They say that the deck never lies, but nobody ever said anything about the dick behind it. Whenever Liam and Emma played cards, each knew that the other was in some way cheating. They knew it foolish to assume otherwise. Before each game, there was always the same mutual clarification, “No cheating this time.” This statement, of course, was pure bull. If there wasn't a skiff up someone's sleeve, there was a “sidedeck” on the lap. The game was less about the game itself and more about who was a better cheater. Getting caught meant losing, but in most cases, one would simply ignore the other's cheating because it was more fun to win despite it.
This time, however, Liam wouldn't cheat. To the infirmary he brought their regular deck of cards and on a small table beside his ailing sister, he dealt a game of classic war. To his surprise, Emma was not reluctant to play, but rather very glad to have something to do. To no one's shock, Dr. Lorentz made for boring company. Constant stories of the way Germany used to be or hearing of how pediatric neurosurgery is more baffling than its adult counterpart could really grate on one's nerves. Liam sensed that Emma was in a massive heap of emotions ranging from annoyance to frustration, anger to rage, sorrow to grief, and, most recently, boredom. He could not imagine himself in her shoes. Not only had he never been shot, but he had also never seen someone he cared about gunned down in front of him. Liam cared about his sister though and wanted to help. Playing cards was one of the ways he knew how and cheating felt like a disservice to his cause.
“Four,” Liam said as he put down somewhere around his twelfth card.
“Six,” Emma replied unemotionally as she took both cards. “Nine.”
“Eight,” Liam sighed as Emma took the cards again. He didn't think she was cheating. Not yet anyway. “How much longer do you have to be cooked up in here?”
“The doc wants me in bed for at least a week, so four more days. Queen. Then I start physical therapy.”
“Ace of clubs,” Liam smirked as he took both cards. “How long will that last?”
“He says six weeks,” Emma groaned. “Two. Dammit.”
“Four.” Maybe she wasn't cheating after all. “Seven weeks of recovery. Really?”
“Ten.” Or was she? “Is there a way you could speed that up? Jack.”
“I'll do whatever it takes. Jack.”
He HAD laid down a jack as well. “War it is,” Liam drew three cards and set them aside without looking, then drew another and set it face up. “Six.”
Emma did the same and then smirked, “Ace of spades.”
Okay, so maybe she was cheating. But how? Whatever. Liam laid down another card, “Seven.”
“Look,” Emma cleared her throat, “this ship gets to Boston in, what, a month?”
“Yeah. Little less.”
“Five,” Emma snapped her fingers. “So, when this ship hauls into port at the end of the month, I'll be stepping off. Count on it.”
“Nine. Whatever you say.”
“Dammit,” Emma had put down the two of hearts. “Come on, Liam, when have I ever let you down?”
“Don't answer that,” Emma rolled her eyes as she set down another card. “King.”
“Ace,” Liam grinned.
“Seriously?” Emma muttered. “How are you doing it?”
“You know what.”
“Cheating?” Liam laughed. “I'm not cheating.”
“I'm telling you, I'm not cheating.”
“Yeah, whatever. Play,” Emma put down an eight of clubs.
“See!” Six of spades.
“You're just doing that to prove you aren't cheating, Liam.”
“Oh, yeah, because I'm that much of a dumbass.”
“Don't say anything,” Liam realized he had just done almost exactly what Emma had done earlier. Hooray for incidental conversational parallelism! “Two.”
“Two.” It hit her, “War!”
Before Liam could deal out his cards, the door to the infirmary opened. In a strange reflex, he cupped his hands over his cards as he looked to see Sergei walk in. Liam had seen their guest a couple of times in the last few days, but hadn't said anything at all to him besides barely polite small talk. The cold shoulder routine worked for Liam. He let his parents play nice, but someone had to be the bad guy in this. So as soon as Sergei walked in, Liam demanded, “What the hell are you doing here?”
Sergei froze, “Oh, I- I just wanted to check up on Emma. I wanted to know if she was alright. The captain told me that she was awake and that I could-”
“Yeah, well, she's fine,” said Liam.
