She had retreated to her room to still the anger that had been subtly but steadily boiling inside of her. The first pen that had flown had been an intentional release of her power. The second had not.
The decade that had been purged from her memory was lost forever, but the effects weren't, and now she was left with far more power than she could ever remember having. Her telepathy was too raw, heriii telekinesis too sensitive. Things would fly even if she was holding back a significant amount of her emotions, and that was probably the most alarming part.
Because she was supposed to release her emotions. Or, at the very least, address them. Part of her rehab was to try and reverse the discipline that had been instilled by the monks of Azarath and find a 'healthier and more adequate means to express herself'. There was little that was revealed about the incident of her memory loss, but she knew that the reason it had happened was so that she could understand her emotions-all her emotions-more accurately.
Which meant she had to feel.
But feeling meant tapping into her powers.
And her powers were too strong for her to deal with at the moment.
Hence the never-ending list of problems in an already problematic existence.
There was a serum that Cyborg had developed, (the reverse of a formula that he was reluctant to speak about), and it would be administered to her twice a week. It was supposed to help mitigate her powers so she wouldn't be overwhelmed, but even the usual dosage seemed inadequate compared to how far she had evolved. Things would seep in from the people around her while magic would find its way out, and no matter how little, it all still grated like nails on a chalkboard. Emotions so potent that they left her squirming in her own skin, from herself and from those in her company.
That was what had happened on the rooftop. She had felt Robin's annoyance growing to the point where it had reached out one, crackling tendril and triggered her powers. She had had to escape him.
She stared at the scrapbook laid out on her lap; glanced at the others splayed out on the floor around her. Dozens of pictures of the same five faces, of these Titans in this Tower, along side the one she saw in the mirror every morning.
Laughing and smiling.
Caught in candid moments of surprise, or confusion, or content delight.
Clearly she had learned how to express emotion without losing control. Why was it so hard to do that now?
She had stared at these pictures almost every night since she had woken, riffling through the pages and feeling...what?
Curiosity seemed more accurate. Wonderment at the culmination of such events. Friends were still foreign and unreal to her mind of ten years ago, but the evidence didn't lie. She had made memories, and they were staring her in the face.
Did she miss those memories?
In a way, yes.
In a way, no.
It was hard to miss something that she couldn't remember, but then confusing because there was evidence of their happening.
So in a way, yes. And in another way, no.
What she did feel with absolute certainty was that there was hope.
But if it was hope for a new past or hope for a different future, she wasn't sure.
"You can't let the others know," Robin urged. "I wasn't kidding about the confidentiality."
"And I know you have your own opinion on how things should go, but we have to keep this situation under wraps until I can gauge how deep into the woods we are."
"Why?" Beast Boy blurted out, his mind racing through a thousand different thoughts and feelings. "Why do we have to keep anything hidden from anyone? This is sort of a big freaking deal, Rob. Why wouldn't we tell every Titan what's at stake?"
"Because it would cause a panic. Kind of like how you're acting right now."
"No I...okay, you're right. Whatever. But in my defense, you just told me the Titans would be done for. That was a shot out of the blue." Gar turned away, forcing himself to calm down while Robin dropped into the empty seat Raven had left behind.
"We wouldn't be done for, Gar. Just…disbanded."
"And the difference is?"
"All intel would be reverted to the League, and any willing Titans would have to be reevaluated to determine whether they could be active on the field. We wouldn't be gone."
"Just horribly rearranged?" he snipped sarcastically. "Who knew being one of the good guys required evaluation?"
"You know it's more complex than that-,"
"Who's doing the evaluating?" Gar interrupted. "The big guns themselves?"
Robin pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "And the Justice Society as well."
"But you can't be active with either unless you're admitted as a member."
"Don't look at me like that," Robin breathed, slumping in his seat. He looked more than drained, but Beast Boy didn't care. He was beyond livid, beyond outraged.
"So you're telling me that if I wanted to continue to be a 'hero', I'd have to be considered on par to Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman."
"In a technical sense, yes. But it's not as black and white as-,"
"So then none of us could be active," Gar interrupted, new frustration boiling into his tone. "Except maybe you."
"It would be up to the evaluation, Beast Boy. More than half of us could more than likely-,"
"You're not even convincing yourself, man." The friends stared at each other for a long time before Robin finally, and almost defeatedly, looked away. "Rob, that's like forced retirement. I may not be the world's greatest detective, but I'm not half-bad at this gig either."
