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If We Just Had a Deck of Cards...

Posted on Sat Oct 2nd, 2021 @ 11:52am by Alden Loxley & Chloe Waltz PhD & Jonas Bailey & Kindra Graham

Mission: Back in Black
Location: Fortune's Echo
Timeline: Day 27

Day and night didn't mean much more than organised meal-times and a shaky sleep pattern out here in the black, Alden considered as he dealt himself another hand of 'patience'. Dog-eared old cards laid out on top of a battered old crate that lovingly remained as part of Echo's cargo bay furniture, boots up beside those lines of black and red designs, he quietly sang himself a familiar tune on murmured repeat.

A just-finished cold beer sank into his brain sweetly in a bright dulling to the voices in his head and Alden smiled as he heard boots high on the metal stairs above him. Someone else couldn't sleep, it seemed.

Jonas had forgotten how bad the differences could be between ship-time and planet-time. There were times when he missed the sun and the regular schedule of a day and night. Out here, days ran together and time seemed meaningless. So he found himself wandering down to the cargo bay in a tank top, a pair of shorts, and his boots. His footfalls on the metal stairs were slow and heavy as if he were being lazy about his gait. When he reached the bottom, he turned around and saw Alden.

"Well, if it ain't Cap'n Alden," he said with a lopsided grin. "Not had too much time to sit down and catch up since I came on. Let alone, say thanks. By the way, thanks."

"Beer?" Alden offered, his own smile broad and unashamed as he reached for two more bottles that were lurking behind him in a cooler. They clinked together brightly as the Echo's captain lifted them up and out and offered Jonas his pick of the duo. "No thanks needed, brother," he returned. "Just glad you didn't kill me back on Hera," he added with a wicked smirk and a direct gaze. "Up for a game?"

Jonas took the beer and intended on fully enjoying it. He popped the top and let it breathe for a second before taking a sip. "I wouldn't have killed you. Not even sure I're just too damn pretty to die, brother," he added with a laugh. "Yeah, I'm up for a game."

Alden chuckled at that, a genuinely happy and utterly relaxed sound that promised his absolute comfort with Jonas' presence. "I ain't as beautiful as you," he teased, blowing the other man a goodnatured and completely non-serious kiss from his fingertips. "What shall we play?" He asked.

Chloe had been lying on her bed, reading. She lifted up her head from her pillow, listening, when she heard some noise coming from the common area. The woman let out a sigh. She placed a book ribbon to mark the spot in her book, and slipped on her shoes. She had been wanting to go down and grab a glass of water for some time now, but didn't want to wake anybody up. Now that she knew that other people were up and making noise though... well, all her personal restrictions on "be quiet" were up. The woman tucked her book beneath her arm and slowly made her way down towards the dining area to grab some water, but curiosity drew her towards the source of the talking instead.

Kindra's fingertips were sore from playing her harp. She'd been learning new music, a complicated song with a tune that moved across the octaves, one hand to the other, with multiple key changes. It kept her mind occupied until finally she'd had to stop, and her restlessness had sent her wandering, not expecting to find anyone in the cargo bay. And yet, she was not alone. Four days on the Echo, and she had yet to speak with Alden alone. Kindra nodded to each of them. "Jonas… Chloe… Alden… Mind if I join you?"

He froze for an almost imperceptible second, a blip in time that might not even have been noticed unless someone was staring directly into his eyes. And then Alden's expression reanimated and he waved his free hand to a door in the side of the cargo bay behind him. While the bay itself was mostly empty - supplies rather than merchandise being carried to Ghost - there was room for them all to sit.

"Some deckchairs in there," Alden pointed out, jabbing at the little access door with his thumb. "And yeah," his smile was genuine now, his mood swiftly rebooted. "By all means you can join us, Kindra."

"Mind if I join you, too?" Chloe asked, looking at the small forming crowd. Normally she was not one to socialize, but she was at a lull in the book she was reading and not likely to be able to get back to sleep with all this noise here anyway so she might as well participate.

Jonas was leaning back in his chair and gently rocking it occasionally when Kindra spoke. He hadn't even heard her approach. It was a miracle he didn't lose balance and fall flat on his backside. Then he looked to Chloe, "Well I don't see why not. Pull out a deck chair and bring it in."

