table beside his Blackberry. Relief washed over him, and he immediately picked up the device to check for any missed calls or unread messages. Matt and Arthur had texted him, but other than that, Romano hadn't missed much. In the corner of his eye as he read their messages, he saw Feliciano hop into one of the seats, and noted the strange bruise on his brother's forehead.

Immediately, he put his phone down to reach forwards to move away the loose hairs that fell over it. The skin was a slight red, and Romano's expression contorted into one of brotherly concern. In a soft voice reserved for only his brother and other children, Romano asked, "Feli, what happened to your forehead?"

"Huh?" The little boy reached up to place his small hand on his forehead, and then to place his hand above Romano's larger one. With a smile, he said, "Oh, it's nothing to worry about."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive!" Said the boy. Romano paused for a second as he pulled his hand away, and then turned away to walk over to the fridge. "By the way, while fratello was gone, I met your roommate and his friends!"

Romano gripped the cold handle thoughtfully, and opened slowly. So he finally met the bastard and his idiotic friends, huh? Romano knew things would only go downhill from there, but made sure not to let the concern and horror he felt at the endless possibilities that arouse from his predicament show as he turned back to Feliciano. Shooting his brother a smile, he began to unpack a few groceries and placed them into the fridge carefully. "Is that so?"

"Yupp!" Feliciano followed and took out a few groceries out of their bags and set them down onto the table. He was always very helpful. Or, at least from what Romano remembered. He did not get to visit his family very often. But he guessed it was the price he paid.

"Hey, fratello, what happened to your forehead? Are you okay?" Inquired Feliciano worriedly. Romano shook his head dismissively. "Oh, okay then. Fratello, where is the bathroom? I need to go pee."

"First door on the left." And with that, the little Vargas was gone, hopping off of his seat and out of the kitchen, down the small hall.

As Feliciano stepped into the bathroom, closing the door softly behind him, Romano continued placing his groceries into the fridge. When he was done, he began to gather ingredients for the pizza he planned on making all the while trying to ignore the small throbbing from his forehead. It was just his luck he'd end up swinging a door into his face. Then again, with the Italian's luck, he could have a bloody nose or knocked a tooth out.

Placing the last of his needed ingredients onto the kitchen table in front of the sink, he tried to ignore the aching he felt come from his small wound. He tried to will it away as he shut his eyes with a frown. It was only a few seconds after closing his eyes that the throbbing soon became a pain from another part of his head as he felt a headache come on from the voice that called out to him. It was much too deep to be that of his brother's, and he groaned.

"Romano?"

He looked over his shoulder, eyes narrowed. "What do you want?"

Stepping forwards from behind the hallway wall, Antonio looked over to him in what looked to be a mixture of shock and confusion. "Romano, is that you?"

"The fuck kind of question is that? Who else would I be?" Romano shot back smugly. He saw the Spaniard walk over, and felt himself lean back against the counter as the man suddenly invaded his personal bubble.

Leaning forwards, nose to nose, with large, inquiring emeralds, Antonio left Romano flustered and annoyed at his lack of space and room to breathe. Craning his head back, he rammed it forwards, effectively head-butting the man in the head.

"The fuck do you want?" Hollered Romano. "If you can't tell, I'm trying to make dinner."

Antonio stumbled backwards, nearly tripping over the chair behind him if he hadn't caught himself against the counter beside the sink. With an exasperated chuckle, he nodded, "Yupp, that's definitely you alright."

Despite the pain that crossed his face, albeit from the sudden blow to the head, Antonio retreated to his room with his face just as surprised as when he first entered the kitchen, leaving Romano confused and to greet his brother upon his return shortly after.

The two Vargas boys helped one another in the pizza making process. Romano released his annoyance upon the dough as he beat it roughly and thoroughly. It was until he felt the need to pee as well, that he pulled a chair towards the counter to let his brother take a whack at it. His brother had been whining about wanting to prepare the dough, so he thought he'd let the boy have his five minutes of fun while he was away.

Rushing to the bathroom, Romano closed and locked the door quietly.

—-—

"You're lying."

"Yeah, there is no way that's possible. We just saw Romano, and he was a kid!"

"I'm not lying, though, and he's not a kid anymore!" Claimed Antonio, who pointed towards the kitchen for emphasis.

"I don't believe you." Replied Gilbert in disbelief as he got off the floor to make his way towards the door with Francis following a few steps behind.

"Where're you two going?"

"To prove you wrong, duh."

The two men, followed by Antonio, walked down the small hallway and into the kitchen. Standing atop one of the kitchen seats, they saw the small Vargas struggle with the dough, his weak arms doing their best as he beat the dough with his tiny fists. Antonio stared with wide eyes as his mouth fell open in shock. "W-What? I swear, Romano was j-just—What?"

"There, there, bro." Gilbert patted Antonio one the shoulder as they returned to his bedroom. After the door closed behind Francis, the washroom door opened and out came Romano with a yawn. He stepped into the kitchen and thanked his little brother for working so hard despite not having done much to the dough. As he checked his phone, he saw the battery running low and sent his little brother to go charge his Blackberry in his bedroom down the hall.

Feliciano complied with a soft nod, and left for Romano's room as he continued where the little one left off. He hit and hit and hit at the dough until it began to be easier to manipulate, and rolled it down until it was flat against the counter surface. He turned the messy edges into something more circular, and walked over to the fridge where he kept the sauce. As he pulled out the jar from its shelf in the fridge, Antonio entered the kitchen for some water.

The boys suggested he get something to drink to cool him down, seeing as he'd been mistaking child Romano for adult Romano. As the Italian stood up and walked back to the counter to continue making the pizza, back turned to the hallway where Antonio stood, mouth hung open, the Spaniard rushed back to his room to tell Gilbert and Francis what he saw. With his bedroom door closing behind him, Feliciano returned with a pout, saying he was unable to find an outlet.

With a sigh, Romano instructed Feliciano to apply the sauce to the dough while he went to charge it himself. Once again, the smaller Vargas hopped onto a chair to do what he'd been told as Romano entered his room. Closing the door after him, Antonio burst into the kitchen with a doubtful Gilbert and Francis.

"See what did I tell you—What?"

"Hello, you three!" Called Feliciano, who smiled over his shoulder to the boys. Gilbert and Francis shot skeptical looks at Antonio, who looked to them with his mouth open, speechless.

"I swear he was an adult just now—"

"Okay, maybe you should just go to sleep or something." Said Francis.

"Yeah, you need some sleep, dude." Agreed Gilbert as the dragged they dragged the Spaniard back to the room by his arms. Gilbert closed the door behind him, as Romano stepped out after finding an empty outlet behind his desk. Romano heard Antonio yelling frantically to Gilbert and Francis from behind the man's bedroom door and stopped. He wondered if there was something he should be worried about, but shrugged.

"So, how's adding the sauce going?" Asked Romano as he stopped beside his brother.

 

Chapter Text

The evening slowly shifts into night, and the clock ticks just a little past nine thirty. The sky outside is dark and starless, and street lights provide a dim light that barely shines through the large living room windows. Romano notices he hasn't seen Antonio for a while that evening, not that he minds very much. In fact, he rather likes having the Spaniard cooped up in his room like that.

Without him, he realizes how empty the apartment really is. It's almost as though he's never moved it. It gives him time to think, time to breathe, and some peace and quiet.

Though, he finds it hard to enjoy time without Antonio breathing down his neck, both figuratively and literally, as he now has a new—physically small, but overall equally as big—problem in the form that is his nitwit of a little brother. Feliciano is seated on the couch beside him, watching TV happily, a smile on his sweet face. Romano catches a glimpse of his pretty white iPhone on the cushion beside him and frowns; their parents really did spoil them—Feliciano especially as he was the baby of the Vargas family.

Romano remembers when he was an only child. He was spoiled senseless as an only child way before Feliciano was born, but he quickly grew out of all the material things their parents showered him with. Ever since he was young, he craved independence. While most would have given anything to have parents as wealthy and giving as his, always offering to buy him and pay this and that, Romano despised it. It was unbearable. It was fine at first—It was fine when he was Feliciano's age; an age where money was trivial and spendable, and all he wanted was to play with toys. But, as he grew older, he learned the money came with a price, and the leash they had around his neck shortened and shortened before it was clamped so tightly around his neck; even breathing seemed like a difficult task.

Romano is glad he got out of that Hell. He hopes his brother grows out of relying too heavily of their mother and father when he grows up. Romano fought for his independence, and he wouldn't mind doing the same for Feliciano when the time comes.

… Though he is a little concerned at the thought of Feliciano without any supervision, he doesn't want his brother spending the rest of his life trapped in that cage he used to find himself living in when he was his age. As a yawn rips past Feliciano's little mouth, he turns to look over at Romano with a curious expression. There is an inquisitive tilt in his head, as he asks, his brows furrowing ever so slightly.

"Hmm? Fratello, is something wrong?" He asks worriedly.

Romano hadn't realized he'd been staring at him until then, and he shakes his head. He reassures him it was nothing. He lies a little, claiming to be worn out from a long day at work, and, luckily for him, Feliciano believes him. The boy was always so gullible, that Romano was actually grateful for the lack of brains Feliciano received when he was born.

"Hey, Fratello, can I go take a bath?" Feliciano asks, and Romano nods. Just earlier, Roderich came over to drop off Feliciano's clothes in a Super Man duffle bag that now lay on the floor of Romano's bedroom just beside the bed.

"Sure."

Leading Feliciano to the bathroom, the boy reaches upwards to wrap his little hand around the tips of Romano's fingers affectionately, holding on tightly as if Romano would disappear again. Romano looks down to meet his brother's innocent gaze and smile, and returns it with a loving grin. Turning on the bathroom light, he turns on the water and then tells him to get undressed while he goes and fetches him a change of clothes and a fresh towel.

Feliciano does what he is told obediently, pulling his little dress over his head, and then folding it. He places the green and white dress on the little stool beside the bathtub. Feliciano then wiggles out of his underwear, and waits for his brother to arrive. Their bathroom is wondrous to his childish mind—The mirror is long with bright vanities above it, and a pretty marble counter just a smidgen lighter than the one in his bathroom at home. Wandering around the bathroom in the nude Feliciano turns off the water, and sticks his hand in. He smiles as his hand is enveloped in the water. Leave it to fratello to fill the tub at just the right temperature.

Feliciano hops into the tub carefully, and his smile widens. He giggles, and splashes around sweetly, enjoying the warmth and feel. He is sitting at one end of the tub, his head right in front of the shiny faucet as he scans the edge of the tub for any bubble bath bottles. The thing he loves most about baths is when there are bubbles, and it never seems to feel right without them. Like a cake without icing.

He would've been out of the tub and slipping around on the tile floor in search of some if it weren't for Romano, who saunters in slowly. He is holding his brother's favorite pair of PJs, and a towel in one hand while the other grips the shiny knob.

"Where are the bubbles, Fratello?" He asks, and soon Romano walks from the sink to the tub with a bright green bottle. He squeezes a generous amount into the tub, and the little boy begins to flail around, bubbles forming with his every move. He laughs happily, and brings a handful to rest atop his head. "Look, Fratello! I have an afro!"

