Shisui didn’t want to say it was his least favourite day of the year, but it came close. It came close, because on this day – which happened every freaking year, come on – his arch nemesis was the focal point of everyone’s attention. Indeed, this day was the day he dreaded, the day that approached like a black, cloudy cloud of clouds; the day that he always wished would pass by without anyone noticing, but of course that would never happen because today was just soooooooo important.
Today was Uchiha Sasuke’s birthday.
Shisui greeted the day with a frown, already annoyed upon opening his eyes. Because today, today itty bitty Sasuke would have something Shisui felt he deserved every day.
The undivided attention of Itachi.
These days were always the same. Itachi would have breakfast with his brother. They would take a walk or something. They would have lunch. Sasuke’s friends would come over and Itachi would be right there the entire, doting, devoted time, and then they would have freaking supper together and Sasuke would get whatever he wanted from his brother all damn day, and Shisui would be completely ignored and damnit, that wasn’t right because HE should be the sole focus of Itachi’s precious, limited attention.
Shisui blissfully denied that he was over reacting. He was being perfectly fair. Sasuke already had an unfair advantage because he lived with Itachi and automatically got more time with him. Shisui had to labour for his quality time, catching Itachi between missions and training and ‘family time’ and occasionally in the bathroom, (provided the doors locked properly otherwise Itachi would fret the whole time, like it mattered if someone walked in, Shisui couldn’t give half a damn) and once in an empty room at the Academy when Itachi fetched his little brother from school.
Shisui had learnt more in that brief half hour than he had in years of schooling, most notably the fact that Itachi could hit damn hard when he was surprised.
But Shisui brushed such thoughts aside, because he needed to get a jump on the day in order to bring down Sasuke and redirect Itachi’s attention to where it was most needed – Shisui’s perfectly humble and not at all jealous person.
Plan A had been scrapped several days ago. Shisui had begged, pleaded and practically grovelled to be sent with Itachi on a mission – any mission – today but it had been declined under the idiotic reason of “It’s Sasuke’s birthday then, surely Itachi would rather be at home with his brother?”
Uh, NO. He would rather be with Shisui; the genius was just too dumb to know it.
So Shisui had been forced to go with Plan B – which he hadn’t actually planned, but he was good at winging it – or so he kept telling himself.
And thus, he found himself beaming innocently at his little cousin, expression as patronizing as he could muster, having gotten up at the ass crack of dawn to interrupt breakfast between the two brothers. “Happy birthday, Sasuke.” His voice was honey sweet, in the hopes that he would attract a swarm of killer bees to attack said small cousin who deadpanned at him with a look he surely adopted from his older brother.
“Thanks.” Sasuke said flatly, enormous eyes narrowing in suspicion.
Shisui patted him on the head. “So, where’s Itachi?”
Sasuke had been the one to answer the door, in the eternal optimism of children expecting someone other than their creepy cousin to be there, but rather something more like a horde of balloons or perhaps a large, delicious cake. “Inside.”
Shisui moseyed on past the kid, ready to be smoother than anyone could imagine, because nothing but smoothness could possibly slide Itachi’s focus from his brother to something else. Except, perhaps, grabbing him from where he sat and running off with him but Shisui had already learnt that that particular course of action ended up with an elbow in the back of his head and x-rays to check for a possible skull fracture, and memories of those consequences being hazy at best.
So he just glided into the kitchen with Sasuke following at his heels with a frown, because the kid knew exactly why Shisui was there and felt the need to defend his special day against the incorrigible behaviour of his cousin.
“Good morning, Itachi,” Shisui practically sang, pausing in the doorway to block Sasuke from getting in.
Itachi barely glanced up. As was traditional he was making his baby brother a birthday breakfast of his favourite fried eggs. It was a well-known fact (In the house, of course, nowhere else) that NOBODY could make fried eggs like Itachi. And maybe that was because Itachi was the only person Shisui had ever met who found it necessary to cook eggs with his Sharingan activated, but he didn’t really question it because he’d had Itachi’s eggs and they were awesome.
“Making eggs, huh?” Time to be smooth. Smooth as butter.
There was still no answer, but as he sidled up to Itachi, Sasuke was able to breach the kitchen door and darted to his brother’s other side. “Nii-san, when will breakfast be ready?”
