Chapter 1: Deal or No Deal
"I raise you two Chips Ahoy and four brown M&Ms."
Looking for any sign of Sammy's classic tells and finding none, Dean had to admit he was impressed by his little brother's new found poker face.
No signs of exasperation or giddiness, just a cool stare that waited patiently for Dean's response.
"And four browns?"
The ten-year-old raised his right eyebrow, letting Dean know that he was fully aware of what Dean was attempting to do.
Dean looked down at his own hand, which wasn't great, but wasn't bad either. "I'll see your two Chips Ahoy and four brown M&Ms and raise you five red M&Ms and a fig newton."
Sam matched the bet and waited for Dean to lay down his pair of Jacks. Only then did any emotion reach his eyes. Sam's grin was almost blinding as he laid down three fours.
"That wins, right?" Although eager to rake in his winnings, Sam kept his hands at his side.
"Fours?" Dean played up his incredulousness for Sammy's sake.
"But I had jacks."
"Yeah, but you only had two of them."
Dean signed dramatically, then nodded once toward the kitty.
"Did I do good?" Sammy stuffed a whole fig newton into his mouth as he sorted his winnings.
"You did. That's ten hands that I had no idea what you had, good or bad."
"So, am I ready?"
"I don't know. Are you sure you want to take on both dad and Pastor Jim at the same time?"
"Because losing to Jim might mean mopping the entire sanctuary."
"And winning might mean exploring his attic."
"Yeah, but with dad, it'll definitely mean extra PT."
"I won't give anything away, Dean. I swear."
"Being allowed into their game means they consider you a big boy, Sammy. It means you have to pay off any bets you lose without whining."
"I know. I will. Pay off the debt that is. Without whining." Sam bounced slightly in his chair as he awaited Dean's decision.
Dean finally laughed as he rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "They're never going to know what hit them."
Chapter 2: Been Had
John and Jim realize they've been had.
"I have an overwhelming urge to pat my pockets to make sure I still have change." Jim Murphy handed his friend a mug of coffee then sat beside him at the old wooden kitchen table that had seen better days.
John shook his head ruefully. "I know exactly what you mean. What I can't get over is how thoroughly we were fleeced. And by a ten and fourteen year old no less."
"How many hours of PT are you down for?" Jim didn't even bother softening the question by trying to hide his grin.
John frowned at him. "Five and a half. And neither of them have it until next Sunday."
"Well, in your defense, what were the chances of Dean having a royal flush?"
Running a hand back through his hair, John looked curiously at his oldest friend. "I lost track of things there toward the end. What are you in for?"
"Well, let's see, I lost all of my M&Ms and Skittles, over half of my Lara Doones and most of the chocolate filled tube cookies that Dean likes so much. In addition, Sam gets to spend all day Saturday by himself in the attic and Dean gets the next three batches of sweets brought over by parishioners. I'm also supposed to hint to Mrs. Jacobson that I'd really like to have her death by chocolate cake this week."
John made a big production of looking beneath the table. "Have you seen my dignity lying around somewhere? Or did I lose that as well?"
Chuckling, Jim slapped his shoulder companionably. "I can honestly say that I never even saw the plate of the truck that hit me."
Taking a sip of his coffee, John stared into space for a moment as he tried to remember specific elements of the game. "I just can't believe that Sammy was able to turn everything off like that, especially after those first couple of hands. I thought for sure I had all of his tells down."
"I think you might have bigger concerns, John."
"Oh? How so?"
"We were conned."
"I know, believe me, I --"
Jim shook his head. "No, John. I mean we were completely grifted."
John turned to look at his friend, his eyes darkening a tad in defense of his sons.
"I've been played before, but this…this was something different."
"What do you mean?"
"The first three or four hands happened exactly like we expected. Sammy was all bouncy and excited, practically giving away his stash. But one nod from Dean and he put everything behind a wall."
"More an inclination of his head."
"Just stopped. But what's concerns me is that he was able to read our tells."
"You're saying he used the first couple of rounds to study us?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
"Damn." John leaned back in his chair and shook his head several times, like he was having a hard time processing that bit of information.
"And every time he got nervous about the bid, he'd casually look to Dean to see if he should continue or not."
"Are you sure you're not imagining things, Jim?"
"It was all very subtle, John. Very subtle. Hunter subtle."
"Damn. That means…"
"That Dean orchestrated this whole thing. He taught Sammy not only how to look for signs of what we might have in our hands, but also how to ask his questions without either of us catching on. I don't even want to know how he taught him how to sit still for that long or how he got Sammy, the boy who wears everything on his sleeve, to turn off his emotions like he did. But he did. I mean, how many times did you try to rile Sammy up?"
"A couple," John admitted.
"And every time you did, he just looked over at Dean and raised an eyebrow, like they were somehow sharing an inside joke."
John rubbed both of his hands over his face. "Why--?
Jim shrugged, then leaned back into his own seat. "I didn't put it together until just now."
"Dang, I'm impressed."
Jim laughed. "So am I." Sobering, he sat his mug on the table. "But John--"
"I know, Jim. I know. It's just how do I keep on top of it without crushing his spirit?"
"Dean's a good boy. A nod or an oblique reference will have him puffed up all week. Just let him know that you know."
"What good will--"
"If you're going to continue to drag the boys around in this life, they're going to need the skills they displayed tonight. You just need to make sure that you're part of the pack. If you get too isolated from them…"
John nodded somberly, but after a moment he grinned. "So what are the chances of a rematch?"
"I'm not sure my pride can take another beating like that."
John laughed. "Well, we're definitely going to have to bring our A game to the table, that's for sure. Damn, but I'm proud of them."
"Chips off the ol' block, that's for sure." Jim joined John's laugh and wondered if he should lay in a supply of sweets for next weekend.