All the standard disclaimers apply.

Pairing: 1+2
Rating: PG
Warnings: Totally safe.
Challenge: Magic
Word count: 491

Author's Note: Merith challenged me to write one of these, so, here it is.

by Saro

Billy Evans used to hustle on Ruben -- mostly Three Card Monte, though he picked a few pockets and dabbled in bigger cons. I remember his hands were black as crude oil, and big to move as fast as they did. He would shuffle the cards like a pro, heckling any potential marks constantly while his big, clever hands flew back and forth. I used to be able to watch him for hours.

"The trick," he told me once, "is to keep talkin'. Even if they don't want to, they're listenin' to you with half an ear, and that means they're not really paying attention. Don't matter what you say, just so long as you're sayin' it."

I watched him and listened, following the red queen as she shuttled around between us.

"Can you find her, buddy?" Billy asked, starting in on the same speech he gave all comers. "Find the queen. Come on, son, you're a sharp looking boy. Why not give 'er a try? Just five credits. Find the red queen."

He could do that forever, I think, mouth on autopilot while he made it seem like the queen was going right, but slid her under one of the other cards so she stayed in the middle. The way he talked was easy to listen to. Not like some hustlers. Some of those guys make you feel like you're listening to an auctioneer. It's distracting, but it isn't mesmerizing like Billy's voice was. I think he said the same things so often, they started turning into a song.

"She's in there, son. You wanna give it shot? One time, free of charge." He winked at me. "You ain't got nothin' to lose."

I smiled at him and nodded.

The cards stopped moving and his hands unfolded over them, waiting for me to make my choice.

I picked a card and flipped it over, revealing the queen of hearts.

Billy blinked. "Well, shit," he'd said, and scratched frizzy, graying hair. Good guy, Billy. He taught me a lot. If I wanted to, I could probably make a living on Three Card Monte.

"Duo?" Heero asked, glancing over from the copilot's seat.


"You're being awfully quiet." His tone didn't really say if that was a good thing or not. His brows were drawn down, maybe a little puzzled.

"Am I?" I said, leaning back and making a show of thinking about it. "I guess I am. Just wandered off, you know?"

He made a noise that might have meant yes.

"You ready for this? I mean, should be a hell of a show. Maybe we should have brought popcorn." I told him lightly, changing the subject. He answered, or deflected, or ignored me as I chatted with him, eventually going so far as to smile. An honest to god smile, too, not a smirk.

It's a tempting smile, but I'm not ready to be quiet just yet.


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