9-25-2003

A Game of Chess

Author's note: Companion fic to Zero Fancy. It can stand alone but goes in the same timeline.

 

Chess is a game of strategy. You need strategy to win in chess, just like you do in almost every aspect of our reality. I never knew how to play - chess that is. Wufei taught me. He tried, anyway. We'd sit on Peacemillion and he'd go over the rules, offering constant commentary as we played mock games. He liked to point out the advantages and disadvantages of every move I made and stress the importance of proper strategy. I'd pay attention and try my best to follow what he was saying, but he could be really frustrating.

I hope I never forget the look that was on his face after the last 'practice' game we played. You'd think he would have kept in mind that while he was teaching me I would eventually pick up on the way he plays the game. Apparently, the thought didn't cross his mind. I saw after two moves of our game what he was going for. I formed out a strategy, one extremely similar to one I'd used against him before, hoping he wouldn't deviate from what I predicted of his moves. He didn't. I made the second to last move of my strategy, a bait of sorts, and he moved my Queen back to its original place.

"Think again," he told me. He was smirking that little smirk of his, and I had to fight a laugh.

I told him I'd rather not and he shook his head, smiling, taking my queen as he did so. Granted, he would have taken a bit more time to survey the situation had it not been for the fact that he didn't really expect me to deviate from a strategy he had seen me use before, but an error of that sort still allowed me to take the victory. His face contorted only a bit, his eyes widening slightly and his bottom lip only slightly separating from its contact with the top as I moved my knight into position on the board. Then he smiled.

"Congratulations, Duo. You've won," he said.

"Man, you didn't even let me say 'check mate' gloatingly," I whined sarcastically, smiling back.

Wufei stood to leave the room and his arms hung at his sides almost stiffly. "I look forward to our first true competition, then. If you'll excuse me." He nodded down to me and started walking for the door leading out of the mess hall.

I wondered if he didn't just let me win, but as long as I remember his composed surprise, I can't bring myself to believe that he would. He just underestimated me.

Currently, I've been playing the same game with someone - I'm thinking another pilot - for about two weeks now. When we're not blowing up Mobile Dolls, we get pretty bored. I can only mess with Deathscythe so much before there's nothing left to tweak, ya know? I can't leave Peacemillion since there's no way to know when a conflict will arise in this tense time, but I'm not really in control of anything while I'm here and I don't have all the responsibility to distract me from my thoughts. This simple game of chess has been one of my only escapes.

There's a board set up in the mess hall for anyone that feels like playing. I was passing by after a lunch caught with Quat and moved a pawn as I walked by. Nothing too important. Just putting it out of place. I wasn't even thinking about it.

I came back a while later for some dinner, and what did I find but a mirroring pawn out of place on the other side. I smirked and moved another, no strategy involved, just another misplaced piece. Next morning, another pawn was moved. Thus began the game.

I tried to figure out who the other player was. I've narrowed it down to Heero. The plays all tend to be on the defensive, so it can't be Fei. He always told me offense was the best defense. Plus, Wufei would openly challenge me to a match if he wanted to play me.

I don't think it's Quatre anymore, either. He was my first guess since he was with me when I first moved the pawn, but then I realized that he would have had to go all the way back to the mess hall sometime between then and dinner to move the pawn without me seeing him do it, and I'd hope Q-ball would have more of a life than that. We're not that bored.

Tro's out, too, because last night I was staring at the board thinking of my next move, which is hard to do when you're two weeks into the same game, and I was getting pretty damn frustrated. Trowa asked me if I wanted to clear my head by starting a game with a new person, and we played a quick game. That snapped me back with a new outlook, and I made my next move on the other game. Trowa wouldn't have done that, engaged me in a new game, if he was my opponent on the other.

That left Heero; at least, it did if it was only one person and that one person was another gundam pilot.

The game hadn't moved when I came in for breakfast this morning, not too unusual, seeing as one week of the two went by with only two moves exchanged between us both. That was a busy week, Libra sending a pack of Mobile Dolls at us and all. I didn't think of the game too much after that. Can't plan out my next move until my last has been countered, can I?

I walked into the mess hall and glanced over at the board, expecting to see a move since we've been pretty inactive since Peacemillion's engine got jacked up in the last fray. There was no change. Oh well.

