Fic: Backward Pawn Magneto/Rogue, PG13
Fandom: Xmen Movie!Verse
Word count: 4805
Summary: Their chess games end in a stalemate because she only knows how to play like he does, and she doesn't understand the game.
AN: Thanks to jazzypom — for beta'ing this one for me. If the chess movements that begin the sections don't make sense sequentially, then I claim artistic license. *G* I wrote this for my friend srichard — 's birthday. Hope you enjoy it!
Backward Pawn: A pawn that has no pawns of it's own color on adjacent files to protect it from attack.
Chess problems demand from the composer the same virtues that characterize all worthwile art: originality, invention, conciseness, harmony, complexity, and splendid insincerity.--Vladimir Nabokov
King’s Rook's pawn to A4.
He makes her play chess with him every night, though it is rather frustrating because neither of them ever wins.
She plays with an admirably ruthless strategy to be sure, but she does not know how to play chess beyond that.
From touching him she knows only how he plays chess, and it is his strategy that he dance across the youthful features of her face as she stares at the board, grasping at the finely-made chess pieces and moving them with frantic, ruthless clumsiness.
“You need a more inspiring strategy,” he told her, sipping his vodka and watching her with hooded eyes.
In two more moves they would be at a stalemate. She knew it and rather suspected he did, as well.
“Maybe you do,” she replied pertly, studying the complex arrangement of figurines before her.
“This is my strategy, not yours,” he reminded her in a stern voice.
Tendrils of frustration were nipping at her nerves as he stared at her; she hated this feeling, of being his accidental mirror-image.
“You were meant to be the savior of all mutant-kind, and you can’t even win a game of chess,” he snapped at her, a hint of anger beneath his words that frightened her.
“I don’t know how to play,” she answered back, eyes lowered. She didn’t want to lose again, because really, that is what playing to a stalemate was, wasn’t it? She didn’t like to lose. Especially not to him.
“A failing, to be sure,” he drawled, and it made her eyes narrow and her cheeks flush. Perhaps that was the Wolverine, that quick slide into anger, or the teenaged boys she’d touched and thus absorbed, or perhaps it was just her.
She knew the intricacies of his chess strategies, but had no ability to understand the why behind them. Somehow she knew this frustrated him; as if by understanding why he played chess the way he did she’d automatically embrace his ideology and join the brotherhood.
She’d been taken and brought here to his house, wherever it was, and his only reasoning was that he wanted to harness her powers, wanted her on his side, wanted her to join his Brotherhood or whatever it was he called it.
It bothered her that he had a nice study with warm leather chairs and a fireplace, but all the walls were made out of metal. She didn’t like being in the study with him at all, but because the vast silver expanse of his metal fortress was cold and foreboding, like a prison, the chess games were the only way to break up the monotony of her forced imprisonment.
Queen’s Rook to B5
She thinks about what he’s said and tries to read a book on chess she found in the library, but she doesn’t understand it and in the end it frustrates her, so she puts it away. It pleases her to set her glass of water on it, allowing rings to form on the slick glossy surface and distort the elaborately drawn chess piece gracing the cover.
She was restless around the enigmatic, cruel stranger who’d captured her, more so when he’d delivered her to her bedroom and locked her in for the night more than any other time of day. She measured the length of the room countless times in the early hours of the morning when she could not sleep. There was no window; the only source of light a small lamp on her bedside table. Everything was metal- cold and clinical- without any decoration there to soften the effect of gleaming stainless steel. At least the lack of natural light meant there were no shadows.
Only the ones in her head, at any rate.
His attempts to indoctrinate her had been subtle; stories the Professor had never told them, macabre fairytales at bedtime of horrors visited upon mutants. She knew what he was trying to do, and as much as she didn’t want to listen, the injustice of it all stirred her blood and sometimes she blamed all that on Logan.
Rogue knew very well what it was to suffer injustices so perhaps some of that immediate reaction was in fact herself. Flashes of aborted touches and cruel taunts flashed in her mind as she paced, panting in anger and dashing at helpless tears with the back of her hand. She felt a curious sympathy to those whose stories she was forced to listen.
“You don’t like these tales, do you?” He always had this amused smirk on his face that made her want to punch him; that she did blame on Logan. Wolverine liked to respond with violence before anything. Even questions.
