Red Herrings

by lightning bird


A/N: This story comes about as the result of a challenge handed down by Nym-Akuma over on deviantART. To quote her directly:

Hiya again! Well, if we're all going to decide on an idea, let's keep it simple- it's just one chapter or whatever . . . what if Mandark, Dexter, and Douglas were all playing cards? Maybe trying to use logic to win, battle of wits, cheat, whatever you want?

Several writers picked up the gauntlet. Here's my silly offering. Its only virtue is that it throws the boys together and forces them to interact.


"Give me your ace."


Mandark sighed. "Dexter, the proper response is 'go fish.'"

"What if I don't care to surrender my card to you? What if I have plans for it?"

The taller boy rolled his eyes, shaking his head. "The point of the game is to make pairs with the cards you have and to hand over individual cards when one of the other players asks for them."

"On the contrary, Mandark, the point is to win."

"That's how you win, Dex," sang Douglas under his breath.

"Whatever." The redhead frowned and looked at his rival again. "So what was your inquiry?"

Through gritted teeth Mandark demanded, "Do. You. Have. An. Ace?"

"Does thorium have an atomic weight of 148.32?"

"No clue," admitted Douglas, helping himself to some pretzels.

"The answer, Mordecai, is no, it doesn't," snapped Mandark.

Completely unaffected and unimpressed by the sheer genius sitting on the floor with him, Douglas shrugged. "Oh. Okay."

"May I assume that means you are not in possession of an ace, Dexter?"

"Assume what you wish, Mr. Astronomonov. You may commence fishing."

With a growl of annoyance, Mandark slapped his hand onto the stack of cards and drew the next one. "Your turn," he grumbled at Dexter.

"Yes, I know. Give me your ace."

"Dexter, you can't ask for a card you don't have!"

"I didn't ask. I told you. Give me your ace."

"That's not according to Hoyle!"

"Well, I didn't learn from Hoyle, I learned from DeeDee. She never said anything about having to ask for cards I have. "

"Well that's not in compliance with the rules!"

"And did we ever decide upon a set of rules? No. We just agreed to play go fish. No one ever asked me if I knew how to play the game in accordance with Hoyle or you. I'm sure that so simplistic a game has a wide range of variations, one of which most likely includes a rule allowing for the person whose turn it is to request cards they don't have in hand."

Douglas, tired of being left out of the conversation, observed, "Everyone knows how to play go fish, Dex."

"Apparently my sister is the only person on the planet whose knowledge of the game is incomplete."

"Besides you."

"I'm playing how I was taught."

"No, you're not," Mandark argued. "You said yourself your sister never said you had to ask for cards you have, but she didn't say you could."

"Nevertheless. Give me your ace."

"Promise to shut up if I do?"

"Never," vowed Dexter, holding out his hand.

Muttering under his breath, Mandark handed over the ace. Dexter smugly tucked it in with the cards he held.

"Just for that I'm taking another card."

"Is THAT according to Hoyle?" An accusing, purple-gloved finger was directed at Mandark's hand as he reached out. "Hoyle died in the eighteenth century. Did he ever even hear of go fish, let alone master it well enough to be considered the ultimate authority on the game?"

"I don't care." Mandark drew a card from the pile and smirked as he laid down another pair. "If you can make up rules, so can I."

"I'm not making up rules," muttered Douglas.

"You may as well since Boy Genius over there has decided to abandon all civilized play." He gestured at Dexter. "You can't tell me that in all that mess you haven't got a pair to put down."

Dexter glared over his rather large fistful of cards. "Mandark, worry about your own hand, not mine."

Another grumble. "Go, Mordecai!"

"Don't rush me," Douglas replied, pushing the bowl of pretzels Mandark's way.

He took a handful of the fish-shaped snacks, glaring at them as if they were at fault for him being stuck playing this imbecile game. When Douglas spent too long contemplating his hand, Mandark growled, "The history of the free world is not hinging upon this game of go fish."

"Oh?" wondered Dexter. "Then why are we playing?"

"It's supposed to be fun," said Douglas.

"Ah." The redhead looked at the brunet. "You're not having fun, Mandark?"

"Does boron have an atomic weight of 10.72?"

Douglas looked to Dexter for enlightenment.

"It can if it comes from Turkey." He grinned. "So you are having fun! Brilliant! All while saving the free world!"

