When Antonio and Francis met Gilbert for the first time, they immediately clicked. So there are times when Lovino sees the two bastards with the German bastard, early on a Saturday morning, at the bar. Eating breakfast. Before the bar even opened.

"You two aren't supposed to be here."

"Oh come on, Lovi," Antonio pouts, because he likes to act cute around Lovino.

"Mon cher, don't look so down in the morning."

"If you two would kindly leave the—"

"Lovino, don't be a killjoy."

"Shut the fuck up, Gilbird."

"Aw, Loviii," Antonio drawls out his name—excuse him, nickname—and Lovino frowns at the three child adults.

"I'm not cleaning up after you." He moves behind the bar, avoiding the three and especially Antonio because he just feels weird and he thinks he likes Antonio? The thought makes his heart pound—he hopes no one in this goddamn bar can read minds because he'll be screwed over—and his face flushes, and suddenly Antonio is leaning over the bar—too close to Lovino. "W-what the fuck is it?"

"You're red, Lovi," Antonio presses the back of his hand on Lovino's forehead, then to Lovino's red cheek. "Fever?"

Unlike Antonio, Lovino is very aware of the curious looks that both Gilbert and Francis are giving them, and if only Antonio isn't such a distracting piece of—piece of—ugh—then maybe he would've delivered his majestic fists to them. But Antonio is very distracting, and Lovino is very red, so he can only stumble over his words while the Spaniard compared him to a tomato. Again.

Lovino started playing the piano when he was 3 years old, mastered the instrument around age 5 or 6. He easily played pieces like Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee and pieces he still plays today. He was able to create assemblies of music, which he used to play for his family. He remembers the first performance, one of the only performances he successfully brought, and the memory brings a small smile to his face.

Everything was glowing that day: the lights, the piano, the music, the people, himself. He loved performing for the audience, he loved performing in general. He performed a lot during that summer before entering first grade. He loved it.

He doesn't really remember what exactly caused it, but Lovino suddenly hated playing in front of people. Music stopped being a bridge. He fell. And he couldn't—he just can't do anything.

It was during his first grade, Lovino thinks, when he just… lost it? The stares, the whispers, no one talked to him. No one wanted to. Furthermore, Lovino wasn't interested in the things his peers fawned about. The latest cartoon? No thank you. Pulling a joke on the old teacher? Not interested.

The young prodigy was more interested in things like history, why the world worked this way, politics, how things were made. So he poured everything he had in learning—science, art, especially music—and fostered his isolation even more.

By third grade, he shook up each time he had to perform.

Lovino hasn't successfully performed in front of anyone since.

Antonio tries out his voice because his left hand doesn't need any more stress and Lovino isn't playing tonight.

The high notes are becoming harder to reach, although he can still reach them. On the bright side, he can also still sing sweetly and smoothly in the somewhat high notes and lower notes.

And on a much much brighter side, he can tell that Lovino likes his voice especially when Antonio sings for him.

"Ever thought of becoming a pro-musician?" Antonio asks Lovino. It's one-thirty in the morning sometime in the third week of January. It's cold, so cold, but they're outside in their balconies, watching the city with a mug of hot chocolate trapped in their hands. They're wrapped in their thickest sweaters, thickest scarves and socks—both not accustomed to the cold winters of the Northeast. After all, they're from the south of Europe, where everything's nice and usually sunny.

The Italian musician doesn't answer; he simply blows on his mug—well, it's actually the Spaniard's—and Antonio wonders if Lovino even heard him.

So he continues, "You're really good! And I'm sure you can make your own—"


There's a tone in his voice that causes Antonio to turn towards him, eyebrows furrowed. "I'm sure you can though," he argues in a softer timbre because there's a look in Lovino's eyes that makes him sad.

His eyes are turned away, hurt, upset, troubled—it's as if some pieces of Lovino's self are falling apart. Antonio keeps silent and brings his cup to his lips before his left hand goes limp and spills the contents on his jacket. The liquid is hot but it doesn't make any contact with his skin, and all he can think of is oh, again?

"Are you okay?" is Lovino's involuntary question, and when the Spanish musician looks back at him, he sees worry and curiosity—but there are so many cracks. He can see it. So many but so well-hidden.

"Fine," Antonio answers. He smiles and uses his other hand to absently wipe at his jacket. "I'm fine."

The Italian doesn't ask, and Antonio doesn't say anything.

He wants to ask about the bastard's hand, but he doesn't like prying into anyone's business and Antonio looks like he doesn't want to tell him what's going on anyway.

So it's February, and it's the fourteenth of February, and Antonio knocks on Lovino's door because the Italian told him earlier at the balcony that he has a day-off today, but he's greeted by a lovely girl with pretty amber eyes and Antonio thinks, Lovino has a girlfriend?

But how is that possible? Lovino doesn't talk about any girls—well, he never mentioned any girlfriends or partners—and the Italian is almost always busy. How would he even have time for girls?

"Buongiorno," she greets in a sing-song voice, and then the Spaniard realizes that maybe Lovino has a girlfriend from Italy—and this is probably her—and maybe he should just cancel whatever he planned today?

"Hi," Antonio's smile shrinks as the beautiful female blinks up at him.

"Ve," she pauses and steps closer; Antonio leans back on his heels. "Are you, by any chance, Antonio?"

"I—si, I am." He furrows his eyebrows together. So Lovino talks about him? To his girlfriend?

Suddenly, there's a huge smile on her face and she pulls Antonio down so that she can kiss both sides of his face. "That's great! Lovi, Lovi, Lovi~"

A stab of jealousy hits his chest, and he immediately feels dislike towards this girl. Lovi? That's his nickname for Lovino. She can't just—she can't just use it! But Antonio reluctantly follows her into the apartment he's memorized, and he feels another stab of jealousy because he realizes that this girl also knows where everything is.

She pushes the door open and Lovino is just in his boxers. Antonio's eyes widen, Lovi's eyes widen—and then, the Italian male is swearing and yelling and throwing pillows (which Antonio caught and the little Italian girl dodged), and the girl is giggling and Antonio can't help the smile on his face.

Lovi is so cute.

"Er, so what's your name?" Antonio asks when he's pushed to a dining chair. He smells pasta (hm, so his girlfriend knows Lovi adores pasta?) and the petite female begins to make her way towards the stove.

