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Vingt-et-Un

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“That bizarre little man over there likes you very much, and you like him.”

 

The words echo in Ed’s ear for the rest of the day. As he watches Stede dig up the petrified orange, excitement lighting up his face until he’s shining brighter than the sun. As they supervise the crew loading their bounty of oranges back onto the ship. As Stede reads them their nightly story, seated on a barrel, reading glasses perched on the end of his nose. Ed wants to kiss him. Wants to bury his face in Stede’s lap and cry. Wants to suck Stede’s cock until he cries. Wants to jump off the ship into the ocean rather than deal with all of these…feelings. 

 

“That bizarre little man over there likes you very much, and you like him.”

 

Shit. He does like him. He really, really does. 

 

It’s not usually this complicated for Ed. He sees somebody he wants to fuck or he wants to fuck him, he makes a few innuendos, shows off a bit, they get the hint (or if they don’t he just asks if they want to fuck and nine times out of ten the answer is yes), they fuck, they move on. There are no feelings involved. He’s never been friends with somebody that he wants to fuck. He’s never had that luxury. Everything with Stede is a luxury. 

 

He had thought, maybe, after that night with those French twats, that something might happen. Using passive aggression to make them burn down their own ship? Just because they’d hurt Ed’s feelings? He’d been ready to let Stede bend him over the railing right there. He’d thought…but no, just an awkward good night, a lingering glance, and a furious wank back in his cabin as he remembered the expression on Stede’s face as he watched the ship burn, the curve of his calves in those stockings, his thighs and his arse in those breeches. 

 

Then he’d asked Stede to run him through, for fuck’s sake. As innuendos go, it’s not that subtle. It had, at least, given him an excuse to hang all over Stede’s broad shoulders, let Stede fuss over him and tend his wounds. He could have made a move then, he supposed, but Stede had felt so bad about hurting him and he didn’t want a pity fuck (he regrets that now, he’d take a pity fuck if one was being offered). He wasn’t scared of being rejected. Fuck off. He isn’t scared of anything, he’s fucking Blackbeard. 

 

He wants Stede to be fucking Blackbeard. 

 

And now, he and Stede have agreed to be co-captains. They’re sharing their usual nightcap in Stede’s ridiculously luxurious quarters (he’s still not over the two chandeliers). And the boy’s words are still echoing in his ears. “That bizarre little man over there likes you very much.” Well. Alright then. Ed supposes it’s time to fuck around and find out. And then, hopefully, to actually fuck around. 

 

“Hey, Stede. I was thinking of something else you could teach me.”

 

“Oh? What’s that?” Stede is still admiring the petrified orange, turning it over and over in his hands. He looks up at Ed with a smile. 

 

“What kind of card games do gentlemen play? You must have some fancy games with a bunch of complicated rules and shit.”

 

“That’s a wonderful idea, Ed!” Stede beams and claps his hands. “Oh, I could teach you a French game, that would be sure to impress people. I know I have a deck of cards around here somewhere…” He bustles off to look through his desk drawers. Ed takes the opportunity to admire his legs again. He’s taken off that…whatever it was he was wearing before, thank god, and changed into his usual attire of stockings, breeches, shirt, and waistcoat. Ed wonders if he can throw the other outfit overboard without Stede noticing. Or burn it. That’s the least it deserves for it’s crimes against Stede’s legs (namely, covering them up and depriving Ed of the opportunity to ogle them, which had been the only part of their excursion he’d been looking forward to). 

 

“Ah! Here we go!” Stede brandishes the deck of cards, coming back to settle into an armchair next to the settee where Ed is sprawled. “Now, the game is called Vingt-et-Un.” He launches into a lengthy explanation of the rules, which sound rather familiar to Ed.

 

“Hang on, mate. That’s just blackjack.”

 

“Oh? You know it? Excellent! How shall we play, then? We could do best three out of five, or we could bet with seashells, that’s what the crew does when they play cards, or perhaps—“

 

“What if we strip?” Ed suggests, casually. Stede’s eyes widen, and his mouth rounds into a perfect O. 

 

“We…strip?”

 

“Yeah, y’know, you win a hand, I take something off, I win a hand, you take something off. First one to get naked loses.”

 

Stede considers him. “Is that…is that how pirates would play the game?”

