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I Secretly Love U

Chapter Text

July 13th

7:41am


 

Warmth filtered through the ivory curtains of the bedroom, casting a filmy haze on everything beneath it. And it was beneath the clean cotton blankets that the light wove in between a familiar freckled olive hand, that of which hung lazily off the bed, casting a darkened shadow onto the floorboards beneath. It smelled of bread and rosemary, the remnants of dinner from the previous night. The deepened sighs of a mouth, turned upward in a dreamy haze breathed along the pleasantly warm air. The hum of the fan above hushed the sounds of the world around, not that there was much to drown out. It wasn't often that every morning would be as peaceful as this one.

With a grunt and a creak, the figure beneath the blankets slowly turned away from the brightening morning light. Eyes fluttered open lazily and a yawn floats unhurried across the pillow.

"Mmm..."

Squinting, the boy elongated himself into a slow stretch, his toes peeking out at the edge of the bed. Messy hands grabbed a handful of blankets and draped them over his body. Tucked in, the auburn-haired boy mused peacefully, reveling in the sanctity and silence of the morning. Nobody had yet to awaken or stir from slumber, and he finally could sleep in. Especially after how long this week has been.

Seems like his new neighbors haven't arrived yet either.

Exhaling quietly, the teenager began to doze off again, letting his thoughts run like TV static in the back of his head. Thoughts like the events of last night, his family, his soulmate. It didn't matter. Getting a tingly feeling on his hip, Lovino sank further into his sheets, the little feeling unconsciously luring him to sleep. Mouth falling into a lop-sided grin, Lovino thought on the source of the little touch before grogginess washed over his being; from his eyelids to his feet. The familiar buzz of sleep pulled at him. He felt heavy, like a pile of bricks, molding into the sheets of the bed. Deeper and deeper, the teen sank into the pillow, traveling further into his dreams.

After a few moments, nothing was left but the still breathing of his sleeping form.


 

But just as the boy dozed off, in another town, nearly 400 miles away, another family started off, ready to start the morning off energetically. A close-knit group of 4, almost everyone had woken up an hour ago and right now they were packing together all that was left of their belongings: suitcases of clothes, handfuls of pillows and blankets, and backpacks full of books, movies, and junk. Voices bounced off every wall of the furniture-less house, except from the the bathroom where Antonio, the eldest, combed his hair carefully, attempting to tame down his usually unkempt coffee-colored curls.

Pursing his lips, he flashed a winning smile in the mirror and ran a hand through the back.

"I'm so excited!" He hummed to himself, feeling up on the stubble on his face. Quickly, he brought out the razor and a can of shaving cream and got to work. Nifty hands glided along his jawline with precision and he shaved away the prickly hairs until he was left with nothing.

Proudly, he stepped back to admire his work. Thoughts bubbled like a running brook in the back of his mind as he wet a washcloth under the running faucet.

A sudden creak from the doorway echoed across the small tiled room and the teenager glanced up, his face pressed into a towel.

"Antwonio... are you're rweady?" A soft and sleepy, child's voice mumbled tiredly.

Emerald eyes flicked away from the mirror to his younger brother in the doorway and he beamed, eyes twinkling brightly.

"Almost done~." he sung, gesturing for the younger child to come closer.

With uneasy footsteps, the toddler padded across the tiled floor, a fleece blanket dragging behind him. Reaching down, Antonio lifted the boy with little effort, balancing him on his cocked hip with a bright smile. Dimples pressed into his tanned chubby cheeks and his eyes squeezed shut in a long yawn before he looked up into his brother's eyes. Antonio reflected in his squinted sage-tinted eyes. "I dwon't wanna go..." he started, tears welling up.

Sweat dropping, Antonio's smile faltered as he tried to console the younger, rubbing circles into his back through the thin fleece.

"You don't want to make any new friends, Tomás?"

"Nwoo..." he whined, too tired to throw a tantrum. With pitiful sniffles, he pressed his face into his brother's shoulder.