Emma, who despite inability to hide her grumpiness, asked in a sweet tone, “Are you who I think you are?”
“Fleming. Sergei Fleming,” he answered without missing a beat. “I came to see if you were alright.”
“You're the one who rescued me?”
“Yes, yes, I am,” Sergei very slowly approached her bed. Liam allowed this to happen, though he did so visibly annoyed. For some reason, Sergei just had to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Liam really did not like him. “How are you feeling?”
“Like hell,” Emma sighed. “Could be worse though, but thanks to you, it isn't.”
“I just did what I knew was right,” Sergei replied. “I wish I had arrived sooner, I might have been able to-”
“Yeah,” Emma stopped him. She was certain we would mention LeFleur and she had no intention of thinking about that. Her body ached enough. There was no need for emotional pain. But such thoughts were inevitable. It came to her then, “Hey, Liam.”
“What about- what about a funeral? Is there- is there a plan for that?”
Dr. Lorentz came out from his office area and answered, “I'm sorry, but I've been listening in every now and then. I can answer your question for you.”
“Okay,” Emma made a rolling gesture with her hand as if to tell him to move on.
“Your father knew that you would want to be there at any service, so instead of performing our regular 'day after' tradition, I was given charge of deciding when you were fit enough to be brought above decks for the funeral. If, and only if, all goes well, I will have you up there in four days time. By then, we will have started a little bit of physical therapy, but you will be confined to a wheelchair. I'm sorry, that is the way it must be.”
“Dammit,” Emma groaned. “Wait, what about Ivaniff?”
“Ivanov,” Liam corrected her.
“His funeral will be on the same night. Captain Mitchell thought it best on the crew's morale not to have two funerals occurring on the same day.”
Emma rolled her eyes, “Yeah, that's fine.”
“I am almost certain that if you asked your father, he would move Ivanov's funeral for you and-”
“No, it's fine,” Emma interrupted.
“If that is that, then I shall return to my desk.”
“You do that,” Emma snarked.
Dr. Lorentz politely smiled and then bowed out.
“Seems like an alright sort,” Sergei said.
“Guess he is,” Liam lied.
“May I ask you a question, Emma?” asked Sergei.
“How much do you remember about when I rescued you?”
Emma thought about it. Liam watched very carefully as it came back to her. He could not imagine her pain, so he put his hand on her arm. “I- I remember being shot. I remember seeing LeFleur being shot. I remember believing that I was dead. I remember being ready to die. I knew it was over. Then it's gets hazy. I can remember hearing gunshots, thinking they were for me, but they weren't. Then I remember someone picking me up. But after that? There's nothing. Why?”
“Honestly just curious,” Sergei shrugged. “May I ask another question?”
“Do you remember me?”
“Barely,” Emma replied. “I remember when we were kids. You were a quiet one and you didn't play much. I didn't like you.”
“No, you did not,” Sergei laughed. “I liked you though. I honestly didn't have much contact with children my age. It's just because of the way I grew up, but I thought you were the prettiest girl I had ever seen.”
“Oh, yeah?” Emma chuckled. “You certainly didn't do much about it back then.”
“I honestly didn't know how,” Sergei sighed. “But that's why I was shy in those days.”
“You seem a bit more outgoing.”
“Yes, I am,” he answered confidently. “I wasn't given real social training until I was about fifteen.”
“Social training?” Liam cocked his eyebrow.
Sergei shrugged it off, “I'm definitely an improved person since, what, age twelve?”
“Aren't we all,” Liam said with a definite edge. “Don't lack for confidence, do ya?”
Sergei chuckled uncomfortably, “No, I suppose not.”
“Look, Sergei, I don't want to be rude,” Liam lied, “but we were in the middle something. Do you mind?”
“Not at all,” he feigned a smile. “You're right. I just came by to make sure you were alright.”
“Hey, thanks for stopping by, Sergei,” Emma said sincerely. “I appreciate what you did for me.”
“Not a problem,” Sergei said as he opened the door. “Get well soon,” were his last words as he stepped out. The door shut behind.
The Mitchell siblings looked upon one another before Liam said, “So, don't we have a war to resolve?”