Shanks was celebrating his birthday as he always did now: quietly. Normally, he was a man to take any reason to celebrate and capitalise on it, and when he'd been a younger man he'd celebrated his birthday loud and long, and with copious amounts of alcohol. That had changed. There came a point in every man's life, after all, when he no longer wanted a big cake with a candle for every year that he'd been alive. For Shanks, that point had come about a year or so before the execution of his first captain, Gol D. Rodger.
So while his crew were out being raucous at some pub or bar or inn or tavern somewhere on the island they'd stopped at, Shanks was sitting by himself on the beach, his sword upright and resting on the shoulder of the arm that was no longer there while his only hand loosely dangled a bottle of something potent and alcoholic from his fingertips. Occasionally he tightened his grip and raised the bottle to his lips, but he was sipping from this one, not just gulping it down. Just quietly marking the passing of the ninth of march.
It was a few hours after he'd sat down by himself, the bottle in his hand only down a quarter of its contents – he really was drinking slowly tonight – when another body sat down beside him without a word.
"Happy birthday, Cripple." The words came flatly, without really any particular emotion at all, as if more a statement of fact than well wishing.
"Thanks Mihawk," Shanks answered with a sarcastic and mildly derisive snort. "How old are we now anyway?" he asked, passing the bottle across his person to his friend.
Mihawk snorted as he took the bottle from the red-head. "You know, you're the only person who can get me to drink," he commented, and turned the bottle around to look at the label. "You're not over the mark yet, why are you drinking cocoroco?"
Cocoroco was ninety-six percent alcohol. Very powerful stuff. Shanks would definitely be suffering for this in the morning. How much of that suffering Mihawk would be sharing with him was yet to be decided.
"It tastes better than absinthe," Shanks answered blandly, honestly, as he watched the water gently lap at the shore just a few metres away from where he sat. "Sweeter."
"Hn," Mihawk allowed, taking a very small sip himself before he passed the bottle back to his friend. "I remind you that I'm forty-three," he said. "You, my friend, are only thirty-nine."
"My rapidly approaching forty is not why I'm out here Mihawk," Shanks countered easily as he accepted the bottle, and once more it dangled from his loose fingertips.
"Why then?" Mihawk asked. "You take any excuse to laugh and cheer and make merry. Isn't that what birthdays, in particular, are for?"
Shanks shook his head and raised the bottle to his lips. Quickly, he tipped it back and down again, taking just barely enough of a sip to completely coat his tongue before he swallowed. "Sure, when you're a kid and getting older is cool. Now? Not so much. In twenty, thirty years maybe, the celebrations will start again, cheering that I'm not dead yet. Here's to the one-armed Yonko, he's still tough but his hair isn't red any more," Shanks scoffed and took another sip of the cocoroco. A larger one. One that burned because he'd actually taken a mouthful of the potent stuff rather than just a tiny sip. "Ah!" he sighed with a grimace, bearing his teeth as he passed the bottle back to Mihawk again.
Mihawk raised an eyebrow at his friend. This was something he had never suspected of his old rival. Getting depressed about his age? Normally the man was only ever leaning that way (ever-so-slightly) when he was hung over. Shanks was a generally happy drunk. This was new territory.
"You're acting like me," Mihawk said at last, fingering the bottle, swishing the contents around inside absently. "I'm not sure I like that," he admitted.
Shanks chuckled softly and dryly. "Just because I'm not often serious around you doesn't mean that I don't have the capability," he answered. "The number of times we used to fight, I'd think you should know better than anyone how capable I am of being serious."
Mihawk hummed in agreement. "But," he countered, "you're not normally like this outside of a serious situation. A date on a calendar generally doesn't qualify."
Shanks nodded. "Granted," he said, and the corners of his mouth started to tip upwards for the first time since he'd left the company of his crew. "Are you going to take a sip or are you going to pass the bottle back?" he asked, though he didn't extend his hand for the bottle to be returned.
Mihawk did take a sip, and then carefully planted the bottle in the sand between them. "We've known each other a long time," he said.