"It won't be that bad now." Antonio hummed, resting his head on his brother's. With one arm, he distractedly threw his razor and cans of product into the duffel bag on the floor, which landed with soft clings. Antonio only felt a little nervous about the move. He could care less about changing schools and making new friends, moreover concerned about how much it would change his life. Everyone always met their soulmate in their teenage years, no matter what. And being 17 with the only contact from his soulmate being the soft and jittery, feather-light touches sent back and forth, back and forth...

Antonio knew he was going to meet the love of his life in this new town. After spending years restless and impatient, chasing after mirages in this old town, he was falling again, love sickness rustling the butterflies in his stomach. He could only imagine what kind of person they'd be. Well he already had an idea, mostly based off of the sheer amount of loving tingles he gets a day. Already an cheesy romantic, Antonio fell even harder, his heart beating wildly in his chest. Scenario after scenario, filed though his mind:

What would our first meeting be like?

When would we hold hands?

What will our first kiss would be like?

He was pining so hard after his soulmate, it was a miracle that they haven't sent any fond sleepy tingles in return.

As if cued, the little gold heart behind his left ear started to tingle and glow softly, fueling even more thoughts into Antonio's mind. Antonio could feel the heart in his chest soar and he smiled helpless and rosy-cheeked, sending back even more affectionate thoughts and love. He was already in love, well before even crossing paths.

"And they'll have the exact same mark as me..." he thought on fondly, unconsciously leaning over to grab his bag from the ground. Letting it rest on his left shoulder, Antonio feigned a couple of thoughtful glances over the bathroom, before readjusting the now-sleeping child on his hip and shimmying his way downstairs in a love-sick daze.

With that person being the only one in his mind.

 

Chapter Text

 

July 13th

1:05pm


 

The early afternoon clouds rolled in, littering the expansive blue sky with messy wisps of white. They floated around in a dazed dream-like trance, weaving idly in and out of the sun's glare. The fresh grasses and flowers sprouted by summer's gracious rains swayed indefinitely and uncaringly and it felt like a day unlike no other; mostly spurred by the changing of the season. From inside the hibiscus-budding hedges, life was teeming amidst the weeds and overflowing flowerbeds. Beetles danced about in a small garden and animals hid amongst the tall overgrown weeds behind an abandoned swing set. Dragonflies soared high and buzzed noisily around a big beautiful chartreuse house in the center. It's silken curtains swayed in the sweet breeze and from the kitchen, a man halfheartedly hummed love songs, preparing lunch amongst the chorus of wind chimes.

Upstairs, tucked away from the commotion around, an auburn-haired boy began to stir beneath layers of ornate quilts and comforters; fingers weaving themselves through slips in the stitching. Sandwiched between his pillow and the sheets, sleep tugged at his consciousness like gentle waves, veering him back down to dreamland. The Italian couldn't help but to yawn drowsily, drawing his covers close like a newborn. From downstairs, whiffs of olives and baked bread drifted in through a draft under the door, barraging his half-asleep self with tiny nips of hunger.

The aroma, distinctive and crisp, blended like a bumbling brook with the warmed July air. Airy and tantalizing, the scent chipped away at his resolve and it only took a few moments before an eye peeked out from under the pillowcase, resting its sight on the closed door. Musing silently, the teenager sighed and tossed away his last hopes of sleep, bringing a long unused hand through his messy hair.

Far down in the kitchen, the man called out to him, playfulness laced in his voice. "Lovino, lunch is ready!"

Huffing, the young man laid still for a moment, letting his consciousness, both soggy and slow, arouse on its own. Lethargy still pulled at him but it was weaker now; those spiced puffs of air driving him further conscious.

"Lovino, are you awake!?"

A quick inhale passed through the young man's mouth and he slowly pushed himself into a sitting position, rising out of the security of his blankets to dangle his legs neatly off the edge.

"Sí! sí!, I'm up, old man..." He grumbled back, absentmindedly scratching the back of his neck.

Across the room, sunlight permeated through the cracked blinds and curtains, casting bars onto the bookshelf below. Bare feet dug itself into the cool wood as he approached said bookshelf, retrieving his cellphone off it's top. A pair of faded gray sweatpants clung to his frame along with a old summer camp t-shirt. Leisurely, he padded around the room, getting himself ready for a day to spend in relaxation. Grabbing a brush, he ran it through his hair a few times, not bothering to give more than a few glances at himself in the mirror. Freckles topped freckles everywhere and his hair glinted like copper in the dusty light. Hazel eyes reflected back at him in disdain and annoyance. He paid no mind to the frown that reflected back at him in the mirror.

