Summary: Playing kitten poker can seriously damage your clothing status.
Author's Notes: Written for elementalv and her new arrivals Calliope and Mortimer - enjoy!
Buffy looked down at her Watcher in mild shock. “Tell me you have a good explanation for this, Giles? Please?”
In his most indignant voice, Giles replied “Buffy, I assure you that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this,” but was interrupted halfway through his stammered excuses by a chorus of meows from the eight kittens sitting on his lap.
“The cats are bad enough, Giles,” said Buffy tapping one stylish shoe on the pavement, “But you still haven’t explained why you needed me to pick you up at three in the morning outside this bar – And omigod, where exactly are the rest of your clothes?” she said, voice souring upwards towards the end in panic.
Giles looked down at his admittedly worn but still in very good repair thankyouverymuch body clad only in a pair of boxer shorts, and allowed that Buffy might well have a reason to be quite so upset. Although shrill was another word coming to mind.
He sighed. “Very well, perhaps there is no reasonable explanation possible under these circumstances. It all started several hours back….”
Giles pushed his glasses up his nose and considered his position carefully. He was in definite trouble with the Krolar demon directly in front of him, who was smiling and displaying a worryingly large number of teeth, but it was the Frelac demon to his right that was the big question mark.
“I raise,” he said calmly and put another kitten in the pile in the centre of the table. The calico kitten looked reproachfully up at him for disturbing him, and returned to licking one paw.
That took the smile off the Krolar demon’s face. It stared at the cards in his tentacle, cursed loudly and fluently in his native tongue, and threw the cards onto the table. “I fold!” it angrily said in his high pitched voice and folded its tentacles in a huff.
Giles smirked slightly, but tried to keep his satisfaction off his face. All attention in the room switched to the Frelac. She tapped her teeth with one talon thoughtfully and carefully regarded Giles for a moment. “All in,” she said simply and pushed all her money and one more kitten into the table centre.
Giles’s mind raced and he stared hard at the Frelac who ignored him. What the hell had the bugger got? He looked at his hand with the Ace and Jack of spades and then at the board. Two of spades, Ace of clubs, King of hearts, King of spades and the five of spades. He certainly had the nut flush here, so why was the Frelac raising even higher?
A small smile crossed Giles’s face. The Frelac was either bluffing or she had an ace in his hand. Either way, she was going to lose. Just then a little beep from his watch reminded him it was 1am, more than two hours now since he’d picked up the Stone of Sepme from Clem in the bar behind them all. Perhaps he should have resisted the lure of the poker table, but he’d been a rather good player in his youth, and it was nice every now and then to revisit. And Clem had happily lent him a kitten to start playing while he waited for the bar to close.
He still had one kitten left, and what had to be a winning hand. Win this one and then retire happily back to the Cleveland council training grounds. “I call,” he said happily and laid his flush out on the table.
The Krolar winced. Clem smiled happily. The two-headed Fanuo demons whistled.
And the Frelac smirked.
And laid down the King of Diamonds and the two of diamonds. A sodding full house!
Giles simmered at his bad beat. “How much do I owe you?” he snapped. Perhaps he should be going now. He had the Stone and that was what the entire evening had been about after all.
The Frelac preened happily and sized Giles up with one iridescent blue eye. Expertly totting up the stakes on the table, she announced “Half a kitten, or all your clothing, sweetie.”
Giles blinked. Was the Frelac coming onto him? Confused, he stammered “Um… er... can anyone change a kitten for me?”
A chorus of no’s greeted him. Even from Clem, who was refusing to look Giles directly in the eye. Fine – he’d just give the Frelac the whole kitten and walk out with the Stone after a very enjoyable evening. His hand dropped automatically to the pocket with the stone in it as he sighed.
Then his expression changed instantly as he found that pocket empty.
Dawning shock traced across his face as his questing fingers found the small hole at the bottom of the pocket.
Concern, as he realised that the box with his kitten winnings had been directly underneath that pocket.
Worry, as he moved his remaining black and white kitten to one side to search the empty box.
Horror, as the calico kitten he’d just raised the pot with burped on the table.
“Oh dear Lord,” Giles whispered as the kitten coughed a couple of times as if there was a hairball in its throat.
“So, it’s your clothes then,” the Frelac demon said briskly, clearing the table of her winnings and not sounding all at displeased at the prospect. Those winnings included the calico kitten, as Giles watched in horrified disbelief. “Get them off,” the Frelac said off-handedly, starting to shuffle the cards for the next hand.
