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Stars

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 Year 1920.  

It was a sunny morning in the beautiful city of  Venezia , at Italy. The wind was warm and smelled of  saltyness , it was somewhat annoying because it tends to make the skin sticky, but that was easy to fix with a cold and relaxing shower; he would know, having lived in this country for a few months as an  exange  college student.  

Ludwig was walking through one of the most busy streets in the city, the merchants would put up their little stores and selling booths all across of it, selling fruit, meat, fish, vegetables and all those kind of things, it was early so the they were getting ready for a day of bus iness . That was a normal morning for him, walking  through  here to get to college, every day he would pass this street and every day he would buy the same exact thing: a red apple and a plain bread, always in the same booth, always at the same hour and always with the exact change to pay.  

Ludwig  Beilschmidt  believed in order, he believed in an orga nized universe, causality didn’t exist for him, everything was a consequence of an action, and it sure was not random; if you were careful enough, you would be able to know what would or could happen at any moment and at any time in your life. That’s the kind of man Ludwig is, and he was happy like that, his life was in order, just going according to plan.  

While he was walking, he noticed something different in the street, the booth from where he always bought his red apple and plain bread wasn’t there, the place where it was supposed to be was empty. Ludwig looked around, expecting to see the missing booth to be somewhere, but it wasn’t, everything was the same, except for the booth where he buys his red apple and plain bread. He looked at his wrist watch, it was 7:50 a.m., he couldn’t waste more time or he would be late, but at the same time he couldn’t go without his red apple and plain bread. He saw the next booth’s owner, a  kinda  old lady with a few wrinkles in her face and brown hair, and got closer to her.  

"Excuse me" he started talking "Perhaps you would know what happened to your neighbo r  booth?" he asked as he pointed to the empty space.  

"Ahhh , you mean Carlo’s booth?" Earl was the owner of the booth where Ludwig would buy his red apple and plain bread "he decided to retire, so he closed up his booth" the lady explained as she cleaned her hands on her already dusty apron.  

Retire? Carlo never mentioned something like that! Of course, it’s not like Ludwig would actually ask him or even start a conversation with the old man, but that’s besides the point. He saw his wrist watch again, 7:55 a.m., he REALLY needed to set off to college, but he also REALLY needed his red apple and plain bread to be able to continue his day normally.  

Easy, Ludwig, you need to start thinking about priorities! Yes, you may need your red apple and plain bread, but you need to go to class, you know, since you worked so hard to get this scholarship on Italy. With a sigh, he started to walk away from the empty space, it doesn’t matter, he would buy something at the college’s cafeteria, then he will make a plan to replace the missing booth for another, there are a lot of stores in that street, and he could bet the majority sells red apples and plain breads, that is if he even actually betted, of course he didn’t bet, that kind of things aren’t orga nized nor have any kind of order.  

The hours passed until it was time to go home, it was late at evening because Ludwig likes to stay at the library to study, he has an scholarship to maintain, after all; so when he arrived to his little apartment it was already the sunset. His apartment wasn’t anything out of the extraordinary, it was small and the furniture was just the essential ones, a little kitchen, a couch, a desk with a lamp, a simple bed and, of course, the simple bathroom with the simple shower. He actually would like to bring in some plants and such, but he disregarded the idea after imagining the poor plants dying because of his negligence. He left his bag at the desk, he already did his homework at the library so he had a little free time, as always of course, so he just went to take a cold shower and then went to sleep.  

The next morning, Ludwig got up at the same hour, 6:30 a.m., took a shower, prepared his clothes, his bag and then went off to college, walking through the busy street full of selling booths. But this time he had to go slower, he had to choose another place to buy his red apple and plain bread, yesterday was an awful day because he couldn’t get them, so out of order, so now he has to replace the booth. He continued to walk down the street until he reached where his usual booth was, now occupied by someone else. Maybe the new owner also sells red apples and plain bread, Ludwig thought, so he got closer and saw the person behind the counter. A slim, young man with a light tan skin and brown hair. He was carrying some boxes and opening them up, clearly to start placing his products. Ludwig got his attention when he cleared his throat, but this just provoked the young man to drop a small box over his own foot, gasping in pain.  

"I’m sorry!" said the blonde man immediately "Are you ok? Are you hurt?"  

"No, I’m fine" the other man answered with a smile and teary brown eyes, looking at Ludwig "It’s just that these boxes are so heavy~~ I get tired after a while. Ah, but, may I help you?"  

"Yes, I was wondering if you are  gonna  sell fruit and bread, I used to buy in the previous booth that was placed here"  

"Ahhh , I see!" the young man smiled "well, sadly, I’m not gonna sell fruit or bread" Now that Ludwig had him face to face, he could see this guy had a spacey face, no wonder he would let the box drop so easily and—wait, what?  

"Then what are you going to  sell?" deception was tainted in this question, he will have to look for another place "Are you going to  sell food?"  

"Ha  haaaa ! Glad you asked!" the little man went back behind the counter and started searching in the open boxes, until he got up again, showing a big square of something? "I’m  gonna  sell art!"  

Art? That was strange, well, obviously  Venezia  was known for its artistic  structure  and everything, but selling art in a market seemed… weird. The “square of something” was actually a canvas, already used, the art piece itself was a lake scenery with vibrant colors, really pretty. But it wouldn’t benefit Ludwig in the least, he needed morning food, not art.  

"Ah, I see" the college student answered, and, by the way, he should get going "well, it’s time for me to go, good luck in the new bu siness" he said as he finally departed.  

It seems Ludwig will have to buy something at the college’s cafeteria again, well, maybe he’ll start do to that from now on.  

Days passed until they became weeks. The blond man fulfilled his decision and started to always buy his breakfast at the cafeteria, nonetheless, he continued to walk through the market street, and every morning he would see the young  italian in his booth, sometimes with new art, sometimes with old one, and he wondered if it actually sold. It wasn’t any of his busi ness, though, so he never asked or even talked with the guy ever again. That is, until one day when the sunset was on the sky and people were finally getting home to have dinner in peace with their close ones, Ludwig was walking in a little plaza that had a fountain. This place was quite most of the time because it was little, so not a lot of people went there, also it was close to Ludwig’s apartment, some kids were running while playing and some people were chit-chatting about meaningless things, houses were surrounding the plaza and they had little flowery pots on their windows, the wind was calm and somewhat refreshing, kind of weird at this time of the year, it felt nice. But what caught his attention was In front of the fountain, the new booth’s owner was sitting with a somewhat empty canvas, godet in his left hand and a brush on the right one.  

It was an interesting scene, because the  italian’s  face was far different from what Ludwig has seen before, he looked concentrated but still relaxed, somehow, he obviously knew what he was doing, it was plain obvious he had been painting since a long time ago. Maybe Ludwig stared too much, because the artist looked back at him and smiled, waving his hand while saying hi.  

"Good afternoon" replied Ludwig after walking towards the young man "Didn’t know you painted here" of course he didn’t know, though, he never talked to him.  

"Yeah, yeah, I like the atmosphere here! It’s so relaxing~~"  

Ludwig peeked over the painted canvas, it was a scenery of a green hill with a tree on top of it, flowers all around it and the sky was blue, it gave a relaxing feeling; it was impressive, it was all done without reference; maybe from memory?

"What is your name?" the blonde’s thoughts were interru pted  when the artist asked.

"Ludwig  Beilschmidt "  

"Ahhhh ! I thought you weren’t from here! Well, me neither, but  italian I mean. Where are you from?"  

"Germany" the  italian  kept smiling, as if he was waiting for more information "… I’m here thanks to a scholarship I earned on college"  

"Wow! College! So impressive!" he said as he left the godet and brush on the floor "I didn't go to college, I can’t study to save my life" he ended with a shameless laugh, and that kind of pissed Ludwig off. That attitude, that debauchery, was what he is so against in his life, that’s why it’s so important to have order and be orga nized in your life, so you don’t end up like this guy.  

"My name is Feliciano Vargas, by the way, I’ve just arrived a few weeks ago, when I saw you I thought it was weird for someone like you to be here! I just thought you were a tourist or something, but you kept walking by the market street and…"  

He kept going and going, talking about how blond or how tall Ludwig is, so different from  italian  people, it was obvious he wasn’t from Italy, but it was also not THAT weird to see foreigners on  Venezia , it was a beautiful city, after all! Full of beautiful scenery, delicious food, kind people and, of course, belle women, oh, but let’s not forget about all the art! Italy is capital of the arts, that’s why he, Feliciano, was there in the first place!  Ahhh, the beautiful  Venezia , with its beautiful sea, its beautiful plain, its beautiful sky... talking about the sky; Have you seen it at night? Ahhh, the stars are beautiful! So romantic to see with your beloved after a calm dinner.  

Ludwig was exasperated.  

"I need to go" he said, taking some steps back, this making Feliciano to finally stop talking "I have to get home and prepare for tomorrow"  

"Sure, sure!  Waaah  talking so much makes me hungry, so I better go too!" he started to pick up his things "We will see us again, Ludwig! You always use the same street, after all" a soft giggle was the ending seal of the conversation.  

After finally arriving home, Ludwig left his bag on the desk, grabbed clean pa jamas and a towel, and headed to the bathroom, but then he realized the night sky through his window, he walked towards it and saw the stars.  

Huh.  

They indeed are beautiful.  

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The morning arrived, announced by the joyful chirping of the little birds on the window. Ludwig was already up when this happened, of course, as he prepared his bag and things to set his way off to college . 7:00 a.m., he departed from home, passing by the same plaza where he saw the  italian artist doing his job yesterday evening, once again staring at the fountain for a bit.  

If it weren't for... Feliciano--  that was his name, right?-- he wouldn't have seen the stars last night, it never occurred to him to think about watching the stars. Why would he do that, anyways? It's  a waste of time and out of schedule. He continued his way towards the school, going through the market street as always, but now he heard a voice calling his name.  

"Ludwig!" he heard "Ludwig, Ciao, Ludwig!" the called one looked in the direction of the voice, finding the  italian in his own booth, waving both of his arms showing a big smile, he still had a sleepy face, though.  

What was Ludwig supposed to do? Should he go there and say hi? Maybe a little wave of his hand would suffice? He wouldn't know, because he had to go near the annoying guy, he was getting too loud and everybody started to stare at both of them.

"Yes, good morning" Ludwig finally answered when he got in front of the booth.  

"Ahhhh , at first I thought you couldn't listen to me! I was about to yell higher!" with a wide smile he leaned over the counter, and his arms crossed.  

"Please don't, it would disturb the neighbor booths"  

"Ve ~~~, maybe you are right" of course he is right "so, did you watch the stars yesterday?" this made Ludwig blush a little. How could he know? It's just a coincidence.  

"Actually, yes" he said after clearing  his throat "they are nice"   

"Told you so! Did you watch them with someone? Maybe a belle woman?" the  italian giggled with a playful smirk, this made the german to blush a bit more.  

"No! I don't have a girlfriend!" after realizing he may have talked a bit too loud--people was staring at him again--  he once again cleared his throat, lowering his voice "I don't have interest in having a girlfriend"  t he  italian  stared at him for a few moments, with a face a little hard to read, maybe it was... shock? S urprised? Either way, it made Ludwig uncomfortable.    

"I see" Felician o said after a few seconds with a smile again on his face  "it's ok! Italia is full of opportunities for everyone, every day!" he  straightened up and  grabbed  a  canvas  "look, I  finished   the   painting  I  was   doing   yesterday "  

He put the painting over the counter so Ludwig could see it. It was full of color, the feeling of relaxation was stronger, it would be a perfect canvas to have on the living room, or the bedroom, to be able to look at it and rest at home. You could almost feel the warm wind, hear the birds sing along the sound of the leaves from the trees, the soft sunlight on your skin and the smell of grass on the morning, you could almost feel the dew over the grass, you could almost touch it, it wrapped you in a calm and peaceful moment.

"It's nice" was everything the german said. Wait, what time is it? 8:00 a.m., So late and out of schedule! "I have to go! I'm late! Good bye!" he said and ran off.  

"Ok! See you later! At the fountain, ok?!" the italian yelled at him.  

"Yes! Ok, at the fountain! " Ludwig replied... What?.  

After hours of studying, the sunset finally came to be, announcing the nearby end of the day so the night could start anew, showing a different kind of live in the city. The blond german was walking by the street, a lot of people was around there, finally going home after a busy day. This time of the day, the sunset, was one of the german's favorite, because it meant the day was a productive one. This time, though, he had another thing to attend, one he got in by accident. He is supposed to met with the italian guy at the fountain, but for what? He didn't know, all he knows is that it was out of schedule, which meant he would have to use time from another activity.   

When he arrived at the fountain, Feliciano was already there, sitting on the fount's stone, obviously waiting for the college student. With a sigh, Ludwig got near; the brunette saw him and smiled, getting up.  

"I'm glad you came, Ludwig! I was afraid you wouldn't come, it was so sudden, after all~~, you run so fast I was impressed! Do you do any exercise ? I can tell because you look muscley under your clothes! I bet you're really strong too. To be honest, I'm a wimp so I always avoid getting people mad, so I don't have to fight,  hahaaaa ~~, but that shouldn't be a problem for you, people sure doesn't mess with you, right??  Ahhhh, so lucky to be so tall and strong and..."  

This again.   

The italian was doing this again.  

Is this an italian thing? Always with the talking, the unnecessary talking about meaningless things. But still, the german just listened to everything the other man had to say, looking at how he was moving all around his place, his head, his hands, his arms, moving so much, so unnecessary. Ludwig is the first to admit that germans don't usually move a lot when talking, because it's a waste of energy and time, just say whatever you are suppose to say and finish with it, time is so important and everyone should respect that.  

"… anyways, the other day I ate a really good salami panini, it had  black olives and tomato. All this talking made me hungry.  Wanna  go take a bite?" the italian asked when he finished talking, which took  Ludwig by surprise.  

"What?"  

"Yeah, let's go eat some panini! They are so yummy I'm already drooling just thinking about it!" it was no exaggeration, he really was drooling.  

"A-actually, I have to go, I need to prepare for tomorrow and..."  

"Ehhh? C'mon! You can do it later!" Feliciano complained with a kiddy voice, and grabbed the german by the arm with both hands, pulling him a little. This startled the older man, he was not used to human contact, he IS german, after all.  

"A-all right! We can go eat something!" the italian smiled when he heard this.  

"Yay! We are gonna eat delicious food! You are not gonna regret it, I promise, Ludwig~~!" and he finally let the other man's arm go "just follow me!"  

Ludwig started to follow the local man through streets and alleys until Feliciano stopped in front of a door. The building looked old-- just as anything in Venezia, being honest--  but with an allegorical feeling, that kind of feeling tourists have with anything "vintage" or "old". It had two stories and various windows, still with light and you could hear soft music through them. It was in front of the sea.  The  italian  man knocked on the door and a young lady opened it up, welcoming them both and allowing them to pass. She had a light brown skin, long curly black hair and brown eyes, her voice was strong but sounded more like she was always singing.  

"So glad to see you here again, Feliciano!" The lady received him with a big smile, a hug, and kisses on both cheeks. Ludwig had learnt that italians usually greet others like that "and not only that, you also brought a friend!"  

" Abrielle " he responded "I told him about the delicious paninis this place has, and we just had to come here!"  

"Wow, with that kind of reference we now and absolutely can't fail, do we?" she finished with a loud, and yet elegant, laugh "but come! Follow me to your table and then I'll take your orders"  

And so she started to walk through the other tables, all of them full of people, it seems it was a rather popular restaurant. It had a cozy feeling, with candle lights everywhere, a band of musicians playing happy music in a corner, all the people were talking and laughing loudly, some were eating and others were playing cards or something familiar. The establishment also had a bar, and a woman, somewhat look alike  Abrielle  but older--maybe her mother-- was the barista, also talking loudly with the clients. The young maid finally stopped at a table by the window, with a smile she told them to sit.  

"And so, what is your order, young men?"   

"W e will order two salami paninis" the italian replied with a smile.  

"And to drink? I'm guessing you're gonna ask for wine, Feliciano"  Abrielle  said with a smirk.

"Ve~~ you know me well" the man then looked at Ludwig "What do you want to drink?"  

"Ehm... do you have beer?" the german asked the waitress.  

"But of course! Light or dark? I would recommend light, seeing that is already kind of late and you have to go back home!" the lady said as she jokingly hit on his shoulder "we don't want any drunk accidents"  

"Don't worry, belle  Abrielle , he's german! I'm sure he can take his beer, also, he's so big and strong and  muscley  and--"  

"Is that so?" the girl interrumped , maybe because she knows how Feliciano rambles a lot.  

"A light beer is fine" Ludwig replied, somewhat thankful for her to interru pt  the  italian  man.  Abrielle  goes away after assuring their orders will be done quickly.  

"And so, what do you think?" asked the brunette.  

"Nice" simply replied the  german .  

"Ve~~~ you're so serious! But I guess you need to be serious and quite to be able to go college..."   

And just like that, Feliciano started to ramble again, this time about how awesome must be to go to college, also being smart as Ludwig, of course he was smart, he is going to college, after all! And how is Germany, by the way? He has  heard it's cold and somewhat rainy, he has never went there but would like to visit some day! Traveling is fun, do you travel a lot, Ludwig? Feliciano used to travel around all of North Italy with his grandpa, learning different kinds of arts on the way. He would like to go South Italy first, though, his older brother lives there and it's been a while since last time he saw him. By the way, what's been your favorite part about living in Italy? If he had to choose, Feliciano would say the food, so delicious, and the people, so beautiful and warm, always so kind.  

Ludwig was once again simply staring at him, the italian didn't give a chance to talk at all, even when he was doing questions. It's not like the german wanted to talk that much, but he was impressed at the velocity and  ability to talk so much in so little time, maybe it was just Feliciano? Of course the german knew a lot of  italians  in college, but he never really talked to them, so he wouldn't know if they spit as much words and he does! To his luck,  Abrielle  came back with their drinks, a light beer for him and a glass of wine for the  italian. It was almost funny, so stereotypical in a way.  

"So, Ludwig" Feliciano started as he took a sip of his glass "tell me about you"  

"Uhm" this was different "I don't have much to say, I'm from Germany, I came here thanks to a scholarship, I also have an older brother, but he stayed on Germany, I've been living here for a few months"  

"How long  are you gonna be here?"  

"When the semester ends, I'll go back to Germany"  

"Why did you wanna come to Italy in the first place?"  

The german got quite for a few moments. Why did he want to come to Italy? It was weird, to be honest. It's not like Italy's educational level were THAT different from Germany's, he could perfectly stay on there and his education would be superb, also it's not like he had family or something in this land.  

But, then, why?.

Since forever, Italy has been so interesting for Ludwig, maybe it was the art, maybe it was the story, or the language ? He honestly couldn't put his finger on what specifically attracted him to this vast peninsula. He even learnt the language, for God's sake! Even before it was decided he could take the scholarship.  

Maybe he was quite for too long because the  italian started talking again.  

"Well, it's no big surprise foreig ners would like to come to Italy!" Feliciano said with a wide smile "Italy is so beautiful"  

Ludwig grabbed his mug full of beer and took a swig, realizing the window was open, he looked through it, he could saw the stars.  

They were as beautiful as yesterday.

Chapter Text

 Days have passed since Ludwig went to dinner with Feliciano for the first time. "The first time"? Yes, because since then they had been dinning together, in different places. Feliciano was surprised that the  german  hadn't known a lot of restaurants and pubs, having been living in  Venezia  for a few months, so the  italian  decided to show him every single place to eat. At first, the blond would argue that he had things to do, prepare for the next day, clean his apartment and a lot of other excuses, but, somehow, the brunette always convinced him to go. And after eating dinner, they would walk to the little plaza by Ludwig's place and Feliciano would always say:  

 "See you tomorrow night"   

With a big smile and a shine in his eyes. As said, Ludwig would say excuses at first, but he would always be in time at that little plaza in front of the fountain, saying the same excuses but ultimately going to where the  italian  said.   

At this time, at this evening, the  german  is at college, classes had already finished but, as is his habit, he was studying at the library, sometimes looking at the clock, and the window, to know what time was it, he wouldn't want to get late for tonight's dinner with  Feli --  

What?.  

Ludwig stopped reading his book and placed his hands on his temples, his face was a little pale with a soft tint of red on his cheeks. He was actually waiting for tonight's dinner, that's unbelievable! And kind of... wrong? He knows very well that those dinners with that kind of man were wrong because they are a waste of his time. Since they begun to go out, the blond goes to sleep more late than usual, making the waking-up-in-the-morning part harder to do, which mean  EVEN MORE waste of time. Maybe he should call it off, maybe he should tell Feliciano to stop meeting like that because he really need to concentrate on his studies.  

He watched the clock and the window once again, in that order, the clocked marked 6:00 p.m. and the sky was starting to get that characteristic hot orange of the sunset, if he wanted to go eat dinner, he should be going now. Ludwig got up, placed the book in  its rightful place and left the building, walking on a fast pace. This would be the last time.  

When he arrived the plaza, Feliciano was already there waiting for him and almost immediately got up, he was sitting at the fountain again, with a smile on his face.  

"In time, as always!" he said when Ludwig was close enough "now, hug me~~"   

What?.  

It happened so fast the  german  couldn't do anything about it, when he realized what was going on, the  italian  was already over him, hugging him. Ludwig could feel the other man's heat and weight, has Feliciano always smelled like this? He smelled like turpentine and paint, so faint you could barely notice it when his brunette hair was directly on your nose; his arms were around Ludwig's waist, Feliciano was so close, so close he could feel the younger man's heartbeat, and something else in his chest , like a humming, a happy humming against his chest; Feliciano was happily humming against it. What was he supposed to do in this situation? The correct thing is to hug back, right? And so he did, he clasped  his own arms around the  italian's  body, feeling him even closer now; was Feliciano always this small? The hug itself felt so gentle, so friendly and cozy, it felt...  

Weird.  

The hug lasted just a few seconds when the brunette released  it, Ludwig knew that, but it felt like it was so long and durable. While they were walking towards the restaurant-Feliciano said something about it selling  delicious pasta-the  german  could still feel the tingly sensation all over his body, mainly his chest, it felt warm and comfortably, his hands were lightly shaking and he couldn't stop watching the floor. He felt so powerless. It's not like he didn't know  italians  give hugs, he has seen it at college, they do that when they greet people they are close to, it's just that it was so sudden. Ludwig glanced towards Feliciano, he kept going and going about how yummy the pasta would be, and that he didn't know what kind he would order, it seemed he didn't realized just how awkward and weird the  german  was feeling.  

When they finally arrived and entered the place, the waitress greeted both with a smile and open arms, kissed both cheeks to the two of them and laughed while directing them to their table. The restaurant was small and a little more quiter than the others places they've gone, it had a more serious air. The decoration had a classy feeling, with intricate flower patterns on the chairs' cushions, the music was calmer, plus it  didn't smell like smoke-most of the time it did on other restaurants-in fact, it smelled like spices, oregano, rosemary, and sesame , they had flower  pots hanging from the ceiling and elegant paintings on the wall.  

"Do you like it?" Feliciano asked once they sat down "it's a little more elegant than what we are used to, but their food is delicious, so I thought this would be a nice place to go"  

"When you ask a question, you aren't suppose to answer yourself" the  german  thought to himself, but answered anyways "Yes, I like it, and yes, it's different "  

"Good! I also wanted to bring you here because of that, look!" and he pointed to a painting in the wall "I did that, the restaurant's owner bought it" he looked so proud of himself. The waitress asked them what drink they would take, the place didn't have beer so Ludwig had to take wine.   

"You know" the  italian  said "whenever we go out, I do all the talking, don't you get bored at me? I don't  wanna  bore you" he smiled a little nervously.  

"No, of course not, it's just that I'm not much of a talker"  

"No surprise there" he finished with a loud laugh "but then, tell me more about yourself, you came from Germany, what are your favorite foods?" of course an  italian  would ask that.  

They both ordered the pasta each one wanted and talked about little things, Feliciano doing most of the questions and Ludwig single answering. He didn't mind that, it was easier that way than trying to talk freely about whatever.  

"Do you have a girlfriend over Germany?"  

Ludwig almost chokes when he heard that question, again with the relationships, the  italians  are known for being romantic people but the  german  didn't know just how important that is for them.  

"I already told you, I have no interest in those kind of things" the blushing in his face was back, and so was the light shakiness in his hands. How is it possible that  italians  talked about these things so easily? It was a mystery to him "And what about you? Do you have a girlfriend?" Ludwig wanted so hard the attention wasn't on him.  

"No, not really~~~! Even if the women in  Venezia  are so beautiful!" he put his chin over his hands, eyes fixed on the roof while sighing  dreamly , the  german  almost could see little hearts floating over the other's head "I mean, I like to flirt now and then, it's fun" Feliciano turned his eyes towards Ludwig "what do you think?"  

"I think it's a waste of time, flirting with people, and even more if you aren't trying to start a relationship"  

"The girls know I'm not looking for a relationship with them, so it's ok~~"  

"And, talking about waste of time..." this is it, the blond would tell the  italian  that this was the last time he could meet up with him, he was about to grab a bite of his pasta when he looked at Feliciano, who was smiling at him with his face leaning on a hand, he seemed playful and relaxed at the same time, kind of the same face he was doing while painting at the fountain.  

"Yes, Ludwig? You were saying?"  

"… nothing"  

They continued to eat and drink wine , Feliciano doing most of the talk, between laughs and ridiculous jokes. The  italian explained he has been traveling all around this country, looking for places to paint, traveling is what inspires him, he says, and when that inspiration ends, he moves on to another city, it was a tiring, and rather expensive job, but he just couldn't help it, besides ALL of Italy was just so beautiful! He wouldn't forgive himself if he dies before he can see every nook and corner of it, and don't forget about the delicious food! Every region has its  own cuisine and every single one of them was simply perfect.  

"You should come with me in my next trip! I think I'm going to the beach this time, well, I mean a real one, where you would be able to  bath in the ocean!  And we could make sand castles, play volleyball and--"  

"I told you, I'm going back to Germany when the semester ends"  interrumped  the foreigner "And right now, I don't have the time to travel"  

"Yes, I know! But the world won't end because you stay in Italy a little longer! I know I'd love you staying!" he said while drawing invisible circles in the air  with his fork. Ludwig almost choked once again, he drank a little wine before answering. These  italians  and their light use of that word.  

"Yes, the world wouldn't end, but traveling isn't in my near plans, I need to go back to Germany, my older brother is in there"

"Ah, well, the  famiglia  is  famiglia , and a  fratello  is a  fratello, very important, I also miss my own brother sometimes, but I keep traveling because,  who knows..." Feliciano stared at the  german  for a few seconds before continuing "maybe you would find something interesting"  

They ended their dinner and walked back to the plaza they always met, it was already dark in the sky so the street lanterns were on. T he city looked empty in comparison  to the day. The wind   was a little cold and humid, in a refreshing way. They were in silence, so the stepping of their feet were audible and made echo in the distance;  a  slow pace, no rush in the walking, only their steps were heard, and a now and then yawning from Feliciano, it was already late after all. They arrived at the plaza, just as empty as the rest of the streets, with only the sound of the fountain in the center, with its sparkling water, almost like a song in the middle of nowhere. Was this plaza this relaxing? Ludwig questioned himself, maybe it was since always, but he just never noticed.  

"So, Ludwig" the  italian  attracted his attention "I was serious about the trip with me, I can promise you wouldn't regret it" he said as he placed his arms behind his back "and I bet you could take a rest from everything, don't you just wish everything to disappear? Sometimes?"  

The tall man looked at him and then diverted his eyes to the side, it was starting to be hard to look at this guy straight into his eyes.  

"Not really... I mean, wishing for everything to disappear seems a bit extreme" the brunette laughed.  

"Ha, ha... yes, I guess you're right~~~" he smiled "well, time to go, right? You have to prepare for tomorrow, right? As always" Ludwig nodded "then it's goodbye... hug!"  

There it was again, hugging all of the sudden, and Ludwig having to reciprocate the gesture. All those weird feelings from before returned really fast, just as fast as the heartbeat inside of him. Feliciano now smelled like spices too, and he was humming again. When Feliciano separated himself of the  german, he still grabbed his hands and smiled.  

"Don't forget to look at the stars tonight"  

And so he left, waving his hands while walking away. The blond waved back until the little man couldn't be seen anymore. Discovering himself alone in the dark plaza, he looked up to the sky.  

The stars were shimmering, almost like magic, and beautiful, as always.   

Chapter Text

 

The morning arrived once again, announced by the sun that leaked through Ludwig's window, illuminating the place slowly. He woke up and stretched his arms, he didn't need an alarm clock because he always woke up at the same hour; but lately it was a little bit harder to get up from bed, feeling he didn't sleep the hours required for a healthy night. Took a shower, dressed himself, prepared his bag for class and ready to go he was. As he was locking his apartment's door, he remembered last night talk with Feliciano.

"You should come with me in my next trip!"

The italian's voice was clear on his head.

"I know I'd love you to stay"

Again with the blushing and that burning feeling on his face. Italians are weird, and confusing, too friendly and maybe too familiar with others, with the kissing and the hugging and saying the word "love" as if nothing, couldn't they see the HUGE importance that word has? It should be special and just said on specific moments with specific people in your life, like your family-not that he has told his brother he loves him, but-, really close friends-not that he even has really close friends, or friends-, or even a lover-not that he has had lovers or anything-, in conclusion, that word is important and so it should be used with responsibility.

He realized he had already got into the market street, he doesn't buy from there anymore-all his meals are from the college's cafeteria- but Ludwig is a man of customs and so he will walk in that street until he leaves Italy. Expecting Feliciano's calling, the german looked at where the italian's booth is supposed to be, but alas, it was empty.

Empty?

His blood rushed through his veins. Empty. He walked towards the alone place. Empty. And looked around in search of the missing italian. Empty. Maybe he should ask the neighbour booth again. Empty. He called the already known lady.

"Well, Feliciano didn't say anything about selling his place..." the woman answered "so, I'm not really sure something happened... and, excuse me for my intromission, are you Ludwig?" The question surprised a little to the flattered, how did this woman know his name?.

"Yes, I'm Ludwig Beilschmidt, how did you know?"

"Ahhhh! Feliciano talks a lot about you!" she said with a wide smile and sparkling eyes, her voice sounded like singing "you two always go to dinner together, so he always has something new to say" that embarrassed Ludwig a little, what did Feliciano talk about? "don't you worry yourself, I'm sure if he didn't say anything to you, it isn't that big of a matter" she reassured, waving her hand up and down with a calm face.

"Well, I'm grateful for your help, ma'am, and thanks" after saying goodbye, Ludwig parted on his way to college.

How strange, the brunette didn't mention anything at yesterday's dinner, right? Maybe the german was overthinking, as usual, probably Feliciano just overslept, and he looked really tired last night when he departed. Ludwig continued the rest of the day as he always does, with order and organized.

Hours passed until it was sunset, tainting the sky with a hot pink color, fiery orange and grayish blue. The german left the library a little earlier than he usually does, in hope of having more time with Feliciano so he could scold him for whatever reason or excuse that lazy man had to not open his booth that day. How dares he? When he bought that place, he accepted the responsibility of it, and that is opening every day at the same hour. But of course, it's not like it's Ludwig's business in the first place! But if there's something he takes really seriously, it’s responsibility. After a few minutes, he reached the plaza and looked at the fountain.

Feliciano was not there.

The blond scanned the place in hope of finding the young man around there, but he was not. The doubts and question from the morning emerged again on his head, his heartbeat accelerating as his brain was trying to decipher what could have happened. Well, Ludwig himself was a little earlier than usual, maybe he arrived before the italian, that's to be expected, he should wait a little longer, that's all.

10 minutes. Ludwig wondered what kind of restaurant they would go this time, he had a fancy for meat, it could be a little expensive, but once in a while it's ok to spend more money. 20 minutes. But in the end it didn't matter, Feliciano always chose really nice places with really good food, the other day he had an onion soup that was simply delicious. 35 minutes. And after the meat, maybe he would order something sweet, it's been a while since last time he had cake. 50 minutes. He really wanted a beer, italian beer was nice, nothing compared to german beer, though, of course.

Ludwig entered his apartment, it was dark and had a faint feeling of cold, did he left the window open?. He dropped his bag over the desk, his jacket over the chair, untied his necktie and placed it over the latter. With a sigh, he walked to the bed and let himself drop over it with his back over it, covering his face with his hands.

"He didn't come"

Were the only words the man said to his empty and lonely apartment, only the tic tac from the clock wall responded. It was a surprise, being honest, he was used to order and organization in his life, and those dinners were part of it now; so it was to be expected the german would feel like this after something went off in his day. Memories from yesterday's dinner came back.

"You should come with me in my next trip!"

Trip? Maybe Feliciano already parted? Did he mention anything in last dinner? Well, it's not like the italian had an obligation to tell him anything about his decisions, after all, they only met a month ago or something, they aren't really friends, are they? Just... acquaintances that had dinner every night, something italians must do very often.

"I know I'd love you to stay"

Ludwig uncovered his face and rested his arms on the bed, eyes focused on the roof. Well, that was it, he would go back to his usual pre-italian-artist life, geez, so much unexpected change in such a little time! To drive any order-obsessed german out of his mind.

"Then it's goodbye... hug!"

That feeling, that strange and unknown feeling on his body. The tingling came back and he almost could feel the happy humming on his chest. He hugged himself as he perceived his heartbeat go away without permission. The smell of turpentine and paint invaded the apartment and his nose, it felt so strong even though he knew the place was empty. Italians are so different, they look and feel so gentle and warm, almost like every single one of them are suns, so different from him, so rough and imposing, he sometimes felt so out of place in Italy, with everybody laughing and singing; even if he didn't think most of those things were waste of time, he would feel too embarrassed to do anything like that in front of other people.

He sat on the bed and stared at the dark apartment and then looked at the floor, a single ray of light was in there, following with his eyes, he discovered that the window was indeed open-no wonder the room was cold- so he got up and walked to close it, but not before he looked at the night sky.

How weird.

The stars weren't as sparkling and beautiful as yesterday.

Chapter Text

Ludwig was sitting at the library, reading a really heavy book while writing important notes in a notebook. It’s been a month since last time he heard from Feliciano, and the German decided to go on with his life as if nothing have ever happened. It wasn’t easy, though, he sometimes still looks over the clock and the window to measure the time to go. Sometimes he can still hear the Italian’s voice calling his name in the market. Sometimes he can still smell the turpentine and the paint under his nose.

The very next day that Feliciano “disappeared”, the blond man started to focus on his studies once again, he even passed more time at the library, reading, studying, and making notes. Truth was that he didn’t want to think, at all. He now preferred to just dedicate his time to study; he felt this need to maintain his mind busy. All because, when Ludwig arrived at home and found himself all alone in that dark place, he would find himself feeling a lot of things - weird things –, like regret, confusion… and maybe, just maybe, sadness and anger.

The student felt ridiculous, all this… trouble, because of a little man he met just two months or so ago. Ludwig didn’t walk through the market street anymore, and he found another way to home so he wouldn’t pass the little plaza with the fountain in the middle. All this change because of a little man he met just two months or so ago. He didn’t have time to waste, anyways, exams were approaching and he had to prepare for them, even if didn’t actually need to, but that’s what for Ludwig traveled all the way from Germany to Italy, after all.

A little pat on his shoulder broke his train of thought, and he looked at his side. An old lady dressed in a black dress and glasses on her face was there – he recognized her as the librarian - she said she was sorry but it was time to close the library, as she pointed to the clock. She was right, it was almost 10 p.m. and there was a dark blue color in the sky by the window. Ludwig excused himself and picked up his things, putting them in his trusty bag.

“Lately you’ve been staying pretty late at night” the old lady mentioned.

“Yes, exams are coming soon” the German simply replied.

“Well, yes, it’s just that you might burn out yourself if you keep it like this” the librarian warned while pushing her glasses by the bridge “and then all this studying would mean nothing, don’t you think?”

“Thank you for your concern, ma’am, but I’ll be alright” he denied and put the bag over his shoulder “I’ll be going then, have a good night”

“You too, son, but remember, sometimes it’s alright to just forget about everything” she smiled and turned over her heels to walk away.

The German got out of the library with a fast pace, he needed to get home and start reading his books again, to stop thinking and having all these weird feelings inside him. The streets were completely empty; the only sound that could be heard was his rapid footsteps and hasty breathing, because now he was trotting. Ludwig started to feel that strange sensation on his chest, like pressing, an annoying pressing against him, as if something – or someone – was pushing him against a wall with no escape, taking his breath away and making his hands and knees shake, making a knot on his throat as if something, a monster probably, wanted to get out of him. His eyes burned as if they were dry but actually were teary. He didn’t know why all of this was happening to him.

Because of a little man he met just two months or so ago.

Ludwig stopped suddenly, he was out of breath, and leaned his back on a wall to recover strength to keep going, gasping for oxygen with his eyes closed.

What a ridiculous waste of time.

An angry grin appeared on his face. He was mad, he was angry. Fists clinched around the bag’s strap. He could feel the blood over his head, pumping, and his throat dry because of all the gasping.

Sometimes it’s alright to just forget about everything”

The librarian’s voice resonated on his head, which started to ache. So easy to say that, it’s what he’s been trying to do all this past month! But nothing worked, and he didn’t know why. The blond stopped passing through the market street, it didn’t work, stopped passing by the little plaza with the fountain and sparkling water on the middle, it didn’t work, he stopped THINKING, and it didn’t work. It was ridiculous. All this trouble he was passing through just because of a little man he met just two months or so ago.

When he recovered enough; Ludwig started walking again, he was almost home, it would be fine as soon as he gets there and start reading.

But in the meantime, his brain would entertain itself over thinking everything, replaying his last dinner with the Italian a hundred times, just to see if he could catch something different about it, a reason for Feliciano to just disappear from Venezia without a word to anyone, not even him.

"You should come with me in my next trip!"

The artist’s face appeared on his memories, with that wide smile that, in that moment, would bring rest; but that now it only brought confusing feelings.

"I know I'd love you to stay"

The pressing on his chest worsened. Ludwig begun to change his pace for a quick one when his apartment was on sight – which was on a second floor, with a door to the street connected with some stairs - taking out his key from the bag.

“Don't you just wish everything to disappear? Sometimes?”

He finally reached the door and inserted the key on the lock, opening the wooden rectangle and got inside his place. As soon as he entered, the darkness of the room wrapped him, feeling colder now that the autumn was getting closer; he needed to remind to close the damn window.

He looked over the open window. Fresh air was making the white curtains dance slowly. Ludwig dropped his bag on the floor, left his jacked on the chair, and then walked to the window.

"Then it's goodbye... hug!"  

His breath stopped for a second as that tingling warm feeling embraced his body, and finally realized what was different on that last dinner with the artist of name Feliciano.

“He said goodbye”

A whisper left his lips. Still staring at the – now not so sparkling – stars, it was all clear now. Feliciano said a definite goodbye, didn’t he? Not the “see you again” he usually did. But what kind of departing is that? Not even an explanation to leave, or why left, he just disappeared, as if he never existed in the first place, leaving Ludwig in all this frenetic doubting.

The German leaned his hands against the window’s frame, letting the cold wind hit his face with eyes closed, it felt somewhat refreshing in comparison of the hot ideas running on his head. He took a deep breath by the nose and let it go slowly in his mouth.

“Why did you called me that evening at the fountain?”

 The question obviously went with no answer, there was no one to answer that. In that dark, cold room was only and just Ludwig. With now his eyes open, he could see the other houses’ roofs.

“Why did you tell me to meet you at the fountain?”

The memory from then started to play on his head, as it was yesterday. The sun on his skin, the Italian’s voice, the sound of the water from the fountain, the Italian’s godet and brush, the warm wind caressing his hair, the Italian’s brown sparkling eyes.

“Why did you get me all excited for nothing, then?”

This was ridiculous.

Ludwig decided to get away from the window and finally get a shower. All this despair was a waste of time. He has to get serious, he couldn’t just stop everything because of a little man he met just two months or so ago, they weren’t even friends, right?

"Don't forget to look at the stars tonight"

He heard inside his head, almost like a whisper in his ear. Ludwig complied.

The stars didn’t shine anymore.

Chapter Text

The German’s life was slowly returning to normal. Two weeks went by after he realized the Italian was actually gone. Since then, Ludwig was able to concentrate on his studies and the exams were easy. The college gave a free week so the students could rest from all the work – that if you actually passed the tests – but the blond man, being as serious and compromised as he is, decided to stay in Venezia to keep his studies updated, he couldn’t go all the way back to Germany, anyways. The only difference now was that the student didn’t pressured himself as he has been doing in the past, even he knew when he deserved to rest a little, so he took the opportunity to take a walk every day to discover more of the beautiful city he was staying.

It was surprising, been living for so long in Venezia but still not know everything about it. He bought a touristic guide and some books about the city to learn even more. This change in his life actually felt good, be able to take a break and breathe slowly. Ludwig never realized just how many people were actually in the city, between tourists and locals, because he would always take the same way from home to college and vice versa. He visited the Piazza San Marco, where the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco and the Clock Tower are, and so many other places. It was a good thing the whole day the sky was cloudy, or the sun would had burn his skin like hell, but now the sunset was starting. The coldness from the autumn was arriving and everyone seemed to like the idea of a much less hot city.