Kindra found the access door easily enough, and extracted two deckchairs, one for herself and one for Chloe. She handed one to the engineer and unfolded the other on one side of the crate, between Jonas and Alden, and took a seat. She leaned in with friendly curiosity to examine the cards laid out on the make-shift table. "What are you playing?"

"Well, I was playing Patience," Alden admitted unashamedly and with a forlorn face that rapidly mutated into a big dumb grin. "Then y'all turned up." He brushed the crumbs of some long-gone sandwich from his faded and comfortable band t-shirt and then chased it from the legs of his cargo trousers too before adding. "I dunno, mebbe poker?" A gleam caught his gaze as he handed out two more bottles of beer - one for Kindra, one for Chloe - then Alden ventured a counter offer. "Strip poker?"

Chloe sat down in the deckchair without hesitation, and took the beer with a touch of hesitation. The woman didn't lean in to the table, but she looked over the cards intently. She wasn't usually much one to jump into games like this, but she was also rarely invited, and the fact that they did so without pause, well, that touched her. Strip poker? Ah, that was a joke. And the best response to a joke was another joke, right? Chloe gave a well practiced smile. "I can't say I have a good track record with strip poker." That, at least, wasn't entirely false.

Kindra held the bottle in both hands so that its pleasantly cool surface pressed against each of her sore fingertips. Kindra was wearing her usual ship-board casual, choli and harem pants. In all, she had only four wagers. She returned Alden's grin with one of her own, with a sly glance to Jonas. Six months ago, she and Jonas had shared close quarters for a time, where modesty was a matter of pretending not to look. And Alden, well… that was a sight she'd waited two years to see again.

Kindra regarded Chloe with a little concern. The engineer's response was not exactly clear and enthusiastic consent. "Well Alden, if you're suggesting that we strip as determined by chance and the luck of a card game…" She smiled with the fleeting thought that Alison would be disappointed she didn't get to play. "Then I'm in, though I'll want my clothes back. As long as Chloe and Jonas agree."

Chloe shrugged, holding the bottle of beer in one hand and her book in the other. She did not have a bottle opener, nor knew where one was and hadn't quite worked up the nerve to ask about that yet. "Yeah," she said, glancing down at her pajamas. She didn't have any more than Kindra to 'wager' with, if they were really doing this. Were they? She was never quite sure when people were joking. Whatever. She had been invited to this, and didn't want to feel left out. Besides. She wasn't married any more, so it's not like there was somebody to get mad at her for doing stuff this time. "Sure. I'm in."

Jonas returned Kindra's sly glance with a wink as his mind wandered to six months ago. He'd be a liar if he said he didn't steal a look once in a while when they shared a room.

But now she wasn't paying him to be her bodyguard. And it was just a game of strip poker. He listened as Chloe replied and then tossed her a bottle opener. "Well," said the straightforward merc, "I'm good with some nekkidness. Though I can't lose more than three hands... tank top, shorts, and boots. So let's play."

"Thanks," Chloe said quietly, catching the bottle opener and using it for its namesake purpose. She tossed it back towards Jonas. The engineer took a long look at the bottle before taking a small drink.

Quietly, Alden had gathered up the cards, set the deck straight and true and then lazily shuffled it a few times while the others sorted themselves places about that solitary crate in the cargo hold of his and Alison's ship. He contemplated waking her up, but left well alone - her sleep so light as to not wish to disturb any his friend might claim.

Boots back on the table, consent gathered all around, Alden handed that clean and unmarked deck to Jonas, his brother in blood from way back and adopted a serious gaze. "You'll be the dealer," Alden said, making the rules rather than asking Jonas' opinion. "Wouldn't be fair for me to." That dirty grin was back as the Echo's captain looked over Kinda and Chloe. "If you count my boots as one, I'm looking at those same three hands to lose. But," Alden added. "If we win, we could always trade." He wondered what Kindra or Chloe might look like in Jonas' shorts or his t-shirt, and liked the thought enough to voice it, though he knew that was against the rules. "Or we just agree we keep the clothes we came in?"

