A/N: Dark Angel belong to Cameron & Eglee. No profits made.
The challenge: Last year we did a challenge for the fall time change, since we all had an extra hour on our hands. The only requirement was "write a story in an hour." Mari83 has suggested we do it again ... and so here goes, in celebration of the U.S. changing their clocks this weekend. Not deep or long or profound... just a little M/L, written in 60 minutes (plus 12 more, to make up for my lousy typing!) Please let me hear what you think!
My thanks to Mari83 for reading & looking over my shoulder, to let me know if this made any sense. Mari, thanks yet again, with marzipan on top! ;
Continuing events at the end of "Out"
"Don't hold up the war on my account," she'd offered.
But he declined. "The world will still be broken in the morning."
The pleasure that Max had felt with those words warmed her through the evening, that Logan was willing to kick back and let her into his life, to really see her, maybe even enjoy having her around. They made pasta tricolore, together, working side by side in the kitchen comfortably, like old friends, and Max was starting to realize that there was no one in the world with whom she felt more comfortable than Logan Cale. He knew all her secrets, all of them, but stubbornly liked her anyway, seeming to accept her special abilities as casually as he might someone else's gift for music or basketball or math ... with appreciation, respect, and yes, even taking them and her for granted sometimes – but it occurred to her that, in an odd way, she liked him taking her weird, hard-wired talents so casually that he forgot to stop and appreciate her, on occasion.
How whacked is that? she grinned softly to herself now, as she watched him from across the chessboard.
He was studying the board, brows knit in consternation, as he saw that once again his king was ensnared in a trap from which his royal minions could not rescue him. With a grimace and a snort, he finally looked up, but his expression already had morphed into a resigned and even amused grin. "Okay, like I should have doubted you. Mate." He looked at her for a moment, and his eyebrows lifted. "Best out of three?"
"Um... I think that works only if you've actually won one of the three."
He smiled his most charming smile and countered immediately, "not if I finally won one from you. That would definitely be the best of all three."
She laughed as she shrugged, "okay." As he moved the pieces back into place, she grabbed their wine glasses. "Another round?"
"Thanks," he nodded, and she left him to the board. As she went into the kitchen to pour them some more wine, it struck her how he patiently played chess with her, seeming to enjoy the games despite her unbroken record of beating him. At least he knows why I have an edge, she mused.
But as she came back in she decided to press the issue, curiosity taking her over. "You know – we don't have to keep playing, if you don't like me beating you all the time..."
He shook his head, almost looking a little surprised. "No, unless you don't want to play. I figure it's just a matter of time. I can feel it. Next game is mine," he grinned.
"You say that every time!" she laughed, but her voice softened a little as she asked, still curious, "so you don't mind me winning our games?"
He shook his head. "No, actually... it's good practice. I like playing with a good player who keeps me thinking through the game."
"You're really pretty good yourself, you know."
He'd leaned back with a quirked smile, looking as self-confident as she'd ever seen him. Intrigued, she dared to ask, "so ... for someone who just had your ass handed to you ... again... you're looking pretty smug." When he simply smiled wider and took a slow sip of his wine, his eyes twinkling at her over the rim of his glass, her eyes narrowed and she pressed, "you're not telling me something ... and the Great and Powerful Eyes Only doesn't strike me as a 'good loser' type."
He just chuckled.
"Oh, wait, you're not going to try to tell me you've been throwing our games all this time? Because if you think I'm going to ..."
"I wouldn't even try to deceive you like that, Max," he said, looking directly into her eyes. At her silent response, her smile widening, warmly, her pupils dilating, his own smile quirked a bit higher and he added, under his breath, "even if I had even the slightest hope you'd actuallybelieve me..."
She rolled her eyes, but her smile had broadened into an affectionate beam for him as she drawled, "I think by now I have top secret level clearance for just about all of your secrets – so spill."
He made a show of rolling his wine stem in between his hands for a moment, as if thinking it over, but then nodded. "Okay. You're right – I am pretty good at chess ... it's just recreational, but I played a while – some tournaments in college; some area tournaments and on-line tournaments, since then. I've kept up my rating pretty well..."
"Rating?" Max blinked.
Logan shrugged, "yeah, it's not that big a deal. The Chess Federation has lots of tournaments, and they start players off with a basic ranking. You participate and win some, you move up. At any rate ... I played pretty often, for a while, and kept up by playing against a computer program, just to relax. Over time, I kept playing, but I ran into fewer and fewer people who were around to play much anymore – I hadn't found anyone in quite a while who could beat me. It didn't become boring to play on line, exactly, but ... even playing humans on line is sort of like playing a computer, it loses the immediacy of the competition ... and there wasn't anyone around here to play who ... was a challenge," he admitted. "But then here you were, trained in military tactics, skilled in the game – and it's been great, Max. I think I've learned something about the game, or about strategy – or about defending – every time we've played."
This time her smile was pleased, even touched. "Really?"
"Cross my heart," he promised.
She nodded, considering a moment, then looked up at him, affecting a cocky tone, to cover the inexplicable rush of pleasure she felt spreading through her at his explanation. "So maybe I ought to get myself rated. Think I could break the bank?"
He smiled, "I think you might make Grand Master scores if you put your mind to it. But you might not want to call attention to what you can do, so publicly..."
She pretended to consider it, then relent, "guess you're right." She looked over at the handsome face across the chessboard, looking, at least for this moment, content, and she felt the warmth of his pleasure in her presence. "So what do you say... wanna get slaughtered again?"
He grinned, "I was hoping you'd ask." He grabbed a queen of each color and palmed them, moving his hands behind his back and looked up to her, waiting. She leaned over to gently pop his left arm with her hand, and he brought around his left hand, opening it to reveal the black queen. "Aha – the game is as good as mine," he grinned. As he put the queens back on their squares, she pivoted the board around so black was before her.
"Your move," she challenged softly, her voice low. "Best out of three..."