"No," Robin breathed. "You're not. You're great at it. We're all great at it." He rested his chin in his hand and stared at the papers on the table. "But."
Gar growled audibly. "Damn if I didn't hate every single little 'but' that came after every compliment ever thrown my way. How are you so cavalier about all of this?"
"Because I'm not, Gar. I'm stressed and I'm worried and I've clearly been taking it out on Raven." He sifted through the blueprints with no real purpose, shaking his head at the lines and numbers that could, in no way, spark any sort of familiarity in the sorceress. "Truth be told, I didn't think it would be this hard," he muttered.
"That's because it shouldn't be. How is this even fair?" Beast Boy insisted. "To pit every Titans' future on her one attempt to just be a person? Why is so much riding on her?"
"Because she's a person that decimated our home base with a wave of her hand," Robin said sternly. "She's the person who took out our entire team within minutes, and even when we finally subdued her she still ripped out vital information from our own minds. I had to undergo my own test in front of the League too, Beast Boy. And I failed. There was information that I had lost and…. And they're holding both of us accountable. All of us accountable."
The air between them immediately changed, and for the first time since entering the cabana Garfield noticed that beneath Robin's exhausted frustration was a note of guilt so heavy that he was surprised he didn't notice it sooner. "What kind of test?" he asked, Robin didn't answer, and Gar remembered how worn and exhausted he had looked when he'd come back from seeing the League. "What kind of information did you lose?"
"The kind you can't replicate."
Robin sighed. "Like coordinates. And passcodes." He paused. "To things that aren't mine." Beast Boy frowned.
"Things like special cookbooks with secret ingredients to family recipes, or things like top secret high tech gadgetry and information hidden in caves where bats like to live?" The silence from Robin this time was almost deafening. Beast Boy closed his eyes. "Oh. Shit."
"I…was in a lot of trouble with the League. More so then…but it's not about me. It's about whether or not we can help Raven, which the League views as whether or not we can reform a dangerous superpower. They don't know her, so their decision-making is going to be cut and dry. Either she passes their test or she doesn't."
"And she's known about this the entire time?"
"No. I explained everything to her only a few days ago. I didn't even plan to tell her for a while, but she can't play their game without knowing the rules."
"But Rob…that's not…. It's not fair."
"No," he agreed. "But that's just how it is."
Raven had been on her way to her safe room when she ran into Starfire and Aqualad in the hallway. They were welcoming and friendly as usual, but their presence didn't do much for the state that she was in. Bottled emotions wracked at her brain, and until she could feel without imploding, purging her soul self was the next best thing. She was in dire need of the confines of her safe room, and she had little patience for witty banter with the two Titans.
So without much politeness to mitigate her retreat, she simply bowed her head to Starfire and then Aqualad, and then quickly stepped past them and waved a feeble goodbye as she disappeared into her own darkness.
The boys had argued and vented for nearly two hours on the rooftop before Cyborg was calling Rob's comm to tell him there was an incoming conference call from the League. Beast Boy had felt a mixture of annoyance and empathy at that, but one look at Robin's face made all the red disappear from his vision. Instead he just squeezed his friend's shoulder and the two went their separate ways.
Beast Boy ended up pacing around the roof and watching the sun set, ignoring the cold that started to settle in around him. He wanted to do a hundred impossible things all at once, and it was making him anxious that he couldn't.
He tried to breathe calmly; tried to watch the sky and find solace in the swirling colors of red and orange and purple and pink.
He tried to stay rooted in his spot and not seek out Raven like he so desperately wanted to.
A small run-in with Starfire told him exactly where to find her. She was tucked away in her new safe room, buried now in one of the underground levels and reinforced tenfold. The entire level was made just for her, with a high security foyer that led into the closed off vaulted safe room itself, and a warning system in the elevators to indicate when it was in use. There was even a redesigned viewing window with blast doors installed over every wall, and each member of the team had a personal access code to enter.
But instead of opting for a conversation through bulletproof glass, Gar punched his code into the intercom right outside the safe room doors. He waited until the red light flicked to green and Raven's monotone voice came over the speaker.
"Who is it?"
"Raven? It's Bea-Garfield. It's Garfield."
"Did you need something?" She sounded just the slightest bit out of breath, and Gar fleetingly wondered what she had been doing. "I was releasing my soul self," she said through the speaker, and he blinked at her unprecedented answer.
