- Pokerface -
F. J. Verduin

"Killjoy!" Riker called out after her. One last time she glanced over her shoulder, then the doctor passed through the doors. Taking the cards with her. "Well, she *did* win," Deanna said in Beverly's defence while getting up, "and you certainly were in no position to counter that streak of her's this evening." Will grunted. "Oh, boy. I've never seen anyone with that much luck." With that remark he started to gather the chips on his side of the table. "You guys don't suppose she was cheating, do you?" "I did not notice any irregularities in her game, commander," the dealer commented, "so I believe you are in error. The doctor did not deceive us, she was just ... very fortunate."

There was little zeal left in the remaining three players. In no time Data had arranged the remainder of the chips left on the table by color, after accurately assessing there would be no more card-playing this evening. At least, not without a deck.

"I don't know why I even bother." Will said, looking in amaze- ment at the speed with which the android completed the task, in far less time than it had taken him. Data nodded slightly in his direction. "There are some things," he said to justify his skill, "which *I* envy in humans, sir. There will always be things that are difficult, if not impossible for me to achieve. That does not mean I do not aspire to do so, however." Data got up, and placed the three stacks back into the box that rested on the pokertable before he closed the lid. "I wish you goodnight, commander. Counselor."

"Goodnight, Data." Deanna answered returning from the other room. She carried two glasses which she put on the table, then she turned to see him out. Will watched them both walk to the doors but realized he mostly looked at the woman. Until Data had passed through, for then he just saw her.

"You would better finish that drink, commander," she told Will, "and leave, before your thoughts become anymore detailed." He turned a color matching her outfit. "Well, you do look good in red." he said, hinting at her attire. "Oh, do I now?" "You always did." Will replied, a glint of recollection in his eyes.

Now it was her turn to turn red. His words, or rather the sensation that accompanied them stirred a memory in her mind she'd long since forgotten. Of course she'd worn red before, and of course he would remember having seen her wearing it. It just wasn't this outfit he remembered seeing. Hell, what he referred to had hardly been clothing.

"Oh, you. You had no business in bringing that up." "Why not? It's been the truth since we first met." Deanna was puzzled. "There is a reason I hope," she asked, "why you are leading our conversation into this specific direction?"

Will took up the glass closest to him. "Something Data said.", he muttered between sips.

"What?" she asked. "Something Data said, just before he left." "What did he ...?" Deanna started, but then she remembered overhearing Data before she came back in. And she made the connection.

"Oh, you can't be serious," she laughed. "You're trying to ...?"

Her laughter had obviously been harder to deal with than any sudden rejection. That she could be plainly dismissive was something he would have considered. Her making fun of the idea, he hadn't thought of.

"You think the idea is so far-fetched?" He genuinely appeared to be hurt. "Will, ... it's been a long time. For both of us." He pushed the seat back and got up to walk over to Deanna. "You know," he said once he had reached her, "I never forgot." His hand brushed past her cheek. She covered his hand with her own and held it in place. "Neither have I, Will. I still share some of my memories with you. But ... " "Then why is it so hard for you to imagine I would like nothing more than to start again? I've seen you sitting behind that table all evening, and for the first time in months I couldn't concentrate on anything else." "So that's the reason you're game was so lousy tonight." She pulled his hand down. "I had a feeling it wasn't just all Beverly's doing." He grinned. "Deanna, are you changing the subject on me?" "Yes. I am."

She turned away from him, and made an effort to get back to the middle of the room. The first time in months? She'd read the same feelings in him during the game as she had done for weeks now, or even longer. And his thoughts really hadn't chanced a bit. Only by speaking up about them he had made it impossible for her to continue ignoring them. 'Perhaps it's a first they broke your concentration, Will,' Deanna thought, 'but it's definitely not the first time you had those thougths.'

She felt his hands on her shoulders.

"Can you sense what I am feeling now, Deanna?" "No," she lied. "But I can guess." "Good."

Lowering his face to her hair he breathed, heating up the skin that was hidden by the dark curls. His hands cupped her shoulders, and then trailed down along her upper arms. He had watched her freeze under his first touch, but she relaxed noticeably within seconds.

"Don't do this, Will." she said while all sorts of thoughts raced through her head. 'Oh, please go on.' "Do what?" he asked. From one moment to the next his fingers had left her arms and now they held her by the waist. He turned her around, and she looked up into his eyes.

"Tell me you want me to leave, and I will." She said nothing.

One hand moved, hardly touching her on its way up. Will gently stroked her chest with his fingers and slid his hand up to her neck. His thumb was on her cheek, the rest of his fingers were placed behind her ear. Will pulled her to him and bent over to meet her. She closed her eyes and parted her lips a little, in anticipation of his kiss.

It never came.

"Are you ever going to decide on what you plan to do with those?" Will asked her from across the table. "Heh, ... what do you mean?" "The commander wants to know how many cards you require, counselor." Data explained.

On the table, in front of her, were five cards. Face down. Automatically Deanna picked them up and scanned them. They had all the potential to make a nice flush.

'Like I care,' she thought, and she toyed with the idea to sit this one out.

"Any time soon will do, Deanna. I'm winning here, don't make me wait for it." Beverly had an uncharacteristic manner of hurryness about her, presumably brought on by her ongoing luck this evening. "I still have to see you beat me with this hand, doctor," Will countered. "That lucky streak of your's can't last forever. At one time its going to run out, and then you're mine."

Deanna concentrated, but Will's mind was like his face. There was nothing for her to read.

She folded.

-The End-