Chapter 1: We're Doing Fine, Aren't We?
My name is Antonio Fernandez Carriedo. You may know me as Spain. As a nation, who has fought many battles and formed many alliances and faced many hardships. You may be expecting me to tell you about my endeavours as a pirate or my rich history of war and arts and people and nationhood. But I’m not going to tell you about those. I want to tell you about my Lovino.
My Lovino is my South Italy. No one calls him that, though. To everyone else, he is Romano, nothing more. His brother is Italy. Rarely do I hear him referred to as Veneziano the way Lovino is referred to as Romano. I know it upsets Lovino; I’ve seen the hurt in his eyes when someone who knows him as Romano addresses his little brother as Italy. I’ve listened to him wondering aloud why no one views them as equals. Each time, he gives himself the same answer: no one likes him. Everyone loves Veneziano, who is sweet and bubbly and kind, and everyone hates Romano, who is vulgar and aggressive and rude and disobedient, who they all think is nothing more than a whiny brat. Each time, I want to call out to him, to hold him and tell him that he is wrong, because as much as I love his little brother, I love him so much more. But I don’t because then he would be upset that I was eavesdropping as he spoke his most private thoughts to himself. The last thing I ever want is to see Lovino upset.
He’s not really vulgar and aggressive and rude and disobedient. He certainly makes it seem as though he is, yes, but I’ve been fortunate enough in my lifetime to break through those defenses and to hold the hand of the Lovino underneath. The Lovino who is caring and gentle and hopeful and fearful. I love that Lovino. I love everything about him. I don’t tell him that often enough. I wish I could.
When he was a child, before he began to trust me, I often wondered whether or not that Lovino really existed. Surely this violent, broken thing had been a barrier, hiding something else? After a while I was certain that there was indeed something else. Something much sweeter and much more caring than he let on. I only needed to find a way to make him trust me enough to show it.
He had been so small back then. Even now, he seems so small and vulnerable, the baggy shirt and boxers he wears as pyjamas much too large for his tiny frame, pressed so closely and desperately against me as though he were drowning and I was oxygen. I feel proud that I raised him on my own, despite being little more than a child myself when he’d first become a member of my household. I had thought I would break him, that I would ruin him somehow and that would be it and he’d hate me forever. I had been afraid of myself back then. But I hadn’t let it show, because I didn’t want him to know.
And when he fell and scraped his knee in the garden and lay there wailing until I came running to his rescue, I wanted so badly to hold him as tightly as I could and never let go, and to protect him from anything and everything that could ever hurt him or scare him again. When he accidentally broke something and tried to run away because he was afraid of getting into trouble, I would stop him and tell him that it was okay and that accidents happen so that he would know that he could trust me and there was no need to be afraid. He always swore and screamed and complained and I always smiled and laughed because I knew that he didn’t mean it. That he actually did care and he was expressing it the only way he knew how. He still does that quite often.
The time I walked into his bedroom to find him trying on a dress, he had been so embarrassed and flustered that he almost started crying, and it had taken me almost 20 minutes to assure him that I didn’t mind and that I honestly did not think it was stupid or girly (I actually thought it was rather adorable and that was one of the first times I remember wanting to kiss him). So the next day when I showed up at his door with a lock and another dress that I had thought would look cute on him, he had accepted them grudgingly, still looking fairly humiliated. And so it had been while he was around the apparent age of 16 that I had realized how deeply I cared for him.
The day that Lovino saw me coming home after a particularly vicious fight with England, he had been in tears before he even reached the end of the path that led to my house, and he didn’t even try to hide it as he pushed back my cloak to study the gash in my side and the blood staining my clothes. He didn’t listen to me as I told him that I had done much worse to England and he should stop worrying because I would be fine, I swore, I would be just fine so please stop crying. Instead he hissed profanities and bawled and called me innumerable awful names before apologizing for them and spewing out more anyway.
