A/N: This is my first attempt at writing for the Hetalia fandom, so please be kind when reviewing. This was done for a member of the Gertalia community on LiveJournal in a secret santa exchange. Constructive criticism is always welcome. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't claim to own Axis Powers: Hetalia in any way.

Setting: Present Day

"Stopp*" He awoke with a cry as his body jolted up, a cold sweat dripping down his entire body, and breathed heavily. His knees came up to his chest and he hugged them tightly, while burying his face in his thighs. He trembled like a frightened child as he whispered meekly, "Nicht wieder*..."

Germany was having yet another reoccurring nightmare about his horrific past.

Tears fell against his will. He hated feeling so weak and helpless, but he knew that even after sixty-four years, these feelings were still just as strong as ever. He dried his soaked cheeks, then looked over at the digital clock on the nightstand next to his bed. 2:45AM. He sighed heavily knowing full well that he would not be getting anymore sleep tonight.

The room was pitch black, aside from the red glow of the numbers on the digital clock. He leaned over and clicked on a small lamp that sat right behind said clock, squinting as his eyes tried adjusting to the brightness. He moved to sit on the edge of the bed, supporting his upper body as he leaned on his thighs and fell deep in thought.

Visions of the past attacked his conscience with as much fervor as they had many a night before. They flashed through his mind like photos he was only allowed to see for mere seconds at a time. He tried in vain to block them out, but as usual, they were relentless and merciless in their quest to make sure Ludwig would never forget the atrocities he and his people committed. He gripped the back of his head tightly while his breathing became labored once again. He began to feel himself go mad with each passing second.

Eventually, it all became too much for him, and he snapped. He eyed the porcelain mug he had used earlier that evening, still filled with water, on the nightstand. In a fit of rage, he grabbed it and chucked it as hard as he could against the wall adjacent to him. It shattered when it made contact, pieces flying in all directions. Water bled down the wall, forming a small puddle below. Though Germany felt somewhat relieved to hear the chaotic sound of something breaking, it was only temporary. The pain and memories still remained.

A moment later, he heard a soft knock on his bedroom door.

"West, you okay? I heard a loud shattering noise coming from your room. Did something break?" Though Prussia knew all too well what really was going on behind that door, he'd always preferred hearing confirmation from his brother. He dared not open the door; he made that mistake once before.

Years ago (he never bothers to keep track anymore), during one of Ludwig's "attacks", the former German nation had walked in to check on his younger sibling, only to find that the room was in shambles. Furniture, books, paper, pens, anything contained within the room was thrown about, much of it broken or torn to pieces. And in the midst of it all was Germany. His breathing was labored and the look in his eyes frightened Prussia to his every soul, which was a feat in of itself since little could scare the silver haired man. He had never seen his brother look so enraged and void of reason. Once those blue eyes met red, the one-man fight began. Germany lunged at Gilbert, trying to throw punches and land kicks, but wasn't quick enough. His focus was obscured and there was a good chance he didn't know who he was fighting. Gilbert tried to stop him by yelling at him to come to his senses as he dodged every attack, but to no avail. He sighed heavily, knowing that his only option was violence. He hated hurting the person who meant so much to him. With one swift thrust with his right arm, he nailed his brother in the solar plexus so hard that it knocked him unconscious.

Since that day, whenever Germany had another attack of rage caused by memories of the past, Gilbert remained on the other side of the door, unless summoned to do otherwise. Tonight was no different as he waited with bated breath for his brother to respond.

Germany slapped himself across the face to regain his composure - a technique Prussia taught him. His voice was a bit strained when he finally spoke.

"I-I'm fine, Gilbert, thanks. I accidentally knocked my mug off the nightstand. Sorry it woke you." The guilt in his voice was evident.

Though he knew his brother couldn't see it, Prussia attempted a smile so his words didn't seem so forced. "Oh, don't worry about it. I was just concerned, that's all. Since everything seems fine, I'll let you get back to sleep. Nacht*, West." With a slightly worried expression on his face, he took one last look at Ludwig's bedroom door, then quietly walked back to his own quarters.

"Nacht, East*," Germany had almost decided against responding back. He was too ashamed of his actions and the fact that he had awoken his brother because of it. He sat back down on the edge of his bed and buried his face in his hands.