“Making eggs for everyone?” Shisui enquired, trying to speak over Sasuke, but that voice was so high pitched he was surprised glasses weren’t breaking all around them. “Because I didn’t eat anything before I came here and I’m so hungry I could just-“
“Don’t.” Itachi interrupted, with a glare that made Shisui’s smoothness crease. “I know exactly what you’re going to say, and DON’T.”
Shisui smiled at him blithely.
“This is Sasuke’s day,” Itachi continued, and Shisui’s smile slipped slightly. “So could you please refrain from your usual vulgarity, because we will be together all day.”
Like hell. “Sure.” Shisui shot a glare at Sasuke behind Itachi’s back, which Sasuke returned, but upped the ante by also sticking out his tongue, which then resulted in Shisui childishly doing the same. Until he remembered he was supposed to be shifting Itachi’s attention. He opened his mouth to speak, only to be cut off before he could start.
“Here, Sasuke,” Itachi slid the eggs smoothly onto a plate, as outrageously perfectly as always, and ignoring Shisui hovering by his elbow.
“Thank you, Nii-san,” Sasuke said sweetly and Shisui wanted to throttle the little thing because Itachi smiled genuinely at his brother at that comment, and damnit, he hardly ever smiled at Shisui like that. Points to Sasuke. Shisui almost growled.
“Do you want something?” Itachi asked eventually, coolly evaluating the death glare Shisui was metaphorically slapping his brother with. When Shisui opened his mouth to answer, Itachi held up a hand to interrupt him. “Second answer, please. Not the first thing that came to your perverted mind.”
Well, that was a bit disappointing. “Fine, I’ll have eggs,” he grumbled.
Itachi gave a slight nod, turning his attention back to the stove. Before he could restart his epic egg frying ritual – Seriously, Shisui thought, if you want to keep hiding the fact that you’re gay you might want to be a little less flamboyant in your cooking, jerk – Sasuke’s voice interrupted.
“Nii-san, do we have apple juice? Could you get me some?”
And that could not have been a coincidence, the little shit was clearly trying to get Itachi’s attention back on him and away from Shisui. Shisui glared at the kid, and Sasuke smirked back darkly, and oh, it was so on. Shisui was going to murder him.
After breakfast, of course. Proper nutrition was important to a hard-working sociopath like Shisui.
After Itachi gave Sasuke his juice, and Shisui resisted the urge to slam his face into the frying pan and burn his eyes out so he would never have to look at Sasuke’s smug smugness again, Itachi finally got started on breakfast for Shisui, although Shisui missed the theatrical ‘making of’ because he and Sasuke were having a staring contest across the kitchen.
Sasuke thought he might have seen steam coming out Shisui’s ears.
“I’m going to get changed,” Itachi announced after Shisui sat down at the table in front of his eggs, and THAT was equally unfair because why would Itachi occupy Shisui with food and then proceed to go AWAY to strip. Geez, the whole universe was against him today. Shisui ate breakfast with a pout, occasionally sending filthy looks at Sasuke, who happily returned them.
When Shisui had finished eating, Sasuke stood up, looking ready for further battle. Shisui eyed him, before realising Sasuke was about have a head start getting to Itachi. He made a wild lunge for the kid, but Sasuke ran around the table and out the kitchen into the passage.
“Come here,” Shisui practically yelled, diving across the passage at the little squirt. He got his arms around Sasuke – and what he planned to do after that was beyond him, but he’d improvise – but Sasuke slipped out like a fish and squirted further into the house screaming blue murder, and wasn’t that an appropriate metaphor?
Shisui seethed from the floor. He was arguably one of the best ninja in Konoha, how the hell wasn’t he able to get hold of a tiny kid that wasn’t even that brilliant, he was just kind of there and the only reason anyone paid any attention to him was because he was Itachi’s baby brother.
Said baby brother screamed his way through the house in a pitch human beings shouldn’t be able to reach, and not surprisingly this caused Itachi to pop his head out his room to see why on earth there was a wailing banshee loose in the house when there should only be a disgruntled cousin and an equally disgruntled birthday boy.
“Shisui’s trying to kill me!” Sasuke howled, grabbing onto his brother, and pointing accusingly at the offending cousin who was seriously considering bashing his face into the floor over and over again.
“He’s not trying to kill you,” Itachi said, with a tone of voice that sounded placating, but Shisui could actually feel Itachi glaring at him.
