A Quiet Game

Shiny! Tales from the Verse -- you gotta check this out if you're a Browncoat. Podcast and readable.
The set had been a gift to Inara from one of her many enamored clients. It was carved from white alabaster and black onyx and inlaid with bits of lapis and malachite. It wasn't quite gaudy, but it certainly wasn't within the boundaries of Inara's exquisite taste. So, she left it in the lounge for the others to play with. Wash had been the first to discover it. That is to say, he had arranged a mock battle where the pawns from both sides had begun a revolution and were now eliminating the aristocracy, piece by piece.

“No, no, I beg you,” he proclaimed in a falsetto and making the black queen do a little panicked dance as both white and black pawns closed in around her, “I'll be a good citizen! I'll be bourgeois! We shall all eat cake! I'll bake it!”

“To the guillotines!” one of the white pawns declared with Wash's snapping teeth and dire snarl. “We'll wash the paving stones with her blue blood!”

It was as the pawns had been lined up like pallbearers to take the queen's remains off the board and start in on the next piece that Simon entered the lounge. His mind was obviously on something else, but he paused as a rook with delusions of Robespierre began to betray his fellow pieces.

“So,” Simon began, not quite sure what to say, “have you ever played chess?”

Wash looked up with mild curiosity. “I thought that's what I was doing.”

“There are more ... traditional approaches to it.”

“Really,” Wash tilted his head to one side, considering the matter. “I don't suppose you're well acquainted with these traditions.”

“Fairly,” Simon answered, tipping the black queen back into a standing position. “I haven't played in a while. It's hard to remain enthusiastic about the game when your six year old little sister can checkmate you in fewer than thirty moves.”

“Not really a problem I have much experience with,” Wash commiserated. “But in the spirit of divine retribution, I'll let you wale on me for a bit.”

Simon gave one of his rare, shy smiles. “That's kind of you.”

“You just have to remind me how the horsey piece moves.”

Simon arranged the pieces on the board, rescuing one bishop from a horde of carved apostates.
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