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[personal profile] berseker
Title: The Flying Heart of Love 13/?
Rating: ... Pgish, sort of. Maybe not.
Characters: Luciano, Martín, Maria, Manu, mentions of many others.
Pairings: Br/Arg, Pe/Chi, and many many others.
Warnings: This is an AU, so you'll have to ignore everything you know about family relations and things from what passes for canon at Latin Hetalia. I MEAN IT. BE WARNED.



Recap: In the chapter before the previous chapter, Martín eavesdropped on Maddie and heard her having a mysterious conversation, Luciano had fight with his father, Martín had a fight with María, who then had a moment over an Italian song. And Alfred was there being cool. In the previous chapter, Martín had a fight with Luciano, kissed him but that was part of the fight, Sebastián wanted to know about Luci’s family for his own mysterious reasons, the mysterious white-haired man was threatening Miguel and Manu wasn’t doing much of anything. Oh, and María figured that if Luciano was Antonio’s nephew, then his old family videos could have some clue about Antonio’s mysterious past. And Martín decided to visit Luci again.

And that’s what you missed in The Flying Heart of Love.







She left without explaining what exactly she was going to do. He could hear her bumping into someone in the hall.

Oh well.

He tried to remember the last thing dad had said about this uncle, and couldn't come up with anything. He was almost dozing off when someone knocked.


The sound was getting familiar. Luciano considered pretending he was dead.

“Hey there,” Martín said, “Missed me?”

Luciano didn't open his eyes.

“I know you're awake,” Martín said. By the sound of his voice, he was going to the chair, which meant he was planning to stay around. Fuck.

“Go away.”

“Told you so. Did you read my latest article?”

“Is it about what a psycho ex you are?”

“No, it's about your team. You know they’re already in Brazil, right?”

Of course Luciano knew it. He had even tried to watch the latest game, but seeing them playing while he was stuck in this hospital made him depressed.

“You wrote about that? Sounds fascinating. How many words?”

“It's about how their last game was drastically better than your last game. Did you watch it? At least they were playing.”

“I tried,” Luciano said.

So that wasn't a good comeback, so what? His head was hurting. And this sounded worse coming from Martín than when he thought it himself.

“Yeah, whatever. I was thinking about what you said.”

“About going away?”

“No. About retiring.”

“You're thinking about retiring? I agree. How did you come here anyway? I thought I had made it clear that I didn't want-”

“I didn't ask,” he said, obviously very pleased, “It's not as hard as you think. Or maybe they just don't care about what you say. Anyway, I was preparing my next article-”

“... oh God.”

“And I took the liberty of adding that you're not coming back. So I came here to give you a chance to say something, if you even care about your fans.”

Luciano looked at him.

Martín glared back – he was smiling, but there was no doubt that he was glaring, his eyes alight with this weird mix of glee and bitterness, and he was still obviously angry and was obviously a total psycho and Luciano couldn't imagine why he had ever found that creep attractive in the first place.

“I think I'll pass. Was that all?”

“I thought so. Then you can't complain when I write what I want.”

“Fine. Now fuck off, I'm tired.”

This worked better than trying to fight. It got him just as mad, and this way he didn't have to waste the energy.

It’s just that it was so frustrating, because – well, because he wanted to say something, and win the fight instead of just avoiding it. And because he wanted to talk about how much he hated being here and how worried he was because this was taking longer than normal to wear off and how he couldn't because there was no one he could talk to and of course he didn't want to talk to him either, but if Martín weren't such a crazy nutjob-

“But I'm not going to retire,” he said.

Martín stopped on his way to the door.

“Yes, you are.”

“No. If you did your research, then you know this is not the first time I need a time off, so-”

“Dude. It's not a time off. You can't possibly think you're going back.”

He was enjoying this, rubbing it in, making it worse. Luciano knew it was pointless, but he still had to say it.

“I will. As soon as the treatment ends.”

“You can't even stand. Face it, Luciano, you're not leaving this bed anytime soon and when, if you do, it will be too late anyway. But at least you enjoyed it while you could, right? That's also in my article. I dedicated a whole section to how you've been enjoying it.”

“I will. This has happened before. I'll bounce back. You'll see.”

“Look.”

