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Blair opened another drawer, rummaged around inside then, not finding what he wanted, slammed it shut. That was the fifth drawer he treated the same way. He looked around and saw a few more he hadn't looked in yet, but he seriously doubted that what he was looking for would be stuffed in with the cooking utensils or dish towels.

Open; rummage; slam.

Open; rummage; items fell to the floor with a clatter and thump; mild curses under his breath for effect; slam.

"Sandburg!" Jim yelled from above him.

"What?!" Blair snapped back. His patience was gone. The ruse of looking for those things was driving him...

"What the hell are you doing?"

With a final, exasperated shove, the last open drawer banged shut. "I'm trying to find the cards. I can't. You lost them."

"I lost them?" Jim said with total disbelief as he arrived to stand in front of his partner.

"Yeah, man, if you remember correctly after the last game we hosted, I put the food away and you put away all the other junk."

"I put them right in the drawer," explained Jim.

"Really?" Blair said with wonder. "Well maybe you can find them, 'cause I've been looking for as long as I've been banging and I haven't found any playing cards."

Jim shot him a dirty and disbelieving look as the detective, stalked toward the place where miscellaneous things were held. Blair already knew what the detective would find: pencils, pens, paper, sticky notes...

"A-ha!" Jim exclaimed, then quickly grumbled something Blair couldn't hear under his breath. That would have been the deck of Pinochle cards, which fooled him too. There was also scotch tape, and some other odds and ends that even Jim, Mr. Anal Retentive himself, couldn't keep neat which were always just shoved in that drawer.

Blair jumped slightly as the drawer slammed shut. "Didn't find them?" He asked innocently.

"Well, what did you do with them?"

"ME!!"

"Yeah, you had to have moved them 'cause they would've been right where I left them."

"Why would it be me? Maybe you did it."

Jim smirked at him. "Sandburg, who's the one that can't find anything in their room?"

"That doesn't mean..."

"Look Chief, we don't have time for this. In about 20 minutes anxious detectives are arriving and expecting to play poker. We need a deck of cards."

"Jim, I've tried, I even went and knocked on our neighbor's doors -- no such luck."

"We have to run out then." Jim said sensibly.

"You can, I'm not. Traffic was a bitch today, I'm not going back out there." Blair added an exaggerated shudder to prove his point.

"Maybe there's a game on," Jim mumbled as he made a bee-line to the television page.

Sandburg rocked on his heels, hands behind his back. "Nope, no such luck."

Jim turned to his roommate with a look of panic on his face. "You mean that we have nothing to entertain the guys with?" After thinking for a moment, Jim's mouth formed into an evil smile. "Well, there is that new dip you made but I think the entertainment value would only last a few minutes."

"Hey, we can just sit around and talk, share some adventures..."

"These guys don't want to share! They want to inhale really bad-for-you-food, drink lots of beer and lose, or win in my case, money."

"Jim, I don't know what to tell you."

"Sandburg, if you don't wipe that grin off your face..." Jim trailed off threateningly.

"Oh yeah?" Blair taunted and squatted slightly as though he were playing basketball. "What are you going to do about it big guy?"

Jim lunged for his roommate but Blair was too far away and was able to run toward the couch as Jim turned around the opposite corner. Sandburg was still moving forward when Jim pivoted and started back the way he came, leading him directly into the path of the fleeing grad student. Blair made a noise, which he will deny was a squeak 'til he dies, and jumped over the couch.

The maneuver stopped Jim dead in his tracks. Blair was laughing continuously now which caused him to gasp for breath. Jim was looking at him, then at the couch, then at him again.

"Tell me," the cop started in a low and menacing -- well he tried for menacing -- voice, "that you just didn't climb over the couch with your shoes on."

Blair giggled, he couldn't help it. Jim was so easily distracted when a house rule was broken, and the "no shoes on the couch" rule was definitely broken. It took Blair weeks to get Jim relaxed enough that when he perched on the arm of a chair or couch, the older man didn't cringe.

"Jim, it's no big deal."

"You used the couch as a step Chief."

Jim started forward again, never taking his eyes off his prey, 'cause prey is what Blair felt like.

"Look," Blair tried again, "I won't do it again. Really." Blair kept backing up until he ran into the pillar that connected the floor and ceiling. His hands were up in front of him as he tried to calm the scorned neat freak, but it was a useless gesture since Blair kept laughing.