"Did you…." He shook his head, the hairs on the nape of his neck standing on end. "Did you just read my mind?"
There was a momentary pause from the speaker, and then a weary sigh crackled through. "My apologies," she said in a low and tired voice. "I thought you had spoken out loud." There was a hint of hesitation in her tone that didn't match the fiery spirit he had seen on the rooftop, and it made him worry.
"That's all right-,"
"No," she said immediately. "It's not."
An awkward pause.
"Would you mind opening the doors?" he asked. She hesitated before offering her unsure drawl.
"Is there an emergency?"
"Oh, uh no. I just...I wanted to, um, talk. And I don't want to do it over an intercom." He was sure he'd have to argue his point further, to convince and persuade her, but to his surprise there was the beeping sounds of a code and then the blast doors released, pulling back with an airy hiss. Raven came striding out looking a little less put together, but still presentable in her blouse and jeans. "I honestly thought that would take more effort," he admitted. She came up next to him and punched in the shut down sequence for the safe room. Everything started to power down and with it Raven seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.
"I was finished with what I needed to do," she said plainly, turning back to him. "And I feel bad."
"Listening to your thoughts."
"My powers are stronger than what I remember them to be," she told him bluntly. "Which is to be expected. I'm still discovering how much I have grown."
"And how's that working out for you?"
She looked at him and he returned her gaze, and when she didn't respond he threw up his hands in quiet surrender.
"What is it that you wanted to talk about?" she asked. Gar's face twisted in awkward contemplation, and he looked at their surroundings to distract from the fact that he wasn't quite sure why he was there in the first place.
"Did you want to go somewhere else first?" he offered, rocking back on his heels and shrugging. "And not stand in the middle of the basement level? Or, I don't know, have you eaten yet? Maybe we could, you know, head out to the city. If you're not busy, or whatever." She watched him fidget frantically in his own skin, and he wondered if she thought he was having a fit.
"Why?" she asked, although it didn't sound as rude as if could have been. If anything she sounded genuinely curious. He just shrugged again, literally running off adrenaline without any clue as to why he insisted on speaking.
"I don't know."
The lights suddenly flickered throughout the entire basement, and Raven immediately crossed her arms and held her breath until they steadied again.
"Sorry. That was unintentional," she huffed quietly, but Gar shook his head.
"You don't have to apologize for every little slip up. It's fine."
"You said so yourself that you're still getting used to these powers. It's no big deal."
"Isn't it?" she asked, and he was struck by her tone.
"No," he said slowly, hoping to emphasize the point. "It's not."
She stared at the floor. "I disagree."
She was being hard on herself, placing even more pressure where there was already too much. It was a characteristic that had been obvious in Raven since day one, and no amount of memory alteration would take that away. She could be such a perfectionists sometimes.
He watched her brow furrow and the muscles in her cheek tightened. Gar raised an eyebrow.
"It's not a bad thing," he started to say, and her shoulders tensed. "Perfectionism can be an asset. Just look at Robin." She sucked in a deep breath and glanced up at him, her stern expression just barely masking an odd look of panic. Garfield tried to offer her a smile, although he was sure it came off as an apologetic grimace. "My turn to say sorry," he said. "I was just testing. You heard what I was thinking again, didn't you?"
"Cyborg's drug works much better than I had ever thought possible," she said lowly. "But right now it doesn't seem to be doing me any favors."
"Am I just a really loud thinker?"
"I am not intentionally invading your mind. It's just..."
"That I'm a really loud thinker."
"You're making me nervous." The lights flickered again, less obviously than before, but neither one of them moved. Gar just stared down at Raven. Raven dropped her eyes back to the floor. "Please stop staring," she said. He blushed, his mind a stunned, blank canvas.
"Sorry." He abruptly looked away.
They stood together in that uncomfortable silence for quite some time, neither of them knowing what to do. Gar tried to say something at least three times, but he kept faltering on his first words, so he'd revert back to silence again.
"What did you want to talk about?" she asked again. He rubbed the back of his neck in nervous habit, wondering which topic he could address that would justify their meeting.
Because honestly, he had just wanted to see her.
Was that too much too soon? Could he say it without putting too much into the words? Could he say it without triggering too much from her? She had admitted that she was nervous, and he wasn't sure if he was allowed to be happy about that. Could he call attention to it? Was he even allowed? Was it part of the plan? Or was it dipping too deeply into the past?