All the pilots were there except for Heero, and we all sat around and ate. Heero walked in as we were finishing and sitting down with a water bottle. He didn't say anything, and the conversation hit a lull. I pulled out the ever-present replacement board that had appeared in the mess hall after my current game took up the other, and I engaged Trowa in another chess board battle. What can I say, chess was on my brain.

"The repairs to the engine are almost done," Quatre said in an effort to start up a new conversation as he settled himself behind my chair to watch the game.

"Oh, yeah?" Heero nearly muttered, barely lowering the bottle in his hand so that the straw was in his mouth. He stared at the table, not seeming to expect an answer.

"That Howard sure is quick when it comes to getting his work done." I said, studying the board in front of me. "I'll make my move quickly, too." I moved one of my knights forward and waited for Trowa's next move.

"I wonder if it'll make up for our delays," Trowa said aloud as he moved a pawn in retaliation.

I stared at the board, thinking. "Hm, now what move should I be making?"

Wufei pushed off the wall he had been leaning against and moved one of my pawns forward. I sat back to see the move from a larger perspective in attempt to see what he had done. An involuntary 'Huh?' came out of me as I realized what a great move it was, almost mad that I hadn't seen the winning play first.

Trowa sat up straighter in his chair and smiled lightly. "An excellent move."

Wufei straightened. "Offense is the best defense. If you're only defensive you limit yourself."

I smiled to myself. I had heard that so many times in the past weeks. "Thanks a lot for the good tip, Wufei," I managed without too much sarcasm. I turned to look at Heero, who hadn't said anything for a while now. I decided to see if he really was my mystery opponent with a little goad. "Heero, wanna play?"

I don't know if I was expecting him to get up and walk over to the game we had already started, or to say something about it. Maybe I was just expecting him to say no and leave it at that. Maybe I was even expecting him to say yes and start a whole new game, effectively shooting me theory all to hell. I definitely wasn't expecting him to just ignore me.

I looked back at Quatre, sharing a curious glance with him before we both turned to look at Heero. He just stared down at the table, water bottle held limply in one hand.

"What's the matter Heero?" Quatre ventured. "Is something bothering you?"

Heero didn't comment, just stared on. Before anything else could be said, the alarms sounded, signaling the approach of enemy suits.

"Guess they've beaten us to the punch," I said, tensing in my seat.

"Let's go," Quatre said.

And we did. We were attacked by another horde of Mobile Dolls, and we got to it. Can you believe that not ten minutes into the battle, I had to go and save Hilde's ass? Not too much of a loss, mind you. I got to sharpen my skills against two glorified Dolls programmed with Trowa and Heero's pilot data. Got some valuable information about Libra out of it, too. I still think Hilde shouldn't have risked it, though. When she comes around, I'll give her a piece of my mind.

I was also left with some more information that I thought I should tell Heero. He'd probably be interested in it. I approached him in the hall after they wheeled Hilde into the med bay.

"Heero..." I began.

"Hm?" He questioned, looking up to meet my eyes.

"Relena Peacecraft's on Libra." I told him, frowning down at the floor. This really complicates matters. Someone will have to get her out of there. Couldn't wage an all out attack on that ship with the figurehead of peace on it, now can we?

"She is?" Heero asked, sounding surprised.

I looked up to see him looking down the hall in the direction of the mobile suit hanger. He was already forming his plan to go retrieve her. That meant I didn't have to do it, so I was a bit relieved. Plus, it would give him another opportunity to finish that fight with Zechs. "Yeah, Hilde said she met her there."

"I guess I'll have to go get her, then," Heero said as he turned away and began to walk down the hall. He turned back and looked at me with the same look he favored the table with earlier, his eyes intense. "I don't know when I'll be getting back," he said and paused. He stepped toward me, putting us within arm's reach of each other. He placed his hand on my shoulder and my eyes locked to his. "We'll have to finish our game later."

I held eye contact with him for a moment before replying, "Sure."

He broke off contact and continued down the hallway in the direction of the hanger. I stared after his back until the door slid back into place behind him. I closed my eyes and bowed my head a bit, shaking it slightly back and forth before smiling and raising my eyes once again to the hanger door. "I look forward to the next move."

So that's where it is. I'm assuming Heero's left for Libra by now, putting our game on a possibly permanent hiatus. Either way, I need my coffee. A quick, habitual glance over at the chessboard as I walk into the hanger reveals that the only rook left in the game has been moved.

I pause at the board, hesitating, before moving on to the refreshment station. I have plenty of time to plan out my next move. No need to rush.

-fin-