"Yeah, yeah, you have an afro." Romano rolls up the sleeves of his expensive button up shirt, and kneels by the tub. "Now stay still, we have to clean you up."

"No!" The boy flees to the far end of the tub, sticking against the way as if Romano's touch were the plague—Deadly, and clearly unwanted. "No, my afro!"

"You said you wanted to take a bath, so that means you have to wash up." Then again, he used to be a kid himself. Bath time meant fool-around-in-the-water-time at Feliciano's age.

"Only if Fratello comes in with me!"

Romano's mouth drops, and he sighs. "Feli, I'm not getting in with you. It was only when you were four, and you're not four anymore."

"Then I'm just going to play around and my afro will get bigger!" For emphasis, he reaches for more bubbles, and plops them atop his head. When Romano tries to reach for him a second time, Feliciano splashes him and the teacher backs away immediately.

"Feli—!"

"Please, Fratello?" He smiles at him. "It'll be fun—Like old times!"

"But you're six, you're clearly old enough to be in a tub by yourself—"

"Please?" He has that pout on his lips, and puppy-dog like expression in his large eyes. "Fratello?"

Romano rolls his brightly colored honeys, and sighs.

While he is gone to fetch another towel and his own pyjamas, Antonio walks into the bathroom. His eyes are wide and confused as Feliciano introduces him to his bubble afro before he turns on his heel and closes the door behind him.

—-—

Even if he's his little brother, and his mindset is pure and as innocent as… Well, that of a child's, he still instructs Feliciano to look away as he undresses and slips into the warm water. The boy complies without so much as a question, and turns to look at the wall the tub is positioned against. Despite his head being turned, Romano unbuttons his shirt nervously, and awkwardly, his cheeks red. His delicate fingers fumble around with the dark black buttons, and he lets the cloth slide off his shoulders and down his arms. After slipping off his pants with flourishing embarrassment, he gets into the tub, and he and Feliciano play around a little.

They splash each other, and build and play with the bubbles freely, and Romano tries to push away how weird he thinks this is. It's only awkward if he thinks it's awkward, right? Feliciano didn't seem to have a problem with it, so why does he?

As they sit on separate ends of the tub facing each other, Feliciano asks Romano to time him to see how long he can hold his breath. Romano counts down from three, and Feliciano goes down as soon as he hits zero. Romano is amazed that he can hold his breath for even five seconds as he is increidbly horrible at holding his.

Suddenly, there is the creaking of the door and he sees Antonio peeking his head through the small opening. His eyes widen when he sees Romano in the tub, who reaches for whatever he can to chuck at the Spaniard. There are several shampoo bottles to his side, and he throws them with all his might as his face reddens, a blush crawling up his neck as he screams. Antonio retreats from behind the wooden door with a hurried apology, closing the door just in time as a barrage of hair products crashes into the door where his sun-kissed face used to be.

Quickly after Feliciano resurfaced, Romano rushes them out of the tub and helps his brother get dressed. He lets Feliciano put his underwear on by himself, and then assists him in slipping into his comfy little pajamas. As he pulls on his colorful pajama top, Romano puts on his own pj's . Dark plaid bottoms hug his hips, low, and he pulls on a white wife beater. They towel dry their hair together for a couple of minutes before they leave their towels on the shiny metal rack to dry overnight.

Turning off the light in the bathroom, Romano leads the little boy down the hall into the bedroom. He throws their clothes into the hamper beside the bed, and hops onto the bed as Feliciano crawls onto the comfy mattress with a childish smile.

"Where am I sleeping?" He asks.

Romano shrugs. "I guess with me. Not like we have anywhere else to send you." He lies.

There is another spare room, but the two idiots Antonio has over sleep there, and there is no way in Hell that his brother is staying overnight in a bedroom with him. Only God knows what would happen.

—-—

Anontio wakes up feeling delusional. He can't tell if what he saw the other night was real or not—He feels as though he's going crazy, and so are Gilbert and Francis. The two men are asleep in the guest room near the kitchen, sound asleep in bed together as Gilbert snores and Francis hogs the blanket. It is around 10:00 AM and, as usual, the sun is bright and hot. Antonio struggles as he rolls out of bed, sweaty and overheated. He doesn't understand how that works; he goes to sleep freezing with no choice but to wrap himself in the warmth of his soft sheets, and wakes up a hot mess, his hair damp and body as hot as a stove.

Antonio walks over to his closet with a yawn. After Romano constantly yelling and hitting him to put clothes on around the apartment, Antonio's suddenly grown accustomed to getting dressed in the morning instead of going about his day at home half naked. He squirms a little in his dark sweat pants, and sweats in his dark t-shirt, uncomfortable and hot.

Exiting his room, he walks over to the thermostat to turn down the temperature. He doesn't notice a change until an hour or two later where he is no longer sweating on the couch as he watches some TV with Gilbert and Francis. It is another day off work. They haven't been called for any filming for a while, so they've been using this time off for some rest and relaxation. Also known as, 'lazing around the apartment lifelessly.' The trio hasn't moved an inch off the couch for quite some time now.

Gilbert, being the most sensitive to the cold, shivers in his spot on the cushion beside Antonio. He crosses his muscular arms over his chest, teeth chattering comically. "W-Why is it so cold in here?"

Antonio tilts his head at the man beside him. "Cold?"

"Yeah, it is a little cold in here." Francis agrees with a nod.

Antonio can't help but laugh, an amused smile breaking out on his tanned features mirthfully. "How are you two cold? Aren't Germany and France colder than Spain? You two should be more comfortable than me."

"I guess." Gilbert replies. "I'm pretty sure it is colder in Germany and Fra—Wait, why aren't you cold? Last time we went to Spain with you, we were dying from the heat."

"Are you sure the dying wasn't from both your sunburns?" Antonio laughs as he cooks, not burns.

"Mon Dieu…" Francis shudders. "I don't even want to remember that sunburn—We are never going to nude beaches in Spain again."

Gilbert gets up, his teeth chattering. Francis looks up to him and tilts his head. "And where are you off to?"

"I'm going to take a hot bath." He replies. "Fuckin' freezing in here…"

—-—

"I said I'm going to take a hot bath," Gilbert says as he sinks into the hot water, his back against the tub wall with, a deep frown set upon his milky features. "I don't recall every saying we're going to take a hot bath."

The glare he sends Francis' is hot and fiery, like the deep crimson of his eyes. The Frenchman looks at him innocently. His blonde hair is tied up in a bun with a loose strand of hair falling over the left side of his face. He is seated directly across from Gilbert on the other side of the tub, hot water easing his frozen senses as he brings a handful to his shoulder with a satisfied sigh. "Well, I was cold too, and it would be a waste of water if we took individual baths. Besides, we've done worse than bathe together, mon ami."

Gilbert opens his mouth to counter, but closes it as he has a point. God knows they've done much, much worse things together, and as a trio, which brings him to the next poor creature subject to his heated scowl.

"I guess you do have a reason, but the why're you here? You aren't even cold!" Gilbert's attention falls to Antonio, who is seated in the middle. He leans against the wall beside the tub playing with a yellow rubber duck, its sunny color as bright and full of life as the Spaniard. "And the fuck is with that rubber duck—"

"Chill out." Antonio says as he snatches the rubber duck before Gilbert does, albeit to throw it onto the floor beside their clothes.

"Yeah, you're always such a mean person when you're cold." Francis cuts in.

Under water, he moves his foot to kick his exposed crotch. Gilbert shouts painfully, and falls forwards. He floats face down alongside Antonio's rubber duck, and the Spaniard switches places with him, now sitting on the end opposite of Francis, who is laughing hysterically into his soaked hand. Antonio tries to bite down a snicker, but finds it impossible as Gilbert counters by punch Francis in return under water.

The face Francis makes Antonio flinch as a cry breaks past the Frenchman's lips. Gilbert lifts his face from the hot water and beams at him. "Take that, Frenchie!"

He splashes him with some water and Francis frowns. "Mon Dieu, I tied my hair for a reason. Look what you did—"

"I don't give a le fuck," He proceeds in an overdone French accent, "mon amis—"

"I THOUGHT WE WERE PAST THIS—" Francis reaches for Gilbert and Gilbert does the same, reaching for the blonde's neck as they begin fighting. Antonio plays around with his little bath toy as if the war going on in front of him is nothing but a figment of his imagination. It's happened enough that it no longer concerns him anymore.

Water splashes everywhere, into Antonio's happy face, and onto the tiled floor. Water wets their clothes, but they don't seem to mind as Francis finds a spot on Gilbert's lap, punches and loud curses being thrown everywhere. Antonio isn't quite sure if they're yelling in English or their country's respective languages, but it's so funny and entertaining to watch and listen to, it doesn't matter. "Oh, man. Go Gilbert—Watch out, Francis, get him from the right—Gilbert, counter it!"

He cheers for both teams as if he is watching a soccer game between two of his favorite teams (though, no matter what, Spain will always be the one who roots for over all else, however, this isn't quite soccer), and claps and laughs encouragingly. The commotion going on in the washroom is loud and rowdy, attracting a curious visitor.

The door creaks open, and none of them seem to notice until a soft voice calls out to them. Gilbert and Francis come to an abrupt halt, and the trio turn their heads in unison.

"Oh, I'm s-sorry, I didn't know the washroom was being used." Feliciano apologizes, standing in the small opening of the door. The men are silent, the rubber duck floating lifelessly over the surface of the clear water. Suddenly, a lower voice comes in from behind the little boy as the door swings open fully.

"Feli? Is something wrong?" Romano is standing in the door way looking down at Feliciano, who points his little finger to the men in the tub. The elder Vargas follows, and finds three sets of eyes staring as widely at him as he is at them, catching Antonio sitting at one end innocently, while Francis straddles Gilbert's waist on the other. Romano purses his lips. "Feli, go wait in the living room, I'm going to help them out and then you can go potty, okay?"

"Okay!" Feliciano nods obediently, before running off to plump himself on the comfy couch.

"You guys…" Romano trails off dangerously as he closes the bathroom door behind him. He saunters towards the trio menacingly. "What do you think you're doing with my baby brother around?"

While it takes them a moment to realize that Romano was never turned into a child, it takes Antonio a harsh, verbal scolding to get the man out and into some clothes, and two strong punches before the world goes black as Romano's fist is the last thing Gilbert and Francis see.

 

Chapter Text

The following day while Francis and Gilbert left to go house-hunting after a brutal scolding from a blushing Romano, who was still flustered over last night, the house was quiet. With his sheets strewn over his body and mattress messily and wrinkled, Antonio slept peacefully in the silent apartment, mumbling sweet nothings under his breath and into his pillow.

Meanwhile in the living room sat Feliciano playing on his iPhone. He wondered what mamma and papà were up to. They were always so busy with work, they were barely home. But he can't help but wonder if maybe they were spending the day at the house resting. It had been a while since Feliciano had spent some time with them, but he had Roddy and all of his toys to play with and now he had Romano, so he didn't mind too much.