Shanks nodded. "Since before Rodger's execution, though not all that long before," he agreed. He didn't reach for the cocoroco. Really, he didn't need more at this point. "So, what? A bit more than twenty years."
Mihawk nodded. "And it's been twelve since you lost your arm. I haven't had a good fight since. As annoying as it is, no one else has the same skill as you did back then. Not even your Luffy's swordsman, Roronoa."
Shanks chuckled softly again. "I'd still give you a run for your bounty," he informed his friend. "But you won't fight a cripple. I suppose that's to keep your pride intact more than anything else," he jabbed, teasing and friendly and almost happy again. "Don't want to find out if you'd lose to a one-armed man, or if the only way you'd beat me is if I'm an arm down."
Mihawk's perpetual frown deepened slightly, but he didn't say anything. It was gallingly true. For all that he was a better technical swordsman, Shanks always fought with more than just his sabre, using his body as a weapon as much as the blade, and of course there was his haki to take into consideration.
Shanks sighed. "Sorry," he said, giving a smaller smile, an apologetic smile. It was genuine too, but all of Shanks' smiles were genuine, so that was no great surprise. "I shouldn't tease like that."
"You always tease," Mihawk countered. "Whether it's deliberate or not, you're always taunting, and flaunting. Whether it's your skills or -" Mihawk cut himself off angrily.
Shanks slowly turned his head to look at the man sitting beside him. So far, they'd just stared out at the great ocean before them, occasionally taking glances at each other or the bottle they were sharing, but mostly they stared at the ocean. Now, Shanks looked at Mihawk's closed off expression and wondered what he'd stopped himself from saying.
It hit him like a bucket of cold water.
"Oi Mihawk," he called softly, pulling a coin out of a pocket. "Call it," he said, flicking the coin up into the air.
"Heads," Mihawk answered, though he had no idea what Shanks was up to.
"Heads it is," Shanks declared when the coin came back down. He smiled, just a little crooked, but it was still a smile without any reservations as he set his sabre down on the sand on the far side of himself. "Looks like you get to top first."
Mihawk went stiff. Completely rigid. "I don't do casual with friends," he said at last.
"Neither do I," Shanks agreed pleasantly, then chuckled quietly again. "Actually, that's almost embarrassing, a famous pirate like me being a thirty-nine-year-old virgin. You have two options my friend, no, three. One: you can do what I only just figured out you have wanted to do for some time. Two: I can get you very much more drunk, and in the morning you won't remember whether or not you gave in or not."
"And the third option?" Mihawk asked, his golden eyes looking at his friend slightly askance, though there was something else burning behind the hesitation.
"I'll top first and not give you a choice in the matter," Shanks answered, laying his hand on Mihawk's shoulder and pulling himself over so that he straddled the slightly older man's lap. He was grinning. "Which is actually something that I have wanted to do for some time."
Mihawk's hands found themselves at Shanks' hips, holding him tightly and holding him just off his own hips. "You taunt and flaunt and tease, Shanks," he growled lowly at the red-head.
Shanks only smiled in answer. "I'm not the only one," he answered, trailing his hand down over Mihawk's exposed chest. "I'm really quite shy and modest compared to you, Hawk-eyes. I only show off a very little bit of my chest by comparison. So, what will it be?"
"One then three then one again," Mihawk growled, pulling Shanks down onto him at last and smashing his lips against those of the younger male.
"Excellent choice," Shanks agreed when they broke apart, grinning from ear to ear.
"But we're getting off the sand first," Mihawk added firmly.
Shanks nodded. "Care to join me in my cabin?" he offered, gesturing to his ship.
Mihawk nodded, grabbed the bottle of cocoroco, and then heaved both of them up.
Shanks collected his sword, and then took the lead. Quietly, he thought to himself, that maybe he'd try and celebrate his birthday this way from now on. He was sure he'd be able to talk Mihawk into it. Of course, they'd be doing this more often than once a year if he got any say in the matter.