"Feliciana," she sings. "I'm—"

"Feli," growls an angry and slightly embarrassed Italian while he stalks inside his tiny kitchen, glaring at the girl, then switching his gaze to Antonio. "What the fuck are you thinking?" he asks in Italian.

The Spaniard's eyes are locked on Lovino as he speaks—reprimands?—Feliciana; his voice is a tad lower when he speaks in his native tongue, and somehow, he's a lot… handsomer. Sexy, even. And Antonio turns his face away because why is he thinking Lovi is sexy when he's just cute and nice and all the good things in the world?

A heavy sigh interrupts his borderline-frantic thoughts, and Lovino goes, "This is my sister, Feliciana. She's engaged, so don't try anything."

Antonio can't tell Lovino how relieved he is that Feliciana isn't his lovely girlfriend from Italy.

"Lovi likes you a lot, you know," Feliciana says to Antonio while they wait for Lovino to buy a couple of ingredients from the market. (The Spaniard ended up having to cancel his plans today, but he doesn't mind. Much.)

Antonio glances at the other Vargas. "Really now? Haha," he laughs.

"No, really," Feliciana insists. She turns her eyes towards him. "He always talks about you whenever we call each other." She smiles mischievously and then asks, "Do you like my brother?"

He doesn't know why people keep asking him that, because he doesn't know what to say and he doesn't know what gives them the idea. Not that the idea is bad or anything—it's just, he doesn't know.

He doesn't know.

Lovino comes back at that time, and he gives the two a greeting glare and gestures for them to follow him back to his apartment.

The Spaniard hears a soft kind-of jazz later that night. He deliberately loosens his grip as he sits up in his chair. That's odd—is that really Lovi who's playing? The notes are nice and smooth, as usual—but this—this has a different tone. A different feel. A different vibe.

It sounds familiar, but he can't recall the title of the piece—it sounds like a song.

He hopes that it's Lovino playing—and if it truly is the Italian musician, then… Antonio doesn't finish the thought; he doesn't understand what he's feeling.

The song ends, and Antonio faintly hears Feliciana giggle, and he wishes he can be with Lovino too.

"Just play. Any song. Short. Anything."

His chest is tight, and he wants to cry, and his hands are shaking, and his sister is asking him to play. But Lovino wants to play, wants to perform, but he can't; not when his eyes are watery and his breaths are short and every part of him is trembling. He can't

He can't breathe.

"Ve, Lovi…"

He's suffocating.

It's not just him who's affected by this stupid stage fright. His family is also affected—the music practically fled their home when Lovino stopped performing all those years ago, and still… now… he can't.

Not now.

Maybe one day.

But when will it be?

"It's okay, Lovi—you don't need to—"

"I'm going," inhale, exhale, "to play." Lovino glances at his sister with teary eyes; his heart is beating so fast, and he feels faint. "I'm going to play," he chokes on the words but he poses his hands over the keyboards.

Feliciana nods and stands back, to give her brother some space. She'd love for him to get over his performance anxiety, and she'd love it if her brother could play for her during her wedding day. But she knows it will take time, and she's willing to support his brother no matter what, no matter how long.

The notes begin silently, stepping into the air cautiously and ever-so-slowly, like dipping your toe or your foot in water to test the temperature, but it makes Feliciana smile and cover her mouth since it's been so long since she's seen her brother play—it's been so long since she's seen and felt and heard his music.

And even though he's only playing the piano version of the song Dream A Little Dream of Me, she's so so happy that her brother is playing. Because in that short moment, Feliciana saw Lovino Vargas as the older brother he used to be.

"I didn't know you had a sister," Antonio tells him a week later.

"The topic never came up."

Which is true; not a lot of topics about their personal backgrounds come up. For all he knows, he's been conversing with an Italian gangster for nearly half a year.

"Let's change it."

"Change what?" Lovino asks. He yawns and rubs at his eyes. His shift today was a little tough, especially because there were a lot of those tiny business celebrations today. It was a little hard manning the bar by himself. His bar-slash-liquor store has started to gain more attention since the past summer; he should probably post those hiring posters soon.

"How we don't know anything about each other."

The Italian stares, the taller male smiles, and then Lovino is blushing, mumbling; abruptly becoming a cute mess with many broken edges.

And Antonio likes it, hopes to fill and heal the fractures that the Italian keeps from everyone.




"I can't do this. I can't."

He doesn't see Lovino for a couple of days, and he hears fraught music coming from his neighbor for the next few nights.

The Spaniard can't sleep.

There's turmoil somewhere.

In both of them.

Lovino digs his fingers in his arms, moves them up to his head to claw at his scalp. His eyes are frenetic as they dart from the keys of the piano to the papers around him. There are tears dripping from the corners of his eyes, and he doesn't know why he's feeling like this.




His thoughts lead him to more scratching and gripping, as if to rip his skin off. They're red, and he lets out a stifled sob. He hates his music, he hates his talent, he isn't great, he's useless, so so useless and talentless. He isn't good for anything.

Lovino lifts his chin up to the ceiling, trying to bring the tears back into his eyes and stop his unnecessary crying. And then he hears Antonio—singing, playing his guitar.

The bastard is singing some Spanish song; the Italian listens and finds it easier to breathe as soon as the music starts to surround him and his apartment. Lovino doesn't leave his flat even though he assumes that Antonio is waiting as usual, but he sleeps on his couch listening to the Spaniard's pleasing voice and guitar-playing.

"Lovi!" Antonio greets when they run into each other two days later. He steps closer, too close actually, but Lovino doesn't move back.

"Antonio," he greets with a tiny quirk of his lips. He called Gilbert to let him know he's going to the bar a little late—what with his headache and all. "Morning."

"Where are you heading?" the Spaniard asks, following Lovino down the staircase of the apartment complex.

"The bar," the smaller male answers. "You? Isn't it a little late for school?"

"No school today, actually," Antonio replies happily while he jumps from the last three steps and lands beside Lovino. The Italian tries not to chuckle at his (cute? adorable?) childishness.

"Gonna meet up with your friends?" asks Lovino, vaguely wondering why Antonio is following him—a-and he minds, damn it! He's just… he feels bad for not meeting the stupid idiot at the balcony these past few nights!

"Actually, I'm going to buy some groceries, drop them off, and go to work later," Antonio informs him. They head to the bus stop, since neither own cars—well, Lovino has a motorbike, but he's too lazy to use it today and he likes taking the bus anyway—and they stand by the bus waiting bench.