"What am I gonna do?" he wondered in a tone slightly above a whisper, "This can't keep happening. I need to find a way to heal from the past and move on. But... how?"

He had tried talking to Prussia many times about his nightmares and memories, but it never seemed to ease his suffering. The former nation knew what kind of pain his brother was enduring. They both had experienced it, and therefore, shared the guilt and regret that came from letting it all happen. But Gilbert seemed to have a better handle on his emotions, which was all the more frustrating for Germany. He felt so pathetic and foolish. He knew he needed to talk to someone a bit more neutral, or at least someone who hadn't witnessed one of the worst historic crimes on humanity.

He winced as the memories, once again, threatened to drive him over the edge. He grunted in frustration as he covered his face with his right hand and closed his eyes to concentrate on who would be the best candidate for being his support system.

Austria? I know he'd listen, but I doubt he'd know what to say to comfort me.

Hungary? Hm... no. If she got mad, I'd feel the wrath of her frying pan again. No way.

Uh... England? Germany shook his head. Hell no! What the hell am I thinking? That cynical old codger would never let me hear the end of it. Plus, he'd probably go off on another tangent about his past involving America. I think every nation, including America, has heard that damn story at least a thousand times over. Why can't those two idiots admit that they're head-over-heels for one another already and save us all the hassle of continually hearing them mask their flirting with insults? Geez! Summit Meetings last twice as long because of their incessant bickering.

He shook his head again. Gotta stay on track. Okay... who's next?

Canada? No. While the little guy would be a great listener, he'd more than likely faint, or at least shake uncontrollably, from being petrified of the stories.

Japan? That... might not be wise. I never know what the guy is thinking and I don't want any misunderstandings between us.

Definitely NOT Romano!

What about...

He lifted his head as a sudden realization hit him. Italy... It had been decades since they last spent time together. After the Italian nation had sided with the Allies, relations between the two of them had grown awkward and somewhat distant. The only time they ever saw each other was at Summit Meetings, where they'd exchange casual greetings, hold brief conversations about current events in their respective homelands, but nothing more. Most of the time, farewells didn't even enter their vocabulary. An uncomfortable glance was the last they ever saw of one another. Deep down in Ludwig's heart, he sorely regretted turning a cold shoulder and shunning his only friend from his life. He called Italy things he wished with every fiber of he being he could take back. But the damage was done. He wondered why Feliciano even bothered talking to him at all.

He scratched the back of his head and wondered if picking Italy as a source of comfort was a mistake. He glanced at the black cordless phone on his nightstand and contemplated every pro and con that was associated with the person he was now debating on calling. His eyes darted momentarily to his digital clock. 3:31AM. Italy would surely be asleep. He sighed heavily and was about to give up entirely on the brunette, but something deep down made him grab the receiver and begin dialing the familiar digits.

As he held the phone up to his right ear, he wondered vaguely if he would later regret this. It rang several times before someone finally picked up.

His breath suddenly caught in his throat, "I-Italy?"

"You stupid fucking potato bastard!" Ludwig winced and pulled the receiver a few inches from his face as the older Italian brother yelled his discontentment at the top of his lungs, "Did you forget how to tell time, asshole? I should head down to your place and beat the living shit out of you! Do you have any idea..."

Germany pinched the bridge of his nose as the curses on the other line continued. Why did Romano have to be the one to answer? He's never gonna shut up. He sighed and wondered briefly if the angry Italian's blood would boil hotter if he hung up on him. A tiny smirk appeared on his face before deciding it would probably be in his best interest not to test that theory.

It didn't take long for the high-pitched sounds of Feliciano's protests to come within ear's reach.

"Quit it, mio fratello*! That's not very nice!" Ludwig could hear a struggle for possession of the phone as the two brothers argued.

"He's the one who's rude, dammit!" Romano scowled, "It's almost four-fucking-AM! Who the hell calls someone to chat that early in the morning?"

"Germany wouldn't call at this hour unless it was very important. Please don't speak poorly of him just because you're always in a bad mood. Now hand me the phone and go back to bed." Ludwig's face flushed and his heart skipped a beat when he heard Italy stand up for him, not to mention command his brother in such a manner.

