The Tell Commissioned Artwork by Clearwillow
“Come on, guys,” Kagome cajoled her friends, “we’ve been stuck in this village now for two days. I know you’re all looking for something different to do.” She directed her comment to the whole group, but her main focus was on Inuyasha, who harrumphed and turned away from her, his hands tucked into his haori sleeves.
They had been stuck in the village for two days. The rain was ceaselessly pounding away on the roof of the inn; when the storm hit, the girls had just convinced Inuyasha to stay the night, and they got into their room just in time. Since then, it had rained nonstop, and there was no way in hell Kagome was going to go back out onto the road.
But, since she was the one who insisted they stay at the inn until the storm passed, she was also the one who was largely responsible for entertaining them. This was getting...challenging. She had already read Shippo every fairy tale in her fairy tale book three times, and he was now coloring on the backs of the drawing papers she had brought. She, Sango, and Miroku had played Janken several times over the past few hours, and they’d integrated all kinds of details into the game: for example, Kagome had suggested that the winner could do “Truth or Dare,” but Miroku only wanted to ask Sango to kiss him, and Sango only wanted Kagome to dare her to hit Miroku.
So yeah, that game was a wash. Then, Kagome had an idea.
She brought out a deck of cards.
She started simply, with War, then Crazy Eights, and then Gin, and then Gin Rummy. The others were intrigued by all the games she knew with the cards--even Inuyasha, who couldn’t hide his interest this time.
But Kagome had been purposely building up their skills to get them ready for the one game she was most excited for: poker.
More specifically, Texas Hold ‘Em.
Kagome was obsessed with the game. Over the years, when she returned home to the modern era, she found herself developing a very bad case of insomnia. In short, she wasn’t used to sleeping alone anymore: she missed everyone, sure, but she really missed Inuyasha. Even if all he was doing was sleeping in a tree above her--she missed his eyes watching her in the dark, she missed the feel of his youki, close and comforting. But most of all, she just missed him.
Alone in her own bed in her own era, she often found herself unable to sleep, unable to do anything but lie awake and think about Inuyasha. She should have been thinking about college entrance exams, and passing math, and graduating. But instead, her mind was full of his beautiful, long, silky silver hair; the soft, downy puppy ears she loved to massage (on the rare occasions he let her); the feel of him pressed up against her body when she rode on his back; the jolt of electricity that shot through her whenever he offered her a rare, fanged smile. But she knew these thoughts were futile; he would never think of her in the same way--she was his friend, yes, but that was as far as it would go.
Kagome knew this.
So, she would beat herself up for being unable to think about anything but him, when she knew the last thing he was doing in Sengoku Jidai was thinking about her. Instead, to help calm her mind, she found the glory of late-night television. And it was there that she discovered the world of Texas Hold ‘Em.
And what a world it was! She quickly learned that poker was an exercise in patience, in acting, and above all, in psychology. She became obsessed with watching the players place their bets, decide whether or not to call, raise, or fold, and how the cards on the flop, the turn, and the river could drive people to make irrational decisions. Kagome found that she liked trying to read the players, to try and guess their moves, and she was delighted that, over time, she became skilled at predicting players’ moves.
The only problem was that she didn’t have anyone to play with.
Her mother and grandfather had no interest, and Souta was too young. Her girlfriends thought card games were silly, and Hojo...Hojo was just one person. She needed at least two; three would be better.
And in Sengoku Jidai, Kagome had a perfect group for poker--and they were the people she really wanted to play with, anyway. She couldn’t wait to see Miroku’s eyes gleam with the prospects of winning; she couldn’t wait to see Sango take him for everything he was worth. But most of all, she couldn’t wait to see Inuyasha, one fang poking below his lip, golden eyes serious, as he contemplated his hand.
She saved her money to buy chips, and carefully created a cheat sheet. Because more than anything, she wanted to share something she loved, with the people she loved, almost the most, in the whole world. She wanted them to enjoy it as much as she did.
And now, in this moment, in the safety of the inn, with the rain coming down steadily outside, Kagome knew. It was time, and she was just about dying from the anticipation of the first flop.
“How about a new game?” she asked slowly, taking the cards from Miroku and shuffling them.
“Keh,” said Inuyasha, “how many games would you have us play, wench?”
“This one is a little different,” Kagome said, ignoring the grumpy hanyou. “There are stakes.”
“Stakes?” Sango looked suspicious.
“Like, we bet,” Kagome said. She reached into her bag and pulled out something she’d bought the last time she was in her era. It was a long, narrow box fastened with clips on either side. She set it on the tatami and opened it. “With these,” she added, “poker chips.”
Miroku, Sango, and Inuyasha peered into the box. “What do you do with those, Kagome-sama?” Miroku asked.
“We’re going to use these to bet,” Kagome explained. “But first, I need something from each of you to exchange for some chips.”
