Deep brown eyes scanned the men around him, trying to read their stony expressions. Each was hiding behind a mask of five cards and shadowed by the dim light shining above them. Tension was thick in the air.
"Time's up, bro. What've you got?"
Tommy Oliver smiled, then laid down his hand. "Read 'em and weep, Jase. Full house." The other 7 players echoed a chorus of "Man!", "Crap!", and multiple other exclamations of discontent. Jason only chuckled.
"Pretty good play."
The Red Zeo Ranger shrugged. "Hey, I'm playing against a bunch of Red Rangers here. Gotta rep to keep up, y'know."
"Yeah, good ol' Technicolor Tommy," Rocky chimed in. He had missed the assembly of Red Rangers for the mission against the Machine Empire, but he had jumped at the chance to meet up with them all on Tommy's birthday to hear about it, even if not all of them could be there. Aurico had to get back to Aquitar, since the moon's lack of any moisture had dehydrated him seriously. Leo had to get back to Mirinoi to be there when Kendrix would have their baby. Carter had work to do in the planning of another Lightspeed Rescue operation.
"I hardly think three colors would count as entirely technicolor, Rocky," Andros stated plainly. Then a grin came over his face. "Four, on the other hand...." T.J. nudged his teammate.
"He never got the chance. I replaced him before somebody had to go through the trouble of making him another costume." The assembly of Red Rangers chuckled at the thought of Tommy having to adjust to yet another color had he stayed on duty.
"Speaking of costumes," Wes looked at Eric. "Whose idea was it to make your costume look so much like mine? People can hardly tell us apart!"
"You wish," the Quantum Ranger retorted. "All the girls of Silver Hills dig me way more than they ever would you." Wes responded with a light punch to Eric's arm before Andros cleared his throat.
"Guys? You think we could get back to the game?"
"Yeah, man. I'm about ready to just swipe something from the kitchen, my stomach's growling so much."
"Geez, Rocko, you eat much more and your stomach won't let you do any more martial arts," Tommy said through a laugh.
"Hey, you think he eats a lot, you should see T.J. on the MegaShip. I don't think the synthesizer ever had such a workout!" Raucous laughter echoed through the garage once more at the semi-annoyed look that crossed the Red Turbo Ranger's face. Jason was the first to be serious again.
"Okay boys, let's get this hand under way." The original Red Ranger began passing out cards. "Rookie, you wanna place the first bet?" Everybody's attention turned to Cole, who had been somewhat quiet through the whole exchange. It was understandable. As Jason said, he was the rookie of the group and probably didn't have too many stories to tell about any other Rangers that they would know.
The Red Wild Force Ranger looked at his hand before reaching behind him and placing a small bag on the table.
"Two slices of Alyssa's last birthday cake. Lemon with vanilla swirled inside it, chocolate icing with a thick layer of sprinkles."
All of the men nodded. "Good bet," Rocky informed the others. "Well balanced in all the right areas. You chose a pretty good thing, kiddo. Next?"
Eric was next to pull something out from under the table. "Buffalo wings," he stated simply.
He turned to look at T.J. "Loaded."
The Red Astro Ranger was next. He placed a strange-looking, small plate of a yellowish food similar to a casserole and leaned back in his chair. "Kerovan chirlati."
Everyone turned to T.J. to see his thoughts on the food. He only nodded. "Big gun, Andros. But not big enough." An enormous lump of brown squares covered in plastic wrap found its place on the center table. "I give you Cassie's cinnamon-fudge dipped, triple caramel swirled brownies."
Wes shook his head. "Sorry guys. This is all too rich for me. I'm out." He folded his cards and laid them on the table.
Rocky grinned. "Your loss, man. If you stayed in, you might've gotten a chance to win these bad boys." With that, he put out two twelve packs of Snickers bars.
The Red Time Force Ranger groaned. "Aww, man! Those are my favorite!" Eric nudged him.
"Ah, your dad's rich. Those things cost, like, what? A buck a bag?"