The Italian hums in response, and Antonio keeps the conversation going.

"Are you feeling alright?" he asks. He shifts his weight from one foot to another, and he laughs at his own awkwardness. Like a little boy with a crush! "I'm just worried, and stuff…"

"Fine," he says with a lift of his shoulders. "And you?"

"Fine," Antonio echoes. They never look at each other when they say it. "Just fine."

"Don't you get nervous?"


The winter season is finally ending, but the temperatures are still a little low, so they're wearing their fleece jackets outside in their balconies. No more snow, no more freezing rain, thank god.

"Nervous," Lovino states, "Do you get nervous?"

"With what? Teaching?" asks Antonio, turning his head towards Lovino and placing his right cheek on the side of his guitar's body. His eyes are tired and droopy, but he's been looking like that lately, especially since the end of the third marking period is near.


The Spaniard watches as Lovino builds an invisible shell around himself, and he blinks lethargically as the Italian makes his question.

"Do you get nervous when you, you know, perform?"

Antonio smiles in a sedated manner, "No. Not really. Maybe in the beginning."

"…and then what happens?" Lovi's voice is soft and small, and Antonio closes his eyes to partially reminisce about the feeling of performing and to partially fall asleep.

"And then," Antonio yawns, wide and big like his grin, "I just play. I get into my music, I get sucked into it, and I just play."

Lovino doesn't say anything for a while. In fact, it takes a long time for Antonio to realize that the Italian isn't going to say anything anymore.

"And then," the Spaniard continues and startles Lovi. "When I'm finished, I hear the applause and… I don't know. I feel happy. And I want to play more."

"I know… uh, that feeling," Lovino mumbles. "Sort of."

Antonio forces his eyes open, and his smile turns bright and proud. "So you've performed?"

"Kind of," the Italian looks away, blushing. Or maybe he's cold. Lovino turns red when he's too cold or too hot.

"Aw," Antonio watches the other musician turn his gaze on him. He catches it lazily and says, "I wish I could've seen you perform."

"One day," Lovino blurts out and he looks away again and covers the side of his face with his hair. "One day."

"I'll count on that," the Spanish musician hums. They stay like that for a little while: silent and warm above the cold, lively city.

"We should go to sleep—h-hey, Antonio. Antonio? Fuck, are you kidding—Antonio!"

Antonio doesn't play for a month.

"I have a question," Lovino initiates. They're out in their balconies again. They found that in their balconies, they can be in their little worlds, supporting each other—coexisting without knowing what is truly happening in the other's life. The railings that separate them act as a physical and emotional barrier to their deepest thoughts, setting them apart from any potential crossing over of ideas and whatsoever.

But Antonio tried to cross it, many times. It's never completely successful… yet it's never completely fruitless either.

So Lovino's going to attempt. Right now.

"Shoot," Antonio says as he tunes his guitar.

"Um," pause, "your hand—your left hand, what's… wrong?"

There's a falter in the Spaniard's movements, but Antonio carries on as if the question doesn't terrify him.

"It's fine."

"I…" Lovino pauses again because he sees a terrible anguish present in the normally sparkling green eyes. "…see."

"Yep," laughs Antonio. He doesn't look at Lovino. "What do you wanna hear?"

In fact, the Spaniard doesn't look at Lovino for a while.

The Italian hears a faint crash one morning as he's leaving for work. But it didn't come from his apartment. It came from Antonio's.

He quietly walks to his neighbor's front door and presses his ear against the door. Everything is silent. Lovino wants to help, to knock on the door, to do something, but he knows Antonio wouldn't want him to know.

But why? Musicians get injured all the time; there isn't anything to be ashamed of!

Then again, why is he hiding his stage fright from Antonio? His anxiety?

With that thought set in his mind, Lovino forces himself from the front of Antonio's door and heads out of the apartment complex.

The Spaniard doesn't particularly enjoy wine as much as Francis, but he can deal with it. Especially if the wine is from his very handsome and very talented neighbor.

It's scarce: these times when Lovino brings things for him out of the blue, like new guitar picks and calzones—and, tonight, wine and pizza. The weather is bordering warm and chilly, allowing them to stay for longer periods of time outside their balconies, delighting both males despite never voicing them out.

"Here," Lovino makes sure to hand the plate of pizza to Antonio's right hand like he always does when they're exchanging food over their balconies, and Antonio has long been accustomed to it. "It's hot," he warns hurriedly and watches while Antonio places it on the space next to him.

"And red wine," the Italian adds softly, almost mumbles it, and Antonio turns to him and reaches with his right hand. They don't want another thing dropping three stories down (like that time with a piece of brownie Antonio lovingly made for his students and, er, Lovino).

"Di Majo Norante Sangiovese," Lovino says while he pours Antonio a glass of red wine and gives it to him. "2012. It's good."

"You say that for all the wines you share with me," the Spaniard points out, and Lovi smiles wryly, eyes flickering towards the other male before he settles down on his balcony.

"Because it's true."

"Agreed," Antonio replies after he takes a sip of the wine. They eat in silence for a while, both not really hungry, but it's always nice to eat together. There isn't any wind, and the city feels silent, and their world is so, so alluring.

But Antonio wants to cross this barrier between them; and so does Lovino. Somehow, they want to break it, to stop pretending even though it's nice to live in this good-natured fantasy they've been keeping up for nearly a year; somehow, they just want to breathe and face reality; somehow, they just want to do this together.

So they try.

After swallowing his bite, Lovino surprises the taller male when he asks, "S-so, I have a question."

Antonio can already tell that it's going to be one of those questions; those questions he can't quite directly answer; those questions he often avoids.

"Go ahead," he replies, though he doesn't think he can answer it.

"Well," Lovi sucks in a deep breath, "um. Don't get offended, but, are you," gulp, "gay?" He's blushing, but he's watching Antonio, and the Spaniard sips his wine a bit too slowly and purposely grates on Lovino's nerves.

"More like…" Antonio finally, finally replies, "bisexual." He smiles towards his blushing neighbor, fighting his own urge to surrender to the very hot heat running up his neck. "You?"

"S-same," the Italian musician answers a bit too quickly, and adds, "I think." He picks up his wineglass and takes a big swig of the alcohol. Lovino wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, and starts to ramble a little. "I mean, I don't know. I mean—I do, because I—yeah, um, nevermind."

