Disclaimer: Characters belong to their rightful owners (not me) I am not making any profit off this story.

Characters: Daken/Kitty Pryde/Assorted extras

Timeline: No strict timeline. Set after DW#82. Anyone can pop up anywhere.

Rating: Adult

Warnings: Anything can happen

Length: Multi

Archiving: Yes but please credit, paste the story in full including disclaimers and authors notes and please tell me where.

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Jackpot

Chapter One

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Never show your hand to your opponent.

Daken has never understood that saying better than he does now. Sometimes he delights in doing just that. There's nothing like letting them know what he has in store and seeing their faces when they realise they can't do fuck all about it. It's a treasure.

But every man, however great and strong, has to have a little something for himself.

If he cared just a little more, he could kill Karla. It had taken him a while to find a place where he felt comfortable, at ease, and now he is stuck trawling back alleys and low rent parts of town all to get a good cup of tea.

This one in particular isn't anything noteworthy but the subtle lighting, which is due more to cheap light bulbs than any attempt at atmosphere, adds a certain ambience that he has yet to find replicated anywhere else. Sometimes, you just hit the jackpot without even trying.

There's a few cheap paper lanterns scattered around and an incense burner floods the air with the chemical scent of manufactured orchids. It's lazy and done simply so the owners can claim themselves as a Japanese tea house. That's what the sign says at least, but Daken has visited too many authentic tea houses to buy into the cheap attempt to cash in on his culture.

"Customer!" A waitress screams.

Tatami mats give way to western style tables and he can actually see a few people eating with knives and forks. It makes him want to shake his head and mutter about the good old days like the old man he is. It's quite disrespectful, but not enough so that it stops him from shaking the rain off his coat and taking a seat. If he took offence at the little things like that, the world would be empty by now.

Even the strongest human instinct is weak. A quick scan of the room shows that his presence hasn't so much as rippled the water. There are but a few handful of people, all going about their business and all unaware that he is a predator who has them in his sight lines. In the company of his own people, his appearance would be met with caution and a wary eye. Trust no one and assume nothing.

"Customer!" The woman screams again followed by a flurry of angry Japanese. She marches off into the kitchen, unperturbed by the fact that paying customers are watching her. After a moments gawking, they go back to their business.

There's an old man muttering to himself about a childhood in Hokkaido (a place Daken remembers as too cold) and a hypocrite lecturing her daughter on the evils of American culture. Over in the far corner, in the place he would really like to sit, is a mass of loose brown curls, hunched over a book.

After far too long, a young Japanese woman brings over a pot of tea.

"10% off, for your waiting. Tea only." She introduces herself as the owner and he's torn between admiring her astuteness (give the peasants what they want, indeed) and wanting to bash her head against the table. He settles for a disarming smile and politely declines when she suggests ordering the special. He's not terribly picky with his food but he does prefer to eat it sans cockroach and rat droppings.

"It's okay, you know. They've only been closed down twice." The statement is closed with a sarcastic chuckle.

The speaker is the young girl from a few tables over. She is eyeing him with some curiosity and a guarded smile. She's not Asian but there's an exotic tilt to her eyes and a delicate quality to her features that reminds him of home. Either way, she's no striking beauty.

When he doesn't respond, she rolls her eyes slightly and drops her gaze back down to her book. There's something so terribly familiar in how she sets her jaw and he wonders if they've met before. After a moment's pause, he stands and gestures to the waitress that he's moving tables. Her answer is a lazy shrug.

The girl looks up at him as he seats himself at her table. Whatever her motivation for addressing him, she certainly wasn't expecting this. To be quite frank, she doesn't seem entirely happy about it either. Daken is rarely intrigued, if often insulted, and he finds himself both offended and fascinated at her clear unhappiness.

He latches on to a few tendrils of emotion, finding only wariness, confusion and that ever present wonder. "Curiosity killed the cat," he says vaguely at her questioning glance. He throws in a smirk that he knows is charming. A flicker of shock crosses her face and her wariness pulls tighter.

"Do I know you?" she asks, leaning forward as though a closer glance may reveal the answer. Daken finds himself thoroughly confused at her reaction, even more so at the edge of bravado that has entered her expression.

"I'm almost certain you don't," he says, though he can't be completely sure. It bothers him. He never forgets a face.