"It's not funny."

More laughing, then a stifled chuckle. "I know."

"We're in deep shit here."

Blair just nodded as he bit his lip to keep from allowing the laugh to escape. Between Jim chasing him around the loft, the detective acting offended that he dared to step on the furniture with shoes on, to the fact that five grown detectives would be arriving any minute to play poker with no playing cards... It was all too much for Blair and the dam holding back the hysterics -- burst.

Sandburg doubled over as he laughed outright, his stomach had started to spasm and tighten up when he heard the knock at the door. Blair raised his eyes slightly and saw Jim smile, then shake his head at Blair as he walked toward the door. Over his shoulder Ellison called, "Better find something for these guys to do Chief or I'll let them play with you!"

Blair's head snapped up. No way were they going to rag on him all night, they did that enough... course he did usually give back as good as he got. As he thought about some of the practical jokes he's gotten away with that no one knew about he remembered he had a solution to their problem. He quickly ran into his room, searched only two boxes before he emerged holding his prizes.

"Okay Jim, our problem is solved," Blair said triumphantly. "Oh, hey Simon!"

"You found the cards?" The hope was clearly evident in the big man's words.

"Better. I have Uno!!" He presented his hands to Jim and Simon and grinned. It was going to be fun, playing such a silly game with cops. He'd been wanting to do something silly with them for a while, but the opportunity never presented itself. Tired of waiting, Blair created an opportunity, and this opportunity had to have obfuscation to work because he felt his roommate would never voluntarily play. Blair couldn't wait, but before he could wallow in the discomfort he saw on Jim's face, Simon was already refusing.

"No way Sandburg! That's a kiddy game!"

"Wanna bet?" When he received no response he turned to Jim and said as pathetically as possible, "Please Jim? We have nothing else." Then he turned slowly toward Simon, made sure his eyes were doing their best puppy dog impersonation and repeated his plea. "Please?"

The cops were sunk. How could one resist Sandburg when he was fully armed and not afraid to use any and all weapons at his disposal? Neither Jim or Simon could -- which would explain why all the money chips for poker were being put away and two decks of Uno cards lay on the table right beside Blair who was waiting for the next victim of the "Sandburg Special."

 

 

Resignedly, Jim retreated to the kitchen to finish dumping chips in bowls and setting out tubs of dip. How could they just be gone? Sandburg must have done something with them. That was it! It was a plot. Still fussing over the problem of the lost cards, he was startled by the knock on the door.

Blair bounded over and threw it open.

"Hey, come on in guys! Great to see ya! Here lemme take your coats." He bustled around stripping H, Joel, Rafe and Megan of assorted outerwear.

Rafe cocked an eye at him and then at Ellison, having barely managed to get out of his scarf before Sandburg removed it from him. "What have you guys done to him? He's even more hyped than normal."

Jim just shrugged then laughed when Blair bopped Rafe in the chest with the back of his fingers. "Jeez, can't a guy just be excited at having a good time?? Oh, and by the way, Jim lost the regular cards so tonight we're playing Uno. Okay? Great!"

He started tugging assorted arms toward the table before his words penetrated. Various exclamations of disbelief were practically drowned out by the roar of his insulted loftmate.

"What do you mean I lost them? I don't think so!" Jim lunged for Sandburg again, who dodged quickly behind Simon. Ellison followed and they circled the bigger man for about 15 seconds before the Captain got annoyed and shoved Sandburg away from him. "Find your own hiding place, kid, before I fire your ass for harassment," he growled.

Sandburg laughed as he stumbled away and regained his balance, poised on his toes. But his Sentinel had opted for dignity as opposed to further revenge and was currently shuffling the 2 decks of bright black and white cards into one pile. Blair grabbed the remaining bowls of snacks from the counter and deposited them in various places between his seated friends. Snagging a chair between Simon and Megan, he checked out the layout. Jim and Simon were at the head and tail of the table. Simon on Blair's right, Megan on his left, then Joel to Megan's left, Jim, Rafe and Henry sitting between Rafe and Simon, across from Blair.