"Bleh, decent enough... " He mumbled, stuffing his phone into his pocket and wandering into the hallway.

The door closed behind him with a click and the warm rug sank into his feet as he took his time going downstairs. Open windows brought a light breeze through the corridor, and Lovino meandered down into the living room, that of which held paintings and antiques of every kind. Seated against the windows facing out towards the street, Romulus lazed with an half-eaten plate of food. Peonies and Daisies filled the basket on the clothed table, contrasting the cream and sallow walls of the open area.

Approaching the table, Lovino lazily gave a nod toward his grandfather, and seated himself in the plush viridian cushion to his right, careful not to knock over the unhung painting leaned against its back.

"Ah, Lovino! I have been waiting to see your lovely face all morning~."

Rolling his eyes, he hummed in response and settled into his plate. One bite is all it took. What a savory combination it was. The richness of capers and olives made the tomatoes pop on the tip of his tongue. Everything in the dish, from the sauce to the pasta tasted like heaven to the groggy teen. With a small smile, Lovino took another bite.

Tasted like home.

Watching a his grandson's expression, Romulus nudged the boy with his foot, a handsome grin on his lips. "Must be good, am I right?"

"Mhmm..."

"I was in the baking mood today. So there's some bread cooling in the kitchen." the older man explained, swirling the wine in his glass. "I decided to try something new. I want you to try it once it cools, honeybun." He hummed, pursing his lips into a smile as he emphasized the nickname.

Snorting, Lovino was caught off guard but nonetheless held back a snicker before playing along with his grandfather's antics, feigning a annoyed expression.

"Who the fuck are you calling honeybun?"

"You~! You're the only sweet pea in this house with me right now."

"Holy shit, stop it with the names."

"Why not buttercup? Is something the matter?"

"Oh my fucking God."

Banter continued across the table and it didn't take long before these two erupted into a series of cackling and joking smacks. Although something was missing from the picture... Or maybe to be more specific, a certain someone was missing...

Pausing, Lovino stopped mid-chew and squinted, trying to figure what was missing from this picture.

...

Oh wait...

The teen blinked up at his grandfather from the plate, where sauce hung off his lips. "Where'd Feliciano run off to?"

"Oh, he left early this morning to play at Ludwig's~! One would think those two are married, given how much time they spend together!"

"How about no." Lovino pretend retched, stabbing his fork into the food again stubbornly. "They might be soulmates, but he's my baby brother more importantly. Not that fool's bride."

"And my grandbaby~" the older man agreed charmingly, twirling the last of his plate on his fork. Kicking his sandals off under the table, he stole a glance at the house across the street, taking notice of the moving trucks and cars that now littered the driveway. An unreadable expression settled on his face and he stood up, gathering his dishes close before unknowingly letting a gentle smile slip through.

"Oh Lovino, looks like our new neighbors have arrived!~ " he sung, dancing backwards towards the kitchen.

Lovino wrinkled his nose out of distaste and took a look outside, peering down the driveway and into the corresponding yard. Overgrown weeds lined the yard as well as furniture prepared to be taken inside.

In the dirty windows, he could almost see the hunched silhouette of its previous occupant, Mr. Anthony, in the panes again, waving him off as he walked back to the house.

Even in the past, when the frail old man still occupied the house, it was neglected. Bedridden most of the time, the man often couldn't raise a finger; often enough, Feliciano or Lovino had to come over a few times a week to check up on him. Nostalgic pain pinched at the teenager as he recalled his time with the elderly man but he quickly shrugged it off with a pout.

"God, I hope these new neighbors of ours aren't total jackasses."

Sashaying toward the sink, Romulus hummed, abandoning his plate in the soapy water, before rejoining his grandson in the dining room.

"That's a mean word, Lovino~" Romulus pouted, a bottle of Chianti and cup in hand. Raising the glass, Romulus pointed, bringing Lovino's attention to the people coming in and out of the house. "And it looks like they have children! That boy looks like he's your age."