He was walking through the downtown part of the city when he heard a familiar voice.

“Mr. Beilschmidt! Mr. Beilschmidt!” Ludwig looked around to find the owner of the voice, until he met her, the lady from the market street, he has never saw her out of her booth, maybe she lived nearby. The German walked towards her, saving her from doing it “Mr. Beilschmidt, good evening! It’s been so long! I thought you had already left the city!”

“No, it wasn’t like that, I decided to find another way to college, since I no longer buy from the market”

“I see! Makes sense… look, Mr. Beilschmidt, I know it’s not my business to meddle in your private life, but…” the woman looked a little nervous and worried, even fretting a bit “Did Feliciano and you had a fight?”

That took Ludwig by surprise. All the feelings he was being able to finally overcome were starting to make their way to his head and chest once again. A fight? Why would she ask that? She perfectly knows Feliciano disappeared like nothing.

“No” he simply answered, feeling annoyed and slightly mad.

“Ah, I see…” she seemed thoughtful as her eyes looked down “then must be something else?” murmurs left her mouth while her hand traveled to her chin. That attracted Ludwig’s attention, did this woman know something?

“Why do you ask, ma’am?”

“Oh, it’s just that Feliciano has been looking a little decayed since weeks ago, maybe a month or so”

Ludwig was running.

Ludwig was running so hard his feet were already hurting. Of course they hurt; he was not wearing running shoes.

“Oh? What are you talking about?” the womanly voice resonated “Of course he is in Venezia!”

And still, he was running.

“You thought he left? Oh, son, didn’t I tell you?” the lady smiled “that you shouldn’t worry yourself, if he didn’t say anything to you…”

His throat was also hurting because of his heavy breath. He could feel the people staring at him, questioning themselves why such a big man was running like that in the middle of the city, mainly at that time of the day. But, strangely, Ludwig didn’t care about that much.

“It isn’t that big of a matter”

The German turned in a corner and there it was, the little plaza of the fountain with sparkling water in the middle, used by doves to happily bath themselves. Kids running in their game while shouting and laughing. The sunset almost finished, the sky was getting darker every minute and the hot fire orange was disappearing from it.

And just in front of the fountain was the artist of name Feliciano; Sitting on a little chair while painting on a big canvas, with a godet and a brush in his hands.

Ludwig was behind him, so the Italian didn’t notice when he started to walk towards him. His breathing was hasty and his body felt hot from running all the way from the Grand Canal to here. He felt like throwing up, but didn’t. Instead he called his name.

“Feliciano?”

It almost was unreal.

The flattered looked back at Ludwig and stared him for seconds, as if he was processing the new information.

“Ludwig?”

The voice of the artist traveled to Ludwig’s ears. It has been so long since last time he heard him, and not just imagined it inside of his head. Feliciano stood up immediately with a wide smile.

“Ludwig! Why are you here?” he had a spark in his eyes, Ludwig wondered if it’s been like that since forever “For a moment I thought you were gone! But I remembered you said you were going back to Germany until you finished the semester, so it was impossible for you to be gone, I mean, I know you, you’re really responsible and serious about college, unlike me heh, and so I just supposed…” the voice started as cheerful as ever but finished kind of melancholy, with his eyes now fixed on the floor “I just supposed you were mad at me”

Mad? Why would he be mad at him?

Oh, right.

“Why didn’t you appear that day? Why did you stand me up?” the German tried to stay calm, a lot of things were happening inside of his chest.

“Ve? What day?” he really looked confused, like he didn’t know what was Ludwig talking about.

It was infuriating.

“The next day we had dinner last time!” Ludwig was glad the kids were gone now that it was night. He didn’t want them to see him like this.

“Eh? Because we didn’t say so” Feliciano answered as it was obvious and laughed a little, unfazed by the German’s tone “I got busy the next day, so I didn’t say “see you tomorrow, Ludwig” as I always did, I thought it was clear, Ludwig, and the next day after that I was gonna say hi to you on the market street but you didn’t appear! And neither did you later at night in this fountain for dinner. And days passed and you still didn’t come, so I thought you were mad at me. Ludwig, are you mad at me?”

All this time.

All this time Feliciano never left Venezia.

All this time.

All this time was Ludwig’s fault for being a ridiculous, over-thinking, order-organization obsessed. Now he realized that he changed his path to college immediately, he stopped passing by the plaza at the same time, he didn’t give a chance for Feliciano to return, he just assumed the Italian was gone forever and decided by himself, Ludwig, to drown on it for months.

This was ridiculous.

All this was ridiculous.

The German covered his face with a hand and closed his eyes, feeling embarrassed at all this ridiculous behavior. His cheeks were pink and he felt a need to just disappear so no one could see this lousy show.

“No, Feliciano, I’m not mad at you” he was mad at himself, perhaps “it’s just that everything would be easier if you just said the important things”

“But, Ludwig, everything I say it’s important~~”

“I know, but canceling a dinner the night before it, it’s also very important” he opened his eyes and retired the hand from his face, even if he didn’t feel brave enough to see Feliciano face to face.

“Veee~~~ I’m really happy, Ludwig! I really thought you were mad at me for wasting your time~~”

That stung the student in the heart. He felt guilty, because actually he kind of thought that at the time, and was about to finish this entire dinner thing.

“No, Feliciano, you aren’t a waste of time” he declared with a soft and low voice, not sure if the Italian would be able to hear it.

That night, they had dinner together. Feliciano talked about all the paintings he did in the time they didn’t talked, and Ludwig told him about his touristic life. Both agreed to tell the other if something happened and couldn’t make it for dinner. The German, to his surprise, was more talkative than before.

When they finished eating; they walked to the little plaza. The Italian hugged the blond man and he hugged back. This time it didn’t feel as weird as before, until Feliciano whispered on the student’s ear, sending a shiver through his back.

“The stars look beautiful tonight, don’t they?”

Chapter Text

As soon as Feliciano knew that Ludwig was free from college for a week, he suggested a little trip to the mainland. A little vacation that wouldn’t need a lot of time – or money – so the German could rest completely and also learn more about the whole Venezia.

“Did you know Venezia is actually a whole province, Ludwig?”

The two men were walking towards the port; in Santa Croce, where they would take a boat to mainland Venezia, also known as Mestre. That part of the city was a horrible mess, because it was partially destroyed thanks to World War, nowadays the city council was rebuilding everything so the city could recover its beauty.

Ludwig’s luggage was way bigger than the artist’s, which was just a simple haversack, and that kind of worried the aforementioned. Why was Feliciano’s bag small? That stressed the German out. 

“Of course I know, Feliciano” he had researched everything that had to be known before moving to the city.

“Yeah, it’s obvious you know, you’re so smart, after all~~!” Ludwig felt kind of weird every time Feliciano flattered him.

“Anyway, why is your luggage so small?” he just had to know.

“I’ve learnt with time and experience that the smaller the bag, the better the trip!” he looked proud of this theory, sticking out his chest and smirking with confidence “a big bag would just be in the way of adventure~~!”

Ludwig chuckled a bit in silence. He was getting used to Feliciano’s free way of life, so contrary to him. It still bothered him, of course, sometimes “free” it’s too much freedom.

“Ve~~ sometimes I wish cars were allowed on Venezia, walking to everywhere is tiring and makes me sleepy”

“Don’t be lazy, walking is good for the heart”

“And so is love~~!” the Italian replied lifting his fist into the sky with even more confidence “but I don’t see you falling in love, Ludwig” that made the German blush.

“Of course not! Falling in love is more complicated, it’s just that you Italians like to love everything” he sounded mad and annoyed, but actually felt embarrassed. Feliciano just laughed.

“You are right about that! But love is so fun and brings joy to the heart” he looked directly to Ludwig’s eyes “don’t you agree?”

His blushing deepened. When he was about to respond, they arrived to the port and Feliciano’s attention went to the boats – Ludwig was very thankful for that –. Every two hours a boat traveled from the city of Venezia to Mestre, it was a really short travel; you could see the mainland from the city, actually. They bought tickets and boarded a big boat full of people of every size and age. The boat itself wasn’t that elegant or fancy – as said, it was a short travel – and it was used more like a bus or something similar. It was normal for people to travel every day to do their own stuff.

“And after we get on Mestre, where are we going?” Ludwig asked.

“I don’t know” was simply replied with a soft laugh.

The German stared at the Italian for a few seconds in complete silence, waiting for him to laugh. But he never did.

“What do you mean you don’t know?!” the blond man exploded “You said you were going to take care of everything! I thought you had a plan?!”

“Ve!! Don’t get mad at me, Ludwig!” the Italian yelled in somewhat like fear, grabbing his bag in front to protect himself from the German, even if it was obvious he wouldn’t actually hurt him.

“So we are going to mainland without any kind of plan?!” his looked at the sea “we are going without a plan? What kind of vacation is this? You can’t travel without a plan!”

Ludwig felt lost, he needed order and control on his life and this little man just didn’t fulfill his promise. Don’t worry yourself, Ludwig, as soon as you get on port again you’ll make a plan, you’ll make a whole week plan and everything will be alright, everything will be back in control and order in no time. Besides, the Italian must know Mestre, he’s Italian after all!. At the thought of control, the German calmed himself with a deep sigh and looked at Feliciano, he seemed back to his unfazed normal self.

 “Well, at least you know Mestre, right, Feliciano?” a smile of relief adorned his lips.

“I don’t”

“What do you mean you don’t know Mestre?!?!”

After half an hour, they finally disembark on the mainland port. Ludwig wasn’t mad anymore – he never really gets mad, actually – so they could walk in peace to the port office. Like the German guessed, in there was information about traveling to other places, hotels and restaurants. They decided to stay the day in Mestre and, maybe, go to other cities along the week.

“You know? Mestre before the war was just as beautiful as Venezia” exclaimed Feliciano when they were walking away from the port, looking for a taxi “wait, no, maybe Venezia is prettier? What do you think, Ludwig?”

“I don’t know, from photos it looked the same to me” and it did, maybe it was because he didn’t have an artist eye.

“Ve~~ the same? I don’t believe you, Ludwig” he giggled a little.

They finally got a taxi and gave the driver directions to the hotel. The college student had recently noticed that Feliciano says his name a lot, maybe every single sentence or so, it was weird and seemed a little unnecessary - they were the only two, after all -. But even so, Ludwig liked to hear his name from the Italian’s lips, as it was weird it was also comforting.

When the artist proposed this trip; the German felt kind of nervous, he thought it would be awkward for them to travel together after the ridiculous and embarrassing scene he did on the little plaza, along with the thing of not seeing each other for a whole month because of Ludwig’s tantrum – he admits it was a tantrum, never to the other man of course – but now he was glad he had complied to the Italian’s wish. He was glad it wasn’t awkward. Feliciano was the same as always, as if nothing had happened between them… in fact, he looked happier than before? Or maybe it was just the German’s imagination. Maybe.

The chosen hotel was kind of small on the outside, but inside felt cozy and nice – and at an affordable price for a college student and an artist -. The day was still blue in the sky for a few hours, so they decided to eat something out and then visit the city sights. Feliciano obviously had pasta while Ludwig chose meat for a change.

They were walking downtown, deciding where to go from there when Ludwig realized people sometimes stared at him while murmuring between them. He had noticed it since he first arrived to Italy, but he tried to ignore it. Italians were still wary of the World War and it was obvious he was a German, being blond and all. He thought it would be fine as long as he stayed on Venezia, the island, since it was a small place and the islanders sooner or later would get used to him, which was what happened. But now he was moving out of his safe zone and everybody in Mestre noticed it. Feliciano, on the other hand, seemed as happy and merry as always, but would never leave Ludwig’s side. Maybe the Italian realized the German’s hardship and he was trying to make it easier for him. Maybe.

“Oh, oh! Maybe we should go to—“ the Italian was interrupted by someone else on the street.

“Hey!” a man started to yell at them and wouldn’t stop until both Ludwig and Feliciano looked his way, a middle-aged man who was obviously drunk walked towards them, with a unstable step and a bottle on hand “the fuck is doing a fucking German in here?”

He was one of those.

“Sir, I don’t want any problem” Ludwig tried to say, but the man didn’t listen and continued to walk. People started to stop and stare at them.

“You little fuckers haven’t learnt your lesson??” he pointed at Ludwig’s face when he got near the both of them “you wanna go again? You aren’t happy with anything!” the hiccup was strong on his voice and the German could feel the alcohol on the man’s breath.

“Please get away, sir, you’re obviously drunk” he wanted so much for the people to stop watching them.

“I may be drunk, but at least I’m not a fucking Schleu, thinking I own the fucking place” he took a big gulp from the bottle, trying hard to not lose his stand “why don’t you go back to your damn shit country and leave good people alone?”

The locals’ stare was getting stronger, even making a big circle around them. Ludwig was losing his patience, but he also didn’t want to make a scene; it would make him look bad and probably ruin their vacation.

“Let’s just go, Feliciano” the blond said to his companion, who nodded in silence. When they turned away, the drunk man yelled at them.

“Yes! Escape like the coward you all Schleus are!” and finished throwing his bottle to Ludwig’s head, but thankfully Feliciano saw this and was able to pull him to save him from the hit.

“What is your problem?! Get away from us, you creep!” the Italian shouted to the man, he looked mad “the war is already over, old man! Get the news!” he grabbed Ludwig’s arm and pulled him away from there, running.

They ran and ran; until they got tired and didn’t recognize where they were anymore. It suddenly started to rain. Ludwig was mad, but not surprised at all; it was obvious he would encounter something like this, though he never suspected it’d be this soon. He looked at Feliciano, who was still breathing heavily; he was not used to run like that.

“… Thanks, Feliciano” he said in a soft voice. The Italian turned his head to see him.

“Eh? No problem, Ludwig” and he smiled “you’re my friend, and I don’t like my friends to be treated like that”

Both of them stared at each other for a few moments. A thunder in the dark cloudy sky made them realize they were getting wet.

“Ve~~ Ludwig, you hair is looking weird!” he pointed at the man’s head while loudly laughing “that’s because you wear tons of oil on it!”

“Well, you look ridiculous all wet” the blond wasn’t offended at all, he found it funny too, actually.

“But Ludwig, you’re also wet!”

They laughed at how ridiculous the situation was.

After finding their way to the hotel; they were on their room. The room itself was very simple because they would stay just for a night; two beds, and a little desk with a lamp. The Italian was sitting on a bed while scrubbing his hair dry with a towel, so was the German but standing up. They were in silence, so different from minutes ago.

“I’m sorry, Ludwig” the little artist said without looking at him.

“What for?” the flattered asked, turning to Feliciano.

“For what happened, it was a bad experience, and in the first day of our trip” he stopped drying his hair, and pulled down the towel to his lap, watching the floor “I’ve should know something like this would happen”

“Don’t worry, Feliciano, I knew this could happen and still decided to travel with you” the German said after staring at him for a moment “and honestly, I don’t blame him, the drunk man, the war just finished some few years ago, the wound is still fresh”

Ludwig sat down on the other bed and the silence continued.

“Why aren’t you mad or scared of me?” the student was seriously curious.

“Because I can see you are a good person, Ludwig” he answered without looking at him, but then turned his face to the German and smiled wide “besides, wars are a waste of time, aren’t they?”

The taller man had a surprised face that ceased when a soft smile appeared on his lips.

“Yes, they are”

Chapter Text

Green plains with tall trees adorning them were on sight, passing quickly by the window of the black train Ludwig and Feliciano were sitting. The latter was watching everything through the crystal, with his head leaned against his hand, he looked bored; maybe because Ludwig was busy reading a book from his classes. The little compartment had two beige seats and a single window, the door was closed and they were the only ones inside of it. Ludwig was sitting in front of the other.

“I can’t believe you, Ludwig” Feliciano sighed as he darted his eyes to see the student “studying while on vacation, ve~, so boring”

“Just because I’m on vacation it means I should forget responsibility, being persistent with habits is important to progress” he didn’t even moved his eyes away from the book.

“Yeah, yeah, I know” the Italian sounded like he actually didn’t know, making a pout “I guess it’s the same with painting, but you don’t see me painting on vacation”

“I think you should do it, in fact” the German finally rose his gaze towards the brunette “didn’t you bring a sketchbook or something?”

“Yes, I did” Feliciano smiled and turned his body to Ludwig, sitting correctly now, and he placed his hands between his legs leaning his upper body mildly “but I was expecting for us to talk a lot, I like talking to you, but you won’t stop reading that boring book”

“It’s not boring” he looked slightly offended “it’s a very interesting book”

“But there are no pretty pictures in it” Feliciano changed seats, now sitting besides Ludwig and peeked at the book. The German fretted a little. “So it’s boring” he concluded as he shrugged, like it was a matter of fact.

“Well, art sometimes is unnecessary for science” the blond turned his face away, so Feliciano wouldn’t see it.

“Ehhhh?! Now that’s offensive!” the artist grabbed Ludwig’s arm by the jacket and shook him “art it’s ALWAYS important! Your boring book would be like a hundred times better if it had beautiful pictures” he stopped shaking the other’s arm and crossed his own “besides, art and science can always go along, one on one, together, like friends, not one without the other, like—“

“I get it” the German interrupted with a nervous chuckle, before giving Feliciano a chance to start rambling. Whenever the Italian talked about art, he would meander a lot, even more than when doing so about anything else.

“Good! Maybe you should tell me what your book is about and I can draw pretty sketches for it, so it stops being boring” a smirk appeared on his face.

Ludwig just smiled at him. He was starting to feel more comfortable around Feliciano. The brunette took out his sketchbook and begun to draw on it, in silence. The taller man liked to watch him drawing, as it was interesting and kind of mesmerizing because the artist would concentrate so much, to the point where it seemed nothing else existed besides him. How the pencil traveled across the paper, marking it with soft lines and taking form slowly was something really awe-inspiring for Ludwig. Creating something so amazing with just a pencil and paper, just from taking an idea from the mind and make it happen. It was even more impressive for the German because he had null ability for the arts, he didn’t play any musical instrument, he can’t act nor sing, and absolutely can’t draw nor paint to save his life, so he really admired Feliciano for that. The little man made it look so easy, as if he had born being able to create art. Ludwig on the other hand was skilled to build things, like clocks and such, his hobby was to read manual books, actually.

“Do you think we are almost in San Donà di Piave? I’m getting tired of staying in a place for so long” Feliciano said suddenly, without stopping his drawing but making the blond to break his thoughts “also, I’m hungry”

“We took the train really early in the morning, we should arrive soon and before lunch, so we can eat something” Ludwig responded while closing his book and putting it down “what do you want to eat?” he knew what would the answer be without asking, but did anyways.

“Pasta, of course~~!”

In the morning, after waking up, they decided to go to San Donà di Piave. It’s a city that lies on the river Piave, it’s the third biggest city on the province of Venezia and it wasn’t that far away, so it wouldn’t take a lot of time to go there, and to come back when the time has come. Feliciano commented that San Donà di Piave was destroyed on World War, but it was recently finished reconstructing. That made the German feel bad. They would stay there for the rest of Ludwig’s free week and return to Venezia, the island, by then so the student wouldn’t miss any classes.

It has been an hour or so since Feliciano started to sketch and draw on his sketchbook, usually he would let Ludwig peek to see what he was doing, but this time the artist refused to, saying it was a surprise so he shouldn’t ruin it by peeking –Feliciano kind of repeats himself a lot-. All this mystery was killing the German of curiosity, but of course he would never admit that, so when the other man declared it finished he looked at him immediately to see what it was.

Surprisingly, it was a portrait of Ludwig. It was kind of simple because of the little time, but still very similar to the original. When the blond man saw his own eyes looking him back from the paper, he could feel the slight red color on his cheek emerge.

“Ve~~, what do you think, Ludwig? Do you like it? It’s rather simple but I still tried! But the train can move a lot and make my hand and pencil all shaky” he expressed while seeing the sketchbook, a worried smile was on his lips.

“No, no!” then Ludwig cleared his throat when realized he talked too high “it’s nice, I like it, thank you very much”

“I’m glad you like it! I’m gonna keep it during the trip, so it doesn’t get wrinkled between your stuff” he closed the sketchbook and then saw through the window “look, Ludwig! I can see houses!” he declared as pointed outside.

Little houses started to appear on the green plains in sight, they were entering the city, finally. After a few minutes, the train stopped on the station and both men picked up their stuff to get out from the vehicle. Once out, the search for a taxi started and finished rather quickly, as they got in it and gave the driver instructions to the hotel Ludwig had decided. The German noticed the mustached Italian motorist stared at him for a bit, but ceased when Ludwig began to talk Italian, maybe this city would be less problematic, or so he hoped.

The chosen hotel this time was a bit better and expensive, but Ludwig insisted on paying it all for both of them – he was sure he had more money than Feliciano, after all -. It was a building with two stories; it had a central garden with a small fountain in the middle. Their room had two beds with floral quilts, a circular table with four chairs, a big wide window with white curtains directed to the street, it even had a bathroom with a bath tub and Feliciano was so amazed because of that, “what a fancy hotel” he said in excitement. The wood floor was adorned with an also circular, and quite intricate, rug. The Italian man dropped his bag on the floor and jumped into the nearest bed.

“Vee~~! So soft!” he exclaimed as he grabbed a pillow and rolled on the furniture “and the beds are so big, Ludwig! And so comfy, so comfy I could fall asleep in this…” his eyes closed and almost immediately started to snore with drool falling from his mouth. The blond man was shocked at how easy was for the Italian to just sleep wherever he was. He walked towards the other and shook him by the shoulder.

“Feliciano! Wake up, we need to prepare the room” the sleeping man just mumbled something and turned his back to Ludwig, who let a sigh escape from his lungs. It was useless.

He decided to fix his stuff alone. Accommodate the clothes on the wardrobe, his personal hygiene equipment on the bathroom; hair brush and cologne close the full body mirror, his college books on a desk with a lamp. When finished, he looked at Feliciano who was still happily sleeping on the bed, and then at his bag on the floor as it was forgotten. Maybe he should fix the Italian’s stuff, probably wouldn’t be that much and he had free time anyway. After picking the sack, he opened it and took the things inside - which indeed wasn’t that much -, clothes, hygiene kit and finally the sketchbook with a pencil. It had black leather outside and the pages looked worn out, not surprise there though, Feliciano did bring that book everywhere he went. Ludwig gave a last glance to the Italian, still sound asleep, maybe… maybe he could peek a little on the drawings, it wouldn’t matter, right?. Ludwig sat on his own bed and opened the book on the first page. The sketches varied from one another, sometimes big and sometimes small, some were inked while others were just pencil and now-and-then a little color on a few, but every single one had a date.

As said, Ludwig has always thought that art was amazing, and more amazing was the people who could do it; so all this little scribbles, doodles and sketches were impressive for him, even the simple ones. Feliciano had said that his grandfather was the one who taught him, right? They traveled all over North Italy so the little Italian could learn a lot of styles and methods to make art, in order to represent the complex, and simple at the same time, beauty of the world. As he was thinking about this, Ludwig changed pages and found a sketch of him.

This looks different from the one at the train.

The German revised the date of this particular draw. It didn’t match with today’s date. In fact, it kind of matched the date when he discovered the booth from where he used to buy his red apple and plain bread closed, didn’t it?.

Ludwig blushed deeply.

It was also the day he had met Feliciano for the first time.

The blond man covered his mouth with a hand, not knowing what to do with the new information. Well, Feliciano had said that it was kind of weird to see a foreigner in Venezia, didn’t he? Maybe he was interested on the stranger who talked to him that morning, and that would be it, right?. Ludwig proceeded to change pages and, to his amazement, discovered more sketches of him – little and big ones - mixed with drawings of other things. Every single one had a different date, but the closer it was to today, the more detailed they got. It seemed the Italian was learning the blond’s features in accordance to how much time they had known each other. Ludwig remembered all those dinners at night; Feliciano looking and staring at him for long time, never breaking eye contact unless it was necessary. And, finally, the last sketch of him, the portrait made on the train; looking almost exactly like him, meaning that the artist had learnt everything there is of Ludwig’s face.

The flattered started to feel weird. He perceived his heartbeat inside of his chest going nuts in there, and that already familiar pressing presented itself again, hands shaky and a huge need to run away on his legs. What was he supposed to do with this? How was he supposed to look at Feliciano’s eyes again?

The German closed the sketchbook and put it inside the bag again, as if nothing has ever happened, and covered his face now with both hands. He was a horrible mess on this interpersonal and social stuff; he never knew how to react whenever things got a little too intimate. This is what he gets for snooping around in things that aren’t his business; but it’s just that he got so comfortable around Feliciano that he thought it would be okay.

Noise from the other side of the bedroom interrupted Ludwig from his thoughts, turning his head there to see an already awoken Italian stretching his arms while yawning, and then looking back at the German with a big smile.

“Ludwig, I’m ready to go eat”

Chapter Text

San Donà di Piave wasn’t that big in comparison with Venezia. Not even close. While Venezia had 220 000~ habitants, San Donà di Piave had only 15 000~. And still, it was the epicenter of really gruesome battles and invasion during the World War, maybe because it was in the middle of the route towards Venezia, who knows. War is an unfair gameplay, anyways.

But recently the city was finally finished reconstructing, and its beauty was once again visible. And yet, the habitants still had that downhearted air in their eyes, mainly when they spotted the blond German walking by their streets. Everybody stared for a few seconds, whispered between them and then went away; it seemed they wouldn’t do anything besides that. Maybe they were just tired of fighting. Or maybe they were busier stressing out for their own business; the German had heard in Venezia that Italy was starting a new wave of revolution. It was supposed to benefit the poor and the peasants of the country, but in the meantime, it meant more violence.

Back on his country; people were divided after the World War, between the conservatives and the pro-democracy, it wasn’t a pretty sight – being honest – and everybody was stressed and unsure of what would happen with this new type of government. For him, though, it seemed logical to let the people decide who would be their leader, based on their capacities and such, than just wait for the next emperor to rule without question.

But all of this, right at this moment, didn’t matter for the German. It didn’t matter because he was feeling too nervous and too stressed out; why, you ask? Because he was walking along side a certain artist who owned a certain sketchbook that had certain drawings of certain face; his face, to be clear. Ludwig didn’t know how to act, the awkwardness was invading his whole body and he knew he was over-thinking everything. The Italian was as merry as always, talking about San Donà di Piave’s history, ignorant of the other man’s conflictive feelings.

“Vee~ we need to find a restaurant, soon, or else I’m gonna die” Feliciano said with a smile while dramatically putting the back of his hand on his forehead “and of course I want pasta or pizza, what are you gonna ask for, Ludwig? I would recommend pasta or pizza, they are delicious, but you already know that, right? I mean, you’ve already eaten in Italy; I wonder if San Donà di Piave’s pizza is different from Venezia’s pizza...” he rambled while looking at the aforementioned; who cleared his throat before hand to prevent his voice cracking.

“Anything is fine, I’m not a picky eater”

“Well, that’s because Italy’s food is always delicious” again, talking like it’s a matter of fact “even the cheap one”

“Would... would you like to go to somewhere more expensive? I could pay for both of us” he didn’t look at the little man, afraid of his eyes.

“Ehhh? Are you sure?” even if he was asking that, the excitement on his voice was obvious.

“Yes, that’s why I asked”

“Vee~~! That would be amazing, Ludwig!” the blond could almost see stars surrounding the Italian, and a little bit of drool on his mouth.

Following his trusty tourist guidebook, Ludwig decided on a restaurant downtown of the city. Even from outside, it was obvious the place was more expensive than where they usually eat. It only had one floor, with a big arch and wood door to enter, this door was decorated very detailed – flowers, circles, grapes and such -, but before entering, a few metal tables were outside along with chairs, so if the diners wanted to enjoy the scenery of San Donà di Piave while eating they could. Big flower pots adorned the restaurant’s perimeter. Some people were already eating and didn’t notice when the two tourists sat on a table outside.

A waiter with a really refined look, wearing an elegant suit and all, approached them and said his greetings. He had white skin, black hair and dark eyes, he looked like he was on his twenties. He stared for a few moments at Ludwig; if he was disgusted, he faked it very well, because his face didn’t show anything.

“Would you like the menu?” the man finally asked as he offered the items to them.

“Yes, thank you” the German simply replied, deciding to ignore the sudden whispering everybody was doing around them, and grabbed the menu to open it.

“This is so expensive” Feliciano whispered to himself, but Ludwig accomplished to hear him.

“You can order whatever you want, Feliciano, I invited you” a faint tint of red crossed his cheeks as the Italian give him a wide smile.

After ordering and left alone, the artist started to talk relentlessly as he always do, but this time Ludwig had more difficult to follow the chit-chat, as he still had the sketchbook on his mind. He felt slightly guilty for peeping on it, he didn’t know why exactly, but he felt like that. Maybe he saw something he wasn’t supposed to see? Maybe Feliciano would get mad if he knew? Was it a secret? Well, he never did tell Ludwig about those drawings, so it was the logic way of thinking, he assumed. Suddenly he had this strange urge to run away again.

“… and anyways, how is it you have a lot of money, Ludwig?” the Italian asked and went silent, surprising the mentioned “I mean, I kind of guessed you had to have money to go to college, but now you’re paying for a nice hotel and a nice restaurant, so I was wondering if you were actually rich or a millionaire, Ludwig, are you actually stinky rich?? Wow! I have never have a rich friend, this is nice” the German made a sound with his throat.

“I guess you can call me that. My grandparent is owner of a big company in Germany, along with my older brother and I, we keep it floating even if the country isn’t in the best shape after the war, with hard work and discipline” Ludwig was proud of his work, you could tell by hearing his voice.

“That makes sense, but then why are you all the way in Italy? Instead of Germany with your family and company?”

“I wanted to make myself of something, I can’t only relay on the company success for a living” he crossed his arms, with eyes closed and a nod of the head. He could feel Feliciano staring at him. The Italian put his chin on a hand, still observing. Ludwig started to fret.

“And yet, you’re living in Italy, traveling and eating from the company’s money, aren’t you?” an out of character smirk appeared on his lips.

“… Well, yes” he felt… attacked? “I can’t help it, can I? I still need it, and it’s not like I just get it for free, I worked for it”

“I never said you didn’t, Ludwig” Feliciano straightened up on his seat “Ahhh~ must be nice, to have money so you can invite your friends to eat, and travel a lot, and buy pretty things”

“You once said you traveled all of North Italy along your grandparent, right? And you travel a lot today too, isn’t it?”

“Mmmm yeah, but it’s different” his eyes diverted to the sky “I do it because I have to, not because I wanted” he once again looked at Ludwig with a smile “you decided to study here, in Italy, because you wanted to, not because you had to, am I right?”

When the German was about to answer, the waiter arrived with their plates, closing the conversation because now Feliciano was too busy eating and yumming. He had never seen the other man talk like that, it usually was about everyday things, meaningless if you must, but suddenly this speech about money shocked Ludwig in a weird way. He tried so hard to not stare Feliciano too much, but it was getting harder and harder every second.

After eating; they retook their walking through downtown deciding where to go next. But all of the sudden, a strong rain started to pour everywhere, making them retreat to a close building to take refugee on a little tent outside of it. People were running, trying to wet themselves the less possible, while other people took out their umbrellas. The air got chilly and thunders could be hear. They were on an isolated part of the city, so the people around them soon disappeared, leaving them behind all alone.

“One can’t never guess when will it happen, right?” Ludwig observed while passing his hands on his hair, to prevent it from getting messy.

“We don’t have umbrellas, anyways” a soft chuckle finished the sentence, the Italian was hugging himself; he wasn’t that wet, but he also wasn’t wearing a jacket like Ludwig.

The German stared at the other for a while, still thinking on the sketchbook.

He should tell him.

“Feliciano, remember this morning you fell asleep on the bed?”

“Yes! Such comfy bed~ I’d rather be there than here all cold and wet”

“Well, when you were sleeping I decided to order your things on the room, and—“

“I noticed! Thank you for that, Ludwig”

“Yes, you are welcome. But the thing is—“ he hesitated for a second. What if Feliciano gets mad?

“The thing is?”

“… the thing is, I looked at your sketchbook”

The artist didn’t say anything, just kept looking at Ludwig in silence, with a face full of unrecognizable feelings, or so it seemed. The rain got stronger, to the point where all that could be hear was it falling down along with the occasional thunders. The German started to feel nervous because Feliciano still hadn’t said anything in what it felt hours but were actually seconds.

“Oh” the silence was finally broken by the little man, as he diverted his eyes from Ludwig “so you saw everything?”

“Yes, I did. And I want to apologize, because it wasn’t my place, but I just wanted to see—“

“That includes the drawings of your face, right?” what kind of question is that? Of course he had seen those.

“Correct”

“Oh”

And silence once again. With Feliciano still not looking at Ludwig, maybe he was actually mad? The German also turned his eyes to somewhere else.

“You know, Ludwig?” the brunette started and provoked the other to look his way “I’m not mad, if you are afraid of that” a shrug on his shoulders “well, kind of, a sketchbook is something very important for an artist, you see? My grandpa always said that it was a reflection of their soul, at first I didn’t understand what he meant by that, but as I grew up I finally got what he was trying to tell me”

The German simply looked at Feliciano, listening attentive to everything he had to say.

“When I’m happy, I draw, when I’m sad, I draw, when I’m bored, I draw, and so on” he sighed “it’s almost like a diary but without words, just emotions. Of course, not everyone gets that, for the majority it’s just a book with pretty pictures in it” he looked at Ludwig, sending him shivers on his skin “I’m not mad at you looking at it, I’m mad because you did it without asking”

They stared at each other in silence. Ludwig felt he was drowning on it.

“If you had asked, I would had shown you, but you took that power away from me and decided on your own, while I wasn’t aware of it” the Italian said as he looked other way again.

“… I’m… I’m sorry” was everything the blond could say.

“I know you are”

The little man turned his head to the sky, and was greeted by the darksome clouds of the storm, all while still being stared at by Ludwig.

“It’s been a while since last time we saw the stars, isn’t it?”

 

Chapter Text

When Feliciano asked to go back to the hotel; Ludwig complied without thinking because he felt too awkward already to even try to object. They slowly walked in silence all the way to the hotel once the rain calmed, but the grey clouds still persisted on the sky.

As Ludwig opened the room with the key, the Italian went to his bed to lay on it, with his face against the pillow. Not a single word was said.

The German took a clean change of pajamas and proceeded to enter de bathroom. The room was smaller than the bedroom, but still wide; with white mosaic on the floor and a classic green with yellow details wallpaper. There was a bathtub, a whole body mirror, a little furniture with towels, and obviously the toilet and the sink. He turned on the tub’s faucet, got undressed and in the tub. His skin welcomed the warm water in contrast of the cold feeling in his body, and he let out a sigh in the air.

He knew Feliciano would get mad, it was logic, but he never imagined it would be THIS mad. The usually happy go-merry Italian hadn’t say a word since their talk on downtown, and it seemed he wouldn’t any time soon. Ludwig understood exactly why the other was mad, if he were in the same position as Feliciano, someone peeping their stuff without permission, he also would be angry. And still, he couldn’t help feeling embarrassed at the same time.

The artist didn’t say anything about the portraits, it was like he was only mad at Ludwig for looking without permission. He even said so, didn’t he? That if the student had asked, he would comply happily; after all, Feliciano is an artist and he likes to show his hard work.

Ludwig sunk a little more on the tub, resting his head on its border. Another sigh escaped from his lips.

What was he supposed to do now? What if Feliciano decided to stop everything and went back to Venezia? What if Feliciano stays mad at him forever?

He covered his face with both hands, washing his face in the process with some water. The German let go an exasperated groan.

There he was again; over-thinking everything. Yes, Feliciano was mad, and yes maybe he would stay like that for a while, but it wasn’t eternal. He knows the Italian, he should know that he is a good-hearted man and eventually would forgive him.

He just hopes it’s soon.

When he got out of the bathroom – all clean and dressed – the room was dark and cold. It was already night and the lights were off. Feliciano was on the same position as before, maybe he fell asleep. Ludwig walked towards the desk and turned on the little lamp, slightly illuminating the bedroom. After noticing the open window, he decided to close it; not without looking at the sky before. It was still cloudy. It looked like a storm would start any time soon, and he was just glad they were staying on a more comfortable and safe hotel.

He gazed towards the sleeping Italian again. Maybe he should wake him up? He surely would get cold if he stays on that position and without proper bed clothes, but at the same time Ludwig was scared of him. He already knew that, he knows he is horrible with social issues. Talking about feelings, friendship, emotions… everything was a total mess for him, he just couldn’t do it. He could apologize – as he already did – because he can recognize whenever he did wrong; a simple “action-consequence” kind of thing. In Germany it worked like that, but maybe Italy was different? No, it wasn’t, it was Feliciano who is different.

He crossed the room and got near the other man, and shook him by the shoulder, softly calling his name in hopes of waking him up.

“Feliciano, you need to change clothes” but mumbling was everything he had for a response “Feliciano” he called and shook harder “it’s not right for you to sleep on those clothes, Feliciano”

“Yeah, all right” a half-sleepy voice resounded in the room, as the producer of it sat up on the bed; he started to remove his clothes, all in front of Ludwig.

“What are you doing?!” the German’s voice cracked without him intending to. A bright red appeared on his face also without him intending to.

“I always sleep naked”

“Sie machen?!“he blurted in his mother german tongue without realizing it, and so he didn’t know why he was asking such questions when the guilty person of such debauchery was clearly asleep.

But was it true? Yesterday at night, on Mestre, did Feliciano sleep naked? He doesn’t remember. What he remembers is that the Italian complained of how uncomfortable he was on his bed; maybe that was it? Maybe he was wearing clothes and that’s why he felt like that?

“Sie kann nicht schlafen nackt! You’re going to catch a cold!” but it was already too late, as for the little man was completely naked and sleeping again, as if nothing.

The blond decided to ignore it and went to his own bed, turning his back to Feliciano, so he won’t see him. Still muttering words in german, something about how hard he’s disapproving such acts.

This was so weird.

As expected, Ludwig couldn’t sleep in peace. His heartbeat prevented him from doing so. When he finally woke up, the clock on the wall read 10 a.m., much later than he is used to. Upon remembering where he was, he sat abruptly and looked to Feliciano’s bed, which was empty.

Maybe he decided to call if off and went back home in Venezia?

After wandering his eyes on the room, he was able to see his companion’s stuff, and he sighed in relief. But then, where did Feliciano go?. He got up and stretched his body. The air inside the room was chilly because of the storm, even with the window closed. Ludwig supposed it was because of the river being so close to the city.

When he finished washing himself and was getting ready in front of the bedroom’s mirror, the door was suddenly slammed open showing a really agitated but still smiling Feliciano.

“Ludwig! You finally are awake!” he ran towards the aforementioned and grabbed his hand “Hurry up! I just found something I want you to see!” he seemed really excited, pulling the German to the door.

What was happening? Yesterday he wouldn’t even direct a word to Ludwig, and now he’s even taking his hand and pulling him?! They needed to talk this through! A closure or something! Isn’t that how is made for social peace?! All of that didn’t matter to the Italian, apparently, because when the student realized what was happening they were already on the streets, running.

“Feliciano, wait! What are you—“

“This is so exciting! You’ll see!”

There was no way of making the Italian explain just what the hell was happening, so Ludwig just let himself go, following his lead. They continued to run across the city, streets, alleys… just how much has Feliciano doing all by himself in the morning?

When they finally stopped, they were in front of what it seems a really humble store, with a big window showing its inside. It was an art shop.

“Look, Ludwig, look!” the excited Italian pointed at the window, almost sticking his face on the crystal “you see that canvas? Can you see it?” the German positioned himself beside the artist, looking through the window.

There were a lot of paintings at sight, of different sizes, styles and colors, but at the back of the shop was what Feliciano was so excited, or so Ludwig supposed. It was a big old looking canvas of a green plain, full of flowers and a blue sky; it had a yellow tint, maybe to represent a sunny day on spring.

“Yes, what about it?”

“That’s my first canvas!” the little arm jumped a little with a thrill emotion “wow, I can’t believe is all the way here! When I first sold it, I was living on the Province of Grosseto!” if Ludwig remembered correctly, that province was on the Tuscany region, somewhere in the middle of Italy “I wonder how it ended up here, the stories it could tell!” Feliciano put his face against the glass again, with a sparkle on his eyes.

A few hours later, they were once again walking through the city’s downtown. The Italian was non-stop talking about the new discovery, trying to guess what could have happened for the canvas to travel all the way from Grosseto to Venezia.

“Maybe it was stolen from its family during the War! And the thief had to come to Venezia and they were short of cash so they sold it! No, maybe the family escaped from the War! But, now that I think about, it wouldn’t be a smart move to go to Venezia in the middle of War, would it? I don’t think so, Ludwig. Then MAYBE it’s in Venezia since BEFORE the War! Wow, so exciting!”

And he indeed projected all the excitement on his body, moving around. Ludwig was glad the little man was back to normal, with his happy attitude and joyful voice. He looked like the sun he is again.