Antonio laughs lightly. "Have I ever told you how cute you are?"

"S-shut up, damn it," he turns away to hide his face, but the Spaniard can see the tips of his ears turn red.

The older male leans on the wall behind him before taking a bite from the pizza Lovi made. (The Italian does his best to avoid eating the store-bought pizzas.) He sighs in contentment and watches the dark cloudy sky. "Do you have any more questions?"

"Play with me tomorrow night, Lovi," Antonio tries again. A few weeks ago, on top of his teaching job and part-time job at the music store, Antonio started his job as an irregular entertainer at Gilbert and Lovino's bar. He enjoys it thoroughly (and Lovino kind of enjoys it, too).

He doesn't think about it when he says, "Only if you tell me what's wrong."


"There's something wrong."

The Spaniard doesn't know what Lovino is talking about. But Lovino is adamant and he can't—he doesn't know how to explain what he wants to know. What he wants Antonio to tell him. "What?"

"There's something wrong," Lovino repeats, shaking his head and staring at the Spaniard. At his hand, at his left hand. Antonio watches him. "I won't play until you tell me."

"Okay," he says, exhaling heavily. The wails of the police and ambulance sirens echo in the early morning. "Okay."

"How did I do, Lovi?" the Spaniard asks when he sits by the bar.

It is a known fact that whenever Antonio has a gig at the bar, Lovino would stay and work throughout the night. The Italian thinks he's being very subtle about this (he just really enjoys hearing Antonio play! It isn't like he wants to be around the stupid bastard all the time!), however, everyone else thinks otherwise.

Lovino tries not to smile, and Antonio leans on the counter with an attractive grin. "Not bad."

"I'm glad you loved it," Antonio chuckles. He learned overtime that the Italian doesn't like to openly show his appreciation—unless it's towards females—and he's okay with it. It's part of Lovi, and he adores everything about the cute tomatito.

"It's on the house," Lovi says, like he always does, when he hands the Spaniard his beverage.

The taller male adjusts himself on the stool and wraps his long fingers around the glass. He watches as Lovi tends to the other customers, fumbling with the idea of asking the Italian if he wanted to watch the symphony with him this Saturday. Would he say yes? Does Lovino even like them? What if Lovino has already watched them multiple times? What would he do if he says no?

The Italian flicks his eyes towards Antonio here and there, hoping that the bastard would call for him. Because he's definitely not going to just saunter towards him—even if he feels like doing so! He sighs while he wipes a wine glass dry, wondering why he can't just go up to Antonio and chat with him. Would that be weird? This—

"Lovi," Antonio calls, and the Italian jumps and turns to look at the Spaniard. He's signaling for Lovino to come closer, and his smile looks a little different. Gilbert comes back from his short break, and he sends Lovino to Antonio with a wink, and the Italian blushes when he punches Gilbert in the arm.

Lovino slides onto the stool next to the Spaniard, and he places an elbow on the counter in order to lean on his arm. He gazes at Antonio.

The older male becomes a little uneasy, and he suddenly feels like he hasn't had experience with love, like like he—like—"Do you wanna watch the BSO with me?"

He doesn't say anything for a few seconds, and it's Gilbert's stupid laugh that brings Lovino back into reality. "What?"

"BSO—Baltimore Symphony—"

"I know what the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is," Lovino snaps, flustered, and Antonio waits. Patiently. Understandingly. "You want to watch it with me?"

"If that's—okay…with you," Antonio says, noticing how bright Lovino's eyes became, how green they are. He can't seem to find the words to describe them, or Lovino, really.

"Okay," he mutters, looking away—lowering his gaze to the space between them, "thanks for inviting me."

Antonio waits again, and when Lovino moves away without saying anything else, he reaches out and grabs Lovi's tiny wrist and asks, "Is that a yes?"

"Yes," his face is red, his lips are trying not smile, his eyes are so dazzling, "it's a yes."

"Great," breathes Antonio, slowly letting his fingers slip away from Lovino's wrist. His left hand is being nice to him tonight. He smiles wider. "Great."

Lovino brings the phone away from his ear, but he can't stop the grin from forming on his face. "Shut up, Feli."

"Ve, fratello, this is a date~!"

"Shut up."

"What are you going to wear?"

"I don't know."

"Are you doing anything afterwards?"

"I don't know, Feli."

"Okay then! Let's plan this!"

"Please, Feliciana, I don't think we should worry about this."

"Ve, but you're worried about this, aren't you?"


"Well, I think you should wear your red shirt—you know what I'm talking about, right? The one with…"

"He said yes?"

"He said yes," Antonio nods his head enthusiastically while Francis whistles. "It's this Saturday, and I don't know what to wear." They stop at the stoplight and the Frenchman turns to his friend with a serious expression.

"What did you two agree on?"

"Ah," laughs Antonio, "we didn't talk about that."

"Talk to him about it! Text him, call him—I don't know."

"Uh," the Spaniard laughs again, and Francis almost smacks his friend in the face when he says, "We've never exchanged numbers either."

"My god, Antonio," the blonde shakes his head, smiling at his hopeless heap of a friend, "why haven't you asked for his number? You've been talking with him for, what, a year now?"

"More or less."

The light turns green. Francis steps on the accelerator. "I just can't comprehend how and why neither of you haven't exchanged numbers yet! This is so mind-boggling! It's like… being married but never having sex or something!"

The brunette laughs at the analogy. And Francis is grinning. "We just never had the reason to text or call each other," Antonio says after he calms down. He looks out the window. "We see each other every night anyway."

"In each other's bed, non?"

"N-no, not like that, Francis!"

This time, the blonde Frenchman laughs and turns to the right, entering the school parking lot. "Not yet?"


Lovino can't stop wringing his hands. He doesn't know what's wrong with him. He's just going to see Antonio. And they're going to watch the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra together. And. And. And. A—

Don't panic.

The Italian paces around his living room, goes to his coffee table to rearrange the magazines, fiddles with the tie around his collar, sits on the couch and crosses and uncrosses his legs. His heart is racing, and it's just pounding, pounding, pounding.

He can feel the sweat between his arms, and jumps up from the couch to head to the bathroom and checks his reflection for the umpteenth time.

