Playing the House By Djinn Part 1/2 Rated PG-13

Write a story in which either Spock and/or Chapel lose a bet, and must publicly display some previously unmentioned talent.

"Christine Chapel, you lost the bet! Now you *will* pay up."

Christine sighed heavily. "I really don't have time for this, Nyota."

Uhura laughed as she handed Christine the outfit she would have to wear.

The pants seemed to be plain black trousers, but Christine felt her heart sink as she took in the extremely low cut neckline of the white shirt. "You've got to be kidding."

"Nope. Remember, Christine. It's for charity."

"Yeah I'll be sure to tell myself that I'm being ogled so children on Beta 65 can get three squares."

"You do that," Uhura chuckled. "Just be there tonight at 1900 sharp!"

"I'm praying for a plague," Christine called after her. "Or a fire, or a self-destruct order."

What she really craved was sleep. She had been working hard lately and playing harder. This silly bet with Uhura was just one example of the reckless life she had been living.

And now it had become a matter of discipline. McCoy had cornered her today just as she was about to leave for lunch.

"Christine, do you have a minute?"

She nodded and he motioned her into his office.

He started without preamble. "So. You wanna tell me why you've been burning the candle at both ends for the past two weeks?"

"My off-duty hours are my own business."

He got up and palmed the door closed. Returning to his chair, he shook his head. "Not when it impacts your performance on duty." He took in her steely expression. "Lt. Chapel, we will talk about this. I'd prefer to do it as your friend, Chris. But if you make me do it as your commanding officer I will."

She couldn't believe he was pulling rank. "How has my performance suffered?"

He looked at her amazed. "You don't see? You have been late every day this week, and we aren't talking just a few minutes. Your attitude is poor. You seem to have no initiative. Your judgment appears to be functioning, but who knows when it will go. And then there is the matter of all your visitors."

"Visitors?"

"The eighty thousand crewmen that keep traipsing into sickbay to see you. Have you gone off the deep end, Christine?"

Shit, shit, shit, Christine thought. I just lost that bet with Uhura. She said that if I kept this up I'd get a talking-to. And I had to say that McCoy wouldn't bother me. Now I have to help out at that damned charity casino tonight.

"I'm waiting." McCoy was looking at her sternly.

"Ok." She pondered which lie to tell him then decided to just come clean. "I'm trying to get over Spock."

"Huh?" He was clearly not expecting this.

"Aren't you the one that was always telling me to 'Let go, Christine. He's never going to be yours'? And I've come to the conclusion that you are right. He is never going to even know that I am alive. And why am I just hanging around waiting for a man that will never love me? So I decided to see what I'd been missing all these years. And there are a lot of things, although I wouldn't say there were eighty thousand of them." She grinned wryly at him.

He smiled at her, relieved. "Well, can I make a suggestion? As your friend?"

"Can I stop you?"

His eyebrow went up in a classic McCoy 'don't mess with me' look. She raised her hands in mock surrender.

"I think you've gone a bit toward the other extreme. Maybe you want to kind of slow it down, ok?"

"Ok. I'll settle down a little." She smiled at him.

"No hard feelings?"

"No hard feelings, Len."

That was five hours ago. She had met Uhura for lunch and told her about the incident. Her friend had lost no time in reminding her that she had lost their bet. After her shift, Uhura had shown up with the outfit. Christine sighed. She had paid her way through medical school dealing blackjack at a casino. She had never thought she would have to do it again. It's for charity, she tried the rationalization on for size.

She had to use it again after she changed. The pants were fitted to hug every curve she had and the shirt.well to say it was risqué was an understatement of galactic proportions. She buzzed Uhura who answered from the rec area.

"I can't wear this, Nyota."

"Of course you can, Christine. Now get your butt down here."

"I'm telling you, I can't wear this." Christine said firmly.

"Doesn't it fit?"

"Oh yeah, it fits too well. This thing isn't leaving much to the imagination."

"Christine, be logical," Uhura giggled as she realized what she had said. "I mean use the brains god gave you. We want people to sit at the tables and gamble. You in that shirt will improve the probability of that happening. Besides, it's."

".for charity. I know." Christine sighed and went into the bathroom to fix her hair.

At 1900, Christine entered the rec area. Uhura had done an excellent job of creating a gaming parlor. There was a roulette wheel, craps table, black jack and chemin-de-fer tables, slot machines, and an area for poker. Other crewmembers dressed in similarly provocative outfits waved embarrassed hellos. Christine made her way to one of the blackjack tables. She started arranging the unopened decks, the chips, and the shoe. Hands remembering the motions that the brain had long ago pushed to the side.

Uhura was playing pit boss, Christine noticed, and was wearing a modestly cut suit. What happened to 'it's for charity,' Christine wondered.

Her friend smiled at her. "You ready?"

"Yeah. Remind me to never make another bet with you."

"Oh sure, like you ever learn, Christine."

The opening of the doors cut off their good-natured ribbing. Crewmembers streamed into the rec area. Several men made a beeline for Christine's table. I hope they aren't thinking I'll throw them the game, she thought as she cracked open several decks of cards and began shuffling. Filling the shoe she held it out to the player on her left for cutting.

He smiled up at her as he marked off the shoe with the cut card. "Hi Christine," he said wistfully as she rearranged the deck.

"Hi, Edward,." she answered back.

"It's Edgar."

"Sorry." She looked at the other two men who were smirking at Edgar's bad fortune. She dealt out the cards, the first set face-up for the players, down for herself. The next set face-up for everyone. She had a nine showing. She looked at Edgar. He had a four and a six. His hit gave him a seven. Seventeen.

