Disclaimer: I don't own anything or anyone.

A/N: This is probably AU, and hints at ShiIta. They're about twelve and fourteen in this. Enjoy!

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Of Prodigies and Ice Skates

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"Remind me, please, exactly why I allowed you to drag me into this?"

"Uh, because it's a traditional bit of winter and you've had such a deprived childhood that you've never done it before?"

Itachi frowned. "Tradition?"

"Yes, tradition. What, you don't believe me? Name one person who's never gone."

The twelve-year-old considered for a moment. The corners of his mouth quirked up in triumph as he then declared, "Sasuke."

"Are you kidding?" Shisui laughed. "That little friend of his-whatshisname, Naruto-took him last year. They were gone all day, remember?"

"Oh." Itachi thought for a few more seconds, and then stated, "Aunt Uruchi."

"Shocking as it may seem, my mom has in fact gone before. It wasn't a pleasant outing, to say the least, but there you go."

"How confidence-inspiring," the younger boy muttered, racking his brain. After a minute he snapped his fingers. "Father. I would be willing to bet that my father has never gone in his life."

Shisui grinned. "Guess again, little cousin."

Itachi stared in disbelief. "Are we talking about the same person?" he demanded.

"Well, the one I'm talking about has dark hair, wrinkles caused by the fact that he apparently considers smiling a capital offense, pushes you way too hard and is grumpy all the time. Same guy?"

"I don't appreciate you insulting my father."

"And yet," the older boy drawled, "you knew exactly who I was talking about." Ignoring his friend's scowl, he added, "C'mon. You've stalled long enough; put on your skates before I hold you down and do it for you."

Mulishly, Itachi sat on the snow and started pulling on a pair of Shisui's outgrown ice skates. "This is just unnecessary," he said, sounding annoyed.

"Quit your whining," Shisui sighed. "Get a move on, already; I'd like to get on the ice sometime before spring comes and it melts."

"You could start without me."

"And leave you to escape? How stupid do you think I am? And don't you dare answer that," he added quickly, seeing the prodigy's mouth open. "Cheeky little brat."

Itachi chose to ignore that last statement. He finished lacing up the skates and stood unsteadily.

"Have I mentioned that this is a bad idea?"

"Only about five times," Shisui replied. "And have I mentioned that I don't care?"

"…"

"That's what I thought. Come on."

Summoning every ounce of his grace, Itachi started moving towards his cousin at the edge of the frozen lake. He resisted the urge to spread his arms to balance better. Less than a foot away from his destination, he lost aforementioned balance and pitched forward.

Shisui caught the boy (whose face was now burning) and set him back up carefully. "You all right?"

"I didn't so much as hit the ground, Shisui."

"I'll take that as a yes. Now.." He gently pushed his younger cousin to the ice, still holding his arm.

"Ready?"

"…When I fall," Itachi stated icily, "and break every bone in my body, you will be the one explaining to Father why I can't go on missions for the remainder of the year."

Shisui rolled his eyes. "You are such a drama queen." And he let go.

Itachi froze (no pun intended) on the ice.

After a few seconds Shisui spoke up. "You have to move," he explained somewhat sardonically. "That's sort of the point."

Itachi responded in kind. "I'm aware."

The two boys stayed like that for a few more minutes before Shisui sighed, out of patience, and sat down to begin lacing up his own skates. "Hopeless," he grumbled under his breath. "Chunin at ten, feared prodigy of the Uchiha clan, can't even get moving on the ice…"

Itachi overheard nothing specific, but he picked up on his cousin's muttering and accurately guessed what was being said. His embarrassment mounted.

"Right." Shisui stood up, got on the ice and glided over to where Itachi was standing. "Once again, it looks like we're relying on me to save the day."

"Have you been speaking to Gai-san again?" Itachi inquired. Shisui ignored the younger boy in favor of moving beside him and grabbing his hand. Startled, Itachi's reflexes kicked in and he jerked back so hard he almost fell again. Evidently, a decade of shinobi training vanished once one was standing on a slippery surface wearing knife-thin blades on their feet.

