Winner Takes All

Chapter 1: The First Move

"Then I guess I'll have to have enough hope for the both of us," he had said with that lopsided grin of his that could soothe her or drive her up the wall at any given moment. At the time, it had done the former. Right now she wanted to use her well acquired power to slap it off his face with a heavy, blunt object—or a sharp one if no blunt ones were in range and sorely reveled in remembering the decisive kick she had dealt his shin back then.

She wanted to do at least as much now...

"It's your move Rae," he tried not to smirk and failed. He was sure he had her this time. Sitting across from the fairly simmering empath, the leader of the teen titans was unusually garbed today in a plain blue t-shirt and black pajama pants.

She lifted her gaze from the nearly finished game and eyed him caustically.

Apparently today was laundry day in addition to annoy-Raven-as-much-as-you-possibly-can-Day.

"Call me Rae again and you will be eating soft food for a week, if you eat at all. And if you don't stop laughing at me I'll move more than a chess piece," her voice did not rise in pitch but the threat was no less imminent. The god of hair gel—sans hair gel today oddly enough—did his best not to recoil under her simultaneously dark and detached scowl.

"Who me? I'm not laughing," he insisted knowing full well she meant for him to stop teasing her, and instead, he pulled the very picture of humble patience. Huffing quietly to herself, Raven went back to concentrating on the board in front of her. She had her leotard on today but wore, as had become habitual for her some time ago, jeans over it and no cloak—it too was in the wash. She greatly wished it was around her shoulders now though. When she got particularly agitated, the empath found slight distracting solace in twisting her fingers in it to help her deliberate over things like her next course of action.

As it was, she had to settle instead on focusing on the matter of not causing injury to dear, dear Robin who, for the record, was cockier than usual and in her opinion deserved any penance she wished to extract from his overly smug person.

If only she could think of something satisfying enough...

"Sucks to be on the other end, doesn't it?" came yet another unasked for inquiry and she wasted no time in plucking a pillow from behind her and launching it at her opponent who ducked as it went sailing over his head to land in a cushy heap behind him. While in no way approving of his comment, it didn't change the fact that what he implied was true. She was in check and there was really no way of escaping with her King alive in the next three moves and he knew it and she knew that he knew it. The other main strategist of the titans aside from Robin himself, Raven prided herself on her own, among other things. So it was with the deepest of frowns that she made what was the only feasible move.

"Go ahead. Say it before I wipe the board clean and we forget this game ever happened, boy blunder," she sighed, stretching her arms above her head in an exaggerated fashion, trying desperately not to care that she had lost.

"Checkmate," he complied and the empath cursed his smug expression. So what if she had beaten him five times before this? So what?

"Gloated enough?"

"Never get too much of a good thing," was the cheeky response. Raven cuffed him neatly and he feigned injury while she rolled her eyes at him and rested her chin on her hand, eyeing him in a calculating fashion.

"Gloating is pointless and lets your defenses weaken," she criticized.

"Gloating is what you do when you win," Robin countered, smirk never leaving his face.

"You're horrible," she said, every ounce of sarcasm haloing the comment as with one swooping motion she pushed all of the chess pieces to their ordained spots on the board before moving into the kitchen area. The others had gone out to the 'mall of the shopping' as Starfire so fondly referred to it, leaving the brains of the team to their own devices.

At first Raven had only ventured out—as always—to the common area because it was unusually quiet, free of the game station's excess cacophony and her other comrade's noise levels. Robin had come in not long after to find her cross-legged and so absorbed in a book that she'd forgotten her now cold tea next to her knee. He had greeted her as he often did but this seemed to startle the empath who had then proceeded to knock over her unfinished tea, splattering deep stains on the floor and soaking the table surface. Together they'd cleaned up and then, when Raven had asked what she ought to do to thank him for his chivalry, he had actually given her a solid answer. This had elicited a faintly surprised expression from his teammate. Apparently she hadn't expected him to actually take her up on her less than sincere offer.

Half-considering refusing him, Raven had foregone retreat. Robin was, of all the titans, the one she got along with the best, the one who annoyed her the least, usually. What harm could come of such an innocent request?

So agreeing, he had challenged her to a game of chess, one game of chess that had turned into two, then three, then four, and five and finally six.

She'd won one through five and, in her opinion, suffered a shameful defeat at number six. And now she stood in front of a not quite boiling kettle, restraining her foot from tapping impatiently as it wished.

"Horrible," she muttered again, more to herself than the person she was talking about.

"I'm not horrible," he drawled lazily as his voice traveled around the corner, preceding him as he walked into the kitchen, self-righteous and playful. "You," he poked her ever so slightly, "are a sore loser." She glowered.

"It's not something I am accustomed to," she replied coolly, not an admittance, but a retort. The boy superhero leapt up onto the counter, perching there with a graceful ease, not the least bit bothered by her dry tone. After all, Raven was known for her derision and sarcasm. She turned her back to him, pouring the water into a mug and letting the tea bag plop in as she concentrated with undue focus on making her herbal concoction.

"Maybe you should get used to it," he challenged lightly. Raven bristled and set the mug down with a distinctive clink. About to turn around with a catty remark, she went, if possible, even more rigid as she felt his sudden nearness, not touching, but very, very close. His breath grazed past her right cheek and she blushed in spite of herself, biting back several well used curses.

"I see no reason," she said shortly.

"Not yet," he amended for her and suddenly she felt the soft warmth of his lips on her neck as he places his hands on her shoulders, steadying her as she swayed. His mouth left her nape, coming close to her ear again as he said, "But how about a new game?" Snapping out of whatever haze she assumed had possessed her, her eyes burned holes into her leader out of confusion and fear as she unlatched herself from him, turning on her heel. To her dismay he whirled her around, grabbing her by the wrist forcefully.

"Robin, what are you doing?" she demanded, trying to keep the shaking out of her voice. He couldn't know how that had made her feel, couldn't know how much she wanted whatever he had in mind, how that same mind went numb when he let his breath waver over her. He couldn't and she couldn't let him. Unfazed by her hesitation, he moved until she was between him and the adjacent counter, not aggressively, not passively, some strange median that told her clearly he was not drunk or drugged or in any state of mind that was dangerous.

Well, that depended on her definition of 'dangerous'.

"Rae," he had slipped into the forbidden nickname yet again, "Winning isn't everything," he repeated the words she'd used on him so long ago, loosening his grip on her wrist, but not releasing it. She closed her eyes, reminding herself to do that helpful thing called breathing. This was not Robin, or she didn't think so anyway. The Boy Wonder was virtue right down to the soles of his well-enforced boots and ridiculously colored crime-fighting outfit. He was straightforward and… occurred to her that she had the same Robin in mind at the age of eighteen that she had at fourteen and only just recognized the flaw in that thinking. She wasn't fourteen and he wasn't sixteen anymore. And so, trying to ignore the fact that this was probably considered by most people extremely normal an occurrence between two young adults, she geared her brain towards a relative come-back.

"It's just the only thing that matters," she decided on his response from that same time, determined to both keep her cool and get him to back down. And, for some reason she dared to look up at him through half-lidded eyes.

Mistake, mistake! Her mind felt the urge to smack her with a two-by-four as he drew closer to her and she didn't so much hear his next words as feel them from the nearness.

"Touché," he said, and kissed her before she could further protest.