“Don’t like you,” she’d responded, chin tilted, fierce pride written all over her face. “All your stories ain’t gonna change that.” She used her Southern vernacular because she knew it annoyed him, from the slight wince on his face and the tightening of the lines around his mouth.
Logan wasn’t the only one in her brain, after all. She’d gotten quite a dose of him on Liberty Island, though Charles had done something to her to keep that locked away, to keep him out of her mind.
Her words had displeased him; she saw anger on his face, stern lines and a flash of emotion in his otherwise blank eyes, a moment before he’d turned on his heel and left her alone, the click of his boots on the cold floor sounding like some demented imperial march as he strode towards the door. She’d smiled in pleased, childish pleasure until he stopped to speak, his back to her.
“We might never finish the chess game, but in this, I shall win,” he’d said. “I promise you. Good night, Marie.”
Her expression of glee vanished in her temper and she threw the chess book at the door that closed behind him. It landed with a resounding thud, and she left it there, scowling. It had been too confusing, anyway, and she’d never remembered a damned thing.
The anger and the terrible sense of loneliness was overwhelming, and she almost wanted to call after him, to have him come back, because at least he was someone…
Rage and fear washed over her, and it became too hard to stand, so she sank boneless to the floor. She fell like a chess piece knocked off a board, no purpose, no ability to right herself without someone else doing it for her.
Helplessly, she beat at the door with her gloved hands, screaming as loud as she could, finally letting all that rage out. She wished she had Colossus there, to absorb his strength, to tear the metal door off its hinges and hurt Magneto, badly, for locking her away in this metal prison.
She’d tear those metal restraints on her arms off, the ones he’d use to shackle her gloves to her, to control her. She’d wrap her hands around his wrist until she drained him of all his powers, and then she’d destroy this expanse of cold metal and go back to where she was safe, where people loved her…
She screamed all of this with her face pressed against the door, the coolness of the steel soothing her flushed face, though she did not notice it was a comfort at all.
At length she drifted off into sleep, in a huddled miserable pile on the floor, but when she was awoke, someone had put her in the bed and there was breakfast waiting for her.
He’d also sent a book up with her breakfast.
She nearly choked on her fury and doused the book with her orange juice until she realized it wasn’t new, that the book had been marked in and was obviously well-read. She saw the note scribbled on the front cover, addressed to her.
Prove me wrong.
King’s Bishop to A3
She tries very, very hard the next time they sit at the chessboard. She stares at the knight, reaches out towards the rook, caresses the bishop with curious eyes. What had the book said, again? Was she supposed to move the bishop and capture…what? Her eyes stray from her pieces to his, thinking, calculating, trying so very hard to remember.
He just watches her, silently, a knowing look on his face, and she knows she is going to lose.
“You telegraph your every move with your eyes,” he told her, easily capturing her rook. He was able to checkmate in less than ten minutes, when she played with her mind and not his.
Even her imitation of his usual strategy lasted longer than this.
“Just cause you win every time don’t mean I’m gonna give up,” she drawled, trying to impart to him that she was stubborn, that he wasn’t going to break her with a chess game alone.
He laughed with real amusement, and his smile made her face tighten in fear, caused her eyelashes to slowly lower and veil the shine of her eyes.
“Charles didn’t teach you well enough, did he?” She adamantly refused to discuss the Professor with him, so she remained silent. He stood up and left her there in the room, staring down at the chessboard. “Read chapter two, Marie, and pay attention.”
She didn’t answer him, and when he left, she scowled and knocked the pieces off the board to clatter on the floor.
After the flare of her anger came the fear, and she curled up on the sofa and cried.
Queen’s pawn to D4
She reads three chapters, practices moves in her head. In the shower she recites the strategy from the book, clearly and slowly, imagining the pieces moving over the metal board. She does as the book suggests and visualizes herself winning; but whenever she triumphs over him, even if it is just a game of chess, her mind shifts to thoughts of escape—as if the two are somehow linked.
They aren’t, but it seemed a metaphor to her. If she can win at chess, then perhaps she’ll find a way to escape. It is a flimsy hope, but it is all she has, and she clings rather desperately to it as they play.
She manages to last fifteen minutes before he wins.
She made an inarticulate sound of annoyed contempt as he checkmated her and stood up, leaving her alone in the room.
He’d not spoken a single word to her; he’d merely shaken his head and smirked as he captured her bishop.
That night, she cried herself to sleep for the first time in weeks, beating her gloved hands against the mattress of her bed.
