TITLE: "Wagering History (1/4)"
BY: Annie Sewell-Jennings
E-MAIL: auralissa@aol.com
SUMMARY: A game of spades provides high stakes and reveals
everything. Buffy/Spike
RATING: PG-13
SPOILERS: Post-"Intervention"
DISTRIBUTION: My site,
http://geocities.com/anniesjennings/index.html, and wherever else
it is wanted, provided that permission is requested prior to
archival
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Buffy, Willow, Xander and Spike are
the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions. I don't
own them; I just make them have lots of sex. But I haven't heard
any complaints yet, so... ;-)
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This piece is dedicated to the players of our own
never-ending game of Spades: Barbara and Megan. I will always
bring that bitch home. g Also, thanks to my beta-reading pal,
Heather. :)

*****

Wagering History

*****

Spades.

Honestly, I hadn't played the game since I was sixteen and bored
in study hall, twirling my hair around my finger and tiredly
looking at my hand, snapping gum and wishing that I was someone
else. But I had joined in, carelessly tossing cards into the
pile, collecting books, doing an average job.

Maybe it seemed more glamorous and interesting to play cards
underneath the neon lights and haze of smoke in the Bronze. Like
I was someone elite, someone too good to dance. But when Xander
pulled out the deck of cards and Willow said that she knew how to
play Spades, the idea seemed so appealing that I was thrilled.

"We need a fourth, though," Willow said, momentarily downcast,
and I shrugged, taking a sip of my room temperature beer. Ew.
Totally gross. I hate how I can never down a whole drink while
it's still cold, so that I'll always have to suffer through piss-
warm beer. Or not get drunk. The latter's probably the better
option.

"We could always play wild," I suggested. "Just deal the fourth
hand but then not play the cards. Then you don't know what's
highest." I flashed a winning grin, moved my hands around a
little bit. Playing cute sometimes gets me my way, but not that
night.

Xander made a disinterested face, shuffling the deck between his
hands. "Nah," he said. "It's more fun if you have a fourth.
Besides, we get to have teams then, and by default, spiffy team
names. Like the Gladiators." He gave us his own version of a
winning smile. So not as cute as mine.

I snorted. "Thanks, Russell," I said dryly, and I sighed,
cradling my chin in my hands. Now, I have come to terms with the
fact that there is nothing to do in this town, nothing to escape
from trouble and boredom, but I thought that a game of cards
might have done it. To be wrapped up in strategy and meaningless
rectangles of tagboard. It didn't sound bad.

It was interesting to watch Xander shuffle a deck of cards,
though. His adventure in the strip club two summers ago had
apparently taught him some new tricks, and his fingers rapidly
shuffled the deck, cutting it expertly and with an artistic
flourish, like he was a blackjack dealer in Vegas putting on a
show. "We could always play poker," he suggested, and Willow
quickly protested.

"Oh, no," she said forcefully. "I had a very, very bad experience
with poker when I was in sixth grade. Lunch money lost, dignity
stolen..." The redhead shook her head emphatically. "It's a
sordid tale of innocence lost through gambling and mild nudity."

Xander perked up at that. "Sordid nudity?" he asked eagerly, and
I just rolled my eyes. Men are always oh-so capable of
rearranging sentences to their benefit. But on Xander, it was
kind of cute. The little guy's just so damn horny. Sometimes, I
wonder how Anya satiates that appetite for sex, but then I
remember that Anya's pretty much a nympho herself. Riding
horse... Ew.

God, it was easy to retreat into this banter, this old rapport
that we have together. It was reinvigorating to be there,
observing as Willow talked with her hands and Xander was clever.
I could ignore the last couple of months, the mistakes that I
made, and lose myself in the stability of their conversation.

Maybe that was why I wanted to play cards so damn bad. I wanted a
distraction, something to keep my mind off of everything that was
different and strange at home. I could forget that the house was
empty except for one resentful, sullen-faced sister and a
frazzled Slayer. No worries, no cares. Just this banter, this
healthy little chat between old friends. Just this wonderful
conversation.

Which was now dead, because not a one of us could think of a
single damned thing to say.

"I know how to play gin," I suggested eagerly. "Or hearts." Then
I sighed, leaning down on my hand. "Dammit, I had my heart set on
spades."

Slumping into her hands and giving a miffed little puff, Willow
seemed to be an exasperated pixie. "Me too," she grumbled, and
then Xander snorted, looking past us as he shuffled cards between
his hands.

"Well, if we want a more visual and pathetic form of
entertainment, we do have good old Spike drinking himself sick at
the bar," Xander pointed out.

Spike. Oh, Lord.

