"Go fish," said Riley Poole with great authority, and every single player at the table glared at him. "Whoa," he said. "O-kay, funny police; please feel free to keep being nasty and humorless." He threw two cards down on the table. "Two."
Rolling his eyes, Ian shoved two cards over to him across the rickety card table, and then his eyes slid to Ben, who had, Riley privately thought, the single worst poker face in the history of the game ever. He was currently frowning at his cards, like doing so would make them magically give up their secrets to him the way that historical artifacts seemed to. "Gates?" Ian prompted.
"Oh," said Ben, looking up. "I'll take, uh -- no, I'll take none. Thanks."
"You're really bad at this," Riley said, sitting with his feet up on Shaw's empty chair.
Ben glanced at him sideways. Dryly: "Thank you, Riley."
Riley tipped his invisible hat to him.
Ian glanced at Shaw's chair next, and frowned. Riley said, "He exploded of angry bald Englishness while you were in the bathroom."
Ian looked at Riley, who promptly shut his mouth and shrank back in his seat.
"Shaw left while you were in the bathroom," Ben commented absently, putting on his glasses in order to give his cards further study.
Ian sighed sharply, tossing his cards down. "Well, two and a half men is no way to play blackjack."
" 'Two and a ha--?' Hey," said Riley.
"What do you say, gentlemen?" Ian asked, gathering Ben's and Riley's hands as they tossed them down. "A different game?"
"What did you have in mind?" asked Ben, sitting back in his chair.
The office was small and relatively cramped; while Ian had enough money to pay for the research and the eventual expedition to the Charlotte (wherever it turned out that she lay), he was trying to cut costs on office space. That's what Riley figured, anyway, because there was no other logical explanation as to why a guy as rich as Ian was only paying for three or four crappy cubicles with one equally crappy windowless central room. On the bright side, the windowless central room fit a card table and several chairs, which was how this bizarro freak show Friday night card game came to occur. Riley was stuck here anyway, waiting for his monstrous bank of computers in the next cubicle to ding (he was running diagnostics, again, because the program meant to calculate the Charlotte's current resting place based on weather patterns and current details was not functioning properly, again), but he had no idea why anybody else was still in the office.
"How about some high-stakes poker?" That flashy grin of Ian's said that he was kidding about the high stakes. Riley hoped.
"Three people isn't really enough for poker, either," Riley piped up, but, as usual, Ian ignored him.
Ben leaned forward in his chair. 'Fascination' probably wasn't quite the right response to 'let's play poker, gentlemen,' but that was Ben Gates all over, and Riley sighed and rolled his eyes. "Yeah, fine," he said. "Deal me in."
"Raise," Ben said smoothly, his eyes directly on Ian, who had a tidy pile of $1 bills in front of him. Ben pushed $4 into the pot in the middle of the table.
Ian watched him silently, his chin in his hand and his fingers half-covering his amused smirk. He regarded Ben for several long seconds before he finally said, "Raise," and slid $10 into the center of the table.
"Seriously?" called Riley's voice from the cubicle next door, the tap-tap-tap-tap-ing of the computer momentarily halted. "Raise? Again? Do either of you realize that there are other words in the English language?" and Ian swung the door shut on him.
There was a muffled disgruntled noise from behind the door, and then the peanut gallery fell silent.
"Excellent." Ian smiled smugly, and looked to Ben. "You were saying?"
"I was saying," Ben said, with that same calm face (and that same furrow between his eyebrows; the one that he didn't know was there), "raise." He reached into his pocket, pulled out of wallet, and produced a $20 bill.
"Oh, Ben." Ian chuckled. "We're in the money now."
Ben grinned, quite clearly pleased with himself. "Your call, Ian."
"Quite right." Ian hooked his arm over the back of his own chair, the very picture of casual indifference, and then he continued, "And a very apt choice of words. Call." He flipped his hand and was smiling even before doing so, because Ben's face had started to shift even as Ian said, 'Call,' even before he started to turn his hand over. "Full house." He tapped the cards, quite comfortable.
Ben wordlessly overturned his cards to reveal a pair of twos and a pair of tens. Ian threw back his head and laughed. "Oh, Ben," he said, rising from the table and gathering the neat pile of bills. "You really do have to work on your poker face." Still laughing, he clapped Ben on the shoulder in passing as he plucked his dress coat off the coat rack by the door. "Good night."
Ben sat at the table, staring at the two hands, and he sighed.
Through the door, Riley said, "I told you to stop raising."