Mandark glowered. Mordecai grinned.

"What exactly are we fishing for, anyway?" asked Dexter, waxing philosophical.

"Pairs," Mandark groused.

"Compliments," Douglas replied.

"Not red herrings?" Dexter wondered.

"Dexter, got an ace?"

"Right here, Douglas."

"Why, thank you." He laid down another pair, tying Mandark for supremacy of the game. "Mandark, got a nine?"

"Go fish."

"Got what I fished for! I fish again!" exclaimed Douglas, laying down a pair of nines.

Dexter, reaching for the pretzels, perked up.

"That's one of the rules," snapped Mandark before Dexter could get excited. He drew a deep breath and took the plunge. "Dexter, do you have a two?"

A long pause followed as Dexter studied his cards.

"It's not that complex a question."

An elegant red eyebrow was arched at him from behind heavy glasses. "To you, perhaps."

"You can't tell me that in that pile of cards you're holding you haven't got a two!"

"Why not?"

"You've got half the deck in your hands!"

"Not quite. As it happens, I possess the half of the deck that does not include any twos. And so my answer to you is negative. Go fish."

Mandark grudgingly obeyed, and laid down a pair of sixes as a result. Dexter smiled to see the upshot of his rejection and looked at his best friend.

"Douglas, do you have a ten?"

"Right here, Dex."

"Thank you. More goldfish?"


They waited. No pairs were laid down in front of the youngest of their number. Dexter looked up to find himself the center of attention. Mandark was thoroughly annoyed while Douglas was simply amused at the both of them.

"I'll put my cards down when I'm good and ready, Mandark," Dexter said. "Not a moment before. Based on the cards still remaining, I will have at least three more turns."

Mandark sighed and shook his head. "Go, Mordecai."

The game progressed. Douglas relieved Mandark of a four and then was sent fishing by Dexter. Mandark laid hold of Douglas' seven, and after a long and pointless argument, was told to go fish by Dexter. Dexter's search for a jack resulted in him being sent fishing as well, and to his delight he got a jack.

"I fish again! Oh, look, another one! I am so cool." His Russian accent thickened as he grew more pleased with himself. "Do I fish again?"

"No!" both boys snapped. Mandark was fed up. Mordecai was trying not to laugh and failing. Dexter was at his insufferable best. The cards in the pool dwindled. Dexter's collection just increased. Mandark's frustration mounted since he could not figure out what Dexter thought he was doing. Mordecai and Mandark ruthlessly vied for the lead while Dexter poked along and aggravated his fellows.

"Douglas, do you have a queen?"

"Right here, Dexter."

"Thank you." Dexter glanced at the remaining cards, did some quick math, and commenced to lay down all the tens, all the jacks, all the queens, and all the kings, each rank neatly paired by colors. He silently emptied his hand, and then drew another card from the pool.

"Mandark, do you have an eight?"

The older boys stared at the slew of royal flushes. Dexter smiled.


Mandark's eyes narrowed sharply behind his glasses. "I will never play poker with you. And go fish."

Dexter chuckled as he obeyed.

"Got an eight, Dex?"

"Right here."

The last few cards were claimed. Dexter handed over his final three to Mandark without a fight, cinching his fellow scientist's triumph.

"Ha!" crowed Mandark. "I declare victory!"

Douglas raised his hands. "Thus preserving the history of the free world. All hail Mandark, the go fish guru!"

Dexter gathered up the cards as Mordecai went to fetch more pretzels for their now-empty bowl. Mandark took the opportunity to gloat.

"I won, Dexter!"

"Did you? Really?" wondered the younger genius.

He dropped his stack of paired cards into the pile Dexter was sweeping up.


Dexter looked up from straightening the cards. "Were we even playing at the same game, Mandark?"

That gave him pause. Mandark stared at him, open-mouthed; realizing Dexter's strategy all along had almost nothing to do with cards and everything to do with entertaining his friends.

"Don't do that again!" he sputtered.

The redhead grinned. "I won't promise."

"Who's up for Monopoly?" called Mordecai as he returned with more food.

Mandark groaned. Dexter laughed.

"Mandark loves Monopoly, Douglas!"

Through gritted teeth Mandark hissed, "Not as much as Dexter."

And Douglas, not fooled for a moment, just laughed.