"Battle of Minds"
"Do they do this a lot?"
"To which "this" are you referring, DanielJackson?"
"This. Sneaking into the kitchen, twenty minutes into the movie, to play chess."
"It occurs quite frequently when the film we are watching is my choice," Teal'c said, rummaging for the last remaining popcorn on the bottom of the bowl he shared with Cassie."Major Carter and Colonel O'Neill find science-fiction dull."
"Yeah, but it's gotta be more fun than... chess."
"You're not a chess player, are you?" Cassie spoke for the first time since the movie started.
"Amnesia sucks!" Daniel said to himself for the 47th time that week. But he was pretty sure chess was not on his hobby list.
"No... I don't think I am."
"See... chess isn't like tennis or pool or... poker..."
"You play poker?"
Teal'c and Cassie gave him the look. The one that reminded him of his ninth grade chemistry teacher. Strangest thing, that selective memory of his...
"Right... You grew up around Jack. What was I thinking?!"
"Chess is a battle of minds," Cassie went on. "And you never really defeat your opponent. Your strategy might be better at times or you might guess his next moves in a game but it doesn't matter how good you are... you have to stay sharp at all times. When you find that one mind that really challenges you and pushed your limits... it's like all your previous opponents didn't even exist. You're hooked. You just wanna keep challenging him and yourself, over and over again..."
They watched her in silence for a couple of moments.
"That is a most inspired description, Cassandra."
"So... Jack and Sam are... chess soul mates?"
"Yeah, kinda like that."
It was good to see her smiling again. It was Sam who had spent more time with her since Janet's death and Daniel couldn't shake off the feeling of uneasiness and ... guilt whenever he was around Cassie. He didn't remember... and he felt he should. He shifted his attention to Teal'c, who couldn't take his eyes off the on-screen melodrama.
"Battle of minds, huh?... you so owe me ten bucks."
"I would not draw such a hasty conclusion, Dr.Jackson..."
He loved that game. One of the best things about chess was that he could unashamedly stare into his major's gorgeous eyes, no matter who was in the room, pretending he was trying to decipher her game plan. Not that he really needed it to kick her ass. She was the genius, but that usually worked against her.
Sam Carter was anything but easy to beat. Their games were always long, hard-fought battles and she was by far his best opponent since his grandfather had taught him the game. One misstep, one moment of relaxation on his part and the board would be hers... Most times, she would be in control right up to the last minute when he would shatter her mathematically-built strategy with one swift, unexpected move. But he loved watching that brilliant mind of hers at work, the intensity of her thought process mirrored on her face... The look in her eyes when she was winning was even more endearing and, sometimes, he would be tempted to let her win just so that he could see that beaming victory smile. He respected her capabilities too much to give in.
"Your move, Colonel," she said quietly, barely noticing Cassie behind him.
"She's just messing with your head," Cassie warned Jack, trying to keep the freshly-refilled bowl out of his grabbing range.
"I know. That's why it isn't working."
Sam glared at them.
"So, what did we miss?" she asked. " Wait, don't tell me! Corbin Bensen kicks major Thor-lookalike ass, thus saving the world, and that tart throws herself at his feet."
"Actually, *she* saves *him* but runs off with the ship's pilot, Groover."
"Groover?!" Jack choked on the handful of popcorn he'd finally managed to steal.
"The guy's got the hottest wheels in the galaxy... Chicks dig flyboys."
They watched Cassie disappear into the living room as Jack announced in a booming voice:
"That's it! I don't ever wanna see you near the base again!"
He was about to break their unwritten rule about playing and talking, two activities which had become mutually exclusive over the years. But this was too important...
"How's she doing?"
"Some days are better than others," Sam sighed. "I just wish I could tell her it's all gonna go away in time, that she's going to miss her less... But it never goes away."
Her hand was only inches away... So he broke another rule, the neutrality of chess, the safe haven of the black and white world where the insanity of their lives had no bearing.
"She's a very strong kid," he said, pleasantly surprised by the fact that she didn't pull her hand back. "And she's lucky to have you."
"She's lucky to have all of us." The shadow of a smile reached her eyes. "Though we're a bunch of weirdos to have for a family."
They were not OK yet. It was still too soon. But they had each other and they would be OK... Both of them. He retreated his hand to return to their game and to their silence.
"You gotta stop looking for the algorithm, Carter. This isn't about math."
"EVERYTHING is about math," she replied, sinking into the couch, next to Cassie, while Jack sat on the floor. "I just haven't been able to figure out your patterns lately."
Daniel looked crushed, the look on his face half-confused, half-accusing.
"He usually does." Cassie bit her lip. "No offense..."
"None taken, sweetie" Sam smiled reassuringly. "It's only a matter of days now. Oh, and... Daniel, for your information, he's kicked your butt more than a few times."
Daniel blinked. He was learning new things about himself every day."
The Jaffa was relentless.
"I believe you are in debt to me, Daniel," he announced in that serious-as-a-heart-attack voice of his, one large palm outstretched towards the disgruntled archaeologist.
Jack paraded what looked suspiciously like a smug grin.
"Thank you, my friend. My *true* friend."
Daniel foraged through his pockets, silently mumbling:
"Yep... amnesia sucks!"