He sat up a bit straighter, folding his arms grumpily. “Of course I’m not. Just wanted to give him a hug. It’s his birthday, after all.” His words were dripping poison, and with any luck, resulting puddles of poison would cause Sasuke to slip and fall and get a concussion.
“Of course,” Itachi said dryly. Sasuke limpeted himself to Itachi’s arm, throwing a triumphantly smug look at Shisui as they walked passed, because it was clear that he was ahead in this little game of ‘Itachi Is Mine’, because he had physical contact, and all Shisui had was a face full of hardwood floor.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Sasuke said sweetly, and surely Itachi could see through that syrupy tone for what Sasuke truly was – an evil, conniving hell spawn that needed to be vanquished. “Just the two of us.” He added that last part when Shisui looked like he might stand up and invite himself.
He stared slack jawed at the boy, unable to believe he had been thwarted again.
“We’ll be back in an hour or two,” Itachi said, seemingly unaware of the burning animosity between his cousin and brother. “You can help Mother get ready for the party.”
“Right,” Shisui agreed. “Help.”
He needed time to plot. Time to think. Time to come up with a strategy to get rid of Sasuke. Maybe, later on at the party, he could utilize Sasuke’s friends as tools. A plan was already forming, and he grinned to himself.
“Naruto,” Shisui made a swipe for the kid as he darted passed. “Come here a minute. I have a super important, top secret ninja mission for you.”
“Awesome!” the blond yelled in delight, obviously on a raging sugar high. “What is it?”
“I need you,” Shisui spun the boy by his shoulders until he was facing Sasuke, who was at the opposite end of the garden with Itachi. “To get Sasuke to play with you. ONLY Sasuke. And possibly the other brats here. But not Itachi, got it?”
“Yup.” Naruto sprinted off, motoring away like a windup toy and nearly crashing into the slow-to-dodge Shikamaru on the way.
Shisui watched him go with a smug grin on his face. Once Sasuke was out of the way, Shisui would swoop in like a really irritating vulture, snatch Itachi up and fly away to . . . well, probably the bedroom, to be honest. He quite liked that location.
Naruto’s mission didn’t seem to be going well, however; Sasuke was shaking his head vehemently and keeping his hand locked into Itachi’s like a barnacle. A tiny, annoying, sugar-filled barnacle. Shisui needed a better distraction. Clearly Naruto was not a competent choice.
“Sakura,” he collared the poor girl as she walked unsuspectingly past. “You like Sasuke, right?”
“Of course.” She beamed up at him, completely unaware of the fact that he was, to quote Itachi, a few ninja’s short of a village, and could not be trusted in any situation, ironically, that wasn’t life or death.
“Well, I heard Sasuke say that he liked you too.” Shisui was not above playing dirty. In fact, it was his speciality. Actually, that was teleportation, but he figured he could be multi-talented. “I think, and this is important, that you should give him a birthday kiss. But!” He had to yell as Sakura was about to sprint off to enthusiastically fulfil her task. “It can’t be where anyone can see you. You’ll have to make sure you’re alone. Or else the other kids (And he should have said girls, not kids, why corrupt the poor children before they even reach double digits?) will get jealous and want to kiss him too.”
Sakura’s face turned serious as she mulled over this information.
“I would recommend,” Shisui spun her around to point her at the hapless birthday boy, “That you drag him behind the house and keep him there for, say, an hour.”
“Okay,” Sakura agreed happily, zipping off with this very important duty and blissfully unaware of how long an hour even was.
Shisui felt very self-satisfied. Problem solved, Sasuke would get dragged away, and once he was alone Itachi would be helpless to resist Shisui’s infallible charms. There was a teeny voice in the back of his head telling him he was delusional, but it was overshadowed by the louder voice running through the list of things he could get done in an hour.
However, when he broke out of his perverted reverie of thoughts, he realised that Sakura had a death grip on Sasuke’s wrist, tugging insistently at his arm, while Sasuke held even tighter to his brother and was shaking his head and protesting something – Shisui couldn’t imagine what. Didn’t kids that age like it when girls kissed them? He was sure he did, back in the day when he liked girls, before he and Itachi had been sent on a mission together and his sexuality had done a one eighty the moment Itachi pulled his shirt off to change into a clean one.
