will you stay here for a while dear
Elijah is down to his pants and Orlando, who's only lost one shoe, is gleefully wearing Dom's trousers on his head while Dom counts out single pence from his pocket into the pot. "14 ... 15 ... 16," he says. "There. That's it. All I've got. Call. And if you want my pants, you're going to have to come over here and take them, Orli."
"I'm out," Elijah says, and tosses down his cards. The six of diamonds that Billy has been looking for flips over, peeking out from behind another card.
"You wanker," Billy says. "That's the six I fucking needed. Out."
"Three of a kind," Dom says. "Tens."
"Shit," Orlando says. "Keep your bloody pants, then. Two pair, sevens over three. Shit. I'm out of cash."
"How's that work?" Elijah says. "You've got everybody's fucking clothes!"
Orlando says, "These are not conventional poker rules, Doodle. Dom made these rules up. Which means he's got all my money, and I've got his trousers."
"Wallet poker," Billy says.
"What the fuck?" Elijah says. "No cash in my wallet either, mate."
"No, no," Billy says. "A bloke in Glasgow taught me this. Play for the most worthless stuff in our wallets - Chinese fortunes, expired credit cards, the phone numbers of birds you never actually meant to call. The more useless the shite, the more it's worth."
"All right," Dom says. "Let's play."
8 of hearts, 8 of spades, 9 of diamonds, Ace of diamonds, Queen of clubs.
Dom throws in a condom that's been expired for nearly four years. The writing's worn off completely, and there's foiling shining through around the edges of the familiar circle. Dom thinks that if he opened it, it would crumble in his hands. A mate back home gave it to him, just after he'd got the Hetty part, and passed it over with a wink and a leer.
Plenty of girls between then and now, and not a small number of boys, either, but touching this seemed like messing with luck. Luck's landed him here, though, in the kitchen of Orli's rental flat on the set of this incredible thing, this movie that promises to change all their lives. So this is the luck he was waiting for, with Billy sitting across the table from him, watching him warily, with something that might be lust and might be love hiding behind the suspicion in his eyes.
Orlando picks it up with two fingers and says, "Not planning on bedding a pretty bird tonight, eh, Dom?"
"Not too many pretty birds in this kitchen, Orlando," Dom says. "Unless you were offering yourself, of course, otherwise I'm limited to funny looking Americans and Scotsmen."
Elijah laughs and starts to choke on his beer, and Billy reaches out to pound him on the back. He holds Dom's gaze, though, and Dom meets it, level. Billy's mouth, his pretty mouth, quirks a little, like he's got a question he almost wants to ask, but he doesn't, and Dom waits for Billy to pull his eyes away before he looks down at his cards again.
7 of clubs, 4 of clubs, King of clubs, King of hearts, 10 of spades.
Orlando tosses down a joint. It's yellowed, cracking along one edge, and practically flat, but it is recognizably a joint. Billy says, "You flew to New Zealand with that in your wallet, mate?"
Orlando shrugs. "It's so old, I bet the dope's hardly smelling of dope anymore."
"Let's smoke it," Elijah suggests.
"Does it still count as an ante if Elijah gets stoned on it?" Dom asks.
"No," Billy says. "Drink your beer, Doodle."
Orlando doesn't even know where the joint came from; he's had it as long as he can remember, and it's been pressed between a business card for an agent that he never called and a photo of himself, drunk, arm wrapped around the shoulders of a girl he called too much. He pulls the photo out of his wallet, drops it on top of Dom's condom, and says, "What the hell, let's smoke it. That should be useless enough."
"Now that," Dom says, leaning over to pick the photo up. "That's a pretty bird, Orlando. Prettier than you, at least."
"She dumped me," Orlando says.
"Smarter than you, too," Billy says, but he isn't looking at Orlando when he says it.
Ace of hearts, Jack of diamonds, 10 of hearts, Queen of diamonds, 8 of diamonds.
Elijah pulls out a fistful of fortunes - they scatter across the table, caught in the breeze from the open window behind them, and Orlando scrambles to pick them up from the floor. He reads them out loud, overblown and comic: "To be mature is to accept imperfections ... in bed. Hey, that's a good one for you, Dom. Except for the mature bit." Dom throws a beer cap at him, and it bounces off Orlando's forehead. "Take advantage of your great imagination ... in bed. Smart cookie. Ignorance never settles a question ... in bed. No, you should always ask questions. The time is right to make new friends ... in bed."
Elijah says, "That's the worst pickup line I've ever heard."
"Or the best," Dom suggests, with a leer. "You should try it in a pub, Doodle, maybe it'll work and you can stop wanking in the makeup trailer when no one else is around."
"Hey," Elijah says, trying to reach at Dom with a shove. He upends a beer across the table, and they all scramble, everyone a little too drunk, for a towel and to save the cards. Dom licks beer off the front of one card, and Billy has the fleeting thought of wondering what suit, what number, is underneath his tongue.
3 of clubs, 4 of hearts, 5 of clubs, 6 of clubs, 7 of spades.
Billy has a keycard from a hotel in Edinburgh in his wallet. From the last time he went to Fringe, the year before all this madness began. He hadn't meant to keep it - outside a hotel, it's nothing but a stupid square of plastic, but when he'd found it in his wallet, back in Glasgow, it hadn't seemed worth posting it back to them, either. They lost hundreds every year, Billy's sure, and one more isn't going to make a difference.
There was a pretty girl staying in the room next to his; when he passed her in the hallway, she smiled at him, and it was a smile he recognized from bars - not quite seductive, not quite confident, but suggestive, certainly. She was a safe choice; pretty enough, and a stranger, no trail to be left behind. It hadn't felt right at all.
He met a man in a bar after the shows that night, and it wasn't the first time he'd taken a man home, but it had been the last - until now, with Dom staring at him across the table, and Billy certain, for once, that he wasn't reading the signs wrong at all.
"There's a story with that, mate," Dom says. "Must be."
"Not really," Billy says. "Not worth telling."
He won the pot, and threw the hotel key out the next morning. Dom, sleepy and satisfied, drinking coffee in his kitchen, was worth more than a poker pot full of junk.
Author's notes: For Bear, who flailed at me, and for Pique, on her birthday; with thanks and love to Sid, who taught me wallet poker and invented the hands that the boys play. Title and epigraph from the Decemberists, "Billy Liar".