In front of him Raven's frown deepened and she stepped back, shaking her head. "Say something," she told him. "The air is getting thick with everything you're holding in."
"I don't want to-,"
"Say the wrong thing?"
"No. Yes. Sort of."
Her countenance darkened. "Does it have to do with the past again?"
It always did.
"No," he said, even when he knew there was no point in lying to her. He groaned in a fairly undignified manner. "Maybe I shouldn't have come down here."
"Maybe you shouldn't have."
He couldn't even disguise the disappointment he felt at her response. "Sorry."
"Garfield." She rubbed at her arms despite the basement being anything but cold. "I don't know why you're apologizing."
"Neither do I." But he did. He was apologizing for not being better at this.
He threw her a look, even if she didn't see. "I feel like you're not even trying to stay out of my head anymore."
She sighed, and there was almost-almost-almost a smile on her face. "You're just a really loud thinker." She met his eyes and stayed quiet. He met her eyes, stunned.
Had she just tried to make a joke?
The pause that followed was heavy with implication.
"It seemed a clever thing to say," she mumbled, and shrugged. When Gar didn't respond she coughed into her hand. "Yes," she said clearly, blandly. Embarrassed. "I was trying to make a joke."
The lights flickered for a third time.
"I miss playing chess," he blurted out. He hadn't meant to say anything more; to ruin that minuscule moment of not-quite levity that had suddenly and instantaneously rose up between them. But hearing that almost-joke and seeing that almost-smile had pushed him into a place of familiarity that only Rae could do. She blinked at him, not at all following his train of thought.
"Then you should play chess."
"No, that's not... I meant, I miss playing chess with you."
"Did we play chess?" she asked. He nodded.
"You taught me a long time ago, and we used to sit by the second window in the main room and play. And I miss it. I don't know how that fits in with lessons and training and fun safe room activities, but I thought...that I could ask."
She frowned. "You want to play a game of chess. With me." It wasn't a question. He sighed.
Why was he so awkward?
"Yeah?" he replied. "Let's play a game of chess. That's totally normal and not at all completely random."
"You are aware that you're speaking out loud?"
He shoved his hands into his pockets, hoping that the action would quiet the frantic way he was flexing his fingers. "I know this has all been weird," he started, and he wasn't entirely sure what was going to come spilling out of his mouth. "And it's really complicated and hard to deal with and strange. For you. And us. And you've got this mountain of things in front of you that you have to work through."
"I'm not the only one who has to work through things," she interjected. Gar nodded, although it might have been just a bit over-enthusiastic.
"Exactly!" He forced himself to quickly calm down. "This is a team effort thing, and I know we have to give you time and space, but..." He exhaled, frowned. His brow furrowed. Stared at her and tapped his foot nervously. "It feels weird, not being able to go to you."
He hadn't even known that such a concept had been bugging him, but now that it was out he realized it had been the core of why he felt so helpless with their current distance.
"Because you're the one I went to. Because I liked being around you. Because Cyborg and Starfire and even Robin liked being around you for the same reason. You make things feel, calm. Just by being around. And even if I was annoying you never made it so I wasn't welcome." He grimaced, getting upset for no clear reason at all. "So that's just what I did. I'm used to being around you, and now I'm just not."
Maybe it was too much, but it was nothing in comparison to everything that they had before. And maybe it was too revealing, but walking the line between what he could and couldn't say was getting hard.
But maybe she would just see the game of chess and overlook all the annoying implications that his words carried. Maybe she would take the game of chess with a grain of salt and understand that, in all truth, that was all he wanted. Even if it was just for an hour, even if it was just for tonight, and even if it never happened again, he wanted to at least do this with her. Because it was something that had been theirs long before there had been complications of romance. Something that would keep her close where he could just enjoy being near her without any sort of expectation. Something that could be something without actually being anything, even if that notion didn't make any logical sense at all.
She rubbed at her temple and took another step back. "This sounds like things that have to do with the past," she told him. "You, above everyone else, have been adamant about not going there."
"I know," he grumbled. "I don't know what's happening anymore. I don't know what I can or can't say, and it's turning me into a complete idiot. But this is the truth, Rae. I just...I miss playing chess. With you."
Like a broken record.
"You hold your distance," she told him. Expressionless in her face, but pointedly in her tone. "I have never denied your presence."