Before he could get stuck down that path of thought, which, although pleasant, was not helpful, he decided this momentous task would need the attention of someone more capable than a kid of however-old-Sasuke-was-today, Shisui didn’t even know. So he shook his head, and stormed purposefully across the garden to bodily extract Itachi from the group of kids and, well, do whatever he wanted with him.
“Itachi!” He announced pompously, figuring the direct route was the best way to go, because Itachi, while terrifying smart and probably able to follow a thousand things at once without a mental breakdown, couldn’t get a hint even if the hint harassed his younger brother all day. “I am-“
“Glad you’re here,” Itachi said, lifting Sasuke out of a small kerfuffle of children who seemed to be fighting over who got to kiss him – Itachi wondered where on earth that had come from – and placing the child in a much safer location – namely, on his back out of reach.
Shisui’s eye twitched. Itachi MUST be doing this on purpose. He might miss hints, but he wasn’t completely blind. Shisui tried to take a step towards his cousin, but was interrupted by a group of children locked into a fist fight, screaming and battering at one another. It took him ages to realise Naruto was in the centre of it, loudly proclaiming that he would be the only one to kiss Sasuke. This was either delightful ignorance on the part of the young blond, or epic foreshadowing that Shisui figured he wouldn’t ever have to worry about.
“I suppose Sasuke can open his presents now,” Itachi said, startling Shisui out of his musings as to what the future might hold for the gaggle of battling miscreants at his feet. “Won’t you help me carry them?”
“Yes,” Shisui said, hoping he sounded more like a volunteer and less like a lecherous pervert, but relatively certain he failed. “Let just-“ He reached forward to extract Sasuke from Itachi’s back, happily planning to fling the kid into orbit and spend the evening observing the pretty new star in the sky with Itachi at his side, once again an only child. Ah, the good old days.
“I’ll help carry,” Sasuke announced, hugging himself firmly onto his brother. He smiled cheerily at Itachi, (Who smiled back – Shisui felt his blood pressure rise) before sending Shisui a look that could freeze fire.
“I’ll kill you,” Shisui mouthed to him, eyes narrow.
Sasuke stuck his tongue out, and nuzzled possessively into Itachi’s hair. Shisui heard a balloon pop, and for a brief moment thought it was his brain exploding. To his everlasting relief, it hadn’t been. His brain would work fine for years to come – or so he was trying to convince himself.
He trailed Itachi back inside with his eyes burning holes through Sasuke’s back, unsuccessful holes, seeing as the kid failed to melt into a puddle of dead ooze across the floor, but rather continued to perch on his older brother. Shisui’s fingers twitched. He could throttle Sasuke from behind and no one would ever know . . .
He reached out his hands.
“Here,” Itachi turned around before Shisui could get a grip on Sasuke’s unsuspecting throat, and Shisui scrambled to make it look as though he had, in fact, been waiting with outstretched hands to take the pile of boxes and less distinguishable wrapped shapes from Itachi in the incredibly helpful manner of a cousin not trying to assassinate his own kin.
Sasuke beamed at him, and Shisui wanted to lob a box at his face.
He settled for scowling, wondering if Itachi would forgive a minor genjutsu cast on his brother, although Shisui’s self-control felt a bit wobbly and he thought he might explode Sasuke’s head by accident.
Yes, ‘accident’ . . .
He didn’t get a chance to try; Itachi was already breezing passed him, with the rest of the presents and a giggling brother, and Shisui hastened to follow, because even if he couldn’t fry Sasuke’s brain he could at least stare at Itachi’s ass, and then get distracted by his own thoughts, trip, fall and land amongst Sasuke’s friends in a small eruption of children, paper and boxes, and the decaying shreds of his dignity.
“You fell,” Naruto said, peering enormous blue eyes at Shisui in mild concern.
“I noticed,” Shisui replied scathingly around a mouthful of ground, paper, and murderous thoughts.
“You don’t seem like a very good ninja.” Naruto blinked innocently.
Another loud pop. Was that a balloon, or his blood pressure? One of the two, but Shisui chose to ignore it and sat up quickly (Head spinning, must have been the blood pressure after all, wow the sky is sooooooo pretty), extracting himself from the last shambles of his never to be re-assembled self-respect.
