Dawn was standing in the kitchen, finally getting around to her cereal experiment, when she heard a noise that sounded suspiciously like Spike’s motorcycle coming to a stop in front of the house.
She put down the box of off-brand Fruit Loops, and made her way to the living room. Giles was holding back the curtains and peering out into the night.
“Spike? Yes. And Buffy. Who seems to be,” He dropped the curtain and turned back to Dawn, his mouth set in a firm line. “Having some trouble walking straight.”
“No way!” she grinned. “Maybe she got hurt on patrol or something?”
Just then they heard Buffy’s voice wavering in from outside. “…Need to follow me! I’m fine! Go a- Oh. Stairs. Help?”
Dawn dissolved in a fit of giggles and ran to open the door.
Light poured out over the front steps, and Spike tore his eyes away from Buffy’s feet. Framed by the door were one highly amused Bit, and one less amused Watcher.
“Hi Spike. Buffy.” Dawn stepped aside to let them in, restrained laughter coloring her voice. They crossed the foyer, and Buffy turned to Spike.
“Thanks for the ride home, you can go now. I’m inside, Giles is here, Dawn’s here. I’m fine. Go play roulette for puppies or something weird like that.”
Dawn and Giles both turned to Spike, sporting identical looks of confusion. Spike opened his mouth, frowned, and closed it again.
“He plays poker for kittens.”
“Spike! When we play you won’t even let me bet!”
“You taught my little sister how to play poker?! Do you cheat at that too?”
Dawn gasped. “Do you?”
“Course not! That’s why you always win!”
Buffy chuckled. “You can’t beat a fifteen year old at poker without cheating?”
Giles, who had remained silent up to that point, cleared his throat. “I thought you were going out to patrol?”
Dawn snorted. “What? There was an evil bottle of whiskey and the only way to slay it was to drink the whole thing?”
Buffy ignored her. “We were trying to find out what was messing with me. Spike’s informants turned out to be his poker buddies. He wouldn’t let me hit them.”
“Why ever not?”
Spike rolled his eyes. “So that’s where she gets it. Look. I’ll tell you the same thing I told the Good Lady Likes-To-Hit. You get more info from demons by talking to them, than by beating them. Not that they’ll ever talk to me again, what with somebody setting free all the currency.” He looked pointedly at Buffy.
She shrugged. “I’m the Slayer. Saving kittens is in my job description.”
“That’s firemen, you nit. And you set them free in the back room of a demon bar. Do you really think any of them made it out of there alive?”
Buffy turned to him a little too quickly and grabbed his arm for balance. He placed his hand on her shoulder to steady her, and left it there. She let him. From her place by the wall, Dawn smiled.
“A couple of them probably made it to the alley. That’s more than if you’d kept them.”
“How do you know what I was going to do with them? Maybe I was going to keep a few around the crypt for company!”
She scoffed. “Were you?”
“Well,” He looked down. “No. I was going to eat them.”
Giles let out an exasperated noise. “Did you find out what was doing it, at least? Between card cheating, and kitten liberation, and what appears to have been quite a lot of alcohol consumption?”
Buffy blinked and swayed on the spot. Spike’s hand tightened. She took a deep breath. “Uh-huh. Demon. It’s gone now.”
Giles eyed her warily. Once he determined that she would not be falling over, he continued his questioning. “Gone, how? Dead?”
“No. Just gone. He was there, and then there was smoke, and poof! No more demon.” She raised a hand to her mouth, and turned to Spike. “Can you fill him in? I think I need to go-“ She waved her hand toward the stairs “-throw up for awhile.”
He nodded. “Yeah. I’ll handle the debrief. You able to make it up those stairs, love?”
“No need to get testy! You had trouble with the porch!”
She cast her eyes around, guiltily and then made a grab for Dawn’s hand. “Come on Dawnie. Let’s go upstairs.”
Still grinning slightly Dawn allowed Buffy to pull her to the stairs. Giles and Spike watched them in silence.
“Kitten poker huh?”
“Kitten poker! Is he that lame when he hangs out with you?”
Dawn looked over her shoulder and smirked. “Lamer.” And then, too quiet for Giles to hear, though Spike heard every word. “Did you guys have fun? Y’know, demons not withstanding?”
And the only person I can stand to be around is a neutered vampire who cheats at kitten poker!
It wasn’t much. But it was enough.