He opened his stupid bag, and got some papers out.

Not papers. Pictures. Three or four, that he threw on the sheet on Luciano's lap. The first one was weird and funny and it took him a while to understand it, because the angles were all crazy. It was from their very first meeting, when Martín had tried to photograph him and Luciano had jumped at him and held him on the bed. He remembered that. It had been fun. Infuriating, but fun.

The second had been taken after a game one or two years ago, and it always came up when people wanted to write about him. He was wearing the team's jersey, his hair wet with sweat and clinging to his forehead, and he looked tired and elated and triumphant.

And the other one was from Martín’s last visit. The one with that kiss.

Luciano hadn't really looked in the mirror since he’d been admitted here, and hadn't stopped to think about what he looked like. He had noticed how Sebastián fussed over him, and how that tall nurse was always holding him when he had to move, and how María had startled. And, now that he was thinking about it, dad hadn't been really fighting back when Luciano was telling him off. He had assumed it was because he wasn't in the mood. It hadn't crossed his mind that it was because he didn't look like he could take it.

He stared at the picture.

Yeah. He didn't look like he'd be going back.

Ever again.

“Don't take it so seriously,” Martín said, a little uncomfortable, “Everyone looks like that when they're sick. But it will get me more page views.”

Luciano looked at him. He had no idea what his face looked like, because he felt blank.

“Anything with your name does. Next time I'll bring you some of the comments I get. Your fans are insane. Very devoted. You should have seen what they told me last time, it was amazing. Say something, you're making me nervous.”

“I can't stay here.”

His voice sounded blank, too. But it was true. He hadn't looked nearly that bad when he was at the hotel. Or home. It was this hospital food and having to lie down all day and not exercising or eating right or breathing fresh air that was doing this to him.

“What?”

He shoved the sheets and blankets aside, and sat down. Martín rushed to his side.

“Don't be stupid, you can't just leave.”

“I can.”

“No, you can't,” he said, holding his shoulders, “Ok, forget the pictures, I'm not going to really publish that. Lie down!”

He couldn't even struggle, but he wasn't going to listen either. He managed to turn to the side of the bed, his legs reluctantly going to the floor, that was cold under the sole of his feet but he had his shoes around, he was sure of that, so now he just had to make himself stand.

“Luciano! Come on, stop that. I'll call the nurse. I'll- oh shit-”

He had to let go to hold the IV support so it wouldn't fall on their heads, and Luciano was vaguely aware of the throbbing pain in the back of his hand but he couldn't stop to worry about the needle, he needed to leave this place right now before he could get worse. And he was tired, so tired of all this, of putting up with all these people and trying to be good and patient and all and he could leave if he wanted to, no one had the right to make him stay, he knew that, but they would try to convince him if they had the chance and he had to leave.

“I know,” Martín said, holding the thing with one hand and grabbing the back of his hospital gown with the other, “You will, alright, just not right now, at least wait until we get this off-”

He wasn't going to. He wasn't. But then he found himself grabbing Martín's shirt and he vaguely remembered doing that when they had left the restaurant that night, but that had been so different, now he just wanted to stand and had to hold on to something solid, something real, and Martín was the only part of the room that wasn't moving and Luciano buried his face in his shoulder and then Martín held him tightly with just one arm and called for the nurse.

Luciano didn't even open his eyes. And Martín didn't let him go, either. He snapped at everyone and the fact that Luciano was clinging to his shirt must have convinced them that kicking him out wouldn't help, no matter what previous experience might indicate, so someone came to fix the damage he had made to his hand flailing like that with the stupid needle still there, and Luciano whimpered into Martín's shoulders as they dressed the wound.

“I'm not going to publish that,” Martín whispered, when they were alone again, “I wasn't going to, I was just saying. But you should lie down. Alright? Can we do that?”

This time Luciano let him. Martín, of all people, fussing over him. It could almost be some kind of crazy dream, if he could ignore the despair threatening to crash again.

“I don't want to stop playing.”

“You won't,” Martín said, “Trust me.”

“You said it yourself.”

“Yeah, but I didn't mean it. And anyway this will just make it more impacting when you make your comeback, right?”

“No, I don’t- I'll never- why won’t you just leave?”

Martín was taken aback. He looked away.