Failure did not a comfort make.
King’s rook to B7
She doesn’t like it when he’s silent when they play. It makes her nervous, clumsy—she knocks pieces to the floor in her haste to move them, she twists her fingers together in a nervous gesture she despises, she chews on her bottom lip.
The patterns on the board don’t make sense, and all she can feel his quiet intensity as he stares at her, making her nervous, making her forget all her carefully planned moves.
If he would talk, at least she could answer, and her mind would clear, and maybe the patterns would make sense again.
She was full of false bravado when she could respond to his words, as if they were some shield she could hide behind in battle. At least when he argued with her, she felt connected on some level; that she was a part of things. When she could speak to him, with him, at least she felt engaged and active and more than a rook on a chess board that he could move where he saw fit.
Without those words, she had only his face to look at; terrifying and remote, eyes distant, a million miles away from where they sat in his study.
“You plannin’ on tryin’ to kill all of humanity again? You’re awfully quiet.” Her voice was petulant, like a chastened toddler, but it was what his silence wrought from her.
He’d not bothered to finish the game that time, merely stood up and left her there. On the way out of the room, in a gesture rather more theatrical than she expected from him, he overturned the chessboard with a careless wave of his hand.
It was the last time he played chess with her for weeks.
In her room, alone, she prayed. Not to be released, not to be rescued, but for him to come back. She was so lonely, and sometimes she thought the air in the room was slowly draining away, and that her metal prison would become her grave.
Queen’s bishop to G6
“I can’t beat you.” She was completely secure in this statement, voice imbued with a quiet certainty after hours of thinking on it.
She’d found her door opened when she awoke that morning, and she’d gone directly to his study, relieved to find him there.
He looked up from his book at that, a pleased smile on his face. Despite her relief that she was not destined to die alone, it made her want to scratch his eyes out.
The book he’d given her was clutched in her hands, fingers curled over the smooth surface and bending the pages. She’d stayed up all night reading it, and had finally arrived at the inevitable conclusion that it was impossible to win against him.
“Oh?” His voice was utterly indifferent, and he went back to his book, but she was not fooled. He was still pleased.
“This book is how you learned. I can tell. I know because of all the things you underlined, but also because I know the way you think. I can’t win if you expect me to learn from your book.” Her gaze was intense. “Do you understand? I can’t play like you. I need another one.”
“You think so?” He stood up and walked to his bookshelf, then tossed another book at her. “Read this.
She caught it, and stared at the title for a full minute in confusion.
“This ain’t a book about chess,” she informed him stupidly; looking up, she saw he was already gone.
She moved to curl up in the chair he had vacated and settled in to read, feeling obscurely comforted surrounded by the soft leather and the indefinable scent of him.
King’s Rook to H8
She reads the book—and this time, she manages to understand something.
At least, that is what she assumes when she successfully plays a game of chess with him without losing in ten minutes flat. The pieces arrange themselves on the board in a pattern that looks familiar—maybe she understands it, or maybe too much of him is leaking back out, but she thinks maybe it makes more sense, now.
He manages to win, but it takes a long time, and she plays with youthful vigor and a daring strategy entirely her own. It is not successful in the end, but she notices that he is forced to alter his strategy—for that, she knows well—just a bit in order to beat her.
She grins and her eyes sparkle, and she glows for him.
“Most impressive, Marie.” He smiled at her; a real smile, none of his usual terrifying benign coldness in the gesture. His eyes were no longer remote but sparked with something close to pride as he gazed at her.
She shrugged, and gave him a small, pleased smile. It curved across her lips reluctantly, as if she were gifting him with something precious she would rather not share. Or at least not with him. The warmth that surged through her was comforting, happiness she had not felt since he’d brought her here lingering in its wake.
“I’m never going to able to win, am I?” She cocked her head and picked up the rook, twirling it between her fingers with a curious sort of grace. She left prints from the gloves on the metal pieces, marking them as hers, since she was the only one who had to touch them to move them. “No matter what book I read, or how different I think I can play than you.”
“Not for a long time, if ever, I don’t think.” He smiled indulgently at her, as if he were pleased with this admission—a minute concession in their ongoing battle of wills.
“Then why do you look so pleased?” She steepled her hands together and rested her chin upon them, giving him a questioning look. “I still didn’t play good enough. I lost.”
“Because this time, Marie, you played.” He stood up and opened the door. “Time for bed.”