"Okay, so. A quick once over of the rules just in case. Match by color or number of course. Do what's written on the card, pay attention to the direction we're going. I usually play with the looser rules of you being allowed to hold onto Wild cards as opposed to playing them right away. If you don't have a color or number match and no Wild cards you must draw and continue to draw until you get one. If the draw pile gets low we shuffle everything but the top 2-3 cards of the discards pile. Remember to say 'Uno' when you have one card left or you're disqualified. Seven cards to start with Jim, and then flip the top one over to start the game. Clockwise first okay with everyone?"

Jim shook his head and simply began dealing. "Chief, did you breathe at all during that speech?" Finished dealing and shooting Sandburg a look at his partner's laughter, he flipped over the top card to reveal a red 4. Fanning out his own hand he arranged it alphabetically by color and then numerically, the wild cards going in the back. Blue 0, 3 and 6, green 5, red Skip, yellow Reverse, and a regular Wild. He looked up to show he was ready and snagged a handful of pretzels from the bowl at his elbow, washing it down with beer.

Rafe had already played, dropping a red 7, H followed with a red 9, Simon with red 1, Blair played a blue 1 and Megan tossed out a blue Draw Two to Joel with a muttered apology. Joel just grinned and took his cards. Jim pitched out his blue 3 and play continued around.

Henry skipped Simon and Blair chortled at the look on the captain's face. Joel reversed the direction on his turn and Blair, with a truly evil grin slapped down another Skip card. Simon glared at the student seated next to him as Henry played another Reverse Card. With an equally nasty smile Simon gently laid a black Wild Draw Four on top of Henry's blue card and said, "Red, please." Sandburg returned the smile with a sunny grin of his own and reached to snag his four cards.

Megan cursed next to him. Incomprehensible Aussie curses drifted from her as she pulled cards from the pile. "Bloody Yanks and their games... (mutter)... And where in this bloody deck are all the damn red cards? Aha!" she finally exclaimed and disgustedly threw a red Draw Two down on the pile. Another distracted, "sorry Joel," drifted out from behind the hand of 13 cards Megan now struggled to organize.

Joel drew his two with a laugh. Jim looked in disgust at the obnoxious red of the card facing up. His hand was nothing but two blues and a Wild card. And he was damned if he was giving that up just yet. "Oh, THANK you so much, Connor," he grunted sarcastically as he reached for the pick-up pile. Five cards later of various colors and he was finally able to toss a red 5 to Rafe.

 

 

Rafe smiled as he threw down a red Draw Two onto the pile.

"Sorry partner, oh and Uno." Blair looked at Rafe's hand and sure enough, one card. Figures. It was always the quiet ones that called Uno first. Henry grunted and mumbled "sure you are" under his breath as he drew two from the deck.

Simon had a very wide smile on his face and placed a red Reverse down and looked at Henry. "So, can you return the favor H?"

Blair bit his lip as he tried not to say anything as he watched Henry snap down a Draw Four Wild Card. He was the picture of innocence as he called for the color of blue. As Blair looked at his hand, he heard an answering grunt from Rafe and something just as unintelligible. Blair's hand wasn't too bad, a fair amount of cards, a rainbow of colors in no particular order -- number or color wise. He found it fun to play like this, on the edge of his seat, trying to find a card to match. Plus he always found that it drove those around him crazy when he took too long to find a card.

"Chief."

Blair's head snapped up. "Yeah?"

"Your turn."

"Really?" "Yes Sandy, it's your turn, your turn now for a little while. You don't have that many cards, just pick one."

Blair smiled at Megan. "Why Megan, aren't you having fun? You sound a little... tense."

"Tense? I just can't believe I'm holding all these bloody cards, while you yanks only have a few. Where's the fairness in that?"

"One thing you'll learn with Uno is that things never stay the same. One minute you could be holding all those, and a few rounds later someone else is holding a huge hand too. Don't count yourself out yet."

"Cut the pep talk Sandburg and play a card!"

"God Simon, you all don't know how to play..."

"Play a card!!" was yelled in unison by the whole table.

As Blair plucked a yellow 7 to place on top of the red 7 he was muttering that it was no fun to play with a bunch of uptight cops. Simon, H and Rafe all played yellow cards with numbers. Jim paused a moment before playing a yellow Draw Two to Joel.

"You were looking a little low there Joel."

"Sure Jim, I know I was a threat with only two cards left -- felt a little unsettled, did ya?"