“By the way, Ludwig, why did you wake up so late? That’s so un-you, it was strange, I woke up around 8 in the morning and was afraid you would be mad at me for not waking up earlier! You’re a little scary when you’re mad, did you know that? Are all Germans like this? Is your older brother like this? And your grandpa? Wow, a house full of Germans, that must be scary when they are pissed. But must be too a really clean house, actually”

“I couldn’t sleep well, I don’t know why” of course he knew why, but decided to lie about it “so I overslept”

“Couldn’t sleep well? That’s horrible! Almost as horrible as eating bad pasta” of course he would use that metaphor “I slept like a baby! Been a while, to be honest, I feel refreshed and brand-new!” he took a deep breath to show it.

“… do… do you always sleep naked?” he could feel his face turning red at the memory.

“Ah? Yes, I do” the German almost choked, so he stopped walking.

“But why?! And in Mestre you didn’t sleep like that! But last night you did and it was shocking and really inappropriate!!”

“In Mestre I didn’t do it ‘cause I supposed you would react just like this, I mean, you’re really tight on those kind of things. I noticed it when you went to the bathroom to change your clothes” his face showed he was clearly weirded out “even when we are both guys, and you weren’t even gonna undress completely. So I decided to sleep dressed, so you wouldn’t feel weird”

“Well, last night you did”

“I fell asleep so I wasn’t aware” a wide smile adorned his lips “but anyways, now that you know it, would you mind if I did from now on? In fact, you should try it, those beds are the best for a first time! The sheets are soft on your butt”

Ludwig was about to explode from embarrassment.

“Nein! You can do it if you want, aber Ich werde es nicht tun!“ the Italian laughed.

“Ludwig, I don’t speak German, but you sound funny!” the taller man covered his face with his hands, letting go an exasperated groan while the Italian kept laughing loudly.

“Is he talking in German?” a murmur reached the foreigner’s ears.

Two young women were whispering between them, while staring and surreptitiously pointing at him.

“Yeah, I think so, scary! And he’s yelling to that poor Italian man”

“Do you think we should do something?”

“No! Germans are savages, he could hurt us”

“Let’s just go away, then” and so they did, trying to act natural but still turned their heads towards the blond man, as if scared he would hurt them.

Ludwig and Feliciano stayed there, in silence, until the latter spoke.

“I’m sorry, Ludwig, I keep forgetting”

“It’s nothing, Feliciano, it’s normal for them to be scared”

“… you know, maybe we should call this whole trip out? I don’t want to expose you to all this hate and—“ he started while moving his fingers in a nervous way, looking at the floor.

“No” when he was cut off, the Italian turned his eyes towards Ludwig “I don’t want to stop the trip, I’m having a good time, with you. I like being with you” when the German realized what he just said, he once again covered his face but now with one hand “I mean, this whole trip, es ist schön, and I’m learning so much from it, and from you, your talking, Ich mag es, I like it when you talk about the places’ story and…”

He could feel his heart dying from the strong pumping it was doing, making all this noise inside his head; which seemed to prevent him from thinking straight and just shut up, so instead he kept talking and saying things he may regret later. Who would have guessed that now was the German who was rambling? And not only that, but in two languages.

“Thank you, Ludwig!” Feliciano yelled to win over the other’s voice, who finally kept quiet “I also like being with you, you are fun!” he had a shine in his eyes and… a soft tint of red on his cheeks? “so, let’s make this trip tons of fun for both of us!” he lifted his fist with determination.

“… yes, let’s do that”

Ludwig replied, finally removing his hand from his face and showing a small smile.

Chapter Text

Days passed until it was the night before parting back to Venezia. They decided to stay on San Donà di Piave because it was easier that way – Ludwig was thankful for that, he didn’t want to expose himself more than needed -.

As promised, Feliciano started to sleep naked with the condition of covering himself with the sheets. The idea of the naked man on the other bed, made Ludwig feel… weird, uncomfortable maybe? So he couldn’t sleep all that well that week. How to describe it? He felt his own body tickly? Like having this urge to scratch himself all over; and also a pressure on his chest, but that one wasn’t that new of a sensation. Also something else, like… nervous? His hands slightly shaking, but why would he feel like that? He just couldn’t understand what was going on. He never felt like this before.

Ludwig was on the bathtub, resting from walking all day around the city with the Italian. His head leaning over the tub’s border and his eyes closed. Tomorrow they would go back to Venezia. He wasn’t sure what to think or feel about it. He was having such a good time in this trip, he almost didn’t want it to end but alas they had to. They had to go back to their usual, normal lives once again, and continue until is all done.

The blond man opened his eyes and stared at the roof. It’s been a while since last time he heard from his grandfather or older brother, he should send them a letter to check on them, Gilbert – his older brother – sometimes can be pretty annoying. A soft knock in the door distracted him from his thoughts.

“Ludwig?” the Italian’s voice could be heard from the other side of the door “did you fall asleep? You’ve been in there for a while and—“ he suddenly stopped, leaving the German expectant. When he was about to answer, Feliciano forced open the door with a loud slam “Ludwig?! Did you drown?! Please don’t die!!”

“F-Feliciano?!” a bright red color appeared in his face “Get out!!”

But the young man ran to him and shook him by the shoulders.

“No, Ludwig, you can’t die!! I don’t want you to die!!” dramatic tears started to fall down from his closed eyes.

“I’m not dead!! Stopp! Feliciano, stop!!” he couldn’t push the over-reacting man because he had his hands occupied, covering his vital parts.

Back in the bedroom, the German was drying his hair with a towel. He was sitting on his bed while Feliciano was on the other. Ludwig kept muttering something about Feliciano having no shame.

“Ve… I’m sorry, Ludwig, it’s just that you had been in there for a long time, I thought you had drowned”

“I… I know, Feliciano, just promise to not do it again” the red on his face persisted and it seemed it wouldn’t go away any time soon.

“… You’re very muscley”

“Feliciano!”

“Sorry, Ludwig, but I couldn’t help but notice. I knew you had to do exercise, there’s no way you’re like that naturally” a soft grin was on his face.

“… Let’s not talk about this ever again” the Italian nodded and turned his head away from Ludwig, looking at the floor.

“Do you mind if I draw you like that?”

“EH?!” the German froze at the question.

“Not on live! But from memory. It’s just that your body is really artistic, aesthecally attractive, Ludwig, so can I? Can I draw you? I promise I won’t show to anyone, unless you want me to, that is. Do you want to see it when I finish?”

To be honest, Ludwig wasn’t listening Feliciano all that well, he was too immersed on his brain that was screaming something about running away. The Italian stood up and walked towards them, shaking his shoulder to wake him up from his thoughts.

“Maybe you should go to sleep, Ludwig, you have a weird face”

The German didn’t say anything; he just left the towel neatly folded on the desk, partly removed the bed’s sheet and he lay down, covering himself up with the sheets again.

“Good night, Ludwig” a giggle made its way on his voice.

Even after hours of trying to sleep, the college student just couldn’t do it. Even worst, he couldn’t even move because then he would be looking at Feliciano’s side of the bedroom and that would be bad because… well, because the Italian liked to sleep naked.

All the weird feelings inside of him intensified after the young man suddenly entered the bathroom, leaving him exposed to his sight. And what about that “can I draw you?” thing? It was too embarrassing! How come Feliciano can say that kind of things so easily?! Well, maybe it was because he’s an artist; he surely is used to see other people’s bodies and doesn’t think of them as anything more than art material.

Ludwig couldn’t help imagine himself posing for the Italian, and that same Italian watching him intently while making traces on his sketchbook. Watching every muscle on his body, every corner on it. How would the artist draw him? In the bathtub? Maybe standing up?. He could almost see the Italian making each stroke with a delicate movement, carefully, so they take the form of his body. How much detail would he make? How much time would he spend?. If Feliciano needed detail, Ludwig would have to pose, right? Of course, that’s impossible for him – he would actually die from embarrassment – but the sole idea of letting the other man watch him was… alluring?

“It’s just that your body is really artistic, aesthecally attractive, Ludwig”

Feliciano’s voice was clear and soft on his head, almost like a whisper on his ear that made him shudder, feeling a shiver going down on his back. Obviously it’s not the first time someone called him attractive, he knows he’s socially attractive. He’s tall, with fair skin, deep eyes and, of course, had muscle on his body.

But no one ever had called him artistic.

The people who called him attractive always seemed so superficial, even when flattering his intelligence. It felt like those persons could only see Ludwig on his skin.

But being called artistic.

It felt different.

Oh, so different.

He felt almost divine, he felt beyond any physical trait. He was compared with art. And for him, Ludwig, art was such a beautiful and amazing thing. Something created from nothing, something that could be reproduced but never the same. Each artist has their own style, their own form and method of doing art. And that was it makes it so special.

And, apparently, Ludwig was just as special and divine as art.

The thought once again sent shivers on his body. He suddenly realized it was hard to breath, he was not choking but felt like drowning. It was such a powerful feeling, so overwhelming, it filled his whole body with this pressing sensation that, for the first time, didn’t feel as oppressive and mind-wrecking as before.

It actually felt nice.

Really nice, in fact.

It felt so nice he didn’t mind the uneasiness of it. It felt so nice he didn’t care he don’t understanding it. It felt so nice he didn’t need to know from exactly where it came.

It felt so nice nothing else mattered in that instant.

“so can I? Can I draw you? I promise I won’t show to anyone”

Feliciano’s voice again. Inside of his head. Whispering in his ear. Ludwig could imagine his eyes fixed on him. Those sparkling brown eyes watching him. Would he make the same face as always when he’s painting? That determined and concentrated face of his when he’s doing art. Ludwig imagined the Italian looking at him with that face of his and a soft sigh escaped from his mouth, almost unnoticed, it was so soft and gentle.

What was all of this? He had never felt something like this before. Never in his life. But why? How could he miss out something so amazing and incredible until now?

Suddenly, he noted something.

Something inside his pants, pressing against the cloth.

Something that made him wake up from his bliss.

His brain started to scream again about running away. The red on his face deepened so hard it was almost painful. He immediately went to the bathroom – without looking at the sleeping Feliciano, not even once -, filled the tub with cold water and submerged on it, covering his head under the water.

This was so embarrassing.

Chapter Text

Ludwig felt a shake on his shoulder, waking him up from his slumber. He felt like he had have just an hour of sleep. After the cold bath last night, he tried to sleep again on his bed but couldn't achieved it, because his brain was running so fast with thoughts hard to comprehend because of it.

He opened his eyes on a lazy form and looked to his side, only to find Feliciano next to him. The Italian's face looked relieved or something like that. Ludwig immediately sat up on the bed.

"Feliciano! What's wrong?!" for some reason he was shouting, making the aforementioned take some steps back.

"Veee!! I’m sorry, Ludwig!! It's just that you wouldn't wake up, so I thought of shaking you!! Because we need to go the train station!!" the Italian covered his face with his arms.

"Ah... Right, sorry, Feliciano... I just got startled" he stood up slowly.

The brunette was already cleaned, and also packed his stuff, so Ludwig went directly to the bathroom to wash himself. Once in the tub, the German remembered last night's event and the red color came back to his face, burning like fire. He was so embarrassed, but glad no one was there to see that kind of... Thing. He knew erections happened when sexually aroused, he knows the basic of sex, he knows why it happens and why it should happen.

And yet

He had never, EVER, experienced it.

Not even once. For no one.

He just assumed some people don't experience sexual arouse and some other people do. He just assumed he was one of those who doesn't. So different from his older brother Gilbert, anyways, who was kind of worried for him because he had never have a lover - it didn't matter to his brother if they had a vagina or a penis or whatever -. It's just that the mere idea of doing that kind act didn't simply do anything to him.

Until yesterday, that is.

And why was it? Why it happened? The last thing he could remember before "it" happening was the nice sensation on his body at the thought of being observed by Feliciano.

He covered his face with both hands, splashing water on it. 

All this was so weird.

Hours later, the two men were at the train station buying their tickets. Ludwig decided to buy first class tickets for both of them, even at Feliciano's reclaiming. Once inside the train, they sat down on their private booth.

"Thanks again for buying me such an expensive ticket, Ludwig!" he had a wide smile and jumped a bit on the comfortable leather seat "like this, the trip back home will be a bliss"

"You are welcome, Feliciano" the German hadn't had the courage to see the artist to the eyes. It was so embarrassing, but he couldn't put his finger on why. He supposed it was because the Italian saw him naked at the tub.

"So, are you gonna give me permission to draw you naked?" 

Ludwig almost choked on his own spit.

"Still with that?" the red on his face was so strong he was surprised Feliciano hadn't said anything about it "anyways, it's not like I can do something against it. You already have drawn me without me knowing"

"That's true, but it's not the same, Ludwig, is it?" he closed his eyes, smiling "I mean, I'm talking about you naked, against just portraits of your face. Totally different"

The German stared at Feliciano for a few moments. It was almost like the Italian was imagining him, and that made him fret.

"No, it's not" he diverted his eyes to somewhere else, he didn't want to see the brunette much longer "but, it's all right, I guess, you can do it" his voice was a murmur, almost impossible to hear.

"Yay!! Thanks a lot, Ludwig, you are not gonna regret it, you'll see. It's gonna be great and I'll try to do it as detailed as I can, I have a good memory, so it'll be ok and..."

The new object of art was no longer listening to Feliciano's rambling. He couldn't do it because he felt so embarrassed he could die.

What did he just accept?

They finally arrived to Mestre and got out of the train. They had decided to go directly to Venezia, the island, and call it a day - Ludwig had to prepare his stuff for tomorrow's class -. At Venezia, they walked with calm, even slowly. The German felt like he didn't want it to end, but it had to happen. Life had to have order and organization, after all. 

And college was all about that.

Feliciano stopped walking and Ludwig realized they were at the little plaza with the fountain in the middle. For some reason, that place made him feel nostalgic.

"Do you want me to show progress of the drawing or not?" the brown-eyed man asked.

"I... I think I prefer to wait. Until you are finished.

"Ok! Then off I go, Ludwig. Hug!" 

The blond accepted the gesture. It felt nice on his chest and hands to have the other man on his arms. Feliciano did not smell like paint and turpentine, he smelled of sun and breeze, he smelled like the hotel's nice soap. So clean and yet so natural. Is that Feliciano humming? He is doing it again, a happy humming. When the German was about to break the hug, the artist lifted his head and kissed him on both cheeks. Ludwig was mute and now the red on his face definitely was painful.

"See you tomorrow, Ludwig. I had tons of fun with you this week. Oh! I almost forgot" he poked around his bad until he found his sketchbook, opened it and tear off the page were the last portrait of Ludwig was to give it to him “here, this is yours”

The Italian passed up his bag to his shoulder and ran away while waving a hand.

"Hey! Don't forget the stars tonight!"

The blond blushing man stayed there, in the little plaza with the fountain of sparkling water in middle, muted and without being able of moving until Feliciano couldn't be seen anymore.

His apartment smelled somewhat dusty, it wasn't that much of a surprise though, it had been a whole week of no one living there. And even so, the dusty and old smell didn't bother Ludwig's nose, it just made the nostalgic feeling even more intense. He left his luggage on the floor, opened it and started to organize it, he had to clean the place before anything else. The day was still young, so he had plenty of time.

He cleaned the furniture, the kitchen, swept and mopped the floor, washed the bathroom carefully, changed his bed’s sheet and everything. By the time he was finished, it was already blue dark in the sky. And he still couldn’t stop thinking about the kisses.

His face felt like burning, as if he had stay under the sun for a long period of time with no shadow to protect him. And even then, it wasn’t an unpleasant feeling. It was more like… is there a word to describe it? A sole word to conceptualize everything Ludwig was feeling in that moment. It was on his face, it was on his chest, it was on his gut, it was on his hands, it was everywhere and at the same time nowhere. He felt so out of himself, like he didn’t even belong to this world anymore, and he wasn’t sure he liked that sensation that much.

He sat down at the desk. He had decided to start writing the letter for his family at Germany, maybe that would distract him.

“Estimated Brother” he said while writing with a neat and clean calligraphy “My apologies for writing just now to you and our grandfather, but I was busy since last week” he looked at the piece of paper, should he write about the trip? “… because I decided to take a trip to a city called San Donà di Piave, in the same providence of Venezia, it’s a small city with a great sight and a tragic history; maybe you should investigate on that so you can talk about it with grandfather”

“How have you two been? Is everything all right with you? How is the company going? Are you giving grandfather a hard time? I hope you’re being a good grandson to him” he peeked at the sketch Feliciano had given him, which he had placed it flat on the desk “… I’m doing fine. Life in Venezia is calm and tranquil. College is excellent and I feel motivated to continue on to finish it” another peek “… also, I met someone in here. An artist. A great artist with a unique style. Maybe I should ask for a sample of art so you and grandfather can see just how great it is. I received a portrait, the detail is amazing, this artist is amazing”

“With no further commentary, I say my farewells. Treat grandfather with respect. Best regards, Ludwig”

Ludwig stretched his arms in the air and felt a chill breeze coming from somewhere. He looked at the window, it was still open so he got up and turned his eyes into the dark and infinite sky. So majestic, mysterious and gigantic sky.

“… P.S.: the stars’ on Italy are beautiful”

 

 

Chapter Text

Life in Venezia came back to normal. Ludwig continued to go to school, Feliciano continued to sell his art, and they continued to eat dinner together every night. They would talk about what they did on the day, or the Italian would talk about what art he was doing, or the blond man about his studies and sometimes about his company. But they would mainly talk about the trip and what part of it was their favorite; the German said his favorite part has been learning so much about the province of Venezia’s history, and being able to see different parts of the place.

“My favorite part was finding my first painting” the brunette commented while looking at his pasta, playing with it with his fork “it got me so excited, made me feel nostalgic and remember my grandpa”

“And how is your grandfather?” Ludwig asked, not sure if it was all right to do so, maybe the man was already dead.

“Oh, he’s doing fine” a relieved smile appeared on the German’s face “I mean, he’s old, and so he’s staying with my older brother, Lovino, at Rome. My brother doesn’t travel as much as I do, so it’s better if grandpa stays with him”

“Did your brother also travel with you and your grandfather?” he wanted to know more about Feliciano’s past.

“No, he didn’t” he looked at the German “grandpa always said that I had a special gift with art, so I should learn to use it. It seems Lovino didn’t born with it, so he stayed with our mom. And you know? Vee~ I’ve always thought that maybe he is kind of resented with me and grandpa about it, and maybe he is, but he’s also kind and worries about me when I don’t report to them in a long time. Maybe I should go soon to Rome, to see grandpa and Lovino” the Italian stared at Ludwig for a few moments “would you like to go with me, Ludwig?”

For some reason, that question felt different. So different from the first time the artist had asked him if he wanted to go traveling with him. Ludwig didn’t know why, but it felt… sorrow? Painful? Or something he couldn’t put his finger on it. It was weird.

“You know I can’t, Feliciano” he gazed down to his plate half full of food. Even if he wanted to go – and it’s not like he wants to go – he has to get back to his own family and company, he can’t waste time traveling around Italy. Once he finishes this semester at college, he’ll go back home.

But, for some reason, the idea didn’t appeal to him as much as before.

“Yeah” the Italian said with a soft voice and smile “I know you can’t”

An awkward silence invaded their table, so contrary to their surroundings where music, loud talking and laughs were the norm. What had just happened? Ludwig felt so awkward, he didn’t know what to do with himself, how to react and act in such situation. He damned his almost invalid social abilities. Did he screw up? Did he make Feliciano feel bad? But how? It’s true the Italian already knew that he, the German, can’t go to a trip to South Italy when he’s needed with his family. Surely he understood that.

Right?

And still, Ludwig felt weird.

“Ah, remember the portrait you gave to me when he arrived from the trip?” the blue-eyed asked suddenly.

“Mmm? Yeah, I remember, why?” a big smile was on his face again.

“I bought a frame for it, now it’s in my wall”

“Veee, really? That makes me so happy, I love it when people put my art on their houses” his eyes were sparkling.

“Yes, my walls were pretty much empty; I only use my apartment to sleep so I didn’t decorate it or anything”

“You once said that you live near the little plaza where we meet up, right? How far is it from there?” he placed his chin on both hands, looking at the other with persistence.

“Not much, a few streets, actually”

“Veee but that part of Venezia isn’t that fancy, Ludwig, why are you living there?” he had an honestly confused look in his face.

“As I said, I only use that place to sleep”

“Mmmm…” the Italian watched intently to the other’s blue eyes and then did a grin “I think it’s more about trying to prove yourself that you don’t need the company’s money”

The student gagged a bit when he heard that, feeling a piece of food getting stuck on the middle of his throat for a few seconds.

“Of course not!” he denied it, but his cheeks were pink in embarrassment, Feliciano just laughed.

“Of course not, Ludwig” the mentioned wasn’t that sure Feliciano actually believed him “so… care to show me your place?”

They interchanged looks in silence for a moment.

Did Ludwig heard right? The Italian asked him to show him his place? His apartment? His personal space on Venezia? But why? Was it really necessary for him to do so?

“But… but why do you want to go to my place?” the German asked with a soft voice.

“Because” the brunette stopped for seconds, but it felt like hours to the blond, and smiled wider with a spark on his eyes that the other man didn’t know how to translate “I’d love to know more about you, Ludwig”

Those eyes gazing at him so intently. Those eyes looking at him with no rest. Those eyes watching him thoroughly.

Those eyes that made his heart go faster and without control.

The German could feel that tingling sensation on his body and suddenly he noticed his breath, as if it was the first time he was breathing. His hands lightly shaking and his face burning. But this time the Italian was in front of him, so his brain warned - more like yelled at - him to not lose control over himself. And maybe to run away.

“Sure” was everything that escaped from Ludwig’s lips.

“Then it’s settled” Feliciano closed his eyes with a big smile “next week I’ll go to your house. We could even watch the stars from there”

Ludwig simply nodded.

It was a Monday, so the agreed date would be next Monday.

The blue-eyed man entered his dark place, turned on the lights and left his things over the desk. He leaned his hands against the chair’s back. He was sure the redness from his face had dispersed to his ears too, because he couldn’t hear anything besides his heart beating ridiculously fast. He turned his body so he could see the rest of the apartment, looking slowly from side to side. Ludwig could almost imagine the brunette’s body walking around the place, inspecting every single nook of it. He almost felt exposed.

His eyes met another pair of eyes, his own, on the portrait that the Italian gave him as a gift. It was hanging on the wall in front of his bed, so the first thing he sees when waking up is that. Since the trip – a week ago – his home felt different, he didn’t know how or why, all he knows is that it’s different now. Before it felt like an unknown place, a piece of land to just sleep and study when the college was closed, a small room with a bathroom, four walls to live in.

But now it was so different.

The German walked towards the framed portrait and analyzed it thoroughly. He could easily appreciate each pencil stroke and each use of the eraser, all this just to form an image of his face. All this through the artist’s eyes. He remembered their conversation on the train, when the Italian asked him if he could draw him without clothes. His hands started to lightly shake once again and he could feel his throat dry at the memory.

It would be a lie to say he wasn’t interested on how that drawing was going, but he would never ask. He would die of embarrassment before accepting publicly he wanted to know. All he could do for the moment was trying to imagine it. It has been a whole week, so maybe it was soon to be finished? Does the artist work on it full day? Only in his free time? He still has an art selling booth to sustain, after all. One thing was clear, it was certain Feliciano worked on it only at his home, Ludwig knew that much because he hadn’t seen the black leather sketchbook since the trip. He sometimes also wonders if the Italian continued to do little sketches of his face now and then all through the book’s pages.

The image of the artist doing his work was so real on his head. He had never seen the other man’s place, but he could imagine it smelled like paint and turpentine because Feliciano always smelled like that. It should be well lighted; he probably would have a lot of lamps or light bulbs around him when painting, right? But this was a sketch, so maybe a desk? The Italian sitting down with half his body over the sketchbook, making the lines with his skillful hand and pencil, a lamp over the paper and Ludwig was absolutely sure the artist would have that determined look on his face, because he always had that face when doing art.

A shiver traveled down his spine and he hugged himself. Those kind of trembling were starting to be something of every day since coming back to Venezia. But he was at home, it was a safe place, so he would let his body feel however it wanted with no restrictions. His breathing was getting heavy and slowly, even if the heart was running so fast he could almost feel like it was going to explode.

Without realizing it, he sat down on the bed, which creaked under his weight. And it was then that he noticed how his pants were getting tighter by the moment. It was the second time it happened to him on his entire life. He covered his face with both hands in embarrassment with himself while letting go a tired groan.

But this time it was different, right?

He peeked through the fingers of his hands, which were still on his face.

This time was different from before.

“I’m alone”

Ludwig’s voice sounded so unlike him, he didn’t even recognize it at first. It was soft and deep at the same time, it sounded like it was hard to even make words. He laid down on the bed, still with his feet on the floor, and stared at the roof. His heart was so loud he was sure if someone were on that same room as he, they would think he was having a heart attack.

Slowly and gradually his shaking hands traveled to his pants and unzipped them. He felt relieved at the less tension on it. The cold air he felt on his groin made him realize just how hot his body was without him knowing. Lastly, he pulled down the front part of his underwear and there it was, that weird thing doing weird things.

He has read about this, he knows tons of theoretic stuff about sex, erections and whatever. But he had never seen one on the flesh before himself.

He grasped his erection and a much stronger shiver went down, as well as a soft groan escaped from his lips. This was so weird.

And yet he couldn’t stop.

It felt so weird, to be touching himself. He didn’t know exactly what to do, either, because he had never done such a thing. But ultimately, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to go with it. He started to move his hand up and down, tightening his hand around his dick – did he really thought of that word? -.

His voice begun to fail him when it turned into something more like moan. Short and deep moaning sounded in the room.

“Your body is really artistic, Ludwig”

It was sudden, but he could perfectly hear the Italian’s voice deep in his head, so soft it almost felt like a whisper on his ear.

“it’s so aesthecally beautiful, Ludwig”

His hand started to move quicker and his moaning was even more erratic. His hips going with a slow rhythm along his hand.

“Can I draw you, Ludwig?”

The artist’s eyes appeared on his mind. Looking at him thoroughly, slowly, going up and down, looking every corner and nook of his body. The redness on his face, his moving hand with his moving hips, and his inconsistent breathing.

“Do you want to see it when I finish, Ludwig?”

He was almost there, he could feel it. He was almost going up.

“I’d love to know more about you, Ludwig”

And just like that, he found himself on this huge wave of pleasure, beginning from his middle part and expanding through his whole body. It was sudden and brief but so worth it.

His breath was still heavy but started to normalize enough for him to be able to open his eyes.

He was a mess.

Chapter Text

He hadn’t talked with Feliciano since a week ago. He was so embarrassed at what he had done that he decided to not speak to him –he of course told him that, not the “thing”, but the excuse of him being too busy to dine - until it was the Monday they agreed on the Italian visiting his house. It, coincidentally, was today.

Ludwig was walking towards the little plaza with the fountain of sparkling water in the middle. He still hadn’t gotten over the fact that he masturbated thinking of his dinner companion, and he wasn’t sure he would be able to do so. He was praying for him to be able to act normal in front of the artist. He was praying for Feliciano not looking at him with those determined eyes of his. He was praying for the night to go on without any mishap.

When he arrived to the plaza, Feliciano was already waiting for him. The expecting man smiled at him.

“Ludwig! Vee~ I’m so excited!” he expressed as soon as the mentioned got near him.

“And why is that?” he was so glad his voice sounded normal.

“Because I’ll visit your house, of course!” his eyes were sparkling with force.

“I see” his face turned red almost immediately and he noted his voice being soft and stuttering a bit “Well, where are we going tonight?”

“In fact, I was thinking of going to the first place we went when we started to dine, remember?”

“Yes, with this girl Abrielle, right?”

“Exactly! I met up with her the other day and she told me they had this new soup recipe that I should try” the Italian started to walk towards the restaurant, being followed by the German “Veee~ this is so exciting! I haven’t been excited since, well, since our trip together! I feel like a little kid on a candy store! This is so exciting, and we even get new soup! This night will be divine. Oh, by the way, Mrs. Carmelina sends you her greetings. You know who Mrs. Carmelina is, right? Is the old lady that is next to my booth, in the market street, she says it’s nice to see you everyday again walking through there. She says your presence brings joy to her eyes. I don’t really understand what she means by that, I guess it’s because your hair is blond? Did you know that the yellow color brings happy thoughts and a feeling of joy to people? I learnt that from my grandpa, the theory of color. Each color brings a different kind of emotion to people, so you can play with that to make them feel different things when seeing your art. It’s really interesting! I bet your boring books could learn a thing or two from art, they look old as the ocean and their colors are so boring and bring sorrow to my eyes…”

It has been a while since Feliciano had rambled like this. And the surprising part of it it’s that Ludwig doesn’t find these ramblings annoying anymore. Sure, Feliciano talks a lot, but it doesn’t feel like a waste of time to hear him. As the Italian once said: everything he says it’s important.

When they arrived at the already known restaurant and knocked, the same Abrielle opened the door for them. A big wide smile and sparkly eyes adorned her face when she met them, saying her greetings, hugging tightly and kissing Feliciano.

“I’m so glad you two decided to come! You won’t regret it, this new soup is so delicious you will pass out!” she affirmed while walking them to an empty table.

The restaurant was as lively and loud as always. Lots of people eating, drinking, talking and laughing loudly, some were even singing.

“Here we are!” the woman announced when they got to their table “next to the window, as asked!” Ludwig let go a confused look on his face; asked?. It was the same table they sat the first time they dined. They both sat down.

“Well, I’m guessing you both will have the new soup, right?” Abrielle continued to talk “but I’m afraid, my dear…” she patted the German’s shoulder.

“Ludwig Beilschmidt” he replied.

“Ludwig! That this soup wouldn’t go with beer, I must suggest a fine glass of wine this time” she moved her hands around so much, she looked like dancing. The German was used to this of course, Feliciano himself also moves his hands a lot. Ludwig just guesses it’s an Italian thing.

“It’s all right” he said with a smile.

“Hey, has anyone told you that you have a great Italian?” the waitress said with a grin, placing her hands in her hips. That made Ludwig stutter.

“A great Italian?” his eyes diverted for a second to Feliciano.

“Yeah! You’re obviously a foreigner and still speak pretty good Italian! Good for you, Ludwig” she jokingly hit him on his shoulder “ok, gentlemen, I’ll bring your wine in a second” she did a dramatic bow and then went away, the artist was laughing.

“Abrielle always makes me laugh, she’s so beautiful and nice and pretty and fun”

“Yes, she is” he confirmed “no question the restaurant’s success it’s partly because of her”

“That and the delicious food! That’s why a lot of people come here” he threw his arms in the air “this place feels like home away from home, it’s so lively and it smells so nice”

As promised, Abrielle came back with their wine but to Ludwig’s surprise, she had brought the wine bottle and the two empty glasses.

“Here you have” the smile on her face made her look even prettier. She placed the glasses on the table and then served the wine “Ludwig, do you know how to drink wine?”

“Yes, I do. I guess” was this a trick question?

“Well, lucky for you, Feliciano here is an expert on drinking wine” she placed her hand on the Italian’s shoulder “he’s a connoisseur, that’s French for expert, on the subject. So you’re on really good hands” she then walked away.

“So… a connoisseur?” the German seemed amused and the Italian laughed.

“She may be exaggerating a little, but yes!” he took his glass of wine and lifted it “I’ve traveled a lot in my life, so I’ve learnt a few things on wine, what a good wine is and how to drink it. But, Ludwig, you’re stinky rich so I’m pretty sure you know a lot more of it than I do” the blond also picked his glass.

“In Germany the wine isn’t that popular. We Germans prefer beer over wine. The country doesn’t even produce that much of it”

“How weird, even more when you’re so close to France! Anyways, want me to teach you?”

“Sure” a soft smile was on his face.

“Ok, drinking wine has its science, you can’t just drink it and that’s it. The first step it’s to see it” Feliciano lifted the glass to his eyes height and moved it around a bit, making the wine to circle on it “c’mon, you do it along with me, just a small moving”

Ludwig complied. He moved his glass a little in front of his eyes.

“No, no, slowly, do it slowly. Let the wine breath, think of it as a living thing” the Italian corrected “and now, smell it, do it slowly”

The blond did so, he smelled the red liquid slowly. He could feel the sweetness of the wine in his nose, and it traveled all the way to his brain. It was a nice feeling, you could almost taste the wine in your mouth without even drinking it; in fact, this just made him thirsty, he just realized his mouth is actually a little dry.

“And finally drink it, a delicate sip, not a gulp, let it rest in your mouth for a few seconds and let it wrap you upon the feeling” Feliciano drank from his glass and so did Ludwig, perceiving the smell once again when it was close to his face.

He could feel the wine filling his mouth with sweetness and a faint tint of alcohol. His mouth was no longer dry, his lips recovered their moisture, and his throat felt so relieved. He looked at the artist, who had his eyes closed, as if he was touching a private heaven.

“And finally, the aftertaste. Do you feel it, Ludwig?”

Actually, he did. It was a sensation of wanting to continue drinking for the nice experience. His mouth was still tingly on the sweet taste of the elegant liquid.

“Not everyone gets it the first time” Feliciano placed his glass on the table “but you did pretty well, Ludwig, now you know how to drink wine!” he clapped loudly “wasn’t it nice?!”

“Yes, it was” he also placed his glass on the table.

“Maybe one day you’ll teach me how to drink beer, won’t you, Ludwig?” he leaned his chin against his hands, over the table.

“Beer drinking doesn’t have as much science as wine, though. It’s the serving and how strong it is what matters”

“I bet I would get drunk really fast with your German beer, Ludwig” he laughed.

“As wine is the preferred drinking here on Italy, in Germany it is beer”

“Oh! I’ve heard something about it, you even have a festival, right? Is it… octriback fest?” Ludwig chuckled.

“No, it’s Oktoberfest. The first time it was celebrated was on October 12, on 1810; because King Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The celebration was so big it lasted a week or so. Later on it was celebrated each year, even with horse races in honor of the Crown” the German looked so eager to talk about his country’s history.

“And what about the war? Did this Oktoberfest happen during the war?”

“… no, it didn’t” he replied after a moment of silence “it couldn’t be held, obviously, and last year it was only celebrated an Autumn Fest. I think this year will be the same”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, anyways, you’re here in Italy!”

“And here is your food, guys!” Abrielle appeared out of nowhere, carrying a tray with two bowls “Hot from the pot! Mmmm, delicious!” and it really smelled very good. She placed the bowls in front of each man and left the spoons “Ok, now let me explain what this soup have. It has chicken, pasta vermicelli, milk and corn. And of course, a lot of love from my mama” she laughed.

“It smells delicious, Abrielle! Thank you so much” Feliciano said with a big smile.

“I’ll let you eat then, bon appétit!” and then she went away.

The soup felt good going down of their throat, it was a warm and calming feeling that covered their whole bodies. It tasted and smelled so good. You could smell every spice used to make it this good, the chicken was tender and the broth lefts a creamy aftertaste in your mouth.

When finished, they paid up and exited the place. They then walked towards the little plaza with the fountain of sparkling water in the middle. The night was over them, the air chilly and a complete silence in the streets, only broken by their steps and Feliciano’s continue talking and rambling about how delicious the soup was. Just what they needed to feel warm tonight on the chilly street of Venezia.

When Ludwig realized it, they were already on the little plaza, with the Italian standing in front of him with a big smile, his hands on his back and an almost magical spark on his eyes.

“Which way is your home?”

Ludwig almost passed out.

Chapter Text

The simple act of introducing the keys into the keyhole on the door was just so unnerving. Heart beating so fast it felt like exploding. Face so red it felt like burning. Knees so shakey they could fall at any second.

Ludwig was so nervous he felt out of this world, even out of his own body. He was opening the door to his apartment with the Italian just behind him, whom continued to talk as if nothing especial was happening, as if Ludwig wasn't about to open his little world to him.

"Well, it actually is pretty near to the little plaza!" Feliciano said looking around the neighbourhood with a smile "It's amazing how I hadn't asked you about this before!"

"I don't know where you live, though" the German thought for himself.

He finally opened the door and entered his place, making space so the artist could do the same. He looked around the moment he got inside. Ludwig closed the door behind him and stared for a moment the other man. It was just as he had imagined.

Feliciano walking around the place, watching every corner, with his hands behind his back, slow and long steps like he was doing a slow dance alone. But he stopped and kept looking at something on the wall, the blond man turned his head the same direction the other was seeing and discovered the framed sketch.

"Veee~~ it makes me so happy!" the author of the drawing said, walking towards it "what a fancy frame for such a simple sketch, tho" he laughed as he always does "but thanks for keeping it" the Italian finished smiling to the taller man, whom walked to the desk.

"Thanks to you for giving it to me" was said as he left his bag over the furniture and the jacket over the chair.

“By the way, I finished the other sketch I was doing of you, you remember? The one where you’re naked”

The German almost chocked, of course he remembers. He has been thinking about the whole time, actually.

“Really? How does it look?”

“Do you wanna see it?” of course he wanted to see.

“I guess, I mean, it’s me after all”

“Then I’ll show next week” Feliciano decided doing a little twirl on his place.

Next week? Why until next week? What was he waiting for? If the sketch is ALREADY finished, why didn’t he bring it up TODAY?

"Your house is pretty small" Feliciano said while looking around again "you weren't joking when said you only used it to sleep, it's kind of the same size than my apartment" Ludwig's ears perked up.

"Where do you live?" he was so eager to know, even though he didn't quite understand why.

"Oh, I live at the contrary direction" he fixated his eyes on the window "maybe you can see the zone from here" he went and opened the window.

The cool wind and the crickets' song invaded the small room immediately. Ludwig was more far away, behind Feliciano, and for some reason the latter looked almost magical in that window. Almost as if the moonlight was reflecting on the artist's body. 

"Look! You can see it!" the german's thinking was interrumpted by the other man's talking "Not my house, but the zone"

Ludwig went to the window and peeked through it.

"There" Feliciano pointed with his finger "it's a little far from here, tho"

"Yes, it is"

Now it was silence what invaded the place. Surprisingly, it wasn't an uncomfortable silence, nor awkward; on the contrary, the German felt pretty good with himself, he wasn't that nervous anymore.

"Do you remember, Ludwig? What I told you about the stars?" the mentioned looked at the man who talked, he was still staring outside the window.

"To watch them? Yes, I do"

"Yes, but besides that" the german noticed the Italian's hand lightly thightening over the window's frame "I told you something else about the stars, didn't I?"

"That they are beautiful in Italy"

"Yes, but something else"

"Ah, yes, something about watching them with someone"

"That's right, someone special. Didn't I say that?" Feliciano turned his head slowly and looked at him into his blue eyes. Ludwig's heart started to ran away again.

He was nervous again.

"Do you have someone special, Ludwig?" 

He was so nervous.

"I... I already told you" he looked away so the Italian couldn't see his red face "I don't have time for that" the little man chuckled a bit.

"Yeah, I know that" he looked up to the sky "then, Ludwig" the flattered turned his eyes again towards him "would you like to watch the stars with me?"

Ludwig stared at Feliciano for a time that seemed eternal but was actually a few seconds. The moonlight touching the artist's skin and the cool wind lightly moving his hair. The German could see the stars on the other's eyes. He felt his heart was about to explode.

"Sure" he simply said and looked up to see them.

The stars didn't shine as he was used to, they even looked boring.

Because he wanted to see them on the Italian's eyes.

It was all clear now.

He was in love with Feliciano.

"They are beautiful, aren't they, Ludwig?" the brunette finally talked with a soft voice.

"Sure"

He felt so out of this world and so out of his body again. Since when was he in love with this man? And why? They were so different in everything.

"The best stars are here in Italy, Ludwig"

"Sure"

Ludwig is analytic while the Italian is an artist. The German was so cold while the other was a warm sun. He felt so heavy and yet so light, was that even possible?

"Thanks for watching the stars with me, Ludwig"

"Sure"

He didn't know what to do with himself. Should he run away? Should he stay? What was he supposed to do now?

"I should go home"

"Sure"

Wait, what?

"I mean" Ludwig continued to talk and took a few steps back from the window "you can stay longer, if you want"

He felt dizzy but he also felt happy. Is this how love is supposed to feel like? He doesn’t know because he hadn’t love anyone like this before.

"Don't you have school tomorrow?" 

"Yes, but it’s ok" he passed his hand through his hair, not looking at Feliciano.

"Really? I don't want to make you waste time"

"Nein, du bist nicht meine Zeit verschweden, I mean, you aren't wasting my time. So bleiben länger, stay longer, if you want"

He felt like throwing up. He was sure Feliciano could see the redness from his face right now, it was futile to try and hide it.

Feliciano stared at him for a second and then walked towards him, looking at him so persistently with those brown and expert eyes, and just stopped when he was in front of the German.

"Do you want me to stay the night, Ludwig?" 

The question was made slowly, as if he wanted the student to re-evaluate what he was asking. Ludwig couldn't think straight anymore, because of the embarrassment, because of the nervousness, because of his heart just wouldn't shut up on his head.

"Yes"

After a moment of silence, the Italian smiled widely.

“Then I’ll stay”

The stars on the Italian’s eyes were beautiful and shimmering.