But the next morning, after my wounds had been treated and I had had a good night’s rest, I woke to find him next to me, having evidently snuck into my room in the middle of the night. He hadn’t said much when I’d woken him, nor had he reacted the way I had expected (flustered and denying that he had done anything; pretending that he had no idea how he got there). He only told me good morning and left to make breakfast for himself and, much to my surprise, me. The next day had been the same. And the next. For almost a month he would sneak into my room every night and act as though nothing had happened the next morning. Finally, when I gave up wondering if he would ever stop (though of course I did not want him to) and I had fully recovered from my injuries, I swept into his bedroom one night as he sat reading a book and slung him over my shoulder, carrying him back to my own room as he shrieked and kicked and protested, unbelievably flushed by the time we finally reached our destination, but making no further protests when I opened my arms to him and held him close under the blankets.
We’ve been sharing a room ever since.
I love a lot of things about Lovino. I love the good things and the bad things alike. I don’t mind that he has a foul mouth and a sharp tongue. It’s the way he is and it’s part of what makes him Lovino. I think it’s cute how he sometimes cries a bit when he is particularly frustrated, and how he curls up as small as he can make himself whenever he sleeps alone but must always be pressed flush against me when we sleep together. I love that he isn’t afraid to voice his opinion, no matter what it is or what effect it will have. And I really, really love his smile, so much that I would do literally anything to see it. So much that whenever I DO see it, my heart nearly collapses in on itself with elation and sometimes my breath will catch in my throat and I can just never stop myself from returning it.
There are a lot of things he pretends to hate about me. And yet there are a lot of things anyone can tell he loves. When I hold his hand, he growls and grumbles but does not let go. When I kiss his cheek, he kisses mine. He likes kisses. Which is good, because I like kissing him. His lips have the strangest tendency to taste like icing sugar no matter what he’s eaten recently. Even now, lying here with him in my arms, I know that when he wakes up and gives me a peck on the lips like he does every morning, he’ll still have the sweet taste lingering there.
I sigh quietly. When he wakes up, I know I might cry. I’ll cry because right now, more than anything, I want him to wake up. I want him to open his eyes and mumble a sleepy ‘good morning,’ while he sits up and stretches and rubs at his eyes and kisses me and tells me he loves me, because I’m scared and I can feel his eyelashes against my throat and his nose against my collarbone but there’s nothing else. At some point in the night, ‘when he wakes up’ became ‘if he wakes up’ and I hate his brother for doing this and I hate myself for hating North Italy for it. Italy. Just Italy now. There is no Romano and Veneziano. Not anymore. Because everyone loves Italy, everyone always loved Italy, everyone only recognizes the northern brother as Italy and they all took my Lovino away so I can’t blame just him for it.
I told him I would fix this. I told him months ago that I would help him and I swore to myself that I would never let him fade. I was going to marry him. That I had promised myself decades ago. And yet even as he was dying and I did everything in my power to stop it I still could not summon the courage to ask him, let alone to actually go through with it. I wonder what it would have been like, to stand before all of our friends and family and tell him just how much I loved him and watch his face turning pink as he tried to find the words to tell me the same. To finally, finally let him know just how desperately I wanted to spend the rest of my obscenely long existence with him. I tried to tell him last night, but I couldn’t find the right words and I could feel a painful knot at the back of my throat as I watched him trying so hard to listen and comprehend and I knew he was trying to say exactly what I was trying to but he couldn’t either because he was slipping so fast.
The last thing he’d done before falling unconscious was pull me forward and kiss me with those icing sugar lips and breathe a barely audible ‘I love you.’ And for how many times I had repeated it he would not wake up again.
At some point, when the sun has long since slid past our window to tell us to get out of bed for another day, and the only warmth I feel is my own, a sort of sudden acceptance falls over me like a blanket. Not the kind of acceptance that says, “I know what has happened and I’m okay with it,” but rather one that says, “I understand what has happened and I can’t just lay here all day and pretend that it hasn’t.” It’s a painful one, so painful that my throat suddenly burns and there are pinpricks in my eyes and a gaping, tearing wound in my chest so deep and agonizing that my entire body convulses as my arms tighten around Lovino. My Lovino who is now as limp and lifeless as the worn red fabric of his shirt and whose skin is now cool and pale.
