Allie wasn't surprised to find Joker, James, and Kaidan hunkered down in the ship's lounge, a deck of cards between them. She smiled when she remembered Kaidan saying how Joker had asked for help improving his poker game because he kept losing his shirt to James, but she was surprised the trio didn't seem to be playing poker. She watched for a few moments as they took turns flipping cards over, occasionally chanting “1-2-3-4 I declare a card war”. She raised an eyebrow and sauntered closer.
“Are you guys seriously playing what it looks like you're playing?” she asked.
“If it looks like we're playing a card game, then you'd be right,” Kaidan replied, not looking up from the table.
“Ass,” Allie muttered, playfully smacking his arm. “You know what I meant.”
“Yes, I knew what you meant,” Kaidan grinned, rubbing his arm, “and yes, we're playing War.”
Allie pulled out a chair and sat between Joker and James. “So, what? Playing real war isn't enough? I thought you were giving Joker poker tips.”
“It turns out I'm actually good with the technical parts of that game,” Joker admitted, “it's my poker face that does me in. And I guess my tells are pretty obvious, too.”
“Oh, you mean like how you tap your cards on the table when you have a bad hand?” Allie asked.
Joker and Kaidan paused and looked at Allie. “He does that? Weird I didn't notice,” Kaidan said.
“I did,” James shrugged.
“I don't do that,” the pilot asked. “Do I? Shit, I probably do.”
“Commander Shepard is correct,” EDI intoned over the comms. “You most frequently use that display of frustration when you're dealt a seven-deuce off-suit, however you also tap your cards when the flop is not in your favor.”
“Thanks, blabbermouth,” Joker grumbled. “Why don't you just tell the whole damn crew how they can beat me and take my credits?”
“If you insist... Attention on the ship...”
“EDI, wait, no! I was kidding!” Joker jumped up from his seat, panic spreading across his face.
“Do not worry, Jeff. I was only joking. EDI out.”
Kaidan, Allie, and James busted out laughing when Joker's face turned beat red. “I'll get her. I'll get even with her, I swear if it's the last thing I do. It wasn't that funny, guys. Come on.”
Joker returned to his seat and glared at the cards on the table. It was then Allie noticed the stack of cards in front of Joker was noticeably smaller than the ones in front of James and Kaidan. “So you apparently aren't very good at this game, either,” she noted, leaning back in her chair.
“They're cheating. They have to be. This one,” he stabbed a finger in Kaidan's direction, “is probably using his L2 nonsense to mark the cards or stack the deck or something and that one,” he pointed at James, “probably has cards shoved in his pockets or something. This is a game of absolute luck.” It was obvious to Allie Joker had been losing for quite a while, even at this new game. She chuckled when Joker's newly upturned card wasn't enough to beat the ones on the table and he swore when Kaidan swiped them into his ever-growing pile. “I don't even think I have any aces left in here.”
“We could deal you in,” Kaidan offered, finally looking at her. “You could probably use a break and it would give Joker a chance to maybe not get his ass kicked for once.”
“Well, not get my ass kicked by you two, anyway,” Joker muttered. He turned over another card and swore when Kaidan scooped that pair up, too.
Allie's smile faded from her face as she considered Kaidan's offer. Yes, she could definitely use a break and playing a mundane card game with her friends would be a great way for her to take her mind off of the real war raging through the galaxy, but she wasn't sure spending time with Kaidan like that would be a good idea.
“I appreciate the offer, but wandering around the crew deck is enough of a break. Those reports and sitreps won't write themselves. Oh, and Kaidan, I sent back two of the promotion packets you forwarded me. Neither of those soldiers have enough time in grade for a promotion and they don't have any waivers left.”
“I know, but they're good soldiers, Allie. I mean, Commander,” he quickly corrected himself since the conversation turned to business. “I was hoping you'd give them a war-time exception or something.”
Allie frowned and thought for a moment. “Send them back to me and I'll look at them again.”
After the door hissed shut behind her, Joker raised an eyebrow at Kaidan. “Not enough time in grade and no waivers? That's not like you to miss something like that. Not unless....”
James's and Joker's faces lit up in realization. “You sly dog. You did that on purpose so she'd talk to you!” James exclaimed
Kaidan cleared his throat and shrugged. “No, not really. I was honestly hoping she'd have just checked off on the waiver box and signed them.”
Joker shook his head and James just stared across the table at his friend. “She'll come around, you know. If she didn't trust you, you wouldn't be here. The rest will fall in to place eventually.”
Kaidan glanced at the now-closed door and sighed. “Vega, you don't do what I did to someone and expect to get back into their good graces right away. I know I'm lucky to even be here, luckier still that she's willing to give me the time of day. As for the rest...”
The sentinel just shrugged and turned over another card, barely noticing when James took that winning pile. Instead his attention was on the now-closed door and he wondered if he'd ever really win back Allie's trust and friendship.