Note: This story came out of the prompt "first impressions - Johanna x Alessandro" on the A Slight Glitch LJ community. Oddly enough, I'd had this idea for a while, but had never done anything with it, and the prompt was a great incentive to do so. Thankfully, the community liked the story that came out of it, so here it is for your enjoyment.
This story references events from Chapters Twenty through Twenty-Two from "Unexpected Results I: A Slight Glitch."
Difference of Opinion
Alessandro stared down at the marble and granite board, slightly puzzled, letting his fingers trace its smooth patterned surface, slightly warm from the afternoon sun. Idly he picked up one of the pieces and studied it. It looked like a small castle turret, intricately carved from white marble.
"Oops, didn't realize anyone was here."
He whirled around and saw an older woman, dressed in priests' robes, standing near one of the garden paths.
Embarrassed at being caught, Alessandro glanced away. Completely uncertain of what to say, he looked down at the board. "Do... do you know what this is?"
"It's a chessboard," she explained. "Ever played before?"
He shook his head. "N-no."
"You want to learn?"
"Really?" For a moment he seemed eager, then he looked crestfallen. "But... I'm not sure what the others would... I mean, I'm supposed to be working."
"You're thinking of Cardinal Francesco, aren't you?"
He nodded, and she waved one hand dismissively.
"Work, shmork. Come on, take a seat, and I'll teach you. We'll set a one-hour time limit - that way you can get back to... whatever you do... and keep the Cardinal from getting too huffy."
For a moment, he appeared ready to protest, but then he gave her a watery smile and sat down.
The hour seemed to fly by as she patiently taught the young man the basics of playing chess, but all too soon, their game was interrupted by a stern voice.
"Your Holiness, we have been searching everywhere for you," Francesco announced coldly, stepping into the small courtyard. "A man of your position cannot just-"
He stopped dead at the sight of the woman sitting across the chessboard from Alessandro. For a moment, he was struck speechless. "YOU!"
"Yes, me," she said calmly, but otherwise ignoring him as she studied the pieces. Alessandro glanced nervously from the nun to the cardinal and back.
"What do you think you're DOING?!" Francesco shouted at her.
"Teaching his Holiness how to play chess," she said without looking up from the board. "It is, after all, a game esteemed for teaching wisdom, strategy, military thinking, and planning." Then she looked at Francesco directly. "But you can stop shouting at him, we had set a one hour limit and it's just about done."
"How dare you?" Francesco hissed, sending the pieces flying with a sweep of his arm, but she didn't flinch. "His Holiness has more important things to do than play games with a heretic!" He turned his frosty gaze upon Alessandro, who shrank back. "The Cardinal Assembly is waiting for you, Holiness."
"I... yes," Alessandro said miserably, getting to his feet, but Francesco had already whirled around and left, his robes billowing behind him. Alessandro turned back to the nun, and gave a single shocked giggle to see her sticking her tongue out at Francesco's back.
"In a way, though, he's right," she sighed, getting to her feet. "You are a busy man, I shouldn't have distracted you."
"Oh, no, no, no," he protested. "I... thank you for teaching me."
"Any time, Holiness." She bowed politely and turned to go.
"Wait!" he called out in impulse, and she glanced back. "W-who are you?"
"Sister Johanna Sinclair, your Holiness."
Alessandro's eyes went wide as he recognized the name. "You mean... you're the one that was... that Francesco... I mean..."
For a moment, the nun looked somber. "Yes." But then she smiled mischievously at him. "But you'd better get going before his Eminence really freaks out. Let me know when you want to play chess again." Then she vanished down the garden path before he could say anything else.
The young man opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again, looked away, then back. All at once, he blurted out to where she had been standing, "You... you don't look like a... like a heretic."
Then with a sigh, Alessandro turned to follow his older brother.