As soon as the former Italian nation's curses disappeared into the distance, Feliciano addressed Ludwig in a calm, apologetic tone, "I'm terribly sorry about my brother's behavior, Germany. He's always like that." He sighed in both embarrassment and exhaustion. Romano always wore him out emotionally.

The blond nation smiled genuinely, "You don't have to apologize on Romano's behalf. You know very well he's never taken a liking to me. This time, though, his anger was justified. I shouldn't have disturbed your household at such an unreasonable hour."

Italy waved a frantic hand in front of his face, "No, no, please don't feel bad, Ludwig! I'm actually quite... happy you called." Those last three words came out meek and shy, as if it were a sin to say them.

A floral pink hue encompassed the German's cheeks and he found himself acting uncharacteristically bashful, "You... you're happy to hear from me?" he nervously scratched the back of his head, "All these years I just assumed you didn't want to speak to me, or even see me beyond the Summit Meetings..." his thoughts trailed off to the day Italy left his side.

Veneziano closed his eyes for a moment, "I know things haven't been the same between us since I... betrayed you," he bit his bottom lip to keep the tears from forming. "I'm still very sorry about that. I was... I mean..."

Ludwig could hear the panic in Italy's voice, so he raised his free hand and soothingly cut him off, "Italy, it's okay. I understand why you left and allied yourself with the other nations. I probably would have done the same thing if I was in your shoes. So, please, let's put that behind us, okay?"

The little Italian sniffed back his sorrow and attempted an optimistic smile, "You're right. The past is the past. The present and future are what's most important. Right." He took a deep, relaxing breath, "So, Germany, what do I owe the honor of this phone call?"

The blond's composure grew morose as his purpose for calling the brunette came back to hit him like stray bullet. He was silent for a moment as he collected his thoughts.

When no response came, Italy's brows rose in concern, "Germany?"

"Oh, sorry. I was lost in thought. Uh..." Ludwig held his forehead as he tried to think of the right way to phrase what he wanted, "...actually, I called because of the past, so to speak."

Italy cocked his head to one side.

As if he could see the confusion on the Italian's face, Germany explained himself further, "I mean, I've been having reoccurring nightmares for the past sixty-four or so years and talking to Gilbert hasn't helped much. I need to talk to someone that... Oh, hell! Dammit, I don't know how to say this!" He gripped his hair between his fingers. I sound like a muttering idiot! Why is it so hard to talk to this guy?

Italy was no fool as he put two and two together, "Are they about the second world war?"

Germany sighed, "More specifically, the Holocaust."

A brief pause was shared between them before Italy replied, "I'll be right over," then hung up.

"Ita-" Ludwig tried to protest, but dial tone was all he heard on the other line. He gently hung up the receiver and began to feel his anxiety increase. While he had initially planned on asking Feliciano to come over, he wanted to, at least, discuss it first. Now the little Italian left him with no choice, but to wait for his abrupt arrival. What should he do to prepare for this? It had been over half a century since they last spent private time together. Those days seemed like such distant memories, yet Italy would now be gracing his halls once more. He couldn't help but smile as he stood up to get changed.

About four hours after Veneziano had ended his phone call with Ludwig, the taxi that transported Italy from an airport in Berlin arrived in front of Germany's home. He paid the driver as soon as he exited the vehicle, then turned to look upon the old house with great reverence. He smiled nostalgically as he made his way up to that all-too-familiar navy green front door.

It was freezing cold this time of year in Germany's homeland, so Italy made sure to bundle up. He wore a long black trench coat over a plain white t-shirt, a pair of blue jeans, a pair of casual red sneakers that sported shoelaces that looked similar to strands of pasta, and over his right shoulder hung a messenger bag filled with whatever he felt might cheer up his friend. Yes, pasta included.

As he approached the door, he reached into his right coat pocket and pulled out the spare house key Ludwig had given him so many years ago. He prayed it was still useful. Gingerly, he slipped it into the keyhole and smiled in relief once it turned, allowing him access inside.

