Spades and Heartbeats

Spades and Heartbeats

By MellindraX
Author's Notes

On Thursday nights, the coffee house was abandoned. Students were busy finishing homework so that they could goof off during the weekend, adults were smart enough not to leave their houses at night, and children were too young to go out alone. This left the Scooby Gang to commandeer two tables and be obnoxiously loud.

They took full advantage of the situation. Willow and Xander pushed two tables together as Buffy went to the counter and ordered drinks. She and Angel carried the steaming cups back to the group and sat down, creating a small square of demon-fighters. Willow sat next to Xander who was next to Cordelia who sat across from Buffy sitting next to Angel with Oz on his other side. Even with the two tables, they were slightly cramped. Their cups barely had room on the table's surfaces once they laid down the cards.

It had been Xander’s idea, initially. They had gathered that night to deal with a large nest of vampires in one of the smaller cemeteries which Buffy and Angel had forgotten to sweep for too long. Going in with water-guns of Holy Water and specially sharpened stakes, they had broken up the collection of bloodsuckers in record time. The demons hadn’t even had the time to stand from their table, leaving their cards and their drinks still arrayed in perfect poker positions. Xander had put down his water-soaker and picked up the deck.

Turning to the others, he said, “How late is the coffee shop open?”

That was how they found themselves alone in a coffee shop, leaving their axes to wield an Ace of spades.

“That’s not an ace of spades, Willow,” Oz said, “that’s a club.”

Willow looked down at the card she had put on the table. “Oh,” she said, before picking up her cards. She looked at them for another moment and then placed down a set of three kings. “Does that work?”

Xander sighed and started sweeping up the cards on the table as Buffy laughed. He patted them down to a neat deck before beginning to shuffle, saying, “So, I now officially owe you enough rounds of coffee to keep you awake through college."

“She consumes more coffee than that,” said Buffy, “you’ll only be paying for her freshman year.”

Xander passed out the cards. He held his five cards close to his face, his eyes darting suspiciously to the other players. He traded two cards in and suppressed his smile masterfully, even though he’d made himself a full house. He waited patiently for his prey to fall into the trap.

Willow was smiling gleefully and quickly doubled the betting pool. Oz was content to match her bid, while Cordelia had opted to stay out of the game after she lost three rounds. Buffy and Angel exchanged a small glance and simultaneously folded.

Xander matched Willow’s bet and called the cards. Oz showed two pairs, Willow had another triplet, but they couldn’t match Xander’s triumphant proclamation of a full house.

Xander picked the cards up from the table again and began shuffling. When he dealt the cards, his practiced poker face again saved him from disaster: the average man would have scowled at the pathetic array of unmatched twos and fives. He replaced two cards and the cards of others, managing only to secure one pair of threes. Buffy quickly opted to double the pool, causing everyone but Angel and Xander to fold. Xander was damned if he would let his bluff be called. He matched her bet, and added another $5. Angel matched and Buffy again, amazingly, doubled the betting pool.

Xander knew he wouldn’t be able to match that pledge and was forced to show his cards. Buffy smiled knowingly and placed down her double set of pairs. Angel, however, beat her with his set of four matching Queens.

“Do you know the statistical likelihood of a set of four from five cards?” Willow asked, clearly happy to give the explanation.

“You would have to account for the 52 cards, divided into thirteen sets of four, and then add the fact that there were five players initially, each receiving five cards,” Oz said. “The likelihood is low.”

Xander was frowning as he shuffled the cards. “Not as low as someone calling my bluff,” he said. “You and Angel especially. I mean, when do you guys play poker? I’m a master of poker. I play poker everyday.” He quickly blushed and explained. “I mean, I’m not a gambler. It’s just fun, you know, so I don’t have to do history homework."

Buffy shrugged and offered Xander a grin. “The cards just like me, I guess. One of my innate talents,” she said. Angel nodded.

Round after round, the group played for nearly two hours. They eventually abandoned the actual bets as poor high school students, and Cordelia quickly lost interest. She was the first to stand up and leave. Oz and Willow followed soon after, with Xander trailing after with the excuse that he needed a ride from Oz. This left Angel and Buffy sitting alone in the coffee shop, surrounded by discarded cards and coffee cups.

Buffy was stacking the cups together as Angel cleared the cards. Together, they quickly shifted the tables back to their original positions. Buffy left a generous tip for the barista who had been forced to wait on the unruly teenagers for two hours before she and Angel left.

Walking down the main street in Sunnydale, both had their hands in their pockets wrapped around a stake. They stood close together more out of companionship than paranoia, though.

“This was nice,” said Buffy. “I mean, we killed some vamps. We got dusty, and then we hung out. It was nice.” Angel nodded.

“Xander has a good poker face,” he said.

Buffy laughed and hit Angel lightly on the shoulder.

“We really shouldn’t have done that. He can’t afford to pay us both fifty dollars.”

“Technically,” said Angel, “he owes me fifty-two and you forty-six.”

“And I’m not going to get it from him," Buffy said. “We were cheating.”

