"Chas, your call," said Chris, acting as dealer for this round.
Chas took a quick look at his cards. Queen-ten offsuit. Not a bad hand, but he was losing. He glanced at the first three cards lying face up on the table. Two, five, Jack. Not enthrallingly helpful, and all clubs as well. Though he had a small chance of making a straight, if he got the nine and the eight, but considering his rotten luck so far this evening, he wasn't confident. Still, he was never one to shy away from risks, and losing was something he wasn't keen on.
Julian was winning, as usual, but Chas never liked to lose when Julian won because Julian saw fit to ignore him all evening and treat him like a simple pet, which Chas never really enjoyed as much as cuddling up with him. Well, no, he did like being Julian's puppy; he just didn't like being ignored, especially not by Julian.
"I'm all-in," Chas said, pushing his small stack of chips to the centre of table. If he couldn't make a hand, at least he might be able to scare the others off. There was a lot in the pot already, and he couldn't afford to lose this hand.
"Got something at last, hey?" Andrew teased.
"We'll see, Andrew. We'll see," Chas said.
Chris collected the chips and counted them. "Chas is all-in. $2,300 to call, guys," he said, turning to Andrew who was sitting beside Chas.
Andrew quickly glanced at his cards – two sevens offsuit – and decided the flop wasn't looking helpful, and folded. Tim called with a Jack-eight suited. Julian didn't bother looking at his two Kings before calling. Adam decided to call and see the turn with his suited Queen three.
Being the only one all in, Chas, Tim, Julian and Adam turned their cards face up, bringing them over by the flop. Chas didn't like Julian's two Kings. Julian had a nasty habit of winning hands like this. Chris gave a quick look at everyone before dealing the turn.
Chas remained as calm as he could manage as Chris dealt the turn card, revealing a nine. Just what he wanted. Maybe his luck was changing.
With only a short pause for whatever that word is that I still can't think of, Chris dealt the river, the eight of hearts. Chas couldn't help a half-smile as he realised he'd won. Tim's two pair failed dismally at beating Chas' straight draw.
"Damn your straight draw," Tim said.
"Nice straight draw there, Chas," Chris said, ignoring Tim's comments.
"Thanks. It's about time I got some luck around here," Chas said, gathering his chips together and stacking them up in piles.
Chris gathered the cards up and shuffled them, handing them over to Hamish to deal. Hamish took the cards, shuffling them awkwardly. It was his first poker match with the group and he wasn't confident he'd win. It certainly wasn't his first poker match, he'd spent many a drunken night with his best mate Andy playing poker into the early mornings, but he wasn't used to playing with so many other people he didn't know very well, nor with a standing bet as serious as this was. The most he'd ever played for was $150 and Andy doing his cleaning for a month. This one was a step up from that; it had taken Adam some convincing before Hamish agreed to come along. Hamish wasn't keen on having to be slave to someone else other than Adam, let alone having to have sex with anyone other than Adam. But he had a few beers in him now, and things didn't seem quite so bad. It was rather enjoyable, and he wasn't doing too badly. He'd had a couple of decent wins, boosting his confidence and reassuring him somewhat.
Hamish stood up to deal the cards, dealing two to everyone who was playing. It was about 11pm now, and the beer hadn't quite run out yet. But there were a lot of people here. Julian and Charles were playing, Chris and Andrew were playing, Tim was playing, Adam was playing, Dom and Shane had left angry!Gregor and Timmy on haven security to come and play, Chas was playing, and Craig was playing when he felt like it, when he wasn't hanging around sulking. Every now and then Craig gave his wings an angry flap, sending the cards flying if they weren't being held onto. His mood was not helping anyone. Even Julian stopped to tell him to piss off and sulk on his own, which Craig did for a while, hanging around outside on Adam's balcony, staring out at the city.
No one could quite work out what was bugging Craig. Julian had a few ideas, being a winged human alone was enough to make anyone depressed considering what the State liked doing to them, but he was certain Craig's problems were much closer to home than anything the State was or wasn't doing.
Julian liked to think he knew everything that was going on within their small band of rebels. He made it his priority to know what was going on. It was partly for their own safety. They had to stay one step ahead of the State in order to stay alive. Harbouring winged humans was as good as treason, and a crime punishable by death, if you were lucky. Julian kept a close eye on everyone, making sure there were few or no disagreements, besides which someone had to act as a mediator or everyone would be at each other's throats all the time. They might all be on the same side, but that didn't mean they all got along.