She turned to the next man. Wracking her brain for his name, she recognized him as the man she had played pool with for hours last week. He gave her a sly smile. He had two tens. And split them. Dipshit, she thought. He got a five and a six. Fifteen and sixteen. Darryl, she thought, that's his name.

She moved on to the last player. This one she remembered easily. Nathan Conrad. The gigolo from stellar cartography. He had hit on her the night before last, relentlessly trying to get into her bed. She had finally threatened to sedate and neuter him. He appeared to have forgotten his fear as he leaned in for a look down her shirt. "Nice pair, Chrissie."

"It's Lt. Chapel to you, Conrad." She waited for him to decide what to do with his hand. He had a five and a six. He doubled, throwing the chips onto the table with a careless gesture. She dealt him a nine. Twenty.

She turned over her bottom card. Ace. Twenty for the house. She took Edgar's chips and cards. Smiled at him as he shrugged.

Darryl still didn't appear to realize his mistake. "Next time don't split two tens, Darryl."

"It's Darren." He got up and went over to the craps table. Edgar seemed perturbed as well and abandoned her for poker.

Nathan smirked at her. "Push."

"Push," she agreed, taking his cards but leaving his chips. He drew the double chips back into his pile. Cheapskate, she thought.

She realized someone else had joined the game. Looking up she was shocked to see Spock putting chips out on the table.

Conrad smirked again, "Do I have a rival for your affections, Chrissie?"

Spock answered before she could. "As the Lieutenant has no affection for you, it would be illogical to look for a rival."

She stifled a smile as she watched Nathan take the insult in. For a moment she thought he would let it rest, but then he spoke, "She has a nice pair on her, don't you think, Commander?"

In between being angry, Christine couldn't help but wonder if Spock agreed. He didn't dignify Conrad's question with an answer, only gave him a stern look. Christine began to deal out the next hand. Spock got a blackjack. Nathan had two tens. She showed an ace.

"Insurance?" she asked.

"Insurance is for wimps," Conrad responded.

She peeked under the card, turned it over. Blackjack. She gathered Spock's cards, and took Nathan's cards and his chips, perhaps more eagerly than was strictly necessary.

She dealt again. Spock had an eight and a ten, Nathan had a four and a ten, and she was showing a seven. Spock passed. Nathan seemed uncertain. Finally he hit. Ten. Busted. She flipped her cards. A ten joined the seven, seventeen. She paid Spock.

Nathan grabbed up his chips. "Rigged, that's what this is. Rigged for your stinkin' boyfriend." He walked off in a huff.

Spock left his chips on the table. Christine looked at him in surprise. "You wish to play more, Spock?"

He nodded. She dealt him another hand, then another and another. He played hand after hand. He seemed to be doing very well. Too well. Wait a damn minute.

"Spock!"

He raised an eyebrow in response.

"This is for charity for god's sake." When he looked at her uncomprehendingly, she hissed. "You're cheating."

His expression became bewildered. "I am not."

She leaned in closer. "You're counting cards, Spock."

"And?"

"And that's cheating!"

"Why?"

She looked at him in exasperation. "It just is. Look at all this money you've won. We have to lose this."

"I will not lose it here, I am doing quite well at this game."

She laughed evilly. "No not at this table." She saw Uhura glance over in irritation as Christine left her table. She pushed into the crowd surrounding the roulette wheel and she noticed McCoy looking at Spock and her in surprise. His eyes widened even more when she leaned over to place Spock's chips on 20. Get a good look, boss, they aren't gonna be out like this again, she thought.

Spock leaned into her. "Christine, the probability of picking the correct number is one in 38."

"That's the idea, Spock," she whispered. "It's for charity, remember."

The wheel spun around, the ball circling in the other direction then finally dropping into a slot. She stared in amazement. The croupier announced, "20, black, even." His assistant paid out 35-1 on their win.

She let it ride. "The odds are against it coming up again," she murmured.

He leaned in to her again. "Statistically, the likelihood of 20 coming up is as great as any other number coming up. Still one in 38."

"Oh shut up," she hissed.

The wheel was spinning, the ball dropped. She felt relief as the croupier called out, "Nine, red, odd."

"Well that's that. The house always wins, Spock. Especially at this game." She began to walk back to her table.

"Christine?"

She turned back to him in surprise. "Yes, Spock?"

He moved up to her. She was stunned to see his eyes linger on her chest then slowly rise to meet her gaze. The noise and chaos of the casino seemed suddenly very far away. "I appreciate you stopping me from unknowingly cheating."

"Just looking out for you, Spock."

"I had the impression over the past several weeks that you were finished with that particular duty." When she only looked at him in confusion, he continued. "I have seen you after hours, Christine. Wednesday night you played pool with Lt. Forth, Thursday you were at the holovids with Lt. Emerson, Friday I saw you in this room with Dr. Peabody, Saturday you ate in the mess hall with Lt. Commander Sethos." He continued on with the current week, detailing activities she had already forgotten.

"I've been busy."

"Yes." He escorted her back to her table. "Have you made plans for tomorrow night?"

"Uhh, yes."

"Cancel them." He said firmly. Then he added, "Please."

She swallowed noisily. "I'll see what I can do."

"Good. I will pick you up at 1700."

"And what are we going to do?"

"I have not determined that yet." His eyes seemed to burn into hers. Again his glance raked her exposed flesh, then he spun on his heel and was gone.

Uhura wandered over, an interested look on her face. "Something you want to tell me, Christine?"

Christine gave her a smile of pure satisfaction. "Only that the house always wins."

FIN