 

“Yeah, but pirates would keep all of your clothes and shit. I’ll let you take them back after I win.” 

 

Stede scoffs. “You sound awfully confident.”

 

“I’m a confident man, Stede. So, are you in or are you out?” Ed leans back, legs spread, arms resting on the back of the settee. He knows that his shirt is riding up, exposing a stretch of his belly. He sees Stede’s eyes dart down and then back up. Gotcha

 

“Alright,” Stede says, looking a bit flustered. “I’ll deal. Aces high.” He shuffles the cards and deals, one card face up and one card face down to each. 

 

Ed lifts up the corner of his card. He’s got a 4, and the face down card is a 9. The card of Stede’s that he can see is a 10. 

 

“Hit me.”

 

Stede deals him another card, and says “I’ll stand. Show your cards.” 

 

They flip their cards over. Ed’s third card is a 6, he’s got 18. Stede’s is an ace. 

 

“Ah! 21, point to me,” he says, looking smug. 

 

“Point to you, mate,” Ed replies, and places one of his rings on the table. He may have prepared for this eventuality by putting on a couple of extra pieces of jewelry. 

 

They continue. Ed wins a hand, Stede wins a hand. They sip their brandy, they talk, almost like a normal evening in Stede’s quarters, although, if they’re co-captains now, does that make them Ed’s quarters too? There’s an interesting thought for later. Almost a normal evening, except now they’ve played enough hands that both of them have removed all of their accessories (except Stede’s black cravat, Ed still has that hiding under his beard and he can’t decide if he wants Stede to notice or not) and things are starting to get…interesting. 

 

Ed wins a hand. Stede begins to unbutton his waistcoat. Ed attempts to busy himself with shuffling the cards, to appear disinterested. He’s seen Stede with no shirt at all, there’s no reason that seeing him like this should have him feeling like a green boy catching his first glimpse of an ankle. But the way Stede is lit by candlelight, rosy and golden, the glowing white of his shirt, open at the throat…the fabric is so fine, Ed wonders if he fastened his mouth over one of Stede’s tits and sucked, would it be see through when he pulled away? He thinks it might. He shifts slightly, willing his half-hard cock to settle down. Not yet

 

He deals. Stede wins. He takes off his boot. Stede wins again. He takes off his other boot. Stede wins again. Ed might be letting him. He toes off his black socks. He’s down to just his shirt, trousers, and smalls. Stede is left with just shirt, breeches, and stockings, Ed hopes, anyway. Fuck, what if he has more layers under there? He does wear a lot of fucking layers. Well, only one way to find out. Once more unto the breach, as that bloke in that play that Stede was reading to him said, and hopefully into the breeches. 

 

The mood in the captain’s quarters has changed. There’s something electric in the air. They aren’t talking anymore, the only words passed between them now are “hit me” or “I’ll stand.” 

 

Stede wins another hand. He actually wins, because Ed figures at this point they’re only a few hands away from someone being naked, so he might as well let fate or Lady Luck or the universe take over. 

 

Ed takes off his shirt. Stede’s eyes look as big as dinner plates. He swallows. Ed watches the movement of his throat. He’s still looking, the firelight reflected in the whites of his eyes. Ed raises an eyebrow at him. 

 

“Alright, Stede?”

 

“Yes! Yes, I’m fine.” Stede shakes his head slightly, as if shaking off a fly. “I didn’t…you have a lot of tattoos. I didn’t know they…kept going.”

 

“Yeah, mate, I’ve got a lot of tattoos. There’s still more under here, too.” He gestures at his lower half. Stede’s eyes drop to Ed’s lap. And they linger. Ed leans back on the chaise, lets his legs drop open a little wider. Stede swallows again. Ed takes a drink of brandy, lets a bit spill over his lower lip. He reaches up with his thumb to catch it, then slowly, he licks it off. Stede looks…well, he looks horny, if Ed’s being honest. His eyes are blown wide, lips slightly parted, a flush rising from his neck up to his cheeks. He shifts slightly in his chair, crosses his legs. Ed pretends he doesn’t notice. 

 

“Your turn to deal, mate.” 

 

“Right! Right. Yes. Of course.” 

 

Stede gives himself another little shake, and deals again. 

 

He wins, again. 