"Trade?" Kindra chuckled, imagining how Jonas would look in her choli, or Alden wearing the petite engineer's pajamas, or Chloe in Jonas' tank top. She reached for the bottle opener on the crate next to Jonas, and opened her beer. "I'm not sure it'd be possible for either of you men to get into my clothes or Chloe's, and they might come apart when you try." She gave all three of them a sultry half-smile and took a sip from her bottle. "But it sure will be an entertaining sight to see."

Chloe's eyes widened a bit at suggestion. No way would any of the others fit into her clothes. Even Kindra was half a foot taller than her, much less the two men. Besides, she could hardly imagine them in her pink floral pajamas or fluffy slippers. Were slippers even a thing, outside of the Core? She hadn't seen anybody out here wear them. Chloe took a sip from her own bottle when Kindra did. "I don't think you two could easily afford to replace these pajamas," she commented, more focused towards the men than towards the Companion. That was entirely true. They had been custom bought from a shop on Londinium.

Openly and without any shame whatsoever, Alden laughed. That happy, throw-his-head-back kinda happiness that surpassed anything else going on and demanded to simply be. "Fair point, ladies, fair point," he said, when that immediate laughter transitioned to overt amusement and that stupid grin. "Nekkid it is," Alden added, looking from Chloe's expensive bedroom outfit to the luxurious fabric of Kindra's garments. "And I can't argue with ya there on the expense, either," he conceded gracefully, but couldn't resist an aside to his engineer's topic. "Though money can't buy everything in the Core."

"Any other rules we need to clarify? Or shall we get stuck into this skin-game?" Alden asked, and looked to Jonas with that deck of cards.

Jonas had been shuffling the cards while the exchange was happening. "Let's get into it," he said. "The game is Five Card Draw, nothing wild. Well, so far as the cards go. Let's roll." The big guy dealt the cards and waited for everyone to pick them up so the first round of 'betting' could begin.

Chloe took a breath as she picked up her cards. This was far from her first game of five card draw, and although she was good with probability and cards, she never quite got the hang of reading people or telling if others were bluffing. She did some silent calculations as she looked at her hand. These calculations would be easier if she had her old friends with her. Not that she had counted cards or anything, but, hey, counting cards was easier with a group. They were also easier in some different games than this one - in five card draw she was mostly going in blind.

Kindra gathered her cards together into a neat pile in her palm but did not look at them. She watched each of the other players with their cards instead, a speculative smile on her face. This was not five-card-draw played for the purpose of winning money, this was a group striptease. If she was playing for money, she'd decide if the cards she'd been dealt were worthy of involvement, and toss them to the muck if they weren't. But for this game the strategy was completely different, both winning and losing were interesting prospects. She leaned back and took a sip of the cool, hoppy contents of her bottle.

He didn't even bother to try and hide it, Alden just exhaled a soft sound of regret as he regarded his cards. Yeah... he was definitely going to end up stark naked before too long if this kept up, but given the current company he wasn't too worried about himself. There was some mild concern with regards the (to his current knowledge) prim and very proper engineer, but that was part of the fun of strip poker. You got to see things you wouldn't normally see.

"You're up first, Chloe," Alden said with a bright grin and aimed both his hand and the bottle of beer held within it in her very specific direction.

Chloe paused for a moment to think. This wasn't the best hand of cards, but then again she always did worry about being too cautious. That being said - perhaps the first hand was not the one to worry about that with. She glanced at the other people in the table. Every table did always have different rules. "Can I, uh, sit this round out?" She asked.

"Of course you can fold if you want to," said Kindra, giving the other woman an encouraging smile. Chloe was in the blind position, a disadvantage if the engineer wanted to win. She'd seen Alden's reaction to his cards and gave him a lopsided grin. "You're up next, Alden."

"I'll stay in," Alden said, with the worst poker face ever. He'd trade a few cards next round for sure, but with Chloe out the odds were already improving. "All yours, Kindra," he noted, leaning back in his chair and shuffling his boots on the crate while trying to look engimatic.

"Oh, I'm definitely in." Kindra held her cards in her palm, still unexamined, enjoying the random uncertainty of having no forewarning of her hand's chances. She focused her attention then on Jonas. "And now to you, Da-ghuh (big brother)."

"I'm in, mei mei," said the big guy. "For two cards." He put his choices on the crate.

