Jacob considered his options. He was still new at this, even after more than a month, and with a couple easy, salt-and-burn hunts behind him. He was getting better at everything that came with his new lifestyle all the time.
First and foremost was the feel he now had for what might make Sam or Dean gripe at him.
He waited patiently as Sam dragged cards barely shorter than him off the top of the deck, one at a time, and dealt them out to the three of them. At least Texas Hold 'Em only required two cards per player; dealing wasn't such a daunting prospect for Sam or Dean.
Jacob only helped with the shuffling when it was their turn to deal. Other than that, they took care of handing out the cards on their own, regardless of the fact that it took them a bit of extra time to do so. The cards were bulky, but the little guys managed, despite the fact that the cards were almost the same size as Dean.
He decided that he shouldn’t offer to help. The first time he'd suggested it, he was met with a scathing glare from the small hunter. This would be no different.
It wasn't a matter of what was convenient or fast, in their eyes. Sometimes, the game could take a delay of a few seconds so the brothers could do something on their own, and Jacob wasn't one to deny them that. They might be small, but they prized their independence more than anything aside from their small matching knives.
So he calmly sat there while Sam dealt out the cards.
Jacob had volunteered his many quarters meant for laundry and phone calls to their game. He and Dean already had their blind bets in, ready for the game to begin. The real goal was to teach Jacob how to bluff. The betting here wouldn't go very far with the chips being his quarters, but if he wanted to win anything at the bars to get some good old fashioned cash, an untraceable resource, he needed to learn to bluff better.
And, as Dean had been very disappointed to discover, Jacob was an absolutely terrible liar.
"Y'know, Dean, with all this poker practice, you guys are gonna leave me with no pocket change," Jacob pointed out with a smirk as he picked up the two cards Sam dealt him. Ace Jack. A good start before he even saw the first cards on the board.
Dean held his face expressionless as he listened to Jacob’s words, checking out his own cards. For him, it was a more involved process than just picking them up in his hands. Sam stood half an inch taller than the cards, but Dean wasn’t even a third of an inch taller. They were lightweight, but bulky in his hands. The thick, coated paper was coarse as he lifted it to read the red letters that told him his card.
Dropping that card down, he lifted up the second and arched an eyebrow. “Maybe that’ll have to be your incentive,” Dean said dryly. “You’ll have to come to us if you want to do your laundry.”
Next to Dean was his own growing pile of quarters. John Winchester and Bobby Singer had taken the time to teach him how to bluff his way through the game years back, and he’d mastered the art. Helping him was the fact that if he had any tells, Jacob would have a much harder time reading them from his towering vantage. Sam was probably the only person that was adept enough to know when his older brother was talking out his ass, which was the reason he had his own growing pile of quarters, leaving Jacob’s dwindling down.
If everything went according to plan, Dean would have a pile of quarters that stood taller than he did, sooner rather than later.
Sam dealt himself his last hole card, and he took his time peering underneath the cards before anything else happened. He tried to emulate his big brother with bluffing, but wasn’t as good as it yet. Both of them were way better than Jacob, however. Adding together his size plus how terrible a liar he was meant they both had an easy time reading the planes of his face.
Jacob rolled his eyes, but he knew it was probably only a matter of time before he ran out of coins for the game and had to call it a night. "Hey, at least I'm doing better than last game," he argued, gesturing to his modest stash of quarters. While it was the worst of the three of them, he had actually managed to win a hand or two and stay in the game longer.
He'd been trying to do better about hiding any reactions to the cards as they appeared on the board, but he'd never had a compelling reason to lie well. It was a sharp contrast with Dean and Sam's skill levels, honed from a life of living off-the-grid. Secrets kept them alive.
Dean had never been easy for Jacob to read. He could recognize annoyed glares and sarcastic smiles, but when Dean wanted to keep his thoughts hidden from sight, it was impossible for Jacob to figure them out. Sam, though far less intense than Dean, was equally difficult to read when he wanted to be, taking after his older brother in so many ways.
Both of them were so guarded after spending almost a decade and a half hidden away in the walls. It was second nature to play everything closer to the vest, and it made them poker sharks. Jacob should have seen it coming the moment Dean suggested he pick up a deck of cards at a pit stop.
He waited for Sam to call the blind bets, and then pushed one quarter to the center of the table with the rest. "Call," he muttered, glancing to Dean to see if the eldest player would raise the bet before the first cards were laid out.