 

Ed stands, and starts to shimmy off his pants. He lets them pool around his ankles and kicks them off. He looks over at Stede, who is studiously avoiding his gaze. Oh, is that how it’s gonna be? Ed laces his fingers together, reaches his palms up towards the ceiling, feels the stretch in his back, and moans. Really goes for it, gives it his all. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Stede shift in his seat again, hears a gasp that Stede tries to pretend is a cough. Ed pretends he doesn’t notice the bulge in Stede’s breeches. Like a gentleman. See, he’s learning. 

 

Ed sits back down, shuffles the cards, and deals the next hand. He gets a ten and an ace. The card of Stede’s that he can see is a two. Well, how the fuck about that. 

 

“Hit me.”

 

He deals Stede another card. 

 

“I’ll stand.”

 

Ed flips his cards over. Twenty-one. Stede flips his over. A two, a six, and a seven. Fifteen. 

 

“Point to you, Ed.” Stede says, voice sounding a bit strangled. 

 

“Point to me,” Ed replies, raising his glass to Stede and taking another drink. 

 

Stede stands, his face a sort of half-grimace, half-smile. His hands reach for his shirt, then flutter away as though he’s changed his mind, and reach for his pants instead. He darts a glance at Ed and then turns away slightly, angling himself toward the fireplace. He looks…uncomfortable, and Ed is starting to feel a bit of doubt about this plan. 

 

“Stede, mate, you don’t—“

 

Stede pauses, looks over his shoulder at Ed. There’s a bit of steel in his gaze now. 

 

“No, Ed. I’m not going to forfeit now.”

 

Well. Alright then. 

 

He starts to undo the falls of his breeches. Ed watches, his eyes half-lidded. He couldn’t look away now if you paid him. His cock is also taking a healthy interest in the proceedings, having gone from half hard to fully erect the moment Stede’s hand started to move towards his waistband. 

 

The final button of Stede’s breeches gives way. The fall with a whisper, sliding over the silk of his stockings, the material pooling around his ankles. He’s left standing in just his fine linen shirt and his stockings, hugging his calves and tied with a neat bow above his knees. Just a few inches of bare skin, freckled and dusted with golden hair, are visible between the hem of his shirt and his ribbon garters. Ed’s hands are itching to touch him. To unwrap him like a gift. 

 

Stede turns around and there is a, fuck, frankly impressive erection tenting the front of his shirt. His flush has deepened, but his lips have tightened into a straight line and he’s got that look on his face, that stand down, Edward, I’ll handle this look. Ed feels a bit like a butterfly that’s been mounted with a pin.

 

Stede primly sits himself down back in his chair, legs crossed at the ankle. He seems to have decided that the best course of action is to ignore his cockstand entirely, so Ed plays along. He feels vaguely like he might have lost control of this situation, but in for a penny, in for a fucking pound. 

 

“My turn to deal,” Stede says. 

 

Ed clears his throat. 

 

“Yeah, s’pose it is,” he replies, his voice ragged. 

 

Stede shuffles. He deals the cards. 

 

Ed looks at his cards. He looks at Stede’s cards. The one he can see is an ace. 

 

“I’ll stand,” he says. 

 

“I’ll stand as well,” Stede says. 

 

They flip their cards over. Ed has two kings. Twenty. 

 

Stede has an ace and a five. Sixteen. He lets out a deep breath, and looks up at Ed. 

“Point to you, Ed,” he says. His hands go to the garter holding up one of his stockings, starting to tug it loose.

 

“Don’t.”

 

The word is out of Ed’s mouth before he even realized he’s opened it. Stede freezes. 

 

“Don’t,” Ed says again, softer this time. 

 

“You…don’t want me to take my stockings off?”

 

Wordlessly, Ed shakes his head. He could swear that the air between them is crackling, buzzing like St. Elmo’s fire. For a brief moment he wonders, if he touched Stede now, would he burn? He thinks it might be worth it. Stede’s hands slowly move to the neck of his shirt, and begin pulling it over his head. Time seems to have stopped. Ed can’t move. He can’t breathe.

 

He really did not think this through. 

 

The hem of Stede’s shirt slides up, over his broad, freckled thighs, to reveal his cock, flushed and straining, curving towards his belly. It keeps going, revealing Stede’s stomach, his chest, golden hair and pink nipples. Ed is frozen. This is the best thing that’s ever happened to him. He’s in agony. 

