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A Hand of Piquet
An AU, combining multiple obsessions, and finally making use of all those books I read about Napoleon's Egyptian campaign.  With thanks to artaxastra, who started this bunny.

    The Widow Leclerc’s was the sort of place where men met to play cards, the sort of place the looked the same whether it was in Warsaw or Berlin or Paris or even Cairo.  Nicolas Radke considered the company — he had already considered his cards, made his declarations and was pleased with them; he knew what his moves would be, and very nearly how many points he would take — and wondered what the Widow would serve at her late supper.  Mutton, most likely, if it wasn’t goat, probably dressed in an optimistic sauce and called lamb a là mode, with a gratin of spring onions or the like.  At least the wine was good, though he would not indulge any further until he had finished this hand.  It took a cool head to appear inoffensive among the military men who frequented this place, particularly when he was winning so much of their money….

    The young captain opposite him had not followed that plan, was sweating as freely as the  chilled glass of wine that stood at his elbow.  He wore his hair chin-length in imitation of General Bonaparte and Paris fashion, and a dark strand lay damp across his forehead; the collar of his uniform coat was open and his wilting linen was loosened around a remarkably fine neck.  Radke allowed himself to appreciate the deshabillé for a moment longer, then placed his last card on the table.

    “I believe that makes one hundred.”

    “Your game, sir,” the captain said, with a fair assumption of grace, and slid the coins across the table.

    Radke did not collect them at once, tidied the cards first, judging the other’s capabilities.  “Another game, perhaps?”

    The captain gave him a wry smile.  “Alas, I’ve nothing more to stake.”

    A pity, Radke thought.  There are a few things I’d happily take from you.  He swept the coins together, still watching the other, said abruptly, “You are from Paris?”

    “Yes, actually.”

    He really was quite remarkably handsome, Radke thought, dark and fine-boned without being delicate.  “Did you ever play at la mère Madeleine’s?”

    He had not expected the quick blink of recognition, the shift of attention too subtle to be called a double-take. He blinked himself, his muscles tightening, controlled himself sternly.  This was an unexpected bonus, a grace and a gift, like pique and repique, but, like all such, it had to be carefully played.

    “Once or twice,” the captain said.  Dark as he was, the color was rising in his cheeks, but he met Radke's eyes squarely.

    So.  Radke took a slow breath, controlling himself even more.  “She was very generous in permitting unusual stakes.”

    “She was that.”  The captain licked his lips, realized what he’d done, and took another swallow of his wine.

    “I would not be averse to such a game,” Radke said.  “One more hand, winner takes all.”

    The captain took a deep breath.  “Agreed, then.  One more hand, for — la mère’s stakes, shall we say?”

    Radke smiled, knowing that either way he’d won, and slid the deck across the table.  “Cut for the deal.”

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*g* This is delightful.

I am just speechless with delight! OMG! SQUEE!

I love our boy Radek as the Polish officer, and I love his piquet game for stakes....

He's so bad. Always so bad. I would say I'd like to see him with Corbineau, but he'd shock Corbineau to death, I think. Jean-Baptiste is much more staid! Now, Radek and Elza would get along like a house on fire. "On fire" being the operative part of that sentence!

I love this so much!

As Pen says, "It's a good thing there are two of you. That way you can run in opposite directions through the forest and the plot bunny horde is divided to chase you."

More oh please!

Thank you!!! and, yes, our Radek is a very bad boy.... Jean-Baptiste would almost certainly avoid him, and avoid introducing Elza to him for as long as was humanly possible.

The sad part is how well it all works. Jean Bergeron, anyone?

A very bad boy indeed! And it does work well, doesn't it? Well, perhaps this part of the plot bunny horde should chase you while the Ptolemaic ones are chasing me!

I'm just grateful to be spared any part of the horde!

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