Drumming his fingers on the table, the teen took another bite and squinted, unable to make out any other detail other than the boy's height.

"He looks like a frat boy..." he hummed, twirling his fork absentmindedly.

Letting out a chuckle at his grandson's comment, Romulus couldn't help but to take a sip and grin. "That's not a compliment Lovi~."

"It wasn't supposed to be." he chewed, scrunching his nose.

Humming in response, Romulus gave a quick ruffle to his grandson's hair before downing his glass and making his way back to the kitchen. Ideas began bouncing around on how he could spend the afternoon. It was only 1 o'clock. He could tend to the garden, or watch some soap operas, or maybe go flirt with women in town. Glancing down at his current outfit, he mentally crossed out that last thing before shuffling to the sink.

Maybe Lovino would want to go clothes shopping with him...

It was only when he turned the faucet and the warm water hit his palms that an idea bubbled from inside. One that made his lips pucker and his bronze eyes twinkle out of excitement. Giddily, he threw his head back, the buzz from the alcohol making him a little dizzy.

"Lovino~?" he sung with as sweet of a voice as he could muster.

"Mmmmph?!" A grunt called back.

"How about we go across the street and introduce ourselves?"

The response was almost immediate: a flat-toned "No. And anyway, you're drunk, asshole." Ignoring his last comment, Romulus did expect as much, but he wasn't going to pry. Can't say that Lovino was usually fond of meeting new people, as he would never voluntarily do it.

But that's just his Lovi.

Shrugging it off, Romulus emerged out of the kitchen, two tomatoes in hand.

"Then it's papà's telenovela time~" he smiled devilishly, tossing Lovino one before settling stomach-first on the couch with a flop.

Almost done with his lunch, Lovino paused mid-chew and cast a glare his directions. Muttering a quick 'gross' under his breath, Lovino slid out of his seat towards the kitchen, loading the dishes in the dishwasher. Lifting his arms far above his head, he stretched, long and catlike. Face scrunched together, he brought himself back down from his tippy toes and felt heavy, body sagging under his full stomach and the warm summer air in his lungs. Padding out of the kitchen and up the stairs, he returned a few moments later, with a handful of tangled earbuds, a 3DS, and a pillow.

"Nonno, I'll be on the deck." he announced, approaching the back door and giving it a hefty swing.

"Kay~"

Heels digging into the old wooden deck, Lovino spied the stand alone hammock on the far left corner of the deck and lazily made his way up to it. For being midday, thank god it wasn't very hot. The temperature was probably only 75 fahrenheit. Slinking into the rope hammock, his body wilted in its embrace and he exhaled a low groan into the wind. Life frenzied around and he couldn't help but to smile to himself. Sunlight blanketed him in warmth beneath the powdery blue sky and he was enjoying the good weather, gold eyes fluttering up and away from his game every few minutes to throw a carefree glance up at the sky. The hum of cars and the clangs of moving trucks sang out from the front of the house; a chorus of liveliness on his lethargic day. The sound of people crackling behind the whispers and breathy smiles of nature.

He couldn't help but to spread his legs apart and close his eyes, letting his mind wander into a late summery daydream.

One full of high-rising sunflowers, a falling sunset, and an evening picnic between their thick stalks that ended in an honey-tasting kiss.

Pink-cheeked, the teen turned on his side and slipped his hand up his shirt, running feather light touches over the little gold heart on his hip. His heart always ached and pounded after daydreaming like this, probably because he was gay. Drawing circles around the precious little heart, he secretly loved when it would vibrate and tingle in return.

Like it was doing now.

Tender angel-like touches buzzed from the heart, brought by no other than his soulmate. Stretched out under the touch, Lovino curled around the pillow in his lap and drew the 3DS up to his flushed face, eyes glazed over in rosy embarrassment. They're probably get annoyed by his constant thoughts and daydreams. And he always feels guilty about it. Like what if they were in the middle of hanging out with their friends? Or maybe they already have a partner? Maybe they wanted to live their lives before they had to settle down and meet their soulmate? Lovino's constant harassment would definitely not be helping.

But what if even after they met, and even after all of the feelings they've sent back and forth to each other all these years, that they don't like him?

