Disclaimer: I do not own Maverick or any recognizable characters and I am making no profit. This is just for fun.
A/N: This is my first go at a Maverick fic and I want to thank Deana for giving me the nudge I needed to start thinking about writing one. And also for the nudge I needed to actually publish it :) Thanks for reading, let me know what you think.
His whole life Bart had simply been "one of the Maverick boys". For sixteen years he'd carried that title without too much complaint but lately he'd found it was something he didn't particularly care for. Being a Maverick meant there was a certain code of conduct he was expected to live up to, or down to depending on who was asked. This included playing poker, being as charming and easy going as possible, and generally finding ways to avoid doing anything that resembled hard work. For the most part Bart was only too happy to do what was expected of him however, there were other qualities he found a bit more irritating.
He had learned early in life that people gauged what was expected of him by what they saw in his father and older brother. It was a comparison that may not have been too bad except Bret was the mirror image of their father. It wasn't only that Bret looked like Beau, although the resemblance was uncanny, it was the fact that he was Pappy's double in almost every way. They looked alike, they talked alike, they dressed alike, most of the time they even thought alike. Once Bret had another twenty-five years of age and experience on him, he would be an almost perfect copy of Beau Maverick. That was where things got tough.
Bart knew that there were certain qualities he shared with his father and that was something he didn't really mind. The problem was his brother got more "Beau like" every day, and Bart had soon found out people didn't just expect him to be like Beau, they expected him to be like Bret too. And while Bart loved his brother, just as he did his father, he didn't want to be Bret any more than he wanted to be Beau. He wanted to be Bart. Unfortunately, it wasn't easy being an individual when everyone saw him as nothing more than another one of the "Maverick boys".
Bart wasn't sure when his dissatisfaction with his position, not only in his family but his hometown, had started but over the past few months it had gotten worse. That dissatisfaction was one of the main reasons that on this particular night Bart found himself inside the Golden Dove instead of one of the other, more reputable saloons in town.
Pappy had a standard that he judged saloons by. There were some establishments the man just wouldn't patronize; the hole-in-the-wall that was the Golden Dove definitely fell into the category of places that weren't worth his time. He had tried to pass his standard along to his boys and under normal circumstance Bart would have avoided a place like the Dove as well but lately… Well, Bart hadn't been feeling quite himself. And if the Dove was a place Pappy and Bret wouldn't be seen in, it was exactly where Bart wanted to be.
So far it had been a rather uneventful night, as most nights at the Dove were prone to be. Most of the players Bart encountered there were average at best and the stakes were even worse. He had been playing with five other men for the past four hours and he was barely twenty-five dollars better off than he had been when he'd started and his lack of funds had nothing to do with playing badly. As matter of fact he was playing rather well tonight, he didn't even think it would be a stretch for him to say he was the best player in the game. No, the reason for his small winnings tonight was purely due to the fact that the stakes were just that low. Sadly, it was a common problem when playing in a place like the Dove, but Bart didn't mind. As long as he left a little bit better off than he had come, financially speaking, than he was all right with mediocre play.
Another hand was dealt and the ante started at fifty cents. Slowly the bets moved around the table with no one raising more than a four bits at a time. When it came time for Bart to make his bet he was almost tempted to completely shatter the mold a raise a dollar, but he resisted. He didn't know anyone at the table that well and being the youngest and still feeling a little new to the territory of the Dove, he didn't want to stir anything up. Matching the current bet, he made the customary fifty cent raise and let the game continue.
Of the five men Bart was playing with he knew three. The first was a man named Williams. Williams was around his father's age and a lifelong resident of the small east Texas town. He was the blacksmith in town and while Bart didn't know the man on a personal level they were both familiar to each other. Williams was also about the only man Bart had encountered at the Dove that gave him any kind of challenge, poker wise. The other two Bart knew only from his nights here at the Dove. One, Gentry, worked at one of the stores in town. The young man didn't possess a great deal of poker sense but he was a good sport win or lose. And he often lost. The other, Madison, was a hand at a small place just north of town. He was a better player then Gentry, a pretty fair player actually, but his company wasn't as pleasant or welcome as the clerk's was.
The other two Bart didn't know. One of them went by Hanson, he'd come around for the first time last night but Bart hadn't been able to learn much about him. He won some, he lost some, and he was pretty quiet about it either way. The other was anything but quiet. He'd given his name as Blake and said he was just passing through. Bart had been watching him most of the night and had decided he would probably be a decent enough player if he focused on the game. It seemed the man would rather talk than play though, but as he was entertaining enough and everyone else was winning off him no one seemed to care his mind wasn't really on poker.
Another hour of so passed with no more than a few bucks passing between players each hand. Bart couldn't help but grin to himself when he won the largest pot of the night, five dollars and seventy-four cents. He didn't know if Pappy knew about the time he'd been spending at the Dove, not likely since he hadn't yet got an earful about how his talent was being wasted, but he imagined the man would be horrified he could see what these men considered high stakes.