The noises tearing themselves from my throat sound awful and broken and inhuman but I can’t I stop them and they only increase in strength and volume as I press my forehead against his hair and weep. Everything hurts suddenly, a harsh, lonely ache. I want to shake him and scream and I want him to just open his eyes again and I want to feel him breathe and hear his heart beat because it’s not fair it’s not fair it’s not fair. I tell him how much I love him, nearly unintelligible through the sobbing and tears that I am trying so desperately to stop. I tell him how I wanted to propose to him, and what our wedding could have been like, and wonder whether he ever thought about it, too. I tell him that I’ll take care of his little brother and that I’ll keep the garden we planted together safe and maintained. And I ask him – beg him – to just wake up one more time, for me.
But I know I’ve lost him and I’ve lost his smile and his voice and his tears and his icing sugar kisses and the world is suddenly a terrifying and lonesome place.
My name is Antonio Fernandez Carriedo. You may know me as Spain. There is only one thing in the entire universe I want.
I want my Lovino back.
Chapter 2: I Think We're Losing
Antonio is having a few issues coping with the death of his beloved. But then, that's to be expected, isn't it?
Feliciano is crying.
I want to reach out to him and take his hand and tell him that everything is okay, but it’s not and I don’t. Germany however, tackles the situation without hesitation; within seconds he has gathered the weeping nation in his arms and settled him on his lap. It must be a habit at this point.
“I’m so sorry.” It’s all I can really manage right now; I want to cry as much as Italy.
However, I must have run out of tears, because I can’t. Or perhaps I just don’t want to upset Italy further. My mind feels too muddled to tell.
He shakes his head furiously, scrubbing at his eyes with the backs of his hands. “Don’t apologize. It’s not your fault,” he hiccoughs.
Germany nods in agreement. “You’re really the only one who isn’t at fault here. We all could have done more to prevent it.”
The Italian in his arms whimpers quietly as though hurt and he seemingly instinctively holds the tremulous nation more tightly.
“I...I know, I just....” Just what? I just miss Lovino, and I just wish I’d stopped denying the inevitable and done something to say goodbye properly. Something to let Lovino know that I cared and I would always care rather than trying to live life as normal in my constant, ridiculous denial. I hadn’t discussed a funeral as I should have, hadn’t said anything about what towered so intimidatingly on the horizon other than a mantra of, “I’ll fix it.” And yet here I sit, having not tried hard enough, and remember, once again, the proposal that could have been, the wedding that could have been, the happiness that could have been. Lovino had been so kind, I realize suddenly, in his last few months. So patient. He hadn’t pushed or argued nearly as much as normal.
And all I did was deny.
I bury my face in my hands, a heavy sigh escaping me, the slight tremor in it betraying my thoughts.
“A funeral,”I murmur finally, lifting my head to stare solemnly at my company. “He needs a funeral. I-I didn’t plan one because...well...I didn’t want...” I trails off again, but I know that Germany understands from the sympathetic look I receive from over Feliciano’s head.To actually sit and plan a funeral would have been to accept that South Italy was no more - no longer distinctly separate from his northern counterpart - and that Lovino would soon suffer the same fate.
There is a pregnant pause, the silence broken only by the sounds of a crying Italian, before I screw my eyes shut against the world and my eyebrows slant downwards because I really just want to cry. “I don’t think I can,” I breathe. Because even now, even after the fact, I can’t stand to truly admit defeat in such a manner.
“I understand.” I’m really not accustomed to Germany acting so gently, and wonder briefly if Italy finds it as unusual as I do. But then, he lives with it, so it must not be so foreign to him.
“I was thinking, since I really can’t - and Feliciano, you’re his brother,” I sigh again and run a hand through my hair, ruffling the wavy locks into further dishevelment. I bounce one leg in a nervous manner. “Could you make arrangements, perhaps? I’m sure he’ll be happy if you do it.”
All too aware that I am referring to Lovino as though he is still alive, I clamp my mouth shut and stare despondently at the floor, missing Italy’s solemn nod. Germany speaks up for him.
“Yes. I’ll help him. Go do what you must. I think you should talk to him again once he’s calmed down.”
