Hope everyone is still safe and well.
Being at home a lot has put me on a writing/procrastinating roll. I promise I won't start any new fics until I'm finished with my ongoing ones, this just got into my head and wouldn't leave it until I'd got it out the way. Only a short oneshot though, so I'll have another chapter of Here where the world is quiet edited and up in the next few days. And I'll probably try and work on something with some other characters in it at some point too haha. I've got a Grandad fic and some Adrian/Irenee fics kicking around somewhere...
Just a fun and slightly silly bit of fluff. Set probably sometime around Series 3, when Joey was getting a bit moody with Martina. Enjoy.
Joey slowly raises his eyes to Martina, jaw set.
'And whatever would make you think that?' He keeps his voice light, but there's an edge of irritation to his words that can't be suppressed completely.
'Well, apart from that fact that cheating, swindling and generally being devious are all your hallmarks,' Martina has a wicked grin lurking at the corners of her mouth, seeking an opportunity to burst forth and consume her face, 'you've got that look in yer eyes. That one that clearly points out you're up to no good.'
'And apart from being such a paranoid and cynical woman prone to seein' devious behaviour where there is none, you have a tendency to look for ways to accuse both myself and my beloved fam-i-ly of cheatin' no matter what we say, attempting to have us arrested simply for trying to earn a few mere pittances to survive and keep our household afloat…'
'Er – can I stop you there please, Mister Boswell? Heartrending as this little speech is, we are not at the Social Security at present. Your long-winded excuses and elaborate little stories of unity and staving off starvation don't work when you're playing cards.'
She gestures to the sizeable pile of cards that has amassed between them and Joey lets out an unconvincing laugh, aware she's on to him. He's not sure exactly how this weekly card game between them started – some argument in the DHSS about his ability to spin ridiculous embellished stories had become so heated it had carried over to a long walk after the DHSS closed, going up and down the streets for hours bickering back and forth. He can't remember exactly how it reached its conclusion, only that they had ended up in a pub, Joey influenced by alcohol enough to insist upon his seamless ability to say anything he liked without getting caught, finally culminating in Martina, equally tipsy, demanding he put his money where his mouth was. And somehow, they had ended up playing Cheat until time was called, Joey losing six games in a row. And, for some reason inexplicable to Joey other than his desperation to preserve his ego, they've been coming back every Friday night since.
Shooting him a stern glare, Martina reaches for the centre of the table. Joey gets there first, his hand slapping down over the pile of cards.
A raised eyebrow.
'Turn 'em over.'
'Would you be so cruel?' Joey attempts his most winning smile. 'Would you?'
Martina rolls her eyes. 'When this is a game, there's no money at stake and there are no witnesses, ergo no legal ramifications should I choose to take them from you by force and punish you severely for such a pathetic attempt at withholding the truth…'
Joey can't help smirking at that remark. It may just be the heat of the moment, but he could swear her insinuation she might punish him severely has a double meaning to it.
'Then yeah,' Martina finishes. 'I would.'
Her face becomes stern. 'Turn – them – over.'
With a loud sigh, Joey concedes. 'You always get your way, don't you?'
'If I always got my way, Mister Boswell, a lot of your sneaky little schemes would never come to fruition.'
Martina slides the topmost two cards towards herself with a flourish befitting someone who has triumphed.
'A two and a three.'
'Perhaps Madam has misread. For that, sweetheart, is another two.'
'You're not honestly trying to lie yer way out of this?!'
'Of course not! What sort of man do you think I am?'
'I know exactly what sort of man you are. You are the sort of man who would come to me at work and attempt to claim for – I quote – a new and more comfortable bed for the long suffering family guard dog. If you can pitch pathetic excuses to me there, I can well believe you would here. Notwithstanding the fact that this,' she picks up the card, waves it under his nose, 'is obviously a three.'
It's as close to admitting defeat as he'll come where Martina is concerned. Sighing for dramatic effect, he slides the pile of cards towards himself. It takes him nearly two attempts to fit the whole lot in his hand fanned out, another two to group all the same numbers together.
Martina seems more than happy to wait for him before her next turn, relishing seeing him struggle.
'You know, Mister Boswell,' she says, a chuckle in her voice, 'it never ceases to amuse me how someone who prides himself on workin' around the law can fail so miserably at cards – even when the game is called Cheat and cheating is in fact the whole point.'