As Bart was collecting his money Williams called for a refill on his drink. Gentry also asked for another beer and the other three quickly followed suit. Bart didn't pay much attention to the orders until Blake nudged his arm. "How 'bout you, kid? You ain't had nothing all night. Must be getting kinda dry by now."
Bart was about to decline without giving it any thought at all when Madison snorted from across the table. "You ain't been around long enough, Blake. The Maverick kid don't drink. Everybody knows that."
Had anyone else said it, Bart might not have given the comment a thought. Madison's condescending tone however, hit him like a barb. No, he didn't drink, none of them did. His father might drink a glass of wine at dinner or a beer at a poker game if need be but he didn't believe in hard liquor. Bart had never seen his father take a drink of whiskey and Pappy had always asked that he and Bret to stay away from it as well. Up till now, it had been a request Bart had been glad to honor, but something about the way the Madison had said "Maverick kid" grated him. If there was anything worse than being "one of the Maverick boys", it was being the "Maverick kid".
As the bartender finished filling the others up, Bart stopped him. "I think I do want a drink tonight, Charlie."
"Beer?" The portly man asked.
Bart shook his head. "Whiskey." He'd had beer before. He didn't like it.
The bartender gave him a look but fetched another glass. Plopping it down in front of Bart, Charlie filled the glass, corked the bottle back up, and waited.
Bart suddenly noticed everyone at the table, as well as Charlie, now had their eyes on him. He felt a brief surge of panic that this was a terrible idea but quickly shook the thought off. People drank all the time. It couldn't be that big a deal. He lifted the glass. "Thank you, Charlie."
It took every drop of self-control Bart possessed not to shudder at the first taste. Beer had in no way prepared him for the biting, sour taste of the amber liquid, or the burn that started on his tongue and ran all the way down his throat before settling in his stomach like a rock. No wonder people called this gut rot. He had no doubt that in large quantities the liquid would be quite capable of rotting one's guts.
"That," he cleared his throat. "That's good, Charlie." Noticing Madison smirking at him, Bart felt a surge of defiance. Looking the man right in the eye, he took another sip. It was a little easier to keep the shudder at bay this time and the aftertaste didn't seem as sharp. Without any prompting, Bart took another drink, pleased when Madison's smirk became a scowl.
Before the cowboy could make anymore comments, Hanson spoke up. "All right, did we come here to play poker or watch the kid have his first drink?"
As though some kind of spell had been lifted everyone turned their focus back to their cards and play slowly resumed. Bart also turned his attention back to the game but he continued to frequently sip from the glass in front of him until it was almost dry. By the time that happened Bart had not only became accustomed to the sharp taste of the liquor and the burn that followed but he was starting to like it. Draining his glass he waved Charlie over for a refill.
Several more hands had been played by the time Bart reached the bottom of his second drink. "Charlie?" he called as he finished it off. It was then that he felt Williams put a hand to his arm. Glancing over, Bart gave the man a questioning look.
"If I may offer a bit of friendly advice, son," the blacksmith said quietly. "Ease up some. At least until you get used to it."
For a moment Bart felt a little agitated, but thankfully before he could make a sharp retort he saw the wisdom in the man's words. Williams was right. He'd never drunk before and had no idea what he could handle. One more might just be one too many. He also often met up with Bret on the way home he didn't want to have to explain being anything less than stone cold sober to his brother. Or his father.
"Want me to top her off?" Charlie called back.
Williams said nothing but raised one eyebrow slightly.
Bart sighed. "No, thanks," he replied. "I think I'm going call it a night."
"Speaking of calling it a night," Gentry spoke up, straightening what money he had left and tucking it inside his jacket. "I think I'll say good night."
"Need to be getting back myself," Madison added.
As the two men left Blake looked around at the ones who remained. "Well, gentleman, it seems our game has dwindled considerably."
Williams checked his watch. "It's getting a mite late at that." Collecting his money, he pushed back form the table. "I'll see you boys later." Hanson quickly followed the big man, leaving Bart and Blake alone.
"I guess that's that then," Blake said with a grin as Hanson walked out.
"I guess so," Bart replied.
Blake pulled out his own watch. "You got anywhere you got to be, Maverick?"
"No, I don't. But poker usually best when you have more than two players."
Blake laughed. "I agree but I wasn't talking about poker." He looked to the bar and called for Charlie. "How 'bout one for the road?" Blake asked.
Bart watched as Charlie filled the drifter's glass. The blacksmith's words came back to him and something told him he should refuse, but when Charlie started to refill his own glass he made no move to stop him. He was fine. He could handle one more.
He took his time getting through that last drink but by the time he reached the end Bart was convinced that he could really learn to enjoy whiskey.