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Notes: Extended and profuse thanks to Kendaa our resident Aussie friend, for putting words in Megan's mouth. Thanks also to Lila for suggesting the alternate rules.

 

Sandburg was feeling fine; it was a Friday night, he was slightly drunk and he was with his friends. Course some of those friends were starting to snipe at each other. Uno should come with a warning on the box: "Dangerous insults will be thrown if played with adults." He couldn't believe how the grown men and woman of Major Crime had acted. He wasn't innocent of course, but he was responsible for it, which made observing so much better. And besides, it was fun to watch the dominos fall after setting them up so carefully.

"Chief, what's so funny?"

"Nothing Jim, just this whole night was a lot of fun." Jim shook his head and went to open the door for H and Rafe who were shrugging into their coats as Joel was emerging from the bathroom. It seemed, even through all the insults and jagged remarks, that everyone had had a good time. Megan and Simon remained seated as though they didn't want to leave. Most of the loft was cleared of their munching and drinking, except for a few bottles the squatters were still holding onto.

Blair loitered in the kitchen, leaning against the refrigerator, watching Simon and Megan. They were whispering, planning something. Had to be it. But what? He knew that his own slight of hand allowed this night to happen, hiding the normal poker cards under his pillow. Jim had probably been horrible at hide-n-seek as a kid, never looking in obvious places. Sandburg's eyes went directly to Jim's and he had to swallow the laugh as he really thought through his other... thought? Jim? Being bad at hide and seek? Or being bad at anything?

He couldn't help the smirk, but he had drawn the attention of the whispering wankers at the table. Good God, he needed to get Megan out of his home before he really started talking like her. To distract them from his snickering, he opened a cabinet and took two glasses down, filling them both with water and returned to the table. As he reached his chair, Jim came up behind him, so close that Blair could feel his chest against his back as Jim leaned down toward his ear.

"I know what you did Sandburg - and you will pay, eventually." Blair snapped his head around to see amusement in his partner's eyes. The payment couldn't be that bad... could it? He shuddered as thoughts of cold showers and meals populated with only Wonderburger floated through his head.

Blair looked at Simon, noticing that sometime during his musings in the kitchen, the table was turned and only the four matching chairs remained. "We playing more?" he asked.

Simon nodded and drained the rest of his beer while Megan said, "Yeah, I want some more playing time with Jim. Seems he's a sore loser when he's been beaten by a woman. I want him to eat his words from earlier - that'd he'd win no matter what if it came down to him and me again."

He laughed. "Aren't you a little old for this?"

"It was your idea, Sandburg." Jim said emphatically.

"I didn't mean the game Jim, I meant the "have to win" attitude. I figured all you people would have out grown that compulsion."

"Maybe, maybe not." A cheeky Jim was a force to be reckoned with. Blair noted that he'd drunk a few beers, though Jim was nowhere near drunk, none of them were, but they could be classified as loose-lipped. Which when playing with your boss, was not always a good thing. Sandburg looked around the table and realized he was looking at three sets of eyes, all wanting to win. He laughed again and grabbed the cards, shuffling them as he spoke.

"Ok, barbarians. Let's raise the stakes. The same rules apply as previously played by, however the "Draw" cards are to be treated differently." Blair studiously ignored the groans that erupted from his companions and continued. "Instead of drawing cards right away if you are given a Draw 2 card, you have the opportunity to use one of your own "Draw" cards, making the person after you draw four. The same applies for the Wild Draw 4's."

Sandburg looked around the table and only found one pair of eyes holding understanding. His partner, which was typical. He let out a breath and tried again. After the third explanation, and a more detailed play by play his esteemed superior and foreign exchange buddy finally got it. He would never have suggested the change if he had known just how much they weren't going to grasp the concept.