After edging away, seething and half a second away from setting the whole party on fire (‘Accidentally’, of course, although how he would explain Sasuke’s ‘accidental’ mounting on a stake was anyone’s guess), he crossed his arms petulantly, and stared grumpily at Sasuke. The boy climbed off Itachi’s back, no longer a large malignant tumour, and still blissfully unaffected by Shisui’s death glare.
Shisui was so busy scowling he failed to notice Itachi take up residence on the wide wooden porch, eyes cast fondly over at his little brother, and when Shisui did look at his cousin he nearly melted on the spot.
Itachi was lying on his stomach, propped up on both elbows, while Sasuke, surrounded by a pile of tiny, wannabe shinobi, and presents, tore through wrapping paper with the same enthusiasm Shisui used to go through food at the end of a long day.
He was distracted by Sasuke’s present massacre after a particularly high-pitched squeal of delight, before he realised that Itachi’s attention was solely on his little brother, and he was lying unassumingly with body language that Shisui happily interpreted as ‘I’m not paying any attention, rape me’. And who was he to deny Itachi anything he wanted?
The day was almost over anyway, surely, by now, Itachi was just waiting for Sasuke to go to sleep so this irritating debacle could be concluded. At least, that’s what Shisui thought when he dumped himself onto Itachi’s back, leaning forward to grab both Itachi’s wrists before he could react and potentially murder the older boy for sitting upon said younger cousin’s back.
Itachi looked over his shoulder with narrow eyes. “What are you doing?”
“Sitting,” Shisui replied innocently.
Itachi did not look amused. His eyes swirled to red, a clear warning, but Shisui was supremely unaware of the danger he was putting himself into and cheerfully fired up his own Sharingan. If Itachi wanted to fight dirty, Shisui was more than willing, and very skilled at it, and Itachi knew that intimately.
“What’cha gonna do?” Shisui goaded. “Just try-“ He was interrupted by Itachi literally vanishing out from underneath him, and him thumping the rest of the way onto the deck with an expression akin to that of a bewildered goldfish. How in the hell had the little prick done that? What, was Itachi learning to teleport behind his back or something? “Wha . . .?”
After looking around in confusion, Shisui spotted his spontaneously teleporting cousin sitting behind his brother while said smaller brother tore through presents like a deadly animal. And it took Shisui a good five minutes to put together the correlation between his teleportation jutsu and Itachi’s Sharingan, and when he did he grinned. Sneaky bastard.
Itachi was not looking at him, eyes on his brother, and Shisui couldn’t help the childish spike of jealously that shot through him. He wondered if Itachi would notice if Sasuke disappeared under mysterious circumstances next year.
He stayed, very grumpily, where he was with arms crossed and shoulders hunched, glaring dark eyes at each and every child at the party, wishing they would all evaporate and leave him alone. Maybe next year he could convince Sasuke to go away for his birthday, and at the same time convince Itachi not to go with him. It was a good thing he had a year to plan, because it would probably take him that long to come up with an idea.
He gave up brooding eventually, and stalked into the house, thoroughly frustrated by the lack of success he was having. He stomped into the lounge and fell onto the couch opposite Fugaku, his armchair, and his newspaper, and pouted when his uncle raised a questioning eyebrow at him.
“Want to know why I’m so annoyed?” Shisui asked, huffing and slouched over.
“Not at all.” Fugaku replied, turning a page in the newspaper.
Shisui huffed again, and sighed dramatically, because really, when your illicit boyfriend is ignoring you how else are you supposed to react other than outrageously over the top? He sat in the lounge sulking for what felt like hours, before getting his second wind, and then he felt ready to harass Itachi all over again. He sprang up in an instant, startling Fugaku into slightly tearing his paper, and dashed from the lounge.
“Hey, Itachi!” He hollered, wondering where the boy was. He checked the kitchen, and garden, and found both curiously absent of any children or his incredibly sexy, untouchable cousin. “Stop hiding from me, because I’ll find you and I’m going to-“
“Stop yelling,” he heard Itachi hiss from the direction of Sasuke’s room.
Shisui skipped merrily to the source of the voice, stomping rather inelegantly as he went. He sounded like a herd of elephants, and Itachi wondered vaguely how he could be so stealthy when he needed to be. Shisui was not pleased by what he saw upon entering Sasuke’s room.