He turned his head to the right and stared at the apartment door with a small huff. Romano had left him home because he didn't want to bring him to work since he would 'cause trouble'. Feliciano put up a small fight and pouted in hopes of changing his brother's mind, but Romano had his decision set in stone, and there was no going back. Though, he did notice a small waver in his resolve as he looked into Feliciano' pleading eyes.

It had been a while since Romano left him alone, so Feliciano decided to hop off the couch and get himself acquainted with his brother's home. He already knew what the kitchen looked like from last night, so he decided to look into the spare room beside the door. Clothes lied about the floor, and the bed was not made. The room was messy and smelled of expensive, but familiar cologne. There was a small French and German flag hanging on the wall above the bed. Feliciano decided not to step in.

He turned and opened the door beside the bedroom, and found coats and jackets hanging from a metal bar atop his head. It must just be a closet. He closed the door softly. Feliciano was sure he'd seen everything there was to around the apartment. He'd been in the kitchen, bathroom, and Romano's bedroom the other night. Feliciano had been sitting around the living room for a few hours already; he'd memorized every little detail in the painting that hung above the couch and pattern of the tall abstract vase that sat atop a dark wooden shelf on the wall behind the flat screen TV in the living room.

However, as he passed the kitchen and living room and entered the hallway to use the bathroom, he noted another bedroom at the very end to his right. The door was directly across from Romano's. He wondered how he hadn't noticed until now, but didn't question it as he turned on his heel to walk over. Feliciano got up on his tippy toes to open the heavy door.

Antonio awoke to a soft poke against his cheek and high-pitched whine. It sounded a little like a cat, and he furrowed his brows. Since when did they have a cat? Last time he checked, Romano had a strange sort of disdain towards animals… and people—But still. With closed eyes, Antonio groaned and mumbled into the exterior of his fluffy pillow incoherently. There was a pause, and a second poke to his cheek, this time a little harder.

Opening his eyes, Antonio was greeted with a large pair of amber's staring at him innocently, chubby cheeks squished upwards as a smile formed on a small mouth. It was Romano's little brother, whose name he couldn't seem to remember as exhaustion still shook his already poor memory.

It sounded like Romano's name, though. That was for sure.

Or, at least that's what Antonio thought. For some reason the pasta fettuccini came to mind, but he doubted that was the young lad's name. Sitting up and rubbing at his drowsy eyes with the back of his hand, he sifted his hand through his messy sheets and pillows in search of his phone as the boy greeted him with a falsetto, "Good morning!"

"G'morning to you too, little guy."

"Do you remember my name?" He asked curiously. Antonio hoped he wouldn't have to answer and break the boy's little heart. Luckily for him, there is no room for any right or wrong answers as he continued. "My name is Feliciano! And you're Antonio, right?"

Antonio reached to ruffle the little boy's hair with a nod. "That's my name alright."

In return, Feliciano purred, leaning his head into the Spaniard's hand, the feel of long fingers threaded through his soft strands soothing and pleasurable. The sight made Antonio smile; he wondered if Romano was ever that cute when he was young as well. Seeing Feliciano beaming had to have been the closest he had ever seen to Romano smiling. Offering him a tired grin, Antonio looked down at him warmly, and asked, "Did you have breakfast yet?"

Feliciano shook his head with a pout. "No, not yet. Fratello was too busy getting ready to go to work."

"'Fratello'? Is that Italian for brother?" Feliciano nodded.

Antonio asked, "How about I take you out to go eat since fratello couldn't, hmm? Would'ya like that?"

With expectant large orbs, Feliciano stared up at him gratefully. Antonio couldn't help the wide smile that spread across his face—Kids were seriously the cutest. "Just give me a few minutes to shower, and we'll head out, 'kay?"

"Okay!"

Antonio reached for his phone under his pillow to check the time with a long yawn. It was a quarter past 9:00 AM, and, judging by the eerie silence, it must've meant that they were alone together until Romano came back from work in the afternoon, or until Gilbert and Francis returned from whatever sort of mischief he knew they would get into.

He was feeling a little strange. Antonio never had to worry about waking up early, and he felt just a tad out of place being awake before 11:00 AM. It didn't faze him much, though.

The sight of Antonio's iPhone caught Feliciano's attention, and he asked politely if he may look at it. Antonio was surprised to see how polite the boy was being, and, typing in his four-digit password quickly with his thumb, handed him his little mobile as he got out of bed. Standing a foot or two behind him, Antonio stretched his arms above his head and watched as Feliciano worked his phone easily. Odd. Funny how children seemed to be as accustomed to technology as Antonio was with Lego when he was around Feliciano's age.

"Go watch some TV or something so you don't get bored waiting around for me." Antonio said.

Feliciano nodded and gently put down the fragile iPhone on Antonio's bed. He ran off into the hallway and then into the living room, where he reached for the dark remote on the coffee table. The boy turned the television on and sat patiently, flipping through the channels in search of something amusing. It didn't take him long. It never did take long for Feliciano to become entertained.

Meanwhile, Antonio gathered some clean clothes and made his way towards the bathroom. He turned on the light, and left his outfit for the day on the counter beside the sink before turning on the shower and stripping. He always waited a few seconds after the water came on before hopping in. Sometimes the water would be too hot, or too cold; it usually depended on how much or little Romano would use before leaving for work.

Pulling down his boxers, he reached an arm between the wall and shower curtain and flinched. The water was icy and unpleasant to his tired senses. That certainly woke him up.

He reached for the knob and adjusted the temperature until it was hotter and more to his liking. Antonio hopped right in, not having to worry about taking off the shirt he never wore to sleep.

Quickly, he washed his hair, making sure to use his regular shampoo instead of the stuff Romano used. The man was strange when it came to using each other's things. Romano always made sure he and Antonio would use their own things, never really one to share.

And it wasn't that it was because he was greedy or not fond of sharing, because there were some things he didn't seem to care about, and Antonio would always catch him donating whatever he could give whenever he had the chance; sometimes in those little see-through bins in stores, sometimes the unfortunate men and women sitting on the sidewalk downtown. He liked to give more than he would ever like to admit.

Antonio brought a hand of shampoo to his dark locks and lathered gently. He guessed it boiled down to the fact that he was still uncomfortable being around someone like him. It didn't bother Antonio, though. It only made sense, and the Spaniard guessed it didn't help every now and then when he would walk around with nothing on, or filmed with Romano in the next room over. He chuckled a little as water washed the suds out of his wet hair, the warmth and feel relaxing.

Antonio was never one to spend too much time in showers, so he stepped out the moment he decided it was time with a slap to his forehead. He'd just taken a bath the other night. Then again, considering how little Gilbert was capable of caring when it came to his personal hygiene, he guessed the shower was a good subconscious precaution.

Quickly drying himself off, he slipped into some dark jeans, a plain t-shirt, and his favorite red hoodie with the white strings from the hood, and plugged in and turned on Romano's blow dryer. Out of Antonio shook his head like a wet dog, and, in no time, his hair dried. After, he brushed his teeth, and gave a good laugh at his reflection. It looked like he had rabies. When he was done, he rinsed his mouth with some cold water, and turned off the light and walked back into his bedroom to put on some socks and grabbed his phone from his tangled blankets and pillows, the wooden floor cold under his feet.

Shoving his phone into his back pocket, he walked into the living room and said, "You ready to go?"

—–—

They were sitting at the back of a nearby café Antonio frequented. Err… At least that was what he had planned as his first option, but then he realized how lazy he was and how he was not up for that long walk. It was a nice place, really, but he just didn't have the energy to go that distance.

Instead, Antonio settled for a close second. Instead, he brought Feliciano into Ivan's pub just a block or two away.

Taking a little boy to a pub—It sounded like a bad idea, but it wasn't like Antonio was planning on letting the boy have anything to drink, or the common sense to see the wrong in doing so, so he decided it would be okay. God forbid Feliciano had any alcohol in his system. Romano would have both of his heads on a plate, and the thought alone made him cringe over-dramatically as he crossed one leg over the other.

Feliciano could see the man's discomfort from across the circular table, and he cocked his head to the side. "Is Antonio okay?"

Antonio's eyes lit up, and he reached across the table to pinch the boy's cheeks softly.

"I'm okay. No need to worry." He reassured the boy with a small, liking the way his name rolled off the little boy's tongue. If only Romano would call him by his name instead of whatever curse he would decide to put in its place—If only.

The pair was seated closer to the entrance of the pub, far away from the alcohol and beer behind the bar counter to Antonio's right. Feliciano didn't seem to notice at all, but he guessed it was because it came with the boy's age. When Antonio was young, he didn't know what beer was until he had accidentally taken a sip of his father's drink when he thought it was just some pop. After all, they were both fizzy looking and held the same sort of color.

"Does Antonio come here often?" Asked Feliciano, to which he received a nod.

Antonio found himself coming over often; not so much for the beer as the good company of the regulars and workers that inhabited the cozy little pub. Katyusha Bragniski, a tall woman with beautiful blue eyes and short platinum hair that was so light in color, sometimes it would look silver in the right light. She possessed a warm, loving personality that always made Antonio feel welcomed whenever he stepped in and heard her voice greeting him along with the jingling of the bells that would ring, reminding him of Christmas, every time someone left or entered.

Not to mention a large bust Gilbert always seemed to point out or stare at whenever the trio would come in. He could never get his eyes off of them. And, whether it be a part of her somewhat dense (but sweet) nature, or being completely unaffected by Gilbert's prying gaze, Katyusha never seemed to pay his staring any mind.

Though she had to have been one of the sweetest people Antonio ever had the fortune of meeting, her younger brother, Ivan, was hands down the most intimidating person he'd ever crossed paths with. With his tall stature, strong and imposing build, and sinister sort of aura despite the innocent twinkle in his violet irises, he easily scared Antonio along with Gilbert and Francis, who would quiver in their seats every time he came around. Thank goodness he stayed at the bar mixing and giving drinks while his sister was the one going around to tables taking and handing over orders.

Speaking of the woman, she hurried over with a small notepad and a red pen, and a warm smile. Her eyes went straight to Feliciano. "Awh, and who's this cute little one?"

Feliciano looked at her a little uncertain. He glanced over to Antonio, who looked at and said to him encouragingly. "This is Katyusha. Tell her your name."

"My name is Feliciano."

"Well, hi, Feliciano. It's nice to meet you." She had this natural warmth that made her the ideal mother figure for all children. Or, at least that's what Antonio thought. "What would you like for breakfast?"

Using his little index finger, Feliciano pointed at the pancakes on the menu Antonio held out for the both of them. Katyusha nodded, and then looked over to Antonio. He wasn't feeling as hungry as he thought he was, so he shook his head. "I think I'm good."

"You sure?"

Antonio nodded. "Yeah. I ate a lot the other night right before bed."

"How about some coffee?"

"Sure, why not?"

"So how are you? Didn't get to see you the other day."

Antonio gave a shrug, and offered her a grin. "Gilbert and Francis are still looking for a place to stay, so I've been helping them with that. Not to mention Romano's been quite a handful lately."

"Oh?"

"How about you? How was work yesterday?"