 

Chapter Text

“You know? This place could really use some plants, it looks gloomy. And maybe some more art on the wall, I would recommend… mmmh… lake scenery, that way the room would look more spacious. I’m pretty sure about that. And I would add a table with chairs on the kitchen, I mean, you have a kitchen but not where to eat? How strange is that? But well, I guess you eat at the desk? No, wait, you only use this place to sleep, I forgot. But then maybe flower pots on the counter, or why don’t you just sell the kitchen furniture? I guess it doesn’t matter since you’re rich and you really don’t need the money, though…”

Feliciano was sitting on the bed, looking all around the apartment from there, moving his hands accordingly. Ludwig, on the other hand, was sitting on the little couch. Looking intensely at the rambling Italian.

What the hell had he just agreed to?

He said the artist could stay the night, but he answered without thinking, even though the latter asked him in a slowly way. He just blurted the answer he thought should be said. Or did he? There’s a saying for that, isn’t it? “I talked before thinking”, maybe this was a perfect example of it. But, being honest, Ludwig always thought that saying was ridiculous because who in their right mind would talk before thinking? Apparently him.

It’s not like he doesn’t like being with the brunette – quite the contrary, actually, with his new recently found love for him – but it’s that maybe this is going too fast? It was so sudden and weird. The German covered his face with both his hands. Seeing Feliciano sitting on the bed reminded him of “that certain event” some time ago.

“Wow, it’s so late!” the younger man said suddenly, pointing at the wall clock that read 11:00 p.m. “you should go to sleep, Ludwig, you have school tomorrow”

“Yes, you’re right” he so hoped the Italian hadn’t notice his voice being too fast.

And that’s when it hit him.

Where the hell would Feliciano sleep?

He felt his mind exploding. This was ridiculous. This is why order and organization is so important! If he had planned all of this he would have prepared something for this! But it was so sudden and out of nowhere that this was turning into a total mess even before it started and—

“Ludwig, do you have an extra pair of pajamas you can lend me? I mean, of course you have – you’re rich – but clean ones?” the man was standing on the floor, with his hands on his waist.

“I thought you liked to sleep naked”

“I do! But it would be rude to sleep naked with you, right?” he grinned and Ludwig could swear his heart just stopped.

“Ah, yes, natürlich” he murmured as he got up and went to the dresser, pulling off some clean pajamas “they will be too large for you, though”

“It’s all right!” he took the clothes “Isn’t this exciting? Just like a sleep-over! Or the trip! Man, I miss going to places with you”

“Sie können Kleidung wech—I mean, you can change clothes on the bathroom” he pointed at the door without looking.

“You sound funny talking German, Ludwig” he laughed “maybe you should teach me some day, I would like to know what you’re saying sometimes”

“Some people say it’s a difficult language, more so for Hispanic speaking people”

“I still would like to learn, Ludwig”

“Then yes, I could taught you” Feliciano smiled and then went to the bathroom.

It was pretty much clear that they would sleep together in the same bed, it was obvious being that the bed was big enough for two people. And he doesn’t have the heart to let the Italian sleep on the floor or the small couch. So he pulled over the bed’s quilt and sheets, and unbuttoned his shirt to take it off, just leaving on his interior shirt. The bathroom door suddenly opened.

“You were right, Ludwig! You clothes are so big for me!” a loud laugh made its way through Feliciano’s voice, but was interrupted when the author of the noise stared at Ludwig “Ve~! You’re more muscular than what I remember” he smiled, looking at the German’s arm “at what time do you even train? I thought you spent the whole day in college” he got closer to the other and touched his arms, even poking at them a little.

Feliciano was touching him.

“Wow! Hard as a rock, it’s really impressive” he squeezed the bicep.

Feliciano was touching him.

“This takes years of training, right? Since when are you training?” he now was massaging the shoulders.

Feliciano was touching him.

“Ludwig, are you all right?” he was in front of the German “Oh, you don’t like being touched? I’m sorry, I’m just so used to touching” he laughed while scratching his head “being an artist and all”

Feliciano touched him.

“So, are you getting dressed or you decided to try sleeping naked?”

“Natürlich nicht! I mean—no!” he grabbed his own clothes and locked himself on the bathroom.

This was going to be harder than he thought.

When he got out of the restroom, Feliciano was staring through the window again.

“You have a great view from here, Ludwig” he said when the bathroom’s door opened “it’s amazing just how something so simple can be so beautiful at the same time, right? I mean, the stars, they are just little white dots on the sky and somehow they manage to look mesmerizing” he chuckled “they’ve been the muse for tons of poets and artists, and even for scientists” he looked towards the blond “aren’t they amazing, Ludwig?”

Ludwig stared at the Italian for a few seconds, waiting for his heart to stop making so much noise inside of him to be able to speak.

“Yes, amazing”

“Let’s go to sleep, Ludwig, we both have stuff to do tomorrow” he walked towards him with arms open.

The blond knew what was coming so he opened his arms too, receiving the little man between them in a hug. The known smell of turpentine and paint invaded his nose and he wondered how he smelled for the artist.

“Ludwig” the brunette called still not breaking the hug.

“Yes, Feliciano?” he felt himself being tightened by the other.

“Thanks for being my friend”

Friend? The word left him without breath for a few seconds. He hadn’t really thought about what his relationship with this man was, it just kind of happened.

“Yes” was everything he could manage to say, with a soft voice.

“And thanks for inviting me over, I’m having lots of fun”

“Yes”

He felt himself being grabbed by the head, and kissed on both cheeks, before the Italian pulled back himself off the hug; leaving a cold feeling on him.

Going to sleep was really strange. The German had thought that Feliciano would say something about they sleeping together, but he didn’t, he just got on the bed besides the other man, said good night and closed his eyes. It all went so smooth it almost seemed unreal.

To his surprise he didn’t have trouble sleeping, in fact, he slept so well he had trouble waking up. And when he did so, Feliciano was already up and changed, and…

What was that smell?

“Good morning, Ludwig!” he placed some bags over the kitchen counter “Look, I bought us some breakfast! I had thought that I would cook us something but your fridge is empty! It isn’t even on, Ludwig, you should have at least some food in it” he noticed the German staring at him “C’mon, Ludwig! If you don’t hurry, you’re gonna be late!”

The blond got up, showered fast and then came back to the kitchen, where the Italian was waiting for him, leaning against the counter.

“I just guessed what you would want, so I bought club sandwich for both of us, do you have coffee?” the student moved his head on a negative “not even coffee?! Wow, you really live at college, don’t you?” he offered Ludwig his food “here, eat”

“Yes, thanks” and he complied.

All of this was so surreal.

They ate standing – Feliciano took the opportunity to complain about the place not having a proper table and chairs, again – and when finished they left the apartment. They walked towards the little plaza and the Italian kept talking about everything and nothing at the same time. He talked about how fun last night was, about how lazy he was feeling to open his selling booth, about how the delicious the breakfast have been, and about how everything was just so amazing.

“Would you like to go to my house tonight?” the Italian asked when they arrived at the little plaza “I can prepare something for dinner! It would be a nice change, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sure”

“Ok, then, we’ll meet here tonight!” he hugged the German, but this time there was no kiss “Bye bye!”

Feliciano went his way running and waving his hand. Ludwig just stared at him go away and when felt he was all alone in that little plaza with the fountain of sparkling water in middle, he smiled.

He let go a sigh and smiled.

He truly loved Feliciano.

Chapter Text

The library was immerse in an almost deadly silence, only interrupted by the light sounds of pens scribbling and pages turning. A few college students were there, studying and doing their homework, all of them concentrated and determined on giving their best this semester so they can make their families proud.

Ludwig, on the other hand, wasn’t able to concentrate.

He was reading and writing, of course, but he discovered himself reading the same line more than once. But, strangely, this situation didn’t anger him. He was pretty happy, actually, even smiling a little.

He was in love.

And he liked being in love.

It felt really great, he didn’t understand why poets and writers always described it as something so beautiful and yet so awful. There were no awful parts on this sentiment, only happy parts. He felt like everything was all right, he felt like everything was lighter, the sun was brighter, the wind was cleaner, the flowers were more colorful, everything was amazing and he knew it was because he fell in love.

Ludwig also liked thinking about the Italian. Feliciano talking, Feliciano painting, Feliciano dancing, Feliciano laughing, even Feliciano rambling about meaningless things. The time seemed to stop just so the brunette could exist on this dimension, because he, Ludwig, was sure that Feliciano couldn’t be part of this world without being some kind of divine creature.

Of course he knew he may be exaggerating because of love, but he didn’t care either.

Also, he was excited of going to the artist’s house that night – not that he would admit it, of course – and Feliciano had said he would cook! He wondered how well the other could cook, the German assumed it should be ok, even delicious, he was Italian after all. Feliciano himself said that all the food in Italia was better, and Ludwig believed him.

Maybe he could even convince him of showing him the sketch, it was finished anyways, why the waiting?

“Eh? You’re in love with her?” Ludwig heard a girly voice somewhere close to him, he could see two persons sat on the neighbor table from the corner of his eye. It was a woman and a man.

Huh, it seems the German wasn’t the only one.

“Shhh, shut up!” the man answered in a whisper.

“Well, and what are you gonna do about it?” the girl insisted.

“I’m not gonna do anything! It would be a complete disaster”

Doing anything? What were they talking about?

“You have to tell her, of course! Don’t be a coward”

“But what if she hates me?”

“Then—“ they were interrupted by the librarian, remembering that this was a place of silence and study, not some gossip market. They both got up and walked out of the building.

Tell her how he feels? Why would he do that? Was that a necessity?

Wait a moment.

Of course it’s a necessity.

Ludwig grabbed his head by the temples. Of course it’s a necessity! He should tell Feliciano about his love! Should he? But how? When? And why?

His face was turning red by the second. He imagined himself declaring his love to the Italian and he could die of embarrassment right at that very moment. He even felt like barfing! His hands shaking and his heart pumping blood as if there was no tomorrow and—is that a headache?

Now he understood the awful part of love.

Should Ludwig ask for an answer from the Italian? Should he give him flowers? In Germany that was a must, but what about Italia? Do they give flowers? Do they give candy? Maybe he should ask someone… but who?! If Gilbert were here, he could ask him. No. Better not. It would be a disaster.

He looked at the clock, that marked 6:45 p.m., and at the window that showed a hot orange sky. He should get going. After packing his things on his trusty bag, he continued his way to the little plaza where they always met.

This was so weird, just a few moments ago he was feeling ecstatic about life, everything was amazing and so colorful, but now he was feeling so nervous and awful. He was going to meet Feliciano! He had to get his head together or he would make a ridiculous scene – there was a limit for everything, and he had enough of being ridiculous in front of the Italian. When he arrived at the fountain, he smiled at the sight of the brunette, who was sitting on the border of the fountain.

“Ludwig!” he waved his arms in the air, as if the German needed help to see him.

“Hello, Feliciano” he greeted once he was close enough.

“Hey, I was thinking, now that I slept at your place last night, maybe you should sleep on mine tonight!” a wide smile showed his clear excitement at the idea. But Ludwig thought otherwise.

One thing was having the artist sleeping on HIS apartment, but another thing was HE sleeping on the other’s place.

“I don’t have the necessary things with me” that excuse should suffice, right?

“Oh, but we could easily go to your place, I mean, it’s really close from here” he pointed behind him, in the direction of the apartment.

“Well, yes, I mean, I would like to, but—“

“I mean, it’s ok if you don’t want, just dinner and that’s it, right?” deception was clear on his eyes.

“No, it’s all right” he sighed “I’ll stay”

The Italian’s face brightened up with a smile.

“Then let’s go!” Feliciano said as he started to walk towards Ludwig’s place.

After picking the necessary stuff for a sleep-over, they went the way back to the little plaza and from there to the artist’s place. The little man was obviously excited; he kept talking and talking, even more than usual. The German, on the other hand, felt like a bundle of knotted nerves. He hadn’t felt like this since… since… well, right now he can’t remember, but a long time ago, that’s for sure. He almost wanted to cancel the whole thing, this was too much for him to handle, he could imagine his brain turning into a puddle of nothing.

“I already planned what we are gonna eat, Ludwig” the Italian said suddenly.

“Is that so?” he tried to sound the most normal way possible.

“Yes! You’re gonna love it, it’s really simple but also really delicious” he kissed his fingers, like Italians tend to do.

How did Feliciano seem so calm all the time? He never looked nervous, and even when he was angry at him – when taking his sketchbook without permission – he looked pretty calm. Actually, Ludwig started to think that maybe he was more emotional than the artist. The other man was more balanced, the only thing is that physically he looks like some goofball and good-for-nothing guy. The blond knew that his image was more collected and for the majority of his life he thought so of himself, but upon meeting the brunette he discovered a whole new range of emotions.

And he was thankful for that.

After walking a while, they finally arrived to Feliciano’s neighborhood – coincidentally it was closer to Ludwig’s college than the mentioned’s house – it was a building of two stories, it was similar to a hotel. When entering the edifice, a lot of people greeted the brunette with a smile but stared for seconds at the German – to be expected, honestly. The Italian’s room was on the first floor.

“Wow, I’m getting a little nervous” the little man admitted while inserting the keys into the keyhole “Were you nervous last night?”

“No” of course he was lying, and of course he wouldn’t admit that the nerves were wrecking his mind right at this moment.

“You’re always so collected, Ludwig, I envy you” he chuckled and opened the door, letting the other enter “Welcome to my house, gentleman”

As he got inside the room, his nose was invaded by the faint smell of paint and turpentine. It was actually really different from what he had imagined. The place was clean and organized; it was a little smaller than his own apartment. Simple furniture, even simpler kitchen, a simple table with a chair, and no windows so the apartment had a dark look. But the thing that attracted his attention more than anything was a small corner of the place that wasn’t as clean as the other.

Apparently it was where the artist painted inside the room. It had a few unfinished canvas, watercolors, oil paint, a set of brushes inside a glass with dark water, an easel with a painting that looked pretty much finished, and various bottles of dubious contents. There was no order in that corner of the room.

But it still mesmerized Ludwig.

Anything about art is mesmerizing.

“Man, I tried to get rid of the smell, but it’s pretty much impossible with no windows” he laughed while turning on some more lamps “that and I spent most of the time painting”

“It’s fine” he had to bite his tongue to prevent himself of saying that Feliciano always smelled like that, anyways, “it’s pretty clean”

“I bet you imagined a whole mess”

“Not really” of course he did imagine a whole mess.

“No, no, don’t worry, a lot of people tend to think that, that we artists are somewhat dirty and messy and such. Between you and me, I blame Leonardo Da Vinci and Rafaello” he chuckled “of course, keeping the painting corner clean is nearly impossible. Oh! You can leave your things on the bed”

Ludwig looked at the bed, it was smaller than his but two people could sleep there, if somewhat crammed.

“And sorry to tell you this just now, but I don’t have a shower in my room, the building has a common bathroom that we all share” the Italian said while taking out ingredients for the dinner.

“It’s fine, I can get back to my place when waking up” he left his bag on the bed and then walked to the tiny kitchen “is there anything I can do?”

“Of course not! You’re my guest, just sit over there and I’ll do everything” he moved a hand shooing him.

Instead of sitting anywhere, he went to the painting studio to look at the unfinished canvas on the easel. It was scenery of a lake in the middle of a forest.

“You specialize on nature scenery, don’t you?” he mentioned to the Italian.

“Mmm? Yeah, it’s easier than people. Trees are the same everywhere, water is the same everywhere, but people aren’t. And they can be pretty picky when having a portrait, I can’t even begin to tell you all the complains I’ve got whenever I tried painting people” he was chopping some vegetables “and, not to brag, but I’m pretty good at painting anything, it’s just that people tend to think they look different than what they really look like”

“So, in the portrait you gave me” he turned around and saw at the cooker’s back “that’s how I really look?”

“Exactly!” he lifted the knife in the air, in a victory manner “that’s how you look for the world around you”

Ludwig was a little confused, for him that portrait was an almost perfect copy of him – confirming Feliciano’s bragging – so he didn’t really understand the difference about the real him and the drawing. But that’s why he isn’t an artist, after all. He returned his eyes to the painting corner, it had a small table that served as a place to put all the brushes and paints, but then something else caught his eye.

The sketchbook.

The German looked at Feliciano for a second to verify if he was still busy, and he was. Maybe he could see it? The sketch of him, he wanted to see it. But if the artist discovered him watching the little book without permission again, it would be trouble. Ludwig passed his fingers by the black leather in the cover; it was cold at the touch. Maybe he should just ask.

The place started to have a really nice smell, like vegetables being cooked with olive oil, spices and some kind of fish, all together made a delicious feast of scents to the nose.

Ludwig decided to back off from the sketchbook for time being and turned again to see the whole room. No wonder the Italian preferred to paint in the little plaza, this place was too cramped and dark – no windows, for God’s sake! – and this may be the reason why he insists so much on going out for dinner. The place is kind of depressing, being honest. The German used to think his apartment was simple, but he didn’t know other rooms like this existed. Feliciano should stay on a better place, like him, a better place like his.

A better place with him.

He blushed like hell at his own thinking, surprised at himself, and covered his face with a hand. That thought was so sudden it took him unprepared. But either way, it was not a bad idea, in theory, besides he could imagine it and nothing wrong with that, right? Just playing a bit with the idea of them living together. He could get the couch removed so Feliciano could have a place to paint, buy a table and a pair of chairs so they can eat there, would the Italian always cook? Ludwig could cook too, though, even if he isn’t that good of a cook – he’s more of a pastry kind of guy, but that’s a secret – and every day, after dinner, they would watch the stars from the window and later sleep on the bed. Would there be two beds? No, there isn’t enough space for a second bed, so the one that he already has should suffice.

It’s not like he wants to sleep with Feliciano every night.

Obviously it’s not that.

“It’s done!” the brunette announced with a singing voice “come sit, Ludwig, I’ll serve you” the guest sat down on the chair by the table “here, not to brag, but I’m an excellent cook, so you’ll love it” Feliciano placed a dish in front of Ludwig.

It had bell peppers of various colors, onion, corn and fish, all of it cooked with olive oil, seasoned with pepper, salt and other things Ludwig couldn’t recognize. It smelled delicious.

“C’mon, start eating so you tell me how yummy it is” the Italian had brought the stool he sits on when painting and sat down in front of the blond.

“It is good” he replied after eating some.

“Told you so!” Feliciano’s face seemed to shimmer; he reflected so much joy and happiness it was hard to believe it.

But Ludwig was sure he was exaggerating because of being in love with him.

They continued to eat and talk – more like Feliciano kept talking even while eating -. The Italian would talk about his other trips all around North Italy, what cities have been his favorites, what cities had the best foods, the most beautiful women – following his words, every single city in Italy had the most beautiful women -, the best music, the best architecture, the best people, the best wine, everything.

“And are you liking it here? In Venezia?” Ludwig asked, he just wanted to hear the Italian talking.

“Of course! Venezia is just so perfect! The buildings, the Grand Canal, the ocean, the gondoles, the food, the people, the women” he stared at the other for a moment with a smile “it’s just the perfect place to fall in love, isn’t it, Ludwig?” the aforementioned almost choked on his food.

“Ja, I mean, yes, wenn Sie für die Suche—if you want that, then I guess it’s ok” he covered his mouth with a hand and his eyes diverted anywhere else, to not see the Italian “wenn Sie sich verlieben wollen—if you want to fall in love, that is, it’s ok” Feliciano laughed loudly.

“You always look so funny when talking German! It’s kind of weird, you suddenly talking German in the middle of the Italian”

“Scientific studies have concluded that bilingual brains work different from monolingual brains” he so wanted the subject to change.

“Ohh! I see! Does it benefit you for something or what?” he looked interested, thanks heaven.

From that moment, the German used that subject to distract himself and Feliciano from the theme of love – which was kind of hard with an Italian -, he would talk about science, studies from Germany, what he had learnt at college in there and the differences between a German college and an Italian college.

“By the way, Ludwig, when are you returning to Germany?” Feliciano asked without looking at him, playing with the leftovers of food in the plate with his fork.

“Ah, the semester ends on two months” that sentence left a sour taste on his mouth.

“Wow, so quick” still not looking at him “it seems like yesterday that you asked what I would sell on my booth”

“Yes… time does pass quick” the blond stared down at his plate, feeling uncomfortable “but, anyways, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m here, right at this moment, in Italia” he tried to enliven the atmosphere.

“That’s right” he finally looked at the German, smiling “you’re here”

“So, Feliciano…” he started with a murmur “would you… would you mind if I see your sketchbook?” he pointed briefly in the direction of the book.

“Mm? Ah” he turned his face, looking at the sketchbook in the distance “Mmm, I don’t know, I have your naked sketch in there and I told you I would show you next week, didn’t I?” he grinned at Ludwig “unless… you want to see it right now? Is that why you’re asking?”

“Of course not! Ich war einfach—I was just curious of what other drawings you had” he could swear if he looked at a mirror right now, the red in his face would be shining.

“Mmmm” the artist looked at the student suspiciously, still smirking “are you sure?”

“Yes! Nothing more!” all this lies were making his head spin, or was it the embarrassment?

“I have a better idea” the Italian said suddenly “How about I draw you right now?”

Ludwig just stared at him.

He so wanted to be drawn by Feliciano.

But he also knew that that was a bad idea.

Because he remembered the “little incident” he had at his bed when imagining this precise moment.

It would be worse if it actually happened.

“I… I don’t know, it’s kind of late” he was stuttering and separated himself from the table “and we need to get to sleep and…”

“It’ll be nothing! I can sketch pretty fast, don’t worry, Ludwig, it’ll be something simple” he stood up and went for the sketchbook, picking it up and then pointing at the bed “c’mon, get in the bed, I’ll sketch you there”

His heart must have stopped because Ludwig couldn’t feel anything else except for the knot in his throat, the shakiness in his knees, the sweat in his palms and the burning sensation in his face.

He was so fucked up.

Chapter Text

The room was getting hotter and hotter; the candles were slowly consuming themselves, letting the wax go down on them until it reached the floor, the table, the counter, every surface they were on. The air in the place was getting harder and harder to breath. The silence in the room was overwhelming, it seemed so perpetual, something that was there to stay forever, but actually was interrupted by the remote sounds that the pencil made against the paper.

Ludwig was sitting on Feliciano’s bed, he had removed his jacket, and was moving his eyes everywhere, at any corner of the apartment, he looked at anywhere except to the artist’s brown eyes. He knew if he did look into those eyes, everything would go to shit. The artist was sitting in front of him, he had pulled the dining chair, and was sketching on a larger sketchbook with what looked a more fancy type of paper sheets.

“You know, Ludwig?” Feliciano started suddenly “I like drawing you, I mean, you obviously know that” he shrugged “that time you peeked at my black sketchbook, it was full of little sketches of you, am I right?” Ludwig just nodded, feeling his cheeks burn “but I can’t help it”

He stared at the German and got up, walking towards him and taking his chin, forcing Ludwig to look at him, directly at his brown eyes.

“It’s just that you’re so artistic”

The Italian said on a soft voice with a smile on his lips. Ludwig by that moment was praying to God to let him not lose control over himself, he was pretty sure he didn’t want to make a ridiculous and humiliating scene in front of Feliciano, so he closed his eyes. The brunette slowly moved Ludwig’s head from side to side, watching every feature on it and continued talking.

“Remember that time you told me you had no interested on a girlfriend, Ludwig?” the questioned simply nodded “can I ask you why?”

The artistic piece was afraid to talk, what if his voice cracked or sounded raspy like that time? He gulped and cleared his throat before attempting to open his mouth.

“I… don’t have time” he replied, slowly. Was Feliciano caressing his cheek with his thumb?

“Makes sense, yes” he stopped moving the other’s head, but his hand stayed in the same place “Ludwig”

The voice calling his name sounded almost like a command, so he opened his eyes.

“Yes?” was everything he could manage to respond at that moment.

“Then why are you here?” his face was serious and yet his eyes reflected expectance.

The blond’s heart was about to explode.

He wanted so bad that the artist would stop watching him like that, but at the same time he wanted so bad that the artist would never ever stop watching him with those determined and concentrated eyes of his.

He had to control his breath before responding.

“You are not a waste of time”

They stared at each other eyes without worrying about how long or about time. Nothing else existed right at that moment. Ludwig clenched his fists over his knees, he could feel himself trembling under the Italian’s touch on his chin. Feliciano chuckled.

“I’m glad” he removed his hand and went to sit in front of the German again “I almost finish, so stay there for a little more”

The student could feel his lungs breathing with more ease.

After a few minutes, Feliciano declared the sketch finished and sat beside the muse to show it to him. Ludwig took the piece of paper and was met with his own eyes staring at him, the sketch looked flustered, nervous and almost like fretting.

“You were so nervous” the author said with a laugh “well, it’s the first time you get to pose, right? It’s normal” once again he got up and stretched his arms “well! Time to sleep, Ludwig, tomorrow we have stuff to do”

“Yes” the guest said, still staring at his own eyes.

As said, the bed was a little smaller than his own, so their bodies were closer to the other. The German was glad they were finally sleeping, because he was sure he was at his limit, but now he could rest in peace until next morning.

The next day, both of them got up early but didn’t have breakfast together, because the guest had to go to his own house in order to get a quick shower. And, after hugging and kissing in the cheek goodbye, he went to the apartment that had his name.

In the way his brain decided to replay everything that had happened last night. He had fun being on the artist’s private place and getting to know him better, but at the same time he had a hard time on controlling himself to not fuck things up. If this continued like this, he wouldn’t be able to be around Feliciano anymore, not without worrying about making an embarrassment of himself in front of him.

He had to run to his apartment at the thought of touching himself in front of the artist.

Ludwig opened his door with the key and found an envelope on the floor, a letter, the postman surely let it there through the cranny for mail. He picked it up and read the address, it was from Gilbert, his older brother. With a smile on his face, he placed the letter on the desk to read it later because right now the shower was a priority.

Once under the warm water, he let the imagination win over him, remembering last night atmosphere and the Italian artist’s eyes and voice.

The shower took longer than usually does but he felt refreshed and ready to start the new day with a positive attitude. The German grabbed the letter, opened it and started to read the kind of messy handwriting letter.

West:

Gilbert calls him that because Ludwig had born in the west part of Germany, contrary to him who had born on the east part.

Finally you decided to remember your awesome older brother! I’m so surprised you decided to simple stop writing letters to me! What’s up with that?! Anyways, the old man and I are fine. You know him, he is so proud he could be burning and wouldn’t complain about it, good thing he’s also awesome (not like me, of course) and can’t get sick or anything. By the way, he said he also wanted to write you a letter, so I’m putting it inside the same envelope, don’t forget to read it!

Ludwig could almost hear his older brother’s annoying and loud voice but still smiled, it was good to hear from them. As established by the letter, there was another piece of paper neatly folded on the envelope, which was with immaculate handwriting, he recognized it as his grandfather’s.

Ludwig:

I’m glad you’re having a good time in Italy, it makes me proud to see how far you have gone and how much you’re learning from this experience. It’s been a while since last time I visited Italy, it would be nice to go some time later.

I don’t know what your brother has written to you on his letter, but I’m guessing he just blurted words out—

The blue-eyed German laughed softly, their grandfather knows them too well.

-truth is, Ludwig, that the company isn’t going so well.

His eyes stopped for a few seconds on that sentence.

It seems the country’s economic crisis has finally hit us, grandson, and for this I may have to close a big part of it. Isn’t it ironic? Having to fire a lot of people so other people can maintain their work. Sometimes life is so sickly ironic.

Ludwig had sit down in the bed at this moment, still reading.

What I’m trying to say with all this is that I’m afraid we can no longer sustain your stay on Italy.

A hand traveled through his hair.

Not because we can no longer pay for it, Ludwig, but because we need you here. I’m sure that together, as a family, we can overcome this crisis.

I’m so sorry for asking something so selfish, because I know how much you wanted this opportunity, but there are times when we must renounce from our wishes for a greater goal.

I hope you understand and come back to us quickly.

Regards, Your Grandfather.

 Ludwig couldn't believe what his eyes just read. The company was entering a crisis and his family needed his help to get over it. Of course he understood the importance of this, and he is absolutely sure his grandfather wouldn't ask for something so drastic if things weren't getting serious back at home.

Of course he'll go back to Germany, the sooner the better.

A sting on his heart made him realize the weight of his decision.

The blond looked at the framed sketch hanging on the wall, directly into its eyes and felt how his own went dry in a second. He has to leave Italia to go back to Germany, he knows that, but that also meant he would leave Feliciano behind.

The almost forgotten pressure on his chest made its presence again, it has been a while since last time he felt it. And he didn't miss it one bit.

To be honest, the German didn't want to leave the Italian behind, not because he falling in love with him, but because Feliciano was the first honest friend he had done, and he doesn't want to lose that.

He got up and started to walk all over the apartment, reading again and again the letter to see if there was some kind of loophole or inside joke he had missed, but alas the neat handwriting from his grandfather's own words were as clear as crystal, so perfect and logical and full of truth and honesty; all those characteristics he admired so much from this old man.

But right now, Ludwig wished for something else, he wanted to stay on Italia, on Venezia, with Feliciano; for at least the time he had left of the semester. His going was way too sudden and his heart didn't have enough time to process it, even if his brain was yelling something about "doing the right thing for the family".

He stopped walking in the middle of the room and looked at the wall clock.

7:50 a.m.

Ludwig decided to stop going to college.

He would leave on a week.

 

Chapter Text

The sun was shining bright on the blue sky and not a single cloud could be seen on the horizon, the wind was calm and had a refreshing feeling to the skin, relieving from the kind of warm weather. The blue ocean tranquil, its waves rocking slowly as if it didn’t want to make that much noise, as if it wanted to be peaceful. The people were walking here and there, doing their business and fulfilling their duties of the day, some were calm and others not so much, but surely all of them knew that at the end of the day, what matters it’s that they gave their best.

Ludwig Beilschmidt, on the other hand, wasn’t that serene. On the contrary, his mind was full of confusing thoughts about doing the right thing but not wanting to do it, while his heart was yelling something about how painful everything was being. But the German knew all that was ridiculous – hearts can’t yell, for example – and he was convinced that he would do what was correct to do. He would go back to Germany and be with his family, he was sure of that, the problem was that he didn’t know how to bring up the subject to Feliciano.

It was kind of ridiculous - the blond would admit that much - it’s not like they were on a formal relationship or something, they were just friends and friends sometimes get apart. In fact, Ludwig was going to go back to Germany anyways! The day just got sooner than expected, that’s all.

He remembered last night dinner at the artist’s apartment, they had talked about this very moment at it. Ludwig was the first to accept he wasn’t that good at being social, but he was positive that Feliciano’s face in that instant was of sadness. Maybe the brunette was also sad and afraid of the idea of the student going away?

The blue-eyed blushed at his own thinking and shook his head. He was at his apartment, sitting on the desk and revising some papers of his home, he had to find a new owner for it before going.

It was expected that Feliciano would feel sad about a friend going somewhere else, with the possibility of never seeing each other ever again, but Ludwig had to be realistic about it. Feliciano thought of him as a friend, that’s it, and the blond was grateful for it.

His brain now made him remember about the couple at the library, with their talking about being in love and confessing. Was confessing something he had to do before parting ways? What benefit could that bring to his life? He would probably never see the Italian again, so why did it matter to tell him? He imagined his life back at Germany.

He supposed it would be kind of the same as before, working at the company, eating with Gilbert and his grandfather, reading manuals, a normal everyday life. He would miss Italia, the bright sun, the warm weather, the radiant people, the salty air, the delicious food, and, of course, he would miss Feliciano the most. The sting on his heart appeared again. It would be hard to readapt to Germany’s way of life again.

Or so he thought.

Ludwig removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes, then looked at the clock wall. 2 o’clock. He knew the market closes around that time.

Maybe he should go and see Feliciano, to give him the news.

Minutes later, the German was walking through the busy street. It was so noisy and loud, so full of people doing their last minute shopping, other people packing away their stuff, all of them busy and without paying attention to the blond man passing. Mrs. Carmelina – the old lady from the booth next to Feliciano – was the first to see him getting closer.

“Good evening, Mr. Beilschmidt!” she greeted with a smile.

“Good evening, Mrs. Carmelina”

“Huh? Ludwig, what are you doing here?” Feliciano asked when noticed the man in there. Leaning over the counter “didn’t you have class?”

“Yes, uhm” he cleared his throat, he had forgot to make up an excuse to go there “I just wanted to make sure we would dine tonight” Feliciano showed a confused face, but still smiled.

“Of course, Ludwig, as always” he laughed “hey, now that you’re here, how about you help me and Mrs. Carmelina to pack the stuff?”

“Oh, Feliciano, no! That isn’t necessary” she looked embarrassed.

“Nonsense, Mrs. Carmelina, Ludwig is really nice and loves helping people, isn’t that right, Ludwig?”

“It wouldn’t be any problem, Mrs. Carmelina” the German replied.

And so they started to store everything in boxes and such. Feliciano would keep talking about the people he saw that morning and Mrs. Carmelina would sometimes laugh about it – “Some people are characters on their own” she said – but Ludwig would just nod, he didn’t feel like talking that much. Mainly because it hurt him to see the Italian so happy and relaxed. Maybe he shouldn’t tell the artist about him going back to Germany and just disappear.

The blond reproached himself. This isn’t some kind of love novel to be a martyr, so he should stop thinking like that.

“Alright! That would be everything, Mrs. Carmelina” Feliciano announced, clapping so the dust would fall off from his hands.

“Thank you as always, Feliciano, and thank you, Mr. Beilschmidt” she put her hands together.

“You’re welcome, Mrs. Carmelina, it was nothing”

“We better go then, Ludwig” the artist grabbed his bag “See you tomorrow, Mrs. Carmelina”

The old lady said her goodbyes and both men started to walk away from there. Feliciano continued to talk about his morning. There was this guy with really funny looking short hair, must be a new fashion or something, there was also this young girl that wanted to be a model so she asked Feliciano if he could draw her so he did – free of charge – and she was so happy about it she ran with the sketch on her hand all the way down the street and fell because she tripped, so she obviously cried but got happy again when saw the drawing.

“By the way, where are going, Ludwig?” he asked with that singing tone he sometimes use.

“Oh, I don’t really know, I just…” again he didn’t have an excuse, he just wanted to be with the Italian the more time possible.

“How about we go to your house? It’s nice there, and we could buy something to eat, yes?”

“Sure”

He would tell him on his house.

Once they bought food – some paninis from Abrielle – and arrived to Ludwig’s house, they started to eat over the German’s bed.

“Still no dining room, you should buy at least another chair!” the Italian laughed. He was sitting with his legs crossed, on a lotus form.

“Maybe” Ludwig replied with a monotonous voice. He tried to look like nothing was happening but it was kind of hard, he just hoped Feliciano didn’t notice.

“Hey, want me to draw you again? I had fun last time” the brunette asked suddenly.

“Oh, no, not today, Feliciano” he didn’t want to get all turned on that day “we could just talk”

“Just talk? Ok” he replied, even though he didn’t sound that convinced.

“Actually” he cleared his throat, it has become a habit it seems “I need to tell you something” here it comes.

“Eh? What is it?” he now looked excited. Crap.

“Uhm, remember my family’s company I told you about some time ago?” Ludwig wasn’t looking at Feliciano, he didn’t dare.

“Ah, right, with your older brother and grandpa, right? Yes, what about it?”

“Yes, exactly that” his hands started to fret without him knowing “well, it seems it has been having some trouble”

“Oh, no! Is your family in danger?”

“No, no, not that kind of trouble” Italians and their mafias “the country is on economic crisis, remember? I told you about it”

“Yes, after the war” he smiled and Ludwig wondered how long that smile would last.

“Well, the truth is that—“ his throat suddenly got dry and it felt like he had a knot on it, preventing the words from coming out. This is it, if he said it, it would be a sentence, an admittance of him going away for more likely forever. His hands started to fret and he bit his lips without noticing.

“Is something wrong, Ludwig? You look anxious” Feliciano said surprising the blond.

“The truth is that I’ll have to go back to Germany”

If silence were some kind of liquid like water, the room would be full of it at that moment, and not only that but it would drown Ludwig immediately because right now he felt his lungs failing him. Why wasn’t Feliciano saying something? He was just staring at him, his eyes with a non-understandable reading, just looking at him as if he was a mere statue on a street. The German couldn’t even hear his own heart, maybe it stopped? Of course it didn’t stop, though, because Ludwig was very much alive. But then, why was taking the Italian so long to react about the shocking news?

“I see” the brunette finally spoke “It’s so sudden” a smile adorned his face.

Why are you smiling, Feliciano?

Was what the German wanted to ask but didn’t dare.

“But I guess you can’t do anything about it, family is family, after all” he shrugged, still smiling.

Why are you so calm, Feliciano?

Was what the German wanted to ask but didn’t date.

“I mean, you were gonna go no matter what, right? When the semester ended” he grabbed his half-eaten Panini and wrapped it with paper.

Why aren’t you stopping me, Feliciano?

Was what the German wanted to ask but didn’t dare.

“The day just got sooner” he finished the sentence with a chuckle.

Ludwig’s stomach started to ache and he felt like throwing up, but did his best to cover it and act normal. A nervous little laugh escaped from his lips, diverting his eyes from the man in front of him.

“Yes… I was going away in any case” he said finally.

“I guess you’ll have lots of work to do then, are you gonna sell this place? It’s a shame, it’s really nice” his brown eyes traveled across the walls “It has a bathroom and everything, it just needs a dining table” and then he laughed.

Another moment of silence covered them like a dark, cold sea.

“When are you going away?” Feliciano asked, still not looking at Ludwig.

“Next week” a short answer for such a cold question.

“I see”

More silence.

More silence that was killing Ludwig’s heart. Who would have thought that Ludwig now liked noise? Not any kind of noise, though, just the sound of the Italian’s singing voice, just the sound of the Italian’s steps besides him, just the sound of the Italian’s erratic almost-dancing movements. He was so used to Feliciano’s presence that the mere idea of being in Germany without him made his heart weep in sadness and regret.

“I better go” the artist got up, grabbing his food “You have a lot to do, and I would get in the way” then he picked his bag and put it on the shoulder, and then looked at Ludwig with a soft smile “You don’t have time to waste”

Feliciano headed to the door and the German had to use all of his self-control to not jump and run after him when the door closed after him.

The Italian is right, he has a lot to do.

And he doesn’t have time to waste.

 

Chapter Text

The day Ludwig announced to Feliciano that he was going away; the Italian didn’t appear at their usual place – the little plaza with the fountain of sparkling water in the middle – to dine. It obviously depressed the German, but he wasn’t that surprised. Maybe the artist was really mad at him for going back to Germany. But why would he be mad? He was going away either way! Even Feliciano said so that day, so Ludwig didn’t really understand what the problem was. As everyone knows, social issues aren’t his speciality. In any case, what Ludwig needs right now it’s to make a plan to be able to confess his feelings to Feliciano.

The college student decided to confess his love the moment he saw the Italian getting out of his apartment. He knew perfectly well that it wouldn’t bring any benefit to any of them, but he still felt it was the right thing to do. It is, isn’t it?

Ludwig was sitting at his desk – it was the next morning – he was doing some pamphlets to hang them at the university, about how he was selling his apartment. It shouldn’t take long before he can finally sell the place, it was relatively close to the university, it wasn’t that pricey and the place itself was kind of nice in a good neighborhood. He then looked at the clock on the wall, it was almost Feliciano’s hour to close his booth at the market, so he stood up, grabbed his jacket and went out of his apartment.

It was almost surreal, the idea of him leaving Venezia and Italia, he wouldn’t see anymore the blue sea, the blue sky, the warm and sunny people around him, and the beautiful architecture. He wouldn’t be able to eat the delicious food from this city and country. He had adapted pretty well to his life on the Italian country that he almost didn’t actually believe he would go away some day. Even less when he started to hang out with Feliciano. Those days became an everyday thing. Going to school, studying on the library, walking to the little plaza with the fountain of sparkling water in the middle, meeting with Feliciano, talking with Feliciano, seeing the stars at night, and falling in love with Feliciano.

Ludwig couldn’t help a little chuckle escaping from his lips.

When did it happen? When did his heart decide to fall in love with that kind of man? So different from him, but curiously his brain didn’t mind, and that actually surprised him. There wasn’t any doubt that Feliciano would be his first and last love. Sure, it sounded a little drastic and even a little dramatic, but it felt just like that for the German. Like those times when people are really sure about something, like that Ludwig is sure that Feliciano would mean everything for him forever.

And even if it indeed saddens the blond man that he probably wouldn’t ever see the Italian again in his life, he was still content with how things turned out.

The sky was cloudy with a gray tone, the wind was slightly cool and the sunlight was just a faint presence that only made the whole atmosphere look like a world out of a dream. But none of that didn’t matter for the Italian people, who as always were happy with themselves and their lives. Doing what they always do, living the life as if there wasn’t a tomorrow, always with a smile, with their singing voices and their body movements that made them look like dancing.

Ludwig sure would miss these people.

When he arrived at the market street and walked towards Feliciano’s booth, it was Mrs. Carmelina who saw and called him by his name first. Ludwig noticed how the Italian man just peeked at his direction but ultimately resumed what he was doing.

“Good evening, Mr. Beilschmidt!” the old lady greeted him with a smile.