He rubbed at his face aggressively, because she wasn't wrong. "Yeah," he grumbled. "Yeah, I know." His hand fell to his side. "I admitted that I don't know what's happening anymore. I'm just kind of running blindly right now."
She blinked up at him. "I would need to see Cyborg," she said nonchalantly, almost instantly. He didn't understand the connection, but he nodded dumbly.
She turned away, towards the elevator. "It would be a day early, but I require my second dosage of his serum."
"Because I think it would be cheating. If I could hear your moves before you made them."
She started to walk away, and it took a full minute before comprehension dawned on his face and he moved to join her.
"Seriously?" he asked, his disbelief catching up with his surprise. "Why?" She met his gaze and offered nothing in her own.
"I have told you before," she said clearly. "Because when it comes to you, I don't seem to mind."
Which wasn't entirely the truth when it came to Garfield.
Not that she minded having him around. But there was a curiosity that he sparked that the others didn't.
She wasn't sure if it was familiarity, since she was struggling with that level of recognition. And she wasn't sure if it was simple interest, because she found the rest of the Titans to be just as much of a mystery.
Perhaps, then, it really was in the way he looked at her.
"Pardon the intrusion."
Cyborg turned away from his computer, a look of clear surprise on his face. "Raven," he said out loud, and then glanced at the screen on his arm. "We don't have an appointment scheduled."
"I know," she said quietly, hovering just in the doorway of the infirmary. She hated the place. Hated how closely it resembled a hospital room. She didn't know why, but she hated the idea of being in a hospital room. "But I had a request. If you're not busy."
"Not at all," he said, turning his chair completely around. "What's up?"
He looked directly at her, gave her his full attention like he always tried to do. She stared back, trying to understand why his gaze-although radiating the same mixture of hope of sadness that he always offered her-wasn't anywhere near as prominent as Garfield's.
"My powers are..." She trailed off, not wanting to sound as if she were losing control. "They're strong. I was hoping you could help me. With the serum." She felt his confusion and shock. Heard a hundred of his inner voices talking all at once. Cyborg had more than most people, which she figured was due to his genius. She had thought a few times over the weeks that his inner voices would have been vastly interesting...if they weren't always laden with regret.
"I thought you didn't like the serum," he posed, even as he wheeled his chair across the room to his medicine cabinet. She laid a hand on the doorway, closing her eyes and focusing on the voice he was speaking with instead of the ones hovering through the air.
"I don't," she admitted. "But it works. And I could use the assistance."
With an overly concentrated expression, Cyborg prepared a syringe and patted the bed closest to the door. She forced herself to walk straight for it, rolling up her sleeve and settling down before her nerves got the better of her. She felt him watching her move; already knew that he was running a surface scan on her biometrics just for good measure.
Was that the difference? That he looked with the eyes of a medic? So then, what did Garfield look with?
"Have you eaten today?" he asked, tying off her arm. She shook her head.
"No, but I will. And this isn't anything more than a request. I would like radio silence if I want to be around people."
Hope washed over her from his direction. It always happened anytime she showed interest in the team beyond what was expected. It came from all of them and it would come swiftly and completely. They held a lot of hope for her. She wasn't sure how she felt about it.
"Quality time?" he asked, pressing the needle in. She breathed. The serum seeped through, mixing into her blood, into her body. Traveling through her arm. So cold it felt hot.
"Chess," she sighed, letting him press gauze into her arm as he loosened the tourniquet. "With Garfield."
Hope again. But something else came with it. Worry. And something heavier. She hoped the serum would work faster.
"Seriously?" he asked. She stared at him. "Why?"
"He asked me the same thing," she told him. "Funny." Although she didn't feel the need to laugh.
"It's just, it's a surprise."
"To play chess?" She watched him clean up and systematically wheel back to his computer to log everything in. "I was told that we used to play often."
"Yeah. You did."
Quiet. The serum must have finally kicked in.
"Is it another part of my past that I'm not supposed to know about?"
"No, no," he said immediately, whipping back around. "It's, um...it's fine. It should be fine. No, it really is fine. Like I said, I'm just surprised." He must have heard the franticness in his own tone and pulled in a deep breath. He shook his head. Tapped on his red eye. Jiggled his foot. He had a lot of nervous habits. Just like Garfield. "When you first taught him Gar didn't have patience for it. You could beat him in six moves. But then he'd keep bugging you to play so he could get better. After a while it just became a thing, seeing you two play chess together."