As the door was slowly opened, Veneziano took note of the warmth that welcomed him on the other side. After closing the door behind him as quietly as possible, he took a deep breath, then exhaled merrily. The house still smelled the same. Every nation's house held a different aroma, but Germany's was special, distinct. Perhaps it was because he had spent so much time here.

A moment later, Prussia popped his head into the vestibule and immediately lit up with joy. "Well, if it isn't my adorable little Ita-chan! Come here you!" He ran up and scooped Italy into his arms, holding him tightly. "It's been ages since I last saw you. How have you been?" He put Feliciano down, who was also happy to see his old friend after so many years.

"I've been doing well, thanks," Italy beamed happily. "It's great to see you again, Gilbert! How are things here?"

Gilbert's persona darkened somewhat as he straightened his back and crossed his arms, "Well, things are great in our nation. Never been better, actually. It's just..." he looked up at the stairwell that led to his brother's quarters, "...West hasn't been doing too well." He turned back to face Italy, "I'm sure you know the reason why, am I correct? I gather that's the purpose behind your sudden visit." He smiled almost mischievously down upon his friend.

Feliciano sighed in melancholy and nodded, "Yes, he called me at around four AM this morning to tell me he's been having nightmares about the past. I was so worried, I raced down here without a second thought. I'm sorry if I'm intruding." He hung his head low.

Prussia smiled, then bent down to place a tender kiss on Italy's forehead, "Silly little Italy, you know you're always welcome in our home." He poked the tip of Veneziano's nose and winked, "Okay?"

Italy smiled appreciatively, then hugged the silver-haired German once more, "Grazie, Gilbert. That means a lot to me."

Prussia tightened the embrace, "I'm so glad I get to see your smiling face once more. This house has been awfully empty and dreary without you. I'm sure Ludwig would agree with me. You know, he hasn't been the same since you left."

Italy broke out of the hug to stare at Gilbert in bewilderment, "Really? How so?"

Red eyes met hazel knowingly, "Well, at first you couldn't really see a difference unless you were really paying close attention. As time went by, I began to notice how his pace when he walked slowed significantly, each foot seemingly dragged behind the other. He rarely ever smiled and he always seemed lost in thought. He'd kill me if he knew I was watching, but sometimes I'd catch him holding a box of pasta. He'd just sit or stand in one place for extended periods of time and simply stare at it. You have no idea how much I wanted to tease him about that, but whenever I saw that far-off look in his eyes, I backed down and let him be. I had a feelings that if I said anything, my shirt would be soaked with his tears by the end of the day."

Italy was speechless, as he stood frozen in place.

Prussia smiled affectionately and placed a hand on the brunette's small shoulder, "So, you see, you mean more to West than you may ever come to understand." He signaled towards the stairs with his head, "Now go to mein Bruder*. He's waiting for you." With that, he walked back to the living room to watch his favorite sitcoms. He smiled triumphantly as he plopped himself on the couch in front of the television.

West owes me one, he thought absently before picking up the remote and pressing the power button.

Mind still reeling from what Prussia just told him, Italy slowly ascended the staircase. Did Germany really miss me? Did he really... stare at boxes of pasta when he thought no one was watching? Why would he...?

He swallowed hard and clutched the fabric of his shirt above his heart as he stared nervously at Ludwig's bedroom door. He took a deep breath, then knocked rather hesitantly.

"Germany? It's me, Italy. May I come in?" he announced timidly.

"Come on in, Italy," came the brusque response.

With shaky hands, Veneziano turned the knob, slowly swung the door open, then walked inside. Germany immediately stood up from his seated position on the bed and waited till Feliciano had closed the door completely and turned to face him.

He's still so beautiful... was Ludwig's first thought as he gazed upon his old friend. "I... Italy..."

Italy's messenger bag fell limply to the floor before he took one apprehensive step forward, then another, till he finally let his emotions take complete control of his body.

"Germany!" He yelled, tears falling down his rosy cheeks, as he ran to Ludwig, wrapping his arms tightly around his neck. Germany reciprocated with an equally tight embrace. He felt his entire being melt at the contact he had missed for so long. The thin brunette placed tiny pecks all over the blond's neck, cheeks, forehead, eyes... anywhere around his head that was accessible. "Oh, Ludwig, I missed you so much!"