I can only manage a sympathetic look in Italy’s direction as I stand to take my leave, mouthing a ‘thank you’ to the German. It hurts to realize just how understanding Germany is of our situations, especially Italy’s. I can almost hear Gilbert now, telling me to cheer the fuck up as he hits me on the shoulder - perhaps a bit too hard - yet proceeds to sweep me into a brotherly embrace and comfort me under his breath. Stupid, stupid, Prussian. God, I miss him, too. I’ve never lost a sibling before, but now I’ve lost a lover, and something about the look Feliciano is receiving from Ludwig tells me the thoughts running through his head more clearly than his words ever could have. What if it had been him? I want to kick myself for wishing, even briefly, that it had been. It is almost guaranteed that Germany would not have handled that well at all.
The door to Germany’s house slams shut behind me, cutting off the quiet bawling of a morose Italian to give way to the ragged sobs rising in my throat. I stand on the porch for a few moments, frozen aside from the traitorous quivering of my shoulders. If Germany would not be capable of remaining composed in this situation, then how the hell should I?
I begin the relatively short trek home, stumbling occasionally, vision blurred with tears. At some point, I start conversing with Lovino. Not any important conversations, really; just the same pointless bantering that would take place any other day on any other walk. And it’s comforting to pretend that Lovino is with me still, I think, as I reach out to take a hand that isn’t really there.
Lovino is gone again, and somehow it hurts worse the second time, even if he wasn’t truly present today. I let the memory (hallucination?) fade and now he is gone again and I am alone again and it’s my fault again.
“Kiss me,” I whisper. “Marry me. Lovi, come back.”
The house remains as still and silent as ever. Perhaps he is hiding. Perhaps this is all some stupid scenario I dreamt up and if I can find him I’ll have him back.
“Lovino!” I cry, and begin to rush from room to room because maybe, just maybe, I’ll get him back. Lovino, I need you. Lovino, please come back. Lovino, stay here with me, please!”
I throw the bedsheets to the ground in frustration. He is not under them, he is not anywhere, and oh god I must be going insane because I already know he won’t be anywhere. He’s gone and I watched him being taken from our home in a body bag.
Cruel, terrible realization delivers a blow to my heart for what must be the thousandth time in less than 48 hours, and it burns. I hit the floor with a resounding thud but make no move to get up. Oh. Oh. He’s not here. He’s not here. He’ll never be here.
But he must be.
But he’s not.
I lash out at the empty air around me. Hitting nothing does nothing to help and instead I find myself screaming incoherent rubbish at the world.
I live in a world where I can never be truly happy. I am not okay with this. I will never be okay with this.
And I’m so lost in that world, so entranced by it, that when the front door slams open and footsteps pound up the stairs, I don’t notice. When France barges into the bedroom, kneels beside me, tries to make me hear him, I barely register it. I wouldn’t be able to hear him even if I realized he was speaking. I think I’m still screaming. That’s the only explanation I have for the shrill wailing that beats incessantly at the inside of my skull like a caged animal looking for freedom.
I’m not entirely sure what happens as I sit there and France shakes me and mouths things I don’t want to understand. But when darkness swarms the edges of my vision, I don’t fight it.
Sleep is nice. It acts as a relief from the pain of reality. Like death without the commitment. This particular sleep is haunted by memories of my Lovino, as I imagine they will all be from now on. And he smiles and cries and gives me icing sugar kisses and when I wake there is a moment of happiness before I remember.
France is still here. I don’t notice him at first, but as I begin to cry once again he appears above me and looks almost motherly as he tries to comfort me.
“Lovino. I need Lovino.” I’m not entirely sure if that sounded like proper English. If the pained look France gives me is any indication, it was at least intelligible.
“I know. I understand. And I’m sorry.”
The stupid hiccoughing sounds awful and pitiful but I can’t stop it, even though all it’s doing is making my head pound. I want to tell him that he’s wrong, that he doesn’t understand, that he’ll never understand and none of them will and I am alone in this feeling. I can’t bring myself to do it, primarily because my voice seems to have disappeared.
“Antonio, calm down.”
I’m trying. Everything hurts again and I’m trying so hard to fix it. His hand is on my shoulder, helping me sit up, and he rubs my back soothingly until my breathing evens out a bit and I’m not shaking as much. God, I really could never have asked for a better friend then Francis. He presses a glass of cold water into my hand.
Nodding gratefully, I oblige, and when I’m confident that my voice won’t fail me, I ask him why he’s here.