"Damn it, don't panic," he scolds himself, glaring at his reflection. There isn't anything to be scared of. Nothing. Oh god, his hands are shaking. He shouldn't have drank that coffee—but he was so tired, and he couldn't sleep last night, and he needed the energy—

A set of knocks makes Lovino rush to the door, and then he's letting Antonio inside his apartment and he smiles because he doesn't know why he's feeling like this. The other musician notices, and tilts his head in question.

"You look nervous, no?"

"No," he chuckles in reply. He wipes his hands on his pants. "I'm just excited. Drank too much coffee," Lovino explains.

The Spaniard's eyes crinkle as he smiles. He gives Lovino a once-over (more like a twice-over), but it seems like the other musician didn't notice. A red dress shirt and a pair of dark slacks. Italian shoes. A dark coat that suits his pants. "You look stunning."

Lovino's gaze flickers to his form, and a familiar smile enters his expression. Olive green matches his eyes. "So do you." He pats his pockets. His keys and wallet aren't there. He looks up at Antonio, but his eyes are surprisingly attracted at his lips. "You're ready, right?"

"Yup," sings Antonio. The Italian looks away from his mouth.

"Hold on, I need to get my apartment key and wallet," Lovi excuses himself and bolts to his room, but then the Spanish musician calls him back into the living room because he sees Lovino's keys and wallet lying on top of the couch.

"Thanks," mutters Lovino and he blushes strongly.

They leave the apartment complex with their arms brushing, though the Italian pretends that he isn't aware of it at all. The night is warm but a little chilly, and Antonio thinks that it's a perfect night to be out and about. Maybe he can take Lovi out for some late night snacks after the event!

"Am I ever going to get a ride with you on your motorbike?" Antonio asks when they pass the motorbike on their way to the bus stop.

"Maybe," he muses with a smirk. His pulse is normal at last, and he's breathing normally, and he doesn't feel suffocated. Tonight may actually end up being a good night.

They take the bus to get to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall located on Cathedral Street, and the Spaniard is delighted to find it near many tiny shops and restaurants. There's a place that he has wanted to try for quite a while now, but he can't seem to remember the name. Oh well, he and Lovino can just walk around and figure out what to do later.

"Wow," Antonio breathes as he stares up at the building. It's tall with an interesting shape, a wide cylinder that somewhat slopes down. Brown. Bricked. Unconventional.

"It's better inside," Lovino tells him, waiting patiently with his hands in his pockets as he lets the Spaniard take in the scene. He finds it rather pleasing to see Antonio gawk at things. It's… cute. (Ugh, he thinks Antonio is cute all the time anyway.)

He turns his green eyes towards the Italian musician. "You've been here before?"

"Just a few times," Lovino answers. Alone. He always manages to leave before the performances end.

"You've watched them?"


As Lovi said, the inside of the concert hall looks more exquisite than it does on the outside. High ceilings and a wide space. Antonio likes it. It appears like the hall doesn't wear any flat surfaces; as if it's too grand for dull planes. The crowd fills the seats around them, all in suave outfits and attires, and then Antonio turns to the Italian.

"Where do you want to sit?"

"Somewhere in the middle. By the edge."

It's an oddly specific yet imprecise request, and it merely adds to Antonio's fascination with Lovino's character. His stare lingers at the younger male, before he smiles and looks around for seats somewhere in the middle and by the edge. "I found some," he says after a moment, and pulls Lovino with him. He lets Lovi sit on the last seat of the row.

"Is this the first time you're going to see the BSO?" he asks while attempting to ease himself in a comfortable and natural-looking sitting position. The Italian prodigy thinks that he's sitting too tall, too stiffly—someone is bound to be looking at him.

"Yes, this is my first time! It's really interesting; I don't think I've ever watched a professional orchestra perform," he gushes, but the words don't reach Lovino's ears and all the Italian can do is nod his head and respond with ah and oh really in the appropriate times.

To his surprise, Antonio actually catches on and places a touch on his arm. "Is there something wrong, Lovi?"

Why does the bastard have to be discerning when he doesn't need to be?

"I'm fine."

Lying: it's getting more and more difficult to lie to Antonio, and he's getting sick of it. Sick of lying to everyone. Sick of Antonio asking. Sick of Antonio hiding. Sick of himself.


Sick of everything.

But he stays in his seat because the show is starting, and he sits straighter to stop feeling on edge. He shakes his leg. He breathes. He coils his fingers together.

The air is cold with incessant whispering coming from the audience. He's reminded of the instances before he began each of his performances. He knows that the people aren't talking about him, but he can't breathe and he can't stop trembling and—no. Wait. He can't think about this right now. This is exactly why he can't finish watching performances put on venues like these. It's too familiar to him.

Too daunting.

Lovino doesn't catch the opening of the orchestra, and by the time he actually listens, the notes have already moved into the awaiting air, warming their ears, twirling in a captivating pattern that allures the audience.

But he is not mesmerized like the ones around him.

He's pathetic.

The musicians onstage are poised, relaxed, terrific—everything he can't be. Everything he used to be. The expressions on their faces show their focus and their satisfaction of playing and performing. They're so happy. They're so comfortable.


He… fuck, he really wants that. But he doesn't like being watched, he hates the being in the center of attention, but he really really really wants to perform.

Lovino is suddenly aware that he's holding his breath. And that his heartbeat is too fast. And that he's—


He can't.


He can't do it.

Breathe, damn it!

With clenched fists resting on his lap, the Italian continues to watch as his mind eats him from the inside. His body is taut, and all he wants is to be alone, and he wants Antonio not to notice this, and god, he wants to—he wants t—


His eyes dart towards the man beside him, and he chuckles before he covers his mouth with the back of his quaking hand. "I'm fine."


He's shaking so much. But he's so frozen. The music reaches a fortissimo. It's ringing in his ears but he can't hear. He's suffocating.


He can't breathe.

Please let me move.

He's so rigid.

Please let me breathe.

He's so pathetic.

"I need to go." He forces his paralyzed limbs to move. Standing on weak legs, he stumbles out of the row and half-runs up the aisle, escaping from the dark room, from the performance, from the people—he's so pathetic, oh god, oh god


He doesn't turn around and he keeps on half-running out of the building, down the street. Where is he? He should've taken his motorbike with him. He needs to be alone to breathe; he needs to breathebreathebreathe and he can't do it when he's out in the open.

He can't do it when there are too many people. Watching.

Why can't I breathe?