Blair shuffled the deck a few more times and then dealt, thinking over his explanation. He looked at Megan and Simon as he passed out the cards and realized he was played. Conned. Manipulated. They knew what he was saying but were making him work for it. Damn cops, they think they can out smart anyone with their poker faces, well not Blair Sandburg! He placed the bulk of the deck on the table and picked up his cards. Blair would find another way of making them do something they would deem "beneath them." He did it once, he'd do it again.

He smiled and looked at his partner. As Jim met his eyes, Blair winked. Always good to keep them on their toes. Let the cat-fighting begin.

Fanning his cards he looked at the array of colors in front of him. Not bad, a bunch of different ones and a Draw Two card, a variety of colors was better than a bunch of the same. Simon shifted in his seat and Sandburg looked to his left, the Captain had already straightened his cards and was waiting, none too patiently either, for the other two to finish. He felt something hit his leg and looked up to find a grinning Megan, Blair didn't know what that was for, but it was better ignored. Finally his partner was finished with his arranging his cards anally.

Simon waited a few more seconds before saying, "Are you sure you're ready Jim?"

"Yes. I didn't take that long, Sandburg's rules took longer, so I don't want to hear about it."

Sandburg blinked at the tone of Jim's voice, but they were off duty and this was supposed to be vicious in a friendly sort of way. Simon started play by throwing a yellow 2 on top of the yellow 8. Megan, who was obviously trying to cause problems, changed to the color to red with her 2, and Jim happily threw down a red 7, finishing the round off, Blair carefully placed his red 4 on top. The hand went around 5 more times before Simon called Uno. Three pairs of eyes just looked at him incredulously, normally it took longer. Blair looked at the cards in his hand and there was nothing helpful; as the play came to him, he discarded the only green card he had.

Simon smiled and slapped down a green three, laughing as he crowed that he won.

"Winner deals," Blair stated as he pushed the piles to his left. Simon glared at him, Sandburg knew that his sometime boss hated shuffling, but they all had suffer the fate eventually. The cards made the required 'whooshing' sound as they were joined together over and over, Megan was muttering about beginners luck. Sandburg decided to ignore the fact that the four of them had been playing for hours already and that technically Simon couldn't be considered a beginner anymore.

Blair blinked and shook his head a little... that was even fast for him. He took some swallows of his water, trying to get the alcohol to move through his system more quickly. He caught Jim's eye and his roommate lifted an eyebrow, asking silently if he was alright. Sandburg nodded and began to pick up the cards Simon was flinging toward him.

And suddenly here he was again with another hand down to two cards with nothing to stop Simon. The big man had cheerily called Uno after his last discard and held his last card close to his chest so no one could cheat. Like they'd do that. Well, only if they were losing badly. Blair caught Megan looking at Jim pleadingly, Jim turned and looked at Sandburg and all he could do was shrug.

"Play whatever man," he said. Jim played a blue 4. Sandburg didn't have blue but he did have a yellow 4. Looking toward Simon again, he tried to see through the design-covered card to the color, but it didn't work; so taking a breath he placed his yellow 4 onto the pile.

Simon stared at the pile, then to Sandburg and back to the pile. For a moment Sandburg thought he had done it, made Simon draw, but then the Captain's mouth curved into a bright smile as he gently laid his yellow one onto the deck to win the game.

Satisfied, Simon sat back. "I won." He proclaimed simply.

"We can see that. That makes two in a row for you." Jim, ever stating the obvious.

"Well it takes talent, and that's what I got. That and skill, way beyond what you three possess." Simon added smugly.

"Is that so sir?" Asked Megan. "Care to wager on a third?"

"What did you have in mind Inspector?" Simon leaned toward her as he balanced himself on his elbow, cigar hanging between his fingers.

"Dinner. You win the next hand and I'll buy you dinner."

Jim whistled. "I don't know sir, what happens when you lose."

"When? You mean 'if', right Jim?" Simon clarified, Jim just laughed and then shrugged.

Megan grabbed the cards to begin her shuffling duties. "You lose, you buy me dinner. It's fair. I mean, unless you mind buying me dinner..."