“Germany called me last night and asked me to watch you,” he explains, moving to sit beside me on the bed. “I really am so, so sorry.”
“It’s fine.” I shrug, my grip on the glass tightening. “I’ll be fine.”
“Will you really?”
My lip trembles and my vision blurs again. “N-no.”
France snatches the water from my grasp right before I drop it, setting it down on the nightstand as he pulls me into a hug. I press my face against his shoulder and break down. I didn’t realize before how much I wanted someone here to help me, but in this moment I know that I’ve never been more thankful for France’s existence. “I...I have to go to his funeral, Francis. I have to d-do this all over again. I thought we were immortal. I thought we didn’t have to go through these things.”
I think perhaps he’s thinking about Prussia, because he’s silent for a few moments before he nods slowly. “I know. Sometimes....I guess sometimes immortality is not quite what one would expect.”
Dissolution is such a ridiculous thing, but it dawns on me that what’s even more ridiculous is our indifference towards it until it directly affects us. We hear that this or that nation no longer exists, these borders have been relaid, this country has been divided, and we don’t give it a second thought until it’s us. Or someone important to us.
“What if I really do live forever?” Unlikely, yes, but not impossible. How am I to live for an eternity with Lovino gone when I’m afraid I can’t even survive another day?
“Then you will experience more than any human could ever imagine.”
More pain, he means. I can hear it in his voice. More pain than any human could ever imagine, all weighing down on my almost-human body and tearing apart my almost-human mind. My heart, too, must be human in some way, otherwise it would not hurt so much, and be unable to bear the agony of my immortality.
“I wish I could die, too.” I don’t really mean to say it aloud, but in a way I suppose I do, because I want France to understand how much of that pain I’m experiencing right now. His breath catches in his throat and suddenly my face is in his hands, his eyes boring into mine.
“Do not say that, Antonio. Don’t ever say that,” he whispers. It was selfish of me to say, since he’s already lost one close friend in the last century, but I can’t bring myself to regret it. “You’re too important to die, okay?” I nod slowly. “Now go shower. I’ll make breakfast. We’ll do whatever you want today, as long as it takes your mind off of...”
He doesn’t have to finish the sentence; both of us know, so I simply nod again and extract myself from his grip, dragging myself toward the washroom.
“Anything for a friend in need, Antonio.”
I close the door slowly behind me, careful not to let him see the fresh wave of tears gathering in my eyes.
“Antonio?” There is a light rapping of knuckles on my bedroom door. “Are you ready yet?”
“No,” I call back, adjusting my tie for the umpteenth time since France started telling me to hurry up.
The door swings open anyway. I look over my reflection’s shoulder at my friend, who leans against the frame with his arms crossed. “Antonio. Are you ready yet?”
He sighs exaggeratedly and strides across the room, placing his hands on my shoulders and looking me straight in the eye. “Look. I know you don’t want to go. We both know this is going to suck. But you need to be there.”
“I-I know, I just...”
“I’ll be right there the whole time. If you need anything, just tell me.”
I slump forward in defeat. I’ve been dreading this all week, and France, having practically lived with me the whole time, has seen how stressed it’s made me. “Thanks.”
“It’s nothing.” He adjusts my tie, and under different circumstances, I might have laughed. Ties have never really been my strong point. “Now, shall we?”
I can only manage a hesitant nod, but he gives me a commanding yet gentle push in the direction of the door, and before I realize it I’m stepping into a car to go to a funeral home that I don’t even want to be at to see someone I really want to see in a situation that I really don’t want to see them in. Nonetheless, one much too short and uncomfortably quiet car ride later, I find myself facing a funeral home that looks horrendously vivacious, given its purpose. And I really fucking don’t want to go inside. But again, with a forceful push from a concerned friend, I continue in the direction of what can only be regret. He’s inside. He’s right by me again and he’s only a short walk away but it won’t be him. I’m not sure whether or not I’m even breathing anymore; as France guides me into a large, dimly lit room, I feel very lightheaded.
There aren’t many people here yet, but I can hear Italy crying from across the room, and Germany comforting him as quietly as he can manage. I wonder if he’s been crying all week. I know I have. Seborga’s here, too, but he appears to be handling it a lot better than either of us. His eyes aren’t very red, and he even manages a reassuring smile as he walks up to me and gives his condolences.