...

Maybe it would be because of his personality?

...

Or his looks?

...

Stomach churning, Lovino knew he was being ridiculous at this point and of course, he knew that he would meet them one day in the near future, after all he was 17. It has always been told that you meet them before your 18th birthday.

Nervousness bubbling in his gut, Lovino imagined all sorts of things, wondering things like what kind of person they are or what their smile looks like. He didn't want to set expectations but as a raging gay, he had his preferences... Maybe god will bring him a tall, handsome male model, one with a killer jawline, broad shoulders, and a spicy Spanish accent...

Lips pursed slyly, the teen let himself dwell on that imagery for a few long moments, before his marking kissed back at him softly, sending him bubbly little nips that he was being thought of as well.

...

Goosebumps trailed down the boys exposed arms as he screwed his eyes shut, shaky fingers dragged along his temples in disbelief. "I told myself that I should probably stop harassing them and yet." he started with a flustered huff.

"I'm gonna need to beat the shit out of myself."

Balling his fists, he buried himself face first into the pillow. "I need to stop being such a needy bastard..." he cursed silently. "What the fuck, I can't even go an hour without doing or thinking at least something." he hissed, snatching his head up and plucking his 3DS off of the deck. With obnoxious taps, he drowned himself headfirst in his game, actively ignoring the love sickness and feather-like tickles on his under his shirt.

"Whoever they are..." he thought." I might already love them... Just might..."

Chapter Text

 

July 13th

2:01pm


Cotton-headed dandelions brushed along Antonio's bare ankles as he walked down the edge of the driveway, the patter of loose flip flops sounding off his every step. Blocking the sun with a spare arm, he squinted off into the sky out front, distractedly catching on a stray airplane emerging out of a flurry of clouds. Casting a vapor trail, the teen watched as the airplane disappeared behind another cloud before he looked down at the beautiful willow-tinted house across the street. The one with the swaying lily-white curtains, flowering bushes, and the little pot of daisies on the front step. "What a beautiful house..." he whispered, wonder filling his eyes. "I wonder what kind of people live there..." he trailed off, falling into a summery daze before re-catching his wandering attention with a little jump.

Oh right.

He was supposed to be retrieving the last of the boxes.

"Ah, so hot~" he breathed hotly, trying to draw himself out of his exhaustion-fueled trance.

With the back of the truck being only a few meters away, he gave a little stretch in his walk, squinting far down the yard at his younger brother playing in the grass before coming upon the truck bed.

"Wasn't he just asleep...?" he wondered absentmindedly turning on his heel in front of the bed. Only two boxes remaining on the truck, he was mentally thankful and more than ready to adjust to his new life. With a little hop, he climbed up into the truck and wiggled his hands underneath a small stack of boxes. Muscles tightening, he lifted them with ease and jumped down with a solid plop and an almost twisted ankle. Absentminded, a tense grin took form on his face, accentuating his clenched jawline and almond eyes. Although he naturally had every reason to be on edge, it only worsened the jittery nervousness bubbling in his gut. It was as if reality had really set in.

He was finally in same town as his soulmate.

The person he was going to spend the rest of his life with.

The eventual love of his life.

The source of these delicate butterfly tingles.

Even if he met them today, of course, he knew that not everyone immediately falls in love with their soulmate right off-the-bat...

...

But Antonio determined he just might've already fallen.

Especially since he's been under the onslaught of their ticklish kiss-like touches all today, giving rosy-cheeked distractions here and there between moving furniture and lunchtime. It was a miracle that even his parents haven't noticed.

With a soft smile, Antonio stood for a moment to collect his thoughts, wanting to finally return those sweet gestures in privacy. "Lemme just take these upstairs" he hummed softly.

Taking his time, he meandered back into the house after watching Tomás for a little bit, pausing in the doorway to cast off his shoes. Padding upstairs and to the right, he abandoned the boxes on his mattress and dug through his duffel bag for a water bottle. Letting the cool drink dribble down his throat, he spied his parents leaned against the deck in the backyard through an open window. The tall pines rustling above their heads, filtering little streams of light through their aimless banter, intertwined fingers, and fleeting kisses.