Chloe set her cards, face down, on the table. Now was her time to watch, and see how the table played... more importantly than the actual game, though, was the interactions. She wasn't here, really, to win. She was her to establish herself as a part of the crew, and thus needed to decide how a part of this crew might act.

"Okay," Alden said with an open smile and no apparent concerns as to his next words. "I'll trade ya two for two, please." He slipped two cards from his hand across the crate's surface to Jonas and let their replacements come back to him, slow and real easy like.

Interesting. Alden was taking two cards, which suggested he might have a triple. Or, since Alden was the optimistic sort, might mean he was going for a straight or a flush. Kindra finally looked at the cards in her hand. Laughter bubbled up from inside her chest and rang out into the cargo space. She slapped her entire hand face down on the crate in front of Jonas and, still chuckling, said, "I'll take five, please."

Jonas nodded to Alden and cast a sideways glance at Kindra. "Okay. Should be interesting for sure." He dealt out the appropriate numbers of cards to the players.

Alden kept those two new cards face-down on the table, unloved and unseen. Whatever they were, it didn't really matter, he had a whole bunch of clothing to lose at this point. Still he flicked the three cards he did have and tapped his foot on the floor in a clear signal of amused comfort at their current situation. "How we doing this, brother?" He asked Jonas. "All at once on the reveal, or one at a time?"

"I'm all for an all at once reveal," replied Jonas. "All cards on the table." He looked around the crate at the others and added a wink.

Kindra examined her five new cards and raised an eyebrow. Depending on her goals here, the hand she threw away might have been better. Her speculative gaze settled on Jonas, then Alden. "I know I'm ready for a reveal. All at once works for me."

Chloe watched quietly as the others decided to reveal their cards. Her own cards sat facedown on the table, no question probably a worse draw than others.

There was no bad outcome to this round from Alden's point of view. Someone was gonna be down an item of clothing and he was absolutely and totally fine with that. Whoever it was. He offered Jonas a fraternal smirk, shot Kindra a wink and then with a look of chagrin to Chloe, Alden placed five cards down for everyone to see. Queen of Clubs. Ten of Diamonds. Nine of Hearts. Seven and Three of Diamonds. Jack Shit but a High Card.

Seeing Alden's wink and his cards – with no hint of the combination of three cards he'd kept - suggested his goal for this game… reminiscent of his dramatic casino entrance on the Quantum of the Stars cruise ship. Kindra laid down her cards with an expectant grin. Queen of diamonds. Jack of diamonds and jack of spades. Nine of diamonds and nine of spades. She had two pairs.

Jonas chuckled at Kindra's comment about the reveal and returned Alden's smirk. Then he put all his cards on the table; Jack of Spades, King of Spades, Queen of Diamonds, Three of Diamonds, Nine of Spades. Almost, but he ended up with High Card. A King High Card. That was it, nothing more.

"Guess I'm losing my shirt," Alden stated, with a bright chuckle and a lingering grin. He pulled the t-shirt over his head with a keen, practised enthusiasm and tossed it across the cargo bay to watch it wrap about the hand-rail of the metal stairs.

Chloe chuckled as the others laid out their cards. Her highest had been a nine - she was glad she had folded, though Alden seemed less than concerned about losing. That was the atmosphere then? Just playing to have fun. That made sense, but that didn't mean Chloe didn't want to lose. She was here to participate, after all.

Kindra let her gaze wander over Alden's bare upper half with leisurely appreciation - chest, shoulders, arms, his flat stomach and long-fingered hands. Tempting as it was to dwell on certain memories, she kept her thoughts in the moment. "Lookin' good Alden," she said with a broad grin. She pushed the cards on the crate in front of her toward the Echo's engineer. "I believe it's Chloe's turn to deal."

It was good to see Chloe laugh, gentle as that sound was from the young woman and Alden's big dumb smile only widened as Kindra looked him up and down. He canted his head back just enough to ensure that she was gifted the best view he could offer, then nodded and blinked in a gentlemanly response to her verbal compliment. "Thank you, ma'am," he returned, then looked from Kindra to Jonas to Chloe.

"Yup, you're up, Chloe," Alden stated. "Couple quick-rise rounds I reckon." He raised a single eyebrow. "Five card, no draw?"

