Summary: Watch out for the Queen of Hearts.
Bingo 2012 word: Friendship
Author's Note: In the original spirit of Sparktober, this one is season 1, silly, and with no kleenex warning whatsoever!
Elizabeth did actually come down to the mess hall at 2300 to start an argument, but this isn’t the one she planned.
“It takes the challenge out of the game.”
“It’s a different strategy, that’s all.”
“Less strategy, you mean.”
“Threes aren’t exactly a surfeit of wild cards.” Elizabeth shuffles and bridges one last time before holding out the deck. “Major, are you playing?”
Sheppard takes the deck, cuts it, and hands it back with a sulky expression that’s verging on adorable. “Why did I invite you again?”
Ford snickers. “I did warn you, sir. She cleaned house at a few SGC poker nights.”
Elizabeth smiles. “I think they were letting me win.” In truth, she only went to the SGC poker night once, and that was only because Daniel Jackson encouraged it as a way to soften the barrier between the military personnel and their new civilian commander. Things are different on Atlantis. She’s at odds with Major Sheppard much of the time – she actually came down here to grill him on exactly what he promised the Tangar without consulting her – but it feels like they’re all on the same team. A family.
Even if Sheppard is currently playing the role of the whining child. “I’m just saying, it confuses the odds. Too many things can become winning hands.”
She starts to deal for five-card draw. “Just for that, now threes and the Queen of Hearts are wild. Weir family house rules.” She shoots his dwindling pile of pistachio shells a cheeky grin. “Besides, you could use some winning hands.”
Markham, who’s the clear pistachio-shell victor so far, starts to laugh, and the others join in. She has more critical things she should be doing – getting some real sleep is high on the list – but this break is recharging her in other ways. She’ll have to thank Sheppard later for insisting she join the game.
She starts with a pair of kings and some fluff she’ll trade in, and watches the others as they bet. She’s still getting to know them, after only two months in the city. Markham’s poker face isn’t great, but his luck has been outstanding. She can tell Roscoe’s the most experienced player, and the best at keeping her hands and bets mysterious. Ford’s an open book, which she finds charming (and useful, when she needs a straight answer quickly about an offworld mission). Sheppard...
She still hasn’t quite figured him out. She suspects if she knew more about his childhood, his family, she’d understand him better, but she also suspects he’ll never tell her. He has an ability to look angry and hurt and cavalier all at the same time, and he seems used to people not bothering to look past the front he puts on. He’s fascinating – and annoying, when he promises the moon to total strangers or argues her position at every single turn – but she somehow knows bone-deep that she can trust his intentions, even if he’s still a bit of a puzzle.
At poker, however, he’s all hers. His cards might as well be transparent.
Markham folds early and starts to chatter. “So, is there a story behind the Weir house rule wild cards?”
There is, actually – her father said teaching poker to three wild kids inspired him to declare threes wild, but Elizabeth doesn’t get to say so before Sheppard interrupts.
“Well, the Queen of Hearts is her card.”
He’s clearly playing at something, but she’s not quite sure what. “Why do you say that?”
He pauses, lays down some cards, and says, “I’ll take two.”
She deals out the replacement cards and tamps down her expression with practiced ease learned at a negotiating table.
“The card’s modeled after Elizabeth of York,” Sheppard explains. “Wife of Henry VII, among other things.”
“I’m impressed,” she tells him. She can tell he’s not going to fold – he’s too relaxed and confident all of a sudden – so she raises the bet. He’s telegraphing a great hand, but odds-wise, she’s practically unbeatable.
“There’s a lot of wikipedia time in Antarctica,” he dismisses it with a shrug. She has raised him beyond his ability to call, and isn’t surprised when he says, “All in,” with a satisfied grin.
She feels a little bad for cleaning him out, but she lays down her cards with a flourish. Four kings. Ford whistles.
Sheppard, damn him, is still grinning as he lays down three aces. “...and the Queen of Hearts. Live by the wild card...”
She can’t help laughing as even Roscoe breaks her poker face long enough to call it unbelievable! and ridiculous!
Sheppard hands her the winning queen. “Told you,” he says, and his smile is warmer – less guarded – than she’s ever seen it.
Elizabeth’s nearly bankrupt, pistachio-nut-wise, but she feels at home, which seems a lot like victory.