Antonio is bewildered. He doesn't know what had happened that night with Lovino, and he hasn't heard anything from him since. He waits outside in the balcony the next night. And the night after that. And the night after that. And he's still waiting.

He exercises his left hand to relieve the numbing and lights up his third cigarette. What went wrong? Lovino looked shaken up. But why? A traumatic experience perhaps? He appeared anxious. Nervous. But then again…

Now that he thinks about, the Italian has always been a little anxious when they conversed. Not when they are alone though…

Antonio taps his cigarette on his ashtray, Lovino's birthday present for him since the Spaniard permanently forgets to buy it himself. He inhales a little too quickly and coughs loudly, choking on the smoke as tears make their way to the corners of his eyes.

He glances at the balcony next to his and he sighs.

It's still empty.

"So I'm guessing the date didn't go well," Gilbert comments as the Italian strolls in the bar with a faint reddening to his cheeks that's clearly from drinking. There's a different gait to Lovino when he drinks, and it may be subtle, but the German notices small things like that.

The Italian doesn't speak, and instead moves past Gilbert and behind the counter where he automatically pulls out the old, smelly rug and wipes the counter. The radio isn't on for once, and it only aids in the tense silence.

"You can tell me, you know," he offers. He crosses his arms over his chest and waits.

…Waits. That's what Antonio's been doing.

"I fucked up." Lovino doesn't stop wiping the counter. In fact, he pushes the heel of his hand harder onto the cloth and almost scrubs the surface in frustration. He won't cry. "I fucked up real bad." He moves to the tables and there's a slight quivering in his hands. Gilbert can't see his eyes.

"What happened?"

"I don't…" Lovino trails off with a maddened sigh. He stops cleaning the dustless table, and continues after a second. He goes back to the counter and becomes aware of the stench of his hand. "…The usual."

"And then what happened?" the older male asks curiously. Lovino heads to the other end of the counter to put some hand sanitizer on his hands. He twists his fingers restlessly.

"I ran away."

Lovino hasn't dropped by at the music store in a while. And Antonio can't stop obsessing over what happened on the night they watched the orchestra.

"Just talk to him," Francis insists as they pulled away from the teacher's parking lot. The school year is nearing its end, and Antonio is almost finished saving up for his surgery and therapy. Just a few more.

"The only times I see him is when he visits the shop or when he goes out to his balcony," he explains, rubbing his eyes tiredly. From the rearview mirror, he glances at their bags containing all the shit they have to grade by Monday. Damn it.

"Just go to him. Knock on his door or something."

"Should I?" The thought makes him jumpy as he's fretful about Lovino's reaction. The Italian will surely get mad. Or completely ignore him. Or both.

"If you're just going to wonder all the time, then do something about it," the Frenchman exhales. "I love you and all, Tonio, but if you want this situation to change, you have to do something."

The musician looks out the window. Should he take the chance? He's genuinely worried about Lovino. They haven't seen each other since that incident, and he doesn't understand why Lovino ran, why Lovino shook up, why Lovino is so anxious all the time.

"You're right," mumbles Antonio. "I should do something."

The Spaniard knocks on his neighbor's door. Knock, knock, knock. Lovino should be in by now, right? Unless he decided to stay at the bar all day.

Sighing deeply, Antonio runs a hand through his hair.

No answer.

He can wait. He's always waiting anyway.

Lovino ignores the knocks on the other side of the door.

Saturday. Two o'clock in the morning.

Antonio is getting used to the silent nights, and he hates it. He hates the quiet, he hates the feeling of being alone. He wants the music, he wants his hand to be okay, he wants Lovino to be fine, he wants… he wants Lovino.

He sighs again.

Pushing the top of his pen to his chin, he slides his gaze across the scrawling of a high school student. He can't understand it. He doesn't want to understand it.

Without thinking, he grabs his pack of cigarettes and moves to his balcony. He glances at Lovino's balcony. It's empty.

It only takes three weeks to get used to something, he muses to himself absently, twenty-one days, and I'll get used to the silence.

But he doesn't want to. He doesn't want to get used to the silence that's always driven away by music, by late-night talks, by late-night snacks, by Lovino.

He doesn't want to get used to a life without him anymore.

He lights up the cigarette stick.

Lovino glances at his piano.

Lately, it's been quiet in his apartment. No notes, no music, nothing. Silence lets him breathe. Silence keeps him isolated. He hasn't played his instrument in a while, and doesn't try to. He's avoiding it.

He wonders if Antonio's avoiding music as well.

"Do you ever plan to play professionally?"

"That's my original plan, yes," Antonio hums, leaning comfortably against the wall while he grazes Lovino's expression with his eyes.

"What's stopping you?"

It's a genuinely innocent question, but he feels attacked. Antonio curls and uncurls his left hand. "Myself."

Lovino sucks in a deep breath, and he turns away, as if to say me too.

"Do you know where Lovino is?"

"He left a few minutes ago," Gilbert answers while he fixes the sleeves on his arms. The German waves at one of the new part-time employees, a Canadian kid with glasses. Matthew, or something. He's glad that he and Lovino finally hired a few part-timers to help man the bar-slash-liquor store. Their workload has immensely decreased since.

"Where to? His apartment?" asks Antonio, leaning over the counter.

"I don't know," he answers with a shake of his head. "The kid hardly tells me anything." That may be a lie, but Lovino never tells him anything unless it's probed out of him. Gilbert excuses himself to attend to his customers.

"He wasn't home when I stopped by," the Spaniard explains as Gil saunters back. Francis accepts the drink the German got him. "I haven't talked to him since we watched the BSO. Did he tell you that?" He stares at the light-haired German.

Gilbert shakes his head. "Why don't you call him? Text him or something."

"You're going to laugh," Francis assures him and takes swig out of the beautiful concoction Gil gave him, "but they haven't exchanged numbers."

"What?!" exclaims Gilbert, and the Spaniard finds it hard not to blush. Why is everyone so surprised? He just never had the need to use his phone for Lovino! They always met up at the balcony anyway! "How the hell do you guys communicate?"

"The old-fashioned way," teases the Frenchman. He nudges Antonio with his elbow and wags his eyebrows. "Late-night talks outside their balconies."

"Here, just—here," Gilbert bites off the grin as he slips his phone out from his pocket. "Take Lovino's number. Call him."

