all of the lights ; ( group – open )




“You know, someone really should give Internal Affairs a heads-up about the Director’s most recent battle with delusion.”

Sharon slides into the seat beside Maria, returning the woman’s dangerous smile with one of her own, a sly quirk of the lips accompanied by a sharp-edged laugh.  You could say that playing high-stakes games of observation was their job, and if so, that they both took winning very, very seriously, meaning each time they met like this, it’s like as not that they both walk away proclaiming themselves the champion.

Waiting until the dealer returns Maria’s chips, Sharon hands over one of her own and slides the stack of smaller denominations toward herself, looking over her shoulder as she does, eyes traveling way from Maria to survey the room.

Arranging the skirt of her gown so she can sit comfortably, smoothing the fabric over the edge of the stool, Sharon props her feet on the rail beneath the table, ankles crossed. 

(Her elementary etiquette teacher would absolutely cry with pride about now, if she could see Sharon for once actually using the manners her parents bought for her.)

“You’d think Stark could afford less obvious security,” she says from the corner of her mouth, conspiratorial, leaning in close enough to Maria that their elbows nudge at the edge of the felted table.

It had been four minutes, maybe five, since Carol had walked in the casino, and she already had her eyes set on a poker game and was making a bee-line to the table. She feels lucky ( she usually does, though, and more often than not it worked out in a way opposite from what she wanted ) and there’s a large stack of chips in the center of the circle of players that calls her name.

As she approaches, her sure footsteps slow. She a few faces are familiar ( an advantage? ) and she makes her way over to them, rounding around the group of guests clumping around the game.

She rolls her black sleeves up and rubs her hands together. ( The fabric was stiff and hard to force up her forearms. Obviously, this hundred-something dollar dress wasn’t meant to have its sleeves crumpled up like that. )

Is this seat taken? she says – it’s an empty seat, but it feels necessary to be polite when she’s so well dressed – as she pulls out a chair for herself. Her eyes flicker around the group again as she’s given a stack of chips from the center.

Sharon Carter is to Maria Hill’s left, and her director is to Carol’s left. Carol is so pushed so close to her that their elbows bump every so often. Sharon and Maria are murmuring together, heads down, and Carol can’t help but interject for a moment.

Are you two plotting down to take down this casino, or what? She turns to face the pair, taking a chip from her pile and tapping it in a repetitive rhythm on the table, with a smidgen of a grin on her lips.

Betting money with confidence on an event with an uncertain
outcome that relied more on chance and luck than design did not seem like the
hobby of an intelligent person – poker, however, was a zero-sum game that could
be won through the implementation of simple logic and game theory. It was all a
study of mathematical models as applied to rational decision-making. It was the
same basic action and reaction formulas he used often when programming
cooperative tasks for robots and artificial intelligences. It wasn’t luck, it
was probability and psychology, and Reed theoretically understood it to the
point where he was confident enough that he could not only play, but also win.

“Is this a private game?” Reed asked as he took up a chair
across from Director Hill, seating himself between the newly appointed Deputy
Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and someone whom he had not yet had the pleasure of
meeting even in reputation, “Doctor Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four,” he
introduced himself very briefly to the two he had not yet met before in person,
“I’ve never played before, but I think I understand the general mechanics.”

Reed then proceeded to slide $2,000 worth of large chips across the table to
the dealer without any sort of hesitation, “could you break these for me? I
would like four $25, four $50, seven $100, and two $500,” and the dealer nodded and provides Reed with the proper denominations.

“Who starts?” He was a bit eager to play – it was all quite an
exciting new experience for him.

A quiet huff, that dangerous flash of her eyes that leaves the severity of her irritation to speculation; Maria lets the barb glance off of her armor. Free pass, they were technically off the clock, and she’d started it. Fine, whatever. This was their routine, trade jabs instead of polite hellos. It suited them better. She flicks her brows, lifts the stack of chips slightly and lets them fall back against each other with a satisfying sound.

          “It’s almost gaudy, honestly. But then, when has he ever been about subtlety?” This might be Stark’s ( half, anyway ) event but she’s not about to let him ruin it for her.

Carol glides up half a minute later and the slant to Maria’s smirk only increases. “It’s yours-” A nod toward the seat in question and she adjusts her posture to bring her elbows in closer to her torso. She gives Sharon a saturated glance, a slow blink, and then shifts the look to Danvers. “Something like that.” A shift in her seat, one leg over the other, red fabric dripping off the bar upon which she rests her foot.

           “It’s good to see you, Carol. Too bad I’m going to have to rob you of your money– it’s for charity.” Her lips are pressed together, the glint in her eyes conveying the tease when Richards takes the final seat. Maria gives him a clipped nod, watching the way he eagerly handles the chips before purposefully meeting Sharon’s eye. “This should be fun.”

The dealer, meanwhile, is fussing with the cards and the shuffling device. He’s got both hands on the felt tabletop now, fingertips tapping atop the surface. “Fifty dollar buy-in.”

Maria slides a chip toward the center of the table and leans back in her chair, eyes partly squinted ( good-natured suspicion evident in the expression ). “You know, I somehow find that hard to believe, Dr. Richards.”



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