“How?!" Sniper said in disbelief. "Barely just made a set...”
Demo snickered. “Let's see how bad that hand is, then.”
Sniper grumbled and threw down his cards. Demo leaned forward in his seat to inspect them. It was noon ceasefire, otherwise known as “lunch”, and the two men were currently avoiding the midday sun in the comfort of Sniper’s van. They sat at opposite sides of the booth table, drawn blinds casting a sleepy light over the camper interior. Their discarded layers were thrown haphazardly onto Sniper’s bunk. Lunch items, half drunken beers, and worn playing cards lay spread over the table.
“Almost made a run of these spades, only waiting on the jack.”
“Ye mean this one?” Demo said nonchalantly as he laid his own cards over the table, revealing a set of four jacks, three 7s, two 3s, and an ace.
“There’s the bugger.”
“I think I’ll be taking your crisps as my winnings, if ye don’t mind.” He wiggled his fingers gleefully as Sniper silently pushed the single serving bag across the table. Demo pulled open the bag and popped a few into his mouth. Sniper took a bite out of his own sandwich, chewing slowly.
“Think we’ve got time for two out of three?” he said into his hand, mouth full. Demo took Sniper’s other hand where it lay on the table, turning his wrist over to see the time on his watch.
“I think I can fit two more arse-kickings into ten minutes, aye.” He nudged Sniper’s boot under the table and Sniper nudged back, grinning.
“We’ll see who’s arse is getting kicked.”
Sniper gathered up the cards into a deck before separating it in two and shuffling the halves back together. He raised an eyebrow over his glasses at Demo as he sprung the cards between his hands in a cascade before bringing them back together and neatly cutting the deck with a one-handed flourish. Demo whistled low. Sniper looked pleased to have impressed him.
“That’s some fancy finger-work. What’s that one called?”
Demo took the deck from him and fiddled with it for a moment, trying to copy the motion. “Can ye teach me that one later?”
“’Course, love.” Sniper nodded. He took his cards as Demo dealt them out and groaned as he got a look at his hand. Demo barked out a laugh.
“Don’t give it away!”
“I could be throwing ya off. You don’t know.” Sniper said, but continued looking at his cards doubtfully, rearranging them like it would give him a better hand.
“Right.” Demo ate a spoonful of last night’s leftover chili from his tupperware. “Who’s first this round?”
“Eh, you can go since you won last round.”
They were quiet for a few moments as they took turns picking and discarding cards. Only a handful of cards passed between them before-
Sniper gave Demo a sour look. Demo raised his eyebrows, expression cautiously optimistic. They both wordlessly laid down their cards and added up the deadwoods in their heads. Demo was left with two aces, a 2, and a 5. Nine points. Sniper’s remaining cards were an ace, two 2s, and a 3. Eight points.
Sniper broke out in wheezing laughter.
“Not this time, mate!”
“Why didn’t ye call?!” Demo looked devastated.
“I wanted another 2.” Sniper paused in his chuckling to answer. They looked at each other for a moment before bursting out in laughter.
“Greedy weasel,” Demo said, with the satisfied sigh of a good laugh.
“Who’s greedy? You woulda won if you’d waited a turn.” Sniper scratched at his stubble. “What’s my prize?”
“Want your crisps back?”
“Mm… Got any dessert?” He looked over Demo’s lunch with interest. Demo sighed again, this time mournfully.
“Ye got me,” he said, pulling a small packet of butter cookies from his pocket and handing them over.
“Very nice.” Sniper tore into the packet with a crisp pop. “You want some?”
“The injustice of being offered me own biscuits out of pity.” Demo wiped a nonexistent tear from the cloth of his eyepatch. He then brightened and offered up his cupped hands. “Yes, please.”
Sniper divided up the cookies evenly between them.
“Let’s get to it then,” Sniper said, already shuffling the deck again.
“Eager to lose, sweetheart?” Demo took his cards, neatening them with a tap against the table.
“Nah, just wanna get to the foregone conclusion. Of me winning, that is.”
They both looked over their hands, and eyed each other over the cards.
“Your turn first, lad.” Demo egged on.
Sniper paused over the deck for a moment before taking the king of hearts from the discard pile and replacing it with a 7 of spades. Demo cautiously took the discarded 7 and fitted it into his hand.
Truthfully, there’s only so much tension you can build up in a two-and-a-half-minute long round of cards. The game ended when Sniper hesitantly rapped twice against the table and laid out his cards.
“Going risky this time?”
“I don’t think it's paid off.”
“Nae,” Demo said, counting off Sniper’s deadwoods on his fingers. Sniper sighed, already knowing what was coming. “Six to my three.”
“Why didn’t you just knock? You always knock.” Sniper folded his arms a tad petulantly.
“I wanted to go out with a bang by beating ye with a gin, of course.” Demo grinned cheekily at him and took a sound bite out of Sniper’s sandwich. Sniper rolled his eyes. He was about to reply when the klaxon signaling end of ceasefire began blaring faintly from the base.
“Fun’s over, boyo.” Demo took a last swig of beer and wiped the back of his hand over his mouth. He pointed towards his chili as Sniper brushed crumbs off the table and into his hand. “Ye mind if I toss this in your fridge?”
“Long as you don’t mind if it ain’t there when you get back.”
“Long as it doesn't go to waste.” It wasn’t hard to find a spot for the tupperware in Sniper’s barren mini fridge. The extra meal would probably do the beanpole good.
When Demo turned back around, Sniper was holding his heavy Kevlar vest open for him to slip into. Sniper had already donned his own vest once again.
“Thank ye kindly,” Demo said as Sniper slid the vest over his shoulders. Sniper pulled the other man around to do up the vest’s velcro fastenings, making sure it was snug and tight over his chest with a tug.
“Good to go?” Sniper asked.
“Aye,” Demo replied, swiping the slouch hat from the counter and depositing it on Sniper’s head.
Sniper held the door for Demo as they exited, grabbing his rifle from where it sat propped against the wall and locking the door behind them. Demo made it a step away from the camper before stopping abruptly, Sniper bumping slightly into his back. Sniper looked over Demo’s shoulder quizzically.
“Wait just a second.” Demo turned on his heel. “What do I get for winning our little game?”
“Tav.” Sniper slapped a hand to his face. “Soldier’s gonna give us an earful if we’re late again.”
“Trying to get out of it that easily, are ye?” Demo sniffed, hands on his hips. “I thought ye were a man of more honor than that.”
“Now hold on-” Sniper held up an indignant finger.
“Then pay up.”
Sniper wrinkled his nose as if to argue further, but he simply huffed and thought for a moment. He cracked a small, smug grin.
“Would it be big-headed of me to think a kiss would do it?”
“A kiss and you’re helping me tidy me room this weekend.”
“Deal.” Sniper said. He leaned in, flicking his hat up with a finger as he pressed his lips to the other man’s. Demo wrapped an easy arm around his shoulders as Sniper planted a second, smaller kiss to the corner of his mouth.
“Alright, alright.” Sniper said quietly against Demo’s cheek, hands resting at his hips. “Time to get back to work.”