"But what if—"

"You won't know," the German interjects, "if you don't try. So just do it."

Antonio places the number in his phone, and thanks Gilbert and Francis. "I'll take my leave then," he says before heading out of the bar.

The blonde Frenchman puffs out a hefty sigh. "Antonio forgot his bags in my car. Should I stop by later or what?"

"I think you can leave it in front of his apartment. I don't think anyone would take any interest in teacher shit," Gil laughs.

His phone rings just as he took his helmet off, and he glances at the unknown contact. Lovino swipes his thumb across the screen, "Hello?"


His spine tingled in surprise. "Antonio? H—"

"I got your number from Gilbert, I'm sorry!" Antonio exclaims from the other end of the line. He sounds out of breath. "I didn't know how else to contact you, and we never see each other anymore—"

"Wait, slow down, what are you—"

"Lovino, where are you?" he asks. The Italian can hear cars in the background. Where's Antonio? He slides off his motorcycle and slings his bag over his shoulder and begins walking towards the apartment complex. "Home."

"Okay—please, wait for m—" A loud thud echoes across the line and the Italian flinches. He can't hear the bastard. Huh? He furrows his eyebrows and his stomach plummets.

"Antonio? Hello?" Lovino pulls the phone away from his ear and looks at it in confusion. He puts it back against his ear. "Hello? Hey, I can't—"

"Lo siento," cries Antonio a second later, "I dropped it on the ground! Lo siento, Lovi, I'm really—"

"It's okay, bastard," he cuts. His gut uncoils. "Well, I'll go now. I have to make dinner. Just knock on my door when you're back," he adds, feeling his heart go up to his throat.

"Okay," the Italian can hear the smile in his voice. "I'll see you later!"

What's he going to tell Antonio? I'm sorry for ruining your night? That's a shitty apology. Well, he can always just feed the constantly hungry male with his pasta and just hope that he can be perceptive and understand that it's Lovino's nonverbal way of apologizing. Right? God, is he hoping for too much?

The sauce is almost finished when he hears the knocks on his door, and soon his heart is in his ears and his throat, and the Italian nearly runs to the door. His chest feels so tight. He doesn't think he's ready to see Antonio. Ever.

But then he sees Antonio's stupid face in a blur when he opens the door, and he's suddenly trapped in a tight hug. "Lovinoooo," the bastard greets and pulls away. He gets another glance at Antonio's face before the stupid Spaniard brings him in a hug again.

The younger male isn't aware that he has his arms around Antonio until the Spanish musician pulls away, for real this time, and Lovi is wondering why they're still somehow attached. He drops his arms. "Hi," he greets and steps around the taller male to shut his door. "I made pasta."

"For me?" asks Antonio, complete with wide eyes and raised eyebrows.

"For the both of us," he corrects him as he rolls his eyes, and he leads the way into his kitchen. The pasta is ready in one bowl. All he needs to finish is this sauce.

Peace surrounds them, but it's not the typical kind. Antonio takes a seat on one of the chairs around the tiny dining table and puts his elbows on the table as he watches Lovino. He doesn't know what to say. What should he say? He should've thought of some kind of script!

"About that night…" begins Lovino.

"Oh, it's fine!" the Spaniard immediately replies.

"Shut up, let me explain myself," the prodigy remarks, timid but so, so angry. "I'm sorry I ran away. I'm," he doesn't turn around. He continues swirling the sauce with a ladle, "sorry I avoided you."

Antonio waits again, because he thinks there's something more to it than this. Something more in his apologies. But Lovino doesn't say anything, and maybe…

The Spaniard bites back a sigh. He smiles. "It's okay. I can wait."

Lovino's eyes widen and his shoulders stiffen, but then he exhales hugely and relaxes his body. His grip loosens around the ladle. "Thank you."

Their nights at the balcony resume.

And the music comes back.

But they want more.

They want more.

"Hey Lovino?"


He doesn't know what makes him do it, what makes him say it, but, "I really like you."

He strums his guitar strings to fill the quiet, to make sense of why he's doing this. What is he doing? He isn't simply confessing to the little Italian prodigy; there's something more to this. He wants more. He wants Lovino to depend on him. "Maybe I even love you."

He wants the Italian to show him everything.

Lovino turns his gaze on him, mind racing, pulse reaching an all-time high, and Antonio stares back. He can see the pink on his cheeks and imagines how hot his face might feel. The Spaniard smiles easily, and the Italian blushes harder.

"I want to make you happy."

His left hand is tingling and it goes limp, but his expression doesn't change. The music stops. His heart feels light.

"Trust me, Lovi."

He knows that practicing his music won't do anything. He has to do something.

"The school year's finally done!" Antonio sings when Lovino sits down on his balcony with two glasses and a tall bottle of wine. He hands one to Antonio across the balcony, and pours him a glass.

"Congratulations," he sends him a half-smile and pours himself some wine as well. Feliciana sent him some Italian cookies, which taste best when paired with red wine, and he wonders if Antonio would like it. Probably not. It took the Italian awhile to get used to its taste.

"I get to work at the shop for more hours now! And perform at your bar more regularly," he grins broadly. He takes a sip of the red wine. He recognizes the flavor, but all the wines blend in his mind so he never remembers what he's drinking. He takes a seat in his usual spot and glances out into the dark night. "Are you going to perform with me next time?"

Lovino takes a deep breath. The Spaniard sees the hesitation.

"I mean there's always—"

"I have anxiety," Lovino tells him. He sits down and places his wine glass on the space next to him, and then he winds his fingers together. Agitated. Uneasy. "That's why I can't," he pauses to swallow around the lump in his throat, "that's why I can't play." He lets his nails scratch along the skin of his hands and he chews on his lower lip.

He continues.

"Performance anxiety. Stage fright, whatever the fuck you call it." He picks at the callous by his pinky. Sometimes he plays string instruments like the violin and the cello. And the guitar. But he hasn't touched a guitar since Antonio entered his life. "I can't breathe and I freeze, and I just," he stops when his voice cracks. His heart is scampering in his chest.

And there is only silence.



"I have carpal tunnel syndrome," Antonio says with a laugh. It sounds choked. The Italian turns to him in astonishment, and sees the other musician wiping at his face. He's crying. "I have carpal tunnel syndrome," he cries some more. "I'm sorry—lo siento, I'm sorry—oh Dio I'm crying—and you have anxiet—"

"How bad is it?" Lovino asks, turning his body towards the Spaniard across from him, separated by the stupid railings. He wants to jump over there. Maybe he should. They're pretty close anyway.