Simon's eyes narrowed and Blair had to bite his lip to keep the laughter in. He couldn't believe that Megan was setting this up! It was dangerous to gamble with Simon Banks, the man that coerced him into giving up his tips on the horses - the man took his gambling seriously.

"I don't mind, but it's you who'll be buying the dinner. Now, hand out the cards, I can't wait to win."

Blair laughed aloud at that and Simon glared in his direction, but he wisely kept his mouth shut and quietly picked up the cards. The testosterone was flying, added to whatever Megan was emitting, it was a heady place for egos.

Sandburg sighed as he realized he still didn't have a Wild Card. That made three rounds, you'd think at some point he'd have got one, either dealt or drawn, he wasn't picky! Jim started things off with a blue 2, so he threw down a blue 5, Simon discarded a blue 8 and Megan a 3. A bunch of blue, that would mean someone had to be out soon, well it didn't have to mean that but it was likely someone was out. To his surprise Jim tossed out another blue 2. He smiled and put another blue card down himself, but Simon ended the Smurfville fest by changing the color to red.

Smurfville? Maybe he'd drank more than he thought. He gulped some more of his water, trying not to imagine Smurfette's revolving door.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye, Simon was calling Uno... again.

"Bugger, bloody hell!!"

"Simon you're cheating." Jim stated plaintively.

"As you know Jim, it's really hard to cheat in this game. Especially in such a short hand, I mean, he'd have to drop cards on the floor..." Blair bent over at the waist to look under Simon's chair and the captain let out an indignant, "Sandburg!!" Blair continued as though he hadn't heard him. "But there's nothing on the floor. We'd all know if he cheated, it seems that he just had luck by his side." After a short pause Sandburg added softly so only Jim could hear, "Or he's cheating really well."

Jim sprayed some of his drink over the table and glared at him, but he only blinked back, his face full of innocence.

"Well I'm not cheating. No Inspector, play a card, I believe I'm about to win a dinner."

Megan's shoulders sagged as she placed a yellow Draw Two on the pile; Jim just grunted as he drew from the deck, and Sandburg looked at his two yellow cards and mentally sighed. He chose the 4 and flopped it down, and Simon's card followed with a snap as he won... yet again.

Maybe he should have stuck with the beer, it would make losing to the same person easier. And Uno wasn't nearly as fun when the hands were so short. The long games were the ones with the insults and all around silliness. As Jim started to shuffle, Blair stood and made his way into the kitchen to refill his water, but a cleared throat had him turning back around and grabbing Jim's empty glass too.

The things he did for his partner's happiness.

 

 

Jim suppressed a smile at Blair's expression. "And another beer too, Chief."

"But Jim..."

"No buts, Sandburg. Bring the water too, but I think I'm gonna need the extra fortification if the game's gonna keep on like this. Besides," he muttered as Blair plunked the glass and bottle next to him, "my buzz is wearing off."

Sandburg snorted a laugh as he reseated himself. "Well, heaven forbid man. In that case, drink up. I think you'll need it," was his return mutter.

"What are you two mumbling about over there? Ways to cheat?" Simon smirked at them.

Jim took a swig of beer and nearly choked again at Sandburg's perfectly even, "Yes, Simon. New and better ways to cheat." Jim swallowed hastily and added, "We're planning on trashing your winning streak." He traded evil, conspiratorial grins with his partner.

Simon snorted his disdain at those statements and fanned his cards with a superior huff. Jim arranged his hand and tamped down on his disgust, six yellow cards of various types and a green zero - it looked like a damned banana. Who shuffled these things anyway? Oh - he had. Damn.

Blair led off with a red on top of red, Simon and Megan following also with reds. He glowered at the bright crimson six mocking him and the obnoxious yellow staring back from his hand, practically every number but six. With a grunt he leaned in to draw. Three cards later, he dropped a red Skip on the pile and just raised an eyebrow at Sandburg's sigh. His turn came around again, still miraculously red but he had a matching yellow card for it this time and Blair threw down a matching card in blue muttering, "Finally. I was getting tired of red."