Jonas pushed his cards, and the rest of the deck, over to Chloe. "Made out pretty good on that hand. Well, depending on how you look at it, I guess. Five card, no draw sounds like a fun hand," he added. "Play with what ya got."

Alden held his hands out to either side in an open and contented gesture of his own current comfort. "Luck has to run out sometime, brother," he said with a grin. "When you're ready then, Chloe," he said.

Chloe shrugged, grabbing the cards. She shuffled them with more expertise than one might expect of her, then passed the deck to the side to be cut. The woman seemed to be more busy concentrating than smiling; she was determined not to mess this hand up. She dealt five cards to everybody, then set aside the deck. "Five card, no draw then." A risky game, with less clue of what everybody might have. If Chloe were actually playing to win, she might have protested. But, she reminded herself, she wasn't. She smiled at the other three as she finished dealing.

Kindra waited until after Chloe agreed to the new version of the game, then bowed her head in assent. Five-card-no-draw was a game of pure luck, a fast game that would hasten their disrobing along. Kindra approved. She smiled at the pretty engineer's concentrated attention to the cards and wondered if Chloe played games of skill and strategy, like chess, and decided to ask her later. Once the cards were dealt, Kindra reached out to gather her five into a neatly ordered stack at the edge of the crate but didn't turn them over. "Thank you kindly, Chloe."

Alden slapped his cards down on the table, face up and grinned. Jack of diamonds, 4 of diamonds, 10 of diamonds, 4 of spades, 7 of diamonds.

Kindra regarded Alden's cards. Almost a flush, except for that spade… which gave him a pair. She turned her cards over and spread them out for display. King of hearts, ace of diamonds, 2 of clubs, 5 of spades, and 8 of spades.

"Oh I like this," said Jonas. "Play what you're dealt is a fun way to go." He placed his cards on the table. There was a seven of hearts, nine of diamonds, Jack spades, nine of hearts, and two spades. "Pair of nines. Read 'em and weep."

"Fun when you're winning," quipped Alden, unlacing one of his boots in preparation. The tilt of his head accentuated that glint of amusement in his eyes as he turned his attention to Chloe. "And fun when you're losing," the Echo's captain chuckled. "C'mon, Chloe, show us whatcha got..."

Chloe gave an almost apologetic smile. She placed her cards up on the table: a queen of diamonds, a king of clubs, a two of diamonds, a queen of hearts, and a king of spades. "Two pair," she commented casually.

"A pair, a pair, and two pair – beats my ace-high." Kindra smiled, enjoying her own moment of exhibitionism. She pulled her choli over the top of her head in one fluid motion, arching her back. Underneath she wore a black bra made of sheer satin and lace. Kindra folded the choli over the back of her chair and pushed the cards in front of her toward Alden with an anticipatory grin. "Your deal."

"Well ain't that just a sight," said Jonas, grinning. He tossed his cards over to Alden as well, "Let's roll. See who loses next." The big guy had big dumb grin on his face. It was kind of fun, just playing cards.

Alden's grin matched Jonas' own as he leant back and simply took in the beautiful scenery. Guilt-free staring culminated in a short, sharp exhale, a downward cant of his head combined with a bit of his lower lip, all to be followed by a happy nod to Chloe. "Good luck," he said, grabbing all cards and performing a showy shuffle.

The deal was swift and offered up with panache.

"Okay," Alden said. "Kindra first, then everyone at once I reckon."

Kindra picked up each of the cards one at a time, laying them down next to each other, and read each one. "King of clubs. Seven of diamonds. Jack of clubs. Two of clubs. Queen of spades." She picked up her drink and leaned back in her chair, tipping back the bottle. Another losing hand… or winning, depending on the goal. With an encouraging wink for Chloe and a wry smile for Jonas and Alden, she said, "King-high. Looks like my luck is holding."

"Feeling lucky my own self," Alden said, eyes bright as he looked to Jonas and Chloe to display their cards in unison. His own were pretty decent this time. Ace of clubs, Nine of hearts, King of hearts, King of diamonds and a four of spades. "Two more handsome Kings to see off your pretty lace, I reckon," he teased with a warm sense of amusement.

Chloe placed her cards down the same time that Alden did, though she didn't speak until he was done. "Pair of queens," she said simply, looking at the cards in front of her: an eight of spades, a six of diamonds, a Queen of clubs, a five of diamonds, and a Queen of diamonds.