"Well, I'll give you points for quantity, Rocky, but as for quality..." Jason left his sentence unfinished, letting the small tin do his talking for him.
"Peanuts?" T.J. laughed. "Please, you're betting peanuts? Come on, Jason, be serious here."
The dark haired man grinned knowingly as he slowly turned the tin around to let the others see its label. Gasps echoed from the others.
"Planter's Honey Roasted?" Andros had raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"That's right. I'd like to see you guys beat that." All eyes landed on Tommy, the only one yet to bet.
Tommy glanced at his cards, then at his fellow players, then back at his cards. He slowly reached inside his leather jacket and pulled out a small plastic bag. "Call." The bag was placed gently on the table. "And raise."
"Holy...." Rocky's jaw dropped. "Are those...?" Tommy nodded. Jason's eyes widened to near saucers as T.J. folded his cards in frustration. Andros waited a second in contemplation before folding as well. Even Eric decided it was a battle not worth fighting. Only Cole had a look of confusion on his face.
"I don't understand. What are they?"
"Kimberly's famous double fudge, white chocolate swirled, lemon dropped, sugar coated chocolate chip cookies," Rocky almost whispered reverently. His fellow Rangers nodded confirmation.
"Here." Tommy took a small one out of the bag and handed it to the rookie Ranger. "Free sample. So you know what you're up against."
Cole took a tentative bite of the tiny treat, then nearly collapsed on the table. "Holy Red Lion...."
"I think he likes it," Wes smiled.
Tommy's grin was as big as the Cheshire Cat's as he looked at Jason. "Well? Show me what'cha got, bro."
Jase hesitated only slightly before laying his cards down. "Straight, as in straight from your stash and into mine."
"Tsk, tsk, tsk. Not good enough, Jase." His cards slapped the table. "Royal flush."
"You men and your card games," a cheery voice called from the door. Emily stood just outside the garage, the other girls around her.
"Andros, what did I tell you about bringing alien dishes to the parties?" Ashley lightheartedly scolded her fiancè.
The telekinetic only shrugged. "It was a special occasion."
"And what's a special occasion without cake?" Alyssa chirped. "C'mon, boys! It's time for the most honored birthday tradition!"
6 of the Red Rangers stood up and began heading towards the kitchen, leaving Tommy to gather up his winnings. Jason clapped him on the back. "Great game, man. It's fun being back."
"We all missed you Jason," Kimberly added from behind him. She gave her 'big brother' a hug, then lightly shoved him towards the door. "Now get in there and let me help my husband gather up whatever junk food he's decided to fill our pantry with this time." Once they were alone, the original Pink Ranger playfully smacked her husband on the back of the head. "Thomas James Oliver, betting my cookies again? Do you know how much time I spend on those?"
Tommy took her in his arms. "That is exactly why they were the perfect bet. Most of the guys folded just at the sight of them. And what they didn't take care of...." He produced a card from the sleeve of his jacket. "This little guy did."
A look of shock came over the petite brunette's face. "Where did you learn to do that?"
"Zack taught me a few things before he left for the Peace Conference."
The shock turned into something seductive. "Well, then you'll have to show me just how skilled those hands are tonight..." She lazily trailed a finger down his chest. "Don't let the boys keep you up too long. You still haven't gotten my present yet..." With that, she began strolling back to the kitchen with a sway in her hips. She turned before going in, winking at him alluringly.
Tommy smiled. This was turning out to be a worthwhile birthday.
Very worthwhile indeed.
Disclaimer and Author's Note: Whew, it's been a long time! Okay, for the [most likely very few of you] people that have been following my work, you might have noticed that I took off a few of my other stories. That's because I've decided to rewrite my Revelation series into something that might actually go somewhere. Expect to see the first chapter of it up....well, expect it when you see it. Thank you for reading, hope you enjoyed my first attempt at a semi-humor fic. Please review and let me know what you like, what you don't, yadda yadda, so I can improve your reading experience. Hasta la vista, my author amigos!