Megan skipped him on his next turn but Blair reversed it. Tossing his own yellow Reverse he sent it back to his partner, who promptly skipped Simon causing garbled caustic comments to emerge from the handful of chips he was devouring. A yellow 5 from Megan allowed him to toss his 7 on to Sandburg who followed it with a blue 7. Simon placed a blue 2 and with an incomparable smirk announced "Uno!!!" He waved the black and white card between the tips of his fingers, taunting the rest of the table and ignoring the rumbles and mutters of, "Not Again!" and "Can you stop him?"

Jim eyed his depleted hand with disgust: a Wild card, a blue 3, a red 9 and a yellow Draw Two. "You got anything useful, Chief?"

"Yeah, I'm good man. Send it on over."

Megan played a yellow 2, "Sorry mate, it's all I had and by the way, Uno."

Jim growled and reluctantly placed his yellow Draw Two on her card. "Sorry Sandburg. I guess he's got it again."

But Blair just smirked at him. "Oh you think so, do you?" He dropped a red Draw Two on top of the Jim's yellow one and looked at Simon with a smirk. "According to the new rules you agreed to - you now have to draw four... sir. And by the way, Uno."

Simon's expression was indescribably thunderous as he took his four cards. Megan stared mournfully at the showing red card and dove into the draw pile, spitting unintelligible Aussie curses. Jim eyed his remaining three cards, then Sandburg, then his cards and his partner again, trying to decide what color he had. Sandburg sat there serenely, that expressive face simply waiting patiently for Jim's decision. Taking a chance, Jim tossed out the Wild and called, "Green."

Sandburg sat back with a delighted laugh as he pitched a Draw Four onto the pile. "I win! Finally!"

Laughing, Jim reached over and cuffed the curls, "Good job there, buddy." He chugged the last of his beer and went for another bottle, listening to Simon demanding a rematch. When he got back, Blair had already shuffled and dealt, Jim's cards in a neat fan, face down at his place. He frowned and cocked an eye at his roommate, but Blair just chortled and went back to straightening his cards. Carefully sliding the fan off the table, he relaxed to find the cards all mixed up and wrong direction up. A moment later had him set up and ready to go, a good thing too, because it was his turn already.

Glancing up to take in the mood of the table, he tossed a green Reverse to Megan. She was fatalistic, probably contemplating the expensive dinner she was going to have to shell out to the captain. Simon was glowering at Sandburg over his stolen win and fairly viciously tossed out a Draw Two to Sandburg, who just smiled sweetly and took his cards.

Jim, not having anymore green, played a Wild Card and called, "Blue." Megan grunted and gave up a 2, Simon played a 4 and Blair a red 4. "Did I not say blue, Chief?" Jim glared. Blair grinned saucily and took a swig of his water. Faced with such bravado, Jim sighed and played his only red card.

Megan huffed and played her red card, Simon followed with a red 6; Blair, with a smirk, played a blue 6. "Here ya go, man. Blue." Jim just snarled and threw out a blue Draw Two to Megan, figuring the he could at least spread the bad mood around. She arched an eyebrow at his sudden bad humor and with a saccharin smile placed another blue Draw Two on the pile. Simon's protestations as he drew four were loud and vocal - making note of the fashion choices of a certain foreign officer and planning an expensive meal.

Jim shared a chuckle with his partner, who played a blue 4, slid it aside and retrieved the discard pile for shuffling. Jim tossed a red 4 over to Megan. He took another swallow of his beer, absently noting the return of his slight buzz. Blair added the new cards to the draw pile and play continued.

Several quick rounds later, play had reversed direction, Jim and Megan had drawn whole crops of new cards, he'd skipped Sandburg a number of times and been roundly cursed for it and things were progressing. Simon gleefully tossed a Wild Draw Four to Megan, calling red and incurring another round of incomprehensible Aussie expletives.