But the moment I see the casket sitting open at the back wall, surrounded by lilies and carnations, pictures of him, everyone is gone. I’ve reached into my pocket before I’ve even begun to move. “Lovino. Lovi.” Whoever did his makeup did an exceptional job of restoring that lovely golden glow to his skin, but it’s not the same and it could never be the same. Even so, when I run my fingers carefully through his hair and kiss his forehead, and tell him I love him, I could never mean it more. Dead or not, he’s still my Lovino.
The ring fits, at least. I don’t know what I’d do if it didn’t. It looks nice, in my opinion, and despite the fact that technically I’m doing this backwards, and clearly too late, I lean down and ask him to marry me. The whispering falls on deaf ears, yet I still hear him saying yes.
“I love you,” I murmur again. God, I’m crying again and it’s so stupid because really this could be such a happy moment and it’s not. It’s fucking not happy at all. It just hurts.
France is standing behind me, acting almost like a guard, but the moment I call him he abandons his post and is at my side. “Francis, I think I need something now.”
“What is it?”
“Ah, it’s kind of stupid...”
“I doubt that. Antonio, what do you need?”
It’s honestly very comforting to be enveloped in a friend’s embrace, and I wish I could stay here longer, but I know there is a service that needs to start soon so I force myself to move away from him. Of course, it’s not fixed anything, only made it hurt less for a few moments, but for that I am grateful.
“Here, come sit down,” he says softly as he begins to guide me toward the rows of chairs facing the casket.
I shake my head and extract myself from his grip. “Can I just stay here until everyone arrives?” After all, we were among the first to show up, by the looks of it, and there’s still at least 20 minutes before the service itself is due to start.
“Yes, of course. I’ll be right there, okay?” France gestures to the front row of seats before actually moving to sit there.
I think my body’s given up on functioning as I let myself sink to the floor, facing away from most of the room with my back pressed against the stand that’s holding Lovino up. It is genuinely surprising that I can still produce tears, but even if the rest of me is numb, my eyes sting as they flow. God damn it, everything just feels so awful and empty and it’s fucking agonizing and I don’t know what to do.
There is a hand on my shoulder, and then two almost inaudible thuds on the floor beside me, and another hand reaches out to brush the tears from my cheeks. And as much as I appreciate it, as wonderful of a friend as France is, I think I just need to be alone right now.
My breath catches in my throat. Perhaps when my mind let him go, he hadn’t really disappeared again. I risk opening my eyes and, sure enough, Lovino smiles down at me.
“Oh. Oh. Lovi.” I’d really thought he’d been gone when I couldn’t find him. “I...Lovi.”
My hands move on their own to cup his face, my thumbs tracing over his cheekbones as I see him and feel him and assure myself that the person before me is real and I’m not dreaming. He, in turn, reaches up to rest his own hands atop mine, that golden ring glinting in the light from overhead. Hope swells in my chest. Or at least I think it’s hope, but it’s also a bit painful, like too many other emotions are trying to take over at once.
“You’re really here?” I breathe, and his smile grows. God, I adore that smile.
“Yes, Toni, I’m here.”
The most pitiful whimpering escapes me, but I don’t care how I sound right now because I have Lovino back and nothing matters but that. “Dios mio. Lovi, I love you. I love you so much. Please don’t ever leave again.”
“I won’t, Toni. I love you, too.” He kisses me, ever so lightly, and I feel suddenly as though something is wrong.
“Lovino, wait.” No, no, no. I don’t know what it is, but I’m missing something still.
“No. I missed you. Kiss now, talk later.” His lips are pressed against mine again, but it’s just not right. For a moment, I think it’s just because I’m shocked. But when I kiss him back, I realize that it’s not me that’s missing something, it’s him. His kiss should taste like icing sugar, like all his kisses do no matter what. And it doesn’t.
It takes an incredible amount of willpower to push him away. “Lovino, stop. Just....just wait a second.” There is clearly something wrong and it’s oh so frustrating.
“But Toni, why?” His eyes darken, and his grip on my hands tightens. “Don’t you want to kiss me?”
