A Game of Chance?

by Kalleah [Reviews - 6]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Fluff, General

Author's Notes:
I've had this one completed for a while, but I'm posting it in particular honor of misssara11's birthday today as she is Jacob's biggest fan. We will return to normally scheduled programming (namely, the next chapter of The Hidden Well) shortly.

As Rose stepped out of the TARDIS, the wind swirled dry, rattling leaves into columns of red, yellow, and brown all around her. She pushed her hair back out of her face and took a look around. The familiar landscape of the monastery had changed in her absence from the deep, thick greens of summer to the warm shades of autumn. The TARDIS now stood on her accustomed landing space atop a gentle hill overlooking the bend of the river below.

She swung her arms around in a wide circle and let her head fall back as she spun, allowing herself to fall utterly into the moment of joy.

Behind her, the Doctor emerged, carrying a box under his arm. He cocked an eyebrow at her spinning. "Dizzy?" he asked with an approving brightness in his eyes.

"It's a natural high," she laughed back at him, and seized the arm that wasn't holding the mysterious box. He hadn't let her peek, although she had wheedled and flirted well past the point when he normally gave in and just did what she wanted.

They walked together through the towering oaks and slight camellias to the stone table, where Jacob waited for them with the makings for tea.

"You always know when we get here," said Rose, letting the Doctor's arm fall and giving the elderly monk a fond hug. "Can't we ever surprise you?"

He held her upper arms for a moment after she let go and studied her up and down. "You look well, Rose." He smiled. "I can hear the TARDIS, and you always seem to come just when I'm tending camellias. Talk to the Doctor about timing."

The Doctor put his box down on the bench. "Hello, Jacob. Lovely to see you, too."

"And you as well. Here, sit down. We'll have tea."

Tea at the stone table was a long-standing ritual with the three of them. Jacob had a never-ending supply of excellent tea, but never anything to accompany it. However, the Doctor had come prepared this time; he produced a box of lemon-scented biscuits from some bottomless coat pocket and passed them around.

Jacob, to Rose's amusement, took a single biscuit and nibbled on it as delicately as a rather stout, bald man could be said to nibble. His puffy beard waggled in the air as he chewed. She knew he occasionally afforded himself such small luxuries despite his ascetic lifestyle. For one, the Doctor supplied him with Refallan tobacco, which Rose had seen him pack into a dark wooden pipe but never smoke. Tea, apparently, was not a luxury.

They talked of small things as they ate and drank. Jacob spoke of the migration of birds from the monastery, headed for their winter grounds. Rose told him of the bustling markets of Setwa Prime with their lithe, yellow-skinned vendors. The Doctor listened to them both, uncharacteristically silent, and smiled.

At last, they lapsed into silence, and the Doctor interjected. "I brought you a present, Jacob."

The monk's surprise was palpable. "Not a medical gadget, I presume?"

"Nothing medical. I told you, after your last checkup, you're hale as a horse. I'll check you again in about three months. This is purely recreational." He stood up and handed the box over. "Go on, then." He looked more excited than Jacob did, in truth.

Jacob eyed the box with less suspicion than Rose might in his case. A well-guarded present from the Doctor? It might spontaneously combust, or have dozens of flailing arms, or cause one's skin to suddenly change colours. Her imagination raced.

What the box contained was quite simple, in fact. Jacob drew out a lined game board and a leather pouch of black and white stones. The board itself was made of something that looked like marble, but was obviously much less heavy from the ease with which he lifted it. The stones scattered the light around like prisms, despite their opacity.

Rose scooted their teacups and saucers aside so Jacob could set the board down. "What is it?" she asked.

"Go," answered Jacob and the Doctor at the same time.

They laughed, and Jacob gestured for the other man to continue, and he happily did. "Go. It's a tactical game. You surround your opponent's pieces with yours and play until someone wins or until neither player can make a move to affect someone's territory."

Rose had heard of it, vaguely, somewhere, but had never played. "Like draughts?"

"Considerably more complex," said Jacob.

"You could say that," added the Doctor. "There are more variations of Go than there are atoms in this universe. Or at least, that's what they say." He winked dramatically.

"Ah," said Jacob with relish. "Are you bringing me a game you can't cheat at?"

"I do not cheat at draughts," said the Doctor primly, the lines at the corners of his eyes tightening perceptibly. "We have discussed this several times. It is not my fault that you happen to favour a game with a rather simple algorithm."

"He can probably cheat at Go, too," added Rose, to which he gave her a withering look. He did hate it when they ganged up on him.

"I do not cheat —" he began, and stopped when his companions began to laugh. "It is not cheating to be very good at something. Are you going to say thank you or not?"

"It's a lovely gift," said Jacob warmly. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," said the Doctor, much mollified. He ate another biscuit and looked first at Rose, then at Jacob. "So who wants the first game?"