In the past, whenever Feliciano would shower the German with too much affection, Ludwig would push him off and scold him for not acting in a more serious manner. But now... now he couldn't get enough of these sweet little kisses the Italian was bestowing upon him. He closed his eyes, heat rising from every orifice of his body, while his hands rubbed the other man's back and head, urging him on.

Then, suddenly, Italy stopped. Ludwig could feel the brunette's teasing breath caressing his lips ever so slightly. Blue eyes opened halfway to meet the sultry twin pools of hazel before them. Italy was silently asking the very same burning question he was: can we?

As if answering each other, they closed the gap between their faces. Lips meshed passionately, without restraint. They were through with being timid. They'd known each other for far too long for such idle constraints, and their feelings had been hidden from one another for nearly the same amount of time.

Ludwig backed Feliciano against the farthest wall as the onslaught of steamy kisses continued. The taller man moved his focus down Italy's slender neck, his lips and teeth eventually finding their place within the nape. He relished in the melodic sounds of Veneziano's moans and gasps. He'd never felt so... so...

Italy clawed at Ludwig's back as he panted and moaned with every nip and lick from the skilled German, "Aaaahhh! Germany... nnngnh... Germany... more..."

"Ich liebe dich*, Italy," Ludwig confessed in a low, breathless tone. He lifted his head to peer into those beautiful amber eyes once more, which happened to be wide open in shock.

"Wha... what did you...?" Italy could hardly comprehend that those three words had just come out of Germany's mouth. He did his best keeping the welling tears from forming.

Ludwig smiled sincerely and gently caressed the Italian's soft cheek with his fingers, "Italy... I'm in love with you. I have been for a very long time. I only now came to complete terms with it. I guess it's true what they say: you never really know what you have till it's gone. I missed you so much when you left. I thought I'd go mad," he cupped both of Italy's cheeks and wiped the falling tears with his thumbs. "My Italy... please tell me you feel the same."

Little Feliciano was so overcome by mixed emotions, his quivering body made him kneel to the ground and bury his soaked face in his hands, sobbing tears of joy.

Ludwig knelt in front of him and put his hands on the shaking nation's shoulders. He honestly didn't know what to make of this. Were these tears of happiness or grief? Gently, he tried calling to him, "I-Italy, are you alright? Did I say something that hurt you?"

Italy's response was, unfortunately, muffled due to not lifting his head from his hands. Germany quickly halted whatever he was saying.

"Wait, what? I can't understand a thing you're saying," Ludwig tried to act serious without laughing at how utterly adorable Italy sounded when he's incomprehensible.

Without warning, which is a fairly common occurrence for the little guy, Feliciano lunged into Germany's arms, knocking him almost completely to the floor. The off-guard German had managed to outstretch a hand behind him just in time to prevent them both from collapsing.

"Italy, what's wrong?"

"Of course I love you, you scemo* German!" He lifted his head and locked Ludwig in a brief kiss before pulling away to stare into the enchanting ocean blue eyes he came to adore so many years ago. He smiled affectionately as he ran his fingers through soft blond strands, "I don't know how long you've harbored secret feelings for me, but I have a feeling they were in-sync with mine. I can't really explain why, but when I look in your eyes... I see someone whom I shared a deep love for long, long ago. I know that must sound strange, but-" he was cut off when Germany suddenly leaned closer and kissed him softly.

Once it was over, the taller man smiled, "It's not strange at all. I've always felt an unexplainable strong bond with you. It was an almost instantaneous reaction. But I guess figuring it all out really doesn't matter in the long run," he tenderly nuzzled Italy's face and closed his eyes. "As long as I'm here with you now, nothing else matters. I really love you, Italy... with all my heart and soul."

The shorter nation felt his face flush crimson as his entire being melted, "Ti amo*, my Germany."

Ludwig sat up straight and cradled his new lover in his arms, gently swaying from side to side, a tender smile spread across his face.

After a time, Italy suddenly remembered his whole purpose for coming over. He positioned himself, much to Germany's surprise, on the other man's lap so that he was now being straddled. He wrapped his arms around his boyfriend's neck and spoke, "I think we almost forgot the real reason why you called me earlier this morning, didn't we?"