“Something?” asked Sango faintly.
“Something that you own, that you would be willing to part with, that you would exchange for chips,” Kagome said. “If you have money, we can use that. That’s what players use in my world. We trade money for chips, and then when we’re done playing, we trade in the chips we’ve earned to see how much money we get back. Hopefully it’s more than what we put in, but it’s usually less. Here, I’m thinking we can use other things.”
“Like what?” Miroku asked.
Kagome reached into her bag. “Like these.” She pulled out four cups of ramen and placed them in the middle of the tatami. She didn’t miss Inuyasha’s ears perk up at the sight of his favorite food. “These will do just fine.” She carefully counted out the right amount of chips, then grinned at her friends. “Come on!” she said enthusiastically, “What do you have to exchange?”
Sango reached into her obi and withdrew several nioidama. “Will these do?” she asked, setting them beside the ramen cups.
Kagome nodded. “You bet,” she said, and counted out the right number of chips for Sango. “Make sure that you stack them according to type,” she said. “That will be helpful.”
Sango nodded, and started stacking her chips, her face serious.
Kagome grinned. She knew she could trust that Sango would come to play.
“Here,” Miroku said, drawing several sutras from his robes. “Will these do?”
“Perfect!” Kagome exclaimed, counting out money for him, too. She turned to Inuyasha. “How about you, Inuyasha?” she asked.
“I ain’t got nothin’ to trade, wench,” Inuyasha scoffed. “So count me out.”
Kagome thought quickly. She really wanted to play with Inuyasha. No, that wasn’t quite right: she had been dying to play with Inuyasha. She couldn’t wait to see how he engaged in a game of real strategy. A game where he had to think with his head, and not with his...sword. She tried not to blush at her own double entendre. Kagome took a deep breath.
“How about food?” she challenged him. “You promise to bring the winner food for meals for two days.”
“That seems fair, Inuyasha,” Miroku said.
“And whatever’s around,” Kagome added quickly. “So it wouldn’t be, like, oh I want boar, Inuyasha, go find me a boar.”
Inuyasha snorted. “Fine,” he said. “Give me some of those chip things.”
Kagome smiled to herself, counting out the right amount of chips for Inuyasha, too.
“Can I play too, Kagome?” Shippo asked.
Kagome shook her head. “It’s a pretty complicated game, Shippo,” Kagome said. “But if you want to sit with me, I can show you how to play.”
“You’re letting Inuyasha play,” Shippo pointed out.
“Oi, runt!” Inuyasha shouted.
“Inuyasha,” said Kagome calmly, “stack your chips.”
Inuyasha grumbled, but put his chips into nice stacks, while Shippo grabbed his crayons and paper, and settled himself next to Kagome.
Kagome took the cards and shuffled them. She dealt everyone two cards. “You can look at your cards,” she said, “but don’t show them to anyone.” She turned to Sango. “Will you ante?” she asked Sango. “Take a 10 piece, and put it in the middle.”
Sango nodded and plucked a 10 chip from her pile and dropped into the center of the group.
“Thanks, Sango,” Kagome said. She looked at the group. “Remember how we played gin, and the different types of hands you can have?” Everyone nodded. “So those rules will apply here. What you do is look at the cards in your hand, and try to imagine what possible hands you could have. And then there’s a round of betting, where you can call the ante, which means to put down the same amount of money. You can also raise, which means add money to the pot, or you can fold, which means you give up your hand and you don’t have to put into the pot for that round. If anyone raises, we have to keep going around until the pot is set--until everyone has had the chance to bet on the current amount in the pot.
“Then, I’ll deal what’s called the flop. That’s three cards. Then there’s a round of betting. Then I’ll deal one more card, which is called the turn. There’s another round of betting, and then we get the last card, which is called the river. Then there’s one more round of betting, and whoever’s left at that point turns over their cards. The winner takes the chips.” She looked around. “We’ll do a few rounds so you get the hang of it. Any questions?”
“Yeah,” Inuyasha said. “Why are there so many fucking rules?”
Kagome rolled her eyes, but quickly recovered and smiled at him indulgently. “It’s easy once you get the hang of it,” she said. “Trust me, okay?”
The sincerity in her blue eyes made his mouth freeze half-open. How could he be snarky when she looked so honest, and so fucking beautiful?
He let out a “keh” and snapped his head around, one eye keeping a close watch on the group.
“Right,” Kagome said. “Since Sango-chan set the ante, Miroku-sama, you’ll have the first chance to call. We’ll go around. And here.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a list of possible hands in poker, ranked from lowest to highest. “If you need to see where your hand might rank, use this.” She dropped it into the middle of the group. “And now,” Kagome added, her smile slow and sleek, “let’s play.”