“Sure, of course. I can- I should stop coming-”

“Yes.”

He could feel his eyes too open, burning with the threat of tears, and his lips were trembling and he felt absolutely miserable.

“I’ll just- right. I’ll let you rest, then.”

He got as far as the door, and then stopped again.

“I didn’t mean it.” Now his voice sounded heavy, anguished, “None of that. I just thought- I don’t like to feel used.”

He waited, but Luciano couldn’t think of anything to say. So he didn’t. Martín looked away, and then he left and it felt like until the moment he closed the door he was still hoping Luciano would call him back.





*~*~*

Episode 20

*~*~*




Manuel was not having a good day.

Miguel hadn’t tried to talk to him again. Apparently, he had accepted the fact that Luciano wouldn’t be advertizing his dumb restaurant any time soon, and had decided to work like normal people instead of whining.

That was good, of course. Very good.

It was driving him crazy. He wasn’t worried – after all, his master plan was to show him who was the best and he had done exactly that - but he was… maybe mildly alarmed. Somewhat. Why couldn’t Miguel be sensible and come work with him?

But then, when he thought about it, he could see a million reasons. Why would he anyway? Manuel wasn’t… well, wasn’t the type who got people begging to be his friends. Miguel was probably grateful he didn’t have to put up with him anymore. Which was great, because Manuel didn’t want him around either. He just thought it would have been polite of him to say something.

He was still thinking about it when María came over to get Luciano’s stuff. They were buddies now, apparently. He also had no idea when that had happened.

He let her in. She was way too excited when he gave her the keys, and when he looked at his watch again, twenty minutes had passed and she hadn’t come back yet.

Grumbling under his breath, he went to Luciano’s room and opened the door.

“I'm sorry,” Manuel said, crisply professional, “He said you'd just get something for him and I think there was enough time to- hm. I. Hm.”

She was sitting in his bed, with his laptop over her knees. She turned to him slowly, and he saw her red eyes and the trails of tears in her cheeks.

Okay.

“I- uh. I'll wait outside. Take your time.”

But before could flee, she rubbed her eyes and sniffled:

“Sit here,” she said, her voice surprisingly commanding, “You need to see this.”

“It’s alright, you don’t need to show me. I’ll just wait. I-”

“Sit down, you jerk! It’s less than ten minutes!”

So he did, bristling a little at being randomly insulted by a teenager. But fine.

She glared at him as if he was personally responsible for making her cry.

“His father recorded this when he was a kid. I don’t know the year.”

“Who? Whose father? Recorded what?”

“Luciano’s father, please try to keep up! So, it had Antonio, you know, my- he runs the orphanage. And his wife. I think. And. Look. Tell me what you think.”

She rubbed her nose again, and cliqued on the file.

Whoever was recording this didn’t have a steady hand, and the first five seconds were so shaken that Manuel almost didn’t recognize a wall.

Then he did.

It was a wall.

“What exactly am I supposed to- oh.”

The camera shifted and slid down to the floor, focusing on a young man with bright green eyes sitting on the floor. Probably Antonio. He had a very stupid mullet. Before Manuel could say something about the appalling hairstyle in the 80s, stuff started to happen, so he braced himself for stupid videos of Luciano’s stupid childhood.

And what he saw was this:

Antonio looked young and happy – if a little dumb – and he was perfectly relaxed, his back against the couch, his long legs stretched in front of him. He was holding a small child.

“That’s- is that-”

“The baby has your stupid hair,” María said. She sounded about to cry again. “But I don’t know. Is that you?”

Yes. It was. Or- maybe not, who knew, but Manuel had seen pictures of himself, not that young, because he had been adopted when he was three, but he hadn’t changed much and the baby in the video had his hair, with the weird strands that formed those sort of points or whatever at the side of his hair when he didn’t cut them and sometimes even when he did.

The person holding the camera moved, and then sat on the floor in front of Antonio, who smiled and turned the baby to him.

The baby scowled. He had dark round eyes, and a very solemn little face, but then Antonio raised him up and blew into his cheek, making a loud sound, and the baby giggled, and the person holding the camera laughed too. He said something Manuel didn't get, then put the camera somewhere else, maybe a chair or another couch, and opened his arms. The baby sort of staggered to him, but he was so close that it didn’t take two steps, and then the man grabbed him, praising him so generously that the baby giggled again. Then he turned him back to Antonio.

