Games in the Dark
Giles heard her coming; her footsteps echoed beyond his door, cutting through the shadowy silence of his apartment. He couldn't help but smile at the thought she must be checking in on him due to the power outage.
As the door opened, the papers he'd placed carefully before him danced to life with the sudden breeze whisking through his darkened space.
"Powers out all over town..." Buffy shut the door and Giles collected the settling sheets, edgily putting them back in order. "Giles?"
"Over here," he spoke softly, trying to mask his agitation toward the mess caused by her entrance.
Buffy slowly stepped into the room, examining the alien atmosphere that shrouded Giles familiar place. The flickering of candlelight illuminated just beyond the couch and set an eerie tone to his usually welcoming abode. As she carefully moved towards the light, Giles came into view. She smiled at the sight of him sitting cross-legged on the floor looking much like a human island surrounded by a mote of literature. Books and papers were scattered all around him. His temperament seemed irritable and tired, rubbing his eyes with one hand as the other tapped a pen to a pad of paper covered with scribbles.
"What do you think you're doing?" Buffy vaulted over the back of the couch and landed gracefully onto the cushions with a raised eyebrow garnishing her dimly lit features.
"How quickly you forget," Giles smirked and held up a book, "These are books Buffy. You refer to them when researching. Sometimes they are used for distraction." He set the text down and removed his eyeglasses, reverting to his usual ritual of cleaning his lenses and Buffy knew he needed a break.
"Mr. Grumpy face needs a breather."
"I'm not grumpy...just a little...um..." An exasperated sigh escaped his lips as he nodded in defeat. "Alright, grumpy it is. I haven't the mental capacity to translate the TV Guide right now and we quite possibly have real troubles stirring out there tonight." He tossed his glasses to the floor and stretched back, trying in vain to loosen his tensing lower back muscles.
"Things seem quiet to me... or at least appear quiet. Let the cops handle the party outside. Besides, powers out...no one should be working. We should be fooling around." Buffy quickly turned away, realizing the suggestive slip of the tongue she'd just blurted out. 'Good one! Try thinking before opening your big yap!'
Giles paused his stretching and glanced at Buffy who seemed distracted by the shadows, innocently unaware of the connotation of her colorful choice of words.
"What type of 'fooling around' did you have in mind?" He straightened up, tucked his hands between his legs and stared quizzically at her, awaiting her suggestion.
"I don't know. Work with me here. You're the one who needs the attitude tweaking...what would you like to do?" Buffy smiled and shrugged. "And it can't involve books or tea! You got any board games?"
Giles cocked his head to the side and raised a discouraging brow.
"Of course not. That kind of immature fun would be against your religion or something." Buffy rolled her eyes and fell back into the couch cushions, already feeling like she was loosing the battle to force some much needed fun into her Watcher's evening. She was surprised when Giles stood up and walked with purpose to his desk, opened a drawer and pulled out a box. He glanced at the box then tossed it to Buffy who sat forward just in time to catch the mysterious item. She opened the little wooden case and examined the contents.
"What? Flash cards?" she asked as she pulled out the deck and began to sift through the cards. "I already know my ABC's and fractions...just barely but I get by." She noticed the brightly colored figures and symbols as she fished through the strange offering Giles had presented to her.
"Pretty pictures...except this one," she held up a card decorated with a cloaked skeleton like creature on horseback, wielding a sickle. "Too much from a day in the life of Buffy."
"Tarot cards," Giles corrected and took a seat beside her.
"You're going to tell my future? Let me guess...only a buck for the first minute then five bucks for every other minute." Buffy snickered at the image of Giles the Psychic selling his talent on late night TV.
"Not quite. Since that is the only deck of cards I own, it'll have to do."
"Do for what?"
Giles lips spread wide with a sinister smile, "Sorcerer's poker."
"You gotta be kiddin me!" Buffy chuckled.
"You wanted to play a game, this is my suggestion."
"You can't even play a normal game of cards? You have to have some twisted Hellmouthy take on the classics like poker!"