"Same old, same old." She answers with a smile. "Good to know they boys are looking for somewhere to live—Knowing Romano, he sounds like he's going insane."

"More or less."

"Haha, I'll be back in a few." She said as she took the black and white menu from Antonio. Turning on her heel as she made her way back into the kitchen, she returned in a few minutes with Feliciano's food and Antonio's coffee. Mornings were often calm and relaxed. Antonio did his best to refrain from staring at her bust as she bent down to place Feliciano's plate on the low table, but could anyone really blame him?

With a smile, she said, "There you go, boys. Enjoy!"

Feliciano turned to Antonio with a smile after they said their thanks, and Katuysha disappeared into the kitchen behind the bar.

"She seems like a very nice lady!" Antonio nodded in agreement as he sipped at his coffee. Conversations with her always seemed to flow, and, the more he spoke to her, the more he found to like about Katyusha. She was a wonderful person in and out. There was a sweet sort of tang that made the painful sting of the hot liquid against his tongue worth it, and its aroma was refreshing. Even her coffee was wonderful. "Is she Antonio's girlfriend?"

He put down his coffee and shook his head.

"But you guys talk and stuff like you're boyfriend and girlfriend. Why not?"

She was lovely, and she had a nice body to boot, but there was too much of a motherly sort of vibe about her that turned him off. He liked motherly friendships, but not motherly relationships.

"Oh, she's just a friend." He reached for his coffee to take another sip. Antonio took a large gulp, savoring the warm and creamy and sweet taste.

Feliciano doused his pancakes with a glass bottle of maple syrup Katyusha had brought with his food, and cut them up into small pieces. He ate happily and a little messily, a dab of syrup on the corner of his mouth. Inquisitively, he asked, "Is fratello your boyfriend then?"

Antonio choked a little on his coffee. He cleared his throat with a cough and harsh swallow. "Me and Romano? Oh, no."

"But you guys live together like mamma and papa." Says Feliciano with a mouth of pancakes. Antonio takes a napkin form the dispenser on the table, and wipes away the syrup on the boy's face as he talks. "Fratelloalways says you hug him and touch him and stuff, too. Don't couples touch each other a lot?"

Antonio pulled his hand away when he is done, and pursed his lips. His mind went immediately into the gutter, when he knew it shouldn't have. Antonio needed to think the way Feliciano did. Though, the way he thought about Romano wasn't all too unappealing.

Romano was handsome and rather cute in his own 'I'll hurt you if you come near me' kind of way. His eyes are an astounding color of deep amber. His complexion was fair and, if his eyes hadn't failed him, looked soft to the touch. Not to mention he was slim and in shape; though he wasn't as fit or toned as Antonio—more to the thinner side of things—the Spaniard had to admit Romano had a nice body. But even so, it was Romano. He had the looks, but they were just friends—roommates.

"Romano and I are just friends."

"But fratello and Antonio would look so nice together." Feliciano replied. There was a pause. "Hey, Antonio, can I ask you something?"

"What is it?"

"Do you love fratello?"

"That's a little strong, don't you think?"

"Does Antonio have a crush on fratello then?"

There was no way getting around this conversation. He put down his coffee. "So, are you done eating?"

—–—

Antonio left a generous tip, and waved goodbye to Katyusha as she waited on an elderly couple. The little bells jingled softly as Antonio opened the beat up wooden door to let Feliciano out first. The little boy waddled his way out onto the sidewalk, and stopped by a nearby park to let Feliciano play a little.

He remembered what it was like to be a kid—never being able to sit still, energy and curiosity never-ending. Sitting on a wooden bench under a large oak tree, he watched Feliciano play with some other kids on a small play structure. They ran around, and went down a few slides together.

Antonio took a moment to think to himself, crossing a leg over the other as he leaned into the back the bench. The other kids' mothers were looking over to him on the bench just a few feet away, hushed whispers and blatant stares directed towards the clueless Spaniard as they ogled him. They were like teenage girls fawning over a handsome celebrity. But Antonio couldn't hear them; his green eyes falling to the even greener grass thoughtfully, silently.

He and Romano. He'd have been lying to say the thought never crossed his mind before. Then again, he'd even thought about what it would be like to date Gilbert, and Francis. Antonio had these sort of thoughts about everyone he's ever known. It was only natural of him; the corny little romantic who grew up with females dominating his family. Back in Spain, he had watched a numerous of chick flicks, classic in his childhood, and more modern comedic one's as he grew older, with his mother on their beat up old television, that he'd developed such a sappy idealistic view on love and romance. The way he saw it, he found something to love in everybody.

Suddenly, hands grabbed his shoulders and arms and he was shook violently. Antonio yelped and there was a loud ruckus of obnoxious laughter.

"Haha! Man, you screamed like a girl!"

"Mon dieu! That was great."

Gilbert grabbed onto the back of the bench and hopped over to flop down beside him, while Francis walked around to sit on the other side of Antonio. The Spaniard needed a moment to catch his breath, feeling as though it would suddenly burst through his chest cavity and hit the ground in front of him. His pulse was loud and pounding in his ears like drums, a hand over his heart almost as if doing so would slow it down.

Mierda!" Antonio swore under his breath with a chuckle. "You guys are terrible."

"That's not what you said the other night." Cooed Gilbert. He pinched Antonio's cheek.

Francis nodded. "It's true. After filming, you did say the opposite."

Antonio punched the blonde's arm jokingly after swatting away Gilbert's hand.

"Wait, what are you doing here?" Asked Francis.

"Yeah," Chimed in Gilbert. "You're usually asleep whenever we go out."

"Romano left Feli home while he went to work, and I ended up taking him out for breakfast since he was hungry." Antonio said. "And I figured I'd let him play around—You know, let him be a kid."

The duo nodded and glanced over to Feliciano, who was playing tag with some boys and girls his age. He looked like he was having the time of his life.

"Leave it to Antonio to make a kid happy—Food and a playground?" Commented Francis. "Maybe it's because you're still a kid yourself, no?"

"You'd be surprised—Hey, actually, I needa tell you guys something." Antonio said with a snap of his fingers. "Feliciano and I had a talk—"

"I think he's a little too young for that, big boy." Said Gilbert. They all laughed.

"No, not like that! I mean, he talked to me about Romano. Err… Asked me how I felt about him." Gilbert and Francis sat up, ears perked and interest piqued.

"And how do you feel?" Ask Francis, shooting Gilbert a look, both nodding in understanding, as Antonio's eyes were focused on his beat up sneakers. He nudged Antonio's arm. It just occurred to the two men that maybe using Feliciano's young disposition would a good way to get Antonio with Romano. After all, things sell when you get kids to promote them. So what better way? "Cute, huh?"

Antonio shrugged in response. "Yeah, I guess he is pretty cute. But—"

"But what?"

"But—I don't know. We're roommates, and that's it."

"Have you thought about being more…?"

"But it's Romano. He doesn't seem like one for relationships, you know? We'd never work out, and it'll probably feel all weird."

"There's this quote I remember, it goes 'you'll never know how it feels or if you'll like it or not if you never give it a try.'" Said Francis. Antonio nodded thoughtfully, thinking it over a few times with a nod of his head, silent.

"Wait, hold on a second," Gilbert tilted his head. "Wasn't that a line from that one video we did where we were roleplaying as—"

"That is not the point, Gilbert." The other two broke out in a fit of harsh laughter as Francis continued, just a little annoyed at how Gilbert seemed to break the seriousness and Antonio's train of thought. "The point is that Antonio should give dating Romano a try—Go after the boy, you'll never know?"

Antonio grinned and shrugged. "I guess—"

"Wait, hold on. That's not the point." Interrupted Gilbert, hopping onto his feet, pointing towards the play structure. "Where'd Feliciano go?"

The other two got onto their feet and took a 360 of the park—The boy was nowhere to be seen. But the three could see a good beating in the near future if they don't find him soon.

Antonio clutched at his head. "¡Mierda!"

Chapter Text

"He isn't anywhere near the food stands over there."

"Mon amis, he doesn't appear to be around or in the pool."

"The little guy for sure isn't with those hot moms over there."

Antonio and Francis turned to look at Gilbert with furrowed brows, breathless from their frantic searching. Francis slapped Gilbert in the arm with the back of his hand with a loud 'smack!' that made Antonio flinch and rang in his ear, shouting a mixture of French and English in annoyance, "C'est quoi ce bordel!? Antonio and I have been running around the park trying to find him, and you were busy hitting up married women!?"

"Hey, now—I like to call it exchanging contact information," Gilbert replied with a proud smirk as he showed off his newly acquired phone numbers scribbled down in red and black pen on three scraps of papers. Through and through, he never failed being the trio's womanizer. "Besides, if anything, I did a better job at trying to find him than both of you."

"Mon dieu! In what way?"

"Because," Gilbert started with a semi-intellectual expression, as if he were about to release wonders beyond the other men's comprehension; which was ironic because, if anything, while he stood as the womanizer, he also ranked as the least intelligent of the trio. Antonio grinned. Oh, this had to be good. "Unlike you two, I asked around—"

"And by that, you mean flirted with married women—"

"And I've found out that they saw the lil' guy walk towards the flower garden, so hah!" He threw his hands up in a superior manner that had Francis rolling his eyes. "I actually did do something to help! In your face, Frenchie!"

"Silence, albino."

The three men made their way towards the large garden area with Antonio a few steps ahead of them, his long legs moving at a rapid, absent-minded pace as his green eyes darted this way and that; lifting a hand to unconsciously comb through his hair in a nervous manner, biting on his bottom lip as if to help ease his heightening nerves and over-flowing panic in the pit of his twisting and turning stomach. This was the first time Antonio had ever been into the garden during the time he'd spent living in the city and cutting through the park to get home from the grocery store and mall.

Confusion and worry written across his face as blatantly as the white text running across Gilbert's black t-shirt, Antonio wasn't given the chance to take his first time in the grand, fairy-tale like garden to look around and enjoy the beauty it had to offer—what with what was at stake and missing, off course. It was unfortunate, too, for Antonio held a great sort of love for nature and pretty flowers.

Lush flowers and nature sprung out from the earth in a breath-taking array of vibrant colors; tropical and wildly untameable in their beauty as well as subtle and gentle in fragile charm, Antonio, who was often distracted by such wondrous colors and bloom, was incapable of giving any flower or plant its well-deserved praise or attention. All he was focused on was finding a little boy, who was oddly enough still dressed as a girl, with the familiar curl and large set of dazzling eyes.

There was a map of the garden to the left that Francis hurriedly pointed out. Rushing over, the simple diagram, though a little dusty in its modest appearance behind a glass barrier, revealed three paths in which the garden was split up to.

It was like a gift from God—there was three of them, and three stone paths. All they needed do was separate and hope for the best.

Picking their ways, the men ran in opposite directions; Francis towards the left where more flowers were to bloom around a small manmade lake where men often took their ladies to propose; Gilbert to the right that lead to a skate park and field filled with picnics here and there; Antonio towards the center path where another play structure lied ahead.

Francis searched around, but to no avail. The boy was nowhere to be found.