I open and close my mouth a few times, but really I can’t bring myself to say anything. I think I’m dreaming. Or hallucinating, even.
“Do you love me, Antonio?” he asks, working the engagement ring off of his finger to examine it in the palm of his hand. I nod. He laughs. “Well, guess what?”
“...What?” I’m not really sure I want to know.
I can feel his breath against my ear and I shiver, and I think it’s because I’m scared. But I’ve never been afraid of Lovino before, so I don’t see why I should be now.
“I hate you.”
My head is pounding and my blood roaring in my ears is not helping one bit and everything is so so very wrong because he’s told me that countless times before and now he means it. When he sits back again I can see how sincere those words are in his eyes and the way his jaw is set and the smirk that plays at the edges of his mouth.
I’m going to be sick.
Please tell me I’m dreaming.
I have to be dreaming; Lovino has never looked so intimidating, and the ring is melting in his hand, but he feels so real and I want him to be real even if there’s so much wrong because I just miss him so, so desperately.
He disappears exactly when I don’t want him to, replaced by France’s worried face as he asks me to calm down and stop screaming, stop crying, it’s okay.
But it’s not.
Chapter 3: All That Has Been Lost
France loves his friends. He's the country of love, after all. So he's willing to sacrifice everything to make them happy; even their lives.
WARNING: CONTAINS SELF-HARM, ATTEMPTED SUICIDE, A LOT OF DRINKING, AND PSYCHOTIC TENDENCIES. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
France knocks gently on the white metal door, hand already on the handle. “Antonio? I’m coming in.”
He expected no different, but it would still be nice to have the comfort of his friend responding to him for once. He knows what to expect, though. The same as always. But perhaps it was more creative this time. He’s managed to give the doctors a few good scares over the past weeks, so France really wouldn’t put it past him to keep doing so.
That’s not his goal, of course. And he knows that; when he opens the door only to be greeted by a pair of feet directly before him, he only sighs.
“This can not be healthy, Toni,” he murmurs, pulling a chair across the small room to stand on while he unties the sheet from round his friend’s neck. Surely, despite his immortality, his constant suicide attempts were doing some damage to his body.
With some awkward shifting and shuffling, Spain ends up on the bed and France has, surprisingly, not fallen and injured himself. He moves the chair back beside the bed and sits in it, staring at his friend who lies completely still, and waiting. One minute. Two. Five. Ten. The clock on the wall in its metal cage (in one of his first attempts Spain had shattered the glass on the old one and used it to slit his wrists repeatedly) ticks calmly and quietly. Fifteen.
He can’t help but wonder if perhaps Spain has really succeeded in dying this time. The thought only festers for a few short moments before the supposedly dead Spaniard coughs loudly and raises a hand to his throat.As thought the pain shocks him at all. If anything, he’s more shocked to find himself alive.
And he really shouldn’t be.
France wants to take him by the shoulders and explain firmly that he is immortal, that he can never die, not unless his land is taken away. He wants to, but he already knows it won’t help. Spain is too far gone, and he is so lost in his own mind and his own insanity that he is one breakdown away from a strait-jacket. He’d be in one already if it weren’t for his status as a nation.
“Antonio? Are you okay?”
He stares at nothing as he gasps for air.
France reaches out to him hesitantly. “No, Antonio. It’s me, Francis.”
He blinks, swivels his head to look at his friend. “Francis...Where’s Lovino?”
How is it, France wonders, that every time Spain almost dies he forgets the reason he tried to kill himself in the first place? He sighs and withdraws his hand.
“Are you hungry?” he asks as he stands. “I’m sure a nurse would be happy to get you something to eat.”
“Where’s Lovino?” Spain persists, too calm.
“Really, Antonio, you should be resting-”
“Where is he?” he roars, grabbing France’s arm roughly. “Where is Lovino!?”
It hurts, but France doesn’t fight against his grasp, instead kneeling slowly beside the bed and using his free hand to cup Spain’s flushed cheek. “Oh, my friend, I am so sorry. Please, just rest for now.”
