Colette and Zelos chat over a game of checkers/draughts. Could be connected to "Someone to talk to" as a prequel perhaps, but it works as a stand alone fic as well.

Disclaimer: No, I don't own Tales of Symphonia.

The small round white piece of wood made a gentle clacking sound as it jumped over similar sized black pieces. Delicate fingers picked up the darker pieces as a feminine giggle mixed with a deep groan.

"How do you keep managing to win like that Colette?" Zelos asked, looking glumly at the small stack of white pieces placed by his side of the board. A miniscule amount compared to the pile of his pieces she'd managed to snag.

Lloyd looked up, his attention caught by the noise.

"We used to play checkers an awful lot when we were little," he said.

"Yeah, but she got so good neither of us could win against her," Genis sighed. Colette giggled.

"Maaaaaaan," Zelos whined. "One more game? I know I can beat you, I just know I can!"

"Oh, alright," Colette smiled and began to replace the pieces on the board.

Sheena looked up from some sewing she had been working on.

"Mind if I watch?" she asked. Colette moved over in the large chair she was sitting in and patted the empty space. Sheena smiled and moved to sit beside her.

"Would you like to go first?" Colette offered.

"Hunnies first," Zelos smiled, gesturing for her to begin the game. Sheena rolled her eyes and Lloyd and Genis turned their attention back to homework, knowing what the game's result would be. "So, Zelos," Colette said, moving a piece forward. "How'd you decide to become a healer as well as a swordsman?"

"Huh?" the red-haired Chosen asked, puzzled. He made his next move while waiting for Colette to elaborate.

"Well, I figure, you know, you weren't all that good at studying apart from at one subject you said, so I figured if you managed to learn the healing skills you have as well as you did you must have been interested in it," Colette moved another piece forward.

"Well, I, uh," Zelos said, seeming as thought he didn't want to talk about it. As a way to get out of answering he advanced another piece.

"Is it because you wanted to help people?" Colette asked. "That's OK. I'd like to help people who are poorly by being able to use healing spells too, only I can't seem to learn any." She clacked a piece forward.

"Well, uh," Zelos scratched the back of his head, looking embarrassed. "Promise this doesn't go beyond you two?" he asked in a low voice as he glanced around the room to check no one else was listening. No one was. Colette and Sheena nodded.

"Y'see," he began, leaning over the board so he was closer to the girls. "My little sister's never been that healthy and, you know, as her big brother I figured I should do what I could to protect her," he said, his voice trailing off. He turned his attention to the board again.

"Besides, I guess it does kinda feel good to help people. Plus, you know, hunnies dig a guy who can use magic." Clack, another of his pieces moved.

Colette looked thoughtful. She'd noticed he'd said the last sentence in a different tone, perhaps like he hadn't quite meant it. She glanced at Sheena, who also seemed to be contemplating this information. The blonde wondered whether the dark haired girl had noticed the tone change.


Colette sensed Zelos was a little uncomfortable with this conversation topic and she liked people to be happy. She went for a topic change as Zelos contemplated his next move.

"I think maybe your experience as a Chosen was a lot different to mine," she said. "I mean I was always fussed over, hardly trusted to do anything on my own. You could even leave your city at night to, well, do whatever it was you did," Colette said, still clueless as to the nature of Zelos's nocturnal adventures. Sheena made a mental note to have a talk with Colette later. She suspected the girl's education lacked in some areas which could be important.

A little more comfortable with this new conversation topic Zelos made his move and began to talk as Colette surveyed the checker board.

"Maybe that's because our worlds were in such differing positions. See, yours was in decline, you were needed to complete the world regeneration journey when the time arrived. My world was the prospering one, I was just kinda there for show. 'Oh, good, we have a Chosen, that's alright then'". He frowned as Colette moved a white piece forward, she had that 'I'm winning' glint in her eye again.

"What was it like to have that much freedom? I always found it frustrating being so smothered. I mean, sure, I was allowed to spend time with my friends, but I wasn't always allowed to join in. Like I wasn't allowed to go swimming with Lloyd and Genis in case I drowned or something I guess. But a part of me suspected it was because I'm a girl." Colette said as she stuck her tongue out and wrinkled up her nose in an annoyed face.

Zelo's expression became worried and he regretted the move he'd just made as Colette moved one of her pieces forward and the beginnings of a grin joined the eye glint on her face.

"I dunno," he said. "I mean I didn't know anything different. I guess I had a lifestyle loads of guys crave, and that was kinda cool. But, I dunno, sometimes, especially now I'm seeing more of the worlds, it feels like there's something missing."

Colette noticed him glance at Sheena when he said the last part, but decided not to mention it, it seemed an uncomfortable topic. Besides, she was close to winning again she thought, and she didn't want Zelos accusing her of winning by distracting him with conversation. So the game continued in friendly silence.

Colette noticed Sheena was being particularly quiet, like she was trying to work something out. She and Zelos hadn't even argued once all evening.

Colette thought, as she grinned and moved one stop closer to victory, that Zelos often didn't mean it when he argued, especially with Sheena.

Zelos moved to take one of Colette's pieces and then pulled a horrified expression when he saw the grin turn into a smirk. Sheena was grinning as well, that couldn't be good.

"Would you like to do the honours Sheena?" Colette offered, gesturing at the board. Sheena grinned, nodded and swept one of Colette's pieces around all of Zelos's remaining ones.

"Gaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" Zelos made a noise of disgust and disappointment.

"She beat you again huh?" Genis sniggered.

"Ohhh, you little brat, come here!" Zelos yelled as he leapt up from the chair and ran towards Genis.

Yes, thought Colette as Zelos grabbed Genis and fiercely but playfully rubbed his knuckle against the top of the younger boy's head, messing up his hair, Zelos didn't always mean it when he argued.