Gilbert ran through and past every park-goer, but found himself empty-handed as he did a full circle of the skate-park. He hoped the others had better luck, and flipped off a few dumbass teenagers who tried to roll over his feet.

"Feli!" Antonio called as he came across a large play structure surrounded by little, dusty pebbles. "Feli, it's me! Where are you?"

Sitting at a bench nearby, he asked an elderly couple if they had seen the little boy (though he had described Feliciano as a little girl in a white dress to save himself the trouble of explaining why he was dressed as a girl because hell if he knew). The old lady, who appeared to be somewhere in her seventies, shook her head with a small apology. "I'm sorry, sir, but neither of us have seen your little sister."

He didn't remember calling Feliciano his sister, but he didn't correct them.

The man spoke up with a small chuckle, "Hopefully you find her—It shouldn't be too hard, though."

The lady smiled, "It's nice to see you care so much for your sister. Children are bound to find their way back to their siblings in the end."

—-—

Gilbert dropped to an empty bench in the empty field with a sigh and palm slapping against his forehead. They had somehow gotten themselves into the worst possible scenario. Gilbert and Francis had been so worried about breaking Romano's things around the apartment and not moving out fast enough, that he had never taken to account how the man's wrath could multiply when you threw his little brother into the already unsolvable equation. Romano was a protective kind of person towards himself, but he appeared to be an even more protective older brother to Feliciano.

This was stupid, and mostly Antonio's fault. It was his fault for bringing the boy out to begin with, but, as they say, 'all for one, and one for all', right? If Antonio was in trouble, it very well meant he and Francis were as well. It was the way their friendship worked; if something bad happened to one of them, something bad happened to all of them. While it was more of a pain in the ass than he would have liked it to be, it did have its various ups.

"Now… Where in the world could Feliciano be?" He tapped his lip thoughtfully, red eyes scanning from left to right, and then right to left. It was his job to go around this area while the other two searched their respective paths, but, it appeared as though Gilbert found his way into the least likely of them all. First of all, a skate park? The only thing he had run into were obnoxious teens skipping school, and field. He gave a sigh.

"Okay, class, make sure to pick up after yourselves, okay? We don't want to pollute Mother Nature, do we?"

A harmonious chorus of innocent voices answered back, "No, Mr. Williams!"

Gilbert looked over his shoulder, figuring it was just a teacher taking his class on a trip.

"You're doing a pretty good job of handling the kids for someone who's always wiping baby asses and getting puked on."

"R-Romano, don't talk like that around the kids."

"They can't hear us from here, it's fine."

"If you say so. Where's Arthur?"

"Eyebrows said he was going to use the bathroom."

Gilbert could see Romano and his cute, little friend with the long blonde hair and glasses making their way over to see on the other end of the cement bench. Instead of facing in the same direction as Gilbert, they were turned to keep an eye on the children who were stationed just a few feet away while they had their lunch and played around together. Gilbert turned around to look the other way and pulled his hood up to cover his ever noticeable and memorable shock of platinum hair instantaneously; taking out his cellphone to warn the other men of a new obstacle, and red flag.

—-—

"Feli!" Antonio found the boy sitting on a swing, playing on his iPhone as he moved back and forth gently, his tiny little legs kicking weakly. Large eyes looked up from the brightly lit screen, and the little boy smiled, hopping off the rubber seat to run into the Spaniard's chest, as Antonio crouched down in the sand in front of him, arms opening to accommodate the little boy.

"Antonio.~" Feliciano sang happily. Antonio couldn't have been more relieved.

"Where were you? I was so worried!" Antonio exclaimed as Feliciano took a step back, staring the boy straight in the eyes.

"I found a butterfly, and it was really pretty, and I wanted to catch it for fratello." He kicked at the pebbles shyly, with his hands behind his back as he glanced down at his small feet. Antonio thought it was the cutest thing in the world, and almost missed the apology Feliciano mumbled. "'m sorry for worrying Antonio."

"Don't worry about it. Let's stick together from now on, okay?"

"Okay." Guilt began to rise in the pit of his stomach at the sight of those discouraged large eyes looking anywhere but at him; Antonio pursing his lips with a sigh. Feliciano hadn't meant to scare him like that, and he hadn't meant for the boy to feel like he had done something unforgiveable.

Lifting the boy's face to look him in the eyes, his fingers gently curling against Feliciano's chin, Antonio smiled at him. "Hey now, why the long face?"

"I made Antonio sad."

"Don't worry about it. I'm sure that butterfly was pretty." Said Antonio encouragingly, the natural caregiver within him rising to the surface. He could see Feliciano's eyes widen. "C'mon, let's play a game together. Will that cheer you up?"

Feliciano began to hop on the spot, intrigued and excited at the prospect. Antonio reached to ruffle his hair. "Alright, alright, we'll play any game you want."

"Really? I get to pick?"

"Of course."

"Hmm…" Feliciano hummed, a finger pressing against his little mouth in a thoughtful manner. Antonio had seen Romano do that on multiple occasions around the apartment; when he would be grading papers, clean the house, read—it must have been something he up from his older brother.

Unconsciously, Antonio wondered how someone so cute could be related to someone as cold as Romano. Feliciano radiated warmth and sweetness, while Romano possessed a dreadful sort of aura Antonio was sure kept many people at bay, if not completely away from him. It might've been an age difference, but he doubted anything could turn him into that jaded and icy of a person. "I know what game we're playing—"

There was a gentle slap to Antonio's chest, and Feliciano dashed away with cheetah-like speed. "Tag, Antonio's it!"

The little boy hurried away with a giggle, and towards the garden at an incredible pace. The Spaniard blinked. He needed a second to breathe and register what had happened before it suddenly clicked; he had gone and lost him a second time.

"Feli! Hey, wait up!" Antonio hopped onto his feet and ran around the people strolling along the way, his eyes stuck on Feliciano, who remained a good distance from him, arms outstretched as he made airplane noises.

"WhooshWhoosh, here comes airplane Vargas! Vroom!"

Feliciano zoomed past this tree and that, this bench and that, going around numerous obstacles that left the Spaniard nearly running face first into the harsh bark of a tall oak tree, and trip over a picnic table.

Back to where he came from, standing beside the map in the fork in the road, Antonio looked around frantically as Feliciano hid behind tall flowers and lush bushes. They were in the garden. The bright colors of healthy flowers and green grass attacked his panicked emerald orbs as he spun on his heel to take a quick 360, a hand rising to sift through his brunette locks.

"Feli, where are you?"

"Boo!" Popping out from behind a bush just behind Antonio, Feliciano dashed past him and down the stepping stone path towards the skate park and field. Antonio's mind was filled with thoughts of unfortunate and horribly morbid scenarios in which Feliciano would run through skaters. In his head, there was a scream, and blood splatting against the smooth cement of a half-pipe, crimson marring the dirty neon trucks of a beat-up, old skateboard.

His legs began to move on their own and even faster now. Feliciano stayed in sight, but not within reach. Innocent pedestrians jumped out of their path here and there as Antonio would shout 'excuse me!'s and 'sorry!'s along the way.

Buzz. Buzz.

Antonio's phone began to shake in his back pocket, ringing at a magnitude as loud as the incessant vibrate. Quickly pulling it out, and swiping his thumb against the bottom of his iPhone to answer, he pressed the 'speaker' option, and held it in front of his mouth, panting for air from all this unexpected running and burning of his seemingly limitless energy.

"Yo, 'Toni!" Came Gilbert's voice in a hushed, panicky tone on the other line. "There's something really bad you need to know, and I can't tell you through text!"

"If you're going to say you ran into an ex-lover, I'm going to hang up—Whoa!" Antonio yelped as he turn sharply, darting off the stone path onto the ever green grass. "I'm a little preoccupied here—Sorry!" He shouted an apology to the couple whose baby he nearly stepped on.

"No, this is urgent!" Gilbert paused for a quick second. "And can you blame them? I'll have you know, my past lovers never got over me—they still want a piece of all this awesome-ness—"

"If you don't tell me what's so important right now, I'm sorry, but I'm going to hang up!"

"You know how we all split up, right? Do not go down my path no matter what, okay? Do not go towards the field. I repeat, do not go towards the field."

"Don't go towards the… Field?" Antonio came to a stop as Feliciano came to a stop just a few feet away by a few benches and children snacking, breathing through his mouth in shallow pants. Man, did the boy now how to run. Turning around, his little dress flowed around his tiny lower body gracefully as he stuck his tongue out teasingly. If he jumped for him, Antonio knew he would be able to catch him. However, there was also a high chance that he would flee like a squirrel up a tree. "Wait, why shouldn't go towards the field? I'm in the field right now."

"You're what—!?"

"Wait, is that you over there on the bench with the hood up?" He watched as a man slouching on the bench a good two feet behind Feliciano straighten and look the other way aimlessly; it didn't seem like he had noticed them yet. Antonio pulled his phone away and began to wave his hands above his head, raising his voice slowly, "Hey, I'm over here!"

Gilbert's head turned sharply to look at him, his index finger rising to press against his lips as if to silence him from afar. Antonio shut up instantly. "Shut up and only speak quietly into the phone. You'll send us to our deaths if you don't!"

Antonio tilted his head as Feliciano continued to mock him, this time with a cute little chicken dance, "What do you mean…" He nearly dropped his phone the moment Gilbert leaned forward, his muscular chest connecting with his thighs, slowly revealing a familiar shade of auburn hair and odd, unmistakable curl belonging to the man sitting on the other end of the bench, facing off in the other direction.

"Okay, we can't fuck this up, just run the other way, and I'll just get up and leave," Gilbert reasoned. "The brat clearly wasn't on the playgrounds where you were, and he isn't here in the field or in the skate park, so he has to be with Francis."

"Look down, he's right there." Hopping around, Feliciano began to shake his little butt at Antonio, childishly trying to provoke him some more, his head turned to make faces at him over his shoulder.

"Okay, we have to time this right," Started Gilbert quietly, "We both jump and get him."

"Won't that hurt him? When you, Francis, and I play around, you tackle us like you're playing football." Replied Antonio worriedly.

"Don't worry he'll be… Breathing—Okay, so, on the count of three," Antonio was about to protest, but began to get himself ready as Gilbert got up from his spot on the bench, crouching down and spreading his arms so Feliciano had nowhere to go but where he belonged; with them, and out of Romano's sight until they all return home. "Three… Two—"

"Excuse me, mister," Came a soft voice from behind Gilbert.

Watching Gilbert's shoulders jump in surprise, Antonio launched forward at the wrong time, Feliciano effectively dodging as he slipped beneath Gilbert's arms and climbed atop the bench. The Spaniard tumbled over, landing on all fours with a groan, in between Gilbert's legs as he landed on his butt.

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to scare you! I was just wondering if you knew where the bathroom was." Antonio looked up from Gilbert's face, to the man standing behind him. "W-Wait, aren't you the guy from the part—And you, you're Romano's roommate, right?"

"Matt, something the matter." Romano turned around to look over at him. "Wait a second, isn't that the Spanish bastar—"

With his hands on his hips, Feliciano giggled mirthfully, "Haha! No one can catch me, I'm too fast!"