“Good evening, Mr. Carmelina; how are you?” he replied with a polite smile.

“I’m just as good as always, maybe a little sick because of the cooling air, or maybe I’m just old” she laughed a bit “Did you come for Feliciano?”

The mentioned Italian was still kind of ignoring the German’s presence, packing his stuff on boxes.

“That’s right, Mrs. Carmelina, by the way, are you done with your stuff? I can help if you want”

“Oh, no, Mr. Beilschmidt, thank you but Feliciano already helped me” she patted the artist’s back.

“I see” Ludwig continued to talk, he wouldn’t give in until Feliciano looked at him “Feliciano, I was thinking on going to get something to eat, would you like to go?” he knew that directly inviting the Italian was reaching far, but he still had to try.

“I’m kind of busy today” the brunette finally replied with his singing voice, without looking at the student. Ludwig noticed a worried look on Mrs. Carmelina’s face. Maybe the Italian has been in this kind of humor since morning and she realized something was off.

“It’s just eating, it should be fast, Feliciano” he insisted and then the smaller man stood up and faced him. He was smiling.

“I already told you, I’m busy today, I have stuff to do at my home”

“Oh, then maybe we could buy something to eat and then go to your place?” the blond wouldn’t give up. The brunette, still smiling, let go a sigh that Ludwig could almost swear it sounded like exasperation “I mean, you still have to eat, right?” he was pulling his luck and he knew that.

It was obvious that the Italian didn’t want to spend time with him, for whatever reason, but Ludwig wouldn’t have any of that. He had just a few days before leaving the city and he pretended to spend them with the center of his love the more possible amount of time he could manage to steal from him.

“Alright” Feliciano said, still smiling “But don’t complain later if I don’t pay much attention to you when I’m busy”

They both said their farewells to Mrs. Carmelina, who still had a concerned aura around her, and proceeded to go to a place to buy their food.

The walking felt awkward. When Ludwig tried to start a conversation, Feliciano would simply reply with monosyllables or plainly ignore him, which is kind of weird, taking into consideration that he kept smiling as if nothing happened. Italians indeed are weird. They decided – more like Ludwig decided – to buy something simple, a fish with vegetables dish, and then went to the already known Italian’s apartment. When entering, the familiar turpentine and paint smell invaded Ludwig’s nose once again. It didn’t bother him, because that was how Feliciano himself smelled. And everything that reminded him about Feliciano was good.

“And what are you going to do?” the blond asked while sitting at the little dining table, opening his dish.

“I need to paint”

“Are you going to finish a painting? Or start a new one?” Ludwig turned his eyes to the corner that worked as painting studio.

“Finish something” Feliciano started to eat.

“I see, I promise I won’t be a bother”

And Feliciano simply nodded in silence.

It was weird, eating like this in silence, with the Italian not emitting a single noise. Usually he would keep talking and talking, rambling and rambling, about anything – even the sky’s color -. The German guessed it was because of the idea of him leaving Italia. Or maybe he was getting conceited. Either way, it was fine like this, he knew Feliciano well enough to be sure that, whatever it was happening on the Italian’s mind, he would be back to normal in no time; just like it happened when they were at San Donà di Piave the time Ludwig peeked on his sketchbook without asking.

“I was thinking” the student started to talk, almost finishing his food “I’m going to miss Venezia” the Italian didn’t look at him, completely concentrated on the plate in front of him “Mainly the food because, as you said a lot of times, it’s the best”

The brunette didn’t emit a sound.

“But well” Ludwig continued “I guess I’ll finally be able to get a real beer” he joked with a soft laugh “No offense, but Italia’s beer is nothing in comparison to Germany’s. Ah, I’m going to miss the warm weather too, it’s so cold on Germany, mainly in winter”

More silence was everything he had as reply.

“Have you been outside of Italia, Feliciano?” no reply “I also used to travel when I was a child, with my grandparent when he had business outside the city, he would take me and my older brother with him” even more silence “Nowadays my grandparent doesn’t travel that much, he pretty much just concentrates on the city’s business while me and my brother—“

“Why are you doing this?”

Ludwig lifted his blue eyes to see the brunette, who was still not looking at him but at his plate as if it were the most interesting thing in the whole world at that moment.

“Excuse me?” the blond asked, surprised at the sudden question, not really sure if the Italian actually wanted an answer. Feliciano left the fork and covered his face, placing his elbows on the table.

“Why are you doing this?”

The student still didn’t understand the question. “Doing” what? Talking? Being there? Going away?

“I don’t understand your question, Feliciano” he confessed, leaving his fork alone too “Doing what?”

“This, all this” his face was kept between his hands still, so his voice sounded muffled “Why are you even trying when you’re going away in a few days?” that just made the German more confused.

“So what if I’m going away? I’m right here today”

Feliciano kept silent for a moment and then took a deep breath, taking off his hands from his face. His brown sparkling eyes looked a little red and he wasn’t smiling anymore.

“But you won’t” his voice sounded like he had a knot in the throat. Was Ludwig’s imagination or he looked like he was about to cry? “So it doesn’t matter what you do in this week, it won’t change a thing. You’re leaving”

And then it hit him. Feliciano wasn’t mad at him. Feliciano was sad.

“Feliciano… are you sad that I’m leaving?” he risked to ask, almost not believing that it was happening. The questioned once again covered his face with both hands.

“Of course I am!” and then he started to sob and tremble “You’re my friend! And now you’re going away!” he was hiccupping “And I’m also mad at myself, because I know it’s important for you to go back to your family, but I can’t help it!” Feliciano cleaned his tears and then looked at Ludwig “I don’t want you to go”

It was now Ludwig’s turn to tremble. He didn’t know that it had affected Feliciano that much. He even had guessed that it didn’t matter that much to the Italian because he kept smiling, he suspected of him being mad of course, but never depressed. What was he supposed to do now? With the love of his life in front of him, crying and telling him that he doesn’t want to part ways.

“I mean” the brunette continued to talk between sobs “I already knew you were going away sooner or later, and I thought I would be ready by then, but obviously I’m not. And besides, I should be used to this” he kept cleaning the tears off of his face, looking at the roof “I myself travel a lot, never having a settled home” his brown teary eyes turned to look at the blond “Or a settled friend” a soft chuckle escaped from his lips “I guess I just got used to you” he shrugged and then sighed “To you being every day with me. It’s the first time I do something like that. I always am careful to not involve too much with people in whatever city I am. But then you talked to me” his eyes were centered on the blue irises of the German “And then you didn’t go away. What was I supposed to do?” he smiled, but the gesture reflected sadness and even regret.

Ludwig’s heart was beating faster than ever before. All of Feliciano’s emotions were passed to his body through the words the Italian said. He was sad at the idea of leaving him behind, but it didn’t actually hit him just how big of a deal that was. He was going to leave behind the love of his life, the physical representation of his love, and not only that but Feliciano also didn’t want him to leave. But what could he do? His family definitely needed him and he can’t abandon them. With trembling hands and voice, and eyes closed, he started talking.

“Would you…” a gulp made its way in his throat “Would you like to stay at my place?” his voice was almost an unheard whisper “These days, before me leaving” his blue eyes opened “So we can be together”

Silence once again invaded the place, as if it was a monster that threatened to swallow them both, only interrupted by the far noises outside the small room that served as the Italian’s home.

“Yes, Ludwig” also a soft whisper “I want to stay with you these days” his cheeks were red and wet because of the tears.

At that moment, Ludwig noticed it was the first time Feliciano said his name in the all day.

  

 

Chapter Text

The moment Feliciano accepted to stay at Ludwig’s apartment, he prepared a bag with his stuff to live a week out of his house. The sole idea of having the Italian in his place made Ludwig’s head spin in dizziness. A happy dizziness that made his mind go blank. He actually asked Feliciano to stay with him in a blurt, immersed in the moment of his heart wanting to die from all the beating against his chest. And even then, he didn’t regret any of it. He planned to pass his remaining time with the brunette, anyways, so having him at his apartment was pretty convenient.

When they entered Ludwig’s place, the artist threw himself to the bed, hugging the pillows. He seemed to be in a better mood.

“Your bed is as comfy as always, Ludwig” he said, burying his face against the soft pillow “It smells like you”

“Oh, sorry, I could change the cover if you want” Ludwig suggested leaving his jacket over the chair.

“No, you smell nice”

The blond’s heart skipped a beat and his face blushed lightly. He should be used to Feliciano’s direct way of saying things by now, he thought.

“Do you want to continue painting?” he said while pulling the chair away from the desk to sit on it, he needed to continue with the pamphlets to sell his place.

“Do you really not mind?” Feliciano asked, rolling himself on the bed to face his companion “It’ll start to smell like paint and stuff like that”

“It’s fine, I told you” and it really was – turpentine and paint was Feliciano’s scent, after all – “Besides, I have a window”

“That’s right” the Italian laid on his back completely, looking at the window “We could watch the stars from here” it was just a murmur but Ludwig still caught it.

“Every night” he replied after seconds of silence.

After a few hours, the artist already had his half-finished painting over the easel, besides the open window to let the light get inside and illuminate the canvas. Ludwig, on the other hand, was sitting at his desk, accommodating some property papers. He needed to hire a lawyer to make everything legal, and he had to do it quickly because he’s leaving in just six days. He also needed to find a buyer, he couldn’t just leave the place with no owner, mainly because it was most likely he wouldn’t come back ever again to deal with this.

His train of thought stopped when he heard a song, more like a humming, in the place. It was a slow and soft tune, something like a waltz, and it was coming from his back. Ludwig looked behind him to find Feliciano still painting, but the humming was definitely coming from him. It was the first time that he had heard Feliciano humming while painting – he didn’t do it while sketching – did that mean that he’s comfortable right now? That he’s happy? Maybe he was just really concentrated and didn’t realize what he was doing. The tune itself was familiar, maybe Ludwig has heard it somewhere before? In any case, the blond man simply smiled softly.

The foreigner had promised not to bother the working artist, but he just couldn’t help himself.

“What are you painting?” he asked without moving from his place.

“It’s a scenery, this time it’s a winter one, with a lake and mountains” even if he described it, Ludwig could see it from where he was sitting “Winter is coming and I thought it would be accord to paint something like this”

“And what are you humming?”

“Oh” Feliciano chuckles “I didn’t realize I was doing that” he shrugs his shoulders as if nothing, never interrupting his masterful hand painting over the canvas “It’s called Die Romantiker by Joseph Lanner, I’ve would thought you’d knew this one, Joseph Lanner is Austrian, after all” Ludwig had to suppress a chuckle at the Italian’s horrible German pronunciation.

“It sounded familiar. I didn’t know you had knowledge on music, even less in Germanic music”

“Are you kidding?” Feliciano looked at him for a brief moment to later return his gaze to the canvas “I told you, my grandpa used to travel. A lot. He even got to Austria and Germany, France, Spain. Well, Europe is really small, after all” he was talking while spreading some gray color on a cloud “And even when he met grandma, they traveled together, never missing the opportunity. Until they decided to settle down, coming back to Italia and have a family”

Ludwig was listening in silence, mesmerized at the almost magical artistic ability that Feliciano possessed on his body, and eager to learn more and more, everything he could, about his true love. He needed this in order to have something to remember when leaving.

“My older brother was born, then I was born, and my grandparents took care of us” he chuckled softly at the memory; the blond could almost swear the Italian was replaying his childhood memories on his mind “They taught us a lot of things, everything they had learnt in their travels. The love for music, for painting, for life itself”

“When did you start to travel with your grandfather alone?”

“Maybe when I was ten years old, when he perceived I had this so called ‘gift’ for painting. I told you, didn’t I? My older brother stayed behind with grandma, he isn’t that good at arts” he stopped his painting hand and looked at the roof “Maybe he’s too brute for arts” when Feliciano realized what he just said, he suddenly yelped and looked at the German “I mean, too brusque, he isn’t an idiot or anything” the brunette resumed his painting, changing brushes and now applying some green to the icy lake “He gets desperate and angry too quickly, and the art it’s something you need patience for or you’ll screw everything” an uncharacteristic sigh escaped from his lips “In short, it were my grandparents who taught me about the world, that including foreigner music. We had a piano at home that my grandma used to play all the time so I learnt a few things from there”

The German had changed seats, now comfortably sitting on the bed so he was able to peek over the artist’s shoulder to see the canvas, but still somewhat away from him.

“You’re a box full of surprises” he said on a whisper, more to himself than to anybody else.

“Did you say something, Ludwig?” Feliciano asked without looking at him.

“No, Feliciano, continue”

“Actually, I’m more interested on listening you talking” the house owner’s cheeks blushed at the comment “Tell me about yourself, I know so little about you it’s ridiculous, we’ve been friends for almost half a year, haven’t we?”

“I didn’t have an interesting life like you, Feliciano” he had just noticed, but lately he had been saying the Italian’s name a lot. It left a tingle nice sensation on his lips and mouth “My childhood was full of schooling and business” the brunette snorted “What?”

“I imagined a little Ludwig wearing prissy clothes, all pampered out, but I do wonder” he once again turned his face to Ludwig, looking at him “Did you glare and stare as much as you do now?”

“I—I don’t stare” the German tried to defend himself, stuttering and looking away.

“You were doing it right now~~” Feliciano teased with a grin.

“Because you’re talking!”

If there was something Ludwig would brag about – not that he actually does it – it’s his ability to stay calm and serene, even in difficult times, but Feliciano – somehow – always got right into him. Even before falling in love with him. It was like the Italian could read his mind and heart and be able to see what could piss him off the most. Or maybe Ludwig just wasn’t used to teasing. Or maybe this kind of teasing was different from his older brother’s – distasteful sexual humor, his grandfather would call it – at any rate, it always ended the same way. With Ludwig blushing about the obvious facts that Feliciano noted on.

The Italian just laughed at him and left his arts utensils on the floor, climbing into the bed to sit next to the German.

“You have a scary stare, Ludwig, just admit it”

“Well, it didn’t scare you” the blond could almost feel his mouth pouting, but he was glad he had all of this self-control.

“Because I just knew you were special, Ludwig” this time the flattered looked at him with a questioning face “You’re a German in the middle of Venezia, in Italia, because you worked hard for a scholarship to study a semester in this city. I mean, you really wanted to be here. And I think that’s something”

Ludwig wasn’t that sure he had followed correctly Feliciano’s way of logic. But he also didn’t care that much. It was fine like this.

“Wow, look at the sky” Feliciano gasped with amazement, getting off the bed to get closer to the window “It’s sunset already. You can see it pretty well from here” but Ludwig didn’t move, because he was looking at Feliciano.

His kind of tanned skin was practically glowing with the firey orange light that entered through the window, kissing him softly as a cooling air moved his hair as if magic actually existed, the German then wondered how soft that hair is, how would it feel to pass his hand trough it.

“You’re staring” the Italian said, taking Ludwig off of his daydream “Again” Feliciano grinned at him.

“I’m not” but the red color on his cheeks uncovered his lie. He stood up and also got closer to the window, standing behind the Italian.

“My grandpa also taught me about this” the smaller man started to speak “Seeing life as colors, forms, lights”

“Don’t we all do that?”

“No” the answer was so sudden and yet so full tenderness “People usually see the world as a whole. Grandpa taught me to see it separately. In that order; color, form and light.” He took a deep breath and continued talking “’To be able to paint’ he always said ‘you need to understand the world isn’t a whole’ at the moment I thought he was just trying to look intelligent and awesome” he laughed again – was Feliciano’s laugh always this nice? – “But later on, I understood what he meant”

“And what did he mean?” maybe it was because Ludwig wasn’t an artist, but he didn’t quite understand it “Because it sounds pretty obvious to me that the world is made of parts, not a whole”

“The goal of an artist is to bring people’s emotions to flourish when seeing their art” Feliciano kept staring at the colorful sunset “What do you feel when you see a red rose in the morning?”

“I think about flower arrangements. Maybe Saint Valentine” he was sure his companion didn’t know about Germany’s red roses costumes, though.

“I didn’t ask that” the Italian finally turned his body to face the taller man, with a smile, provoking the German’s heart to flutter because they were close “I asked you what do you feel, not what you think”

“Uhm. A red rose. I guess… love? Loving feelings?” something the German didn’t like to feel was confuse and not knowing what is going on around him, that’s for sure, and right at that moment his heart didn’t know how to react to this stimulation.

“Ok, what do you feel when you see red blood in the floor in the morning?” that question took Ludwig off-guard, making his body calm down.

“I… I feel worried, maybe afraid”

“But did you notice? It’s the same color and light, I only changed the form, and I still got a different reaction from you” he giggled softly “That’s why the world isn’t a whole, and that’s why it’s important to recognize that, in order to do good art that brings different emotions to people”

Ludwig had never realized just how passionate Feliciano really is about art. The brunette’s eyes sparkled in a way that almost looked divine, god-like, every time he talked about art; how it worked, how to perfect it, how it transforms into different things. Ludwig wonders if his own eyes sparkle as much whenever he talks about his job. He can swear they don’t.

“Do you wanna go get dinner?”

His thoughts once again interrupted by the singing voice of the Italian in front of him.

“Oh, right” the blond took some steps back, away from the brunette to be able to calm down completely “Whatever you say it’s fine by me”

“Then Abrielle’s ok?”

“Sure”

They went to the decided place and had dinner. Abrielle was beautiful, funny and strong as always, bringing a smile to both men. That restaurant had become one of Ludwig’s favorite places since he started to go out with Feliciano, and the idea of never going there to eat, meet Abrielle and such, all in company of his Italian friend made his chest hurt with a sting pain, direct to the heart.

“You’re leaving?” the tanned women asked when received the news “Man, that’s so sad!” her hands were on her waist and her eyebrows knitted in sadness “I didn’t know your staying was just temporal” her eyes diverted momentarily towards Feliciano, who was simply eating his Panini in silence “And you don’t plan on coming back?”

“That would be difficult to do, since my parting it’s business related” Ludwig explained before taking a sip from his glass of light beer.

“Ah, yeah, I guess so” she looked worried, biting her lower lips “I’ve heard that Germany it’s on a tight situation, so it’s true”

“Yes, and my family business is being affected by it”

“I see…” she then placed a hand on Ludwig’s shoulder “Well, it really is sad to see you go, we were getting used to you being here, right, Feliciano?” she faced the mentioned, who was still eating his food and not looking at them.

“Sì, sì” his voice seemed disinterested, but Ludwig now knew better. It was obvious for him that Feliciano didn’t want to talk about that.

The rest of the dinner went as always, with Feliciano taking over the conversation and Ludwig replying and answering his questions. He will definitely miss all of this. When they finished eating, they started to walk towards the little plaza with the fountain of sparkling water in the middle. It was a quite night with no people outside in the street, cold wind that caressed the skin softly, and the only sound that could be heard was the whispering coming from the ocean. The moment they arrived at the little plaza, Feliciano giggled a bit.

“What is it?” the German questioned.

“No, nothing. It’s kind of weird. We usually go separate ways from here” he stopped walking, twirling once in front of the fountain with a smile on his face and looking at his friend “But now we both will go to your place, and sleep there. Together. It’s kind of weird. This change”

“Weird?”

“Oh, but not in a bad way, but in a good way” Feliciano put his hands together “I like being with you, Ludwig”

The foreigner’s heart accelerated at that moment.

“Yes” he whispered “I also like being with you”

After continuing their way, they got to Ludwig’s apartment and prepared to sleep. Between ridiculous jokes from Feliciano that the German didn’t get – “Don’t analyze humor, Ludwig, geez!” -. When the blond was taking off the bed’s covers, the Italian called his name.

“I’m glad there are no clouds tonight” he said while watching through the window, sitting on a chair with his face pillowed over his hands, elbows over the window’s frame. He was already wearing pajamas “The stars always look better from your place, Ludwig”

The taller man stared at the Italian – again – looking carefully how his skin reflected the moonlight and, just like in the sunset, gleamed magically. How would that skin feel under his touch? It should be cold because the wind coming from outside it’s like that.

“You’re staring” Feliciano said, closing his eyes and smiling.

“I’m not” once again the blush on his face said the contrary “I’m just—“

“It’s ok” the Italian interrupted, still with eyes closed “I like it, when you look at me”

Ludwig’s body felt light, as if he was filled of pure air, he could almost swear he was floating in the middle of the room. But that’s obviously impossible, Ludwig. His fists tightened over the bed’s cover and his heart was racing away against his chest.

He really liked this feeling.

But in a few days, it would be gone forever.

“Aren’t you going to watch the stars with me, Ludwig?”

The request was made in a whisper, so soft that the German thought it was only the wind, but corrected himself when those brown eyes looked at him. Those eyes that shined and sparkled with so much honesty and sincerity that seemed so out of this world. So he got close to the window, stopping just behind of the brunette who centered his attention in the night sky again.

“Are you going to miss Italia, Ludwig?” Feliciano’s voice was only a whisper, but it still invaded the German’s body with unknown feelings.

“Yes, Feliciano”

“And are you going to miss Venezia?”

“Yes, Feliciano”

Now his voice was also a soft whisper that had a hard time getting out of his mouth, as if it didn’t want to see the exterior world because then everything would be real.

“What about Mrs. Carmelina, and Abrielle, are you going to miss them?”

“Yes, Feliciano”

But, of course, everything that was happening was real. His fingers twitched lightly. Ludwig was feeling antsy and he didn’t know why exactly. His body was feeling this urgent need of something that he didn’t recognize what it was. And it only worsened when Feliciano didn’t say anything for a few moments.

“Are you going to miss me, Ludwig?”

Ludwig’s body reacted on its own. When he realized what was happening, he was already hugging the Italian’s little body from behind, his arms holding to the other’s shoulders and his face buried on the soft brown hair that smelled like turpentine and paint.

“Of course, Feliciano” he whispered loud enough for the artist to listen “I’m going to miss you the most, Feliciano” and he was sure that was true, his racing heart told him so.

Feliciano’s body started to lightly tremble under his touch, and if Ludwig payed enough attention, he could feel how the other’s breath was getting hard and inconsistent. He surely was trying to hold back his sobs and tears.

“Let’s go to sleep, Feliciano” still whispering against that brown hair, whose owner simply nodded in silence.

When laying down in the bed, they stayed in silence. Ludwig felt like screaming, like running away, like wanting to destroy something. But this time he was sure it wasn’t because having the Italian close to him, on contrary, it was because in a few days the artist wouldn’t be next to him anymore.

“Ludwig”

Another soft voice called him in the dark besides him. He looked at the body next to him, to those eyes who were intensely gazing at his.

“Can I hug you?”

The German’s lungs and heart stopped working for a few seconds.

“Yes, Feliciano” he then moved to his side, opening his arms to receive the little body between them. Feliciano hugged him, passing his arms under the other’s arms and stayed there.

“I’m going to miss you too, Ludwig”

The foreginer’s hand dared to travel to the Italian’s head and caressed the brown hair that crowned it. Passing his long fingers through the soft threads that were still a little wet because of the shower he had before going to bed.

“I know, Feliciano” Ludwig closed his eyes “I know”

 

 

Chapter Text

The rest of the week felt like a dream for Ludwig. Every day they would wake up, shower, make breakfast – Feliciano had insisted on buying groceries and cooking like normal people – and continue with their morning. There would be days that they didn’t go out of the apartment, Feliciano decided to stop going to the market for the time being, and they would instead pass it lazily. Sometimes talking, sometimes watching the artist painting. And finally, at night, they would watch the stars by Ludwig’s window and go to sleep, with Feliciano embraced in the German’s arms.

But something that still worried the blond was that neither his lawyer nor he found a buyer for the apartment, and that meant that he’d had to leave the place without an owner. That or that he should delay his trip. No, of course not, he couldn’t do that to his grandfather and older brother. That idea was out of consideration.

At that moment, the German and the Italian were having lunch at his apartment. Since waking up, the artist had been in a melancholic and sad mood, but Ludwig didn’t blame him, because he was the same. He was going back to Germany the next day.

Another thing that didn’t permit the student’s heart rest peacefully was that he hadn’t found the perfect moment to confess his feelings to his companion. He didn’t want it to be forced; he was waiting for something like a sign, maybe a divine signal from God telling him that it was the right moment with the right circumstances. But said signal never came, and Ludwig didn’t have the courage to make it happen on his own. Which brought embarrassment to Ludwig, who had always thought that if you had a problem, then you should just and simply deal with it to its solution.

“So” the brunette said suddenly, breaking the drowning silence he had been since morning. They were eating over the bed some pasta the smaller man had cooked. “Tomorrow, huh? The week sure passed quickly” the foreigner was sure that the Italian was trying to make his voice sound as normal as possible, but it didn’t work that well, because Ludwig was able to notice the slight tune of sadness on it.

“Yes, I’ll be leaving at noon” the comment felt like a death sentence and left a sour taste in his mouth, that he was sure it wasn’t because of the pasta.

“How long is the trip to Germany? Is it days?”

“Well, yes, maybe two or three, depending on weather and availability of trains”

“I see”

And once again, silence. They hadn’t had a normal conversation the whole day. And it felt weird. Ludwig didn’t think this was how his last day on Italia would be.

“Maybe we should go out tonight” he suggested tentatively “Nothing special, just… walking and stuff” the Italian chuckled.

“You mean, going out without a plan?” he had a smirk on his face.

“Yes, going out without a plan” fortunately, the idea of doing so didn’t bring despair or worrisome to the blond “Just to walk, and talk, normal stuff” he gulped, staring back to the brown eyes that, if Ludwig dared to guess, looked at him with implore “We don’t need anything special to enjoy ourselves, right?”

“Yeah, we don’t” Feliciano smiled one last time before resuming his eating.

The blond did the same. He had resolved that he absolutely had to tell Feliciano about these burning feelings he had for him. It was mandatory at this point. Mainly because he would be leaving tomorrow at noon and he didn’t want to regret about this the rest of his life. Ultimately, it didn’t matter whatever the Italian replied to his confession, because he would never ever see him again. If Feliciano didn’t reciprocate his feelings, that is. Actually, Ludwig had never thought about that. What would happen after confessing? Would Feliciano be mad? Confused? Or he would simply reply with a “Thanks, but no thanks”? It’s not like Ludwig was actually expecting for them to become a couple or something. First, it was dangerous, and secondly, they wouldn’t be able to be together, anyways. They would be kilometers away from each other and it would be painful to not be close to his lover. So, even if – in the most crazy and deluded case – Feliciano reciprocated his feelings, they wouldn’t do nothing about it except for a little mopping afterwards.

They aren’t characters on a romance novel to start acting melodramatic.

“And what are your near plans?” Ludwig asked in want to have a proper conversation.

“Near plans? You mean as in short time plans?”

“Yes, I mean, you are always traveling, so I thought…”

“Ah, I see, well, I haven’t thought about it” he was playing with his fork, moving some pasta around his plate “Maybe I’ll stay in Venezia some more time and then go south and visit my brother and family. It’s been a while since last time I saw them” a soft chuckle escaped from his mouth “Actually, when I arrived I didn’t think I would stay this much on Venezia, but changed plans when—“ he looked at the blond as he stopped talking “… when I saw how beautiful it is”

“The city indeed is beautiful” Ludwig left the fork over the his plate because he had finished the food “Even if you don’t go to Mestre, the island of Venezia is beautiful on its own”

“That’s a little unfair, Ludwig” he also left the fork over his dish “Mestre was victim of the war”

“You are right” a moment of silence invaded the room, leaving the tick tack of the clock wall rule over it and over the two lonely men in there.

“Now” the Italian once again interrupted the silence, leaving Ludwig to curse himself for being so passive about it “What do you want to do in your last day here? We still have half day free until the sunset”

“Uhm. I don’t really know what to—“

“How about I draw you?”

Ludwig looked at him speechless. It’s been a week since last time the artist drew him, but the memories from that night still made his heart and body tremble every time with something that Ludwig could call as “anticipation”. He wasn’t sure it would be a good idea to try this because he wasn’t sure he would be able to control himself like last time.

“The lighting in here is way better than in my place” Feliciano commented while looking around “So, the results may be better, because my sight will be” a spark shined inside of the blond’s chest.

His heart started to race against his will, pumping blood to his cheeks that flushed in red embarrassment. Even if he didn’t think it was a good idea, he sure would like – no, more like love – to be drawn by the Italian artist in order to be observed by those brown deep eyes of his. And it’s not like he actually had an excuse to say no, he just stated that he didn’t have a plan on what to do.

“Besides, it would be a change, wouldn’t it? Me observing you instead of you observing me” the way the brunette said it made it sound playful, with his singing voice and big wide happy grin. But even then, it made the German’s breath to stop.

“Sure” Ludwig accepted, surprised to discover his voice being raspy and low before even starting anything.

“Great!” he looked truly excited and jumped out of the bed to grab his art utensils. A big sketchbook and a carbon pencil “Sit on the couch, the window’s light falls better that way” the artist said while removing the easel out of the way. Ludwig simply complied, sitting still on the couch and looking visibly uncomfortable, which brought the Italian a laugh.

“Ve~~, no matter how many times I get you to pose, you still look like I’m gonna nag you or something” Feliciano said as sitting on the edge of the bed, preparing the sketchbook with a clean sheet.

“I’m not used to being observed” he guessed that’s why it was so alluring to him now. Or maybe it’s just Feliciano. Maybe.

“That makes sense, you’re the boss at your company, so you’re used to observe everyone else, right?” his hand started to move with a gentle rhythm.

“I’m not the boss, it’s my grandfather. And even when he retires, it’ll be my older brother who will inherit the position”

“Doesn’t that make you mad, Ludwig?”

“Of course not, my brother may be a little… rascal… but I believe in his capacities” the German was glad they were talking about this, so his body wouldn’t react to Feliciano intense eyes “And either way, I’ll be there for him”

“I hope you can restore your company’s success, Ludwig” his lips turned into a soft, calming smile “So you’re free to do as you please again”

The blond didn’t reply immediately, because that sounded as a “Please come back” so he had to grab his thoughts together before doing so.

“Yes” he cleared his throat “I hope so, too”

Hours passed between little chit chat and strokes of carbon over the paper, between singing voices a soft giggles and chuckles. Hours passed until the sun was turning orange and the sky painted itself with firey pink and blueish purple.

“I’m done! Just in time” the artist declared it finished. His fingertips were dark and dirty and some of the carbon passed to his face whenever he scratched it “Oh, wait, I think it’s missing something” after standing up, he went to his bag and searched through it for a bit “Here!” a red carbon on his hand that used on the sketch when he was at the bed again “Now it’s finished!”

He looked pleased as he turned the sketchbook so the model could see the master piece. The red color was used on his cheeks.

“Why did you do that?” Ludwig covered his face with a hand, full of embarrassment.

“Because you are blushing right now, of course, ve~~” a chuckle that sent pleasing waves to Ludwig’s heart was heard in the room “You almost look like a tomato”

“Don’t be ridiculous”

“You get embarrassed pretty easily, Ludwig, it’s kind of funny because you are really buff and big” Feliciano then stared at his drawing with a slight smile “Do you mind if I keep this?” his eyes diverted towards the blue irises fixed on him “You know, to remember this day”

“Sure, Feliciano, you can keep it”

“Thanks”

After getting everything in its rightful place, Ludwig and Feliciano got out of the apartment, to their promised walking at night.

Even if the autumn was officially in Italia, the weather was still warm that just kind of gets cool at night, allowing the citizens of Venezia to stay with their normal clothes until the winter arrived. But at that moment it wasn’t important. The sky seemed to be painted with warm orange watercolors that were slowly turning into cold strokes of dark blue paint, announcing the end of the day. That’s why the majority of people were getting back home after a day of hard work. Unlike the German and the Italian, who were just walking on a street near the Canal Grande, in complete silence. The soft murmur of the sea was getting stronger with each step, though, letting them know that it was close until they arrived to a little port.

Feliciano took a deep breath while opening his arms, welcoming the cooling air on his body. The German was standing behind the Italian.

“Venezia is so beautiful, isn’t it, Ludwig?” it was said with a singing voice, but Ludwig could recognize the bittersweet tune under it.

“Yes, it is”

“I wonder how long it’ll last like this” his arms dropped, still not facing his companion “Is Germany beautiful, Ludwig?”

“Yes, it is” he then cleared his throat “A different kind of beautiful, though”

“How is that?”

“Germany is a cold country, so it always feels… nostalgic, I suppose. And its people it’s also different. Unlike Italia, that is warm on weather and its people” this time it was Ludwig who had his clear blue eyes closed “People here always look happy, and Italia’s architecture is impressive and beautiful” Feliciano chuckled “What?”

The brunette turned on his heels to look at him.

“You almost sound like you’re in love with Italia”

Ludwig stared at his friend for a moment and then slightly curved his lips on a smile, softening his eyes.

“Maybe I am” he replied in a whisper and Feliciano sighed again with a smile.

“So” the smaller man started to walk towards Ludwig “Would you like to watch the stars with me?”

“Of course, Feliciano, always”

They both turned their eyes up to the dark sky, focusing on the little sparkly and infinite dots that adorned it. For some reason, they looked magical, shimmering intensely. And Ludwig felt like he could stay like that forever.

“This is the last time, isn’t it?” Feliciano murmured “The last time we do this together”

“Feliciano” he called him without breaking eye contact with the sky, unlike the Italian that looked at him “Even if we are far away from each other, even if we never see each other again, and even if we live in different countries” Ludwig could feel his face turning red slowly “The sky and the stars are the same, everywhere”

“Ludwig”

“So it doesn’t matter if we are apart, if we every night look up to the sky at night, wir warden uns zu den Sternen—we will be looking at the stars, together” his hands were trembling and he knew it wasn’t because of the cool air around them but because he was nervous and scared of the consequences and of the world. What a moment to start stuttering on his mother language.

“All we—All we need to do,” he continued to talk even if his heart was screaming “Ist, nie vergessen—Is to never forget, right?”

“Ludwig—“

“I mean, natürlich ist es traurig—I mean, of course it’s sad, but this is how Leben, life, is, and—“

“Ludwig, I love you”

The world stopped in that instant. The sea stopped to whisper with its salty weaves, the wind stopped playing with their hair and Ludwig’s body stopped functioning. Of course, none of this was true but it felt like it. Slowly, the German looked down at the brunette, whose face was a bright red with an embarrassed, but equally somewhat sad, smile. He looked down at those brown sparkling eyes that were staring at him with need and want.

“Was hast du gesagt?”

“I don’t speak German, Ludwig”

“What did you say?”

“I love you, Ludwig”

So his ears truly didn’t play a trick on him. Feliciano actually said that.

The German’s head started to spin in a blur and he had to cover his face with both hands. What was happening? Why was he feeling so sick? So dizzy and like throwing up? Wasn’t this supposed something to be happy about? That was how it always is on romantic books, wasn’t it?

“Ludwig, are you ok?” he grabbed the taller man by the shoulder, now with a worried look “Did I scare you? It wasn’t my intention”

“I love you too, Feliciano” a muffled voice coming from the blond’s covered face said “But I don’t know why—“

“Are you feeling so sad?” Feliciano finished the question, provoking the German to finally uncover his face and look at him “It’s normal, Ludwig” he closed his eyes and did a calm smile “We won’t be together, that’s why it hurts so much” a clear tear rolled down his red cheek “It’s obvious it’ll hurt”

“Feliciano, I—“

“Actually, I wasn’t going to say anything” he interrupted with a cracking voice and trembling shoulders “I thought it wouldn’t even matter at the end, but then you started to say all those things about us being away but under the stars and I lost it” now it was his turn to cover his face with both hands, trying to hide his tears “I love you so much it hurts a lot”

Slowly, Ludwig lifted his trembling arms to hold close Feliciano, as if he was scared of breaking him in this state. His blue eyes also hurt, with a dry pain that covered itself when teardrops started to fall from them into the brown threads of hair under his chin.

“What am I suppose to say?” Ludwig’s voice was low and it was painful to use it.

“Tell me you won’t forget me, Ludwig” his voice was muffled against the blond’s chest that surely was wet from all the tears and crying.

“I won’t, Feliciano” his hold got tighter, forgetting his carefulness from before “I won’t ever forget you, Feliciano”

“And I won’t forget you, Ludwig” the hands were clenching the German’s clothes, not wanting to let go but ultimately did, when Feliciano looked up to his companion eyes and cupped his face.

Lips parted that transformed into a soft and melancholic smile. Eyes of a deep shimmering brown that were observing him with intensity. Eyes that closed and lips that started to get closer and closer to him, making him to also close his eyes and reciprocate the gesture.

Feliciano’s lips are soft and warm, like all of his essence.

Chapter Text

 Ludwig didn’t remember much about what happened after his first kiss with his friend. He remembered some more crying, tears of course, tight hugs and painful sobs under the stars. The only thing he clearly remembered was Feliciano’s voice, soft and sweet in a low whisper in his ear, telling him “Let’s go home”.

 A tranquil whisper that brought shivers down and through his spine and skin, making his legs and hands tremble. Since when did Feliciano have this power over him? Since when did Feliciano have the methods to make him react like this without him knowing it?

 They walked in silence beside each other. None of them dared to do much. Their faces rushing with blood in their now red cheeks. The blond could feel how his whole being was screaming and he wasn’t sure why it was doing so. Was it because he was nervous? Was it because he was excited? Was it because he was sad? He was feeling so much he didn’t recognize just what the hell was happening inside his body. It was funny, in a way, how his life previous Venezia he always felt so collected and in control but right now he was feeling like everything was crumbling under his feet, but – surprisingly – he didn’t feel as horrible as he would imagine.

 The power of love, he assumed.

 When they arrived to the German’s apartment and closed the door behind them, Feliciano picked his bag from the floor and started to look through it for something. All of this without a word to the blond, who just stared at him with curiosity until the brunette offered him something; a little book with black leather cover. It was the sketchbook. When Ludwig looked at the Italian, the smaller man’s face was bright red and it seemed like he didn’t dare to look back at him.

“The sketchbook” the Italian finally said, still not looking at the college student “I promised you I would show it to you today, didn’t I?”

Ludwig knew exactly what the artist was talking about.

He sat down on the bed and started to pass through the sketchbook’s pages. He had already seen some of the first sketches – when he peeked without permission that evening at the hotel – but he still wanted to look at them once again. Feliciano also sat down beside him.

“I’ve been in love with you since a few months ago” the brunette confessed while smiling “At first I thought I just found you attractive, though”

“I actually just realized it a week ago” Ludwig was never good with exteriorizing his emotions and feelings, but he thought this was the right moment to start “Ich glaube Ich war auch in der Liebe mit Ihnen da vor, aber—“

“German, Ludwig”

“Right” he cleared his throat as he passed another paper sheet “I guess I was also in Liebe—love with you since before, but didn’t realized until now” Ludwig looked at the brunette by the corner of his eyes “But, it’s weird, you always talk about how attractive women are and yet—“

“Oh, Ludwig” Feliciano chuckled “Of course I think women are attractive, you don’t?”

“Well, yeah, of course, but—“

“There are a lot more ways of attraction and to love than just the classic men with women, you know, Ludwig?” the artist had a playful smile adorning his lips “For example, I think men and women are attractive and appealing. Maybe you didn’t realize until now because you hadn’t met the right person? You always said you didn’t have the time for a girlfriend, but I think it’s more like you didn’t find them attractive on a lover way, right?”

And he was right. Of course Ludwig recognized a beautiful woman whenever he saw one, but he never felt like trying to court her into something more intimate, it just didn’t appeal to him. But, then, why didn’t he feel more attracted to men?

“You look confused, Ludwig”

“Maybe I am”

“Don’t worry, as I told you, love represents itself in various ways” his brown eyes looked at the roof “Maybe you just had to get more intimate or closer to a person to be able to fall in love, that happens a lot of times” he shrugged.

Ludwig still felt somewhat confused, but decided to leave it like that. That wasn’t the time not the place to start having an identity crisis. On the sketchbook, new little drawings of him started to appear, some of them with blue color on his eyes, some with yellow color on his blond hair and some others with red color on his cheeks. He felt how his face started to burn progressively.

“Is the sketchbook full?” he asked to change the subject.

“Yes, I decided to fill it to the last page”

Slowly to appreciate the various drawings, Ludwig passed the pages. It wasn’t full entirely of him, sometimes Abrielle’s face would appear with her wide smile, sometimes Mrs. Carmelina, birds, cats, buildings, sometimes even food.

“This looks more like a diary or a journal than a sketchbook” a chuckle escaped from the blond’s lips with a smile.

“Maybe it is”

And then, finally, the last page. There he was again, plastered over the white paper in all his greatness; this was what he had been expecting since a week ago. The nude sketch.

His blue eyes slowly and carefully scanned through the drawing, each stroke and each line. The pose itself was pretty default, the body looking front while the face – with eyes closed – looking to the side, both arms behind the head.

“The lower part is pretty generic, though” Feliciano pointed it out “Because I didn’t see you fully that time at the hotel. It doesn’t matter, though, penises pretty much look the same” Ludwig almost choked on his own spit.

“Don’t say things like that!”

“Ludwig, don’t be embarrassed, we’re adults after all!” Feliciano patted the other’s shoulder with an innocent smile.

“Still, have some decency…” he suddenly felt his waist being embraced by the other’s arm, and when he looked at his side to ask about it, he found Feliciano’s face being pretty close to his own. He was sure his heart stopped working.

