“Why, Uncle, you seem to be losing,” Zeke noted, a grin on his face, his tension gone now that the subject had passed.
“Shut up, half-blood,” Cassius replied, waiting for Sam’s move.
Sam laughed as he moved his queen – foolishly, Beth though – into what seemed a precarious situation.
Beth could see where Zeke got his easy smile from. Sam had the sort of natural humour that she herself had looked for in boyfriends as little as six months ago. Of course, Sam wasn’t, and would never be, boyfriend material, for many reasons that she didn’t feel she needed to list.
Cassius grinned at the situation on the chess board and moved his rook to take Sam’s queen. He sat back in his chair, smiling happily, pleased with himself.
Sam shook his head slightly. “Oh, my old friend, you’re getting clumsy.”
He leant forward and moved his bishop into the space to the one the rook had occupied.
“Checkmate,” Sam stated, his tone almost wistful. He sat back and folded his hands over his stomach.
“What? No! Damn you, angel,” Cassius muttered, angry with himself.
“And that’s one of the many reasons I was asked to step down,” Sam said to himself.
“What do you mean?”
Looking up at her, he seemed surprised that she’d heard him. “I was too willing to sacrifice things, even for a greater cause.”
“What about the other reasons?”
“I’m too arrogant apparently. I got accused of being conceited once. By a... I don’t even remember what. Boastful, impulsive, rude, pessimistic, impatient, cynical, there were a lot of words they used. Untidy as well, they said. Although that’s because I shared a bunk with Az. Basically she just didn’t like me.”
“None of them liked you, Sam,” Cassius commented as he reset the board.
“Feandre did,” he replied defensively.
“Only because the two of you had lots in common.”
“There were other reasons too,” Sam grinned.
“And because you’re not picky.”
“Not the one I was thinking of but true enough,” he laughed, his eyes shining sadly.
“Another game?” Cassius asked.
“If you wish,” Sam shrugged. “I’ve got nowhere else to be.”
“You start,” Cassius said.
Sam was wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt this time, revealing black swirling patterns around his forearms, with writing in them, in some sort of ancient language or code that Beth didn’t recognise at all. They disappeared underneath his sleeves.
“Cassius was telling me earlier that you’ve been showing signs of a familiar?” Sam asked, looked over at Zeke as he moved his first knight over his pawns.
A what? A familiar? What the hell was that?
Zeke sighed. “Apparently so, yeah.”
“If you really don’t want Maverick taking you – which I don’t advise anyway; his magic is awful – Storm could.”
“What? Really?” Zeke asked hopefully
“Yeah, it’s horrific. There was this one time—”
“No, I mean about Storm taking me.”
“If you ask him nicely, I don’t see why he wouldn’t.”