So, they were trying, and failing, to teach him how to walk. Manuel raised his hand, but caught himself before he could touch the computer screen, and pressed his fist to his mouth instead. His father and his uncle were trying to teach him to walk.

“He has an orphanage,” he said, his voice strangely raspy, “Maybe- that doesn’t mean-”

“Keep watching.”

He heard more voices, and then the second man got up and got the camera again. This time it focused on a woman holding another child.

“That’s Luciano,” María said, “I think this is his mom.”

Manuel could see it. She had long black hair, going down almost to her waist, and there was something in her face that looked just like him, maybe her mouth or her eyes or the shape of her nose. Luciano lit up when he saw his father. He raised his arms and cooed at him. The man laughed, and gave his wife the camera to pick him up, in a very complicated maneuver that felt like an earthquake. And then she turned the camera around, but her hand was even less steady, so Manuel and María had a quick view of the floor and the ceiling and a window somewhere. When she finally got it together, she was laughing so hard that her hand was trembling, but she still managed to turn it to another woman who had probably entered the room right behind her, and who was watching with a tight, clipped smile, and a weird look in her eyes, as if she didn’t want to be amused at them.

And this woman-

This woman had wavy brown hair tied back by a ribbon or something and her lips were the kind of red that requires extremely expensive make-up to get, and she looked so, so beautiful, movie-star beautiful, she was gorgeous. She took off her gloves and went to baby Manuel, who started to babble and shake his arms obviously asking to go to her.

That's my favorite Italian girl, Antonio said, still sitting on the floor. He raised his head for a kiss, but she patted his cheek instead, and then picked the baby in her arms, and he stared up at her with dark round eyes. She smiled at him, and started to sing softly.

“This fucking song,” María muttered, but Manuel ignored her. Luciano's mom cursed and dropped the camera on the couch and from then on everything was upside down. Then someone turned it off.

And that was it.

Manuel hid his face in his hands.




*



“My father said I came from Chile.”

“Did he?”

“I'm so- I never. I think I- I need some time to think about this.”

“Why,” she said, “Just go talk to him. To Luciano, or to Antonio, or to Luciano's father. There's so much you can do. I'll just go back to my life, then. Of course.”

She sounded defeated. Manuel hesitated, then touched her hand.

“Thank you.”

“Don't mention it.”

“No, I mean it. You didn't have to do it. I wasn't- kind to you.”

“Forget it, Manuel. I don't care. I just wish... damnit. I don't know. I need some time too.”

“I was never nice to you, I didn’t even give him the watch you asked me to. I’m so, so sorry.”

“… you stole his watch?”

“No. I gave it to my dad.”

He looked at the floor, ashamed of himself. María sighed.

After a while, she asked:

Why in the name of fuck?”

“I don't know! He'd been looking for that thing since I can remember and then it showed up here, of all places, and I had to give it to him. It’s the only thing he cares about, he even hired that American couple to find it. I thought maybe if I could find it…”

“Alfred and Maddie? Your father hired them?”

“Yes, and then I found it and he was so- for the first time- he was so proud of me.”

He looked at the screen.

“I see,” María said.

“He said I’m Chilean. Why would he lie? And- Antonio runs the orphanage, so… why? He can obviously take care of children. And I'm not- I can't be that bad- can I? I-”

“Just go and ask him.”

“What, no! Don't say anything to him. Swear to me you won't.”

“Don’t worry, it's not like anyone cares about me, or what I say. Excuse me. I need to go home.”

Manuel looked at her. He had seen that look in Martín's face before, when he was bleeding inside and didn't want to show it. But it was the first time he saw it in her face.




*




“And that’s what it is,” María moaned, “I just don’t get it. I feel like I remember her.”

Alicia nodded.

She wasn't talking much.

She probably hadn’t heard a word after the news about Maddie, and María wasn’t even angry, because she knew exactly how her friend felt.

But she couldn't see any other option. If Maddie was lying – or not lying, as Alicia herself had pointed out, hiding something – María wasn't going to help her fool her best friend.