Jonas put 'em all down at once. "Seven of hearts, ten of clubs, eight of clubs, four of clubs, Queen of hearts. Looks like I've got Queen high."

Kindra sat up straight in her chair and set her bottle down. "Well, well, Da-ghuh, seems your hand is even worse than mine." Kindra gathered the cards together and shuffled, grinning all the while in Jonas' direction to see what article of clothing he'd strip off.

Jonas grinned widely and pulled off the tank top he was wearing. He put his hands behind his head and leaned back. "Yep, pretty bad hand. But pretty good results," he added with a wink.

"Good results indeed." Kindra's hands stilled in shuffling the cards to look Jonas up and down appreciatively. In a stage-whisper aside to Chloe, she said, "He also looks damn good in a three-piece suit." She glanced briefly at Alden, then she dealt the four hands with alacritous care.

Flexing his shoulders back, Alden gave Jonas a look every bit as searching as the two women had. "Been working out, huh?" he teased, then relaxed back into his own lazy position, took a long draught of beer and considered his new hand. "Ready when y'all are," he noted, then let his gaze linger on Kindra's slender curves.

Kindra turned over her cards and spread them in front of her. Queen of diamonds, nine and ten of clubs, six of diamonds, and six of hearts. Better than her last two hands. "Pair of sixes," she said, and looked to the others to reveal their hands.

Chloe blinked at Kindra's comment. She couldn't really imagine Jonas in a three piece suit. Frankly, she couldn't imagine most of the crew in a three piece suit. Perhaps Kindra? Now that was a pretty thought. Chloe almost blushed at the imagine, then took a drink to distract herself, or maybe just to hide her face. She did not yet, however, lay down her cards, instead waiting for the guys to show their hands first.

As he placed his cards dramatically down on the crate for all to see, Alden caught a glimpse of Chloe in his peripheral vision. Not blushing, but definitely still coming across awkward and socially clunky. Maybe the alcohol would help some, he hoped, but having her in the game was good enough either way. Nothing great this time around, but Alden didn't seem concerned. "Queen a'hearts, Two of diamonds, Ten of diamonds, Nine of spades and a lonely heart King," he noted happily, already tugging off his boots in anticipation.

"Dude, you wore a suit for Ms Graham?" Alden queried. "You ain't never worn a suit for me," he added, with mock hurt tone.

As Alden spoke, Chloe laid her hand down on the table. A three of clubs, a King of clubs, and eight of spades, a nine of diamonds, and lastly an ace of spades. Chloe didn't call out her high card, not wanting to disrupt whatever that conversation was, but the decorative card lay conveniently on the top of her upturned hand.

"Oh, the suit wasn't just for me. Jonas had the eye of every society woman at that party and not a few of the men. Quite the belle of the ball," Kindra teased, looking expectantly at Jonas and waiting for him to lay down his cards. "At one point I thought I might have to step in to be his bodyguard, rather than the other way around."

"You ain't never took me to a fancy ball for a dance, either," Jonas said. He grinned at Alden and gave him a wink. "She's right though, it wasn't just for her. Lemme tell you, those high society notch ladies. But once in a while, you get one that you're dancin' close to and she starts whispering. Gorram it Alden, I don't blush, but holy hell." He put down his cards, a King diamonds, five of hearts, Ace of diamonds, eight of clubs, and ten of hearts. Ace high. "Yep, when one of those men tried to cut-tin during a dance, I thought I'd have to call her over."

Yup, Alden decided with a smile, he'd definitely lost this one. As he yanked off both boots and punted them across the cargo bay, he leant back, barefoot and bare-chested and comfortable in the fact he was going commando under those cargo trousers.

"Belle a' the Ball, huh, brother?" He chuckled, raising his eyebrows at Jonas. "Adorable as ever, no doubt," he added, his expression and tone taunting Jonas in a friendly manner of abuse that spoke of a shared history. "I bet ya Kindra here could kick your ass too," Alden added, clearly entertained by this insight into their past. "You and your weak spot for high falluting ladies, pretty women and well... most kinds of female persuasion."