“How were we cheating?” asked Angel. “We were just sitting at the table, not looking at anyone’s cards or counting the deck.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Most poker players can’t hear their opponent’s heart beats to find out what they’re hiding."

“We’re just lucky.” Angel said. “It’s a useful skill.”

They continued to walk.

“I suppose if you were going to pursue Xander’s payment, I could just have him pay to you what I owe,” Buffy said. “I think I’d still owe you a few dollars, though, right?”

Angel grinned. “Sure. I’m sure everyone will be happy to forget the tally, anyway. Don’t think about it.”

Buffy continued to talk as though she hadn’t heard him “We were cheating, which is how we could keep winning. I couldn’t win against you, though. I couldn’t read what cards you have.”

Angel was still walking, but he looked over at her. “Buffy?”

“I couldn’t read your heartbeats,” Buffy kind of half laughed. “Or else, I think I would have cheated on you.”

“I wouldn’t have let you, anyway,” he said.

“You couldn’t rat me out. You’d be admitting to your own cheating if you tried,” Buffy said.

“I suppose that was true of both of us,” said Angel, “which-”

“Which is why Xander walked away as a ‘poker master’ with no wins,” Buffy said, smiling.

“Yeah,” Angel said. They had left the main street and had entered residential Sunnydale. The street they were on was quiet, with everyone who was going anywhere already there or already eaten.

“I could never lie to you,” Buffy said, breaking the silence, “not even if I wanted to. Not that I do, I mean. You would just be able to tell. You’ve got an automatic lie detector, which I think is an unfair advantage.”

Angel placed his hand on her arm, “I have nothing to lie to you about. What could I try to say?” He tried to smile. “Oh, Buffy, I stopped over at your house in the middle of the afternoon today, but decided I wouldn’t stay because the sun was so nice I just had to go for a stroll.” Buffy returned his smile.

“I’m not saying you would lie to me, “she said, “I’m just saying that you could.”

“Yes,” said Angel.

“Just as long as we both know that,” Buffy said, continuing to walk.

Angel was following her steps as they passed three graveyards and a residential park. He was only two steps behind, but the conversation was effectively stalled. After another ten minutes of walking in this style, they reached Buffy’s house.

“You didn’t need to walk me home.” She said.

“Yes, I did.” Angel replied. “It’s dangerous.”

“See? This is my point,” Buffy said. “You could really think it was the most unnecessary thing you’ve done all year, and I’d never be able to dispel these romantic illusions you build.”

“I’m lucky.” Angel was smiling too, but then he stopped. “I’m not lying, Buffy. This isn’t unnecessary.”

“No, no, I know,” she said quickly, “there’s no doubt here. I wouldn’t mind a small SWAT team to escort me around, if I could get the money to buy them.”

“I’m the equivalent of a medium-sized SWAT team,” Angel said. Buffy smiled and glanced at the door.

“It’s kind of late…” she said, “I should probably go in and check if mom tried to stay up for me again.”

“Yeah,” said Angel, nodding. Buffy looked at the door again, but gave Angel a sideways look.

“You wouldn’t lie about starting smoking or something, right?” she asked.

“No, of course not,” Angel said. “Not that I could get lung cancer, but I understand no one appreciates the yellow teeth.”

“Or wearing cargo pants?” Buffy said, pressing the issue.

“Buffy, I’m not going to lie to you,” Angel said. He was beginning to look concerned, noticing the way that Buffy wouldn’t look him in the eyes.

“Or starting to, you know, drain the blood of small children?” She said, not quietly enough for their hearing. They stood on the porch for several seconds in a tense silence. Finally, Angel spoke.

“Buffy, where did that come from?” he said.

“Willow’s been doing her map, where she plots the locations of deaths for each night,” Buffy said. “She figures we could figure out if there were certain nights when areas were more active. Giles was looking at the points with Willow, and Xander noticed that there were some nights with lots of dots near my house.” Angel scowled. “Yes, I know, Xander,” Buffy said, “but there were the dots all around my house, matched with the nights we spend time together.”

“Buffy-“ Angel began, but Buffy cut him short.

“I don’t think you’re doing that. It was just a weird thing to happen, you know? And practicing being a lie detector just made me think about it.” Buffy said, giving a careful shrug. There was another awkward silence, before Buffy hitched her backpack farther onto her shoulder in a decisive way.

“So, I need to go in and check with mom,” said Buffy, “but we were going to go patrolling tomorrow.”

“Clayden cemetery. I remember,” Angel said.

“Alright, then. Goodnight,” Buffy said. She gave him one last look, only receiving a neutrally smiling face in return, and walked inside. Angel waited another moment on the porch and then walked out to the street, heading towards his house. He stopped after he couldn’t see Buffy’s house. From his pocket, he pulled the deck of cards. He threw them carelessly into the bushes and then continued walking. Angel had decided to kill every vampire within two miles of Buffy’s house and only had six hours until sunrise; he figured fewer distractions were better.

The End

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Author's Notes:
Rating: G
Summary: A card game with the Scooby Gang becomes a consideration of lies and their detections with Angel and Buffy.

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