"Right," she says, without much conviction. She leans back in her chair and clasps her cup tight. He studies the tilt of her wrist, a perfect arch for sword wielding and suddenly his interest piques higher. "Well, did you want something?" She asks, injecting enough indignation into her voice that if he were a weaker man, he might flee.

He shrugs. "Company."

She reads his answer wrong and gives a less than elegant snort. "Yeah, well. I'm not really in the mood for 'company' tonight so maybe I'll see you around. Maybe," she adds for good measure, just in case he hasn't already got the message.

He could just laugh at her hubris but he doesn't. It's too soon to test the waters and he's quite sure she's used to getting her own way. The suggestion that he could have her on her back and begging for more until she forgets her own name probably wouldn't go down too well. Neither would she if that plain little face is anything to go by.

"Don't flatter yourself, sweetheart," he says, as kindly as is possible considering the words. She blinks and he can almost see her pride wilting slightly. She's spoilt, that's what he thinks. She's not used to hearing the word 'no'.

He smiles warmly before she can tell him to fuck off. "You seemed a little troubled. I just thought you might like a friendly ear."

Another snort, and she speaks into her cup. "Not many of those around these days." Her attention is fixed on the table and Daken allows himself a wicked smile.

"Isn't that the truth."

She looks up sharply, some sense of caution flaring in brown eyes, only a half shade lighter than his own and still so dark you can barely see the pupil. He can't pinpoint the motivation for that look she's giving him. Maybe she heard something in his voice. He makes a note to be a little more careful. Some of her kind can be more perceptive than they look.

She tips her cup and grimaces. Gesturing the server towards them, she places an order in fluent Japanese and also asks after 'Yuki's' family. For a split second, Daken feels almost out of his depth with this one. He had her pegged as the standard Japanophile that usually infest places like this; someone who latches onto his culture while knowing very little about it. It's almost enough to worry him. Almost.

"Have you been to Japan, or just studied the language?" He asks. His tone is conversational, not at all showcasing his curiosity. She looks worried for a moment and he can see the thought process behind her eyes as she tries to find an answer.

"I lived in Tokyo for a while. My dad worked there."

A few things give away the lie. First of all, she can barely look at him. She clenches and unclenches her hands as she lies. But the biggest tell is her accent when she speaks Japanese. At a guess, he would peg it as Honshu., Kyoto to be specific, but he doesn't call her bluff. He nods and mutters something about it all being very interesting, which it is, of course...but not for the reason she thinks.

"What about you?" She asks. "You don't sound American."

He shrugs and thinks that the truth can't hurt. "I moved around a lot. Mostly Europe."

"Cool, you ever been to London?" Her smile is a little brighter, a little less guarded.

He nods. "Many times."

Her smile falters and she seems lost in thought for a moment. When she speaks, it is with an attempt to hide whatever it is she's feeling and the affected cheerfulness seems forced. "I had a...friend from England once. We used to travel down to London quite a bit."

He hears a catch in her throat and resolves to get up and leave without a word if she starts crying. He finds women and their never ending emotions utterly pathetic. Instead she shrugs and gives a sad smile. "Whatever. It doesn't matter now anyway."

She runs a hand through her hair and drops her arm onto the table. Daken gives in to his curiosity and decides to dig a little deeper. Before long, he is feeling pain and desire and anger and hopelessness all in one sharp burst of emotion. She's antsy and she feels trapped and restless and she needs to escape but something is holding her back, then he cuts off because he simply can't take it anymore.

It affects her too and she seems to almost deflate as he pulls away from her. His exploration has done nothing but bring up more questions. What is she running from? What does she want? There's a lot of honour in her. A lot of strength that seems at odds with her youthful, and somewhat naïve, appearance. She has him completely fascinated and he almost wants to eradicate her for the fact.

Her hand is still resting on the table and he watches as she clenches and unclenches her hand in a comforting gesture. Like a kitten, he thinks and then it all clicks. That action falls into place with the set of her jaw and the way she draws her eyebrows when she's confused. An impression left by someone who has raised her or taught her from a young age. An overwhelming sense of honour that is almost an imprint.

And a rumour, heard through the grapevine, that his father once mentored a young girl. Sitting here in front of him, his input clearly shows.

"Hmm," he says. What a small world it is, but then sometimes you just hit the jackpot without even trying.

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