Julian was well aware of the rather public, so to speak, and messy break-up between Chris and Craig that had caused a rather large rift among their small group. Gossip spread rapidly in the haven where they were all holed up and soon everyone knew what had happened. Craig had not taken it well, as you would expect when someone tells you they never loved you when they're making out with their ex. Craig had been difficult before, especially back when their band of rebels included more wingless humans than winged ones, but after the break-up, he became impossible to handle. It was as if he was premenstrual all the fucking time, constantly picking fights with everyone and gradually isolating himself from the rest of the group as he spent more time alone sulking. Most people could gather the reason why he was sulking, but Craig never let on if they were right, and after a while, they gave up trying to figure him out. The rule was never to go near Craig when he was sulking as it invariably ended in violence, no matter what the problem was.
He was doing this now, having decided he wasn't going to play any more hands. He hadn't had many good hands anyway, but he hated having to be in the same room as Chris, especially when he was getting all cutesy with Andrew. He didn't care about the game anymore. Fuck the bet. He hated that Julian had dragged him along to this. Julian had insisted, had threatened to keep him chained, collared and leashed if he didn't come willingly. Aghast at the prospect of being treated like a pet, Craig had agreed, and cursed Julian for knowing exactly how to make him agree to his wishes.
Now Craig was sitting on the couch on the balcony, his wings drooped over his back, matching his mood. No one dared go near him, not after he got mad and yelled at Dom and Julian in their attempt to help him. Hamish glanced over at the balcony, seeing Craig's slumped figure on the couch. For a moment, he wondered if he shouldn't go see if he was alright, but those wings… he didn't want to mess with them. Craig was rather overprotective of his wings, and that coupled with his rather bitchy mood meant he really didn't want to go near those wings. Still, Craig's moodiness bothered Hamish, though he didn't know why. He'd heard about the break-up, but Adam hadn't wasted his breath on the details, and Hamish wasn't interested anyway. He didn't worry much about it though as Adam reminded him to pay attention to the game at hand.
"You are going to concentrate tonight, yeah?" Adam said, breaking Hamish's reverie.
"What? Oh, yeah. Sorry," Hamish said, finishing dealing the cards and sitting back down, waiting for everyone to move.
"You're everywhere but here tonight, you know, Hamish. Something wrong?" Adam said.
"Nah, I'm fine. Don't worry about me," Hamish said.
"If you insist," Adam said, glancing at his cards.
Hamish looked at his cards and immediately folded. Three four offsuit. He hated getting low hands like that. Chris, Tim and Adam all folded as well. Then the betting began once the blinds were paid. Hamish never paid much attention to hands he wasn't involved in, so there was only a vague interest when Charles lost the hand by bluffing too much when he had nothing and Julian took almost all his chips. He wasn't too worried about losing too badly anyway. Adam had made sure he was immune from the standing bet for the night, so if he lost badly, he wouldn't have to be anyone's slave. Either way, Adam was still in charge. If Hamish lost, Adam could agree to go in his place, which Hamish was thankful for.
Hamish was quickly losing interest in poker, though. He should probably stop drinking. Craig was bothering him again and he still couldn't work out why. Once his round as dealer was over, Hamish left the game and headed out to the balcony, wanting to make sure Craig was ok. The cool night air rushed out to greet Hamish's warm skin, but the shock didn't last and Hamish came to rest on the balcony, gazing over the city, not looking at Craig slumped in the couch behind him. Hamish didn't dare say anything for a long time, ignoring the others playing inside.
"Who dumped you, Craig?" Hamish said, somehow guessing the reason for his sulking without knowing it.
Craig looked up sharply at him, angry that his peace had been disturbed, but even angrier that Hamish had guessed correctly. He wanted to tell him to fuck off, but Hamish didn't seem like he was going to care who it was, causing Craig to let his guard down somewhat.
"It was Chris, if you really want to know. I wouldn't be so angry if he hadn't hooked up with Andrew the very same night he dumped me," Craig said quietly.
"Oh, man, that's harsh," Hamish said. "You gonna be alright?"
"Most probably, but it's hard to believe it right now," Craig said.
"You'll find someone else. You're gorgeous, you are. Who wouldn't want you?" Hamish said, trying to be helpful.
"Chris. I feel so stupid for wanting him still, but I've never been so in love with anyone else before. That sort of love is going to take some time to get over," Craig said.
Thanks for not turning into a whingeing diva, Craig. Much appreciated. I'm not in the mood to be bitchy to anyone right now. Shut up and leave me alone. I can't. You're in my story. I'm not sure I want to be anymore. Too late for that, love.
Hamish turned to face Craig, leaning against the balcony railing. "You'll get over him. Go out and meet someone new. Don't spend all your time hanging around moping like a 6 year old. It's doing no one any good," he said.
Craig sighed. "You may have a point there," he said.