Standing in Romano's line of sight was the little boy. "Feliciano?"

The little boy turned around to meet Romano's gaze, "Fratello, what are you doing here?"

Chapter Text

Antonio was relieved to find he and Gilbert unharmed, or scolded, Romano doing no more brushing them off lightly and with not so much as a curse or cold glare (or, at least not glaring immediately). Though, there were a multitude of reasons as to why Romano would have wanted to leave them unscathed.

For one thing, they were in a public setting. This meant that there were more than enough people to jump in and call the police in the worst case scenario in which Romano would literally tear Antonio and Gilbert into shreds with his bare hands. Violence happened a lot in the city and were blasted all over the news every evening and in the newspaper over one horrid thing or another, so the police grew to getting where they need to be in an incredibly short amount of time. This also meant that, if he were to dispose of the men's ripped bits and pieces, he wouldn't have any time to hide them before running for his life.

Also, judging by the large crowd of children sitting on the grass in front of him and the little boy with the glasses and strange cowlick who ran up to Matthew and referred to Romano as 'Mr. Vargas', he was much too close to his students, and any sort of foul language or violence in front of his kids would have surely gotten him in trouble the moment they returned to school. Even if Romano wasn't the best role model himself, he took pride in his professional life regardless.

Or maybe he was just keeping in his anger for later. It was a scary thought; saving up all of his rage and then letting it all explode at once.

He had seen the way Romano would lash out on Gilbert and Francis for all the times they had tried getting in bed with him while he would sleep in the middle of the night; waking up to the sound of Romano yelling angrily, sometimes in English, and, on nights where the two went too far (trying to get in bed with Romano naked), sometimes with some bits of Italian wedged in between.

In the unlikely case of his personality taking a quick one-eighty, there was also the possibility that Romano hadn't found anything wrong with what he saw. Antonio had found himself between Gilbert's legs every so often—what with their shoots and videos together—so he had no problem being in such a compromising position, and neither did the albino. The only thing that made embarrassment flare in the pit of his stomach was having Romano stare at him like that. And this was surprising.

After being helped up by Matthew, the two men were invited to stick around with him and Romano until it was time for the children to leave. When asked why, they were told that today was a half-day, and that the children's parents were to pick them up at the park while they waited for each guardian to arrive.

As expected, Gilbert jumped on the chance to spend more time around Matthew, draping an arm around his shoulders and pulling him close, his strong arm slipping downwards to hook around the blonde's waist sneakily and with a coy smile. Matthew's face lit up in a sharp color of red instantaneously in that way Gilbert remembered from their first encounter at the Halloween party a little while back. Matthew didn't put up much of an effective fight or stop towards all of Gilbert's advances; with every step Matthew took away to separate themselves—even if it was just by a little—Gilbert would follow, eliminating whatever distance stood between them, stuck together at the hip for the remainder of the day. They remained together as the children threw out their garbage and got up to leave, to keeping an eye on the last two or three children waiting to be brought home at the park's front entrance.

On the way back to the entrance, Gilbert and Matthew walked in front of the children to lead, while Romano and Antonio found themselves at the back, watching over them to make sure there were no strays. Antonio found it amusing the way Matthew would try to pry Gilbert off himself, only to have the man return to him like a strong magnet drawn towards a metal surface.

That poor man. Antonio's known Gilbert for so long, that he knew a small 'no' was not enough to get him to leave Matthew alone. Gilbert was a persistent one. It was one of his worst and best traits.

Walking just a step in front of him, Feliciano made quick friends with some of the boys in Romano's class. Antonio recognized one of them immediately to be Matthew's younger brother, the young blonde lad with the strange cowlick, glasses, and electrified blue eyes who had his hand over a shy Japanese boy's. From what Antonio's seen so far, it only made sense that Feliciano was naturally likeable, what with that endearing way of his capable of pulling people into his sweet and affectionate orbit.

"Hi, my name is Feliciano and I like pasta! Vee~ What are your names?" Was the Italian boy's introduction, to which Matthew's brother replied enthusiastically.

"My name's Alfred, and I'm a hero!" he pointed to himself proudly, and then to the boy beside him, "And this is Kiku. He's not that much of a hero, but he's just as cool!"

"It's nice to meet you, Feliciano." Kiku gave a small bow. Antonio could tell he was a polite little boy. "Why aren't you holding someone's hand?"

Feliciano tilted his head, "What do you mean, Kiku?"

"It's Mr. Vargas' rule that we have to have a friend to hold hands with whenever we go out on field trips like this. That way we all stick together." Replied the Japanese boy. A smile broke out on Antonio's face as he glanced over to the other kids in line all holding hands with their respective partner, unable to keep a straight face at the thought of Romano creating and enforcing such an adorable rule. It was cute.

"Where's your partner?" Asked Alfred. Feliciano said he didn't have one. "What? You don't have one!? Then the three of us will be partners!" Alfred held out his free hand and Feliciano took it with a smile. "The hero has to make sure no one is ever left behind!"

Antonio eavesdropped on the trio for a small while, remembering what it was like to be young and to make friends so easily; a small introduction, smile, and a large friendship was already in the making and quickly blooming.

At this age, people were much more guarded and cautious around others. Adults were cold, and that was one of the things Antonio didn't like about most people his age. It made it harder to get to know others when they had such strong walls around themselves. Though he's always been able to find a way into someone's heart one way or another, there were people like Romano who let little to no one in. Then again, he never really minded. Antonio liked that part of Romano that was cold; it was the cool, refreshing burst of a winter's breeze to his overly warm disposition. He really liked Romano as is.

"Hey, basta—Antonio," he glanced away from the three children to the man beside him. Dressed as stylishly and expensively as always, Romano walked beside him with crossed arms and a soft scowl on his features; Antonio could tell he was keeping face and refraining from using any harsh language for the children, and having a hard time of doing so. "What were you, Feli and that idio—I mean, Gilbert doing here?"

"Well, I woke up and I was alone in the apartment with Feli. To tell you the truth, it was him that woke me up. He said he was hungry, so decided to take him out for some breakfast," Antonio made sure to leave out that it was at Ivan's pub with a small bite of his lip, which sent a blush to Romano's face. But Antonio didn't notice, of course. The Spaniard never noticed those sorts of things, "And then I decided to let him play and took him to the playground here. While we were here, we ran into Gilbert and Francis."

"That's weird."

He thought Romano would be glad to see him taking care of Feliciano, and he tilted his head. Maybe he was mad. "How so?"

"You said you ran into Gilbert and Francis. There's Gilbert," He nodded in the German's direction, who was currently trying to get his hands in the back pockets of Matthew's jeans. Matthew swatted his hands away, to which Antonio snickered at. That poor, poor man. That isn't anywhere near enough to keep Gilbert at bay. "Then where's that perver—Francis?"

Antonio blinked. He'd almost forgotten about Francis. Antonio hadn't seen or heard from him since they had split up in the garden. "I'm not sure. He's probably with a pretty lady right now. He has a tendency to flirt a lot."

Romano snorted. "Don't the both of them?"

He chuckled lightly, Romano's eyes lingering over the way Antonio's lips quirked upward, "I guess you're right."

"Hey, fratello?" Their attention shifted from one another to Feliciano, who was looking over his shoulder. Alfred and Kiku turned their heads as well. "Alfred and Kiku told me about the Partner Rule. Where's your partner?"

"What are you talking about?" Chimed in Alfred.

"Isn't that man beside Mr. Vargas his partner?" Asked Kiku.

"You mean Antonio? Oh, I didn't think of that," The blush that spread across Romano's olive complexion went unnoticed yet again as Antonio listened to the kids talking amongst themselves. "Wait, but they aren't holding hands."

"Yeah, you're right," Turning his attention away from his friends, Alfred said to the men behind him, "You guys should hold hands then!"

"We should what?" Romano blinked hard, wondering if he had heard right.

"It's only fair that he be your partner and you hold hands with your partner. It's the Partner Rule!" Alfred tried to reason confidently. Kiku and Feliciano nodded in agreement. Romano didn't want to hold Antonio's hand. He didn't. He didn't. He didn't. He had a big problem with this. "You have to hold hands with your partner, Mr. Vargas!"

Romano's face was getting redder by the second, especially at the way they used the word 'partner' so freely and easily. If only Matthew were around to shut his little brother up.

In their world, a partner was someone they stick around with; synonymous to the word 'friend'—a buddy they make sure didn't get lost during these sorts of outings. But, in the adult world Romano and Antonio were more or less well-versed in, the word 'partner' had a much bigger meaning, and this brought up strange thoughts of life as Antonio's lover—thoughts he had to shake his head free of, exterminate completely. When he looked to Antonio, he saw that he was nodding along in understanding. That idiot wasn't hearing it the way he was. And of course he wouldn't. He may have been a man, but he had the maturity of a boy.

He refused to admit he was getting all flustered and that the heat in his cheeks was more than his mind playing tricks on him. Romano sighed; there was no use in being or thinking like this.

"Isn't fratello going to hold hands with Antonio now?" Asked Feliciano. Antonio didn't seem to have a problem with it, and Romano had a problem with that as well. And he was conflicted. There was that pleading look in the little boy's large amber irises. "Partners have to hold hands! It's the rules, right?"

Biting his lip, Romano stepped closer, unaware of the extra pairs of eyes watching him, as his hand slowly inched close, to his surprise, Antonio's hand collided into his softly before wrapping around his own, his eyes going wide as the Spaniard smiled down at the boys. In his ever cheerful tone, Antonio's accented baritone rung through Romano's ears like music, "How's that, boys? Mr. Vargas and I holding hands like partners now."

The three boys were delighted, and took an automatic liking to Antonio as well as some of the other little boys and girls closer towards the end of the line. They asked him many questions: like what his full name was (to which they repeated, thinking it was cool to have such a long name, especially with the way he added some accents), what his favorite color was, the kind of food and music and sports he liked, and just about anything they could think of. Antonio answered each and every single one of them with a smile, his natural ability with kids shining brightly.

But Romano remained silent and paid no attention to that, though. Not with that able hand over his, and fingers intertwined with his own and the light fluttering of his quickly beating heart at the feel of Antonio's addictive warmth. He feels drawn towards him, but Romano would never admit to something as unbelievably absurd as that.

—-—

Sitting on the bench a few inches away from Romano, who sat silently, Antonio leaned back on his hands a little nervously. The fear that Romano was bottling up his fury and then releasing it when they are alone still carried through and he began to shake his restless leg.

Romano was the type to always find fault in him and everyone and everything around him, so why was he being like this? He was supposed to be swearing at him for doing something wrong and as little as something like forgetting to put the cap back on the toothpaste or as innocent as leaving his condoms—still in their wrapped packaging, of course—lying around the living room. Instead, he hadn't said a word since asking about Gilbert and Francis, who, speaking of which, still hadn't reared his blonde head of long hair.

Antonio should have been grateful, but he was more on edge because who knew? Maybe he should apologize. They had spoken a little on their return to the park entrance, so Antonio had no idea as to why he was being so silent other than the scary prospect of him being angry at him.

