The room full of people was still in shock at the news of his resignation when Pope Benedict XVI tottered across the marble floor towards a tall, heavy-set man in the red robe and skullcap of a cardinal.
As cameras rolled on Monday in the gilded Sala del Concistoro at the Apostolic Palace in Rome, Benedict grabbed the man by his shoulders, looked deep into his eyes and -- struggling to hold back tears -- shared a long embrace.
It was a public show of affection to one of the Pope's most important fratres carissimi or 'dear brothers'.
It was also a display of respect. For the man was Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who as Dean of the College of Cardinals will organise the coming conclave at the Sistine chapel where 117 cardinals from across the world choose the next pontiff.
Yet in these ancient hallways, things are never entirely as they seem.
Dust may still be settling on Benedict XVI's unexpected resignation, at the age of 85, but cynical eyes have begun to turn towards his relationship with Sodano the power-broker.
Sodano has lost little time in expressing his 'sense of loss and almost disbelief' at Benedict's decision to quit, telling reporters that Monday's announcement felt 'like a lightning bolt in a clear blue sky'. But Vatican insiders smell a rat about those widely reported comments. They point out that, far from being surprised at Benedict's announcement, Sodano had been told the previous Friday. And far from a 'sense of loss', previous form suggests the ambitious cardinal would have been delighted at the news.