A/N: Well, another offering from yours truly. Much thanks to Scorpicus for their discussion of this fic, beta job and obsession with the subject matter, without which this would never have got off the ground. It should be noted, before we start, that no prior knowledge of said subject matter are required to enjoy the fic fully.
Domino was bored. Deadly bored. He had nothing to do, and had been sat in his office listening to music (again) when the awful truth had emerged.
He hadn't been listening to music at all, because his CD player had conveniently run out of power.
With that, he pulled out his desk drawer and got up with a creak (his joints weren't used to such strenuous activity any more), beginning to rummage through the contents for anything that might let his music live. But, there was nothing. Diddly squat.
However, what he did have was a piece of the green coral, which he was now getting increasingly sick of since there was so much of it around, half a cigar, a broken shot glass and accompanying bottle of whisky, and a pack of cards.
Without spare batteries or a battery charger, he had nothing but silence (which he detested), two small skeletons to upset, and a secretary outside to annoy. Wait. There was a point…
Meche looked up to see the door of Domino's office open and sighed, removing her attention from her typewriter. If Domino was exiting his allocated quarters hours before the end of the day, this was bad. Very bad. Sitting back in her seat, and examining the scene, she studied her hands and pretended to be uninterested as he leant on her desk.
"Got any spare batteries?" The question caught her almost by surprise. Usually the only time she got to see her darling boss was to be harassed for a report (or a strip tease, depending on his mood).
"So polite," she replied sarcastically, not looking up. "No, I haven't, incidentally." She deigned him with a glance as he flounced back to his office. After months of having to live chained to a desk (effectively), Meche had hardened up considerably, however much she disliked herself for it. However, sarcasm always seemed to make the day go easier, and made the world go round in a cycle of 'snarky comment, Dom flounces into office', which was always amusing to watch.
Once inside, Domino looked over his options, opened the battery compartment on his CD player, pulled the batteries out and began to try and shove the glowing piece of coral inside in their stead. Well, it was glowing; surely there had to be some kind of power inside… or not.
Sitting down in his executive chair, and wondering how he was going to get the coral out of the space he had forced it into, his eye sockets alighted on the bottle of whisky. He'd smuggled it to the island on the last shipment of… workers… and there was only half left. Looking over his options again, he unscrewed the lid and took a swig, and poured a bit in with the coral, to see how it would take.
The CD player crackled, sparks flew, and then began to hiss somewhat disconcertingly. There wasn't any smoke, and Domino wasn't a technical skeleton, but he knew that this couldn't be good. Taking another gulp of alcohol, he put an elbow on his desk and began to trace patterns in the whisky that was dripping onto the surface.
Well, he had a pack of cards and a broken shot glass. What could one do with those? The obvious answer was a drink and a card game, but that hardly helped. However…
Meche was most disconcerted to have Domino (and his breath, which reeked of whisky) over her. "What are you writing?"
"Only that report you demanded yesterday for Hector, before trying to look down my suit jacket again," she replied.
"Good, you're doing nothing. Come and play poker," he ordered.
She looked up briefly. "No."
She didn't even bother to glance in his direction at this point. "No." Domino didn't, apparently, wish to press the point further, so she continued to type, fingers clicking on the keys.
"Why not? Worried that you'll lose?" OK, so maybe he did. His loss.
"No. Worried that you'll make my suit smell of whisky," she replied tersely, and continued to type.
"Oh, I know. Worried that you'll lose your train ticket to the Ninth Underworld?" Domino was taunting, and Meche wasn't planning to take the bait.
"Remind me, when am I ever going to get the opportunity to go to the Ninth Underworld? Oh, wait, I know. Never."
Domino simply took a pace back and leant against the wall, observing silently as she continued with whatever she was doing. After three minutes or so, she got annoyed, looked directly at him, and asked bluntly, "do you not have anyone else in this place to harass?"
"Nope." Pulling the pack of cards from his blazer pocket, he began to flick through them, enjoying the look on her face.
"Will you stop that?"
"Nope," he replied, and continued with a smirk.
They stayed in silence, and he kept flicking through the card deck, much to Meche's annoyance. Business demeanour up, she gritted her teeth and continued, until she hoped Domino would get bored and move on.
Until, of course, the skeleton in question began to laugh. "I get it. Gambling's against your morals, isn't it?"
"If you knew anything about morals, I wouldn't be here in the first place." A few minutes later, he finally left the room, and she sighed in relief. Another two minutes later, Meche realised where he'd gone with a pang. The angelitos were crying again.
"Ms Colomar! Ms Colomar! He's throwing coral at Bibi again!" The words rose above the wail, and, anticipating the headache to end all headaches, Meche got up and opened the door to the spare office. Indeed, Domino was pinging small pieces of the coral at the poor child, grinning while the smaller skeleton sobbed.
"Are you a complete masochist?"
"I'll stop if you'll consider playing." He took aim, and threw another piece of coral. Bibi's tears continued.
"Stop that! They're children! You don't do that to children!"
Domino simply turned, and smirked. "Make me."