Even if the serum hadn't worked, Raven could hear the hesitation when he said the word 'together'. Like it had been a mistake to say out loud.
She wanted to ask more questions, but Cyborg was having a conversation without making her feel guilty with every word. A rare occurrence. She didn't want to squander it.
"Thank you," she said, tenderly touching her arm even if the small prick had already healed itself. Cyborg nodded, his expression sincere.
"And I would like you to know...that I am grateful," she added. "I have many doubts concerning this rehabilitation and my upcoming tests; but for your part in it, I am grateful." Because she was. Despite his inability to quell the undertones of a depression, or his unintentional moments of undiluted regret, she could clearly see that he was doing everything in his power to make things run as smoothly as possible. She knew it by the hours he spent logging every minute detail into his computers, or his vigilance in ensuring that her physical and mental health remain strong and in tact. "Your science is interesting. I admire your intellect."
His expression softened considerably, and for a moment she wondered if perhaps he might cry. She found herself thinking of Garfield's overly animated face, and how in one moment he could look choked up, but the next contort his expression into something so confusing that it was almost comical.
It was curious, how superheroes such as Cyborg and Garfield could do such remarkable things, yet get glassy-eyed at the most mundane and sentimental moments.
And then she realized that she'd been thinking about Garfield an awful lot for not being in his presence.
"Thanks," Cyborg said, drawing her from her inner monologue. "Thank you. Raven." He smiled, and she nodded deeply in acknowledgement, the same way she used to do with the monks of Azarath. A gesture that she used when she held great respect for a person.
"You should go to the main room as well," Raven suggested, hoping her raspy drawl sounded somewhat kind. "Eat. I'm not the only one who needs to."
He blinked at her, his expression changing.
She felt accomplished.
"Maybe I will."
"Good." She rose from the bed, started to head out the door, but a squeak from his chair and a clearing of his throat made her turn back around. "Something else?" she asked. He scratched at his chin, somewhat nervous.
"Tomorrow I have to head to S.T.A.R Labs for consultation work. There's a new facility opening up on the outskirts of town. It's pretty high-class, even for them." He shrugged. "You should come."
She blinked. Once. Then twice. "Did I go with you to your labs often?" she asked quietly. "Before?"
Cyborg smiled, and she couldn't help but think that it was an awfully sweet smile. "No, actually. This if the first time I've invited one of the team. For fun."
Something that didn't belong to the old Raven.
Something that he was offering to her. Willingly. With no obligation of reworking a memory.
She smiled back; not nearly as prominent as his, but enough. She couldn't help it. She was content. "I would like that," she said.
If Garfield had a choice, he would have wanted that first game of chess to be the beginning.
The beginning of their love story.
Their real love story.
He didn't think about it when it was happening, but later on, when he was playing the night over and over in his mind while lying in bed. He tried his best not to romanticize it, to keep it as close to real as he could. Because it had been so simple yet so new. A second first meeting.
Or, more accurately, their third.
When they sat across from each other they did so in tentative silence, and it wasn't until he had moved his first pawn did she exhale slowly and relax into her seat. She started off slow and calculated, and at first Gar was able to enjoy the peace of the game. But the familiar rhythm of divide and conquer finally seeped back into her, and soon they were locked in a neck and neck battle of strategy.
The first game ended with Cyborg walking in on a rather frustrated Beast Boy pacing the room while a quiet Raven calmly-and smugly-repositioned the chess pieces. His first loss had been so dissatisfying that he had challenged her to a rematch without second thought, and she had accepted without hesitation.
By their third game Cyborg had finished cooking a grand meal for dinner, and by the end of their fourth game Robin, Speedy, Starfire, and Aqualad had filled the free space of the main room.
Conversation and the subtle television underscored the evening, but Raven remained in the corner of the room with Beast Boy, playing game after game after game. He asked her if she wanted to join the others at one point, but she only said 'why' as she stared pointedly at her bishop in its standstill with his rook.
He had smiled at her, only then realizing that they had spent nearly three hours enjoying themselves so naturally across a small table. All the awkward nerves had disappeared when she had first unabashedly taken his knight, and he had forgotten to care about whether or not he was acting too weird or too awkward.
It was after her eighth consecutive victory that she finally said she was tired, and she bade a monotone goodnight to everyone before striding quietly from the room. Garfield had watched her leave, feeling both giddy and calm at the same time.
A picturesque-and unexpected-beginning of a love story.
If he had a choice in the matter.