 

Then the shirt is off, and Stede is folding it, because of course he is. Ed feels a rush of tenderness. Stede holds his folded shirt over his lap. Bit late for that, mate , Ed thinks. 

 

He looks up at Ed, brow furrowed, biting his lip. Ed wants to kiss that wrinkle away. 

 

“Ed, I…” 

 

Stede breaks off. He looks down at Ed’s lap, where his cock is straining against his smalls. He looks back up at Ed, his lips parting with a breathy “ oh .”

 

“Is that…are you…for me?”

 

Ed chuckles. “There isn’t anyone else here, mate.” Stede stares at him, brow still creased with concern. Ed exhales. This is it, the point of no return. 

 

“Yes, Stede. For you.”

 

The worried look on Stede’s face is replaced with one of naked hunger. His hands are gripping the shirt in his lap, his knuckles white. 

 

Ed stands. Closes the distance between them. He reaches down for the shirt in Stede’s lap. 

 

“Can I…?” 

 

Stede nods. Ed pulls the shirt gently from his hands and places it on the table. He takes Stede’s hands, and pulls him up. They’re standing face to face, eyes locked, chests heaving. Ed reaches up, cups Stede’s face in his hands. 

 

“Stede. Do y—“ 

 

But before he can finish, Stede is kissing him. 

 

As kisses go, it’s not the most elegant, mostly a mashing of lips on lips, more enthusiasm than finesse. It’s the best kiss Ed has ever had in his life. Stede’s hands come up to hold his wrists, then slide up his arms, gripping his biceps tightly. Ed feels wild, triumphant. He traces his tongue along Stede’s lower lip, and Stede’s mouth falls open with a gasp. Ed licks inside. Stede tastes like brandy and marmalade. 

 

Stede breaks the kiss with a gasp, his eyes wild. 

 

“Shit, was that too much?” Ed asks, feeling an edge of desperation. Please say no . Now that he knows what Stede’s lips feel like on his, the taste of his mouth, he doesn’t think he can live without it. Please let me have this, please let me have you.

 

Stede shakes his head slowly. 

 

“No,” he murmurs. “It’s not too much, Ed, I—I wanted, I wanted , and I didn’t think…I didn’t think you…”

 

“You didn’t think I wanted you?”

 

Stede shakes his head slowly. Ed takes one of his hands away from Stede’s face, slides it slowly down his arm to his hand. He takes Stede’s hand and guides it gently down, watching his face carefully, and places it on his aching prick. 

 

“I want this, Stede. I want you.” 

 

Stede’s hand tightens, a look of wonder on his face. “Can I…?” He whispers. 

 

“You can do whatever you w— ah .” The sound is punched out of him as Stede begins to stroke him, gently and slowly. Ed slides his other hand behind Stede’s head, pushing his fingers gently through the golden waves, and leans in. The moment feels fragile, breakable, as if he moves too quickly it will shatter. He brushes his lips gently across Stede’s again. Stede sighs. Ed kisses him again, angling his head, deepening the kiss. Stede’s lips part, the tip of his tongue tentatively darting against Ed’s lips. Ed inhales, sharply, a jolt of arousal shooting through him at the touch of Stede’s tongue. He opens his mouth, touches his tongue gently to Stede’s. Stede moans, suddenly, the sound coming from deep in his chest. And then Stede is on him. Stede’s tongue sliding into his mouth (again, with more enthusiasm than elegance but Ed is not complaining), Stede’s hands reaching under the waistband of Ed’s drawers, grasping, stroking, squeezing, Stede’s cock, smearing a wet streak across Ed’s belly. Ed reaches down to push his smalls off, kicking them off his ankles. Their cocks slide against each other, their kisses growing deep and frantic, panting into each other’s mouths. 

 

Ed pulls away long enough to gasp “Bed?” Stede nods before claiming his mouth again. They stumble across the cabin, mouths joined, hands grasping, until—

 

“Ah! FUCK!” Ed’s hip has gone right into the corner of Stede’s desk. Stede’s hands freeze, which is unfortunate, because they were beginning a very interesting exploration of the lower curve of Ed’s ass cheeks. 

 

“Oh! Ed, are you alright?”