See, this was the sort of thing that a game of spades was
supposed to destroy. It was going to erase the memory of his sad
attempt to have me through electronics. I would never have to
remember the sight of his awful robot. Or his battered, bruised
body draped across the lid of a sarcophogus... Or the memory of
his swollen mouth brushing against mine...

Oh, Lord.

I was terrified to turn around and look at him, but being a
glutton for punishment, I did take a glance. Upon first glance, I
wished that I hadn't. The swelling had gone down a little bit,
but his face was still purple and black, and his mouth was still
puffy and tender-looking, and was currently nursing a cigarette.
There were cuts all across his cheek, and I didn't want to know
how they had gotten there. His hand shook as he drank his beer,
and he looked stiff and sore. He must have been hurting - he
didn't even do his hair. It just kind of tumbled. I felt bad for
him.

Willow sucked in her breath when she saw him, and I had forgotten
that she hadn't seen how badly he'd taken it from Glory. "Man, he
looks awful," she whispered to me, and I nodded my head.

"Yeah, he took one for the team," I muttered. Did they know that
I'd kissed him? Was it written across my face? I felt like I had
a big scarlet "K" written across my chest. Well, maybe just
across my cheeks. They felt pretty red.

Xander shook his head, shuffling the cards between his hands.
"Yeah, it's hard not to feel kind of bad for him," he admitted.
"And that's saying a lot, because I really, really hate Spike.
But..."

His voice trailed, and we were all quiet for a minute, looking at
him while he drank his beer with a shaking hand. We didn't quite
know what to think of him after what he had done. He had been
tortured, had been brutalized, and had kept the secret. In
essence, Spike saved Dawn's life, and had done it selflessly and
had suffered for it.

And I had kissed him.

Slowly, I looked at Willow. "You know, maybe we should do
something for him," I suggested. "He looks kind of lonely..."

"Buff, you've got to be kidding me," he said. "Spike? Sitting in
front of us? Existing near us? Touching my cards? Wrong. No."

"Oh, come on, Xander," Willow said. "Buffy's right. He's been
through a lot lately."

I turned to my friends and arched my eyebrow at them. "Look, I
want to play spades," I said simply. "It's a damn card game. He
says one thing even remotely weird, and he'll go. And we all know
how Spike is when it comes to saying weird shit, so maybe one
hand at best. All right?"

Before Xander could object, I turned around and called out. "Hey,
Spike!"

He turned around gingerly, wincing, and I kind of gave him a
half-smile that said, "Hey, don't hate you so much anymore." He
tugged his bruised mouth into a return smile, and I felt bad at
the sight of him. He made me feel almost... Guilty. Which was, of
course, completely ridiculous, since he'd done enough in this
past week (Exhibit A: Sexbot) to make me want to stake him.

Of course, then he'd done enough to make me want to kiss him,
so...

I got up from the table and walked to the bar, leaning on the
tabletop and tilting my head at him. Even through the bruises and
cuts, he smiled at me, an almost shy smile, like the kind that I
used to get when talking to the quarterback of the football team
in high school that I always had a secret crush on. "Hey, Buffy,"
he said, and I found myself a little short of breath when I
looked at his mouth. I could still taste the kiss.

"How are you feeling?" I asked. Stupid me to be concerned. Stupid
me to have kissed him.

"Like I got hit with a Mack truck," he said. "Well, suppose
that's appropriate, since Glory's ass is the size of an eighteen-
wheeler."

Was it wrong to snicker at that? No, it was funny, so I laughed a
little. Spike smiled at me, tilting his head like we were
enjoying some sort of warped camaraderie. I think that maybe we
were. "First time you ever laughed at my jokes," he said.

I arched my eyebrow at him. "There's a first time for everything,
Spike," I said. "Like this is the first time I've invited you to
come sit with us. Wanna play spades?"

Now it was his turn for his eyebrow to arch, and I was pained by
how bruised and swollen his left eye still was. He really got the
brunt of it on the left side of his face - she must be right-
handed. "You sure you want your ass whipped that badly?" he said,
and I rolled my eyes, grabbing his hand and ignoring how well our
fingers fit together as I dragged him back to the table.

God bless Willow for being so damn cheerful and eager-to-please.
Sometimes, it's a grating quality, but on that night, I was
grateful for it. She gave Spike a bright smile and waved a little
at him. "Hey, Spike!" she said. "You look... Um..."

"Pathetic?" Xander supplied, and Spike rolled his eyes, taking
his seat across from me. Great. Now I would have to stare at his
bruised face all night long, thinking about what he'd done for us
and how I couldn't be a bitch to him anymore. And I'd have to
look at his mouth and remember what it was like to touch it with
my own. Maybe I could put a paper bag over his face...