"Bastard of a thing!" She groused. "In a moment I'll be done like a dog's dinner and at this point I really think the game's gone down the gurgler."

Laughing hysterically, and not having any red, Jim blindly grabbed and drew a card and tossed it out with an emphatic, "Blue!"

Blair pulled a card from his hand, paused and turned to shoot an incredulous look at Jim, who suddenly noticed the heavy silence and that the others were also staring at him as if he had three heads.

"What??!!" He stared daggers at his roommate.

Blair was gamely trying to suppress a grin but finally, it got a way from him. Through building chuckles and the rising laughter from Simon and Megan, Blair asked, "Uh, Jim? Are you…? What exactly were you trying for here?"

"HUH?"

"Well - that's not exactly a Wild Card there, Detective."

Jim stared with increasing disgust at the green Draw Two lying innocently on top of the discard pile. And covered his face with his hands as he started to laugh. "Oh my god…" he groaned and Blair lost his battle for control, sliding down in his seat with loud guffaws tapering into silence as he laughed himself breathless. He set off everyone else and soon the four of them had reduced themselves to various puddles of boneless breathless mush.

Gasping for air, Jim finally straightened himself and with as much dignity as he could muster, retrieved his Draw Two and replaced it with a… "What color did you call, Simon?"

"Red."

"Shit," he muttered and drew from the pile - a red 0 first card off.

Blair tossed down a red 6 and laughingly called "Orange!!"

Jim growled and lunged for him but he made a speedy escape and dashed for the bathroom, taking his cards with him. Simon and Meagan played, still scattering chuckles and Jim was able to change the color to green when it was his turn. Sandburg came back and, while still standing, played a green card and said, "Purple!" before darting off to the kitchen to refill his water.

Simon snorted another laugh and Sandburg was back and grinning impishly before the captain had finished deciding what card to play. Simon's card choice changed the color to yellow and as Megan drew and played her card, Blair declared, "Cobalt!"

"Now look here, Sandburg…" Jim tried for stern as he followed up Megan's yellow, but was interrupted by her enthusiastic, "PINK!"

Before he could say anything else, Blair played his yellow card calling, "Vermillion!"

"No, how about 'brown,' Sandy? Or 'gray' maybe?"

Acceding defeat, he shook his head and let them laugh it up in good grace.

His reward for that was the honor of being the first in about fifteen minutes to be able to call, "Uno!" He grinned at their disgusted expressions and dangled the card by one corner so they could see that he hadn't miscounted or anything. His opponents murmured and conferred with each other over strategies, skipping him once in the process. But in the end - it was all for nothing. With regained dignity, he laid his Wild Card on the pile and simple declared, "I win." Then he ruined it by leaning back in his chair and smirking with a quiet, "Heh heh heh."

"Right then, mates. That's it for me tonight. Thanks, it was lots of fun, Sandy." Megan stood and took care of her trash and collected her things.

"Me too, gentlemen. Have a good rest of the weekend. Bright and early Monday morning!" Simon shrugged into his coat, fished out his cigar and offered Megan his arm.

A few minutes of quiet cleaning followed their departure before Jim turned around with excessive casualness and said, "So Chief, you planning on retrieving the poker cards from your room tonight?"

 

 

Blair couldn't help the fact that his eyebrows rose upward, he blinked a few times and then tried but failed to return his partner's nonchalance. "Cards? We couldn't find them remember?" Blair uselessly reminded him, and then began to back away from the kitchen. If there was going to be another chase, he wanted slight head-start.

"Sandburg, Sandburg, Sandburg. I have to admit your acting skills have improved; you even fooled me for a while. The fact still remains that I know you, and I figured out your scheme."