"It plays like poker but with a few...um, flourishes. You're just afraid I'll beat you." He took the deck and began to shuffle the cards in a flashy Vegas fashion, taunting her. There was so much more to this man than the mild mannered facade he displayed to her and the Scoobies. She decided it was time to get to the bottom of Rupert Giles, whether he wanted it or not. 'Get to the bottom', she smiled at the unintended suggestiveness underlying her thought. 'I'll get to his bottom! Where did that come from?'
Buffy watched his fingers maneuver the cards in a display demonstrating the hidden talent of a professional card shark. She couldn't help herself; she had to put Giles in his place. Besides, playing with Giles sounded much more fun than working. 'Hmm...playing with Giles...' Buffy's mind flashed with naughty images that brought an uncontainable smirk to her lips. 'What's wrong with me? I just got here and already havin' the hots. Maybe this wasn't a good idea.'
"Something tells me I could trust you with my life but not my money," Buffy gave him a guarded look.
"We don't play for money."
"Alright then, show me your stupid weirdo game."
"With enthusiasm like that, I'll need a little...um, relaxant." He disappeared into the shadows and Buffy heard him rummaging around in the kitchen. After a moment of banging and soft cursing, Giles returned shortly with a bottle of scotch and two glasses.
"None for me," Buffy shook her head. "Alcohol and I are a bad mix, or don't you remember?"
"It's part of the game."
"R...i...g...h...t..." Buffy said doubtfully.
"Don't you trust me?" Giles poured a small amount of the liquid into the glass and held it out to her with a mischievous glimmer in his eye.
"Only with my life," she took the glass and smiled at his continued taunting, "But again...no money."
"Normally the game is played by means of betting spells but since you haven't any, I suggest we play for information." Giles poured himself half a glass, drank it, poured another and settled back into the couch cushions.
"I know where you're going with this and it won't work. I'll kick your Watcher patootie!" Buffy determined playful taunts might draw her normally subdued Watcher out a bit. She could trash talk with the best of them.
"Before you thrash on my backside, perhaps you would like to know more about the game? It's very similar to poker but with more cards and instead of hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs we have wands, cups, pentacles, and swords. The rules can be very complicated so let's dumb it down a bit."
"Oh thanks! Forget the intro...if it's like poker I'll catch on as we play. I use to beat the pants off my dad when he'd play with his poker buddies."
"Yes...well...then you've nothing to worry about," Giles said with a peculiar air of frustration as he began to deal the cards.
"Then again...you're not my dad," Buffy surveyed his face, "But I'll still beat the pants off you!" She made sure the clarification came off as flirtatious. Giles paused for a moment to glance up at her and quickly focused back on dealing the cards. Buffy took up the seven cards and examined the hand dealt to her. She saw a two of cups and a two of swords, a pair. But the rest of the cards where useless, or at least she thought they were.
"Can I exchange cards?"
"I don't know. What have you to offer?" Giles smirked as he took up his cards and began to put them in order. "You can't get something for nothing. You must offer up some information if you wish to receive cards."
"You're making this up!" Buffy tossed her unwanted cards to the cushion between them and shook her head. "So how does this work? Do you ask me something or do I just blurt out something like my favorite color?"
"I ask, you answer," Giles inspected his hand then Buffy.
He grinned as a million questions raced through his mind. "What...what's your favorite color?"
Buffy let out giggle and smiled. Of all the things he could possibly want to know, he was letting her off easy this time. "Periwinkle."
He pointed at her glass and lifted a disbelieving eyebrow, "Drink!"
"How would you know?"
"Your favorite color is rose. It brightens your complexion and compliments the highlights in your hair. You said it some time ago though so it may have changed. Your fashion preferences seem to change with the wind. Drink," he ordered and waited for her to comply.
"You remember that? I don't even remember that." Buffy was awestruck. 'He actually listens to my ramblings?'
"If you lie, loose or fold, you drink," he nodded toward the glass.
"Fine. Maybe I'll want to then if this is the punishment, " she swallowed the drink and choked at the burning sensation coating her throat.
"Not with this scotch," Giles drank his as well and replenished both glasses, filling Buffy's to the middle of the glass.
"Why did you drink? You didn't loose or lie?" Buffy gasped, still trying to recover from the nasty feeling in her throat.