“I knew there was something,” Alícia said, “I wonder who she really is. I mean, a model and a spy? What's her fallback career? Rock star?”

“Of course not. She's Canadian.”

Alícia considered this. Then she sighed again.

“I knew it. I mean, why would she want to be my friend anyway? Of course there had to be a shady reason.”

“Don’t say that, Ali, you’re great. Forget those jerks.”

“Why are they even here? What do they want?”

“No idea. Martín probably knows. Or suspects, anyway. He tried to tell me. God, I hate when he's right.”

It was Alícia's turn to comfort her.

“I'm sure he's not, he probably got it all wrong and said something by accident.”

“Must be that,” María said, dejectedly.

Alícia bit her lower lip, and didn't say anything. María knew they were feeling the same thing – they didn't want to talk to those stupid spies or whatever they were, ever again. But- maybe- just in case they had a good explanation, just in case…

“You could ask Antonio,” Alícia finally said.

She didn't want to ask him either. He had looked so happy, in that video. So content and… not insane. Why hadn't he stayed with them, if he was so happy? And how could he do this to her, she had been so sure, so sure, and then he just... went and turned out to be the father of the stupid hotel manager. What the hell was up with that?

And why did she feel like she knew that woman?

“You know what? I will. I'll talk to him. I'll go and ask him what he thinks he's doing, being so weird at me and then... doing this.”

Alícia just sighed again.




The light in his office was on, and the door was open. Don Antonio had always done that, and he was always willing to listen. Thinking about it made her feel so small, and fragile, like someone was holding her heart and squeezing it. She had been so sure.

He raised his head from whatever he was reading, and smiled at her. He wasn't wearing that stupid disguise – apparently, he saved that from when they had visitors, when it would be really awkward.

“Come in,” he said, smiling warmly, “Is everything ok?”

“I was wondering,” she said. She sat on the chair in front of him, crossing her arms on his table. “There's this Italian song I heard. And I can’t remember the name. Maybe you can help me.”

“Italian song? Let’s see. Do you remember how it goes?”

“No, just a few words. I don't remember the singer, either, but I guess she's popular, or something. Who's your favorite Italian girl?”

His smile vanished.

He stared at her.

María stared back. Her voice was soft, and flat, and just a little sad.

“Did I say girl? I mean singer.”

“Do you, now.”

His eyes looked clear, and sharp, in a way she had never seen before. She frowned. For the first time in her life, it crossed her mind that maybe Antonio could be someone to fear.

But no. He had raised her, he was friendly and weird, harmless except when he wanted to ground her for not doing chores, he loved her, and she had spent her whole life pretending to be his daughter.

“Just tell me. You never say anything about-”

“That's enough, María.”

His voice was calm, but his eyes were still dangerous.

“Why? I want to know! I think I have the right to know!”

“That's enough. You have classes tomorrow. Go to your room.”

She thought about insisting. About screaming at him, throwing a tantrum, telling him all she thought of his secrets and dumb mysteries.

“Where is she now?”

“This- singer of yours?”

“Come on, why won’t you tell me? If you have a family somewhere, where are they? Why don’t you mention them, I mean, even if you divorced or if she died or something, what about your kid? Don’t you want to visit him? Don’t you miss him?”

Because she’d totally understand if he didn’t, Manuel wasn’t exactly the most charming human being she had ever seen – that would be herself – but still.

“I’m sure he’d like to hear from you,” she said. “If I were- you know that. You- I guess you don’t know how it feels, but you should-”

“María, that’s enough!”

He didn’t exactly scream, but he raised her voice and she knew him well enough to realize she had gone too far.

“Go to your room,” he said, “And don’t- you’re a kid. You have no idea what I’ve been through to protect you-”

“Protect me from what?”

Now, María.”

She left, because it looked like he’d throw something at her if she didn’t. But she made a point of slamming the door, so loud that he was sure he’d come out to say something, and punish her for being rude and act like the father he was supposed to be, but he didn’t and she wasn’t sure if this made her relieved or even more depressed.




tbc...


AN: What's up with Manu's adoptive father? Will he talk to Antonio? And why is Antonio so weird? Will Luci and Martín ever stop fighting? Will Luci ever get naked again? All this and more in TFHOL!
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