 

“Yeah, ‘m fine, but maybe we should look where we’re going,” Ed replies, chagrined. He takes Stede’s hand and leads him the rest of the way, drawing back the curtains and sitting down on the bed. Stede is standing in front of him, gloriously hard and naked except for those white stockings that have been driving Ed mad for weeks, like a scene out of one of Ed’s wildest dreams, except for the look on his face. That furrow in his brow is back, and he’s looking at the floor. 

 

“Stede? What’s wrong? If it’s too much, too fast, we can stop.”

 

Stede’s head whips up. “No! No. I don’t want to stop. I don’t…I’ve never…” he trails off, looking away again. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter.” He takes a step toward Ed, a smile on his face that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.

 

“Hang on, mate, it matters to me,” Ed protests. He can’t quite figure out where things have gone sideways, but he’s not interested in having sex with someone who’s not fully on board. “I want you, and I mean, I really want you—“ he gestures at his lap, “but I don’t want to do this if you’re not sure, if you’re uncomfortable.”

 

“It’s just…I’ve never…”

 

“Been with a man?”

 

“Oh, no, I mean…yes, I have. I went to boarding school.” Stede says with a wry smile. Ed’s eyebrows shoot up. What are they teaching at these fancy schools? “I’ve never done this with someone that I…wanted like this. Someone I…cared for.” Stede’s voice trails off and his eyes find Ed’s. That’s. Well. That’s not what he was expecting. Ed swallows. When did his throat get so dry? Stede goes on. “And I’m…I’m afraid I’ll disappoint you.” 

 

“That’s literally impossible, mate.” Ed tugs Stede’s hands, pulling him closer, until Stede is bracketed in between his thighs. “You can’t possibly disappoint me. I want you, you want me, we want to make each other feel good, yeah? So, we just…do that.” He presses a kiss in the center of Stede’s chest, looking up into his eyes. “Alright?” Stede nods. 

 

“Yes,” he says, breathless. Ed smiles. 

 

“Tell me what you like,” he says, trailing a line of kisses across Stede’s chest, still gazing up at him through his eyelashes. He reaches Stede’s nipple and presses an open mouthed kiss to it. Stede gasps. 

 

“This! I like this,” he says, one hand coming up to rest gently on the back of Ed’s head. 

 

“Good,” Ed murmurs. He swirls his tongue over Stede’s nipple, and Stede yelps. Ed grins. 

 

“Like that, did you?”

 

“Yes,” Stede says, the final s becoming a hiss as Ed begins to suck. Stede’s fingers tighten in Ed’s hair, and he lets out a low moan. He trails one hand up over Stede’s leg as he kisses his way back across Stede’s chest, relishing the feel of the silk beneath his palm, his fingers. He squeezes the firm muscle of Stede’s thigh, runs his fingers down to the back of his knee and then up, up, just to the edge where silk meets skin. Trailing one finger around the edge of the stocking, slowly, savoring the way Stede trembles, gasps, as Ed’s hand slides up again, over his inner thigh. He keeps his hand there for a moment, his thumb rubbing circles into the soft skin, looking up at Stede. He’s more beautiful than Ed could even have imagined, his lips pink, his face flushed, brown eyes wide. It’s almost too much, too much tenderness, too much softness. He didn’t think there was this much softness in the entire world, and now here it all is, on his lips, on his tongue, in the palms of his hands. He turns his head, leaning down to mouth at Stede’s hip. 

 

“Want to make you feel good,” he mumbles, kissing Stede’s hip bone, the crease of his thigh 

 

“Ed. You do, you are, oh! Oh! Fuck!” Ed grins as he bites Stede’s thigh, gently, then harder, biting and sucking. He wants to leave a mark, right here where Stede ties the ribbon of his stockings, so he thinks of this, thinks of Ed, every time he smooths the fine silk over his legs. 

 

Then Stede is pushing him down and scrambling on top of him, kissing him deeply, his tongue sliding into Ed’s mouth. Ed moans as Stede’s weight settles on top of him, pinning him to the bed. He winds his arms around Stede’s shoulders, his good leg sliding around Stede’s hip, hooking his ankle behind Stede’s thigh, pulling him closer, closer. Their cocks slide together, hot and wet, heat and pleasure gathering in his spine, his belly. Stede is rutting against him, whimpering low in his throat, one hand in Ed’s hair, the other holding on to his hip. 