"I didn't want you to have an unfair advantage," he grinned.
"Now I know you're making this up. You owe me four cards bucko!"
Giles dealt her the cards and waited for her to examine her new hand.
"Poker rules apply. Pairs, straights, full house and such. We can leave it at that for now."
"So what do I bet?"
"How bout we both ask a question, if we accept the bet and loose, we answer?"
"Okey-dokey," Buffy tried to think of something she was dying to know about Giles but he would never tell her. "Ok, got one. Boxer's or briefs?" That question would certainly generate one of his darling discomfited Watcher expressions. She was disappointed as he continued with his card arranging, showing no sign of embarrassment.
Giles examined his cards and smiled, "Hitting below the belt so soon, eh?" He fidgeted with the edge of a card. "I'll stay with this hand. My question... what was your first impression of me?"
Buffy snickered at the recollection; he really didn't want to know the answer to that.
"Do you accept the bet?" he waited.
"You bet...I mean yes, I accept...if you really want to know," she warned. Giles laid out his cards and motioned for her to follow.
"You have three of a kind, leading with the fool. Not a bad hand for a beginner."
"So who won?" Buffy asked impatiently.
"I have a pair under the tower. Not quite so lucky. You won this hand."
Buffy started to do a little victory dance, curiously stirring her hands in front of her, "So spill it Watcher-mine!"
Giles sipped at his drink. "Neither," he said plainly and sipped a bit more, starting to collect the cards.
"Neither? What, you wear bikini or thongs?" She giggled as her wicked imagination embellished on the notion as images of an almost naked Giles danced through her mind.
Giles swallowed the remainder of the scotch and peered at Buffy over the rim of his glasses. "Neither," he studied Buffy's expression. It made her shudder, the glistening jade of his eyes piercing the candlelight. Then she realized what he meant and she flushed with the sudden warmth that welled within her.
"Are you saying you don't...you go commando?"
Giles chuckled at her euphemism; he could sense his inhibitions fading with the intoxicating effect of the scotch as he finished collecting the cards. "Let's just say I've grown accustomed to a certain...um, freedom; with a few exceptions for training purposes."
"Huh...you don't seem the type...not that you're a type. I mean I never would have guessed. Not that I've looked or anything. Oh...not that you're unworthy of a peek or two...I mean...I can't say I have but..."
"Why don't you stop before you swallow your whole foot," Giles said as he began to shuffle the deck.
Buffy absentmindedly chugged her drink and gasped as the burning liquid
surprised her again. 'Gotta fix this...say something...anything!' Buffy
Giles paused and looked bewildered at her, "Hmmm?"
"When I first met you...my first impression. Weird and gay; that about sums it up."
Giles went to say something but stopped, choosing instead to deal the cards with a hint of a smile. "I trust your perceptions have been corrected?"
"Oh yeah... no playing for the home team. Well, not recently anyway."
Giles paused with an inquisitive glance, "Translation please."
"Well, you know...that whole demon thing with Ethan and your checkered past. We kinda got the impression that you and Ethan and the orgies...you know...you and him..."
Giles smiled shyly and looked down at the cards, "I see. Perhaps that should be your next question."
"No way...I have some real doozies in store for you." Buffy smiled, relieved Giles was taking this better than she thought he would.
"I shudder to think of what a 'doozie' might consist of," he finished dealing and took up his hand.
"Care to wager on it?" Buffy smiled confidently as she looked at her cards, eager for another go.
"But of course." He fiddled with his cards as Buffy watched, completely intrigued by the knowledge she'd just acquired. Her eyes kept falling toward southern regions of his anatomy apparently not imprisoned by the restricting undergarments she'd been so sure he would wear. She noticed he was sporting faded blue jeans that shaped tautly over his captivating bulge but she couldn't tell in the dim light whether he was truly underwear-less. She'd have to find out another way. Giles looked up at her and she quickly diverted her stare, wanting to avoid being caught ogling her Watcher.
"I'll stay with these," she said before even registering what cards she held.
Giles noticed Buffy's redden complexion and grew concerned. "Are you feeling alright?"
"Fine...couldn't be better," she said uneasily with a forced grin.