Moving into such a beautiful house with their family must feel like a dream. It's no wonder that they have been tangled together all day.

With a little smile, Antonio wandered away from the window and flopped onto the mattress, letting the hums of Spotify play in the background. Fond memories flickered across the young man's face as he absentmindedly ran fingers back and forth across the heart behind his ear. Shirt-ridden up above his toned stomach, he laid under the fan and let his thoughts and dreams slosh around.

"I want to be in love like mamá and papá..." he whispered to himself with impatient hope.

Sitting in silence, he closed his furrowed eyes peacefully, a pleasant peach simmering up into his cheeks.

...

It was minutes before he opened those jade-encrusted eyes again with a renewed sense of energy. Lips pursed into a gentle smile, he anticipated all that was going to come.

A new life at a new school...with new friends...and eventually, a new love...

This move will change him forever.

...

Not waiting to start his new life, the Spaniard sat up slowly from the mattress with a creak and a stretch. Straightening his T-shirt, he kicked off from the bed and sauntered towards all the manila-colored boxes pushed close to the headboard, ripping them open one-by-one with little reservation.


 

Meanwhile outside...


 The blur of a coppery chubby face suctioned itself against the sun-warmed glass of the living room window. Cherry kool-aid stained lips puckered agape, he released gasps of hot breath onto the dirty glass, that of which was reflected the life-teeming flower pot he stood atop. Childish excitement livened up the supposed-to-be sleeping boy as his sticky fingers jabbed incessantly on the window, smearing god-knows-what on its surface. Images of playgrounds, sandboxes, tree houses, and swing sets sloshed around the turbulent watery-like confines of the child's mind as he faced to the right, focused upon the dense foliage of the backyard. Pines and Oaks soared high above the fence and he couldn't help but to sprout a toothy grin, his little legs bouncing off the overgrown flower pot and away into the jungle-like front yard.

To his left, facing outwards towards the street, sat a world he's never seen before, teeming with life. Big fuzzy bees fluttered lazily around the 3-year-old and with every little wobbly step he took, he felt the part of a conquistador exploring an new land.

With purposefully uneasy footsteps, he peeked out into the street, peering behind the trashcan with huge grassy eyes. Beetles and ants scurried out of cracks in the concrete carrying twitching grasshoppers and stale crumbs.

From his spot on the sidewalk, he heard the squeak of sneakers and the airy laugh of his mother through a window screen.

Oh, they must've come inside. And he was supposed to be taking a nap in his new room.

With a little jump, Tomás bounded out of the yard, darting across the street and halfway into the adjacent yard. Stuffed Sonic flopping in his vice-like grip, his short spurt ended with a little tumble into the clover and dandelion-lined yard.

Although he was face down in the dirt, and his mom had told him never to wander away, he couldn't give up just yet!

After all, there was so much to be explored!

Unbridled motivation surged through his veins as he picked himself up and sprinted some more, running along the right side of the house before making it to the fence.

Approaching the wooden boards, his heart pumped with anticipation as he followed it further into the yard, chubby fingers dragged side by side against its faded mahogany. It was only until he trailed it to the end of the yard that a little slip between the fence reached up and snatched his foot, sending him plummeting headfirst into the grass and rocks below. Face down, he snatched his head up, tears brimming in his eyes and blood dribbling down his nose. A little whimper broke through as he slowly twisted himself into a sitting position.

Stubbornly, he kept a weep from breaking through and attempted to tear his ankle away, only to be met with firm resistance. With harsh, impulsive little yanks, it was clear that his foot wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. With skinned knees, a ripped sock, and a nosebleed, he sniffled pitifully, wiping his bloodied nose on his sleeve.

"M-mamá...!" he started, balling his fists together in an attempt to keep it together.

"..."

Met with silence, he aggressively wiped away the tears down his cheek and cried out again.

...

"Mamá~!" he sobbed again, this time unable to keep his distraught tears from falling.

"..."

Too far away to hear him, a wail broke out and rocked his little body, the sound of his voice ringing much louder than the carefree breeze and rustling trees.

He was sure that nobody  would ever hear his cries for help. And that he'll die here alone...

