The sound of conversation drifted through the thin walls of the apartment building. Agnes Castera looked up from her magazine, glancing over at the lavender print on the wall as if she could see through it.

The boys were at it again.

"Spike, no."

"But Xan, love..."

"I said no. I mean it."

"You're no fun."

"I wasn't trying to be."

Agnes had gotten used to the pair of voices raised in argument. In the thirty years she'd lived in her apartment she'd never had neighbors quite so... boisterous. The Jones on the other side might as well be dead, all the noise they made. Not like these boys. They were so full of life it seeped through the walls.

"Really, love, it's not that bad. I mean it's not like it'll hurt anything."

"The kittens excluded?"

"Well, yes, apart from that."

Agnes' lips twitched upward involuntarily as she flipped a page. Really, she wondered sometimes what exactly those boys got up to. The way they talked they almost seemed like some kind of villains but she knew that wasn't true. They were such sweet looking boys. The pair of them couldn't hurt a fly between them.

Alexander was the sensible one of the pair. He had a steady job, or at least he always left regularly and dressed nice enough to hold a good job. Probably an accountant or, maybe he did something with bookkeeping. He was level-headed enough for it. Smart too, she was sure. Probably had a degree, though he seemed like a local boy. Sunnydale University was still a good university. Maybe he taught there.

"No! It's disgusting. And morally wrong, but it's debatable whether vampires have morals so I can't really hold you to that."

Spike was the 'vampire'. Really, it's silly what those youngsters would think to call themselves next, though the young man certainly put effort into looking the part. She couldn't remember the last time she'd seen him out of doors during the daylight, and he was always dressing in black or similar gloomy attire. And that coat of his! If she were his mother, she would have thrown that thing out years ago.

"Aww. That's the nicest thing you've said to me all week."

"It wasn't meant as a compliment."

"I take what I can get. Look, how about I put mine back?"

They were such sweet boys. Helped her carry her groceries up the stairs a couple times. Still, they were a bit odd, but in a town like Sunnydale a person had to expect a little oddness.

"I'm not quite following."

"I'll put mine back. Let them free into the wild."

"I hope you know what you're talking about, because I sure don't."

"The kittens. Every kitten I win will be set free. How's that?"

Oh, that was it! They were doing some charity event with the local animal shelter. That Alexander boy seemed to do a lot of charity. He was always gone at all hours of the night. He had the look of someone who was always out to save the world, so she figured he must spend a lot of time working for the local charities. Soon they were going to give him a metal, she was sure, for his benefit to the community.

"I'm fairly certain there's some rule in psychology about not reinforcing bad habits. Besides, what about the rest of the kittens?"

Agnes lost interest in the conversation as she turned the page to find a wonderful article on sprucing up her petunias. They were so lack-luster this year.

"Look, love. Much as I know you hate it, whether I play or not has no real impact on the game. The others will still play poker, and they'll still use kittens as chips. No way around it. Way I see it, I can be like a savior to them. Go in there, win a bunch of kittens and then save 'em from being eaten. Might not get 'em all but they're doomed anyway, whether I play or I don't."

"Can't you use snakes or something?"

"I don't see how killing a snake's any different than killing a kitten."

"Kittens are cuter."

"I don't think that's very good logic there, love. Besides, I'd never be able to convince the guys to switch. Kittens taste better."

"Okay, that's something I really didn't need to know. Now I'm going to be thinking about kittens next time we kiss."

"That's nothing, love. I've eaten far worse things than kittens."

"You really know how to turn a guy on, you know that."

"I do try. So, about the game?"

"Fine, sure, whatever. As long as you don't kill the kittens."

"Of course, this does mean you'll be responsible for finding me something better to eat."

"I think that can be arranged. Just no more talking about eating kittens."

Agnes set the magazine aside, rummaging around in the drawer for a pen. She needed to remember to grab some lemon peel next time she was at the store.

"Anything for you, love."

A smile lit Agnes' face as she scratched out her note. They were such sweet boys.