All the joy, the happiness, the glow... was now fading fast from Germany's entire being. He sure as hell didn't want such a perfect moment to be crushed by the past.

He sighed heavily as his head drooped down, "Can't we just skip it today? This is the happiest day of my life and I really don't want to ruin it."

Italy cupped the distraught German nation's face in his hands, "Ludwig, look at me." He waited till he saw the blue hue of Germany's eyes staring back at him before continuing, "Everyday will be the happiest of our lives from now on. Now that we're together, our lives can start anew. This is the day of new beginnings, Germany. So I think this an ample opportunity to lift the burdens of your past off your shoulders. Don't you?"

Tears of fear and determination were already brimming in the troubled nation's eyes, but were quickly dismissed with a swift swipe of his arm, "You're right, Italy. I want to start a new life with you; one that doesn't include me losing my mind over past events. Alright... let's begin."

Both European nations stood up, then made their way over to Germany's bedside, where they re-sat themselves across from each other on the cold hardwood floor. They exchanged smiles an squeezed their hands reassuringly before letting go.

Ludwig reached under his bed and pulled out a plain brown cardboard box about the size of a milk crate. It was wrapped in a long metal chain, held together on top by a lock. It looked almost ominous to Italy. He shivered slightly and looked at Ludwig with raised, concerned eyebrows. The German stared at the box with eyes that held so much uncertainty, Feliciano briefly wondered if the other man was ready to go through with this. As if to answer the unspoken inquiry, Ludwig reached behind him, opened a small drawer in his nightstand, and removed a small bronze key. He clutched it tightly between his fingers, took a deep, determined breathe, then inserted it into the lock.

Before it was turned, Italy quickly placed his hand on Germany's and looked at him sincerely. The blond jumped slightly as he was caught off guard by this sudden action and looked questioningly at Veneziano.

"No matter what happens, I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying right here by your side, okay?" Italy squeezed Ludwig's hand a little tighter to further convey his sincerity.

Germany nearly choked on the lump that grew in his throat caused by how overwhelmingly wonderful those simple words made him feel. He leaned over and, with one hand cupping his cheek, kissed the man he loved more than life itself. Afterward, he leaned his forehead against Italy's and whispered, "I know. Thank you, my Italy." He placed a small kiss where his forehead once rested before returning to his original seated position.

With new-found confidence, he turned the key, causing the latch to release. Chains fell noisily on all sides of the box, leaving only one remaining task: removing the lid. In the blink of an eye, Ludwig gritted his teeth, then lifted the lid, placing it haphazardly on the floor to his right.

Italy snuck a tiny peak inside and saw many documents, newspaper clippings, and photos laying about in an unorganized - a very uncommon occurrence regarding the stoic German - fashion. His focus fell back upon Germany, who's complexion seemed to fade from a bright, vibrant radiance to an almost morbid shade of off-white. It's as if the contents of the box was sucking the very life out of him. Worried by this unpleasant sight, Italy reached over and gently caressed his lover's pale cheek, eyes full of concern and pity.

Germany's irises jerked up once he felt the warmth of Italy's skin. The color of his skin began to return to normal as he smiled affectionately at Feliciano. He took Italy's hand in his and assured, "I'm fine. No need to worry. I haven't opened this box in ages, so it's a little overwhelming to see its contents again. But I'll be okay, as long as you're here." He gently kissed the palm of said hand, then let it return to its owner. The brunette smiled hesitantly, then nodded once.

Germany took a very deep breath before reaching into the box, grabbing the first thing he touched. It was an old clipping from a German newspaper. The paper had long since faded to a weathered yellow, but everything else about it was in pristine condition. Blue eyes scanned over the article until he couldn't bare to read anymore. He closed his eyes and sighed heavily, then handed the paper to Italy, who reluctantly took it and begun to read.

"I'll never forget that day," Ludwig began in a low, monotone voice. "January 30th, 1933 was when all hell broke lose throughout most of Europe. That psychotic bastard... His merciless killings began almost immediately after he was appointed Fuhrer. It started with persecutions and the exodus of our then 525,000 Jews, but it sure as hell didn't stop there."