"Bye, Kiku. Bye, Wang." Said Romano, who waved to the little Japanese boy and his brother. He was the last of the children to go. The two walked away hand in hand, though Kiku a tad reluctant, and Alfred, who remained as Matthew was his guardian, glaring daggers at Gilbert who was taking all of his brother's attention away from him, broke away for a split second to run after him.

"Hey, Kiku!" The little boy turned around to look at him with dull, brown eyes, tilting his head curiously at the sight of the little boy in his red, white and blue shirt running towards him.

"Ah, Alfred. Is something the matter?"

"I forgot I picked this for you while we were walking in the garden on our way back," He held out a small, red camellia. "Since I know you like the color red, I thought you would like it!"

Kiku's fair cheeks turned a light shade of pink, and he bowed, accepting the pretty flower and then looking up at his brother. Turning his attention back to Alfred, he grinned, "Thank you, Alfred."

The two said their goodbyes, and Kiku was off with his brother, Alfred running back to his brother's side, tugging on his pant leg to take back the spotlight Gilbert had stole from him.

"Well, that looks like the last of them," Said Feliciano, staring up at Matthew and Gilbert from his spot on the bench. He sneered a little in disgust at the way Gilbert touched his best friend everywhere and anywhere he so pleased. "Guess it's time to go. Hey, albino, get your hands off my friend."

"Why should I? Mattie over here likes it, don't you?"

"He's been trying to get you off of him the whole time you've been with us, it's obvious he doesn't—"

Sitting on the other side of Romano, Feliciano poked his brother in the lap, the annoyed teacher's attention falling onto him immediately, "Fratello, I'm getting hungry."

"Yeah, me too!" Alfred said to Matthew.

The two elder siblings looked each other and quickly came to an agreement and to make lunch for all of them, including Antonio and Gilbert, at the Italian's apartment just a few blocks away. Feliciano and Alfred clapped and cheered happily, though a little disappointed Kiku wasn't going to be there to join them.

Getting off the bench, Romano led the way, Feliciano scurrying off after him with Alfred close behind Matthew and Gilbert. Antonio walked by himself a step behind, still wondering where in the world Francis was. The six of them filed into the apartment minutes later, the children darting up the stairs and onto their floor and into the hallway with Romano following close behind with his keys. Antonio noted the hall smelled of McDonalds.

Hopping up and down, Feliciano was excited to play with Alfred and vice versa. Romano tried to shoo them away so he could unlock the door for them. Meanwhile, Gilbert took a brief second to turn away from Matthew to ask Antonio, "Hey, where's Francis at? We lost him and still haven't found him."

Antonio shrugged and heard the soft 'click' of their door unlocking, following Romano into the apartment. "Lost him? Haven't found him? You make him sound like a lost hat. I'm sure he'll turn up eventually."

Crouching down to cover the boys' eyes immediately upon entering, Romano along with Gilbert, and Matthew paused with wide eyes to stare at the flushed mess of tangled limbs and clothes strewn across the living room floor; lustful and surprised green and blue eyes staring back at the group in shock.

Shirtless and sweating, his long blonde hair kept in a messy ponytail, Francis lingered in the space between Arthur's spread, bare legs, who's naturally shaggy hair was mussed up and damp with sweat as a sinuous aura dwelled between his naked body and the Frenchman's, on the wooden floor beside the coffee table in the living room; the ending credits of a long forgotten movie playing on the flat screen the only noise that filled the otherwise awkward silence that settled between they and those at the door. For a moment no one said a thing, not even Alfred or Feliciano, who stood still with Romano's hands over their eyes, blinded and frozen where they stood wondering what was going on. Even Gilbert had nothing to say.

Antonio pointed to the pair on the floor "Hey, look, Gilbert. I found Francis."

Chapter Text

After dressing themselves, Arthur and Francis were pulled away to and by their respective group of friends; Arthur to the brightly kitchen with a fuming Romano and concerned Matthew to make some food for the boys, who sat patiently watching cartoons together and chatting loudly about the characters and how cool they were, while Francis was pulled into Antonio's room by he and Gilbert, who were applauding a job well done. Tension filled the air, floating right above the innocent little heads in the living room, and them men in the kitchen went about themselves with tense shoulders and tightly closed lips. For a moment, they went on in speechless silence. It was only until Romano could no longer stand it. With Romano scolding Arthur as Matthew chided him in that passive-aggressive way of his, Antonio and Gilbert congratulated Francis on a job well done with high fives and mirthful pats on the back.

"So how did it happen? Did he force you? That fucking pervert, I'll make him pay!" Romano growled. With tightly clenched fists, he made his way towards Antonio's room to give the Frenchman a piece of his mind, but was stopped by Matthew, who pushed at Romano's chest. The two tried to force the other out of his way, but to no avail. "Matt, out of the way! I'm not going to bloody him too much."

However, the look on his face said otherwise. "P-Please, Romano! Violence is not the answer!"

"I don't know what it was like for you in Canada or what your parents taught you in your home, but my father back in our home always taught me to never take shit from anybody! And right now we're in my home, and ohis he going to get it!"

"Romano, stop! He didn't force me into it. Now will you please stop acting like a bloody idiot?"

"You what?" Romano's response was delayed, but, much like Matthew, his shocked expression was instantaneous before slowly morphing reproachful, to which the Canadian's shoulders tensed at.

Arthur remained silent. He really did not know what to tell his friends, for he knew he was equally at fault as Francis was, though even more reckless considering his already rigid disposition. With wrinkled clothes, his buttoned shirt covered in unprofessional creases at the sleeves and front, Arthur sat at the kitchen table with a dark, embarrassed flush, his already shaggy hair tossed and messy. He was incapable of doing no more than take Romano's well-intentioned fury wordlessly, eyes towards the tiled floor, still wondering how he had let this happen, and what he could have been possibly been thinking, a disappointed slouch in his back.

With a sheepish step, Matthew returned to his spot at the table, but not before making sure Romano returned to his. Kneading dough at the counter beside him, the Italian man beat at the dough furiously and watched with narrowed eyes as flour flew upward with every devastating blow. This was all so unbelievable! It was one bad thing for Gilbert to be touching Matthew so openly and without shame, but it was a completely different—even worse—thing for Francis to be having sex with Matthew, and in Romano's living room no less!

"I can't believe you actually wanted to do it with him!" He made sure to be careful with his choice of words. With the way he was yelling, it wouldn't have come as a surprise if the children heard, "And you guys decided to do it in my apartment. If you guys wanted to do it so badly, he could've gone over to yours!"

Matthew, who was sitting across the table shredding cheese and chopping vegetables, couldn't help but take pity on Arthur. Sometimes Romano would go too far or say too much, and the only way to counter act that was a little chiming in. Clearing his throat softly, Arthur lifted his head to look over at the Canadian, "That's enough, Romano. He's embarrassed enough. Besides, we don't really have say in who Arthur decides to sleep with."

"Thank you, Matt," Arthur sat up in his chair, his pride slowly returning to its former self bit by bit as the other men made preparations for their homemade pizza.

Despite the uplifted aura at the kitchen table, Romano snorted over at the counter, "Whatever. Of course you're defending him, Matt. You and potato lover were groping each other through your clothes all day at the park."

"Romano!" Matthew's cheeks burned, and he dropped the cheese grater into the metal bowl as he hopped to his feet, the sturdy legs of the wooden chair scraping against the floor audibly, "That's not true; I didn't touch him at all! It was all him! Besides, didn't you see me trying to push him away?"

"I did, but you didn't do much to push him off," Matthew fell into his seat with a sigh. There was no winning with a stubborn person like Romano. Arthur patted his shoulder empathetically. The men were both subject to the Italian's fury and disdain towards their possible romantic interests, and an angry Romano was never a good thing.

There was a loud 'slap!' as Romano's fist came to smash against the dough, beating at it with the image of Gilbert and Francis' faces embedded in his mind as if it would relieve him of the burden he feels slowly growing upon his frail shoulders. He had enough of them, and up to here with their foolish antics and overall cumbersome personalities. Everything they did had a negative impact upon his life and well-being. Romano had not mind putting up with them as long as Matthew and Arthur were not to be involved, but it was too late; the men had already left their marks and, by the redness of their faces, he knew, despite the chiding and scolding he can subject his friends to, that Arthur and Matthew were going to be around them for some time now.

"I don't understand how you two can stand those two idiots." Romano sighed and dropped his stiff shoulders. Turning around to look at Arthur and Matthew, he crossed his thin arms over his chest, shooting them an inquisitive gaze with a raised brow and deep frown. Out of their little trio, Arthur and Mathew were significantly more tolerant—even with Arthur's annoyingly petulant nature—but the two had to have outdone themselves. Dealing with children with a smile and clear head was one thing; one thing Romano had yet to learn to do without getting frustrated and irritated every now and then at work. But Gilbert and Francis were far more different and difficult than any child Romano's ever had to watch over at school, and with the maturity, or lack of, of an elementary school student.

Matthew looked to Arthur across the table for an answer but received nothing but a quick glance and pursed lips. He was keeping his mouth shut. Matthew sighed. It appeared as though it was his turn in the spotlight. "T-They aren't all that awful to be around. They're nice guys." He flinched at the way Romano's gaze shifted to him, amber eyes narrowed menacingly.

"These so called 'nice guys' are the same guys that I've caught trying to sneak into bed with me multiple times a night," Romano retorted. "I'm completely against both of you being around Gilbert and Francis, but I'm not going to stop either of you."

Though, that didn't quite mean that would stop him from grilling the life out of Gilbert and Francis later.

While the mood in the strained mood in the kitchen did not take any turns for the best or make any progress, the atmosphere back in Antonio's room was comically celebratory.

Before having been violently shoved out of the kitchen by a flaming Romano, the men made sure to take a quick detour into the kitchen, pulling out from the fridge two six-packs of beer before scurrying off into hiding for only a complete fool would defy Romano, especially when angered. Opening their second and third cans of beer, they toasted once more as they sat around the wooden floor. Being the experienced drinkers they were—Gilbert downing his third can like a bottle of water effortlessly—they had yet to feel any special buzz.

Francis was showered with drinks, high fives, pats on the back and immature congratulations from Gilbert and Antonio, who laughed along with the satisfied and proud Frenchman. Just leave it to Francis Bonnefoy to bed someone that quickly and right under their noses. While there was never any doubt in his ability of capturing the hearts of any who caught the sensual attention of his perverted nature, the two men couldn't believe he was capable of reducing someone as prudish like the British man (whose name still escaped Gilbert) into that flushed mess on the living room floor, stripped of his clothes and dignity, writhing on his knees for more.

"Cheers to mi amigo for playing his cards right!" Antonio raised his red and white colored can with a supportive smile, to which the others responded to with laughter and their own cans 'clicking' against his, "I can't believe you got him so quickly and without us even suspecting!"

Francis' ego loved all the positivity and compliments, especially the pouting Gilbert was doing in his peripheral, "Well, you know."

"That's not fair!" Gilbert said, slamming his can to the floor.

Antonio tilted his head, "What's not fair?"

