Author: C. Marlowe Disclaimer: Joss owns Miss Kitty but the other characters are mine, ALL MINE!


Kitten Poker


Rizzo was licking his paw and washing his ear, keeping the other ear alert for any unusual noises. The alley behind the Bronze wasn't particularly dangerous, except for an occasional vampire. Rizzo was waiting for his poker buddy Mehitabella to show up for their weekly poker game.

He heard a familiar yowl, and saw the scraggly, scrawny form of Mehitabella approaching from around the corner. Mehitabella was a free-range cat (or a stray as humans referred to them).

"What took you so long?" Rizzo yowled. "The poker game will be starting soon."

"Looking for money," Mehitabella answered. "Can ya spot me a few?"

Rizzo snarled. "Broke as usual, you're the worst cat in Sunnydale. Let's go, or otherwise we'll get skinned for being late. And you-know-who knows more than one way to skin a cat."

"Thanks a bunch Rizzo, pay ya back", Mehitabella said, groveling.

"There's always a first time," Rizzo responded, picking up the basket with his mouth and trotting deeper into the alley, with Mehitabella stumbling behind him. "Come on."

They hit the end of the alley, and pawed their way through some trash to a jagged hole in a brick wall. Crawling through, they padded to the room, from which caterwauling already sounded.

Rizzo blinked, his eyes narrowing to slits as he surveyed the room. Two of his poker buddies were already setting up the floor for the game. There was Righty, whose left eye was missing, and Matty, whose fur was especially bad tonight. Righty was yammering at Matty for some stupid thing he did, cuffing Matty on the ear with a paw.

Rizzo searched around nervously, but didn't see you-know-who yet. He heard a lot about the cat, and wasn't afraid to admit he was scared. The baddest kitty in Sunnydale deciding to put a paw into the gambling circuit made the tail frizz on every other cat in town.

"Heyas, Righty, Matty," Rizzo said in a nervous tone. "Looks to be a pretty good game tonight."

"Heyas, Rizzo," Righty said with a scowl. "Having that mangy cat behind you in the game tonight ain't gonna do much to make it good. Right, Matty?"

"Right, Righty," said a cowering Matty, licking his paw and washing his ear.

Rizzo and the others quickly set up the game, getting the bowls of water handy, making sure everyone had a supply of catnip. Mehitabella, who was useless for anything, tried to steal some of the others' catnip, until she caught the slitted eyes of the others.

Suddenly, bad vibes came into the room, and everyone knew Miss Kitty had arrived. She didn't seem like much, tiny and with plain black and white fur, but every cat - no matter how big or small - lived in fear of her. She was the only cat known to actually use magic. There had always been witches' familiars in Sunnydale, but they couldn't do much. Tales of those who crossed Miss Kitty were passed from alley to alley. Rivals, or anyone who even looked at her the wrong way, wound up looking worse than roadkill on a highway.

She pranced into the room, and said, "Nice to see you fine gentlecats. What say we start with a game of five-card stud?"

The others fell over themselves in agreement. Each of them sat at their corner of the circle, with their own stack of rats for the betting. After the cutting of the cards to determine who was the dealer (it turned out to be Rizzo), they settled down for some serious rat-gambling.

"I tells ya, living with vampires isn't always what's its supposed to be," Righty said. "Sure, vampires attract a lot of vermin and they leaves you alone. They ain't so bad to cuddle up with either, especially during daytime cat naps. But my vampire? Nothing but trouble. Doing the mattress Olympics with the Slayer, watching Passions, bitching about the slayer. He even sang one night. Sounded worse than Mehitabella. That business with the eggs was the last straw, which blew up when those humans started tossing grenades." Righty flicked another dead rat into the center of the table. "I bet one rat."

"Heard he's left town, though," Rizzo replied. "Are you sure that's a rat? Looks like a gerbil to me."

"Ya think that would be good?" Righty asked. "He's got Clem house-sitting for him. CLEM, I tells ya! He's a rat, maybe a little on the puny side, but still a rat. Your turn."

"Clem? That's bad, heard about poor Tugger," Matty said. "Chomp, gulp."

"You think you have it bad?" Rizzo asked, looking at Righty. "Once lived with a vampire myself for a while. He weren't so bad, but he got a freakin soul. You know what it's like to have a vamp competing with you for the SAME prey?! Never had a chance to get a decent meal when he was around. He always managed to get there first. And it takes a lot to feed a vampire." Rizzo lifted the corner of his card with a claw, debating whether to stay or fold.

"You guys are lucky to even have somewhere to stay," Mehitabella sniffed, a bit of drool coming out of her mouth. "I hafta sleep anywhere I can and scrounge all over town. I fold."

"It ain't even your turn yet, Mehitabella, you idiot," Righty said. "Way I heard, you shack up with any unsuspecting male who even looks at ya."

"I'm picky," Mehitabella responded defensively. "They's gotta pay me first."

"I lived with a human and demon for a while myself, and it was no picnic," Matty broke in. "Sure, I had a nice home and good meals and a free run at the Magic Box. But the female whined worse than Mehitabella, and kept shooing me away from the interesting stuff, bitching about losing her profit margins or somethin'. And the male always made the lamest jokes I've ever heard. They never paid no attention to me at all." Matty was trying to make his situation sound pretty bad, but wasn't convincing any of the others.

"I really feel for you," Righty said in a sarcastic voice, whiskers twitching in irritation. He was just restraining himself from batting Matty again. Matty and Mehitabella were making his fur crawl with disgust. He had to find new buddies fast.

"I fold," Rizzo said, thinking to himself that he would be lucky to come away with anything tonight. Miss Kitty had been winning quite a bit. And the others weren't even trying to throw the games by playing badly. Miss Kitty might rip their throats out if she caught them doing that. 'She might rip our throats out anyways,' he thought gloomily.

It was her turn.

Miss Kitty didn't even blink an eye, tossing four rats into the basket. "This is why you are not successful like me," she told the others. "You just worry about your next meal. I plan ahead. Why do you think I chose to grow up with two witches? I knew I would gain power and knowledge just by hanging around them. I can do away with the lot of you and grab all of these rats for myself at a whim. In fact, I think I will!

Suddenly, Miss Kitty morphed into a dog and started barking furiously. Every cat in the room meowed in fright, and zoomed out through the hole. Even the drooling, drugged-up Mehitabella found new levels of speed in her paws.

Once the room was empty, Miss Kitty morphed back into her normal kitty self, and purred contentedly over the bounty of rats before her. She knew that those mangy, whiny scraps of fur out there wouldn't remember a thing about her changing into a dog.

She almost missed her days of Glory.

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