Disclaimer: Marvel owns them, except Jack. Who is in reality Clive Owen with blond hair. Yum.

Notes: This's been sitting unfinished for... ages. Not sure why. And it's become shorter than I'd thought. But. Hey. Short. From me. Whee. It's technically a crossover, Jack being from a movie called Croupier. But it's more of a TCP, in a sort of way. Anyway. We'll see.

Dedication: To Kossie, 'cause it's about a blond. Well, he was a blond. Dyed it, sadly... Must find Clive as blond pics....

Spinning Wheel

by Ana Lyssie Cotton

The world of the casino. Dazzling and brilliant, glittering with a thousand smiles and ten thousand tears. The clink of chips, the snap of cards, the occassional softly-voiced argument. All blended to create a world where anything could happen. And frequently did.

For Jack it was the ultimate observational experience. They all fell in little patterns and holes. Some winners, some professional gamblers, some losers, a few cheaters, and the croupiers and waitresses. They all had their parts to play. The winners would win. The losers would lose. And the professional gamblers would stay in the middle.

The outside world couldn't impinge. Politics, war, peace, mutancy, all were something that had no place in the Golden Lion.

Catching Jack's eye was probably a bad idea. For he, Jack Manfred, was known for catching cheats and turning them in. Unlike others, there was no blind eye turned with a wink.

And so they played carefully. And he watched.

The couple would never have attracted his attention if the man next to them hadn't tried to cheat. Jack was signalling for the security man as the woman patted him on the shoulder and gently pulled the chips from under his sleeve.

"You really shouldn't have done that." She said, her voice soft. The red hair should have given her voice harshness, or vibrancy. But it was just calm and low.

Jerking away from her, the man pointed a finger, and spat. "Mutant bitch!"

The woman stepped back from him. Prudent, in Jack's opinion. "Observant, sir."

"I'll fix you, you filthy--"

Jack felt an odd need to trip the man. He normally stayed away, but there was something so silly in his bluster and staggering lunge towards the woman that he had to.

"You bastard! I'll sort you out!"

But Security had arrived, and Security collared the man, and smiled down at him, "Now, sir, I'm sure you'll want to leave these two guests alone while we discuss things in the office."

Stepping back into place, Jack watched them not at all, more interested in making sure the cards were still in place and the chips were displayed properly.

"Thank you."

The woman. He looked at her, disinterested now. "Place your bets."

She tilted her head, green eyes regarding him calmly, a faint smile on her lips. "No more tonight, Jack."

The man with her smiled at Jack, eyes dark behind rose-tinted glasses, "Good night, sir. Thank you."

He turned, wishing them gone. The game had stalled long enough, there were players awaiting their turns.

"Place your bets."

And so it went.

Money was won, lost, turned into plastic chips and traded back in for paper pounds.

And Jack watched it all, a non-player in a gaming world.

-finis-