"Gilbert and I had a bet going," Started Francis.

"A bet?"

"We were going to see who could get one of them in bed first," Said the albino. "But that's not fair because he did it while we were both busy looking for Romano's little brother!"

"I won fair and square."

"Mr. Croissant over here owes us for ditching us during the search, right?" Gilbert elbowed Antonio lightly as if to bring him onto his side of the argument.

"Do not call me that!"

"You fucked eyebrows while Antonio and I were running around the park lookin' around for the kid, meaning I get to call you whatever I want!" Antonio broke out into laughter at the mention of the man's eyebrows. Gilbert seemed to catch this, and the two fell to the wooden floor under them, gripping at their stomachs and laughing raucously in humored harmony that grated Francis' ears.

"His name's Arthur," Stated Antonio as his snickering slowly died down along with the pain in his stomach and face from having laughed so hard. Though, no one seemed to be paying attention as Francis was quick to shoot back.

"There is nothing wrong with his eyebrows," Said Francis defensively, "Yes, they are rather… thick—"

"Thick? They look like centipedes, dude!" Shouted Gilbert, causing Antonio, who had been on all fours, to double over onto his back, arms around his aching abdomen.

"But there is nothing wrong with thickness, not like you would know," Francis retorted cleverly, taking a quick jab at Gilbert's masculinity.

Gilbert reacted immediately, straightening from his hunched position to fight in the name of his manhood and pride, "My dick is as big as that guy's eyebrows and yours is as small and fragile as Romano's cute friend."

"You mean the one with the glasses?" Asked Francis is disbelief.

"His name's Matthew," He was ignored once again.

"Yeah, the cute one," Said Gilbert, who continued to emphasize his preference towards Matthew.

"He's much too shy and timid and plain," Replied Francis.

"Well eyebrows isn't quiet the looker either!"

Because the severity and seriousness of fights like this were never anything to be concerned about, Antonio sat between their yelling, laughing at the validity of each point made by both parties. While Matthew was incredulously demure and easy to forget because of his soft voice and modest way of dressing, Arthur wasn't extraordinarily in appearance either or any better looking than the shy Canadian man. They were both attractive in their respective ways, Antonio thought to himself silently, thinking over both faces, styles, and little knowledge he had of them personally thoughtfully. Then again, who was Antonio to judge? Neither was his type nor have people like them ever been, so his opinion was as invalid as it was uncalled for until Gilbert directed his attention to him.

"Hey, 'Tonio, who do you think's better?"

"Huh?" The question caught him off-guard. Had he been thinking out loud?

Francis slapped Gilbert's arm, "You can't expect Antonio to answer you, idiot. It's obvious that he has something for Romano."

Antonio's brows knitted together in confusion.

"That's right," Gilbert said with a nod, "Little Antonio's got a thing for the guy."

"I have what for Romano?"

"Who can blame him? The guy's quite the cutie," Gilbert said, to which Francis nodded at. The sudden change in conversation seemed to have brought an end to their mindless arguing as they both agreed on one thing; that Romano, though angry and frightening with his spiteful ways, was a sight to behold with his healthy head of dark brown hair cupping his face and that light olive complexion, parting to the side ever so slightly over his forehead to reveal those deep amber irises. His clothes were fashionable—one of the things Francis duly noted upon first meeting the teacher—and he was neither too tall nor short, with a fit and proportioned body, though a little thin in comparison to the trio and their conditioned bodies and muscle. "Lucky bastard, getting to him before us. But whatever, Max is pretty good, too!"

"Arnold as well." Said Francis dreamily.

"Their names are Matt and Arthur," Antonio corrected mentally. But they was close, so Antonio, ever lenient towards all, especially to his best friends, hadn't had the heart to speak up.

"So, you goin' to ask him out anytime soon?" Asked Gilbert casually.

"Huh?" Antonio turned his attention away from Francis to look at Gilbert in growing confusion. "Ask him out? Where'd you get that idea from?"

Francis wasn't sure what Gilbert was playing at, but the reassuring glance was all he needed to know. The two were still bent on getting these two together and, both being the type with no common sense or ability to give up, were determined to see things through. Taking a sip of his beer, Francis picked up where Gilbert left off, "We've been wondering for a while now, you know. You said there was nothing going on between you guys, but I don't buy it."

"Neither do I!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, calm down you guys," Antonio waved his hands in front of his chest defensively. "You guys've got the wrong idea."

"Really?" Asked Gilbert.

"Yeah, way wrong!"

"Then why don't you explain to us how you really feel, mon amis?"

—-—

It was Arthur's duty to call the men out of the room for lunch. Though Romano disagreed, arguing that they deserved to stay locked up and starve for all he cared, Arthur brushed the cold words off easily. Romano was overacting as usual. The door opened after his second knock, and he was greeted with a seductive smile and glance from deep cerulean eyes. "Oh? Back for more, I see."

"Lunch is ready. If you three are done drinking like uncivilized Neanderthals on the floor, I suggest you all come out for something to eat." was Arthur's icy response.

"Aren't you forgetting something?" Francis saw the way Arthur tilted his head and furrow those thick brows in confusion. He closed his eyes and puckered his lips.

Slap.

The back of Arthur's pale hand collided with the side of the Frenchman's face and he stormed off to the kitchen, blushing. Gilbert rolled on the floor in laughter, "Hah! You got owned by eyebrows just now!"

Antonio couldn't help but snicker too. "He did get you really good just now."

Getting up from the floor, Antonio and Gilbert tossed their empty beer cans into the garbage bin by the Spaniard's bed and followed Francis into the kitchen. The smell of Romano's home-made pizza was heavenly and delightful to their senses. Sitting at the table, Arthur took a sip of his water while Matthew and Romano sat with their little brothers atop their laps, respectively, feeding them and wiping any bits of sauce off the corners of their mouths. Feliciano leaned into his brother's chest and smiled. He loved his brother and his cooking so!

"More, more!" Whined Feliciano as he finished his first slice of pizza with a smile.

Romano sighed, "Fine, but try not to make a mess, okay? You're a big boy now, aren't you?"

"I am a big boy!" Feliciano puffed out his chest and squared his shoulders as if to appear mature. "Please?"

"Fine, fine."

The trio wasn't sure whether they were expected to take some pizza then return to Antonio's room, or sit at the round table with them. After the fiasco with Francis and Arthur, the men were a little apprehensive about stepping on Romano's toes. The littlest things were found to set him off, so Gilbert and Francis treaded into the kitchen from the hallway and living room together cautiously, like frightened animals, with Antonio behind them smiling at Romano and his friends in mirthful oblivion.

Opening the cupboard by the fridge, Antonio handed his friends their own plate and went to reach for a slice or two each. Gilbert and Francis played it safe, going out of their way not to reach over any shoulders in fear of receiving a hard fist in their faces. Romano was watching them carefully, his gaze like fire as his brother ate away happily on his lap.

Antonio didn't seem to notice, so he went to reach over Romano's shoulder. The man stiffened and his face reddened lightly. "Oops, sorry about that!" Apologized the Spaniard as he straightened, a slice on his plate.

The other four seemed to notice this but remained silent. When the trio each had something on their plates, they made to return to Antonio's bedroom as there had been no offers to eat with them, just an aura of freezing ice. However, there was a small tug on Antonio's shirt from Feliciano who smiled up at him from ear to ear. "Huh? Where's Antonio going? Aren't you and your friends going to eat with us?" He pointed a small finger to the empty seat by Romano, "Sit beside me, please?"

Antonio couldn't say no to a face like that, so he did as he was told. Pulling out the tucked in chair, he sat with a smile. Gilbert and Francis followed, only because they knew upsetting Romano's little brother would have worse consequences than upsetting the teacher himself. After an awkward silence had passed, a casual conversation began to bloom and, before Romano knew it, Matt and Arthur were conversing with Antonio's friends as if they'd known each other their whole lives and were, dare he say, dating. Everyone was enjoying themselves; all but the sour Italian man. When the children were done eating, they hopped off their loving brothers' laps and ran into the living room to play some more in front of the TV.

Romano gave Feliciano one last wipe of his napkin before letting him go and standing up. He took it upon himself to wash the dishes every time there were guests over, especially if those guests included Matthew and Arthur. After collecting their used cups and plates, he made his way over to the sink while they continued chatting each other up. He hoped this would not last long, for he disliked the thought of any sort of influence the pornstars would have on the timid Matthew and reserved Arthur.

As he did he dishes, turning his idle attention to the now cooled pizza pan, Romano tried to eavesdrop on the conversations going on behind him. How could they speak to one another in such a familiar way like that, especially after what they had walked into not too long ago?

"Need help with that?" Asked Antonio with a smile. Romano's shoulders tensed.

"No, I've got it. Go away." Despite this, Antonio began drying the soaked cups and plates on Romano's metal rack on the counter by the sink. As Romano tried to shake him off, the other men moved into the living room and out of his ear's range, much to his chagrin. "I said I could do this myself, so why are you still here?"

"Because," Antonio started, swiping the green clothes against the plates surface, his emerald irises down before he glances up through the corner of his eyes with a friendly grin, "It's fun spending time with you like this."

Romano's eyes widened before turning away, eyes lowered and tilted his head downward as he blushed. Antonio didn't seem to notice, but smiled anyway.

—-—

"Am I the only one who thinks they make a rather good, though odd, pair?" Whispered Arthur into Matthew's ear. Gilbert and Francis caught this immediately.

"They would make a good couple." Replied Matthew in a hush tone.

"We've got to do something about that, or we'll never have any freedom and talk to these two," Said Arthur, motioning with a gentle nod in the German and Frenchman's direction.

"Now, now, if you have something to say, please share it with the rest of the class, mon cher," Said Francis with a coy smirk. "It's not nice to keep secrets, don't you think?"

Before Arthur could reply, Gilbert chimed in absently, "Man, I don't understand why those two don't just get together. Look at 'em." The three men looked back into the kitchen, and observed the way Romano and Antonio interacted, noting the way Romano's face went a sudden shade of red as the Spaniard smiled. "If I didn't know any better, it'd look like the two were actually fucking—"

"—D-Dating." Interrupted Matthew, talking over the curse nervously. With Alfred and Feliciano just a few feet away playing on the living room floor, it wouldn't have surprised him if they picked up such foul language like that, especially Alfred and hid desire to walk and talk like a 'grown up'. "But yes, Arthur and I agree."

"You do?" Francis was surprised to see the feeling was mutual as he quirked a brow. Gilbert seemed to be thinking the same thing: it appeared as though the match makers' morale had doubled. "May I ask a favor of you two?"

"And that would be?" Answered Arthur.

"It involves your little friend, Romano, and our friend, Antonio, for Gilbert and I think it would be splendid if we could cause some sort of romantic spark between the two." Started Francis in that charming tone of his, "and we require your assistance on Romano's side as we have no way of doing so ourselves."

"No worries," Said Gilbert. "We've already started talking up Antonio on our end, so you in?"

The two men nodded.

"Good," he grinned. "So, we have a plan for tomorrow at school. You just gotta make sure you do your part, okay?"

The two men nodded once more.