They were smiling.

They'd been smiling for hours now. Russia had barely blinked, and America, if he'd been entirely stable at that moment, might have found his mind wandering to "The Silence of the Lambs" and drawing eerie parallels. As it was, he just kept smiling, and his mind didn't wander.

The two nations sat in a dark room on comfortable club chairs, upholstered in black, like everything else around them; as if the decor itself was made to leech away any light having the audacity to intrude. The only source of illumination in the room was a bare bulb hung over their heads - even that only cast a weak circle of brilliance before being suffocated by that dark, dark, dark.

There was a small clack as Russia relocated his king. America didn't bother looking down to the chessboard between them. There was no need. He just followed the rules, and moved his king a space to the left.

America couldn't remember if they'd started playing with a full chess set. It seemed like centuries, those they had spent chasing each other around the board, having only their kings left to move. They must have, though, because America could see the pieces that they'd taken lined up on opposite sides of the board, bishops and pawns gleaming dully under the bare bulb above. He'd chosen to play with white pieces, leaving Russia the black, but the other man had expected something of the sort, and hadn't complained. They kept smiling.

It is always a peculiar game, in chess, when two people facing each other are so evenly matched that they end up having only the kings left to play with. The king can move but one space. The rules of the game dictate this; the king can move a single space in any direction - forward, backward, side-to-side, diagonally - but it cannot move into checkmate, no matter what. After all, the king must never endanger himself.

When it comes down to a battle between lone kings, the sole way to win would be to move within one square of your adversary. Which would be checkmate. In plain terms, the game is unwinnable, a draw.

Russia and America had been playing it for over thirty years. In the dark. Smiling.

Russia moved his king again, dancing away from check without breaking eye contact, neatly folding his hands on the edge of the board when he finished. America's king followed suit with the soft sound of wood-on-wood. They were focused on each other with the intensity of lovers, or, more aptly, two snipers after the same mark.

"Comrade, you look tired," Russia observed, a large hand busily relocating his king as he smiled, warm as the grave, at the American.

"Could say the same about you, Braginski," America countered, moving his piece with the grin of a shark. "Wanna pack it in?"

"No, no, I'm quite well," he insisted, waving his free hand. "But you worry me, Америка; perhaps, say, a small rest would do you good. A little time away, yes?"

"Don't go gray... er on my account, Russkie," America replied. "I'm five by five."

Russia shrugged. "There is no harm in the asking, friend. I will take your word."

America grinned. "Okie-doke."

There was something of a pause, broken intermittently by the movement of chess pieces, before America spoke again. His voice was low and measured, as if he was choosing each word very carefully before he said it.

"Wouldn't it be… more fun… to start a real game, y'know, and see who could really win?"

Russia shrugged, broad shoulders moving beneath his overcoat, whispering of as yet untested power. "Perhaps, comrade. But are you prepared for such a game?"

America cracked his neck and knuckles in quick succession, muscles rippling across his body with the practiced movements. "I am if you are, commie bastard."

They smiled at each other, and moved their kings again.


A/N: In my headcanon, this is the Cold War. I don't really know what else to say.