Dean met Jacob’s glance with his own customary smirk, letting himself emanate nothing but confidence. It didn’t matter that Jacob was massive and could cover him up with one hand; Dean would challenge anyone regardless of his size. He took two quarters from his pile, walking them over to the center. If he was a little taller, his leather jacket and confident swagger would have been at home in a poker tournament. All he was missing was an icy cold mug of beer in his hands.
“Raise,” he declared, tossing the two coins in with a clatter of metal.
Sam bit his lip as he considered his own options, peering at his cards one last time. “Call,” he decided, matching Dean’s bet and pushing the quarters in. He didn’t give off the same sense of confidence as his big brother.
During the game, their bags were sitting together off to the side, their hooks visible and hanging out. They’d decided to relax for the night. After spending two months with Jacob around, it was easier to relax around him and spend the night like a couple of regular guys.
Or, at least, regular guys who were small enough to stand on the table and were only slightly bigger than the cards they were playing with. Jacob at least put in effort not to make them feel small. He listened to their voices instead of trying to drown them out, and more often than not he avoided looming when he could. Dean may have decided to call him ‘Godzilla’, but Jacob was as mellow as a person could be.
Jacob frowned faintly, as always wary about a raise before the first cards were revealed, but his cards were decent. He added his own two extra quarters to the pot, begrudgingly calling to see the cards.
With the bets in, Sam left his cards on their own to deal out the flop. He carefully took the top card, leaving that facedown on the table. Then he proceeded to lay out three faceup cards, all in a row.
Four ... Nine ... Jack. Jacob glanced at his own cards again after noting the three cards Sam had revealed. He had a Jack in his hand, giving him the top pair on the board. After a moment, he rapped his knuckles on the table. "Check." He was almost positive that Dean would have told him to raise, but Jacob thought he'd wait and see what the others bet.
Sometimes, it would sneak up on him how strange his lifestyle had become. Jacob was playing Texas Hold 'Em in a little motel room with two brothers that fit in his pocket. Both older than he was. His first reaction of open fascination had worn off since he met them, but their size was still amazing to think about. They'd survived like that for so long, scraping to get by. Though he stood around twenty times their size, Jacob looked up to the Winchesters for their sheer grit and determination to survive in a world too large for them.
At the very least, signs of their sparse living were starting to disappear. Hanging out with Jacob meant access to regular food, which of course meant filling out their thin frames. Dean especially had needed it, so it was lucky that he took to the food Jacob offered with enthusiasm. A lot more enthusiasm than Sam, far more reserved and shy, had ever shown.
The brothers might be able to read his poker face like a book, but Jacob had his own observation skills. He'd been able to piece together that Sam honed in on the healthier food options in contrast to Dean's preference for hearty, meaty foods. He'd learned that Sam was content with a book when research had to be done, where Dean itched to get right to the action.
And, of course, both of them could be competitive when they sighted a challenge. "Whatcha got, Dean?" Jacob asked, grinning at the miniature hunter whose turn it was to bet.
Dean gave him a confident grin back, completely comfortable with the human despite the way he'd caused a slight earthquake under their boots when he'd rapped his knuckles against the surface. There was no harm meant, and really, they both appreciated the way he acted like they were just any other people. Just regular guys hanging out, regardless of size.
Sam was only spared a slight glance as Dean walked his way back to the pot. The younger Winchester looked more harried than Dean did, comparatively. He checked his cards again, sizing up the three cards in the center.
“I'll bet,” Dean said with a smirk at Jacob. He tossed his two quarters into the center.
Sam's turn was more subdued. “Call,” he said, matching Dean's bet.
Dean gave Jacob a snarky grin. “So, how about it, Godzilla?”
Jacob smiled back, though he was thinking carefully. He had yet to figure out what Dean's bluffing face looked like, if he even had one. He kept everything so guarded. He could be sitting there with pocket aces or complete garbage and Jacob wouldn't know. It didn’t help that his face was roughly the size of a fingerprint. Jacob hardly even knew what color either brother’s eyes were, because they were so small and he didn’t dare get close enough to try to see. It would be uncomfortable for all involved.
Jacob's hand hovered over his dwindling pile of quarters. Dean, with more winnings in his corner, could afford to be frivolous. Jacob couldn't really, so he weighed the option heavily before sighing and adding two quarters to the pot. "Godzilla calls," he quipped.
