Much gracious thanks to La Belladonna for correcting my "Pazaak Rules." I had the total at 21 rather than 20. No wonder I always sucked at the game :)
"Your turn," Atton Rand reminded the former Jedi sitting across from him.
The blonde exile stared down at the cards in front of them, with a perplexed expression on her face.
Atton studied her, her moves, hoping to anticipate her playing style by reading any quirks she may express unconsciously. He considered himself an excellent Pazaak player, but perhaps it was because he considered himself highly intuitive or even lucky.
The former Jedi and the crazy old woman on board assured him that luck was as mythical as the space dragon that drifted along asteroid belts.
"Another card," she requested calmly, looking at her remaining reserve card.
"As you wish," he flipped another card down in front of her. He totaled the amount, "that's nineteen, what do you do?"
He watched her intently. This was the last set of the match. They were tied two wins to two wins. Whoever won this one took the match and bragging rights that came along with it. He squinted trying to find the smallest hint of a frown or a smile. He watched to see if she even held her breath. Her face remained rock hard as she thought briefly.
"I'll stand," she looked back up at him, tilting her head slightly to the side. "Now, Atton, what will you do?"
He smiled at her challenge, "now that's the question, what will the next card bring? My score is 18 at the moment. I can't possibly stand or you win. I could take the card, but odds are, I will go bust, but will my reserve card cover me?"
She licked her lips, "do you draw out plays to make your opponents nervous? I can tell you now, with what I have seen in the past, a simple game of cards will hardly make my eyebrows flutter."
He smirked, "it's all a part of the strategy."
"Do you use your… your intuition while playing?"
"Of course. A bad feeling has helped me out of a bust or bad deal numerous times. Saved my life various other times. But then Pazaak tends to endanger me again. A Rhodian and his money are not soon departed," he grinned at the memory.
"Do you think your conversation will shake down an opponent?"
"Shake down? What do you mean by that?"
"I think you know exactly what I'm talking about," she suggested softly. "You've barely kept an eye off of me since we started this game."
"How do you know that it's only this game?"
"It's different than every other time."
"What every other time?" Atton frowned.
"Oh, when we are in combat, you always have an eye on me. It's subtle, but I sense it. When I eat, you practically study and compare the ways I hold my utensils. I can't walk to the refresher without feeling your eyes on me," she rattled off.
Atton blushed, "You… You've got the wrong idea."
"I don't mind, actually," she shrugged. "It's kind of flattering."
"Now don't get to thinking so highly of yourself," Atton chastised. "How do you know I wasn't studying you, making sure you weren't planning on kicking my ass?"
"I made it clear that you could stay on Nar Shadda. I figured that if you wanted out, you could've left then. You didn't. You stayed. I'm glad," she reassured. "But why? Why didn't you leave? If I wanted to kick your ass, I would have by now."
"I'd like to see you try," Atton blubbered.
"Oh, I assure you, I know you would," she winked.
"Damn! Why do you do this to me? Is this part of that whole 'Jedi Games That Make You Cry and Rediscover Yourself' thing?"
"Hardly," she replied.
Atton looked up with the intent of crying to a deity, but instead cupped his hands on either side of his face rubbing it as if wiping off a buildup of muck. "You remind me of her," he replied quietly.
"You mean…" She nodded remembering the revelations Atton told her, how he killed Jedi for the Sith, not only was he skilled, he excelled. The last kill was a female Jedi. He loved her, and yet hated her for saving him. In saving him, she had changed him forever. He had figured his destiny was mapped out, Pazaak, minor job to next one, barely drifting… and then Paragus, the force cage, and then the feminine wiles of the woman across from him in her underwear. But then that's a story for another day. Perhaps even a video game.
"I'm not her," she said gently, not quite sure why she did.
"Yeah, I know. I admit there's something drawing us together. I mean there is definitely a basic pull that a soldier feels for his leaders. But, it seems that there is more…" he shook his head and turned over a new card. "Dammit! A Five card! I'm bust."
The Jedi watched his reaction and looked down at the cards. Atton made a move to reach for the cards, but she stopped him. She forced his hand down on the playing area, leaning into him, invading his space, although he refused to move back.
"That makes me the winner, then?" she asked sweetly, her face hovering over his.
Atton made an audible gulp that made her smile, "yeah, babe, it's Pazaak and you got it."
She leaned in closer her lips hovering mere centimeters away from his. She paused, looked down and flipped over the final card in Atton's reserve deck, a negative three. "What are you trying to prove? I'm not an idiot, and you should have won."
Atton sighed, "Look, I figured I could learn more about you. I thought if you were to win, you would be more willing to share. You know?"
"So you cheated?"
"Hey, it's my choice to play the card or not. I did not cheat." Atton insisted, fighting the rush of blood to his cheeks.
"How is that better than a 'Jedi Game'?"
"How can you compare throwing a game to the 'Jedi Invasion of Your Mind.' At least I'm not boring into your brain like a child who stumbled over a secret stash of candy," Atton's voice raised.
The Exile shook her head, "if it smells like a Gizka and acts like a Gizka… it probably is."
"Why does this bother you? You won," Atton offered in a desperate plea.
"Stop playing the games, Atton. Pazaak won't keep you warm at night. Next time, let's just chat over a cup of caffa. Right now, I've about had my limit of pretentious jerk I can handle for the day." She stood up in a smooth movement, and walked away.
Atton exhaled and organized the cards. "Women," he complained.
"Yeah," Mira agreed, suddenly appeared around the corner of the ship. "Imagine a woman who wants you to be honest and forthcoming. Gotta watch out for those."
Atton closed his eyes, "how long were you there?"
"Long enough," Mira chuckled. "Here, let me break it down for you. The both of you have been through the grinder. Most courting experiences are full of lies and false promises. What's wrong with just being simply honest?"
"Ha! Women are afraid of honesty. The honest truth is that they will probably end up with the beer gut wearin' chip eatin' holographic vids of swoop racin' watching slobs."
"If she was afraid of your honesty, why didn't she kill you the instant she learned about who you were? She didn't, because, now, Atton, now you aren't the same man. We are dealing with the now, not what could've been or what will be." She paused for emphasis. "If you can't tell that she cares, you haven't been paying attention."
Atton shook his head, "I want more than 'cares,' Mira."
"She does, too." She glared at him.
Atton looked back at her, briefly. He shuffled the cards in his hand, "there's never an easy answer."
"Nope," Mira sighed. She reached into her back pocket pulling out a small deck of cards. "Now deal me in, Bantha Poo Doo breath."