"All right," Joker says as he shuffles the cards. "Five-card draw, and you all know what's wild so let's not make any jokes today, okay?"
"Geez," Ashley says. "Oversensitive much?"
"Hey, you would be too if you'd heard it as many times as I had." He smiles for an instant, though, before he starts dealing and his face goes as serious as she's ever seen it. He's wearing the ridiculous green visor again - something about tradition. Out of everyone in their little group, he's probably the one who takes this game the most seriously. It would be laughable if he wasn't usually the winner, too. Not that they played for money, but he still took it as a point of pride.
Ashley shrugs. No big deal for her, either way. Besides, she figures if you're good enough at something, you can take it as seriously as you want.
Next to her, Kaidan is grinning - and he hasn't even looked at his hand yet. Shepard isn't quite smiling that much, but she's giving Joker one of those little half-grins that she gives him so often, and he'd probably grimace back at her if he wasn't too busy dealing to look.
She's learned a lot about her new crew through these games, including that none of them took her "new to the game" bullshit seriously. Not that it had been a lie, mind you; when she'd gambled she'd gambled with dice, or other similarily easy-to-carry games. Carrying cards on patrol just wasn't practical when you were planetside - too easy for the wind to pick up and blow them away.
She didn't play often, anyway. Her luck was notoriously horrible. Sometimes, her platoon mates would ask her to blow on their opponent's dice so that her bad luck would rub off on them. She'd laugh it off, but the sting was there, even if none of them had ever known it.
Kaidan's still smiling as he looks at his cards; his face hasn't changed at all. He smiles all the time while he plays poker, even when his hand is shit; it's his own special version of a poker face. He's the one who taught her how to play, at least to the extent that any of them have. Not really different from what they've been doing all along - it's Kaidan who's gone out of his way to make her feel welcome on the Normandy, introduce her to the rest of the crew, make sure that she knows who's who and what subjects to avoid.
There's always something in his eyes, though, behind the smiles. Something darker... it's not a big surprise, they all have their bad memories. She's kind of hoping he'll tell her, someday.
Shepard's face, on the other hand, twitches a bit when she looks at her cards. She might be a crack shot with a sniper rifle - she certainly blows Ashley's own scores out of the water, so to speak - but she isn't good at this game. At all. It's like she doesn't even know what a tell is, let alone how to read one, or hide one.
It's occurred to Ashley, more than once in fact, that maybe this is deliberate. Her own SO had never played with the men; he'd always said that it wasn't good for an officer to gamble with soldiers, that it wasn't right for them to take from their men. She'd thought at first that Shepard hadn't agreed, but just maybe she'd decided that playing with them wasn't an issue, as long as she made sure she never won?
She'll have to ask Kaidan about it later. He's the one who's told her about Shepard too, about how she survived a massive batarian attack on Mindoir and went on to be one of the biggest damned war heroes in the Alliance, after the attack on Elysium. She'd led the colonists from the shadows, concealing herself and taking out the leaders of the pirates with careful headshots as she shouted orders. She was one hell of a tactician, he'd said.
The hero worship was obvious. So was the last remnants of a crush, although she was fairly sure that was on its last legs. Just as well, judging from the way she kept smiling at Joker's cracks, or the way that Joker seemed to preen himself whenever the Commander walked into the room. She wondered, could anyone else see it? Or was it just her, maybe because she had a fresh perspective on the whole thing? Not that they'd done anything that she could've reported, which was just as well. She would've considered it her duty to do so, and really, that was one bridge she didn't want to burn.
"Ashley," Kaidan says in her ear. "Want to make this interesting?"
"How so?" she says, raising an eyebrow. She hopes he's not going to try to talk her into betting money on this again.
"I beat your hand on this, you buy me a drink when we get back to the Citadel."
She smiles. This is dangerously close to fraternization, but hey, it was just a bet. She still had a good chance of beating him, right? "Deal."
"Hey, you two done?" Joker says. "We wanna get this thing started?"
"Sounds good to me," Ashley says, and picks up her hand. Not bad. She might end up getting that drink after all.