"Come back in and play. Go in and beat him. That should bring some semblance of satisfaction, yeah?" Hamish suggested.
"Nah, I might just-"
"Go on, it'll be fun. Adam said you loved playing poker," Hamish said.
"I did, when I was with Chris. I loved him cuddling me when we played. He made me believe that he loved me, but it was all a façade. He's never stopped loving Andrew. I was just a useless fuck toy. God I feel so dirty," Craig said. He refused to believe Chris could possibly want a human over a fullwing like himself. It just hammered home the injustice of it all, even if it had had nothing to do with it at all.
"How long ago did you break up?" Hamish said.
"Ages ago. It's been a few months, I think. I haven't really been paying attention. God, he broke my heart when he said he didn't love me," Craig said.
"I can imagine," Hamish said.
Craig buried his head in his hands, and Hamish wasn't sure if he was crying or not. His wings curled around him, almost hiding him from view.
"Come here, Craig. It'll be alright, just you wait and see," Hamish said, leaning down to grab Craig's arms.
Craig let Hamish pull him into his arms, sobbing against his chest as if Chris had just broken up with him hours earlier. My, you are in a melancholy mood tonight, Craig. Shut up. Stop talking to me. Just shut the fuck up and write, dammit. First time you've told me that, Craig, dear.
"It'll never be alright. If Adam dumped you tomorrow, how long do you think it'd take you to get over it, hey?" Craig said angrily, glancing up at Hamish.
"That's not something I like thinking about," Hamish said dismissively.
"Consider it then. Go on, admit it. You'd be as broken as me," Craig said, forcing Hamish to meet his gaze.
"Are you sure you're ok, Craig?" Hamish said, avoiding his question, surprised at his sudden mood change.
"I'm fucking fantastic," Craig said. The anger in Craig's eyes and his voice scared Hamish. "Get back in there. Adam's waiting for you. Leave me the fuck alone," he said, pushing away from Hamish.
With a quick glance back at Craig, Hamish returned inside, happy to not be dealing with Craig's sulking any more. He sat down beside Adam again, wanting to distract himself with some more poker.
"Fuck, Craig. Julian, look!" Adam said, pointing towards the balcony where Craig now stood on the edge of the railing, wings spread in preparation for flight. Well, why have wings if you can't fly with them? Happy now, Craig? Relatively speaking, yes. Good.
Julian turned to see what Adam wanted. "Oh, leave him. If he wants to fly off again, let him. It'd be better than letting his foul mood spoil our game. Keep playing," he said, ignoring Craig. Yeah, that'd be right. Ignore the fuck out of me, Julian. What do I have to do to make you pay attention to me? Do I need to kill Charles and Chas before you'll even notice me?
With only a slight glance back at the others inside the flat, Craig launched into the air, flying through the night. No, Craig, you can't turn into some gargoyle type thing. You're a human with wings. That's as lenient as I get, considering this wasn't supposed to be a fantasy story at all. No, you can't be a vampire either. Why not? Because I said so. You're no fun. That's why I'm the narrator and you're bound by what I want. But, I have wings. Can't I be at least a little bit evil? You're hell bent on getting Chris back. Isn't that enough? I'd make a great bad guy. No, stop trying to be something you're not and just fly around for a while. Can I scream and howl and scare people? If you must. But don't get caught. You're not supposed to get in trouble yet. What do you mean, not yet? What are you planning? That's for me to know and to reveal at my discretion. Now let me write already. At least you're in a better mood today. I missed your snarky commentary yesterday. Aww, how sweet. See, I am your favourite, aren't I? If you say so. Like your ego needs it anyway. Oh, shush.
"If you say so, Jules. I just hope you know what you're doing with him. I hope he doesn't hurt himself," Adam said, sitting back down again.
"He'll be fine. He's been doing this since you know when. We'll find him at home in bed when we finish up here. Don't worry about him," Julian said.
Taking Julian's advice, Adam continued playing, watching Craig vanish into the night, his haunting screaming echoing through the air. It was kinda eerie, really. A sudden rush of luck sent Adam straight to the lead, and Chas watched impressed as Julian kept losing hands he should've won.
It was well after midnight when they finally finished, Adam emerging victorious, much to Hamish's delight. One spectacularly big bluff and Charles was Adam's, for a night at least. They always played down to the wire, when there were only two players left, both doing their best not to lose with everyone else cheering and taking sides. Charles secretly hid his delight in having lost. He always loved being Adam's, because he knew he'd get two of the kindest people looking after him, people who should be as scarred and jaded as Andrew and Craig appeared to be, but had somehow got through all that shit and still had some hope for the future.