Chess drabble, mostly as I thought during the 2003 benefit Adam Pascal and Julia Murney looked cute together, which isn't really a basis for anything, right? Based on the American version of the script. I know this needs work, it's the ultra-ultra first draft. Most likely OOC too. But I sort of like it, despite all of the oddness and never-happeningness. And I don't own Chess or anything you recognize directly from it.

He sees her at the grocery store. Their eyes meet and she nods and he nods. It is an acknowledgement, nothing more. He finishes two bottles of wine that night and wakes up the next morning on the floor of his bed in his miserable apartment. His limbs are stiff and he groans. He still loves her. He rotates his neck, hearing his tendons crack, and winces.


The next time they see each other is in a small bookstore. He has a mystery novel, while she is reading a slim volume of poetry. He looks closely at her. She has gotten a new hairstyle, much, much different than what she had before, and her blonde hair frames her face and her neck.

"Hi," he says. She regards him, coolly but not unkindly.

"Hi," she responds.

This time, he doesn't drink. Instead, he listens to dry jazz on his radio and think of her eyes.

They meet again at that same grocery store, locking eyes over the fruits. He asks her cordially if she wants to meet for tea. She prefers tea, while he prefers coffee. She is touched that he remembers. She declines but later, while they are standing in the checkout line, she accepts.

They meet, with bags of groceries underneath the small table. He buys the meal, tells her this in advance. He has money still left from the championship he won, a bittersweet victory.

"Thank you," she says. They ask after each other's welfare. She is as single as he is, except her apartment is nicer. She is a hostess at a very fancy restaurant he has been to once, at the pinnacle of fame. Eventually, she asks him if he still plays chess.

"No," he responds. She nods.

"Neither do I."

He pays the bill and they leave. He considers it progress.

He sees her at her restaurant. His sister is taking him and her husband and daughter out. Lila and Bryce Curtis, with their daughter Felicity, who was named for his and Lila's grandmother. She is standing with the reservations book. He knows that she does not expect him. She knows his sister's name, knows his brother-in-law's. But he assumes she doesn't once think of him.

"Oh," she says. "Freddie.'

"Florence," he replies, while Lila looks back and between the two. She knows no details of what happened in Merano, nor Bangkok.

"Florence Vassey, right?" she says. Florence nods, and then she sees Felicity. Florence has always liked Felicity, and Fee- Freddie's nickname for his niece, which her mother disapproved of- gives Florence a hug. After an awkward pause, she shows them to their table. She waves at Fee and then leaves.

Lila is eager to quiz Freddie on Florence, a topic which he is not that fond of. He's not too fond of Lila, either, come to think of it. Bryce forces Lila to drop it.

"Lee," he says. "Let's eat." Freddie grins. Lee and Fee.

"Good idea," he says, hiding his face behind the menu. Fee pokes him. "Uncle Freddie," she whispers. "You like Auntie Flo, don't you. You still like her." Fee has always called Florence Auntie Flo, even though she hasn't seen her in a few years. Freddie doesn't respond. Their waitress isn't Florence.

He leaves early, most likely because of Lila's badgering- he won't answer any phone calls from her for a while- and, right before leaving, asks Florence for lunch again. She nods, and he goes.

She can't make it for lunch, which is more platonic than dinner, but they make it dinner anyways. They go to a café, which has a much less airy and more romantic atmosphere at night. Both Freddie and Florence are vaguely uncomfortable, although he doesn't understand why and she doesn't either. They ask friendly questions. Florence asks after Fee. He tells her he is not talking to Lila. They both drink too much wine. Good wine, not cheap, but wine nonetheless. They leave, stumbling, her giggling drunkenly and clutching his arm. He remembers a kiss.

They wake up in his bed the next morning.

"I'm sorry," he says.

She fixes him with a square gaze.

"It's not your fault."

"Isn't it?" he replies, confused.

She shrugs. "I don't know." He asks her if she is all right.

"Why wouldn't I be?" she asks him.

He shrugs. "I don't know."

"Let's not let anything happen again," she says. "It's safer."

He agrees, but wonders what there to be safe from. He doesn't think Florence is talking about her getting pregnant. Florence leaves for work.

She wants nothing to happen again. No more romantic restaurants, no more wine. No more of his sardonic grins and then the soft look in his eyes. But Fate intervenes in the form of a clever Felicity and his wool coat that he left at her apartment after dropping her off at work that morning- just to be friendly, she tells herself.. Freddie is babysitting Fee, at Lila's badgering, at his apartment. She walks by and meets his eyes.

Florence knows that she fell out of love with him. Anatoly, there was Anatoly, but that was done with a long time ago. She rather doesn't know what to do.

In the end, they start with dinner.