'Don't you mean it never ceases to amaze you?'
'No,' says Martina wickedly.
They get through a few more turns, Joey keeping kosher just to burn through his enormous pile.
'It doesn't surprise me that I can work out what you're up to,' Martina says after a while. 'You have your own certified I'm up to something devious face. And I can spot it every time.' She plucks two cards from the mere five she has left in her own hand and slaps them face down on the table.
'Cheat,' Joey says immediately. He's been keeping careful track of what she's been putting down, determined not to lose to her again. And finally he has her where he wants her.
'And it might interest you to know, Little Miss Martina, that my poker face in most situations is second to none. It is only your powers of intimidation and forbidding gaze, coupled with that icy beauty of yours, that cause a man to lose his nerve – aw 'ey!'
Martina has overturned her cards, revealing they are in fact two fives.
'But you already put down three f – ' Joey falters. 'Eh! All this time you've been cheating and gettin' away with it!'
'Frustrating, isn't it?' Martina's eyes are glinting. 'Knowing you can do nothing to stop it. Welcome to my world, Mister Boswell. Now go on. Take yer cards.'
'Okay then, sweetheart,' Joey says defiantly as he picks them up. 'We'll see who can play this game.'
He attempts to make a sweeping gesture and put a card down, the impressiveness of the feat ruined by half the cards in his other hand falling to the table.
'Er – Mister Boswell…'
'Aren't you gonna have your turn, then, sweetheart? You've only got two cards left in your hand – you could make a lucky –'
'Mister Boswell,' Martina's eyebrow curves upwards. 'You know what I'm gonna say.'
Joey feigns ignorance, even as his own mug is betraying him. No matter how many cunning little plans he pulls off in real life, when it's just a game – and when it's a game played against Martina in particular – he simply cannot get away with anything.
He tries all the same.
'You cannot accuse me of cheating, sweetheart. Behold – the very same two fours.'
He turns the top two over, smiling guiltily.
'And under those very same two fours,' Martina says, speaking as if to a giro-grabbing claimant caught making money on the side, 'there's…oh, let's see, now, a Jack, an Ace and a nine.'
She folds her hands. 'And you honestly thought I wouldn't notice you put five cards down instead of two? That, Mister Boswell, is against the rules.'
'Well…how'd those get there, eh? Tsk, tsk…terrible what some people will do to win, isn't it?'
He attempts a charming smile. A moment passes, Joey's jaw becoming sore, Martina's expression fixedly steely.
And then she stands abruptly.
'Right,' she slaps her final cards down and gathers the pack up. 'Come with me, Mister Boswell.'
'Where are we goin'? The game's not over yet!'
'It is for you, Mister Boswell,' she sounds severe, but her own facial expressions are giving her away as much as Joey's do, and she's amused. 'It is for you.'
He follows her out onto the street, where she takes hold of his wrist, arresting him.
'It's high time I showed you what happens to liars and swindlers…and people who cheat at cards.'
'To be fair, that's the object of the game…'
He's deliberately provoking her now. Something has been sparking between them all evening – nay, every Friday evening for six weeks now, and Joey likes to think he has a good idea of what happens to people who cheat at cards – at least what Martina's got in mind, anyway. And he wants to make sure she follows through.
'People who cheat even when there are rules allowing for certain types of cheating,' Martina rephrases crossly.
'But if it's allowed, what's the fun? That's why I have to cheat against the cheating, isn't it, sunshi – '
He only gets partway through his cocky remark before Martina's lips are on his.
'And that's just your starter for ten,' she says when she pulls back, leaving Joey's knees trembling with the sudden surge of arousal the kiss has caused.
'Keep losing to me and tryin' to fob me off and there'll be a lot more to come.'
'Oh, really?' Joey can't keep the grin off his face. 'And what makes you think that'll make me stop cheatin' at cards? I'll just be even more inclined to next time, if this is the reward I get.'
'Reward?!' Martina's eyes widen then narrow. 'You won't think that if you keep this up.'
'Oh, yeah? And what if I am inclined to keep it up next time we meet?'
Martina releases his wrist, smirking as she pulls her coat tighter around herself and turns away from him.
'Just you wait and see, Mister Boswell. Just you wait.'
And then she's walked off into the night, leaving Joey stunned into silence.