Chapter Text

July 13th

3:43pm


 

A love song hung in the air as Romulus meandered down the long driveway, the patter of worn sandals sounding off his every step. Blocking the sun with his arm, he squinted off into the neighborhood, eyes falling on a neighbor a few doors down. Throwing an arm up in acknowledgement, he flashed an quick smile as they waved back. With a little hop in their step, Romulus watched with a handsome grin as they disappeared back inside.

"Ah, so hot~" he sung, to nobody but himself, outstretched palm combing through the tight curls that halo'd his head.

Eyeing the mailbox a few meters away, he released a yawn into the hot air, peering down at the moving van in the adjacent driveway before coming upon the mailbox. Bills, advertisements, and colorful college pamphlets stood out against his hand. Humming, he fingered through the pamphlets absentmindedly, letting a silly little smile take over his face. With Lovino becoming a high-school senior, Romulus wasn't particularly concerned about him and his post-graduation plans. Although he hasn't discussed them extensively with him, he knew Lovino was interested in college. Especially with the way he looked at college websites and fingered through their tuition pages...

"Would he want to get a degree with something to do with plants...?" he hummed to himself.

It was at times like this that he felt the early onset of nostalgia stir the back of his mind.

With a soft smile, he stood there for a moment to collect his thoughts; his mind filing back through his memories with his grandchildren. From those times he spent chasing them around the yard with a running hose to those times filled with summery barbecues and messy faces...

Time really flashes by.

"Lovino has grown into such a fine young man..." he exhaled to himself. "It's so hard to believe that it's been eleven years.."

Taking his time, Romulus meandered back into the house, pausing in the doorway to slip out of his shoes. Padding off into the kitchen, he abandoned the papers on the counter and dug through the refrigerator for a water bottle. Letting the cold drink dribble down his throat, he expected to see said-grandson through the silted window above the sink. To be watching the rise and fall of his back and watch as a dragonflies fluttered around his head.

Being met with the sight of an empty patio, Romulus raised an eyebrow, finishing his water bottle with a pop.

"Hmmm...?~"

Curiously, Romulus approached the back door, pausing in front of a window to find his grandson maybe in the yard.

Marigolds bloomed off against the far side of the fence, clashing against the tawny sunflower-printed pillowcase abandoned on the rope hammock. The flowers swayed in a rattling breeze and all seemed calm but where was Lovino? It was only 5 minutes ago that he was unconscious and un-moving, in the midst of a midday nap.

"Where did my boy go~" the man chirped dejectedly.

Concerned, he shuffled with heavy feet away from the window and stood in front of the stairs. Staring up the steps, fond memories flickered across the older man's face as he absentmindedly ran fingers back and forth across the rough stubble on his jawline.

It always feels like spring whenever he is around his precious grandchildren. Despite only raising them for a fraction of their lives, everyday felt never-ending: Filtered between bubbly little Feliciano in the morning and Lovino's cheeky grins in the evening. They have grown so much in the years he's had with them. Not that it was anything that Romulus caused.

He likes to think that these two raised themselves under the security and comfort of his home.

Like a parent should, he provided a safe place for them to be comfortable and express themselves, as evident by the never-ending collection of potted plants, hydrangeas, sunflowers, and succulents Lovino snuck into the house and yard. Feliciano hid crayons and drawings in coffee tables and underneath vases. Every part of the house held their warmth. And it brought a smile to the older man's face. It was so... lively. Absolutely homely...

Something twinkled in his eyes as he thought fondly of his grandchildren. Shrugging off his mood from earlier, Romulus massaged the elongated marking inscribed against the inside of his wrist, memorizing the little points and curves of the mark.

Shedding a quick vulnerable smile, he couldn't help but to pad up the stairs, the prospect of harassing his young grandson on his mind.


 

A few minutes prior


 

Still lounging in the sun, Lovino was fast asleep, the only sign of life being the rhythmatic rise and fall of his chest. Face down into the pillow, a beetle buzzed lazily around his head, landing on his hair with a quick fleeting peck before wandering off again. An honey-sweet breeze fluttered back and forth across the lawn, peppering warm-winded kisses across the nape of his neck. Sunflowers bloomed against the back side of the fence, clashing against the tawny sunflower-print pillowcase under his face. He laid in undisturbed dormancy before a hard thwump! unwillingly roused him from velvety summery slumber. Blinking slowly, all had become quiet again, save for the sounds of nature, and an occasional clang! of a truck.