"Pretty bad," Antonio says after a second, sniffling, stifling his sobs.

"Do you need surgery?" the younger male asks. "That's why your hand goes limp, right?"

He nods his head to both questions, wiping his eyes with the back of his hands. "I'm saving up f-for the surgery and therapy—"

"You shouldn't aggravate your hand so much," softly scolds the Italian. He clears his throat, but his lips can't stop trembling and his vision is blurry. "You're working too hard, damn it."

"Can I come over there?" asks Antonio. He looks to Lovino, and the Italian nods. They stand up, and the prodigy is about to enter his apartment to unlock his front door when he sees the Spaniard unsteadily climbing over his balcony.

"What the fuck are you—Antonio!" Lovi sucks in a sharp breath and Antonio lands on his balcony with a thud, knees and hands colliding on the surface. "Y—why the hell did you do that? What were you thinking?" he demands gruffly, though his touch is gentle. He helps the Spaniard get back on his feet, and he has a clearer sight of his face.

It's wet with tears.

He almost breaks down. "You could've died! You could've fallen off like that stupid brownie you tried giving me all those months ago," he yells. He pounds a fist on Antonio's chest and glares up at him. The bastard's crying again. "And why the hell are you still playing your guitar? You should lay off it, stop—stop fucking aggravating your hand! You can potentially—"

Lovino whimpers. He bows his head and he can feel Antonio's chest shivering with muted wails. "You might never be able to play again."

"I know, Lovi," the Spaniard says. He wipes at his eyes. "I know. I'm sorry, lo siento," he cries. "I'm sorry. So sorry."

"Shut up, don't apologize. J-just—how much do you need?"

It doesn't take a while for Antonio to understand what the Italian's implying. "Lovino—oh, Lovi, I can't—don't give me the money you earned. I can—"

"No, you need this. Stupid. Just tell me how much." Lovino looks up again, and his gaze can't stop looking into Antonio's. He's so broken. His eyes are bloodshot, his mouth is crooked, he has premature wrinkles near his eyes. The music isn't there to protect them anymore.

This is reality.

"Lovino, I can't possibly—"

"Yes, you can."

"But Lovino—"

The Italian grabs his face and presses a kiss on his lips. Firm, soft, salty, wet.


"I like you."

Breathe. He doesn't break their gaze.

"Trust me."

I'm breathing.

"Please, Antonio."

"Can I kiss you?"

"Just do it, stupid."

"I can't do it, Antonio—I just," the Italian trembles and laughs. He's so, so, so pathetic. "I can't do it."

"It's okay." The Spanish musician rubs Lovino's shoulders soothingly, thumbs making circles on the back of his shoulder blades. "I'll be here."

"You don't need the ashtray anymore, do you?"

"Nope," Antonio replies happily as he tunes the guitar with his left hand. It's been three weeks since his surgery, and his therapy has been going well. And he hasn't touched his guitar in a while. His hand still feels weak. "But I'm keeping it anyway."

"Hm? What for?" asks Lovino, watching him from across his balcony. He's standing up, resting his elbows on the top of his railings while Antonio plays a little with his guitar.

"Well, you gave it to me as a present, so," he looks up and smiles cheekily. "I'll keep it."

"Y—you're so stupid, damn it," Lovino blushes.


"It's okay, Lovi," Antonio reassures him again, pulling the younger male in his arms. Lovino is only shaking a little, and it's better than all the other times the Italian tried performing for him.

He doesn't speak and simply returns the hug. Lovino buries his face in his shoulder and squeezes the taller male. He sighs heavily. "I'm sorry."

The Spaniard kisses the top of his head. "It's okay."

That's all he needs.


"I really, really like you," Lovino mumbles against his neck when they're taking a siesta in Antonio's apartment.

And the Spaniard thinks that it's the most beautiful thing he has ever heard from Lovino.

"Lovino, you did it!" exclaims Antonio. He all but lifts Lovino from his seat and holds him close, peppering his face with kisses as the younger male laughs and drapes his arms and legs around the bastard.

"I did it," he chuckles. His heart is beating so hard and so fast in his chest, but he finished performing a piece in front of Antonio after so long, and he's breathing properly, and he didn't stop, and he played something, and he did it he did it.

"That was beautiful, Lovi, I—"

"Jesus, Antonio, your hand! Don't put too much strain on it," Lovino jumps away from the other musician and tenderly examines his left hand. "You're still recovering! Why the hell would you pick me up and—"

"I love you Lovino," he states out of the blue, steps closer and brings their faces together. "I love you."

"How did I do?" Antonio asks when he slides onto the stool. His hand is better, a little weak, but it's better, and it's all thanks to the lovely bartender moving his way.

Vivid green eyes shine with thinly-veiled glee, though his mouth only turns up slightly at the corners. "Not bad." He leans on the counter with a softer smile and the Spaniard reaches over to brush his lips across his cheek.

Antonio catches him unaware and he finds satisfaction in seeing the redness on Lovino's cheeks. "Thank you."

"Stop doing that in public," he demands without any true anger, but the Spanish musician knows that Lovino enjoys it as much as he does.

He finally remembers the notes and moves his right hand across the keys, and when he finishes, he moves his gaze to the Italian next to him, who's simply watching him quietly. Focused.

Antonio grins widely, the corners of his eyes wrinkling. "I remembered it this time! Not bad, huh?"

"I love you," Lovino says, leaning closer. He blinks, dragging his gaze from his eyes to his nose to his lips, and the other is moving closer and closer and closer, "I love you," he repeats softly. And then they're kissing, pulling each other closer and making the kiss sweet and so full of the pieces they needed.

They found each other.

"That's a really beautiful piece, Lovi," Antonio hums, mesmerized by Lovino's skills, mesmerized by his handsome and slender fingers.

"You want me to teach you?" he asks when he finishes, and there's the same never-ending peace that surrounds them even after Lovino finished playing.

"If you don't mind," the Spaniard says. He leans down and kisses his cheek.

"I don't mind," Lovino smiles. He takes his left hand and twines their fingers together.

They're complete.

a/n: Finished! Constructive criticism is highly appreciated! I hope the ending wasn't bad! Thanks so much for reading! :*