Italy's attention was now entirely on hearing Ludwig's speech, the clipping now resting on his lap. He saw the fury and regret surging in those crystal blue orbs belonging to the physical personification of a nation that used to strike fear and loathing in any who spoke of it. Though Italy wanted nothing more than for Germany to stop his reminiscing, he knew talking about it was the best medicine for his pained heart. Ludwig's past needed to be buried - not to be forgotten, but forgiven. His eyes remained glued to the German's face as he sat in total silence, listening intently to every word.

"Adolf made it seem like this world needed to be "cleansed" of its "filth" so that a new era in which the Aryan race reigned supreme would dawn. According to him, the Aryan race was the purest of German blood and rooted in the sacred German earth, whatever the fuck that meant. I don't know what the hell I was thinking allowing such brutality to continue for so damn long." He clutched his head between his hands, "The way he spoke, you couldn't help but listen and buy into all his bullshit. He was truly a master at giving speeches. Verdammen Sie ihn*!"

Ludwig was tensing up, but he shook it off right away by shaking his head. He looked into the box and pulled out a very old photo. This made him buckle with emotion. He shook violently and hugged his legs to his chest, burying his face within his arms and sobbed like he never had before.

Italy immediately crawled over to Ludwig's side and held him close. He took the photo from Germany's shaking hand and looked at it, but only for a second, for it also filled him with intense emotions he'd rather not encounter. The image was of a huge mound of naked, dead concentration camp victims who looked starved and beaten to the point where they were hardly recognizable as humans. Feliciano set the picture back in the box face down, took a deep breath to calm his nerves, then placed all his energy on consoling his emotionally torn lover. He had to bite his bottom lip the entire time the blond sobbed, for seeing him in that state broke his heart.

Ludwig's pained rant continued through his sobs and tears, "He... murdered so many innocent people, Italy! And I let it happen! Why, dammit? And... it wasn't just Jews! Homosexuals, Romani, Soviet Pows, Ethnic Poles, the disabled, and Jehovah's Witnesses... they all died for no fucking reason! It's not fucking fair! They were just living their lives... not getting in anyone's way. Ficken* Hitler!"

He was now gripping Italy's arms with brute force, as if trying to hang on to sanity itself. History can be cruel, but to Ludwig, it was sheer torture. Italy kissed the the top of Germany's head and winced in pain whenever he felt the other man's nails ripping at his flesh. He didn't mind, though. He knew these actions weren't intentional. This was just another therapeutic step for Germany, so the little Italian welcomed the pain, knowing it would all be worth it in the end. He needed to be brave for Ludwig's sake.

The blond's face was buried in Italy's chest, soaking the fabric of his shirt with his tears. He felt the brunette's comforting hand stroke his hair gently, which progressively began to calm him. Though his crying didn't cease, it wasn't uncontrollable anymore and his shaking stopped entirely. It was then he realized the grip he had on Italy's arms were too overbearing. His upper body jolted up and he quickly rolled up the Italian's sleeves.

Feliciano tried to protest, but it fell on deaf ears. He saw the horror in Germany's eyes as he surveyed the damage. A little blood was seeping through five distinct cuts on each arm. They weren't severe, but given Germany's current state of mind, it was like looking at a tortured victim's wounds. The thin thread inside the blond's mind suddenly snapped.

"... Nicht wieder..." he whispered in an almost inhuman way, eyes wide and forgone of emotion. He let go of Italy's arms, the slowly reached for the drawer in his nightstand.

Veneziano's eyes went wide with fear. He gasped, realizing exactly what it was Germany was so intent on retrieving. He stood up and tried barring his lover's questing hand from the drawer.

"Stop, Germany! I'm fine, really. They're just tiny scratches. Please come to your sense!" He grabbed Ludwig's hand with his own and interlocked their fingers to get a better grip. He pushed as hard as he could against the German's strength, but the taller nation was in far better shape. "Per favore, Ludwig, di fermare*!" he pleaded as tears rolled down his cheeks. "I'm not gonna lose you because of the damn past! Ludwig, dammit, wake the fuck up!"