Partially awake, the teen squinted slowly, lifting his unsteady head from the pillow to balance atop his achy neck. Saliva dribbled down the corner of his down-turned lips and he made an half-assed attempt at wiping it away. "The fuck...?" he started, voice deep and unused.

Sweeping his head across the yard, all was blurred, catching prismatic all-encompassing sunlight from above and a sea of olive and jade-hued grass from below.

Nothing felt out of the ordinary.

With an unintelligible grumble, he retrieved his phone to check the time. Flashing him a quick 3:45pm, he abandoned it back under the pillowcase.

Falling ungracefully back into the hammock, Lovino smushed his cheek back into the pillow, releasing a hot grunt into the balmy breeze. Eyelashes fluttered shut, he outstretched himself and once again fell silent.

And sweet sleep had almost stolen him away again before another unnatural noise resounded across the lawn, accompanied by an incessant creaking, pained groaning of wood.

Eyes pried open, Lovino sat up without warning, sight falling short of the wooden fence nearest his feet. It shook and quaked in unspoken retaliation as if something or someone had gotten caught between its boards. That thing, of whom, desperately needed to wrangle themselves free from captivity.

Some part of the teen panicked, caught off guard by the change of events but fortunately, Lovino's been in this position before. Staring blankly, he wiped the remaining saliva away with a silent curse.

"Ah... not fucking again..." he grumbled, brushing off his anxious nerves with a sour scowl. "If this fucker doesn't watch after his fucking dog I swear to fuck..." he cursed irritatedly.

Throwing a leg over the side, he stuffed his phone into his pocket before rising to a stand. "I swear this shit happens all the damn time..."

Grumpily, Lovino padded across the deck, dipping barefootedly down into the yard. Clovers and weeds brushed against his ankles as he danced around fire ants and abandoned toys in the yard. Following the fence, the wood groaned louder and Lovino unconsciously tensed up.

"I'm gonna beat Francis' ass for this..." he hissed into the wind. "With as many times as she gets stuck under the damn thing, I could just steal Brigitte if I wan-"

All of a sudden, the fence ceased movement and Lovino stopped dead in his tracks. Frozen, he peered wide-eyedly down the rest of the yard.

Now that was odd.

Brushing off his goosebumps, he continued tentatively down the yard before the fence began shaking again, this time with more force than a 7 pound Pomeranian would ever be able to muster.

Come to think of it... not once has he heard her any incessant barks. Nor the sound of scratching or panting. You know... typical dog sounds...

Fear bubbling in his gut, he turned on his heels, ignoring the weak ticklish attempts for attention that his soulmate sent his way. Something was definitely not right.

"...I don't know what the hell is going on..." he started hesitantly. "But I want fucking nothing to do with it."

Calmly backtracking towards the house, the Italian had almost made it back onto the deck before a squeaky panic-laced cry froze him in the grass.

...Now, that definitely wasn't Brigitte.

"What the fuck?" he mouthed, mentally screaming and massaging the little heart, through his now sweaty T-shirt. "We don't have any 4-year-old's on this street?"

With the full intention of grabbing Nonno, Lovino made it back onto the deck's steps before another cry resounded across the lawn, this one followed by the fencing's erratic jerking again.

Fearing that the child would dislocate a limb, Lovino mentally blanked, forgetting about Romulus and hurrying towards the gate. Undoing the lock, he cast it onto the ground stepped barefooted outside the fence. A few yards away, he spied the erratic blur of a body on the ground, pressed against the wood.

"...what the fuck?"

A little head turned up towards Lovino's silhouette and the teen swept his head across the nearby vicinity, praying that something or someone would've heard this kid too. God forbid that he had to help him alone.

But of course, luck never played on his side.

Mentally cursing, Lovino watched as the kid made a few more attempts at escaping before erupting into a tearful cry again; this one spurring the older teen to action. "Fuck my luck." he cursed silently, disappearing past the wooden gate.