Fred startled awake. Was that a pounding sound on her door? Was something wrong? It seemed as though she'd just put her head on the pillow. Then she heard the voice. Spike's voice. "Fred, luv! Let me in!"
Staring at her clock in consternation, she moaned, "What did I do to deserve this?"
The pounding got louder, if anything. "Come on, Freddikins! Let's have a party!"
She sighed and got out of bed. When she opened the door, Spike was leaning on the doorframe, with a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand and a basket under the other arm, from which mewing noises were coming. He surveyed her purple flannel jammies with the flying pigs on them appreciatively, gave her a roguish grin, and said, "How about invitin' me in, luv?"
"Spike! What are you doing here? Do you know what time it is?" He tilted his head at her, and she rolled her eyes ceilingward. "Fine. Come in, Spike."
He walked in, giving her a peck on the cheek in passing. "It's too bloody early to go to bed, that's for sure. What say we call Charlie and Peaches and have a game of strip kitten poker? I brought kittens." He indicated the basket. "Where do you want me to put this?"
He started to set it on her couch, but stopped when she yelped, " Don't stick it there! The last thing I need is kitten piddle on my sofa cushions."
He put the basket down on the kitchen floor instead. "Come on, Freddicakes. Don't be a spoilsport. You must have a deck of cards around here somewhere." He started going through her kitchen cupboards, looking for a glass.
Fred huffed at him impatiently. "We've all had a really hard day, Spike. I'm not calling Angel or Gunn at half past four in the morning so we can have a game of strip kitten poker. However you play that."
Spike found a couple of glasses and plunked them down on the counter. "Right then. Just you and me?" He looked her over. "You're a bit underdressed. Might want to do something about that." He poured a generous amount of whiskey into the two glasses and raised one in a toast to her. "Cheers!"
Fred put her face in her hand for a minute, shaking her head wearily back and forth. She wasn't going to win this battle, so she might as well go along with it until he passed out. Walking back to her bedroom, she called over her shoulder. "I'll be right back out. Don't touch anything." She closed the bedroom door behind her.
He wandered around the apartment, ignoring her admonition. There was a phone on the kitchen wall, and a cork message board with various notes and things tacked onto it, next to it. He noticed a picture of Knox there and pried the thumbtack loose with a fingernail so he could examine it more closely. Fred came back out of the bedroom, fully dressed, including shoes and socks, and Spike hastily tried to put the picture back, impaling his finger in the process. "Ouch! Bloody hell!"
Fred rolled her eyes. "I told you not to touch anything." She went into the kitchen and pulled a deck of cards out of a drawer, then sat at the dining room table and started shuffling.
Spike grabbed the glass he'd poured for Fred and put it in front of her, picked up the basket of kittens and set it on one side of the table, and poured another measure of Jack Daniels for himself. Sitting down across from her, he said, "What's the game then, pet?"
"Five card draw, deuces wild. Want to spot me a couple of kittens?"
"Now, why would I do that?" She gave him a look. "Oh, all right. No bloody fun, you aren't. Here's a couple of Siamese to get you started." He reached into the basket and pulled out a pair of kittens, giving them to Fred. "Ante up."
A few hours later, Fred was missing her shoes and socks, and the basket full of kittens was in front of her. Spike was wearing nothing but his jeans and a drunkenly panicked expression on his face. He was also sloshed to the gills, as attested to by two empty bottles of whiskey, and a third that was about three-fourths empty--most of which had gone into him. Fred was still mostly sober, but was feeling a nice glow.
"I call," Fred said, putting her cards on the table, face up. "Three of a kind. What do you have?"
Spike had a deer-in-the-headlights look. "A pair of sixes."
"Lose the pants then," she said with a certain amount of satisfaction, taking a drink.
"No, wait..." He stood up, reached into his pocket, and pulled out three subway tokens, throwing them on the table and looking hopefully at her.
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, fine." She dealt another hand while Spike breathed a sigh of relief and sat down again. "How many?"