Blair let the air out of his lungs. There was little sense in arguing the point, and in turn, lying to the Sentinel. "I wanted to do something different, see how a bunch of detectives would act in a surprise situation." He stepped toward Jim, with one hand on his hip and the other gesturing wildly as he continued. "Detectives, or police in general, are so uptight - no offense man - and a game like Uno is so not uptight. If you sit there with a stick up your ass, then you're not going to have any fun. My curiosity got the better of me when I came across the Uno cards the other week. I waited 'til the game was held here and then... pulled the switch."

When Jim didn't reply, just stood there with his arms folded, looking - Blair rambled on. "You have to admit it was a great time! We learned all that Australian lingo, and that Megan has a mean streak, Simon loves to gloat, that nothing seems to rattle Joel too much, while H and Rafe seem to enjoy ripping on each other. It was highly informative. It shows..."

"Chief, I don't need you to defend the game. I was there; it was a fun time. Not something I'd like to do all the time however. Plus you could've come to me and suggested it."

Blair's laugh erupted from him and he chuckled even more at the look of sadness on Jim's face. Like his partner would have gone along with it. "Jim, you can't tell me you would've helped me with the switch."

Seeming to be offended, Jim replied. "You didn't even give me the chance to answer, you just assumed. You shouldn't do that... it hurts people's feelings."

He stared in complete shock as Jim hung the damp rag on the refrigerator handle and started for the stairs. His shoulders were even slumped and Blair continued to gape at Jim's back. Thinking he'd figured out the game just as his partner reached the stairs, Blair smiled and double timed it to get to Jim before he climbed the stairs.

As calmly as possible, Blair bounced to a halt to the right of Jim, hiding his hand behind his back. "Jim? Don't go away mad... I'm, well I'm sorry."

Blair didn't know how Jim did it, but the detective turned around with his face composed to show defeat. He couldn't see any signs that Jim was kidding, but Blair was relying on it.

"Really?" Jim asked, a touch hopefully.

"Sure, I won't do anything like this again without coming to you first, I mean, this applies to the poker games only, man. Can't have your nose any further into my extracurricular activities as it is."

Jim smiled brilliantly, backed down off the one step he had taken and stretched out his arms like he was going to embrace Sandburg. "I'm so happy to hear that, it makes me feel so much better!"

Before Blair had a chance to react, he was engulfed in Jim's long arms and then twisted about almost immediately into a headlock where Jim started to give him a noogie. Jim was saying things like "you should know better" and "can't believe you thought you'd get away with it" and "what were you thinking? Uno for God's sakes!!" Sandburg started to squirm until he remembered he had the glass of water and unceremoniously dumped the cold water onto Jim's pants. The taller man yelped and jumped back, leaving Blair to rebalance himself.

"What the…??" Jim yelled.

"Man, you started it! I knew you weren't upset about this, you're such..."

"Chief, you'd better run. I may be older, I may look like I wet my pants, but I will still catch you."

Blair smirked. "Jim, you don't mean that. We're even. A bunch of really childish noogies and trousers full of water… I mean it wasn't even a full glass!"

"Sandburg..."

As Jim started toward him, Blair just turned and ran for the bathroom and locked the door between them. He was laughing as he sat on the floor against the door but he wondered about his maturity level. He'd allowed himself to be taken in by Jim's act for a few minutes, received a boyish punishment, then got chased into the bathroom. He shook his head and laughed at himself. It's good to let go every so often, keeps a person young.

It's all about justification. Yup.

"Night Chief!"

Blair smiled, Jim was going to bed; Sandburg knew if he waited long enough Jim would just go to upstairs. A short time later, he opened the door and was immediately drenched with a bucket full of water. Blair spluttered and backed into the bathroom again to glare at the large plastic cup lying on the floor. Upstairs, the bed creaked as Blair figured Jim laughed himself to sleep.

As he walked the short distance to his room, shedding damp clothes, he mumbled, "this is war now, you know."

There was no answer from above.... unless the snickering counted.

~End~