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Snake Eyes

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It is muggy, sweaty, and the smell of beer is already sinking into the scraped wood of the bar. Blackgloves breaths in the scent and almost revels in the loud shouts that surround him as he reclines against the hardback of his chair. His throne, as Shana calls it when she feels particularly uncharitable towards him, but he’ll take it as a compliment all the same. Someone needs to actually play the role of Slum King with a modicum of truth to it after all. He’ll let her play the hero for years if she leaves him to the fun parts.

 

He grins slowly to himself and drags his eyes up to the paling face in front of him. He wouldn’t trade places with Shana for anything. With a flourish he lays his cards down and says sickeningly sweet, “You lose.”

 

There’s a chorus of whistles and jeers, and he laughs as he sees the man in front of him turn from grey to green. Finally clutching at the sad wad of notes he has left in his hand. Blackgloves knocks his fist against the stained wood of the table beneath him and eyes the man. Watching the desperation in their eyes has become his favorite part over the years, remembers being them and learning to crawl through the filth of the world to get his fill, he misses the thrill sometimes.

 

“That’s mine now, lad,” Blackgloves motions to the cash to drive in his message. The man’s mouth gapes like a fish several times. His knuckles turning a bone-white as he grasps at money lost.

 

“But,” and oh, Blackgloves can practically mouth the story to come from his mouth next, “This was my last, I promise you I can get more by tomorrow, once more eh?”, He sputters out pitifully.

 

Blackgloves grins all the wider and slowly collects his cards that have been scattered along the table.

 

“Rules of the house say I can’t do that,” He says jovially, “So, I suggest you hand me those savings before we do worse than your wife screaming at you for the night…”

 

The man’s eyes dart, but if he had hopes to find a savior, it is lost once he notices the jackals of patrons leering. He curses under his breath and throws the bills as if they are burning. He watches Blackgloves as if he wants to say something but only retreats like a dog outside the tavern doors.

 

At least he was smart enough to stop begging.

 

It’s typical behavior for those that are desperate. Some just have more bite than others... but never enough to out last his dirtier tactics. Blackgloves leaves the cash, an enticing pile for the next fool, where it sits.

 

He flags down the barmaid for a pint of washed down beer. She eyes him in exasperation. Her name is something with a “C” he believes, but he’s bad with remembering, and she has always seemed content in keeping him loyal to his more ungentlemanly ways.

 

”A bit early to start getting drunk on winning isn’t it?” She starts, “It’s not even passed 11:00!”

 

He hums in thought for a moment but another smile, and it has her snorting in disgust but she slams down the pint of liquid in front of him without reprimand and stalks away to fill his ears later with needed gossip. One thing he can always count on for the tavern workers is that they play their parts well.

 

Blackgloves lifts it to his lips. It’s vile filth but he’s learned to enjoy the taste as he has the rest of the slums. Aging his fondness, like nobles and their wines. Before he can savor his first sip however, an urchin quickly takes the vacant seat across from him.

 

Blackgloves lowers his tankard with just a small sigh and raises an eyebrow at the boy sitting in front of him. Even with his cap brim pulled low Blackgloves can tell he has only just reached his adulthood, and probably feeling brave for the night. But it hardly matters, a fool is a fool he reasons, and stupidity always lines his pockets nicely. New blood on a slow night gets the crowds eager to drop coins.

 

“Usually the first loss for the night scares the little mice away for longer than a moment,” He drawls, and carefully shuffles his cards once more. He has the opportunity to make a show again, and he is not one to pass it off.

 

”I heard you had some pretty little card tricks, I wanted to see for myself,”

 

The boy’s voice is low and a purr of confidence is already laced through it. Blackgloves loves breaking through arrogance. This one will probably his favorite of the night once the oil in the lamps has burned out. It is rare for newcomers to be so cheeky. And he rather enjoys it.

 

”Just for you then, I’ll make it memorable, I trust you know the basics of poker, mate...” 

 

He snaps his fingers for the gawking revelers to join the game as well. Might as well drag the other drunkards into the boys mess, as a community. It’s only right after all and none can refuse the den master if he wants more for his hoard.

                              ______

 

The pile of coins and bills has only grown larger with every betting round. Blackgloves also watches as the regret grows on each face surrounding him, but stubbornness seems to hold them. The boy however has been calm with every card drawn in his hand.

 

The boy is the last to place his final bet.  He draws a meager bag from his coat pocket and empties gold coins that ring like a bell as they hit the table. Blackgloves would almost feel bad about taking what is most likely his first stash of pay. But pity stopped a long time ago. It’s a life lesson the boy will grovel in, eventually. Or he’ll be another desperate mess to clean up. Blackgloves knows how to wring both to get his dues.

 

One by one, players round the table hiss in displeasure at their hands. To Blackgloves it’s musical in it’s distress. He worked it, just enough, for the cards to work in his favor, like always. A full house, a bit sentimental perhaps, but a joke that paid off in his opinion.

 

Blackgloves is just about to call his hand when that boy quickly says, “Ah, ah, but we aren’t done yet, I still have mine to make the call.”

 

Blackgloves eyes him indulgently, says, ”Of course, I only always play... fair.”

 

He bats his eyelashes for good measure deciding to hold back a laugh once both their hands are down. Gracefully and unhurried the boy lays down his cards. Once, twice, Blackgloves reads the cards over. That laugh of his suddenly sticks in his throat syrupy thick once he makes sense of what he’s seeing.

 

He looks between the two hands in disbelief for a long moment. His full house next to a tidy row of spades in order from five to nine... A straight flush his mind supplies dumbly and uselessly. His mind reels as he tries to replay the game in his mind to no effect.

 

The cards are his too. Rigged to his preferences. Corners worn to nubs and soft from trading hands over the years.The only cheats capable really are from his own deck. Somehow though the boy found just enough work around. Like a true sneak.

 

Finally he gets a good look at the boy’s face. Sharp green eyes glint back at him and a smirk hovers triumphantly along the corners of thin lips. The boy leans delicately across the table from him and whispers just loud enough for Blackgloves to hear above the yells of disbelief,

 

”My name is Alan, and I believe that money is mine now, lad.”  A mocking echo of Blackgloves own words not even an hour past. The boy flicks a pale finger almost lazily at the coins glinting in the low glow of the lamps and winks.