“Ve~, I’m sorry, Ludwig” his voice sounded indeed apologetic but still singing “But I wanna be close to you”

“You—you can do it, don’t worry” now his body started to tremble once again when the brunette rested his head over his shoulder and sighed.

“I’m gonna miss you so much, Ludwig”

“I know, Feliciano, I’m going to miss you, too” he closed the sketchbook and took the opportunity to caress the brown hair of his friend.

“A lot?”

“A lot, Feliciano”

“Hey, Ludwig” the called mumbled an affirmative sound “Have you ever had sex?”

Ludwig’s body reacted jumping off the bed, almost provoking Feliciano falling but fortunately the smaller man was able to regain balance.

“Nein! Ich bin zu jung!—I’m too young for that!” but his cheeks were burning at the memory of him touching himself a few weeks ago “Besides, I don’t have the zeit—time, for that that! And—“ his face changed from being embarrassed to stun “W—wait, does that mean you…”

“Ludwig, I’m an Italian artist that travels a lot” his face reflected something like ‘it’s obvious, Ludwig’ “I mean, it’s not like I do it a lot, but yeah, I have”

Ludwig had never felt more ignorant about something in his life.

“Shhh, Ludwig, calm down, it’s ok” he moved his hands as if trying to calm a little puppy “I’m not saying it’s bad or good you haven’t, it’s normal and ok if you didn’t want to have that kind of relationship with someone. In fact, I think it’s about the same about falling in love with someone for you, right?”

Of course it’s the same! His whole life he had been taught that he should fall in love first and then getting married and then have sex to have kids! Well, those two last parts were pretty much impossible for him now, though. Being in love with someone without a uterus and all. But the mere idea of being sexual with anyone else but his true love left a sour taste in his mouth.

The Italian stood up and once again hugged him, resting his cheek on the other’s chest and closing his eyes.

“It’s ok, Ludwig, I wanted to be more intimate with you before your leave, but if you don’t want to it’s ok. I love you like that”

Trembling, the blond reciprocated the gesture, holding tight the Italian’s smaller body. The paint and turpentine smell covered his nose immediately.

It’s not like the idea hadn’t ever crossed his mind. But one thing was thinking about it and another, really different, was actually acting on doing so. Feliciano was right, he never had felt like this for someone else, maybe he was interested on being sexual now because of the brunette in the first place.

And yet, he felt so ignorant and scared of it. Suddenly all his theory knowledge on sex seemed so ridiculous and weak against the first person experience his companion had. And yet, he did want to try being like that with the other. Mainly because it was their last night together and he would like to have something to remember for the rest of his life.

But—

But how does sex between two guys works, anyways?

“Feliciano” his voice was raspy, as if he had yelled for hours.

“Yes, Ludwig?”

“I would—I would like to…” he sunk his face on the brunette threads over the Italian’s head.

“Are you sure?” thankfully, Feliciano got what the German was trying to say immediately. Ludwig just nodded in silence and his face turned even redder when he heard a chuckle coming from the artist.

He then felt himself being pulled by the hands towards the bed. Feliciano had a reassuring and soft smile. Ludwig’s fears suddenly seemed ridiculous.

Whatever was about to happen, it would be ok. Because Feliciano was with him, because everything would be with Feliciano. It would be their last night together and they would enjoy every single second of it so they wouldn’t regret it the next morning while saying farewell forever.

When Ludwig came back to his conscious senses, Feliciano was already kissing him softly on the lips, cupping his face with both hands. The blond passed his, still slightly trembling, hands over the Italian’s sides. He had never touched anyone before, not this intimately, and the idea of touching Feliciano sounded simply magnificent. The kiss soon turned into something deeper after the brunette nipped a bit on Ludwig’s lips, making him let go a soft moan that was drowned inside the kiss when the Italian’s tongue attacked his mouth.

Feliciano’s hands passed to his back, caressing the shoulders in slow movements that made the taller man shudder in anticipation. It felt like burning. Feliciano’s hands felt like they were burning him in a pleasant way; how is that even possible? Ludwig didn’t have the answer- and neither he cared – all he wanted was to feel the artist’s body close to his own.

Suddenly it was difficult to breath. Ludwig didn’t know if it was because he felt like burning or because Feliciano didn’t leave room to rest on the kiss. Whatever the reason, the brunette broke the kissing to continue on the other’s neck, biting softly, and moving his hands towards the blond’s shirt and buttons, undoing them.

This was actually happening. Feliciano was actually trying to get him unclothed. Ludwig’s body stopped moving and his companion took notice of that, opening his brown eyes and staring at the blue ones.

“Is something wrong?” Feliciano asked.

“No” maybe he answered too soon “It’s just—it’s just that it’s all new to me, it’s all” the brunette was smiling all the time.

“I have an idea, remove your shoes and lay on the bed, face up” Ludwig wasn’t that sure about doing so, but decided to comply when he remembered that Feliciano was the expert here “You’re just nervous, Ludwig, it’s normal” if the Italian was trying to calm his new lover, it wasn’t working, much less when he sat down over Ludwig’s pelvis “For now, just close your eyes and enjoy yourself, leave the hard work to me” he then reclined himself enough to whisper on the blond’s ear “And for what I feel against my butt, it’s really hard”

In that instant, Ludwig closed hard his eyes and a slight desire to just die or explode or something to prevent him from feeling this embarrassed.

“Put your hands over me, Ludwig” a voice that he recognized as Feliciano’s called him. He again complied with his eyes closed, placing his hands over the brunette’s back “That’s good, now caress me, Ludwig, I wanna feel you”

Ludwig wondered how Feliciano was able to dictate any instructions when he, the blond, was dying of embarrassment. It wasn’t that new, though, Feliciano always having the control over himself and his emotions, unlike the foreigner.

He soon felt his neck being kissed again, but now accompanied with caresses on his chest, resuming the unbuttoning until the shirt was completely open. He heard Feliciano’s letting go a sigh.

“You’re so beautiful, Ludwig” the artist said finally, giving little kisses all across the bust in front of him “I just can’t describe how beautiful you are, Ludwig” he chuckled a little “That’s why poets use so much synonymous all the time” his small hands passed over Ludwig’s sides, sending him shivers that Feliciano felt on his fingertips “But I’m no poet, Ludwig” the Italian bit softly the white skin under him and the blond removed himself while moaning softly “I’m a painter”

His hands traveled all across his body to the head; that he grabbed to nip and bite Ludwig’s earlobe.

“That’s why I love watching you, Ludwig”

If the German wasn’t aroused and excited already, he surely was now. His hips even moved a little the moment he heard the soft whisper against his sensitive ear. Now feeling more daring, his hands moved to Feliciano’s buttocks and stayed there.

“Sit, Ludwig” another order on a whisper that he immediately followed.

Still with his eyes closed, the German felt how his shirt was abandoning his body, falling from his back and arms. Feliciano must have asked him to sit to do so.

“Look at you, Ludwig, so perfect I could just watch you eternally” another bite on the muscle between his shoulder and neck. Feliciano’s hands travelling again on his now naked back “But now I wanna touch you forever, too” his hips started to move, provoking friction between Ludwig’s hard-on and his butt “Ah, so big, Ludwig”

The flattered just hide his face on Feliciano’s shoulder and hold him by the waist with both arms, embarrassed.

“Ludwig, how about you undress me? Maybe that way you’ll feel better, yes? And I also wanna feel you closer”

The German trembled again. He also wanted to have the Italian without clothes, but that meant opening his eyes and he wasn’t that sure of it being safe or having the confidence to do so.

“Look at me, Ludwig, to my eyes, and don’t look away”

Slowly, the blond opened his blue eyes that immediately locked into the deep brown eyes of his soon-to-be lover. They reflected such confidence, such concentration and such deepness. Just like when Feliciano is painting.  

Hands got closer to Feliciano’s shirt’s buttons that in short time were undone. Somehow looking directly into the Italian’s eyes gave Ludwig all the confidence he needed to continue, because now it was him who was licking and kissing the other’s chest, removing the shirt and discharging it somewhere on the floor.

“Ahh, Ludwig” his voice was trembling and both his hands were undoing the blond’s hairstyle, but soon enough were travelling again to Ludwig’s belt, having some difficulty to unbuckle it because of the position “Unbuckle it, Ludwig, do it so I can touch you”

Locking eyes with the artist again, Ludwig complied the instruction. His lips puffy and red from the kissing, his face burning from the blood staying on his cheeks and now his hair completely undone. But he didn’t care anymore. All he cared about was that his damn belt was a complete nuisance.

The smaller man followed him and also started to unbuckle his own belt, with more ease than his partner. Soon also his pants were undone and down to his knees. Ludwig’s eyes promptly went down to see his companion’s estate. Feliciano was hard, and Ludwig just noticed it but the artist’s cheeks were also burning red and his eyes full of desire.

The brunette climbed down the German, grabbed Ludwig’s pants and pulled them down after getting rid of his own.

“You’re big” he repeated. Now Feliciano was staring and, even if Ludwig felt like dying of embarrassment, he didn’t cover himself to prevent those eyes.

The German wanted those eyes to stare at him, to watch him thoroughly and with carefulness. He wanted those deep brown eyes to dissect every muscle, line and movement from his body. Feliciano could stare how long he wanted to.

His thoughts were interrupted when he felt the artist’s hot breath over his pelvis, making every single hair of his body to peak up. Feliciano then, without breaking eye contact with the blue irises staring at him, gave the bulge in front of him a lick, from the base to the tip to finish with a little bite on the dark spot on Ludwig’s underwear. This made the foreigner’s back to arch with a loud moan.

“You’re doing an excellent job, Ludwig” Feliciano murmured, biting him softly again “You’re so beautiful, Ludwig” he grabbed the German’s underwear by the belt and pulled down, revealing the hard dick under it “It makes me desire you”

Ludwig wasn’t sure if Feliciano was talking about his beauty or about his shaft but couldn’t analyze it for much because the artist started to lick again. It was a different sensation, so new and strange, and definitely not unpleasant. His fists clenched over the bed cover when Feliciano’s mouth covered his whole dick, moving his head rhythmically up and down, sucking a bit and using his hands to prevent Ludwig’s hips to move too much.

The room’s silence was finally and ultimately broken with the German’s moans and cries, calling his companion’s name between gasps for air. When the tension of his body was getting too much, everything stopped as the Italian let go of his cock with a final kiss on the head.

“We won’t go all the way because neither of us is prepared” Feliciano said on a whisper with a smile “But I want you to be over me, Ludwig”

The blond didn’t totally understand what “all the way” meant, but he posed himself over his lover once the latter lay down on the bed with open legs, space he took advantage of. Feliciano immediately interlaced his legs around Ludwig’s waist and placed his hands over the other’s shoulders.

All that movement provoked that both dicks rubbed each other, making both men to moan from the jolts it sent them through their bodies.

“Now… now just move your hips, Ludwig” he too started to do so, arching his back a little because of the sensation.

The student complied, like he had been doing the whole night, and started to move his hips but feeling an urgent need of more, grabbed both dicks with his hand.

“Oh, Ludwig!” the moan that came from Feliciano’s mouth was trembling just as his body “Move—move your hand too, Ludwig, do it” he sounded like begging “It feels so good”

That’s everything the German needed. His hips moving stronger along with his hand and not taking his eyes apart from the sight that was Feliciano’s face.

“Keep it like that, Ludwig” even if the Italian was trying to make his voice sound somewhat normal, it was useless to win against the moans escaping from him. Unlike Ludwig, that was doing a better job at suppressing his moans into loud grunts, all because he didn’t want to lose any moment from Feliciano.

But his control soon crumbled when the tension on his body came back. He recognized that tension; it was the same as that time when he was alone. He was about to finish and it was a sensation that he wanted so much but at the same didn’t because he didn’t want this to end.

“Ludwig, I’m gonna—I’m gonna come, Ludwig!” his eyes were closed shut and his hands tightened around Ludwig’s shoulders. That probably would leave a mark.

“Tun—Tun Sie es für mich, Feliciano” of course he noticed he was talking in German, but he didn’t have the control over him to even bother translating “Lassen Sie mich sehen”

As if the Italian had understood the foreign language, he let himself come while arching his back and crying his lover’s name. His hot semen covering his torso and Ludwig’s hand. The German soon followed him the same after a few thrust into his own hand, also smearing the artist’s torso with his own cum. But, unlike Feliciano, he did so in almost complete silence.

Ludwig rested his forehead on the brunette’s shoulder with his breathing heavy and without control, just like the other’s.

“I love you, Ludwig” Feliciano said while caressing the blond threads on his lover’s head.

“Ich lieve dich auch, Feliciano”

“I don’t speak German, Ludwig” the brunette chuckled.

“I love you too, Feliciano”

The Italian let go a content sigh with a soft smile.

“I know, Ludwig, I know”

Chapter Text

Bright light penetrated his eyelids, making it impossible to sleep in peace anymore.

Ludwig opened his eyes and was received with an annoying brightness in the room; that means that the sun has been up in the sky for quite a few hours. The clock wall says it was 9 AM. He then looked to the bulk beside him, a bulk that had him in a tight hug by the waist, a naked bulk named Feliciano. The German couldn’t resist the temptation and caressed the artist’s arm slowly with his hand, feeling the soft skin against his fingertips.

After last night’s “activity” they fell asleep embraced like that, whispering loving words to each other’s ears with gentle touches and kisses. It was like a dream, a dream that Ludwig didn’t want to wake up from, he wouldn’t mind spend the rest of his life on this blissfulness of love. Whoever said that love was ridiculous and useless clearly hadn’t fall never in love.

Today was the day he is going away.

A sting pain in his heart made him go back to reality. This wasn’t a dream, and it couldn’t continue like this. Real life wasn’t always fair, and real life wasn’t always beautiful. Sometimes people had to do stuff they don’t want to because it was for the better, the bigger better, at least. And that was his case. Even if Feliciano was the love of his life, he couldn’t abandon his family and future for him. Either way, he was glad that the Italian understood that. And besides, life changes all the time. Who is he to decide what destiny had prepared for him?

“Feliciano” he called his lover while shaking him a bit “Feliciano, wake up, I need to get ready” the little body moved just a little, mumbling something about pasta and pizza. This guy, seriously.

Finally, Ludwig used his force to push Feliciano a little away from him, freeing himself from the embracing. He immediately felt his body cold. It wasn’t necessary to Feliciano to wake up early, anyways, so he would let him sleep.

The German took a shower, prepared his luggage, cleaned a bit, and then stood in the middle of the room to scan it one last time. He wouldn’t have breakfast just yet; he could eat something at the train. The first sketch that Feliciano had given him was already packed with the rest of his belongings. Of course he couldn’t take everything with him; he would have to send someone to pick up the rest later.

It was a shame that this place would be abandoned.

He checked the clock again. 10 AM. He should wake Feliciano up if he wanted to get to Mestre’s train station by midday. So the blond once again shook the Italian’s body, this time a little stronger, while calling his time. Thankfully, the Italian responded.

“I know, I know…” he said with a sleepy face and voice “We need to go…” then lazily stood up and went to the bathroom to take a quick shower.

After a few minutes, the brunette was nice and dandy to go; he even grabbed his bag over his shoulder because apparently he had some things to do after checking out Ludwig at the station in Mestre.

After getting out of the apartment, they started to walk towards the port to take the little boat to Mestre.

“Heh, I’m having flashbacks of our trip” Feliciano mentioned with his singing voice “It was a nice trip. I had tons of fun”

“Yes, me too, Feliciano”

“You know, truth is we just spent six months or so together, but I still feel like I’ve known you since forever”

It wasn’t an unknown feeling to Ludwig, either. He felt the same about the Italian, and he would be the first one to admit it was a weird thing; taking in consideration that, in fact, they’ve only known each other for half a year. At what moment did his heart discover that this random Italian in the middle of Venezia in the country of Italia was his destined love? And how cruel destiny was now that he had to separate from him? A tragedy worth of a Heinrich Heine’s poem.

“It’s weird” the brunette continued as he shrugged “Falling in love so quickly, after all this time travelling” he then looked at the German “And I had to fall for the foreigner”

“It indeed is weird. But that’s how life works, isn’t it? Destiny and all”

“You’re a true romantic, Ludwig” the blond blushed at the comment “But I guess you’re right. One can’t control these things, right?”

After a long walk, they finally arrived to the port and took a boat towards Mestre.

Ludwig had thought that he would be alright, but his body confirmed otherwise. His heart was throbbing and his stomach was a nervous mess, as if he had a monster biting and eating him alive from the insides. With every second and minute that passed, the closer the end of this dream came. He looked at the brunette by the corner of his eye. He was smiling and watching the ocean in silence. The German wondered how Feliciano was feeling; maybe as bad as him? Maybe he actually didn’t feel much because he perfectly understood what was happening and why.

The scene from last time replayed on his head. Feliciano’s face full of tears while his voice was cracking in emotional pain, the clenching of the brunette’s hands over his chest and how his body was trembling. The cool air and the soft whisper of the ocean’s dance.

He had lived and felt so much in these short six months. And it was all thanks to the Italian next to him. Well, more like his own brain and heart discovered that life itself was here to enjoy, or something like that, Feliciano was just being himself. The artist wasn’t a savior, but either way Ludwig was thankful.

In a few minutes, they were already on a cab on their way to the train station.

The blond felt like barfing and this sudden need or urge to hug, hold and kiss Feliciano was present on his body. What would Feliciano think about that? It was unthinkable right now, though, there were in the middle of the city with tons of people around them.

Finally at the train station, Ludwig bought his ticket and Feliciano helped him carry the luggage to his private cubicle inside the fancy train.

“So” the brunette started to call Ludwig’s attention “This is it” even if he was smiling, the German was perceptive enough to identify the sadness in those brown eyes of his “You’re leaving, Ludwig”

“Yes” words were hard to pronounce, but he still tried his best to talk “So I guess we should…”

“Yes, we should…”

And then silence.

Neither of them wanted to say it first. Maybe because they both knew that if they dared to say goodbye they would break into tears and pain.

How sick and cruel life and destiny can be. Reuniting these two lovers in the middle of an ocean of people, one random day in a one random street of Venezia, and then oblige them to be apart forever. How many possibilities of this exist? What would have happened if Ludwig had decided to go to another country for his scholarship that random day? What would have happened if Feliciano had decided to not stop at Venezia that random day?

What would have happened if Ludwig had decided to not talk to Feliciano that random day?

Instead of talking or making asking questions with no answers, Ludwig pulled the Italian by the arm and hugged him. The scent of turpentine and paint immediately filled his heart with a nostalgic feeling. Feliciano also hold him by the waist. Both of them were trembling.

“Ich sah dich, und die milde Freude” Ludwig started to recite “Floß aus dem süßen Blick auf mich,” he then cupped Feliciano’s face with both hands and kissed him softly “Ganz war mein Herz and deiner Seite”

“Ludwig, I—“

“Und ieder Athemzug für dich” the blond continued, now grabbing Feliciano’s hands between his own, kissing them “Ein rosenfarbes Frühlings Wetter, Lag auf dem lieblichen Gesicht, Und Zärtlichkeit für mich, ihr Götter” he then stared at the brown deep eyes that looked at him with confusion “Ich hoft’ es, ich verdient’ es nicht” to finish, he deposited one last kiss on the Italian’s lips.

“Ludwig, you know I don’t speak German” it was impossible for the brunette to hide a smile and a chuckle from his lips.

“It was a poem, ‘Willkomen und Abschied’ by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, really old”

“Ve~ always talking in German whenever you’re emotional, Ludwig” he caressed his lover’s cheek.

“I don’t want to say goodbye”

“Neither do I, Ludwig”

The whistle made its characteristic high noise, announcing that the train was about to part.

“I have to go, Ludwig” the taller man let go of his hands and Feliciano grabbed his bag, looking for something “Here, you can have it” the black sketchbook was in his hand “So you remember me”

“I wouldn’t need this to remember you” he still took it “But thanks, Feliciano”

It was at that moment that his brain sparkled with an idea.

“You can have this” Ludwig said, pocking on his jacket’s pocket and taking out a key “It’s the key to my apartment. I want you to live there”

“No, Ludwig, I can’t accept it, I don’t have the money to pay yo—“

“I’m not selling it to you, I’m giving it to you” he once again took Feliciano’s hands to place the little key on them “It’s my last present to you, Feliciano”

“But—“

“That way” he interrupted, with his blue eyes locked on the brown ones “I will know where to find you”

Ludwig’s heart was beating with no control and he was sure he was about to cry.

“I—“ but Feliciano was again interrupted when a man opened the cubicle’s door.

“Excuse me” he looked embarrassed, maybe because of the scene he found behind the door. He was wearing an elegant uniform, surely the bellboy “I—I need to check your tickets”

“Go, Feliciano”

The young man sighed one last time while putting the key on his pants pocket.

“Goodbye, Ludwig”

“Goodbye, Feliciano”

And so the brunette exited from the cubicle, disappearing from the foreigner’s sight, maybe for forever.

Days later. A nostalgic scenery filled Ludwig’s life.

He was back at München.

München, capital of the state of Bayern. Previous to the World War was a city full of life and its economics were splendid. But after the War, life at München became difficult for everyone, mainly because the French Army dropped three bombs at the city.

He and his family had taken cover on Switzerland in those dreadful years.

Nowadays, there was shortage of everything. And its politics were far from balanced. Everyone was angry and everyone wanted a piece of all of it. Just in February of 1919 the communists had taken control over Bayern, to only be put down at May of 1919.

München was madness.

The ride on the cab was unusually long – or so it felt like it –. Ludwig was feeling excited, it’d been so long since last time he had seen his family. He wondered how they were doing. Maybe Grandfather was at the verge of his patience because of Gilbert, maybe Gilbert had redecorated his bedroom again. Maybe they had bought beer to welcome him.

The student hadn’t sent notice of him going back to Germany because he thought it was useless. If he had sent a letter, he would arrive along with it. So his family didn’t know he was coming back.

His excitement grew bigger when he saw his neighborhood through the cab’s window and finally his own home; a not so big mansion with red roofs and black gates, surrounded by big trees. It was a miracle that it didn’t become a victim of the war.

He got down the cab, paid the fee, and promptly was received by the servants who greeted him with smiles and bows.

When entering the lobby, Ludwig saw a tall man with white hair, red eyes and a voice that he would recognize anywhere.

“Ludwig!”

He was his older brother, Gilbert, who was going downstairs to meet him.

“Why didn’t you tell us you were coming back this soon?!” he gave the blond a really strong pat on the back “We could have prepared something! A party or shit!”

Always so noisy his older brother.

“It isn’t necessary, Brother” Ludwig removed his jacket and gave it to a maid “Where is grandfather?”

“Oh, right! The old man is at his studio, I guess a maid already told him you’re here, but let me—“

“I’m here already, Gilbert”

Another voice from another man. Almost as tall as Ludwig, skin as white as pearls and long, platinum blond hair crowning his head that was grabbed on a low ponytail. He had icy blue eyes that reflected cold confidence. He was wearing a really elegant suit. Ludwig always thought that his grandfather’s walking was almost like floating, so soft and elegant it was imperceptible.

“Well, indeed you’re, old man” the albino corroborated.

“I’m glad you’re back, Ludwig” a soft smile appeared on his lips while placing his hands over the other’s shoulders “Are you tired of your trip?”

“A little bit”

“You may go rest while I call the chef to prepare something for you to dine, we must celebrate this event”

“Yeah! I bet you missed German beer, West! So we’ll have tons of it tonight!” he loudly laughed at his announcement while his grandfather simply shook his head, but still smiling like he was finding everything amusing.

Ludwig’s heart was warm.

It was good to be home.

Chapter Text

It’s been half a month since Ludwig arrived to München. The moment he arrived, his older brother and grandfather started to tell him about the company’s state.

Due to Germany’s economic crisis lots of business went down. Business that had agreements with their company. And now that they closed it was affecting them, to the point of having to dismiss a lot of people.

His grandfather looked really guilty about it. In fact, he felt so guilty about it that he sent the dismissed people enough money for a family of four to survive for the next three months besides their monetary liquidation.

“Oi, Ludwig” his older brother called him “Could you just tell me how Italy was? You keeping it like it’s a secret or something”

They both were at Ludwig’s bedroom, with the owner sitting at a desk while typing some things on a typewriter. Gilbert was laying down on the blond’s bed behind him.

“Why are you so interested, anyways?” the student replied with a question.

Not even him understood quite well why he didn’t feel like talking about his staying in Italia. He still had, sometimes, dreams about that warm country, the warm city of Venezia, and the warm Italian people.

And, of course, dreams of his beloved Feliciano.

“Because you’re being so sneaky about it!” the albino complained with a grunt “It feels like you aren’t telling me something” he then sat on the bed.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I only went there to study and that’s what I did. Nothing else”

“Are you sure you didn’t do someone else?” a big wide smirk was on Gilbert’s face. He started to cackle when Ludwig got silent “Oh, my God! It’s true!”

“Sta ‘zitto! Ovviamente no!” Ludwig yelled at his brother while turning his face to him, revealing his red bright face. Huh, it seems that in Germany he talks Italian whenever embarrassed. This only caused Gilbert to laugh harder.

“Don’t go Italian on me, West! I don’t know shit about that”

“I traveled to Italia to go to college and that’s what I did!” he resumed his typing with an angry force.

“Geez, I’m only messing with you, calm down” the red-eyed stood up and patted Ludwig’s shoulder “I guess Italy must be pretty boring, then, too bad”

With that last sentence, Gilbert went out of the blond’s bedroom to leave him alone finally.

It didn’t surprise him that Gilbert, and even his grandfather, were so curious about Italia because it’s been so long since they had traveled there. But he just didn’t feel like talking about it. It, honestly, still hurts to remember. Ludwig stopped his typing and stood up, walking towards the nightstand besides his bed and opening the drawer. The black leather sketchbook was there. He picked it up and after sitting on the bed, he started to pass the pages slowly. Little drawings of his face and Venezia started to show up in front of his blue eyes.

That must be like the millionth time he had checked the little book since his arrival. He now understood why Feliciano had sketched so many different things in there; it was because he wanted Ludwig to have something to remember Italia. The people, the food, the buildings, and everything else.

It just lacked of something, though.

It didn’t have any portrait of Feliciano.

A sigh escaped his lips at the idea. Ludwig never thought of it because his head was so full of different things at the moment. And the present itself was a sudden surprise from Feliciano. He let himself lay down on the bed, with his feet still on the floor and the sketchbook on his chest.

What could possibly be Feliciano doing? He checked his watch. It marked 6 PM, so Feliciano was probably having dinner. Maybe he went to dine to Abrielle’s, or maybe he decided to cook something. Is Feliciano living at his old apartment as he asked him to? What if he decided to go away like he said? To south Italia to visit his family.

Another sigh was heard from him.

He had felt antsy since a week or so because he had been thinking about the possibility of writing Feliciano a letter. The temptation was pretty strong he must admit, but it wasn’t a bright idea to do it right now. He didn’t want his grandfather nor older brother to start asking questions - he had enough of that at the moment - about this “mysterious pen pal” of his. And he was sure he couldn’t give an honest answer to them. He couldn’t because he was afraid.

Not because of his family’s judgement, he was pretty sure that neither of them would judge him in a hard way. But afraid of breaking down in front of them. He had came back from Italia as a force, as strength, for them to be together as a family and overcome any obstacle in their way.

But, to be honest, he didn’t feel so strong at the moment.

That annoying stingy pain in his heart came back right through his chest. He remembered what he felt that time when he had thought Feliciano had disappeared from his life at Venezia. Would it be like this from now on? Was Ludwig willing to bear such a pain for the rest of his life? It actually felt worse than that time. Surely because he knew that the artist was feeling the same pain as him, surely because he knew the Italian also loved him just the way he loved the brunette.

Hot tears threatened to fall down from his blue eyes so he closed them. His hands clenched the sketchbook’s borders and a painful knot in his throat was suppressing his voice from coming out. Better that way, though, because he had no voice but sobs and gasps to offer to the emptiness of the room. So he gulped hard as if he was trying to devour the knot along with his despair.

Maybe - and just maybe - it wasn’t a good idea to keep alive the memory of that summer on the floating city of Venezia.

Maybe - and just maybe - it wasn’t a good idea to keep alive this barren hope.

Maybe - and just maybe - he should forget about Feliciano.

A soft knock at his door brought him back to his senses. He dropped the sketchbook over the bed and then walked towards the entrance of his room, opening the door. An old maid that immediately smiled at him was in there. Her name was Jolanda.

“Young Sir” she said with her frail voice “The dinner is ready and the Sir is already waiting for you”

“Yes, Jolanda, thank you. I’ll be there in a moment” as he finished talking, the maid bowed and excused herself. Ludwig closed the door again.

He went and put the sketchbook over the desk. It was a surprise to him that neither his grandfather nor his brother Gilbert had asked about the artist he mentioned in his last letter. Maybe they were too busy taking care of the company to ask for such minor details. It was better this way, in any case.

He left his room and went to dine.

Gilbert and his grandfather were already at the table. Grandfather was obviously at the head of the it with the albino at his right. They were talking about something so deeply they didn’t notice when the blond entered the room.

“... I tell you, old man, that new politics movement won’t bring anything good for the country” the red-eyed said with an annoyed face.

“I also don’t believe it’s the right choice” the old man replied as Ludwig sat down to his left side “It’s what I would call an extremist choice. But it’s just a small group against a whole country, we shouldn’t worry much”

“What are you talking about?” the blond questioned as a waitress served him some light beer.

“You know that party called Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, right?” grandfather replied and the young man nodded “Well, it changed its name to Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei because of this new leader that got elected some months ago”

“The little shit is an extremist” Gilbert added while picking a piece of steak with his fork.

“Indeed, Gilbert” the old man nodded “He has this… logic… about the Jewish people being an inferior race. He doesn’t even have scientific bases to state such an atrocious thing” his grandfather had a disgusted face. That meant that the whole idea really put him off “But, as I was saying to your brother, Ludwig, it’s a small group with baseless facts” he shrugged it off with a smile while cutting some baked potato on his dish “Anyone with common sense would agree that it’s just a group of extremists”

“I hope so” Gilbert said “The fucker doesn’t even like the idea of a democracy. Germany would go to shit if that party ever gains power”

“Don’t worry so much, Gilbert” the old man said lastly and then looked at the blond man “By the way, Ludwig, would you mind going to downtown? To the post office. I need you to send some letters”

“Why don’t you send the messenger?” the albino asked.

“He called in sick for the day. So, Ludwig, could you?”

“Of course, grandfather” he then drank a bit of his beer to hide his sudden excitement. This meant he could write a quick letter to Feliciano and send it with the just obtained excuse.

After dinner, Ludwig accompanied his grandfather to his study.

“Here you have, Ludwig” the old man gave him a bunch of letters “The majority are business related, but one it’s for your cousin Roderich, actually”

“What is the occasion?” the blond asked as he flipped the envelopes until finding the one with his cousin’s name.

“He recently got married” he replied while grabbing a piece of paper from the desk “He sent a letter giving us the news with a picture” he then grabbed something else from the desk, surely the photo, and gave it to the young man.

The photo showed his cousin Roderich with a young woman to his side. The woman had light hair and light eyes, with a flower adorning her head. It had been a while since last time they had met.

“Her name is Elizabeta Héderváry, she’s from Hungary” the old man walked to a framed map of Europe that was hanging in the wall “Can you believe it? Even if Austria and Hungary are neighbor countries, it sounds out of a romantic novel, right?” his eyes looked at Ludwig “In the letter, Roderich says they met when she was traveling at his city” a chuckle escaped from his lips “If she was traveling alone, that must mean that she’s a strong woman” he moved his index finger as an admonition, but his smile persisted “Just what Roderich needed, though”

“Is this everything, then?”

“Yes, Ludwig, you may go. Ask the chauffeur to take you”

But instead of going to the lobby Ludwig detoured his way towards his room. Sat down at the desk and started to write quickly.

Feliciano:

How are you? I don’t even know if you continue to live at the apartment and yet I decided to send you this letter in hopes of reaching you.

It’s been only a month away from you and I’m already feeling your absence.

Wow, that surely was corny and cheesy, but he still proceeded.

Things at München are as always. The politics are a mess and the economic situation isn’t bright. Besides the weather is colder than Italia’s.

His eyes momentarily diverted to the closed sketchbook next to him.

I miss Italia, I miss Venezia, but mainly I miss you.

I still dream of you, Feliciano.

With love.

Ludwig Beilschmidt

He then remembered his cousin and his wife.

PD: Would you mind, if you want and can, send me a picture of you?

He could feel his cheeks burning with blood in embarrassment. He was glad he was alone in the room so no one would witness him like this. After putting his own letter on an envelope, he went to the lobby and asked for the driver.

An hour later, Ludwig was again back at home. Feeling a lot better than before now that had made the first move to keep in contact with the love of his life. Even if he didn’t know if he was doing the right thing. Even if he didn’t know if he was taking the right decision. The sole idea of receiving a letter from the artist made his heart flutter with excitement.

When he was about to open the door to his room, it opened by itself revealing his albino brother behind it. The older man looked flustered the moment he met the blond.

“Did you need me for something, Gilbert?” Ludwig asked.

“Oh! No! For nothing, really!” was it Ludwig’s imagination or the man didn’t look at him in the eyes? “I was just-” he cleared his throat “Uhm, wondering if you were back, that is”

“Ok, Gilbert. If you say so” and so he entered his room, leaving the albino behind the door.

How weird.

But that’s just how his older brother is. So he just shrugged it off and sat at the desk to continue his typing for some more time before going to bed. It was then that he noted something different.

The sketchbook.

The sketchbook was moved from where he had placed it. It was now at the other side of the desk.

His mind traveled to just some seconds ago. To Gilbert and his odd behaviour.

His heart could have just stopped but Ludwig wouldn’t had noticed because he was too busy thinking in panic.

Shit.

Chapter Text

Maybe he was over thinking things, like always.

Maybe he was exaggerating things, like always.

Maybe Gilbert was being weird, like always.

Or maybe Gilbert indeed saw the sketchbook and everything inside of it.

Ludwig was walking in circles on his room trying to analyze the situation, even if there wasn’t much to analyze in the first place. In any case that Gilbert actually saw the sketchbook, it didn’t mean anything, it was just a sketchbook full of little drawings of his face, nothing serious, oh except for the nude of him in the last fucking page.

An exasperated grunt escaped from his lips letting his head hang from his neck. It was his fault, after all, it was him who didn’t put away the book in its rightful – and safe – place on the drawer at his nightstand. It was easy for him to simply leave it on the desk, thinking that no one would peek at it. But he should have known better, his older brother is known for being really curious and the sketchbook was something really out of place at his bedroom. It was obvious that it would attract, not only Gilbert’s, but anyone’s attention. Because everyone knew that he, Ludwig, is a big potato for the arts.

He also knew that Gilbert wouldn’t let it go that easily. Should he go at him before his brother did? Ask Gilbert about it? What would he accomplish with that? Just embarrassment, but he was a man of word and class, and he knew he should confront the problem by its horns and deal with it, just like usual business.

The low bell from the clock at the other side of the room reminded him that it was 12 AM already and that he really should go to sleep. It’s too late to try to do anything, anyways. So he changed his clothes and went to lie down on the soft bed.

His bed was big and comfortable with really soft to the touch sheets that always smelled like clean – lavender scent as always – and the covers were warm to go against the cold winter in this cold country. He could easily name this bed like the best bed in whole Germany and he was sure it wasn’t an exaggeration.

And still, it had been a while since last time he could afford a complete night of sleep.

At first he didn’t understand why he couldn’t sleep peacefully. It was the same bed as before, after all. But for some reason it just didn’t feel… right, he guessed. It didn’t matter what he tried – reading, drinking tea, exercise, changing positions – he just couldn’t sleep for the whole night. Just recently he discovered himself looking at the roof and sighing in a melancholic way while remembering Feliciano and it was at that moment that he concluded that he missed sleeping with the Italian at his side.

It was funny – somehow – how in only a week of sleeping with the brunette was enough to break his usual sleeping schedule. In only a week he got so used to Feliciano’s scent and body beside him that now that he hadn’t those he couldn’t sleep freely. Thankfully it hadn’t marked him that much for his family to notice.

He had thought of bringing turpentine and paint to his room to see if that would help with his sleeping, but decided against it when he imagined the weird looks from his grandfather – “Grandson, is something wrong with you?” he would ask thinking that Ludwig is a junkie or something –.

But right now he was tired and his eyes soon enough closed themselves.

He dreamed of ocean, trains and laughs.

Morning arrived as usual. With chirping little birds on the trees around the mansion, the bright sun trying to enter the building through the windows, the cold breeze turning everybody’s cheeks red. Soon enough the first floor was covered on fresh baked bread rolls’ scent that brought a warm and fuzzy feeling inside the chest to whoever had the privilege to smell it. The maids started to open up the curtains for the sun to finally enter the otherwise dark halls and corridors inside the house. The gardener continued to take care of the bushes and other plants, and broom outside the building to prevent the red leafs of the autumn to invade the front door.

 On the blond’s bedroom, the door opened slowly showing the same old maid from yesterday, Jolanda that started to call his name to wake him up at the same time of opening the curtain at the tall window. Ludwig’s room was at the back side of the mansion, so his window showed the back garden with its fountain of clean water clearly.

“Young Sir, it’s time to wake up” Jolanda repeated herself and opened the closet “Seriously, Young Sir, it’s so weird for me to wake you up. Usually you are already up by the time I come to see you”

Jolanda had been in the family since Ludwig had memory and his grandfather had declared that she would be the blond’s personal maid. So naturally she became something like a nana for him.

“I’m sorry, Jolanda” Ludwig said while sitting up and stretching his arms “I guess I’m getting used to Germany again” he used the same excuse every time Jolanda said something about it.

“It’s been almost a month, Young Sir” of course, the excuse not always worked on her “Would you like to take a shower now?”

“Yes, Jolanda, thanks” he could almost hear Feliciano making fun of him for being so prissy and rich. When the old maid got out of the room through a second door, Ludwig stood up and walked towards the closet to choose what he would wear that day.

If his memory worked right – and, seriously, it always did – he had to accompany his grandfather to a party at some business partner’s house that night, so he should choose something a little simpler for the night and then change into something more elegant later. Going to formal, fancy parties were normal for him, but after being half a year away from that kind of environment, it now felt somewhat weird to be in there. He quickly got used to Italia’s more simple dines with Feliciano.

The first sigh of the day was heard at that moment. And it was only 8 AM.

“The bathroom is ready, Young Sir” a frail old voice talked to him from behind.

Ludwig decided for a dark green suit “Thanks, Jolanda”

An hour later, the young master was already bathed, changed and perfumed. He was finishing the last details of his black tie in front of a mirror when a soft knock from the door attracted his attention. How weird, why would Jolanda come back?

“It’s open”

The door opened but it wasn’t the old maid behind in, in her place was a tall man of white silvery hair. It was Gilbert.

“Good morning, West” the older brother greeted with a weird voice, still not looking to Ludwig’s eyes.

This was even weirder. He had thought that he would be the one to get to his brother to talk about the sketchbook.

“Good morning, brother”

“So! Uhm, I guess you’re wondering why I’m here so early” Gilbert passed nervously his hand behind his neck, as if that part of his body hurt.

“Kind of. Yes” Ludwig left the mirror alone and turned to the other man.

“Well, first of all, I’m sorry” his hand dropped to his side while the other was positioned on his waist. Still not looking at Ludwig “It wasn’t my intention to peek at your things, I just thought it was, well, weird for you to have such a thing” his red eyes just diverted to him for a moment “And it looked old and dirty and, you know” he gulped “So out of you”

“Are you talking about the sketchbook?”

“Of course, West, what else would I be talking about?!” he finally looked at the blond and when he realized that his voice rose on volume, he cleared his throat “Well, the thing is that I’m sorry for peeking” he crossed his arms, clearly looking uncomfortable.

“I accept your apologies” what else was he supposed to do? He was feeling embarrassed enough.

“And second of all” Gilbert continued “What the fuck?”

Even in the lack of words from his brother, Ludwig understood perfectly that question. Gilbert was asking what was the deal with the sketchbook, why was it full of his face? From where did he get it and why was he keeping it?

But mainly, what the fuck happened at Italia?

“Well, uhm” the blond begun without having a correct answer “It’s a gift” that’s a start.

“It clearly is. You can’t draw shit, less something that good”

“It’s from someone I met at Italia” the embarrassment levels inside his head were going and going up “An artist, I told you about it on the letter I sent you, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, I guess you did, but still” Ludwig knew Gilbert wouldn’t let this die that easily “That sketchbook doesn’t look like a gift from ‘someone you met at Italy’”

Well, that would be because it was a gift from his frustrated love of his life and reason of sleepless nights.

But Ludwig wouldn’t tell his brother that.

“Of course not, we became something like—“ broken lovers would be the correct label “Friends. We used to go dine together and talk about stuff” Ludwig busied himself on the mirror again, grabbing his comb to placate his hair. Even if it was already very well placed perfectly at his head. Not a single thread out of place. But he wasn’t brave enough to keep looking at those red eyes of his brother.

“How weird. A college student and an artist. What could the possibilities be?”