With courage and strength he never knew he had, he slapped the dazed German as hard as he could across the face with his free hand. That same hand came up to cover his mouth in horror as he realized too late what he had done. "Oh my god, Germany, I'm so sorry! I don't know what came over me! I-"

He stopped cold in the midst of apologizing when he felt Germany's fingers close tightly with his own. He glanced at their hands momentarily before locking gazes with Ludwig, whose eyes now held remorse, guilt, and gratitude.

"Danke*, Feliciano," Germany said in a low, husky voice. "I'm sorry for scaring you like that. I lost myself when I saw the marks I inflicted on your arms. It brought back memories of so many victims of torture, ones I had witnessed personally." He sighed heavily, then pulled Italy into a tight embrace and kissed his head tenderly. "Es tut mir sehr leid*, Italia."

Veneziano's features softened and he warmly wrapped his arms around his lover's torso, "It's okay. I'm still here, aren't I? I know this is a tough time for you and getting through it won't be easy." He was silent for a moment, contemplating, before speaking his mind, "I've been thinking, Germany..."

They moved somewhat out of the embrace, at which point Italy got comfortable straddling himself on Ludwig's lap. A small smile graced the taller man's cheeks as his arms gingerly snaked their way around Feliciano's small waist.

"Yeah? What about?" Germany inquired.

"Well," Italy began, "I figure all of this can't be solved in one day. I mean, we're talking about decades of self-loathing and repressed memories. It will take quite a long time to heal those wounds; and I honestly think diving into it all at once like we did was a big mistake. It was obviously too much for you to handle in one sitting."

Germany nodded in agreement, his face radiating with serious intent.

"See?" Italy pointed out. "I think we need to take baby steps. So, today, we begin by burning the box and everything in it." He saw Germany's face pale in fear, so he raised a sympathetic hand, "I know it won't be easy, but the items need to disappear. They are a constant reminder of the pain and suffering you've endured after world war two ended. That, above all, needs to stop. Do you understand, Germany?" He peered inquiringly into Ludwig's uneasy eyes.

The taller man didn't make eye contact with Italy as he thought long and hard about this difficult decision. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then averted his attention back to his lover, "Alright, I'll do it. I know this is probably for the best. I want to end this insanity once and for all."

Italy smiled warmly and slid his fingers gently through Germany's golden locks. He kissed his forehead, then assured, "You will. Just give it time. We're nations, so we've got nothing but time, right?" He laughed softly and was pleased to hear a slight chuckle from the other man.

"That's true. We've got all the time in the world." Germany cupped Italy's face with both hands and whispered, "Thank you so much for supporting and loving me, Feliciano. I love you." He leaned in and placed a sultry kiss on the brunette's lips.

Italy melted at the warm contact. He wrapped his arms tightly around Ludwig's head to deepen the kiss. After parting, they stared at one another, eyes half-lidded, without saying a word. Their silence spoke volumes, each unspoken syllable was clearly translated by a bond that transcended time and space.

Italy hugged the nation he loved above all and whispered, "I love you so much, Ludwig. So very much..."

Germany smiled and stated, "It makes me so happy to hear you say that," before grabbing the Italian by the shoulders and pushing him gently out of the embrace. "Now, let's get to work on burning that box, shall we?"

Italy nodded, "Assolutamente*!"

The lid was quickly replaced back on top of the box before it was lifted by both nations, then taken downstairs. They planned to ask for Gilbert's involvement in the project once they reached the living room. Of course Ludwig's brother would be ready and willing to help them on their quest to heal Germany's heart.

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*Stopp (German) = Stop (didn't see that coming, did ya? XD)

*Nicht weider (German) = Not again

*Nacht (German) = Night (as in "good night")

*Mio fratello (Italian) = My brother

*Grazie (Italian) = Thanks/Thank you

*Mein Bruder (German) = My brother

*Ich liebe dich (German) = I love you

*Scemo (Italian) = Stupid

*Ti amo (Italian) = I love you

*Fuhrer (German) = Leader

*Verdammen Sie ihn (German) = Damn him

*Ficken (German) = Fucking (in the negative context)

*Per favore, di fermare (Italian) = Please stop

*Danke (German) = Thank you/Thanks

*Es tut mir sehr leid (German) = I'm very sorry

*Assolutamente (Italian) = Absolutely