March. The weather was absolutely beautiful. Bellissimo. Italy felt a ping of absolute peace as he spared a glance at his friend walking along beside him. It was nice to enjoy a simple walk with Germany, and not have to think about training or war or betrayal or England with his scary eyebrows. It had taken a while, but eventually things in Europe had settled down again. And now he was back in Germany, enjoying a stroll with one of his best friends in the whole wide world.
A glimmer of sunlight passed through the trees above the quiet little road they were taking to Germany’s place. It illuminated Germany’s hair and slid to his cheek, and then his neck, leaving little white footprints across his skin.
Friends. Italy’s peace was disturbed by a little flurry of optimistic excitement, and nervousness. Today he hoped to change that status. It was something of a gamble, he realized. Several years ago, Germany had tried confessing to Italy, in his own awkward and stumbling manner. At the time, Italy had been both confused and absolutely terrified at the idea. But their friendship had survived. And over time Italy had come to realize that when Germany wasn’t at war, and not obsessing over everybody talking for exactly 8 minutes with no chit chat in between turns during the world meeting, he was a lot less loud and bossy and scary than how Italy used to see him.
Over the past twenty minutes or so, Germany hadn’t said much, other than to point out a few exceptionally pretty flowers. Germany always noticed them, because he walked quietly, with his eyes lowered slightly, as if he were modest dama trailing the train of her dress carefully through an empty palace. Italy had figured that was the way he walked when he wasn’t marching or training.
Unless, of course, it was because he was looking for something. Italy was just beginning to say “So, Germany, I have a q--”
When his companion lurched to a stop and pointed at something in the road. “If you will excuse me.”
Italy watched bemusedly as Germany knelt down, carefully scooped something into his hand, stood up, and began pacing briskly to edge of the road. “What’s that, Germany?” Italy bounded over to intercept him before he got across.
Germany gave Italy a serious look, and then slowly parted the cup of his fingers, revealing a clump-skinned amphibian which eyeballed them with round, black-banded pupils.
“I have to help them cross, Italy. Otherwise they will get squashed.”
“Oh” Italy said simply. He blinked, having just discovered something new about his decades long friend. “That is nice of you, Germany.”
Germany gave a curt nod, before delivering the creature to the other side of the road. “Go on” Italy heard him mutter “hop back home.”
Italy cocked his head, marveling at how his younger acquaintance's priorities had changed since World War Two.
“What are you smiling about, dummkopf?”
Itally attempted to wipe the amused expression from his face as he watched the German fall back into pace alongside him. “Oh, nada nada” he said breezily. “I was just admiring your countryside.”
Germany turned a little pink, but gave nothing more than a slight nod and a gruff “I am glad it pleases you.”
“Hey Germany” Italy started, gathering up his courage again, “I was wondering if you--”
“I'm sorry, Italy. If you would excuse me for another brief moment.”
Italy shut his mouth as he watched Germany tear his attention away from him, and devote it instead to the clammy amphibian that was sitting happily in the middle of the left lane. Italy couldn’t blame the toad. It did look like it had chosen a nice spot: sunny and warm. Swallowing his pride, he waited good naturedly for Germany to finish the rescue.
“Is it toad season at this time, Germany?”
“Ja. They are lucky this road is not busy.” Germany said darkly.
“They are lucky they have you to help them” Italy said brightly. He watched as Germany rescued another. And then another. And then another. By the ninth stop he was feeling measurably less bright.
“Germany, if you stop to pick up every toad we might never get home for siesta! Plus, I have to leave in the morning.” Plus, I’ll never get to ask you the question.
Germany’s pale skin took on a tinge of flushed distress. He looked at the little toad tucked in his hand. His tone sounded tight. “But the others will get squashed.”
“Can’t you leave some of them to fend for themselves?”
“Nein Italy. It is my civic duty to assist these toads.”
Italy signed. “Germany” he started lightly “Did you remember your OCD pill today?”
Germany sputtered like a red and blonde sprinkler. “Di-Did I remember? Did I remember? Beleidigend! You think I am the type to forget my own medication?”
Germany breathed hard out his nose, before gathering his composure and speaking in all the manner of the most reasonable person on earth. “Of course I remembered” he started matter-of-factly. “But I did not take it. I never do during toad season, because that would be the end of them.” And with that, he made a sweeping gesture at the road up ahead.
“Dio mio…” Italy whispered in horror.
They. Where. Never. Getting. Home.
It was the plague. It was madness. It was hellfire. Italy whispered a trembling Ave Maria under his breath, wondering if he would make it out with his sanity. But more so he worried for Germany. Not every other block, but every other breath was a toad, and Germany was darting from one to the other, becoming more and more frustrated, until, over the thunder of amphibious noise he could be heard screaming “DUMME KRӦTEN, WEIßT DU NICHT, WIE MAN NICHT MIT DEM AUTO AUF STRAßE KOMMT?” Which Italy roughly understood to be “STUPID TOADS, DON’T ANY OF YOU KNOW HOW TO NOT GET HIT BY CARS?”
Italy inhaled deeply. “GERMANY.” His voice broke the hailstorm of ribbits and chaos with a sudden unprecedented sharpness.
Germany froze, then twisted around to see Italy with his hands balled at his sides, his face scrunched, and toads still bobbling along all around him.
Italy’s words came out in a sharp slough of hurry. “I know that helping these toads is very important to you and that you can’t help it because of your OCD and that I usually don’t have much important to say and that this didn’t work for you when you asked me in the past but--”
He took a deep breath and met Germany with determined amber eyes. “Will you go on a date with me?”
Germany’s cheeks turned bright pink. “A-A date? With...you?”
“Si.” Italy said, ignoring a toad as it climbed up and tumbled over the edge of his shoe.
The toad in Germany’s hand let out a squawk of liberation and wiggled out of his grasp. Germany’s eyes fell shyly to his toes. “Are you saying this to trick me?” he asked awkwardly.
Flames leapt in Italy’s voice. He had realized by now that Germany was prone to overthinking and worrying so he put it plainly. “No” he said. “I like you. I like your personality, I like your looks, and I like spending time with you. I want you to be mine.”
Germany’s blush crawled up to the tips of his ears. He mumbled something quiet.
“What did you say?” Italy took a step closer.
“What would we do?” Germany said, raising his eyes tentatively back upwards.
With those eyes and that blush and Oh Dio, che carino! Italy could think of a million and ten things they could do, the first and last of which both involved eating noodles.
“Whatever you want, Germany” he said warmly.
A toad hopped forward, putting its two little rubbery hands on Germany's shoe. RRRIBBET.
Germany bent and scooped it up, stuttering slightly in Italy's direction. “D-Do you mind if…?”
Italy bent and scooped up a toad of his own. “Finche io sono con te.” As long as I am with you.
And so they continued slowly down the road, picking up toads.