Brightly warm eyes studied Kindra and then Chloe for a second or two, and Alden made 'thinking-face' for another couple before announcing with a merriment to his tone. "Last round, winner takes all. Your deal, dude," he instructed Jonas, beaming the younger man a broad openmouthed grin. "Deal em, face up," Alden added, with a happy impatience for the outcome.

Kindra chuckled at Alden's accurate description of Jonas' proclivities, but resisted making the observation that Jonas was usually the one pursued. Her languid gaze fell on each of her strip-tease-by-luck compatriots. Chloe had not lost a single hand, but if she lost this one, the companion had no doubt of enjoying the gift of seeing Chloe's sweetly lovely form. And Jonas, she well knew his nakedness was a sight to behold, and she definitely wouldn't mind the opportunity to look without pretending not to. And Alden… without his shirt she was reminded of the last time she'd seen him undressed, strutting across a casino completely naked. Damn if she didn't want him more than ever. Kindra hastily put that thought aside – she and Alden had planned to talk the next day - and licked her lips. "Last round for the win, dealt face-up. Sounds good to me."

"Well I'd welcome any chance she wanted to kick it," Jonas laughed. "Might even turn around so she'd have a better shot." He shuffled the deck and looked at everyone around the crate. "Face up it is, then. Last round for the win. Here they come." Jonas dealt the hand face up as directed. He looked at his cards immediately. "Queen of Diamonds, Nine of Hearts, Six of Clubs, Six of Hearts, and Four of Spades for me."

Chloe looked around the table as Jonas dealt her cards. She figured she was going to lose this round. Luck could only hold out for so long, after all. And she had already accepted it. When she looked down at the cards in front of her, they didn't much try to deny her theory: King of Spades, Seven of Clubs, Six of Spades, Two of Diamonds, and a Ten of Diamonds. "King High," Chloe said, more to herself than to the table.

Smiling at the visual conjured by the thought of her kicking Jonas' backside, Kindra regarded her hand, laid out on the table. Three of diamonds, two of clubs, three of clubs, ace of hearts, jack of clubs. "Pair of threes." Jonas' pair of sixes beat that, but her pair beat Chloe's king. She turned to see Alden's cards.

Chloe chuckled as yet another hand was laid down that beat hers. She took another drink, watching intently as they revealed the last hand of cards.

Dark blue eyes lingered long on Chloe's own as Alden checked his latest hand versus his new engineer's own. Tah Ma Duh... his luck was for Go Shi right now. Or was it? Maybe his internal focus was a little less on 'winning' and a tad more in the direction of amicable exhibitionism. Nakedness was somewhere he felt particulary comfortable after all, far more so than in any fancy garb such as might be imposed in civilised cities on the fancier planets.

"Queen of Hearts, Eight of Hearts, Four of Diamonds, Ace of Clubs, Three of Hearts," Alden noted, a big dumb grin wrapped about each pretty piece of shiny card. "Ace High," he confirmed, already standing up to unfasten the buttons of his cargo trousers. "Though I think we both kinda lost there, Chloe," he stated, that stupid smile still burning warmth from his weathered features.

It only took micro-seconds for the Echo's captain to be standing tall and utterly naked atop the central crate, hands briefly raised toward the ceiling in a dramatic pose of lazy comfort with such. He reached down to cup his privates in a gesture of unwanted mini-modesty then and addressed their little gathering with obvious, impish joy.

"Time for bed, I reckon," Alden said.

Kindra looked Alden up and down with a warm smile, as understanding dawned on her. No matter what cards were dealt or played that evening, it was always going to be Alden who ended up naked. She should have known. Kindra gave a loud, long, wolf whistle, got to her feet and began clapping her hands, slow and deliberate, a big indulgent grin on her face.

Chloe chuckled, looking at Alden. Did this mean she didn't have to strip? Or did they both have to? Chloe wasn't quite sure, and at this point didn't feel like asking. Instead she just quietly took another sip of her drink and starting stacking the cards back into a deck to end the night, wondering if anybody was going to say anything.

Jonas chuckled at Alden's display. "Congratulations, brother. You won." He looked around the table and at the women. "Been real nice seeing you two," he said to Chloe and Kindra. With an appreciative grin and a wink added. "But, I reckon it's time for bed, too." He scooted his seat back and stood. He bowed to them all and patted the ladies' shoulders. "Good game."



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