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Seven had the perfect poker face, her features so controlled that it would take a microscope to register even the tiniest of expressions. But still she couldn't bluff, at least not the chief engineer.
"You've got nothing," B'Elanna dismissed, laying several more chips on the table and upping the ante yet again. "Put up or shut up, Princess."
Seven's eyes flickered towards her cards, although she already knew what they contained, a big load of nothing. She pushed another pile of chips towards the centre of the table.
Tom whistled. "Too rich for my blood," he said, folding his cards onto the top of the table and looking forlornly at the magnitude of replicator rations sitting before him, just waiting to be snatched up by one of the women.
"You shoulda got out when I did," said Harry.
Tom shrugged. "Where's the fun in that?"
B'Elanna ignored them both, her eyes trained on the curvaceous blonde before her. She knew she had Seven, could see it written on her face as clear as day, not that anyone else would have noticed, but then not many others had spent the amount of time studying the porcelain beauty that she had. "You're running out of rations, Seven, but I'm willing to take other incentives." She tried not to leer, but was only semi-successful.
"Typical Klingon boasting, especially from a woman who has yet to increase her own bid." Seven knew it was the wrong thing to say, had known it even before she opened her mouth, but still she'd said it.
B'Elanna transferred half of her entire collection of replicator rations to the centre of the table. "Consider my increment increased," she sneered.
Tom and Harry exchanged a look. The two men had suggested the evening as a way for the women to get to know one another better, away from engineering and the hazards of away missions. They hadn't intended for the two to wage war over the card table.
"As you surmised, I do not have sufficient rations to match your bet." Seven contemplated pulling out gracefully but for some reason couldn't stomach the idea of watching B'Elanna gloat over her defeat. "What other incentives will you accept as payment?"
B'Elanna licked her lips.
Tom gulped. "Er, Lanna, maybe you shouldn't..."
Three pairs of eyes looked at the engineer in confusion.
"You wish to own my hair?" Seven sounded both puzzled and sickened.
B'Elanna smiled at the others. "No, I want you to agree to wear your hair down."
It was an irrational request and therefore something in keeping with Seven's perception of the engineer's mental pathways. "For how long a period?"
B'Elanna trailed a finger through the ration chips on the table as if adding up their value. "Indefinitely."
There was absolute silence for a moment and in that time both Tom and Harry wished to God they were somewhere else. Slowly, Seven reached behind her head and withdrew the pins that kept her hair in its tight embrace. She put the pins on top of the pile of replicator rations. "I see your bet."
B'Elanna smiled, knowing she'd won.
"And raise it..?" Seven's optical implant rose, as she waited for B'Elanna to take the hint and inform her of the next incentive she could use as bait. The former borg knew that the only way she could possibly win, with the dismal hand she possessed, was to out bid the fiery engineer, and there was no-way she intended to lose.
"Ditch the biosuit," B'Elanna paused for a moment, "and the heels."
Tom and Harry's eyes swivelled back to Seven.
The two men held their breath, waiting to see if the former borg would perform a similar gesture as before and place her 'bid' on the table. The steely gaze Seven turned their way soon answered that question.
Looking down, B'Elanna realised that she herself would soon be out of chips, but there was no-way she was giving in now. She pushed them forward. "I see you," she gave a dramatic pause, "and raise you..?" She cocked her own eyebrow, admittedly not as succinctly as Seven, but it got her meaning across.
"Approval of my last fiv...seven recommendations to engineering." Seven saw the look of horror enter her opponent's eyes and congratulated herself on her excellent bluffing skills.
B'Elanna valiantly managed to withhold her angry retort, her mind desperately going over the last seven recommendations Seven had submitted to see if any could possibly result in the ship self-destructing. Fairly certain that none of them would spell their imminent doom and fully confident that Seven's hand was a dud, B'Elanna gave the other woman a snake-oiled smile. "Done."
They all turned to look at Harry, whose face had turned an interesting shade of red.
"Indeed." Although Seven wouldn't have chosen those words exactly, they did aptly convey her feelings at that moment. She knew she should quit while she was at least spared eternal servitude, but instead she found herself utter the dreaded phrase, "I'll see your bet and raise you..?"
"Look, don't you think this is going a little far?" Tom interrupted.
"Tom's right," Harry gave them both his most boyish smile, "it's just a game after all."
Seven cocked her head to one side. "Dinner?"
"Dinner," B'Elanna reiterated, "with real food and real conversation."
"Conversation with who?" asked Seven.
Quiet descended on the table. "You're asking me to dinner?" Seven finally asked.
"No." B'Elanna scowled at the other woman. "I'm just saying that when you lose, and believe me you will lose, you have to have a proper dinner with me for... seven consecutive nights."
"And how is that different from you asking me out to dinner?" Seven demanded.
"Because it's a bet, stupid."
Tom and Harry had somehow managed to push their chairs away from the table and were at that moment contemplating their chances of escaping the room without drawing either woman's ire. Neither of them knew exactly what was going on with this latest round of betting, but some animal instinct warned them that it could get nasty at any moment.
Seven knew she'd agree to the latest wager, the idea of spending time with the engineer appealing to her on a number of levels, but she prolonged her decision in the hopes of unnerving her opponent. "Done."
B'Elanna nearly toppled out of her chair. 'Oh my God, I've got a date with the borg!' She quickly righted herself and faced off against her blonde nemesis. "Fine."
With effort Seven managed to look away from B'Elanna for a second. "Where are Lieutenant Paris and Ensign Kim?" she asked, as she noticed the two empty chairs.
B'Elanna just shrugged, although she was a little disconcerted to realise she hadn't even heard them leave. "I see your bet and raise you..?" She cocked her eyebrow in the customary way and waited for Seven to devise her penance. As far as B'Elanna was concerned, Seven could have asked for anything and she would still accept. There was just no-way she could lose and the only real question was how much the borg was willing to surrender.
Seven knew that the time had come to stop playing and finish things, and the only way she could do that would be to ask for something so horrendous that B'Elanna would have no other choice than to fold. She gave some thought as to the engineer's dislikes and quickly came to the conclusion that she herself was at the top of that list. "A kiss."
B'Elanna's stomach tightened. "What... what kind of kiss?"
A conversation with Sam Wildman floated across Seven's mind. "A toe curling type of kiss." She didn't really know what the expression meant, but Sam had definitely appeared to become wistful after describing her husband's kissing technique in such a fashion.
B'Elanna lost the ability to breathe. All at once she wanted to lose the stupid bet and damn the consequences. "Toe curling?"
The two women sat, staring at one another, neither quite sure where they were up to in their little game or if it really mattered anymore.
It was Seven who finally broke the silence. "I am not completely versed in the intricacies of this game, but if it were to be called a draw, would the bids be discarded or would we both have to honour our agreements?"
B'Elanna almost blurted out the correct answer before she could stop herself. There was no-way Seven would have agreed to playing poker if she hadn't already assimilated every single scrap of information she could on the subject. Which could only mean that her question was a ruse, a way to arrive at the answer they both wanted without admitting her own desires so openly. "I'm not sure, but in Klingon poker you always honour your bids, no matter what."
As one the two women dropped their cards, face down, onto the table. The game was finished and all that remained was for the winners to take their prize. With a shyness that some would have thought alien to the two feisty women, they approached one another and within moments their toes curled.
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