The redness of his anger drains from his face, and France can see all the years he’s lived in those dull green eyes. “I need Lovi,” he whimpers, relinquishing his grip. He draws himself away from France, closer to the head of the bed, and curls up on himself. He begins to tremble; slowly at first, then the whole bed is shaking as he cries.
“I’m sorry,” France repeats. And Spain knows. He remembers, and the next time France comes to visit will certainly be the same. “Do you need anything?”
Spain shakes his head.
“Do you want to be alone?”
Tentatively, he nods, and even while France knows his friend should not be left alone, he obeys his wishes and takes his leave.
Spain is having his stomach pumped. France waits outside, stack of papers in hand.
Apparently, rather than take his pills, the Spaniard has been hoarding them. The doctors had obviously seen no point in pumping the stomach of someone who was already dead, but they hadn’t protested. He wonders only how long it will take him to wake up this time.
In the whole six hours, France does not move from his spot. The doctors have gone. He occasionally peers through the glass on the door to see whether or not Spain is stirring. The moment he does, France is inside, taking his hand and trying to keep him calm.
“Antonio, I need you to listen to me carefully.”
He closes his eyes and sighs quietly before opening them again. “Antonio, please.”
“But I need-”
“You can see him. You can see him if you just listen. Please,” France feels a dull aching in his heart as the reality of the situation, of the option he’s presenting, sinks in. “I’ve spoken with our bosses. They agreed to let me do this. If you sign your land over to me, you can...die. If you sign these papers, you can see Lovino again. Antonio, you are my best friend and I want you to be happy, so if death will make you happy, then I’ll help you.”
Slowly and so, so hesitantly, Spain nods. As though he isn’t quite aware of his situation or the proposal but he feels that whatever it is will help.
“Antonio,” France says firmly, and when Spain looks at him it’s with a clarity he hasn’t seen in months.
“I know. Every time I wake up, I know. But I think just maybe it was a nightmare and it never is and please, please, I want to go to him.” His voice is absolutely broken; his eyes shine with tears, and he looks so distraught that France thinks he might cry, himself.
He swallows heavily. “Then please, mon ami, sign these.” It takes more effort than it should to place the pen and papers in Spain’s trembling hands. He clings to death, smooth and compact and full of words, for a few moments before surrendering and allowing his dearest friend to take it for himself. As the pen scrapes across the pages a few times, a lump grows in his throat.
But when Spain visibly relaxes; when he sighs contentedly and smiles for the first time in so long, France knows that what he’s doing is right, if not for himself then for his friend.
He rests a hand on Spain’s hair and kisses his forehead. “Good luck, cher ami. Goodbye.”
As he leaves the room, papers once again clutched in his hands, he hears Spain say quietly, “Thank you.”
And the tears fall.
France feels stronger. He knows why, of course. And he’s all too aware that as he grows stronger, Spain grows weaker. So he ignores the sudden energy, and everything that comes with it. He pretends it’s not happening.
He doesn’t visit Spain again, either, because he isn’t sure he can handle the guilt when it’s already so strong and so debilitating.
He regrets that decision when the hospital calls him to inform him of Antonio Fernandez Carriedo’s passing. Of course he does. There have been so many opportunities to see him again, to give him a proper farewell, and he’s ignored them all.
There was a time, many years ago, when he could simply drown out his sorrows by dragging his two best friends off to some bar they’d never been to in a town they’d never heard of. When he could drink and dance and laugh and forget. Instead, he opens a bottle of wine at his own dining room table and spends the evening alone.
By the time he’s given up on refilling his glass repeatedly and opted to drink straight from the bottle, he sees Prussia and Spain sitting across from him, and he’s either more drunk than he can ever recall being or he’s begun to lose his mind as well. They’re blurry and they don’t move or speak, but he speaks for them, of how immortality isn’t all it’s made out to be and how unification is such an awful, awful thing that catches up with everyone at some point. He must cry, too, because his throat aches and his eyes burn. But then, it might be the burn of the alcohol in its endless flow.
He wakes up alone on the cold floor, surrounded by the bottles he’s emptied, and even when he’s done retching into the toilet and he’s told himself over and over again that what he did was right, he still opens a new one and continues to drink.
Because the words he shared with his dearest friends in the darkest hours of his existence are true.
Immortality is not what anyone might hope for.