As she moved past him into the dark hallway, she wondered if he saw it, the slightest hint of fascination in her gaze as she looked up at him. She felt a tremor of unease as she paused for a moment next to where he stood, wondering why his brief praise made her feel so…adored. Precious. And why, God help her, she wanted to feel it again.
He walked with her in silence towards her bedroom. “Good night, Marie,” he said quietly, opening the door for her. Her head was bowed as she entered, the fall of her hair hiding her face from him. She paused for the briefest of moments before the words escaped her on a sigh, unintentional.
“Good night, Erik.”
The door closed softly behind her as she pulled it shut, waiting for him to lock it. He didn’t.
She fell asleep with a smile on her face.
Queen’s Bishop to D8.
She watched him all the time and she wondered if it was true, what he’d told her, all those stories.
She would have asked the others in the Brotherhood, but they were a scarce presence. She saw no other bedrooms or evidence anyone lived there, yet they were around occasionally, so she could only assume she was being held in his private quarters.
They no longer played chess, but Marie liked to read, and he let her sit on the sofa and do so as long as she did not bother him. His presence still terrified her but she found she peeked over the edge of her book to regard him, like he was a panther at a zoo, or a monster on the screen from some horror movie she’d watched between splayed fingers when she was a child.
A monster with a nice smile, a charming voice and dead eyes.
Sometimes she remembered things about him; that he didn’t like red wine, that he hated mushrooms, that English wasn’t his first language no matter how well he spoke it; there was the underlying hardness in his g’s when he said goodnight, a strange lilt when he spoke her name. There was a book in the library written in a language she didn’t know, but somehow, she knew it was a book of children’s fairytales and she knew it was his, one of the few things he kept from whenever it was he spoke that language. They were real fairytales, at that; stories of good-versus-evil with good coming out ahead, the pretty princess who married her prince in the end.
Not the ones he liked to whisper in the darkness of her bedroom as she tried to hide her tears in her pillow, the ones where inevitably, the heroine had to do terrible things to the prince just to survive.
What was it that made her so deliciously fascinated by him? She should not like him, he was the enemy. He had not physically harmed her, of course, but mentally he was more adept at torture than she would have ever have assumed anyone capable of being.
“Do you plan to return me to Charles?” She never called Charles “The Professor” anymore, and she found herself speaking of Mystique as Raven, Gambit as Remy… These were names she shouldn’t know, names they did not even use in the Brotherhood.
“No.” If it wouldn’t have been a cliché, she’d have though his voice was cold as steel. His mutant name was apt in more ways than one, it seemed.
She nodded. “I didn’t think so.” Her heart was pounding in her chest and she had to force herself to look away from him.
He walked her to her bedroom that night, wished her a pleasant good night, and Marie slept with the door open because she was tired of feeling so enclosed, like her bedroom was a tomb.
King’s Knight to A1
He had her in a thrall, and it was somewhat surprising, but then again, maybe it wasn’t. He was the only person she ever saw, and could she help it if she smiled at him when he came to escort her to the study?
She was fairly certain he’d never intended for it to happen, and it must change his strategy, because surely he wouldn’t have assumed she was capable of it. Oh, perhaps with Remy or even her former classmate St. John, but him? No doubt he had thought his ideology and the force of his mental presence would be enough, in time, to wear her down.
Charles—The Professor, she reminded herself sternly—had locked away that part of Erik that he’d left inside her mind after Liberty Island, but it was slowly and surely beginning to find it’s way back out. Sometimes in the quiet between them she knew what he was thinking.
She will join us, eventually.
He had been sure of it since Liberty Island, and would have taken her with Pyro that day at Alkali Lake if it hadn’t been for Bobby. She caught the faint trace of his disdain as he thought of him. Iceman? That is the best these children could come up with? Despicable.
She didn’t always like to know what he was thinking, because her mind made her a traitor. Will I do it, in the end?
Not even the lingering presence of the Wolverine in Marie’s mind was strong enough against him, though she should not really expect that it would offer much resistance at all. Oh, if she’d touched Charles, his plan would have been doomed from the start.
Because of this, however, she knew things about him and she knew he was uncomfortable with her knowing them.
Does he forget that occasionally in chess, one had to sacrifice things in order to win?
She didn’t want to think about that too much.