Giles just looked blank, his mind racing, envisioning ways of somehow switching his remaining kitten for that one without anyone noticing. Until a large gnarled hand being to one of the two Grajar bouncer demons descended onto his shoulder. “Excuse me, sir,” the Grajar snarled in his gravely voice, “But management rules clearly state that all bets must be settled as soon as possible and before the next hand is played.”
“Ah,” said Giles, “There appears to be a slight problem here, inasmuch as I seem to have bet the wrong kitten…” his voice trailed off, as the granite face of the Grajar slowly shook his head. “Management rules, sir,” he said, and snapped his fingers.
The Grajar demon by the door moved his hands in a complicated way, and a glow of mystical energy sprung up around them. Suddenly Giles found himself standing before the table wearing only his glasses, wrist-watch and boxer shorts. His clothes were in a heap in front of the Frelac, whose gaze was firmly fixed admiringly on him.
“Thank you for your co-operation, sir” the Grajar beside him said with deep irony. “Will sir be staying for the next hand?”
Giles’s jaw clenched, and he pushed his glasses firmly back up his nose. “Oh, I think you may safely assume that,” he said firmly.
Sitting back down in his chair, he gazed around the table. “The gloves are now off, gentlemen,” he said mildly. On the other side of the table, Clem swallowed. This was not looking like one of his more smart decisions. The Krolar raised three eyebrows in a most un-impressed look.
The Frelac demon fluttered her eyelash at him, and started chewing on one of his shoes.
Giles stared at her. “If you would kindly mind not eating my clothes until I win them back, I would appreciate that, Madam.”
“Then perhaps you’d better hurry and play your hand,” smiled the Frelac, gesturing towards his cards in front of him.
Giles smiled tightly and picked his cards up. Two of hearts, eight of spades. Biting back a rude remark, he merely said “Not this time,” and threw his cards in.
The Frelac smiled, and swallowed his shoe.
“And that’s why Clem called me to come get you?” Buffy somehow managed to get out from behind the hand clasped across her mouth. The giggling had put Giles off his tale during the re-telling. “Did the nasty demon eat all your clothes before you won your cat back? Awww… poor Giles.”
Giles just looked up at his slayer from his prone position sitting outside the bar. Even wearing only his boxer shorts and covered in kittens on his lap, he managed to look almost amused. “Buffy?” he said almost conversationally, “Do you see a calico kitten on me?”
Buffy waved one hand vaguely towards him. “Really been trying not to look too closely, watcher-mine. As it is, I may well have to expunge this from my memory by telling everyone else back at the council.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Actually, now you mention it, I don’t see any such kitten. What’s going on?”
What appeared to be part of the brick bar wall shimmered and a doorway appeared. Standing in front of it was one of the bouncer Grajar demons. “Is this the one, Mr Giles?” he asked politely.
Giles’s lip twitched. “Miss Summers has agreed to help, yes. Won’t you, Buffy?”
Buffy looked even more confused, but nodded her head. “Of course I will, Giles. But –“
She was interrupted by the Grajar demon performing a complicated gesturing motion with his hands. Buffy’s eyes widened as a glow appeared around them. “Giles! No…!”
And suddenly, Buffy was standing in front of a Cleveland bar at three in the morning, dressed only in her underwear. “Giles!” she screeched, hands desperately trying to cover herself.
“Hold these, will you?” said Giles with a glint of mischief in his eye, and tipped four of his kittens onto Buffy who automatically grabbed them. “I’ve got her down to the calico kitten and bankrupted everyone else, but she’ll only play for clothes now.”
He patted the little box beside them, and smiled down at the remaining four kittens now in there. “Be right back,” he smiled and walked inside the bar again, taking Buffy’s clothing from the bouncer demon on the way.
Buffy just stood there, open-mouthed, her arms full of kittens. A passing car full of drunks hollered and whooped as they drove past. Buffy jumped, and sat down next to the box, still in a state of shock. A wavering cry of “Giiiiiles” rose into the air.
Half an hour later, the bar door opened, and Giles stepped out. Buffy almost dropped the sole kitten she was still playing with (and had named Hawk) and flung herself at him.
“Can we go home now, Giles? Pleeeease?” she said, almost babbling in relief.
Giles smiled ruefully down at her. “I think we’d better phone Xander this time….”