They were sat around a table, facing each other. Meche was wondering what on earth she'd got herself into, and Domino was shuffling the cards aimlessly, still wearing that self-satisfied look that Meche despised.
"You've never actually played before, have you?"
Yes, they really encouraged gambling in the hospital's children's ward, she thought sarcastically. And they just loved it when someone started a crap game in church. However, instead of contributing this to the conversation, she replied, "no," as demurely as she could manage. No need to make a scene, after all.
Domino's smirk widened. "Excellent."
Meche simply sighed, stared at the small amount of her money she had in front of her in despair, and looked up again. "Would you care to inform me of the rules, then?"
Domino took a deep breath. "Well…"
Five minutes later, after a long and highly patronising explanation that made little to no sense and was only really a means to display Domino's ever increasing ego, Meche was holding two cards, and trying to work out what to do next. She'd put a small amount of money on the table, and was staring at the three cards that had been laid there.
Still, when she noticed she had two hearts, along with the table's three, there was some hope. She simply went with whatever he was putting in the pot (and hating herself for it; what had her mother always said about gambling?), until she had to display her cards. Invariably, Domino had nothing, and she felt terribly guilty at having to take the small pile of pesos and putting them in her pile. Even if it was Domino Hurley, biggest egotistical moron known to mankind, that she was taking it from.
The thing with Domino, she realised very quickly, was that, unlike previous boastings throughout explaining the rules, he wasn't actually the greatest poker player ever born. His ego always seemed to get in the way, so he could never fold and save himself from losing more money than necessary in one round. This would probably put her to an advantage if she'd really known what she was doing, but, sadly, she didn't. Still, as Domino replenished his rapidly decreasing pile of money for the third time, Meche knew she was doing something right.
On the other side of the table, Domino was wondering how on earth she was winning, even when he was cheating on every other round for good measure. Nonetheless, once he was on his very last peso, and Meche had decided that, when she got off this rock, she was going to give every ounce of money she had to a children's charity in penitence, he upped the stakes.
"Well, I'm a busy man. I have work to do, so this'll have to be my last round." Meche thought to herself that that had to be the worst excuse for stopping play she'd ever heard, but still.
"Let's raise the stakes, shall we?" he asked. Domino didn't like losing one jot. She was either cheating (who would have thought that a devout Christian could ever be so sneaky?), or she possessed freakishly good luck, because normally he never lost. Not that he had a selective memory or anything…
"I'm sorry, pardon?" Meche replied, looking up from her cards. Not at all used to poker terminology (or any gambling terminology, for that matter), she had no idea to what he was alluding to.
"If you win this last round, what do you want?" He said, slowly and patronisingly, like one would talk to a child.
"The angelitos to be let out," she said quickly. Children didn't deserve to be caged and made to work.
"For a week."
"A month." Meche, apparently, didn't have this haggling thing down yet.
"Fine," he agreed. "And, if I win," he paused for a smirk, making Meche dread what he was about to say, "I want a kiss from you. And you've got to enjoy it. Not that that'd be too hard…"
Weighing up pros and cons, she decided that it'd be a worse hit to his ego if she did managed to get Pugsley and Bibi out of imprisonment. Domino seriously didn't want to know what they were planning to do to him. However, knowing Dom, he'd never let her forget it if she lost, and she had no wish at all to go near him with that purpose. And poker, like all games, had an element of risk that one had to take into account…
On one hand, the children hadn't been allowed out of that cage for ages, and last time she'd seen them stretching their wings, their smiles had stretched so much Bibi had claimed to have jaw ache, and even refrained from crying for three weeks. On the other, a death-time of humiliation was all she needed.
Well, it was between her or the children. And Meche knew which one she'd put first.
Wishing she had eyes to roll, she replied. "Alright." She watched the cards being dealt, and picked them up cautiously. Two kings… what was the term? Oh, she didn't know. Domino grinned disconcertingly, and stared at his own hand.
Domino, however, hadn't been playing fair at all, and had conveniently dealt himself pocket aces. He'd been losing for hours now, and deserved a change in luck. Hence, when she laid out three cards; a king, a completely inconsequential three and (unsurprisingly) another ace. Well, may as well fix it to something good, after all.
Meche simply stared in surprise at her hand, then the cards on the table, and tried to calm her mounting excitement. She was sure that she'd be forgiven if she gambled for another's benefit; after all, it was simply a means to an end. Yes… that was right, a means to an end.
The next card passed without incident, but the final one (what was it called? The river? Was that what Domino called it?) was another king. It took all the self restraint Meche possessed not to jump for joy. Poker face, Meche, poker face, she thought to herself. Domino laid out his hand on the table, and smirked. Seducing a Christian was new, but he was sure that it could be fun.
Meche put her own hand down nervously, and looked up at his face. Well, if his jaw dropped any further, it would probably fall off altogether and go skittering across the table.
Two weeks later, and Meche was typing a report as fast as she could when the now familiar shout was heard.
"Meche! Get in here! They're throwing coral at me again!"