Spike stared at his cards, disgusted. "Three."
"Dealer takes two. Call."
Spike was in total panic mode. "A pair of threes."
Fred smiled slightly. "A pair of queens. Off with the jeans, Spike."
He really panicked now. "I'm not...I don't have..."
She regarded him coolly. "So?"
He made a strangled noise, stood up, and took his jeans off. He wasn't wearing any underwear. "Looks like you lose, Spike."
He swayed. "Yeah, looks like I do..." His eyes rolled up into the back of his head, and he passed out cold on her floor.
Fred sighed. "About time." She pondered for a moment, and an evil grin wreathed her face. She dragged him to the bedroom and tied him to the bed--still naked. Then she picked up the phone and made a call.
Spike woke up slowly, moving his head from side to side and mumbling a little. He pulled on the restraints on his arms and legs to no avail, then lifted his head to look around. "What the...Fred! Bloody hell!"
"Yes, Spike? May I help you?" She was sitting next to the bed, with a kitten and a Tickle Demon playing in her lap. The Tickle Demon was feathered, about the size of a Toy Poodle, and had four hands with long, many-jointed fingers. It looked rather cute, actually, with a whiskery face, huge green eyes, and pointy little ears.
Spike smirked at her. "Didn't have you pegged for this sort of thing, pet. Now you got me tied naked to your bed, whatcha gonna do?"
Fred raised an eyebrow. "Oh, I'm not going to do anything. My little friend here, however..." She put the Tickle Demon down next to him. It walked to the bottom of the bed and started sniffing at Spike's feet.
He twitched uncontrollably as its whiskers tickled him. "Hey!" He snorted out a laugh. "Stop that! Fred! Make it stop!" It moved up his leg, past his hip, still sniffing and making him twitch some more.
"Now, why would I do that?" she said in the same tone of voice he'd used when she'd asked him for a couple of kittens to get her started in their poker game.
The Tickle Demon found Spike's ribs and went to work on them with its fingers, gently at first, then more and more roughly until he was convulsed in hysterical laughter. "Oh, God! Make it stop! Please...I can't breathe!"
"You're a vampire. You don't need to breathe," she pointed out heartlessly.
"Oh! Bloody! Hell!" The Tickle Demon moved up to his collarbones, setting off fresh waves of tortured giggles. It used two hands for the collarbones, and the other two for his armpits. "Does Peaches know you're this evil?" he asked Fred between gasps.
"Angel's never come to my apartment, drunk in the middle of the night, asking to play strip kitten poker." He was in serious difficulties by now, and she relented. "Okay, okay." She picked up the Tickle Demon and set it in the chair, where it sat next to the kitten with a smug smile on its whiskery face. Fred sat on the bed next to Spike, running her fingernails softly up and down his sternum. "Now, what am I going to do with you?"
He caught his breath. "Mmmm. That's very nice, pet. I have a few suggestions, if you're at a loss."
She eyed him malevolently. "Do I need to sic the Tickle Demon on you again?"
Spike thought fast. "And of course those suggestions involve you giving me my clothes back, and me gettin' out of your hair."
"Nice recovery," Fred said drily. "And very smart suggestions." She exited the room, leaving him alone with the Tickle Demon, which he eyed warily. She came back with his clothes and untied his wrists and ankles. He rubbed his wrists, then hastily put his clothes on.
"No need to mention this little incident to Angel, is there, pet?" he pleaded.
She grinned fiendishly. "How do you think I got the Tickle Demon?"
She walked him to the front door and opened it to let him out, stopping him in the hallway. "Maybe next time you'll think twice about playing strip kitten poker with a physicist who practices dexterity exercises with cards...and cheats." She closed the door on his astonished face, leaned back, and dissolved in giggles.
In the hallway, Spike's shocked expression changed to his trademark wicked smirk, and he pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his duster and lit one.
"More than one way to cheat at cards, luv." He snorted. "A pair of threes." He walked down the hall toward the bank of elevators with a swagger in his step.
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