Kagome led the group through a few rounds of Hold ‘Em first, carefully taking the time to explain each hand and possible move. She was incredibly patient, giving them time to analyze the cheat sheet as much as they needed, and answering their questions in great detail. They played a few rounds like this, the group showing Kagome their hands, and Kagome walking them through the different options available, based on the community cards that were dealt. They used the cheat sheet to see who would win each round, and once it seemed like they were ready, Kagome announced that they would be playing, for real.
“Inuyasha,” Kagome said, her eyes glinting, “you ante.”
Inuyasha grumbled and tossed a 10 piece into the center. Kagome looked down at her cards: a jack of hearts and a queen of clubs. High pairs, or potentially a straight.
“I’ll raise,” she said confidently, “another 10.” And she tossed another 10 chip into the middle.
Sango groaned. “Fold,” she said, tossing her cards down.
Miroku looked at his cards, “I’ll call that,” he said, tossing in two 10 chips.
Inuyasha looked back at his cards, then at the pile. His face was impassive. “I’ll call,” he said, tossing another 10 chip into the middle. His ears twitched once, adorably, Kagome thought. It was like a slow, delicate ripple from top to bottom; Kagome could see them quake as they moved. She longed to run her fingers over them and relax them, then blushed at the thought. She saw Inuyasha’s nose turn slightly towards her, and blushed even more.
How did he do that? How did he know exactly what she was thinking? Did he know that her thoughts were about him, always him, only him? And his beautiful, downy ears?
She hoped not.
“Okay,” she choked out, “here’s the flop.” And she dealt out a king of hearts (great), a nine of diamonds (maybe!), and a seven of spades. She glanced at Inuyasha, who was looking from his cards to the flop, back and forth, several times.
Finally, his ears twitched again, once. “Twenty,” he said, tossing in two chips.
Miroku looked down at his cards. “I’ll call,” he said, adding two more chips.
Kagome looked at her cards. Why the hell not?
“Call,” she said, adding chips. She then dealt the turn card. An ace of hearts.
Oh, what to do?
“Another twenty,” grunted Inuyasha, his ears twitching once again.
“Ugh,” Miroku said, “I think I’m out.” And he threw his cards on the tatami in disgust.
Kagome eyed Inuyasha. His ears twitched at her again, once. He offered her a fanged grin. “Come on, wench,” he said, impatiently. “What’re you gonna do?”
“Call,” she said, tossing her chips in, and turned the river card. A king of clubs. She had a pair of kings with an ace kicker. Not too shabby. Surely she’d be able to beat whatever Inuyasha had.
“A hundred,” he said, throwing in two fifty chips, his ears twitching once again.
“It’s yours, Inuyasha,” Kagome said, throwing down her cards. “But, I wanna know what you had.”
Inuyasha barked out a laugh and threw down his own cards. “Nothing,” he crowed. “I’ve got nothing.”
Kagome looked at his cards and made an insane sound of disgust. He had a six of diamonds and a four of spades. “You really did have nothing!” she exclaimed. “Dammit!”
Inuyasha was laughing so hard, he was actually wiping his eyes. “Watch and learn, wench,” he said through his cackles. “I’ve got this game down pat.”
Kagome’s eyes narrowed. Oh, this was war.
As the rain continued to pour outside, the game of poker got more and more heated. Kagome and Inuyasha in particular went back and forth, their barbs biting almost as badly as their cards. Miroku tended to follow the flow of the hands; mostly calling, occasionally raising, and sometimes winning. Sango found her strength in gambling erratically, not letting anyone get a read on her bets. Sometimes she would bet high, trying to drive others out; sometimes she would just call or raise, trying to suss out what others were doing. She had an impassive countenance, too, making it tough for Kagome to detect any tells.
And then...there was Inuyasha. He seemed to be delighting especially in beating her, hand after hand. If she raised, he would raise even more. If she called, he’d try to push her to raise. And he did it all with a snarky grin, one fang poking out, his golden eyes twinkling and endlessly amused.
She wanted to take that fang and poke it right back into his face.
Or...do something else with it. Something that made her feel warm and tingly in parts of her body she would have preferred to not feel warm and tingly. Right?
She should not feel warm and tingly when it came to Inuyasha, should she?
But then, during one particularly tough hand, Kagome saw something that stood out to her.
Oh, gods, why hadn’t she seen it before?
Kagome had dealt herself a pair of tens. Not a wonderful hand, but definitely worth seeing the flop. Sango put up the ante, Miroku and Inuyasha both called, and Kagome, the last one to go, raised. Sango folded; Miroku called; Inuyasha looked at her, and tossed some chips into the pot.
His ears twitched. Once.
She had seen that happen the entire night. Now, when did she see it happen?
The first hand. When he had garbage.
And, at least three hands after that.
Inuyasha had a tell.
Kagome dealt the flop, trying desperately not to cackle in her delight. She could beat him! She could totally and completely beat him!