 

“Stede,” he gasps. “Want you to fuck me.”

 

Stede pulls back, just enough to look in his eyes. 

 

“Yes,” he says. “God, yes.” Then he’s fumbling underneath the pillows, pulling out a bottle of oil, and Ed is filing that information away to think about later. Then he’s kneeling between Ed’s thighs, hands shaking slightly as he opens the bottle, pours the oil over his fingers. “Let me take care of you, sweetheart.” That soft look is back in Stede’s eyes as they sweep over Ed’s body, and he shivers. Then Stede is trailing his fingers down, over Ed’s cock, his balls, teasing, circling around his entrance with the tip of one finger. Ed tips his head back and groans. 

 

“Please, Stede.” His eyes flutter shut, a breathy whine tears from his throat as Stede’s finger enters him. “Please.” Stede’s finger is dragging in and out of him, agonizingly slow. Ed tries to fuck himself down, chasing it, and Stede’s other hand is pressing gently on his hip, holding him still. 

 

“Ed. Let me take care of you.”

 

Ed feels wild, desperate. His hands tangle in the sheets. His whole world is the push and pull of Stede’s finger in and out of him, working him open. He feels the pressure, the delicious stretch of another finger, and a moan is ripped from his throat as Stede’s fingers crook and brush against that spot inside him. 

 

“So beautiful,” he hears Stede whisper. 

 

“Stede. Please. I can’t—“ he gasps, then moans again as Stede’s fingers withdraw. He opens his eyes to see Stede leaning back on his heels, stroking oil over his cock. He feels as if he’s on fire, burning from the inside. “Please,” he whispers. “Need you.”

 

“I’m right here,” Stede says, and then he’s grabbing Ed’s hips, lining himself up and pushing inside. Ed whimpers as Stede fills him, slowly. Stede leans down to kiss him again as he rocks his hips, his breath coming in pants across Ed’s lips, until finally he’s fully seated inside. The stretch, the feeling of fullness is exquisite. Stede’s lips claim Ed’s for another kiss before he pulls back to kneeling again. He lifts Ed’s leg, dropping a kiss on his ankle before placing it on his shoulder. 

 

“Alright?” 

 

Ed nods wordlessly, drinking in the sight of Stede flushed and sweating, smiling down at him, holding his ankle so gently, as if Ed is something precious. Then he thrusts forward, and Ed moans again, the sound torn from his throat each time Stede’s hips snap into him. Stede is inside him, around him, the smell of him on the pillows, the sheets, his cock filling Ed so perfectly. Ed plants his other foot on the bed and lifts his hips and—there. Ed’s back arches off the bed as Stede’s cock glides against that spot again, the friction sending a sizzle of electricity up his spine. 

 

“There, Stede, don’t stop,” Ed gasps, reaching for his cock, but Stede’s hand is already there, still slick with oil. Stede’s palm drags over the head of Ed’s cock, over the slit, then he grips tighter, pumping him with the same punishing rhythm as his cock pounding into Ed. Ed feels his orgasm building, pleasure pooling hot in his belly, at the base of his spine. With one more snap of Stede’s hips and twist of his hands, Ed is coming apart, his head thrown back, cock pulsing, shouting, his vision black around the edges. Dimly, he registers Stede follow him over the edge, crying out Ed’s name, his fingers gripping Ed’s hip, his mouth pressed against Ed’s calf. 

 

They’re frozen for a moment, chests heaving, staring at each other. Then Stede pulls out and collapses on the bed, laying his head on Ed’s chest. Holy fuck , Ed thinks. Maybe I should’ve gone to boarding school, if this is the shit they get up to. 

 

Stede props himself up on his elbow, looking down at Ed. The wrinkle is back. 

 

“Was that…good?” Ed stares at him. 

 

“Stede. You just fucked me so hard I think i forgot my own name for a minute.” Stede bites his lip, fighting back a smile. Ed wants to kiss it off his face. 

 

“Only a minute? I’ll have to try harder next time.” 

 

Next time , Ed thinks. There can be a next time . He pulls Stede in for a kiss, sweet and gentle, a promise between them. 

 

“Maybe next time you’ll beat me at cards, too.”