The exhausted child was snuggled into Itachi’s side on the bed, eyes closed and breathing steadily. He looked asleep, which was the only thing that stopped Shisui from childishly sticking his tongue out at the kid again. Instead he rolled his eyes, hard enough to almost make himself dizzy. “Sure, we wouldn’t want to wake the precious little-“
“I’m not leaving until he’s asleep,” Itachi interrupted coolly, levelling a look at Shisui that was so intense it had the older boy’s jaw nearly dropping. “So the longer you keep him awake, the less time you get.”
“Get for what?” Shisui asked, feeling absolutely lost.
Itachi’s deadpan expression was Oscar worthy.
Shisui’s jaw finally dropped, eyes wide. “You knew! You knew what we were doing all day!”
“Do you think I’m blind?” Itachi said, and that was the closest to sarcastic Shisui thought he had ever been.
Shisui shook his head.
Itachi checked on Sasuke, but the child seemed conked out completely and not inclined to move any time soon. With the utmost care – that made Shisui bristle – Itachi eased Sasuke onto the bed alone, running a hand gently through his hair, and pulling the blankets up snugly. Shisui was practically vibrating with impatience, shifting on the spot and waiting with ill contained irritation while Itachi doted on his brother.
When Itachi walked past him silently, leisurely heading towards his room, Shisui was on his heels, and if he thought he could get away with pushing Itachi faster he would have, but he was afraid for his person should he be just slightly too annoying for Itachi to handle all in one day.
“If you knew,” Shisui said accusingly, slamming the door to Itachi’s room and pointing a finger at his far calmer cousin. “Why didn’t you say anything? Why did you let me make a fool of myself the entire day when you knew?”
“First of all,” Itachi said, completely at ease opposite Shisui’s trembling ire. “You make a fool of yourself every day. I saw no need to intervene. Secondly, why would I intervene when I’m enjoying it?”
“You- wait, what?” Shisui looked puzzled. “Enjoying what? Me assaulting your brother?”
The withering look he received nearly made him turn to ash. “No, you moron. I enjoyed you trying to get my attention.”
“But you never looked at me!” Shisui blurted. “Why didn’t you? Why would you make me suffer like that?”
And there was the sadistic smile Shisui didn’t get to see often, that made his inside twist in a funny manner, and made him slightly nervous at the same time. “Because,” Itachi said, voice so low and silky that Shisui had visions of flies caught in spider’s webs, “I like to feel needed.”
“So you let me,” Shisui tried to sound indignant, but it was hard when Itachi was looking at him like that, “Spend the entire day being an idiot just because you like it?”
“There are only two people in the world who seek my attention for non-personal gain,” Itachi stated, and Shisui supposed that was true, because people only ever spoke to Itachi if they need something from him. “One of them is asleep now. I’m hoping the second is not too tired from ‘being an idiot’ to show me exactly what he’s been after all day.”
Shisui’s frazzled brain took a moment to catch up, because was he having hearing problems or was Itachi actually instigating something – something that sounded quite entertaining? The entire day just sort of melted away, and he felt so lost that he couldn’t articulate words and just said, rather moronically, “Huh?”
Itachi sighed, probably at Shisui’s sheer stupidity, and moved to lock the door – THAT got Shisui’s attention, and he broke out of his stupor to grin hysterically – and then Itachi was staring at him with that look he only got when he had run out of patience.
Shisui was about to say something – probably something very dirty, he was just putting the words together quick – but Itachi interrupted him with a roll of the eyes, “Don’t even.”
Then Shisui found himself shoved onto the bed, on his back, and he couldn’t help laughing, because how often was Itachi in a good mood like this?
“For the record,” Itachi said, dark eyes narrow and so tantalizing. “I’m really mad at you for spending the day bothering Sasuke.”
“Well, I clearly need to be punished, then,” Shisui said. He linked his hands behind his head. “So bring it on.”
The next morning, Sasuke woke up to find a little present beside his bed.
He sat up, and took the card on top of it, opening it curiously.
Happy birthday, kid. I had to get you a present so your brother wouldn’t be mad at me. Hope you like it. – Shisui
Sasuke opened the box, slightly suspicious that something would jump out at him. But nothing did, and he grinned toothily at the box’s contents. Nestled in soft paper was a simple, silver photo frame, surrounding a picture of Sasuke and Itachi, both of them smiling peacefully at the other.