It was clear by now that Gilbert knew Ludwig was pretty much full of bullshit. When the blond was starting to feel panicked, the albino let go a heavy breath.

“Anyways. It’s your business” he put his hands up and took a step back “And I’ll respect that. Just so you know that you shouldn’t let that kind of stuff out in the open” he now placed the hands on his waist “You know,” a big grin on his face showed his white and gleaming teeth “Since there’s a naked drawing of you in there”

Gilbert ran away before Ludwig could react to anything.

The day elapsed as always. Grandfather taking care of the company’s business, and Gilbert and Ludwig helping. Gilbert was as loud and annoying as always. Grandfather was as patient and serene as always. Ludwig was as diligent and strict as always. The company economic state, being honest, was fragile. Even after firing a big part of the employees, the profits just weren’t enough for the company to sustain itself.

If things kept going on like this they would have to close the entire thing which, of course, would be catastrophic not only for the employees but for Ludwig and his family too.

Just when the sun was setting behind the horizon, turning the sky into a mix of burning pink and cold purple, Ludwig was getting ready inside his room. For the party, he had chosen a black suit with a black tie; the tie had very thin silver diagonal stripes. He was fixing the tie in front of the mirror while Jolanda was brushing his shoulders and back.

“Black is definitely your color, Young Sir” she said tenderly “It makes your eyes glow even more”

“My eyes don’t glow, Jolanda” he would chuckle at the comment if he wasn’t embarrassed.

“Whatever you say, Young Sir” she laughs and then sighs happily “I’m glad you’re back. I was so bored with you away”

“I missed you too, Jolanda, but being on my own was rewarding on its own” when he was satisfied with the way his tie looks, he turned around “I learnt a lot of things”

“Things you probably won’t use ever, Young Sir” she laughed and Ludwig just smiled at her.

The service at the mansion wasn’t completely aware of the company’s situation. They obviously knew that the situation wasn’t optimal, but they didn’t know about the possibility of having to close it whole. And with that they would have to let go a lot of the service too. Ludwig just hoped it wouldn’t get to that point.

“I better go, Gilbert surely is getting impatient” the blond said while walking to the door.

“That wouldn’t be new, though”

After another hour, they were at the party at the business partner’s house. Just as big as Ludwig’s and just as fancy, full of elegant furniture and the shiny marble on the floor. The people at the party were just as elegant as the environment, they were wearing their best suits and dresses, the women were showing off their intricate hairstyles with their brooches full of shining stones of different colors. All of them were talking between them so the hall was full of murmurs and sometimes laughing – that, in Ludwig’s sincere opinion, sounded way too fake –.

The blond was standing next to his Grandfather, to his left, while Gilbert was at his Grandfather’s right. He was thankful of being the youngest brother because the attention wasn’t centered on him but on Gilbert, with old people always talking about all their beautiful and graceful daughters – “She can play the piano!” they would brag, as if playing the piano was a requirement for being a good wife – but the albino, loud as ever, would always kindly reject the passive-aggressive propositions. Just then the people would look at him, Ludwig, and try to talk to him, but him being the social awkward as always wouldn’t know how to keep a decent conversation going. He always guessed people found him boring and, sometimes, intimidating. He didn’t mind, of course, better for him but he didn’t feel like faking a smile that night.

“Ah, Mr. Beilschmidt” a fat man with red face and a big nose called his Grandfather “You have always been a political animal; what do you think of this new party?”

“You mean the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei?” the old man asked with a perplexed face “Well, I think it’s a waste of time to talk about it. I’m sure it will disappear with time”

“I don’t know, Mr. Beilschmidt” a woman of brown hair with a little rebellious gray said “That new leader they have looks like has his head very well placed over his shoulders” she laughed a bit “And I must say, he has a way of talking”

“Don’t tell me you’re thinking of agreeing with him” Grandfather Beilschmidt said, his eyes reflecting disbelief. Ludwig was kind of surprised, his grandfather usually kept his cool and serene image pretty well “Don’t be ridiculous, Mrs. Rohmer, anything that man says is a bag full of—“ he interrupted himself “Lies. And shouldn’t be considered to take into account”

“Well, it would seem that the party is getting a lot of support, in any case” the old man talked again “I wouldn’t be so hasty to talk like that, Mr. Beilschmidt” he lifted his glass with a wink. It felt like a warning for Ludwig.

“Just because it’s gaining support it doesn’t mean it’s the right choice” his grandfather concluded with a severe voice, a voice that told everyone in the group that the subject, along with the discussion, was over.

“Mrs. Rohder, I heard you bought a new horse?” Gilbert suddenly asked with a bright and charming smile “I was wondering what breed is it?”

“Oh, Gilbert! I didn’t know you were a horse enthusiast!” Yeah, neither did Ludwig “It’s a Schwarzwälder Kaltblut, very elegant and big! You know, my daughter is also a horse enthusiast and…”

At that moment, Ludwig decided to ignore what the lady had to say, looking at his grandfather by the corner of his eye. The old man was simply smiling but the hand over his glass was tightly clasped.

Grandfather didn’t talk for the rest of the party, leaving that part to Gilbert.

“I can’t believe these people” the old man finally said with exasperation when they were sitting at the car, on their way back home “I don’t know why I am surprised, though, it’s obvious they would take that side. Impudent people”

The blond didn’t remember when was the last time he saw his Grandfather this mad.

“Take it easy, old man!” Gilbert tried to calm him down “Just because they are rich it doesn’t mean they are smart, am I right, West?”

“Yes, sure”

“You see?” the albino exclaimed as if Ludwig agreeing with him was evidence enough.

“Sometimes ignorant people is the majority” Grandfather said in a murmur, more to himself that for his grandsons, looking at the window mind-absent with his hand on his chin, caressing his lips like every time he does when he’s thinking something really seriously.

Maybe Ludwig was too young to understand all this business like his older brother and grandfather – he is just a college student, after all – but something in his guts tells him that the future, his and his family’s, wasn’t as secure and settled as he had thought.

A week and a half passed since that night.

Ludwig had continued with his studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München as normal since the day he came back from Italia – “No time to lose” his grandfather said, and the blond happily agreed with him – and at that moment he was reviewing a book from college at the desk on his bedroom when Jolanda entered the room.

It was late at night.

“Young Sir” Ludwig looked at her “Something arrived for you this morning, but you’ve been so busy I didn’t dare to interrupt you” she handed an envelope “But you’re always busy, so here you have”

The blond was speechless.

“Y—Yes, Jolanda, grazie” he stood up and took the piece of paper immediately. At what moment his stomach became a knot? “For this, thanks. Si può andare—you can go, Jolanda”

The old woman simply went away with a confused look on her face.

Ludwig sat down and stared at the envelope. It was from Italia.

And it had Feliciano’s name on it.

How ridiculous, his hands were trembling and sweating and his breathing turned hasty. He promptly opened it and took the piece of paper out of it. The hand writing was elegant and artistic – was that even possible? – And it definitely was longer than his own letter.

Ludwig:

I was really surprised when I found your letter at the apartment. But my heart jumped in joy because you reached me.

I’m doing fine, I guess. I’m living at your old apartment now; it’s easier to paint in here! It enters a lot of light through the window and showering is really enjoyable, ha!

In your next letter, tell me how your life at Germany is. I see you’re living in “München”? How is it? How is your home? How is your family?

I’m planning on going to visit my brother and grandfather next month or something, but it’s just temporal. I’ll come back to Venezia after that.

Sometimes I also dream of you. I like those nights and dreams because I can touch and hear you. And sometimes they are so real that I wake up in the morning expecting you to be here with me. It’s weird, isn’t it? How easily the mind and the body get used to something, or someone, and how much they both miss it when it’s gone.

Ludwig, my dear Ludwig, I miss you every day. I yearn for the days when we were together, even when we were just friends. I miss calling your name and you responding to it. I miss the feeling I had in my heart every time you called my name.

I miss your smile, your eyes, your voice and your caresses.

I miss you whole, Ludwig, my beloved.

With love,

Feliciano Vargas.

PD: don’t forget to look at the stars.

The blond read the letter many times. It made his heart feel like overflowing of… something; he couldn’t put his finger on what he was feeling.

Joy? Love? Melancholic? Nostalgic?

Being in love sure is confusing.

He picked the envelope again and opened it wider. There it was. Another piece of paper that brought a smile to Ludwig’s lips.

It was a photo of Feliciano. He was smiling with his hand up as if he was waving it. The scenery was at the little plaza with the little fountain of clear water in the middle.

Ludwig tried to resist the urge to kiss the photo but ultimately did. No one was there to watch him, anyways. Surprisingly, it smelled of turpentine and paint. Still with a smile on his face and the photo on hand, he walked to the tall window and looked up to the dark night sky.

The stars were shimmering with a melancholic, and kind of sad, light.

 

Chapter Text

Time flies when no one pays attention to it. As if it escaped from the cage that was trapping it away from freedom while no one was looking.  

The cold kept rising without control, not caring if people were against it. The red leaves kept falling from the trees without asking for permission. Why would they need permission in the first place? They are free to do what they please because they aren’t trapped.

Unlike humans.

The autumn disappeared from their lives without them realizing it. Suddenly the cold winter was over all of them with no warning. Naked trees surrounding the city that made it look like a place out of a horror tale. The gray sky full of clouds that didn’t allow the sun to grace the soil with its warm shine.

On the Beilschmidt mansion the atmosphere was as gray as the rest of the city. The trees with no leaves left and the bushes that used to be green on spring now were a pale brown. But none of that took away the elegance of the building. It still stood proud in the middle of the villa with its red roofs and the fountain behind it, even if said fountain had frozen water to adorn it.

December was in.

It was early in the morning.

The young master of the mansion was at the main study reading some books about economics. Now that college was over for the semester, he could spend more time researching about this theme in hopes of being more useful to his grandfather’s dream of making the company once again a prosperous business.

But it wasn’t that easy. München economic state was deplorable – even laughable –. And for some reason in the last months more companies that had agreements with their company was cutting ties with them.

To make things even worse, his grandfather’s health was starting to decay because of all the stress he was living. In fact, grandfather was feeling so off that he had stayed on bed for almost a week. Ludwig had never thought of his grandfather as old or decrepit, but watching him in that state sure made him remind how old the man really is. His parents were twenty years old or so when the blond was born, so grandfather would be forty years old or something by then; which meant that he nowadays was around sixty years old.

Ludwig used to think that he was prepared for much anything that would hit him or his life. But now he realized that he was being naïve and that he actually didn’t understand the world and life as well as he thought. He passed a hand through his blond hair while letting a sigh go away from his lungs.

He was thankful of having his older brother Gilbert. If he, Ludwig, were alone, he wouldn’t completely know what to do on this situation.

His worries were interrupted when he heard the door in front of him open.

“Young Sir” it was old Jolanda. She had a somewhat worried face “The gardener found this when he was doing his chores” she had an envelope in her hands “It doesn’t have a name. I thought of taking it to the Sir, but you know he’s sick, and your brother isn’t home, so…”

“I’ll receive it, Jolanda, thanks” the maid got close to him and handed the white envelope. She retired after offering a bow.

The blond centered his attention on the envelope. It indeed didn’t have a name, just his grandfather’s and it was written on an average typewriter. Maybe he should take it to the old man. After thinking about the possibility a bit, he decides to open it himself. It was better to save his grandfather from trivialities that Ludwig could handle himself.

Taking out the letter from the envelope, it was as well written on a normal typewriter.

Deutschland doesn’t need people like you

That was everything on the letter. Ludwig flipped the page to see if there was more in its back but nothing was there. What a weird message. And it was even weirder because it didn’t have any name.

An idea fell on Ludwig’s mind as if it was cold water. This wasn’t a strange letter.

It was a threat.

The blond let fall the piece of paper over the desk and covered his face with both hands. What the fuck was happening? First other companies were cutting links with them and now his grandfather was receiving threats? What kind of joke was this? Were they cursed or something?

He took the paper again and read it many times. Should he tell his grandfather about it? Better not. The old CEO didn’t need more worries in his life. But he definitely will tell his older brother the moment he sees him.  The blond put away the letter on his pants’ pocket and continued his reading.

But it was to no avail, he now was too distracted to and decided to stop when he found himself reading the same line for the fifth time. He rested his back on the chair and sighed. After putting the books on their rightful place, Ludwig retired to his bedroom and opened the drawer on his nightstand to take the black sketchbook. He opened it and a smiling Italian received him. It was the photo.

Ludwig reciprocated the smile to the image.

He and the artist had been writing each other letters for the past months, and to Ludwig’s luck he hadn’t been found out thanks to Jolanda. And the old maid was too discrete to ask anything about it. If his calculations were correct, he would receive a letter somewhere between this days and he was eager to read it.

When they started this kind of relationship – was it even a relationship? – Ludwig discovered that he was just as awkward writing than when talking. Compared to Feliciano’s letters, his were small and when he tried to be romantic or something, he always felt too embarrassed about it. But Feliciano, oh Feliciano, always knew what to write.

On their last night together, the Italian had said that he was no poet but this letters demonstrated the contrary. Every time Ludwig read them his heart would flutter in love and agony at the same time. Agony because he so wanted to feel the brunette’s body next to him, because he so wanted to hear his voice calling his name, and because he so wanted to kiss those perfect lips that he was sure God Himself created just for him.

His face was red because of all those thoughts.

Being in love was really embarrassing.

And yet, he didn’t want to stop.

A soft knock from the door distracted him again hours later.

“Come in” he allowed once he put the black book back to its place. The door opened showing Jolanda once again.

“Young Sir, Sir Gilbert is home. May I suggest you to show him the letter?”

“Yes, Jolanda. Actually, I had decided that myself earlier. Where is he?”

“At the studio, Young Sir”

Ludwig then walked to the mentioned room. He was sure his older brother would have an idea on what to do with the letter and the situation itself.

Everybody thought that Gilbert was a lost cause or something because he was really loud - and sometimes plain annoying -, said stupid dirty jokes, and even sometimes would simply cause trouble for the heck of it. But in reality, Gilbert was one of the most trustworthy people Ludwig knew of. Gilbert was so accountable that their grandfather had decided to leave the company’s business to the albino, and Ludwig knew that that wasn’t just any decision.

“Older brother” he called the other man when he entered the study. The albino was standing in front of a tall bookcase.

“Yes, Ludwig? What is it?” Gilbert didn’t look at him, he was invested and concentrated on the books. Maybe he was looking for something specific.

“Jolanda gave me this in the morning” the blond handed the envelope with the letter to the other, who took it and read it.

Red eyes widened when finished instantly, he also bit his bottom lip, and if Ludwig dared to guess even his hands were trembling a little.

“Have you shown this to the old man?” Gilbert finally asked, looking at the younger brother.

“No, Jolanda gave it to me directly and I decided to wait for you”

“Yes, good. Grandfather doesn’t need to know about these letters” the albino put the letter on his pocket.

“Wait. Letters?” Ludwig’s voice sounded surprised. Gilbert sighed at his slip.

“Yes, letters. They started to appear the moment grandfather fell ill in bed” the red-eyed sat down over one of the desks and crossed his arms “I didn’t want to tell him because he’s sick enough. He doesn’t need more stress”

“And what do you think about… about these letters?” Ludwig suddenly felt nervous.

“I don’t really know” Gilbert confessed with a scoff laugh “I mean, they obviously are threats but I don’t know why. It’s not like we’ve been getting enemies or shit” his hand passed through his white silvery threads on his head.

“Either way” the albino continued talking “As long as they don’t try anything fishy, we shouldn’t worry much” he lifted an index finger towards Ludwig “And no word of this to the old man. He has enough stress already without it. Understood, Ludwig?”

The blond knew his brother was serious because he had said his name instead of West.

“Understood, brother” but either way he didn’t feel that content of hiding important information from his grandfather. But, as previously said, he trusted Gilbert whole.

Suddenly a spark on his mind went off, like an idea out of a dark cave from a corner of his head.

“What if…” Ludwig started talking while looking at the floor, thinking, and Gilbert watched him “What if these letters… and the other companies cutting links with us…” his blue eyes met the red ones “What if they are connected?”

“Why would you think that? Of course, that’s a possibility” the albino shrugged with a grin “But you know this business, Ludwig, you can’t go around the place pointing fingers. Do you have clues or shit?”

“Of course I don’t” Ludwig lifted his hand to cover his mouth tentatively, thinking once again “But don’t you think it’s too much of a coincidence? And even more, problems started to arise since that party we went months ago, didn’t they?”

“You mean the party where that old fart asked our grandfather about the new party?” the younger brother nods “Yeah, I’ve also thought of all of that, to be honest. But as I told you” he then stood up “In this business you can’t point fingers, Ludwig”

Ludwig suddenly felt ignorant and powerless.

“Even if other companies are trying to shit up our lives, for any reason,” Gilbert continued talking and took a step closer to the blond “We can’t do shit about it” his voice reflected accepted impotence.

“And then what?”

At what moment his throat got dry?

“And then nothing” the albino once again shrugged “You are a smart guy. I bet you can see how this is going and to where it’s gonna end” he crossed his arms and with a sigh he said lastly “We probably will have to close the company”

At what moment his lungs stopped working?

Of course Ludwig had thought of that possibility. Of course he knew it. But he still had the, apparently null, hope of them finding a way to survive this ordeal. Now that Gilbert himself declared it a possibility it made everything more real. Almost like a death sentence.

Ludwig took a step away from his older brother and passed his hand through his blond hair, closing his eyes.

“Yeah, I know. Though shit” Gilbert said “The old man probably knows it already, too. I’m guessing that’s why he’s been so sick lately” another sigh escaped from his lips and then he patted the blond’s shoulder “You better think about the future, Ludwig”

And with that last advice, the albino exited the room, leaving the young Beilschmidt alone in the middle of the study that now felt too big for him. All of a sudden Ludwig started to promptly walk out of the room and upstairs. He had already talked about it with Gilbert, but maybe his grandfather had something else to say. Anything. Ludwig would accept anything.

He knocked the door a little too hard for his taste when he arrived in front of his grandfather’s bedroom. A muffled permission came from the other side and he passed the door to find the old man sitting on a chair, looking through a window to nowhere with a finger over his mouth.

The oldest Beilschmidt was wearing a red and elegant robe with a blanket over his legs, with his long silvery hair let down freely with no tie or brooch to conceal it.

He looked somewhat delicate and weak.

“Grandfather” Ludwig called him because the old man wasn’t even looking at him.

“Yes, my Ludwig?” the long-haired man replied but still didn’t look at the young man.

“I just talked with Gilbert” for some reason he didn’t dare to get closer to the family’s patriarch, so he just stood in the middle of the room clenching his fists “And he says the company will probably close”

Silence was everything he had for a response from his grandfather.

“Grandfa—“

“Yes, Ludwig” the blond was interrupted when he was about to call him again. The old man sighed and closed his eyes “We will probably do that”

“But… but then what are we going to do?” Ludwig was surprised with a chuckle from his grandfather.

“I wish I could tell you, Ludwig” finally those icy eyes turned to the blond “Come and sit, Ludwig. We need to talk” he offered the chair in front of him with his hand and a serene smile.

The college student complied and sat in the chair, feeling uncomfortable in the spot.

“How long is it until you graduate from college, Ludwig?” he asked interlacing his fingers and looking directly to the blue eyes in front of him.

“A semester” he simply replied not really sure what this had to do with the subject at hand.

“Just a semester? I see. Time does fly when you’re not paying attention” he laughed a bit and then closed his eyes “Ludwig”

“Yes, grandfather?”

“I’ve been thinking” his eyes opened again “I’m going to retire”

Ludwig felt as if someone had bathed him with cold water from the sky.

“Retire?” he repeated to make sure this was real “But why? You’re still young and—“ he ceased to talk when the old man lifted a hand.

“There’s a moment in life when we must make sacrifices for the greater better. I did tell you that on that letter, right, Ludwig?” the questioned perceived how the old man gulped hard “I’m going to retire and give Gilbert his part of the heritage and you yours. What you do with it it’s your decision, Ludwig, but I would recommend investing in a new company with your own name. After college, that is”

What was happening?

At what moment this talking became like this?

“What about you?” Ludwig asked when he recovered his capacity to talk.

“I’m thinking of going to live somewhere else. Some place where I’m unknown”

Ludwig wondered why that last characteristic was important but didn’t dare to ask.

“So we all can begin anew” the old man finished talking.

Begin anew?

Ludwig didn’t want that.

“You can go now, Ludwig” he finalized the conversation and returned his icy eyes to outside the window.

And so the young man stood up and exited the room heading to his own. His mind was going crazy with rushing and confusing thoughts of what to do.

He locked himself on his room but continued walking in circles inside of it.

What the fuck just happened? At what moment did his life turn into this mess? Why did it turn like this? Ludwig felt so powerless and so impotent.

His life didn’t have control anymore. His life wasn’t organized anymore. His life was now a mess and he couldn’t do anything about it because it was out of his hands. All the time he spent carefully calculating and planning his life was now useless and a waste.

What will he do now? What was he supposed to do now? Did it really matter if he plan now? For what, if destiny already had its plan for them anyways?

His family knew that they didn’t stand a chance against whatever destiny had for them. For that reason, his grandfather decided to retire. To give him and his brother Gilbert a new opportunity in this sick joke of a life.

His breath started to get hasty and his sight to spin. The blond rested one of his hands on the back of a chair to regain composure, passing the other through his hair. His whole body felt like it had betrayed him because now he felt like throwing up and the cold sweat going down his forehead didn’t help either.

Ludwig’s whole life and world was crumbling under his feet and he couldn’t do - following Gilbert’s words - shit about it.

For the rest of the day Ludwig secluded himself in his room. He didn’t even go out of it to eat because the throwing up feel just didn’t leave him alone. He was refusing to deal with the world that day. So he just stay laying down on the bed trying to figure out just what the fuck he would do now.

His grandfather was right. He should finish college and then invest on something if he wanted to preserve his actual economic status. Maybe create his own business, his own company, but about what? And how? College wasn’t anything cheap and he knew it. Even if his grandfather was kind enough of give him heritage he was pretty sure it would be pretty gone by the time he finished college.

The blond covered his face with both hands and let go an exasperated and tired groan.

A sudden thought invaded his mind. And it was full of Feliciano’s voice.

“I hope you can restore your company’s success, Ludwig, so you’re free to do as you please again”

“Yes, I hope so too”

He remembers that scene quite well. A silent yearn from the Italian and a silent promise from the German to his broken lover. A promise of something else in the future. A promise of something more and to hope for.

An empty promise he made in the heat of the moment.

He felt as his heart was cut across with a long and burning sword. Right in the middle of the palpitating muscle that made his eyes go teary and his lungs to stop working properly.

The company’s success was imperative if he wanted any chance or opportunity of seeing Feliciano ever again. And now it was pretty much gone.

A knock interrupted his thoughts once again in that day. Surely it was Jolanda to remind him that he indeed needs to eat to carry on in life. So he stood up, cleaned his red teary eyes and opened the door. As he had suspected, it was the old maid behind it.

“Young Sir” she said “You should eat something. Should I bring you dinner? Even a bread roll would be enough”

“No, Jolanda, thanks. I’m fine” he knew it was useless to try to lie to the old lady, but he did anyways because what else could he do?

“Alright, Young Master” thankfully Jolanda knew when to retreat “Ah, right” her face illuminated with an idea and looked for something on the pocket on the apron “Here, Master Ludwig” a white envelope was on her hands “It arrived this morning, but…”

Jolanda didn’t complete her sentence. Surely because she didn’t dare to say that Ludwig secluded himself for whatever reason. Because it was obvious he wasn’t doing anything productive.

“Yes, Jolanda. Thanks. You can go” the old lady did a bow and retired herself. Ludwig closed the door and read the envelope. It was from Feliciano.

Reading the Italian’s name left a bittersweet taste in his mouth.

My dearest Ludwig:

You life on Germany sounds pretty interesting! Jolanda sounds like a lovely lady, is she kind like Mrs. Carmelina?

I’m really curious about your home, though. How is it? Is it big? What color is? Do you have a chef? I bet you do. Does they cook delicious food? There’s so much I would love to know!

The other day I was thinking. You’ve been gone for three months! That’s a lot. I had thought that with time I would come to accept the fact that you’re gone but it seems it’ll take a lot more of time because I still have to call your name now and then, even if I know I won’t get an answer.

I miss you so much, Ludwig. I know I say the same thing on every letter I send to you, but I just can’t help it. I miss your touch and kisses. Sometimes it still hurts.

Do you still hurt, Ludwig? Do you still dream of me?  

Sometimes I remember our last night together and wish we could have more of that. I could teach you a lot of things, and we could discover some more together.

I yearn for your touch and your kisses, my beloved Ludwig.

I better finish it here because I’m sure you’re getting embarrassed right now.

With my eternal love,

Feliciano

PS: Do you still watch the stars, Ludwig? I do every night in hopes you’re doing the same.

When he finished reading, tears were traveling down his cheeks and had his mouth covered by his hand. His whole body trembling sitting on the bed.

Ludwig let go the letter fall on the floor and covered his face with both hands, in hopes of suppressing his sobbing so no one would hear him.


Chapter Text

A few weeks later, the patriarch of the Beilschmidt family convoked an assembly with the whole mansion staff to give the news.

The Beilschmidt Company would close their doors as of the first days of next year.

It was no surprise when the maids, the butlers, the cooks and other staff started to whisper between them, but all of them had the same face, a worried and scared one. And Ludwig didn’t blame them, some of them – like Jolanda – had served their family almost all of their lives and now suddenly they found themselves on this jeopardy situation.

If the blond could, he would take Jolanda with him, but he couldn’t afford the risk of not having money to pay for her services later on. When his grandfather will retire, Ludwig will stay on München to finish college and he needs to find a new place to live on and none of that came free. He still hadn’t talk with Gilbert about what he’ll do or what were his plans for the future.

And mainly, he hadn’t replied to Feliciano’s last letter.

Right now he didn’t have the heart to do so. His life was a mess after all, and he didn’t want to give the Italian the horrible news about the company closing because they both knew what that actually meant. And yet, he also knew that he shouldn’t leave the brunette with no word from him, of course he would reply to that letter… eventually.

“Hey, West, what are you gonna do with your heritage?” Gilbert asked him while lying on the blond’s bed, looking at the younger brother’s back.

“I’m going to finish college and maybe start or invest in a new company, of course” that’s the responsible thing to do, after all. Ludwig was sitting on his desk, reading some manual about how to build clocks from scratch.

“I’ve should have known” the albino laughed with a cough “I’ve been thinking about it, what I will do”

“And?”

“I honestly don’t know”

The blond waited for the older brother to continue talking, but when he didn’t he turned his face to look at the other. Gilbert was staring at the roof as if it was the most interesting thing in the world.

“You don’t know?” Ludwig asked, unbelieving translated in his face “You should think more about it, Gilbert. You know next year is going to come really quickly”

“Yeah, yeah, I know” the red-eyed stretched his body still resting on the bed, closing his eyes as doing so “It’s just that… all my life I’ve been preparing to take over the company and now…” he stopped talking, maybe because he was ordering the words inside his head or maybe because he didn’t want to say whatever out loud.

“And now I’m suddenly free to do my own” he finally said with a sigh and lost eyes. That single sentence made something inside Ludwig’s gut to twitch. He knew exactly that feeling, the feeling of suddenly having no order and no goal on his life.

“Well, you should do the responsible thing and think about the future. You yourself said so to me, remember?”

“I know! And I’ve been thinking!” the albino sat up and looked directly to the sky blue eyes of his brother “I mean, the responsible thing for you is to finish college and start something new, and that’s ok, but” the blond was able to see a hard gulp on the older man’s throat “What if I don’t want that?”

“What do you mean?” by that moment, Ludwig had turned the chair completely to be able to see his brother “You mean… your plan is to not have a plan?” he asked with a voice that clearly reflected dejection.

“Not exactly like that, you see” Gilbert fretted. The blond knew his brother well enough to know that the lack of order also made him nervous – being German and all – “But more like… having it easy?”

“I don’t get it” the blond confessed.

“I mean, all of our lives have been crafted and built around this company’s life, aren’t they?” Ludwig simply nodded because, well, it was totally true “Me majoring on Economics, you majoring on Business Administration. Have you ever asked yourself if this was actually what you wanted?”

Ludwig didn’t reply because he had never asked himself that. He just accepted this route of life because it was the normal and responsible thing to do. It was the obvious thing to do because he would take over the company one day. But now that Gilbert asked him that, he wasn’t so sure if he actually had any saying on all of this. His train of thought was interrupted when the older man continued to talk.

“Sure, it was the best thing to do at that moment, and it makes sense for you to major in that if you’re gonna open your own company. But all of this situation” he moved his hands in circles to emphasize their surroundings “It just kind of happened on its own, right?”

“And then what do you suggest? What is your point?”

“I’m—“ the albino looked nervous and wouldn’t look at the blond’s eyes, with his hands interlaced together on a nervous knot. Ludwig didn’t remember having looked at his brother like this ever before “I’m thinking of going away”

The room was filled in silence that was only interrupted by the noisy tick tack from the old clock by the corner of the room.

“Going… going away?” Ludwig asked when he felt his voice was working again “Going away where?”

“I don’t know, maybe United States”

“You know that’s a ridiculous idea. Germans aren’t well received there as of now” he remembered the nasty and scared looks he got at Italia, he couldn’t even imagine what would be in the States.

“We Germans aren’t well received anywhere as of now”

“But why going away? What are your plans on going away?”

“Maybe I just want a simple life” Gilbert shrugged and Ludwig almost couldn’t believe it. If Gilbert was something, it definitely wasn’t “simple”.

“What about grandfather? Are you really going to leave him alone?”

“You know the old man, West, I’m pretty sure he has the rest of his life pretty much planned. And I bet he planned it without us on it. Don’t you remember? He said he was going to retire to somewhere people didn’t know him, for whatever reason he has for that”

That was pretty much true. Even if the old Beilschmidt had told them about him going to some place, he didn’t really tell them where exactly “this place” was, and Ludwig knew his grandfather well enough to know that the old man surely already had even bought his next permanent residence. He didn’t know, though, why the old man was being so secretive about it but Ludwig was in no place to start asking questions.

“Maybe he just wants a peaceful life as of now” the blond suggested, not sure if he was trying to convince him or his older brother.

“Honestly, I think it’s more about him wanting us to do our own. Maybe he’s taking this crisis as an opportunity to finally let us take real control of us and maybe he’s expecting us to take it” Gilbert stared at him for a moment and stood up.

“So, what are you going to do with this new control, West?”

Gilbert’s last question remained unanswered even after hours of him going out of Ludwig’s room. Even after hours of Ludwig’s being alone in his room in complete silence. Even after hours of Ludwig’s staring aimlessly in to the air in his room in the darkness.

If he could brag about something – not like he actually bragged about anything – it would be about having control over his life and every single step he took on it. He liked to think that his plan was perfect, his life was planned and he was following that plan accordingly. He never questioned the plan, he never questioned why that plan was the best, and he absolutely never questioned why he was supposed to follow that specific plan.

It just felt natural at that moment, to follow that plan, the obvious thing to do – as Gilbert said previously –. But now everything was changing, for the better or the worst, and he had to accommodate to that. The current plan didn’t work anymore and he had to make another plan.

Finishing college and starting his own company suddenly didn’t sound like a good plan either.

Of course he would finish college, though, but now it didn’t have that… imperative feel to it. It felt more like an option, being honest, it felt more like something Ludwig could choice. He could perfectly decide to drop out if he wanted to and his grandfather couldn’t have a word about it. Because now he was free to choose.

And he was scared.

Ludwig stood up and turned the desk lamp on to illuminate the dark room a bit. His usually tidy up desk was full of sheet papers and books he used that semester for college, it was like that because, honestly, the blond didn’t feel like cleaning up the desk. He chuckled at that feeling. What would Segmund Freud say about this feeling? Surely something about Ludwig’s desk mirroring his inner mess and demons or some bullshit like that.

He grabbed some books to accommodate them on the bookcase but stopped when he saw an envelope with Feliciano’s handwriting in it. It was the Italian’s last letter – the one that Ludwig hadn’t replied just yet – he usually puts them away on a safe box under his bed but he had forgotten about putting this one with the rest. The blond picked the white envelope after placing the books on the bookcase and read it once again.

He often read the letters more than once, mainly if the waiting was being excruciating, because it always left a warm feeling inside his chest. Ludwig could almost hear Feliciano’s voice with every word he read, he could almost hear Feliciano’s loud laugh and he could almost see Feliciano’s brown and profound eyes, looking at him diligently.

The German walked slowly towards the window and looked through it, still with the letter on hand. To his surprise, white fluffy dots were falling from the dark sky. It was snowing. Just then Ludwig felt a cold shudder ran through his spine. That’s right, they are on December now, and Christmas Eve was getting closer and closer. Every year the Beilschmidt mansion would celebrate it big but just inviting close family. Maybe this year it won’t be as big as the previous one, though. Ah, right, his cousin Roderich just got married, Ludwig wondered if he will be able to meet his wife – Elizabeta, right? – or maybe they’ll pass the holidays on her side of the family.

His attention centered on the letter once again and he asked himself what Feliciano would do on Christmas. Italians are family centered, right? So maybe the artist would go to South Italia again for the festivities. What did Italians’ Christmas look like? What kind of food they served? And what kind of music?

A soft knock on the door stopped his thoughts. Looking at the entrance he shouted a permission to go in and when it opened, it revealed the old and trusty maid Jolanda.

“As I thought, your room is as cold as the dead, Young Sir” was the first thing she said when slowly entering “You need to take better care of yourself” Jolanda walked towards the fireplace “Would you want me to call a butler to fire up this? It seems it’s going to be a cold night”

“Yes, Jolanda, thanks”

In a matter of minutes, the fireplace was cracking with the soothing and warm sound of wood. The butler immediately excused himself and exited the room.

“You’ll also need some covers, Young Sir” she concluded after analyzing the situation and opened the trunk by the bed’s feet, taking out the comfy covers.

“Jolanda” Ludwig called her name while watching her work.

“Yes, Young Sir?” she never stopped doing her job.

“What are you going to do next year?” the blond saw how her little hands hesitated a little at the question and he suddenly felt guilty.

“Well, Young Sir, to be honest I’m too old to even dare to dream of getting another job as a maid” she extended the last cover over the bed “Much less on a prestigious mansion as the Beilschmidt” she smiled but didn’t look at the young master “So, maybe I’ll just follow the Sir’s example and retire. Go live with one of my daughters…”

“I’m sorry I can’t help you, Jolanda” Ludwig was looking at the floor at that moment.

“Oh, no, no, Young Sir. You have nothing to apologize for” she waved her hands as if that movement would erase the uneasiness from the air “These things happen all the time, you know? Powerful families going dow—freeing their staff” sweet Jolanda, always careful with her words until the end.

“And what about you, Young Sir?” she asked, joining her hands in front of her lap “Have you decided what are you going to do?” Ludwig took a while to answer.

“No, not really. I had thought I had decided, but now it seems I’m having second thoughts”

“Well, whatever your decision I’m sure it will be taken with all the consideration and analysis of the world” she got closer to him and patted him on the shoulder “You’re like that, Young Sir, always thinking ahead”

“To be honest, I’m not feeling really intelligent right now”

“Nonsense!” she laughed at the thought “It’s just that you, and your whole family, are used to having everything under control. And now, suddenly all that control didn’t work for you” she kept quiet for a second, smiling softly to the young man “You know? For us normal folks that’s kind of a regular feeling”

“Normal folks?”

“People with not prestigious name, Young Sir” she placed her hands on her chest “Maybe you should take this opportunity to re-evaluate your decisions, Young Sir”

And with a little bow, she excused herself and exited the room as quietly as she entered for the first time.

For some reason, Ludwig remembered Feliciano’s talking about money and privilege of deciding.

Days passed and the snowing continued. It all indicated that this Christmas Eve would be a white one. The holidays dinner would still happen and even if it wouldn’t be as big as past years’ it still had to be prepared and planned. It was Ludwig’s turn to take care of it – but he was pretty sure his grandfather left the job to him because it was a pain in the ass to do it – but thankfully everything went smoothly and that night everything would be perfect.

It was Christmas Eve and the Beilschmidt mansion was flooded with the delicious smell of freshly baked and cooked food. It was easy to smell the sweet scent of Lebkuchen coming from the table placed on the big living room, along with the delicious and warm pot of Glühwein, sausages, baked potatos with butter and pepper, goose baked with cabbage and other vegetables.

All of the family was sitting on the living room. Roderich and his wife Elizabeta had come to celebrate with them, and the man was playing the piano while some attendees were listening to him and some other were talking and the kids were running all around the place with their mouths full of cookies.

“He really looks magnificent while playing, right?” Elizabeta asked Ludwig with a heavy accent. They were sitting on a couch watching the masterful display of Roderich.

“Yes, he’s always been really great at playing the piano” he answered. For some reason, talking to the woman wasn’t as tough as he had thought it would be.

When he first met her in person, he had thought that she looked delicate on her elegant and fancy green dress with white lace, and a flower brooch on her hair, but the moment he took her hand and she shook it instead of letting him kiss it immediately threw him off; not in a negative way, but he had heard that Hungarian women were more of the “house-wife” type of women. But then again, maybe that’s why Elizabeta decided to marry an Austrian man that played the piano and knew how to sew a patch.

“May I ask how you two met?” Ludwig questioned the young lady. He knew it wasn’t much of his business, but it was polite to converse with the guests.

“Oh, we actually met two years ago in Viena” she chuckled “But it’s no wonder Roderich never mentioned me, I think I scared him that first time, but we continued to communicate through letters” a familiar feeling filled Ludwig’s heart.

“And what where you doing by yourself in Viena?” if the blond’s memory worked well, 1918 wasn’t a pretty year for Austria.

“Did you know Austria granted women the right to vote in 1918?” she asked him without removing her green eyes from the figure of her husband.

Oh, that would explain a lot of things.

“Yes, same year as Germany, actually” he replied.

“Hungary just did past year, and not fully granted, nonetheless” the musical piece was finished and everyone clapped “Ridiculous, isn’t it? Women being more than a half of the population” she diverted her eyes to Ludwig’s, expecting an answer.

“Yes, of course”

“Anyways, while I was traveling in Viena, I met Roderich on the street. He looked so lost I decided to talk to him” a grin appeared on her face “But as you can hear, my accent is really thick, I guess that threw him off and ran away” the lady laughs a bit “It’s ridiculous, now that I think about it, mainly because I actually followed him”

Ludwig agreed on the ridiculous part, but decided to not voice it.

“But that’s how life is, isn’t it?” a sigh escaped from her rosy lips “It displays itself in weird ways” her husband stood up from the piano but was intercepted by the albino “Oh, is that Gilbert?” she asked on a whisper.

“Yes, he’s my older brother”

“Roderich has told me about him. That he used to bully him a lot when kids?” she asked with a playful smile and Ludwig just nodded, somewhat embarrassed “Ah, well, if you excuse me, I’m going to save my husband” she stood up with elegance and walked towards the pair of men, grabbing Roderich’s arm with a graceful movement and a smile.

Elizabeta and his cousin looked good together, as if God himself had hand-created them to be together. And not only that, destiny put them together that random day in Viena. Why did Elizabeta decide to talk to him? Why did she decide to follow him? Why did Roderich decide to continue communicating with her? What did they see in each other to pursue something like that?

How long did they hurt to be finally together?

Ludwig sighed in hopes of relieving a sting pain in his heart appearing out of nowhere but that he knew well enough. It was that pain he had every time he missed Feliciano. An excruciating pain that didn’t go away for hours and sometimes even for days. A pain that he knew he should be used to by now but his body refused to.

Suddenly the room seemed too full of people, too hot and hard to breath, so he stood up and walked out of it.

Grabbing his heavy jacket, he went out of the mansion to the back garden. His footsteps muted because of the heavy white snow on the floor. The cold air received him immediately, hitting his face with no pity and making his cheeks and nose blush in hopes of regaining some heat. Ludwig continued his walking through the deserted garden until he reached the frozen fountain and sat there.

He looked up to the sky and saw up to the dark night.

The stars weren’t sparkling anymore.

Chapter Text

After Christmas, the old Beilschmidt offered his house to the young just married couple – Roderich and Elizabeta – to stay until New Year Eve in order of the lady getting to know the city of München. Ludwig didn’t understand quite well the reason for his grandfather to Elizabeta to know the city – taking into consideration the poor state of the place – so the blond concluded that it was more of his grandfather wanting some change of pace in the house. Mainly if it came from a young beautiful woman.

And mainly if said young beautiful woman was able to put Gilbert on his place.

It was a surprise for everyone in the house. The usually loud and annoying Gilbert was shut down by Roderich’s young and delicate – but strong – wife. It was a fun scene to see, the albino trying to get on his cousin’s nerves but Elizabeta surpassing him with down to the gut commentary. Or maybe Gilbert was being nice to the woman, but Ludwig really doubted it.

Not only she was clever on Gilbert’s bully games, but she also was able to sustain an interesting conversation about politics, social issues and economics, even on armaments. It was clear that she wanted everyone to know that she was not someone you could trick or treat like a delicate flower.