"So, how are you playing this?" Spike asked, and Xander sighed,
rolling his eyes a little as he dealt out the cards.

"We don't bid on the first round so that we can work up some
books to bid," he said. "Bags are counted, and ten bags costs you
a hundred points. No blind bidding unless you're behind a hundred
points, no nil, two of clubs is high joker, two of hearts is low
joker, then two of diamonds, spades, and then down from ace.
First team to five hundred points or Spike's really offensive
comment ends the game." Damn. That was pretty impressive.

I tilted my head at Spike, wrinkling my nose at him in a cute
little fashion. "Yeah," I said. "One nasty word or rude little
remark and you're out of the game and back to the fun of solo
drinking. So keep up this fabulous new trend and behave
yourself."

Spike just tightened his smile and picked up his cards. "So who's
on my team?" he asked.

"Oh, Xander and I are always a team," Willow quickly said, and I
rolled my eyes.

"Fine," I sighed. "Spike, it's me and you. And if you make me
lose, then your ass is grass, buddy." I picked up a paper napkin
and a pen, preparing to take score.

Willow smiled broadly all of a sudden with that infectious little
grin that could light up a room. I've seen her give that smile to
Tara, and I've seen Tara turn about fifty shades of red from bad
lusty feelings. I have to admit - it's a pretty cute smile. "Ooo,
we need team names!" she said excitedly. "Xander and I are the
Sharks. We've always been the Sharks."

Cigarette once again clinging to his lower lip, Spike leaned
across the table and tapped the paper napkin. "Yeah, and our team
name is going to be 'People That Realize Team Names are
Annoying'," he drawled, and Xander sighed.

"Again, irritating comment that everyone else seems to be
ignoring," he said, and I rolled my eyes.

"We'll keep a separate score for every nasty remark that Spike
makes," I said. "When it gets to five, we'll just stake him."
Cheerfully, I smiled across the table at him, and he gave me his
own fake smile back.

Xander perked at that. "Ooo, good call, Buff," he said. "Upping
the ante a little."

Spike shifted a little in his seat, exhaling smoke right in my
face. He's so damned charming. "Speaking of upping the ante, are
we betting money on this?" he asked. "Cause you know, I could use
the cash and all."

Xander gave him a look like he had just grown antennae and
sprouted a tail. The mental picture made me stifle a giggle. "Uh,
that would be a hell no," he said.

Disappointed, Spike sat back in his chair. Willow then smiled.
"Well, here's an idea," she said. "How about whoever loses the
round has to reveal some deep dark secret? Something really good.
And whoever wins the game gets to tell someone outside of the
game someone else's secret."

Xander threw back his head and closed his eyes. "Oh, please, God,
tell me that there's something that involves Spike, liquor, and a
karaoke bar," he said aloud, and Spike smiled tightly at him.

"Yes, very funny," he said. "Actually, I like Bewitched's idea.
Makes things a little more... Interesting."

"Fine by me," I said. "The skeletons in my closet could deal with
being aired out." With that, Willow gave me a worried expression.
"Oh, I don't mean that literally."

Relieved, Willow sat back. "Sorry, but in Sunnydale, you have to
wonder."

Rearranging his cards in some weird-ass order, Spike took another
drag from his cigarette and shrugged. "Actually, I have a
skeleton in my crypt," he said casually. "Of course, it's all
gnarled up and not so attractive, but it gives it that kind of
historic air." God, he has the weirdest conception of
conversation. Only Spike would discuss the rotted corpse in his
house like it was a new lamp that he picked up at Pier One. Like
it was a Martha Stewart cadaver or something.

Clearing his throat to change the subject, Xander looked at
Spike. "Okay, so you're right of the dealer, so throw down your
lowest club."

Spike arched his eyebrow at Xander. "Hey, I said that I knew how
to play the damn game," he said a little haughtily before tossing
out a three of clubs. Willow furrowed her brow at her hand,
frowning at the cards between her fingers before putting down a
six of clubs. I had a shitty hand. A terrible hand, actually. It
sucked.

"My hand sucks ass," I complained as I carelessly threw a king of
clubs onto the table. Spike smirked at me, like that meant he won
something, collecting the book and arching his eyebrow at me.

"Well, at least you brought us a book, luv," he said, stacking
the cards in his hand and accidentally ashing onto the tip of a
card. Great, now I was going to get cigarette ash on my
fingertips when I picked up the cards. And I had just had them
manicured. Really cute, too. Who says that white girls can't wear
nail tips?

Sighing in exasperation, I threw a three of hearts onto the table
and waited to lose.

It was going to be the longest fucking game of spades in history.

*****

(end part one)

*****