One night, he went to her room with the book she’d found in the library, written in his native language. “You know it’s a book of fairytales.” His usually cold voice has the slightest hint of warmth in it; his blue eyes are less wintry as he looks at her. Affection overlaying his usual determination to be in control.
“You don’t like mushrooms,” she’d whispered, trembling at the sound of his voice, at the suggestion of the intimate mental connection that they shared.
“Not at all.” He was sitting on the edge of her bed, arms crossed over his chest, and though it was not terribly cold in the room she was suddenly freezing. The light from her bedside lamp was cold and weak; the only thing full of her warmth and life was him.
She was sitting on her bed, leaning towards him without really meaning to, unconsciously seeking his warmth even as he repelled her.
She stared up at him, eyes wide with fear and that sick, strange fascination that grew steadily. “Or red wine.”
“No,” he said agreeably. “I don’t.”
Very gently, he reached out and touched the ends of her hair, lying on the soft green fabric of the shirt she slept in. She’d just showered and the strands were damp between his fingers. He rubbed them slowly, his hand resting lightly on her collarbones.
She made a small whimpering sound, her eyes glazed as she stared at him, unable to move even though her instincts screamed at her to scramble back up the bed. Her breath spilled out in quick, agitated little pants, and he drew his fingers lightly down her body. She arched her back, sobbing out, “Please…”
He withdrew his hand, but she saw the truth of it written all over his face, felt it echo in the dark place in her mind where he’d taken up residence.
He knew how to win the game.
She’d been waiting for it—if she was honest, somewhere, she even…wanted it. Her shame burned hot in her mind, but she found she could not stop thinking of it, the slight pressure of his fingers against her and the slow curl of fear and desire that followed in its wake.
She was seated on her bed, her knees drawn up to her chest as she sat on the bed. The white streak in her hair, his inadvertent legacy, fell over shower-damp skin and trembled in the periphery of her vision.
“You were expecting me.” It wasn’t a question, and while he sounded vaguely amused, she heard the leashed triumph in his voice and could find nothing within her but a terrifying sort of excitement; the kind she always felt before climbing into a rollercoaster.
She nodded, appearing resigned, though surely he noticed the flush on her skin; she thought wildly he could even hear the frantic beat of her heart.
He stared down at her, arms crossed over his chest. “Tell me how you knew.” There was such an implicit aura of command about him, it seemed rather silly to do anything except answer.
“I don’t know how to play chess, but I know how you play.” She handed him the copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince. “And I know how you think, a little.” Flashes in her mind; a machine, screams, a fear of heights he’d caused that she’d never truly gotten over.
A dangerous, shameful attraction she could not define nor deny, despite the fear.
He took the book from her and set it on the bedside table. His eyes glittered down at her, cold and triumphant. “You know why I’m here, then.”
She looked up at him through her hair, the gesture almost coy. “Checkmate,” she said softly.
He nodded. “Yes.” He sat down next to her on the bed. “Lie back.”
She obeyed him, even when he asked her stretch her arms above her head, even when he used his powers to restrain her. Fear made it so much better, somehow, as he dragged his fingers over her body, catching the soft fabric in his fingers and slowly inching up the shirt she wore.
“You can’t—” she said breathlessly, but he only laughed and placed a finger lightly against her lips.
“I worked out how.” He sounded smugly pleased; and then she felt bare fingers on her stomach, and she cried out and shuddered beneath his caress. Shivers ran up her body and there was a moment when she knew if he did not stop, the power would pull at him, but that did not happen.
Whatever he had done, he could successfully touch her bare skin with his own.
The last time she’d been this afraid, he’d been strapping her inside a machine and apologizing to her, intent upon her death. Now he was touching her, fingers moving over her hardened nipples, and she was arching up into his hands despite the fact she was so scared she was crying.
He leaned down and placed his lips very close to her ear, and she felt the ghostly caress of his breath against her skin as he spoke. “Checkmate.”
It was the most sinister sound she had ever heard; and desperately, she ached for him to speak again, just as her legs fell open and she allowed him to touch her, letting fear and desire ensnare her, unable to look to away from the cool chill of his blue-grey eyes.
The next day he takes the restraints from her wrists and she puts them in a drawer beside the little bed in her room. That night she sleeps in his bed, and in the morning, she sits down with the chessboard and Simple Checkmate and suddenly, it all seems to make sense.
It might not be the next time they played, or even the next, or even the thousandth—but one day, one day she’d win. Especially now, when it no longer mattered.