“She’s kind of annoying, don’t you think, West?” the red-eyed questioned his little brother. He was sitting on Ludwig’s bed while the latter was combing his hair in front of a mirror.

It was early on the morning.

“Have you noticed you come to my room just to complain about what you don’t like?” was the blond’s reply.

“Shut up. But she’s annoying and you can’t deny that” the younger man saw through the mirror to his older brother make a pout “Thinking she’s better than anyone else with her thick shitty accent” he crossed his arms, looking at the floor.

“I thought you were the one claiming to be the more awesome, weren’t you?”

“That’s different”

“Whatever you say, Gilbert” Ludwig left the comb on his boudoir and turned his face towards the albino “I think it’s more like you’re pissed because she defends Roderich” Gilbert was about to say something but the blond continued talking “And because she doesn’t take your shit”

“She acts like a delicate flower but is actually a witch! No wonder that pansy Roderich married her, so she could defend him”

“Gilbert, stop” Ludwig grabbed his chosen jacket of the day from the closet “You almost sound like a little kid having a—“ he stopped talking and slowly turned his eyes to the albino “You have a crush on her”

“What?! What the fuck are you talking about?!” Gilbert stood up but didn’t see Ludwig to the eye, but instead to the side, with his hands well positioned on his waist “Don’t be ridiculous! Who would have a crush on a tomboy witch?! Not me! And “crush”?! What are you, five years old?!”

“You don’t need to yell, you know?” he had to drown a laugh in his throat so the older Beilschmidt didn’t take it as an offense.

“I’m not yelling!”

“Whatever” Ludwig finally puts on his jacket “It’s a good thing you don’t have a crush on her, though”

“Yes, it is!”

“Because she’s married to your cousin, anyways” Ludwig was expecting a loud reply to his last sentence, but when he didn’t receive it, he looked to Gilbert who was silent and staring at the floor.

“Yes. She is” the albino said lastly. Ludwig suddenly felt guilty.

“I’m… I’m sorry, Gilbert, I didn’t—“ he started but was silenced when the albino lifted his hand.

“Don’t apologize” his lips parted on a wide grin “There’s nothing to apologize for. Because I don’t have a crush on her”

The only thing that Ludwig could do now was to slightly smile to his brother, so he did, hoping that it would calm the albino down.

“Of course, brother”

And with that, Gilbert got out of the room leaving Ludwig alone with his thoughts. He still felt kind of guilty for teasing his older brother like that. Even if Gilbert indeed had a crush on Elizabeta, it was nothing to joke around because, well, the situation wasn’t exactly ideal. In case of the albino having a crush on her, it was futile and kind of useless because she was married. And to their cousin, nonetheless!

Ludwig just hoped that it was only that. A simple, single and innocent crush that would disappear with time, when the young couple returned home.

A knock from the door made the blond come back to reality, it was Jolanda announcing that breakfast was served.

When he arrived to the dinner room, his grandfather, Gilbert and Roderich were already sitting.

“Just in time, Ludwig” the old man said the moment he saw him sitting at the table “I was telling Roderich and Gilbert about my decision of you taking care of the New Year’s party as well”

Again? Ludwig thought but of course didn’t say anything about it.

“Sure” he replied instead.

“You did an excellent job at the Christmas party, so I’m trusting you again, grandson”

“It’s an honor” well, that was true.

At that moment, the woman of brown and wavy hair entered the room greeting everyone with her heavy accent. She was wearing a stripped pink dress with white lace. All the men stood up when they heard her, and she just laughed while sitting on the chair next to Roderich.

“I’ve always asked myself why that is needed” she commented.

“What are you talking about, dear?” the old man asked.

“That, standing up. It’s kind of useless, isn’t it?” she murmured a thank you to the maid that served her some hot tea on her cup.

“Well, lady Elizabeta, I think it’s about respect. Tradition, may I add” to that, the woman just smiled at him. Ludwig wondered if she knew it was useless to try to discuss something with the oldest Beilschmidt.

The blond looked to his older brother by the corner of his eye. The albino was eating without moving his eyes from his dish the whole time.

It was kind of sad, looking at him like that. It wasn’t what Ludwig was looking for with all the teasing, but now he made Gilbert self-conscious about it.

“By the way, Roderich” his grandfather continued to talk “I’m hoping you’ll delight us with your playing on New Year as well”

“Of course, Sir” Roderich answered.

Roderich was older than Ludwig, kind of the same age as the albino. And even the blond sometimes thinks his cousin is kind of serious because he doesn’t talk that much, but while he – Ludwig – loved to dedicate his day to work, Roderich would much rather prefer to spend the day to eating sweets and playing the piano. He was also somewhat bossy, if he remembered correctly from their childhood.

“But I’m hoping my wife will accompany me this time” the pianist said.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Roderich” she jokingly smacked him on the arm.

“She sings, you see, and she’s really good”

“Is that so?” grandfather looked interested.

“I couldn’t sing a thing in German, and you know it, husband”

“You could sing us something in Hungarian, couldn’t you?” the oldest man insisted.

“Excuse me” the albino suddenly said and stood up, silencing everyone “I’ve finished, so I’ll retire for now, grandfather” and so he went away.

Ludwig felt really guilty.

But either way, there was nothing he could do. Gilbert must get over his emotions by himself and he alone. Whatever the albino was feeling towards her, it better stop soon.

The blond felt kind of sad for his brother. Being in love was the most amazing thing that happened to him. Being in love made everything better. But, sadly, the kind of love his brother was experimenting wasn’t the right one. Ludwig was lucky to find his true love at the first shot. But not everyone was as lucky as him.

Days passed without warning. The sun rose and went down as usual. The moon and the stars adorned the night sky as usual. This continued until it was the 29th of December in a blink of an eye.

The whole time the albino Beilschmidt wasn’t himself. He was quieter, he didn’t try to bully Roderich as much as he used to and so Elizabeta didn’t have to respond to him with her sarcasm.

“I’m doing it” Gilbert said suddenly to Ludwig.

“Doing what?”

“I’m leaving”

The blond stopped walking and stared at him in silence, the albino also stopped advancing. They were walking through the Marienplatz plaza. Gilbert had asked the young man to accompany him to do some “business” in the city, but now Ludwig was having his doubts of the real reason.

“Is this why you brought me here, Gilbert?” he asked.

“I wanted to talk to you, but the mansion isn’t safe for this” his white face was tinted of red because of the coldness in the air. Steam coming from his mouth whenever he talked and his hands deep sunk on the heavy jacket’s pockets he was wearing.

“And the middle of Marienplatz is better than the mansion?” the blond was mad. He didn’t understand why exactly because Gilbert had already established the possibility of going away. Maybe because this meant it was serious.

“Don’t get pissed, West” the red-eyed said “I already told you about this, this is just me confirming it”

“Is it because of Elizabeta?” Ludwig dared to ask but regretted it almost immediately when he saw his brother clenching his jaw.

“Don’t be stupid” the albino kindly suggested with a serious tone.

“You’re the one being stupid. Letting this crush go beyond that, a single crush”

“That witch doesn’t have anything to do with my decision, Ludwig. I just—“ Gilbert gulped while looking at the side “I just want to be away from this place” he then stared at the sky blue eyes of Ludwig “I’m tired of being in here”

The blond looked at his brother’s red eyes for a moment in silence.

“We should go to a café or something” Ludwig said while feeling a shudder down his spine. He wasn’t sure if it was because of the cold of because he was afraid.

“A café?” the albino scoffed “Being that much time with that aristocrat Roderich hurt you, West” Gilbert grinned wide “Let’s go to a fucking bar”

Without another single word, Ludwig followed his older brother to the north part of the city where the main concentration of bars was. After deciding which pub, they entered and sat down on a table somewhat away from the bustle of the people in the middle.

They told the waiter what they would have and the man brought it to them in a second.

“Ok, now tell me, why are you tired of being here?” Ludwig asked.

“Don’t get so cocky, West” Gilbert grabbed his mug and drank. He had asked for a dark beer “It’s nothing special, either”

“Then why do you look almost desperate to go?” the blond hadn’t had touch his mug of light beer at all.

“When I saw the witchy Elizabeta and that pansy Roderich together, I just thought…” he shrugged, watching the white foam at the top of his mug going down “I just thought that it must be nice”

“What? Having a wife? But at every party you refused everyone’s daughters”

“Yeah, I know. I mean, I’m sure all of those ladies are nice and all but…” he stay quiet for a second before drinking some more “But Elizabeta, and I’m not saying I have a crush on her, she’s… different, I guess”

Ludwig stares at his brother, who weren’t even looking at him but at the mug in front. This wasn’t a single, simple and innocent crush. Gilbert was in love with Elizabeta.

The blond almost thought that it was ridiculous to fall in love with someone in such a short period of time, but bit his tongue because of the hypocrisy in that. It passed the same with him with Feliciano, after all.

This just confirmed Ludwig’s theory, though. That destiny was a cruel player that did whatever it wanted with their hearts and desires.

How cruel to fall in love with a married woman, and not only that, a married woman that truly loved her husband.

“But enough of that” Gilbert said with a loud voice “As I told you, that witch doesn’t have anything to do with my decision of going away” he grinned at his brother.

“Of course, Gilbert”

“I took this decision because I want my own shit” he drank once again “My own life, my own stuff and my own decisions” Ludwig took notice of how the albino didn’t mention a future wife or family, but decided to not point it out “And I feel that if I stay here, I won’t be able to do that”

“And why is that?” he finally grabbed his own mug and drank a little. If he wanted them to get home safely, he should be careful, as seeing that Gilbert was taking the whole drinking thing more seriously than him.

“Because I’m a fucking Beilschmidt” Ludwig guessed he had a confused face because Gilbert continued talking “Our name will be our cross, Ludwig. Don’t you get it?” with a last gulp he finished the mug and raised his hand to call the waiter “The letters continued, Ludwig”

For a moment Ludwig didn’t know what Gilbert was talking about, but then remembered the threatening letters his grandfather was receiving. So they continued? Well, there wasn’t really a reason for them to stop, in any case, but the red-eyed hadn’t told him about it either.

The waiter arrived with another full mug of dark beer and Gilbert immediately took it.

“It’s not safe to stay in München, Ludwig. And I’m guessing grandfather also knows that, that’s why he himself is going away. And either way, now the Beilschmidt name will be related to failure, isn’t it? Since we will close the company”

“If grandfather also knows that it isn’t safe for us to stay here, why hasn’t he said something?”

“Because you’re a grown ass man, West” his face was resting on a hand while the other brought the mug to his mouth “You should make your own fucking decisions, don’t you think?”

“You know? It’s kind of funny” Gilbert continued talking after drinking some more “The only decision you made by yourself was traveling to Italy” the red eyes adorning his face were staring at the bubbly drink on the glass “And, at the end of the day, you had to cease it against your will to return to this dumpshit”

“It wasn’t against my will, I decided to come back” Ludwig didn’t know why he was feeling defensive.

“Did you? Really?” a sigh escaped from his lips “When grandfather asked me to add his own letter along with mine, I knew it was bad news” his eyes traveled to the blue ones in front of him “He was the one that asked you to come back, didn’t he?”

The young man didn’t reply and just looked down. Gilbert scoffed.

“I fucking knew it” he said and then drank.

“He just wanted us to be together on this crisis”

“I understand that, but for what? At the end it didn’t mean anything. Everything went to shit, anyways. And now our grandfather is having an identity crisis or some shit, and now he wants us to decide on our own what the fuck to do” Gilbert raised his arms and looked around the bar.

“When he was the one controlling everything since the beginning” he finished talking.

“He was trying his best, Gilbert, and you know it”

“Hey, hey, I’m not mad at him” he lifted his hands in a defensive way “He’s old-fashioned and shit, so it’s understandable. In any case, as I told you the other day and just right now. He now wants us to decide on our own” the albino put his finger on the table “And that’s what I’m doing here, West. Deciding to go away”

“Have you at least told grandfather about this?”

“No, I’m telling him before going” he took his mug and directed it to his mouth.

“And when are you leaving?”

“On New Year” and then he drank as if nothing.

“New Year?!” Ludwig silenced when noticed that everyone at the bar was looking at them, and then continued to talk in a whisper “That’s the day after tomorrow! Why so suddenly?!”

“I suck at farewells”

Once again Ludwig was confused because of his brother’s way of talking, but then it clicked him. Elizabeta and Roderich were going away on after New Year. Gilbert was planning to go away from Elizabeta before she parted ways with him. How melodramatic of his brother, Ludwig thought.

“And where are you going?” the blond asked and drinking some more.

“The States”

“That’s very far away, you know?”

“Of course I know”

“So far away that—“ the mere thought of that made his tongue stay still “That we may not see each other again” that time Gilbert stay silent, with the mug just caressing his lips.

“I know, Ludwig”

They stay in silence for what it felt like hours but Ludwig was sure it was just mere minutes, drinking without a word except to ask for more dark beer for Gilbert and sometimes light for Ludwig.

It was an unreal scene, being honest, the two Germans surrounded of other people that were happily drinking. People that didn’t know just how hurt were the albino’s broken heart. People that didn’t know that these two brothers that grew up together would separate their ways, maybe forever. People that didn’t know that these two men’s lives were about to change.

“And what about you, West?” the albino suddenly broke the silence. His voice wasn’t as aware as before, evidence of the light alcoholic state in his body “Did you decide what the fuck you are doing with your life?”

“No, brother, I haven’t. It’s kind of difficult”

“Tell me about it” he lifted his mug as if he wanted to do a cheer.

“All this new control… it’s kind of frightening, isn’t it?” just talking about it made his hands tremble a little.

“I’m not taking a pleasant walk either, West”

“Of course I’ll finish the university, I have just a semester left, after all”

“Yeah, that would be the wise thing to do”

“But after that, I don’t really know what to do” he looked directly to his mug full of light beer, as if it had the answers inside of it.

“Hey, Ludwig” his brother called him and so he looked at the older man “Tell me about Italy. I’m tired of you treating it like a fucking government secret”

“There’s nothing to talk about it” but his body reflected discomfort, which surely motivated Gilbert to pressure on.

“I don’t believe you, West, I don’t think you spent half a year over there and all you did was study, sleep and shit” the albino grinned a wide smirk “Did you fuck someone?”

“Of course not, sta’ zitto!” that was very much true. He didn’t fuck someone, per sé.

“Again with your fucking Italian” Gilbert whined but then stay quiet for a moment “Then did someone fuck you?”

“Gilbert!”

“Alright, alright!” he straightened on his chair “No judging, tho. If you get fucked, that is”

Ludwig let go a tired groan, pressing the bridge of his nose. Drunk Gilbert was a pain in the ass.

“I’ve heard Italians can get pretty playful and friendly, you know?” the albino continued to talk, much to Ludwig’s disdain “With their kissing, hugging and shit. And then there are the romans, too, sucking dick in the past” Gilbert pushes his cheek with the tongue, simulating it.

“Gilbert, please stop. This isn’t the place for that”

“You wouldn’t be the first german getting fucked by an Italian, West, relax” he drank a gulp of beer “Or the first Beilschmidt, in any case” he continued to drink as if he had just said the sky was blue.

“What are you talking about?” Ludwig questioned, honestly curious about these sudden news.

“I never told you?” a snort made its way through his mouth “Well, I guess you were pretty young when I discovered it” Gilbert hunched towards Ludwig and started to whisper “Get closer, it’s a secret”

Letting the curiosity win the best of him, Ludwig also hunched to Gilbert.

“When I was a teenager, I was snooping around the house” the albino started to talk with little laughs in between, like he was telling the funniest joke ever “And I found this… kind of journal”

Ludwig knew that by “found” Gilbert actually meant “took out of the drawer where it was safely guarded”.

“And it was the old man’s journal, from when he was young, even before getting married to grandma. And listen…” he hunched even more and lowered his voice even more “In the journal, it said that he met an Italian guy and they both got friendly with each other” Gilbert interrupted his story telling to take a swig from his mug.

“But not only that, West” Gilbert sighed, suddenly getting melancholic or something like that “How grandpa wrote those pages. He… he sounded like he was really in love with the guy. But, you know how the story goes, the old man had to marry grandma. Man, living in the old days must have sucked balls, getting married with people you don’t even know nor love”

“What… what else it said? The journal?” Ludwig never stopped to think about his grandfather’s past life before.

“Mmmh? If I remember correctly…” Gilbert sat back properly on the chair, looking at the roof “The guy was traveling through Germany, weird, right? And they met and started to get fucked, I guess. But grandma was already grandpa’s fianceé at that time”

“They both knew it was useless” Ludwig whispered.

“And guess what? This Italian guy actually offered grandpa to run away with him. Like, an actual gay romance novel, can you believe it?” Gilbert laughed loudly at the idea “Of course, the old man is a man of honor and word, so he refused the offer and married our old lady. Must have hurt like hell for the gay Italian”

The albino gulped the last taste of the mug.

“Makes you wonder if the old man ever loved grandma” he said “And if he ever regretted his decision of not running away” Gilbert was staring at the empty mug in silence.

“Ludwig”

“Yes, brother?”

“Promise me you will run away”

“What are you talki--”

“Promise me, Ludwig”

The blond knew it was useless to fight over it with a drunk Gilbert. So he nodded.

“I promise you, Gilbert”

A few hours later, the blond decided that the albino had too much to drink and took him out of the bar, much to Gilbert’s complains. Ludwig was carrying him with an arm over his shoulders while the older man was singing something about love being fucked up and how stupid it was to love somebody, MAINLY if they are fucking married to a fucking aristocrat pansy.

When they arrived at the mansion, it was already dark in the sky.

“What happened?” Elizabeta asked the moment she saw them entering by the main door, Ludwig still carrying Gilbert by the arm, but the older man had already fell asleep on the cab.

“We went to a bar and this idiot overwent with it”

“I thought Germans were good with their beer” she covered her little laugh with a hand.

“Yes, well. He overdid it”

“Here, let me help you”

Elizabeta grabbed Gilbert by the other arm and carried him, along with the blond, through the stairs and to his bedroom, dropping him in the bed.

“Thanks, Elizabeta” Ludwig said while removing his brother’s shoes.

“You’re welcome, Ludwig” she was smiling but her eyes reflected worrisome, watching intently to Gilbert.

“Elizabeta, can I ask you something?”

“Eh? Sure, Ludwig. Go ahead” she looked at his sky blue eyes.

“Do you love my cousin?”

“Mmmh? Of course I do. What kind of question is that?” she seemed amused by it, though.

“Just wondering” Ludwig shrugged and dropped the shoes on the floor.

“Gilbert is the same age as Roderich, right?” the blond nodded “Why is Gilbert single? It’s kind of weird, I would have guessed there were tons of families trying to marry their daughters to him”

“Oh, and there were, but he always rejected the propositions”

“Why is that?”

Ludwig stared at her for a few moments before answering.

“I guess he was kind of waiting for love”

At that, the young lady softly smiled to the sleeping body of Gilbert. If only she knew, Ludwig thought.

“We better go, Elizabeta. He gets cranky after drinking” the woman giggled and exited the room.

The young Beilschmidt directed himself to his room, but when passing in front of his grandfather’s he stopped, looking at the wooden door. He wondered if that story Gilbert told him was actually truth. He never noticed something different or peculiar on the old man. And when his grandmother lived, he practically revered her, always giving her everything he could offer. Be it jewelry, clothes, houses, anything she asked he would give.

But then again, maybe it was the guilt of never really loving her.

At any case, it wasn’t any of Ludwig’s business. He couldn’t just go and demand answers from his grandfather. Whatever the old man did before getting married to his grandmother was part of the past and that’s all that mattered.

“Makes you wonder if the old man ever loved grandma”

The intoxicated Gilbert’s voice resounded at the back of his head. Sometimes when the albino got drunk, he would say a lot of bullshit trying to be wise or - as he claims to be - awesome, but it was just drunk gibberish as always.

“And if he ever regretted his decision of not running away”

But what really mattered right at that moment was that he himself didn’t know what to do with his own life and future. He continued his way to his room.

“Promise me you will run away, Ludwig”

As entering his bedroom, the first thing he did was crouching and peep under the bed, pulling out the box where he keeps Feliciano’s letters safe. He still hadn’t replied to the last letter, and he knew perfectly well that what he was doing was a dick move, but he couldn’t help it. He was sure Feliciano by now was a nervous mess, wondering why the replying letter didn’t arrive. At least, that’s how Ludwig would be.

The blond sat down on the bed and begun to read every single piece of paper, starting from the first he got. He could feel how his heart was slowly being filled with a warm emotion. Reading Feliciano’s poetic handwriting always brought peace to his mind, but if he dwelled too much on them it would start to hurt, so he procured to not do so.

But tonight that didn’t matter either. What mattered was what Ludwig needed at that moment. And that was Feliciano’s words with him, that was Feliciano’s voice with him that was Feliciano’s soft hands with him.

“Promise me you will run away, Ludwig”

His heart was beating with no control as if it wanted to escape from the cage that was his chest, breaking his ribs away in order to go all the way back to Italia where his broken lover was. His blue eyes started to sting in a warm way and soon tears were falling from his cheeks, dropping over the letters surrounding his body on the bed.

“Promise me you will run away, Ludwig”

Ludwig covered his face with both of his hands and let go a sob.

“Goodbye, Ludwig”

His sobbing stopped when Feliciano’s voice sounded in his head. The last goodbye from the Italian at the train. He remembered it as if it was yesterday and not three months ago. The blond extended his hand to his drawer and picked out the sketchbook after opening it, taking out the photo of the smiling brunette.

The last scene of their goodbye replayed on his mind like a nasty joke from his brain.

“Ich sah dich, und die milde Freude, Floß aus dem süßen Blick auf mich” he murmured the poem to the photo.

He remembered the brunette’s teary eyes as he recited that last poem.

“Ganz war mein Herz an deiner Seite”

He remembered the brunette’s sobbing as he recited that last poem.

“Und ieder Athemzug für dich”

He remembered the brunette’s soft lips as he recited that last poem.

As he kissed the inanimate photo, his heart decided on its own, without asking for permission from the brain, because his heart didn’t care what the it had to say.

“Promise me you will run away, Ludwig”

But surprisingly, even his brain agreed with him.

“Promise me you will run away, Ludwig”



Chapter Text

He was running away.

He didn’t exactly know when, but he was doing it.

Maybe it was irresponsible of him to just decide something like that, mainly when it was an advice from a drunken man. But it was the advice he needed at that moment.

Problem was that now he had to tell his grandfather about it, and he didn’t know how the old man would react. Ideally, it would go nicely because the old Beilschmidt had bestowed him and his older brother the power of decision just a few weeks ago. But of course there was the eternal fear of disobeying the patriarchal figure in the family. A fear taught since the beginning of his life.

It was New Year and once again the Beilschmidt mansion was full of familiar faces and delicious food.

And once again the young Roderich was masterfully playing the piano, but this time Elizabeta was accompanying him with her voice, singing something in her mother Hungarian language. Of course no one on the room had a clue of what she was saying, but she sang so nice that no one cared a bit.

Ludwig was standing next to the table full of snacks and looking through the big room. His eyes stopped for a moment when he saw his grandfather with a smile, sitting on the couch and listening attentively to Elizabeta’s song. He was sitting next to a bunch of kids, sons and daughters of his other cousins.

The story from the other day came back to his mind like an avalanche. Since that day he couldn’t see his grandfather the same way. Not in a negative way, of course, but he couldn’t help but wonder if it was truth.

If it was, maybe that was the reason why the old man never insisted or obliged them to marry someone, knowing the pain of spending their lives with someone they don’t truly loved or against their will.

His eyes continued traveling along the room until he found Gilbert, standing next to the arch that connected the living room with the lobby. The albino was leaning over the entrance and his eyes were fixed on the Hungarian singer. Not a crush my ass, Ludwig thought for a moment and then walked towards his brother.

“Hello, Gilbert” he said when arriving.

“West” was the reply he obtained, but the red eyes didn’t even look at him for a moment. Gilbert was drinking light beer that time.

“I see you’re taking it slow now” Ludwig joked in hopes of breaking the tense atmosphere.

“Yeah, well, yesterday I had a horrible hang-over and I don’t wanna repeat that bullshit so soon” the albino scoffed a little.

“So, have you told grandfather about your decision of going away?”

“No”

“And at what time are you going away? Before or after dinner?”

“Stop pestering, will yah?” the red-eyed looked annoyed.

“What you’re doing is quite irresponsible, you know?”

“At least I know what the fuck to do, West” and then he drank from his mug.

“I…” Ludwig started talking and Gilbert finally turned his eyes to him “I decided to go away, too”

At that moment Elizabeta finished her song and Roderich stopped playing, claps didn’t make themselves wait and soon the room was full of the sound, along with talking, congratulations and laughs.

“And where are you going?” the older brother finally asked.

“Italia” he replied and felt a bit offended when Gilbert snorted “What?”

“I fucking knew it” the mug caressed his lips before drinking “Someone is waiting for you, isn’t it? And don’t even try to deny it” he finished when the blond was about to do so “You’re as transparent as water, Ludwig. It’s kind of ridiculous how hard you try to cover it up” his eyes diverted towards Elizabeta again.

“And what about college?” he asked finally.

“I’m going to finish it on Venezia, I don’t think it would be a problem”

“I hope so too, because college isn’t cheap”

The room was again filled with the melodic musing coming from the piano, but now the player was a blond girl with short hair and a bow to adorn it.

“And who is waiting for you at Italy?” red eyes were watching him again, and Ludwig felt suddenly exposed.

“I don’t think that’s any of your business” he wasn’t ready to explain to his brother about his male lover.

“Is it the artist?” Ludwig didn’t say anything but felt his cheeks burn of red “Jackpot”

“Stop, Gilbert”

“And how is she? It’s kind of weird to find a woman that is a painter”

This was what Ludwig was trying so hard to prevent. He didn’t like the idea of lying to his brother, lying about Feliciano’s true identity, and lying about himself. But it was inevitable at this point, if he wanted to keep his relationship safe from everybody, if he wanted to keep Feliciano and him safe, even though it meant not seeing his family ever again. Of course it hurt, but it hurt more to be away from the Italian, anyways.

“She’s great” the lies left a sour taste on his mouth “Joyful and beautiful” his cheeks were burning in red fire from embarrassment “And a master of the arts”

“Is it true that Italian women are kind of slutty?” Gilbert asked and the blond almost choked on his spit.

“Gilbert! That’s rude and offensive!” he didn’t blame his brother, though. Italian women were very different from German women. It was more of cultural differences than actual ‘slutiness’ actually happening “And kind of discriminatory if you think about it”

“Sorry, didn’t want to insult your girlfriend”

“Italian people are more casual, if you want to call it something. Prostitutes exist in the whole world, Gilbert”

“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry” his red eyes stared into the empty space of the room “German women are prudes, though”

“Gilbert, stop being a pig” the albino laughs a little.

“Elizabeta would have kicked me if she had heard me talk about women like that, right?” Ludwig was absolutely sure of that “She would be right to do so, in any case”

A pair of children ran between them, going to the lobby with cookies on each hand.

“When are you telling the old man that you are going away?” Gilbert asked.

“I don’t even know when I’m going away”

“We should tell him together” he drank a bit of beer from his mug “That way it’ll be just one hit, instead of two. And you should go away right now”

“I can’t do that!”

“Why not?” Gilbert shrugs “It’s the same at the end and if you don’t hurry up, you’ll miss college enrollment at Italy and everything will go to shit then”

His brother may be right, but the idea of going away so suddenly still made him feel weird. He had thought of staying with his grandfather until the old man went away to the “mysterious place” he had bought long ago to retire.

“In fact” the red-eyed stood straight up “I’m gonna tell him right now” he gulped the rest of his beer in a sole swallow. Maybe he needed some courage, after all “Are you coming or not?” was the last question he did while putting the now empty mug on a table next to him.

Ludwig’s heart was beating so fast it surprised him Gilbert couldn’t hear it and ask about it. He wasn’t used to making decisions in such a short time, even less this type of crucial decisions. If he decided to go away that night, it meant that he wouldn’t have time to say goodbye to anyone, it meant that he wouldn’t have time to prepare all of his stuff.

But it also meant that, in a week, he would be with Feliciano once again.

“I’m coming” Ludwig noticed the smirk on Gilbert’s lips.

“Good” and with that, the albino walked to the old man, followed closely by the younger blond man.

The old Beilschmidt was talking with an old uncle of them, and smiled at them when they got close.

“Gilbert, Ludwig, I hope you’re having a good time. I know I am” his grandfather said.

“We need to talk, old man. Alone” Gilbert asked with a serious face, diverting his red eyes momentarily towards the other man “If it isn’t a bother”

“Of course not, Gilbert” the old Beilschmidt never ceased to smile when he excused himself to accompany his grandsons. Ludwig wondered how long that smile would last.

He was having flashbacks of the day he said Feliciano he was going back to Germany. But weird enough, he didn’t feel the same as in that moment. Right now he felt he was doing the right thing, that he had taken the right decision. He just hoped this sureness would last for the rest of his life.

The three men walked through the living room, the lobby, and went upstairs until they arrived to the old man’s study. The big room full of bookcases and paintings hanging from the wall, and a big desk on the middle never seemed so threatening to Ludwig before. He was glad that Gilbert was the one taking the lead.

“And what’s that it’s troubling your minds, grandsons?” the patriarch asked once he sat down on the big black leather chair behind the desk.

“We are going away, grandfather” the albino announced with any type of carefulness “Ludwig and I, we are going away. Tonight”

The old man stared at them with his icy blue eyes, his hands were interlaced, and his face was unreadable. The blond started to feel nervous, what if their grandfather refused them that? What if Gilbert’s theory about their grandfather wanting them to decide for themselves was wrong?

“Where are you going?” the long-haired man asked finally, still with the same face.

“I’m going to the States” the red-eyed replied and then looked at Ludwig, expecting his answer.

“I’m—I’m going back to Italia” to his surprise, his voice stuttered a bit. He didn’t know he was so afraid of his grandfather before.

More silence that made Ludwig’s heart to race against itself. Silence that felt like a monster devouring them whole without warning. At what moment his hands started to tremble? At what moment the room suddenly got so hot when they are in the middle of winter?

Old Beilschmidt looked down to his desk. The blond was thankful for that, he wasn’t sure he could bear with the tension more than what they already have.

“I see” their grandfather said finally. His voice reflected something similar to forced acceptance “I’m not that surprised, in any case” he looks back at them, lifting his eyebrows up so his forehead got a little wrinkled.

“You’re not?” at least Gilbert was as surprised as Ludwig this time.

“Not really” he shrugged. His hands were fretting and uneasy “It’s the logic thing to do, after all. Well, I’m not that sure about going to the United States being a good idea, but I trust your decision, Gilbert”

“You aren’t against it? Why?” the blond couldn’t help but ask, he was truly curious about this sudden change in the old man.

“Well” grandfather started but then sighed a deep breath “My whole life had been planned since the day I was born in this family, with this name Beilschmidt. Every single bit of it” Ludwig could almost swear that the old man’s eyes were shimmering a little. A sad sparkle in them.

“I didn’t fight against it that much, though” he continued to talk “There wasn’t anything to fight against. That was how things were at that moment and that’s how I continued to live on” his eyes once again turned down to the desk “You father, my son, didn’t choose your mother to marry her. I chose for him. I told him she was the best candidate. She was beautiful, smart, had an innate love for children…”

Ludwig didn’t have idea about their parents marrying like that. He didn’t remember much about them because they died when he was pretty young, but they looked happy in his memories. Maybe they learnt to love each other with time.

“When your parents died in that accident” he continued talking “I was mad at life because it decided to go against my plan” a sad laugh escaped from his mouth “Can you believe it? I was madder at that than at my son and daughter-in-law deaths” his eyes looked full of regret the moment he saw the two men in front of him.

“You were so young and at that moment I promised myself that I wouldn’t let anything happen to you. I made another plan for you two and I followed it. And I expected you to follow it without questioning”

The blond felt embarrassed because he did follow the plan without question. He never questioned why he had to follow that plan in the first place.

“And now you had a change or mind or what?” Gilbert asked with his arms crossed “Did you start feeling guilty or some shit like that?” Ludwig glared at his brother. Why was he being so hostile towards the old man?

“Actually, I’ve been thinking about it since some months ago” grandfather answered “This whole crisis, I guess it helped me realize that plans don’t always go like we want”

“Took you long enough”

“Gilbert, stop” Ludwig had had enough of the albino’s aggressive tongue, but his grandfather silenced him.

“It’s alright, Ludwig. I understand that you’re angry at me, Gilbert”

“Not really” Gilbert replies with a shrug “As you said, you were taught like that. And it’s on me too, because I didn’t question you either”

Another moment of silence invaded the room. Ludwig didn’t know if he should break it and say something, but thankfully his grandfather did.

“So I decided to let you go free, in a matter of speaking. It’s about time you two start making decisions and forming your own plans to go along”

“So” Gilbert spoke this time “This is it” the old man nodded.

“This is it” their grandfather repeated.

“Are you aware that we might not see each other ever again?” Ludwig questioned. Everything seemed too easy to be truth.

“Of course I am, Ludwig” the old man chuckled “But that doesn’t matter. You’re young and I’m old, it’s the natural order of things for you to go away. And of course I won’t permit myself to depend on any of you”

Ludwig was surprised. He had thought that he knew his grandfather completely, but it was about that it was Gilbert who knew him best. It was the albino who had guessed and concluded the new way of thinking of the old man.

“Anyways” the oldest gentleman said after getting up “Are you going away before or after dinner?”

“I’m going before” Gilbert announced “In fact, I better get going”

“So suddenly, Gilbert, but of course you wouldn’t be you if the contrary happened” grandfather walked to the red-eyed and hugged him strongly, with a pat on the back “I wish you success on everything you do, my grandson”

“Thanks, old man” when the mentioned pulled back, Gilbert directed his attention to Ludwig “C’mon, West, give me a last farewell”

And with that, they hugged. It was a weird feeling. This was the last time he would touch, talk and see his older brother. He felt sad but excited at the same time. Sad because he truly loved his older brother and seeing him part ways was painful, but excited because this was Gilbert’s first decision towards freedom.

“I’m going to miss you, West” Gilbert confessed “Don’t ever forget your awesome brother” he pulled away and placed his hands over Ludwig’s shoulder “If you ever get tired of Italy, you can go to the States with me” his red eyes then look to the icy blue of the old man “I’m gonna stay on New York City, if you ever need me for anything”

“I sure hope I won’t need you” the old man replied to that.

With a last loud laugh, Gilbert exited the room.

“Tell me, Ludwig” his grandfather interrupted his thoughts “I can understand why Gilbert would want to go to America, “American Dream” and all that. But I wonder… why Italy?”

His heart that had been beating like there’s no tomorrow seemed to finally arrive to its destination because it stopped working for a moment. He didn’t want to have this conversation again, much less with his grandfather.

“I mean, you always liked Italy, but I can’t help but ask you”

“Uhm” he didn’t like to like, but he didn’t have other option “I really liked it there the semester I stay. The weather is nicer”

The deep icy blue eyes of the old gentleman stared deep into his own eyes with a serious face. Maybe his grandfather didn’t believe the lie, maybe he was trying to read his mind to find the real reason of his decision. He felt so exposed and he hated it.

“I see” the old man finally said with a soft smile “It’s been so long since last time I went to Italy, remember?”

“Yes, of course, you went there a year later after grandmother died”

Ludwig was twelve years old or something when the old man traveled to Italia. He stayed there for a month or so and then came back. The blond remembered his grandfather looked sad when coming back, but he never asked him why.

“Yes…” a soft nod accompanied the last word “It was a waste of time, though”

The young man remembered Gilbert’s story about his grandfather and wondered if the old man traveled to Italia to look for this so called Italian man. Maybe he didn’t find him and that’s why he was so sad. Or maybe he did find him but what he found wasn’t what he was expecting. Either way, it was tragic that his grandfather’s wish couldn’t be granted.

In case of the story being truth, that is.

“But well, Ludwig!” he placed his hands on the called’s shoulders “We should get dinner, so you can start your travel as soon as possible!”

When they got back to the living room, everyone was talking about Gilbert sudden travel. It seemed that the albino had already left the house. He surely had everything prepared since before.

And when the old patriarch of the Beilschmidt family announced that Ludwig was also going away, everyone was surprised as well. Surprised and confused. That was to be expected, Ludwig thought to himself.

Elizabeta congratulated him, though, saying that traveling was always a magnificent way of finding new discoveries and even yourself. Ludwig couldn’t agree more.

After dinner, the blond prepared his stuff with help of Jolanda – who was actually crying – and agreed with his grandfather to send the rest of his belongings next week.

“You will be staying at the same address, will you?” the old man asked him. They both were in the car, in their way to the train station.

The elegant man had insisted on accompanying the young man.

“Yes, and I take Gilbert’s words too. If you ever need anything, you can look for me there”

“And I repeat, I sure hope I won’t need any of you”

The night was dark and cold, and fluffy snow was falling from the sky, so when they got down of the car the air hit their faces and turning them red. Steam came from their mouths every time they talked.

Ludwig had thought that everything would be awkward or sad, but he was glad that the sureness about his decision didn’t go away, and was glad that his grandfather had decided to come with him for a last farewell.

After buying the ticket, both men stood in the terminal waiting for the bellboy to pick up Ludwig’s belongings inside the train.

“This is goodbye then, Ludwig” the old man sighed “You know? I don’t regret anything. Now that I see you taking your life into your own hands, I know I made the right decision”

“Thanks, grandfa—“

But before he could finish talking, a sudden push from behind almost made him fall over his grandfather.

“What the fu—“ he heard the old man say, but was soon silenced for a more loud voice.

“Ludwig, I found you!”

This couldn’t be happening. He surely was hallucinating because of the cold or something. He surely was hearing things because of the huge amount of emotions he had had in this day.

He surely wasn’t hearing Feliciano behind him.

“Who is this, Ludwig?” his grandfather asked.

Of course it was Feliciano behind him.

Ludwig broke the hug and turned around and there he was. Feliciano, with his big wide smile, shiny sparkly brown eyes and the Sun inside him because Ludwig immediately felt warming up even in the cold night of München.

“What are you doing here?” was everything the blond could muster to ask.

“I came for you, obviously! You took so long so reply to my letter that I decided to look for you myself!” his face was red because of the freezing air but it looked like he didn’t care at all.

“Ludwig” another voice behind him. Shit, for a moment he forgot about his grandfather.

“Grandfather, this is Feliciano Vargas” Ludwig introduced after turning around once again to face the old man “I met him on Italia”

But it seemed that the old Beilschmidt wasn’t paying attention to him but to the young brunette in front of him. He kept staring at him with a serious and kind of surprised face.

“Hello!” Feliciano said with a horrible German, but Ludwig was surprised either way “My name is Feliciano Vargas, nice to meet you!” he extended his hand towards the old man, but the latter never shook his hand, instead he started to laugh.

Ludwig had never heard his grandfather laugh like this, maybe some soft and elegant laugh, but this kind of laugh never. So free and careless. It even sounded unreal.

“Ludwig” the brunette whispered in Italian again “Did I say something wrong? I haven’t practiced German that much”

“No, no, it was alright” the old man replied in Italian before the blond could.

“You speak Italian?!” Ludwig’s night was full of surprises.

“Of course I do, Ludwig, I wouldn’t have stayed in Italy for a month otherwise, would I?” he then looked at the Italian again “Feliciano Vargas, right? It’s a pleasure to meet you. So, you came for my grandson?”

“That’s right!” Feliciano replied with a big smile but Ludwig felt like dying of embarrassment.

“Well, he was actually in his way towards Italy”

“Really?! I didn’t know!”

“You better hurry up, Ludwig” the old man then looked at his grandson “You still have to buy Feliciano’s ticket”

“A-Ah, sure” Ludwig wasn’t sure he could deal with more strong emotions right now.

“I better get going” icy blue eyes looked directly to the brunette “I hope you take care of my grandson, alright?”

“Of course!” Feliciano replied lifting his fist into the air.

Taking care of him? What did the old man mean by that? Perhaps he…

“Goodbye, Ludwig, Feliciano” grandfather said before anything else could be told or asked, turning his heels and walking away outside the train station.

After buying Feliciano’s ticket, they both entered the train and sat on their designated compartment. The Italian promptly grabbed Ludwig by the hand. The German once again felt the warm sensation on his body.

“You should have told me you were coming” Ludwig complained.

“And you should have replied to my letter” to that, Ludwig didn’t reply “But it doesn’t matter, anymore, what matters it’s that we are together now! But you were going to Italia?”

“It’s a long story”

“Tell me about it! Oh, but first” letting go Ludwig’s hand, he grabbed the blond’s face by cupping his cheeks and kissed him softly on the lips.

Ludwig felt his breath going away and his body react on his own because he rapidly holded Feliciano by the waist on a tight hug.

“It’s a shame it’s snowing, though” Feliciano said on a whisper after breaking the kiss “We could have watched the stars”

“I don’t want to see the stars right now” he caressed the Italian’s cheek “All I want is here”

Feliciano smiled softly and his eyes sparkled like a universe.

It’s been so long since this sensation of wellness was inside Ludwig’s heart. It’s been so long since this sensation of warmness was inside Ludwig’s heart.

And he didn’t want to let go.

Fortunately, he didn’t have to.