I'm Not That Cruel, Really

by Mei Kwong and Linda Pierce

Time: Around midnight
Place: The Raven

Mei shifted uncomfortably in her chair. It was very weird that Linda happened to win every single game of poker that they were playing. True, she didn't know everything about Linda, but she didn't have her pegged as a card shark either. She looked thoughtfully at Carrie. If there was a card shark, she would suspect sweet Carrie K. just by the way she was shuffling the deck. Linda, however, seemed blissfully unaware, savoring each win.

Linda was astonished at her luck tonight. Too bad they weren't playing for more than just pennies. She put her cards in order and frowned she was going to have to get Nick's stolen PJs into the pot somehow. Or at least one of the pairs she had arranged to have stolen from Dotti. She grinned to herself. She looked at the pot before her, but her eyes were suddenly drawn to the candle on the table. She began to reach out for it, but felt a stinging slap on her hand.

"Stop that!" Mei said as she tried to control her friend's unnatural urge to play with fire. She sighed and looked up and saw her fellow Natpacker Alora with Nick&Natpackers Melaine and Laura. Eagerly, she waved them over to the table. All these Knighties around her and Linda began make her uncomfortable.

"What's up guys? Alora asked curiously.

"Poker." Carrie replied in a businesslike tone as she dealt out some cards. "Wanna play?"

"Count me in," Alora chimed as she sat in a chair vacated by a Knightie.

Melaine also joined in, but Laura opted to sit out and watch.

"What do you think they're talking about?" Laura asked as she jerked her head in the direction of the door Nick and Natalie had gone through.

"I don't know," Dotti grunted as she studied her cards with all the intensity of a hardened gambler, "But I do know one thing, those two are the most unpredictable, illogical pair of lovers since Romeo and Juliet."

"Well, Juliet had more of a choice than Nat," Alora muttered.

"What did you say?" Dotti flashed.

"Whoa, whoa," Melaine said, making a time out motion with her hands. "No more sniping and saying who's wrong and who's right. We're here to have fun. So, let's have fun."

"Yeah, and to make this next hand interesting, let's sweeten the pot a little." Linda pulled out a pair of black silk pajamas and laid them on the table. A collective "oooohhhh" went up from her audience as she leaned back in her chair, a smirk on her face.

"You know," Carrie said with a frown as she played with the material, "These look like Nick's."

Dotti flashed Linda a suspicious look. They did look like Nick's. As a matter of fact, they looked like the pair that she had initially taken, only to have them stolen. Hmmmm. If she won this pair, she would have TWO pairs that had clung to his perfectly sculpted body. The shirt that pressed against his muscular chest. The pants that covered-- Dotti shook her head. "Bit warm in here isn't it?"

"I want those so I can burn something belonging to the bozo," Alora said under her breath. Suddenly, her eyes spotted the candle on the table. "See the pretty flame," she crooned. Her hand reached for it, only to have Mei slap it away.

"Will you stop that!" Mei said in exasperation. She had been assigned to keep Linda away from fire, but it now looked like she would have to babysit Alora too. The others refused to let her blow the candle out because it was too dark in the Raven. Sighing, she decided just to more the candle next to her. Alora and Linda looked at her reproachfully when she did this. Mei's mouth set in a stubborn grimace.

This particular hand began to get heated. After a venomous glance from Dotti, Carrie decided she would forgo her original plan and let at least one hand be won by someone else.

"I won! I won! Mine! Mine! Mine!" Dotti yelled as she won back the pajamas.

Mei frowned and looked at Linda. She knew that Linda still had one more pair of Nick's pajamas. She made a mental note not to be around her fellow Natpacker when Dotti came after her for the second pair.

Mei got up and gave her seat to Heather of the Nick&Natpackers who had joined their happy group. Laura wandered over to Heather after Melaine gave her a reproachful look, blaming her for losing that last hand. Maybe Heather would appreciate her advice more, Laura thought. Afterall, if Melaine knew she had a full house, why did she listen to her?

Mei began to chat with both Sorcha and TJ. She absently looked around at the other party goers. Although this was her first war, she knew this was what it was all about. Friends together, having a good time. It was nice to be with such great people.

[War Stories]