By now Shisui had adopted the long-suffering tone he used whenever his beloved cousin was being particularly stupid about something. "I was trying to help you get your balance," he explained with exaggerated patience. "Would you relax already?"

Itachi was well aware by now that there was no escape; Shisui had made up his mind, and the rest of the world was just going to have to bend itself to suit his desires. Resigned, he stuck out his hand again.

Shisui took it, more gently this time. "Alrighty then. Let's do something easy for starters-I'll just skate around; your job is to stay upright. Got it?"

Trying to bury the vague sense of mortification he felt at being treated like a small child, Itachi nodded and braced himself.

Shisui started skating around the outer rim of the lake as slowly as could be done without falling over. Itachi did his utmost best to stay, as his cousin instructed, upright, but it was more difficult than it should have been. For whatever reason, he couldn't seem to find his balance. The situation was unthinkable for a good shinobi, but yet there he was.

After witnessing his younger friend spend a full thirty seconds wobbling back and forth while desperately trying to pretend that he wasn't wobbling back and forth (because ninja do not wobble, dammit), Shisui also came to the conclusion that this method was failing.

"Okay," he stated, trying to come up with another plan. "You're obviously having balance issues here, and being tugged around probably isn't helping matters, so…" He considered, then snapped his fingers as the metaphorical light bulb switched on.

Which was how, seconds later, Itachi found himself being held in place from behind by his best friend (who was apparently a black cesspool of curls and madness that swallowed up every iota of sanity within a five-mile radius). That in itself was awkward enough; it didn't help that-since their height difference meant that Shisui's only alternative options were holding Itachi's head or almost leaning on his shoulders-aforementioned madman's hands were securely planted on Itachi's waist.

He shuddered-absolutely shuddered-to think of the repercussions should any of their relatives spy them in this position.

"Ready to try this again?" Shisui asked cheerfully, sounding for all the world like he was not methodically burning to ash every shred of dignity Itachi had ever possessed.

It was all the prodigy could do to nod once again. In the face of the happily raging storm known as Uchiha Shisui, there was never anything else for it.

"Go on, then. I'll make sure you don't faceplant." Shisui thought about it and grinned. "As funny as that would be."

Itachi decided to manfully ignore him, choosing instead to push forward. Bizarrely enough, he made it halfway around the lake without so much as a shake. And such was his surprise at the fact that he stopped short.

Shisui groaned and brought his head down to rest on the back of Itachi's neck. "You had it! Why'd you stop?"

The object of Shisui's exasperation failed to answer, as his friend was currently breathing down his neck and it was getting rather distracting.

His silence didn't go unnoticed by the older boy. "Hey…You alright? You look kinda pale. Sick-pale as opposed to your typical zombie pale, I mean." A hand slid around to press against Itachi's forehead, which was indeed warm.

"We should probably stop," Shisui remarked. "After all, your dad'd kill me if I got you sick. C'mon."

He backed away, leaving Itachi to realize simultaneously that a) Shisui was unnaturally warm, b) said warmth was the only reason the Uchiha Prodigy hadn't yet transformed into the Uchiha Icicle, and c) Itachi himself apparently had no body heat whatsoever.

The two put their shoes back on (Itachi had never before felt quite so grateful for shoes that were flat on the bottom) and started the short walk back to the compound. Shisui gave his cousin a concerned once-over.

"You're definitely getting a cold," he pointed out. "Your face is burning. Sorry, Itachi."

Itachi fought down the ever-so-slight twitch developing in his eye and shrugged. "It's all right. I heal quickly."

"I suppose."

As the Uchiha compound came into view, Itachi turned to his friend.

"I don't believe I have mastered ice skating," he said stiffly. "I..would not be opposed to another lesson."

Shisui blinked, then grinned. "You got it," he agreed, further crushing Itachi's dignity by ruffling his hair. "I'll have you skating like a professional in no time."

'No time'… Somehow, Itachi doubted that.

But if the lessons did happen to take awhile, there was nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.

After all, Itachi couldn't get everything right on the first try.

-:-Owari