The flop was a six of clubs, another ten, and a queen of spades. Kagome had three-of-a-kind. She wasn’t going to back out now.
Maybe, just maybe, she could push him a little bit.
“Call,” said Miroku, up next since Sango had folded.
Inuyasha’s ears twitched once. “Raise,” he said, adding three chips to the pot.
Kagome tried really hard not to smirk and keep her face neutral. “I’ll raise that,” she said, throwing another three chips in.
“I’m out,” said Miroku, tossing his cards.
“Call,” said Inuyasha smoothly. One ear twitch.
The turn card was another queen. Kagome now had a full house. The only thing she had to hope for was that Inuyasha didn’t also have a full house with a queen (or a pair of queens) in his hand.
He looked at her casually. “Raise,” he said, his ears twitching once.
“Call,” she said.
The river card was a four of clubs--unhelpful.
“Raise,” said Inuyasha again. His ears twitched once yet again.
Kagome took a deep breath. She just had to be right about this.
“Call,” she said, “and let’s see what you’ve got, dog boy.”
Inuyasha threw down his cards. “Jack and shit,” he said, looking at her triumphantly.
Okay, so he did have a jack (of hearts), but still...
“Full house!” she crowed, throwing her cards down and happily soaking up all the chips.
Inuyasha stared at her, dumbfounded. “How the fuck?” he muttered.
Kagome’s face was shining with glee. “Sorry, sorry,” she apologized, not sounding the least bit sorry. Inside, she was glowing. She’d found his tell!
Oh. This was going to be fun.
Kagome continued to deal until late in the night; the pot leader changed hands several times, but what became very clear was that Kagome was taking Inuyasha to the cleaners, so to speak. He couldn’t seem to hold onto any of his chips, and it seemed very much like Kagome was just toying with him at this point, as though he were the dog and she were the one dangling the bone in front of his nose. She would allow him to win a hand, only to wipe him out almost completely the next. Sometimes, he was so sure he had her, and then she would casually throw down some insane combination of cards, mumble something about luck, and then slip her hands around the coins and add them to her slowly (but steadily) growing stack.
She knew that she was provoking him with every hand, but she didn’t care. She could practically see the smoke coming out of his ears; she could feel the heat coming from his glare as his amber eyes burned fire at her.
Truth be told, Kagome loved being able to get a rise out of him, and the fact that she was soundly kicking his ass at a card game made it that much sweeter.
What it came down to, though, was that Kagome hadn’t just discovered one tell from Inuyasha. She had discovered two.
The second one she happened upon quite by accident. She had a pair of jacks between her hand and the flop, which yielded a ten of diamonds, a jack of diamonds, and an ace of spades. When she called, Inuyasha called very casually. But she saw his ears, which she’d been keeping a close eye on all night; this time, instead of twitching once, they twitched twice.
Aha, she thought. Let’s see what this tell is.
He was playing conservatively, only calling, but also calling someone else’s raise. He wasn’t pushing the pot on this hand. Instead, he was allowing everyone else to drive up the amount. But each time he called, his ears twitched twice, betraying his (surprising, for him) calm countenance.
He has something, Kagome thought.
When the turn card was a seven of hearts, and Inuyasha continued to leisurely call, his ears still twitching two times, Kagome folded. He shot her a nasty glare, but she returned it coolly. She wanted to see if she was right.
Sango folded too, and only Miroku was left. The river card was a king of diamonds; Miroku called, so did Inuyasha (his ears still twitching twice), and then they showed their hands.
Miroku had a pair of aces. Inuyasha had a flush.
Damn, Kagome thought as Inuyasha barked with laughter and teased the monk. I think that’s...two tells?
But like before, she kept that secret to herself.
“Okay, Kagome-sama,” Miroku said, “I think I’m done for the night.”
“Me too,” added Sango, offering a yawn. Kagome looked down at her side; Shippo was sleeping, his face buried in crayons and coloring paper.
“Okay,” she said softly, not wanting to wake the kitsune. “Let’s count up and see who has the most chips.The winner gets the spoils!”
As they all counted up their chips, it became obvious that Kagome was the clear winner; Sango and Miroku had each broken about even, while Inuyasha was left with almost nothing. He scowled and turned his back to the group.
“So much for you having this game down pat, eh, Inuaysha?” giggled Kagome, putting the chips away and giving Miroku and Sango back their belongings.
“You won these fair and square, Kagome-sama,” protested Miroku.
“Keh,” Kagome replied, in a perfect imitation of Inuyasha. “You know how to use them better than I do. I’d rather you keep them.
“But, Inuyasha,” she added, her blue eyes sparkling like sapphires as she turned to the hanyou, He turned his head slightly; he could see her eyes glitter. “I want boar for breakfast tomorrow.”