Regardless of whether he won the game or not, Jacob enjoyed himself. He was technically supposed to be learning valuable bluffing skills, but aside from that, the simple competition was fun. He hadn't been around the same people for an extended length of time in a while; his drifter lifestyle before finding the brothers didn't often give him the time to make lasting friendships. It always gladdened him to notice that they seemed relaxed around him despite his size. He'd come a long way.
Sam internally rolled his eyes at the way Dean and Jacob were egging each other on, going back to the deck to deal out the next card. He put the first card facedown again, followed by flipping up a fourth card for the center. Aside from dealing out the cards, he had no intention of pulling attention his way, knowing how focused Dean could get on a single opponent. It was a fault Jacob hadn’t seemed to notice.
After years of being on their own, Sam was used to the single-minded competitiveness Dean could get himself worked up into. It was especially inconvenient during any prank wars they had amongst themselves, like the time Sam’s shampoo had been replaced with Nair as a kid.
He held a hand up to his hair instinctively at that thought, glad that the long locks were still in place, and waited for Jacob to make his move. If Dean wanted to try a prank like that again, he was going to need help from Jacob, so Sam comforted himself that his hair was safe. Jacob didn’t seem like the type to get too involved in elaborate pranks.
Jacob glanced over each card on the board, lingering on the new one Sam flipped over. A queen. Jacob's pair of jacks was in jeopardy, but he had an ace in the hole, too. He could stick to it for another round, so he tapped his fingers on the table again with an echoing sound that resounded under the brothers’ handcrafted leather boots. "Check."
The basics of the game had come back to him quickly, but Jacob had yet to win a game against either Sam or Dean. They always managed to steal away his quarters, either bit by bit or by bluffing him into thinking he had a good hand. He was trying to be cautious, but he couldn't watch their faces for tells very easily from his vantage point.
He'd be way too obvious if he tried to lean closer and get a better look.
The end result was Jacob playing it safe, even when he still had decent cards. He was always a more defensive person, rather than the type to push; it was a stark contrast that had been exploited a number of times by Dean.
Of course, Dean couldn’t just let the turn pass him by. “Bet,” he declared once more, musing that a simple game of poker was certainly giving him a workout as he walked two more quarters to the center of the table. It was a lot more work than he remembered to just check his cards or toss his money in the pot.
Sam was frowning, but he followed up the bet with his own coins. He was more like Jacob when playing, at least in terms of playing it safe. The years of living out of sight had made him hard to read, much like Dean, and that was helped by the height difference between himself and the human.
Dean, naturally, was too busy with Jacob to pay any mind to Sam’s tells.
Jacob's mouth twisted into a frown, but he knew better than to think Dean would let the hand check around to all three of them. It wouldn't make any progress, after all. Jacob was tempted to fold just to spite him, but he begrudgingly nudged two more quarters over to the pot. "You must be getting bored, trying to push me outta the running here."
He leaned on his elbow while Sam quietly placed another card in the burn pile before flipping over the river card. It was a ten. Jacob glanced down at his cards, disappointed that his ace hadn't gotten him much, but he still had the pair of jacks. It was decent.
"Check," he said, not bothering to tap the table this time. With a smirk in Dean's direction, he asked "So how much to see your cards?" waiting for yet another raise.
Dean cocked an eyebrow at Jacob. “Oh, mister tough guy thinks he knows me. I think I’ll… check.”
Sam had to work to hide a smile at that. Dean was just being contrary to spite Jacob, just the way he’d thought. They were both too caught up in watching and goading each other on throughout the game to pay any mind to their dealer, and he was planning on making them suffer for it. He couldn’t just sit quietly to the side all the time, after all.
“Check,” Sam said, following up Dean’s declaration. Mirroring his big brother’s moves left him out of the line of fire, just the way he liked it.
Jacob raised his eyebrows, smirking. It was the only true gamble he'd made so far. He had an even chance of Dean checking just to spite him, or proving him right by raising the bet once again. Either way, Jacob would consider it a success.
It was time for them to reveal their cards and see the damage done. Jacob set his down in front of himself, pushing the jack forward slightly for emphasis. "I got a pair of jacks, ace kicker," he announced, glancing over the board once more to make sure he hadn't missed anything.
“Not bad,” Dean said with a laugh. He used his boot to flip over his card, revealing his hand. “Pair of tens. Looks like you might actually end up ahead for once.”
Neither of them expected it when Sam triumphantly tossed over his two cards, proudly showing off the hand he’d been hiding the entire time without letting it show. “Three queens,” he said with a glint in his eye.
“Looks like you both got played.”