Play resumed and went around several times, everyone being very quiet. By this time they all held about seven to ten cards in their hands, which was nice and fair. The longer the hand continued the more... upset the players would become. Jim was suspicious of both Rafe and Joel, although Joel seemed to have the least amount of problems playing. Megan was just frustrated, she didn't seem to see the point and just felt it harbored horrible feelings toward her neighbors -- both of which raised an eyebrow at her comment. Simon was trying to be the responsible one and take command of things, trying to quiet the mutters -- a habit left over from work. Simon was accustomed to playing referee there, so making sure his detectives didn't actually come to blows over a game of Uno should have been easier. Rafe and Henry seemed to have it out for each other, and those two being partners, it made the verbal war even more insulting. And Blair, well, he just sat there and took it all in -- with a huge smile on his face.

Never did he think that getting them to play Uno would work. It was very different than poker, it allowed for vicious name-calling, smugness and overall verbal cheap shots. It's why Blair loved the game. So many times when they got together they were always polite and nice; he wanted to see what would happen to the detectives as their neighbor continuously tried to screw them over. Uno was an "out for yourself" type of game.

It was a long enough hand that people made comments with every card that made another player draw. Some still apologized and meant it, others uttered "I'm sorry" but it sounded self-satisfied, others just used their knowledge of the person to insult them. All through this the snacks were munched and the beer was consumed.

Blair was having so much fun now, he was almost afraid to think of what might happen when they were tipsy from the alcohol. Armageddon! And it would be so much fun, imagine the rumors he could start with the rest of Major Crime: "Top Detectives Spend Friday Night Playing Uno." He snickered at his own thought, then heard Jim clear his throat. Jim just looked at him and raised his eyebrows. Blair wasn't sure what Jim was trying to say, but Blair could tell that Jim held him responsible for his current situation. And it was his fault... he did hide the poker cards after all. Blair winked at his partner then turned his gaze back to his cards as he contemplated his next move.

 

 

Sandburg was planning something. He was certain of it. Jim scowled down at his hand. Still harboring the Wild Card, it was a rainbow of colored letters. Not a single number card to be seen.

"How about instead of laughing, you refresh the draw pile, Junior?" Blair just shook his head and laid his cards facedown with another chuckle. He slid the top card off the heaping discard pile and proceeded to masterfully shuffle the mess five times before returning the new cards to the bottom of the draw pile.

"Thanks man," Henry murmured and Sandburg just grinned again as he gathered up his handful.

Simon threw down a green Draw Two to Henry and H repeated himself with a good deal more sarcasm as he reached for his cards. Rafe tossed down a green 6 and cocked an eye at Jim.

Smirking slightly Jim flicked out a green Reverse and said, "How about you do that again, Rafe?" Rafe's eyes widened slightly and then narrowed.

"Thank you so much, but I really insist you go," and he threw down a blue Reverse. A brief glance at his hand and Jim countered with a red Reverse.

"I really think we should go this way," Jim smirked again, even bigger as Sandburg laughed outright.

Rafe just grinned ferally, "No -- I don't think so, " and pitched another blue Reverse, tossing the game back to Jim.

Measures were getting desperate -- though he was getting rid of cards, but the other table occupants were starting to get restless. In a last ditch effort, Jim pulled out his yellow Reverse and tossed the game back one more time. The result, a mix of groans and laughter, escalated at Jim's return growl, "But I do!"

Rafe, grin still in place, straightened up and gently placed another yellow Reverse on top of Jim's. He didn't say anything, just raised an eyebrow and Jim had to finally admit defeat.

"Fine, fine. We'll go this way," he paused, cringed at what was left in his hand and threw down a different yellow card. "Sorry Joel."

Joel stared in disgust at the Skip on top of the pile. "And after all that I don't even get to play?!" Further mutterings were cut off by his beer and a handful of chips as he watched Megan toss down her play.

"HEY!" Sandburg stared indignantly at the green Skip Megan had played. She just smiled sweetly at him and he grinned vaguely sickly back.

Simon used a green number card and Henry, with an evil grin, threw down a Reverse. Simon topped it with a green Skip and blithely ignored Blair's louder and more outraged grumblings at being skipped again. Megan played a green 5. Joel looked at Jim, at his hand and back to Jim again. Placing a green Reverse on the pile he stated with an air of wounded dignity, "You've played enough for a while." Jim snorted and tried not to choke on his beer as Henry and Simon laughed. Megan murmured an extremely apologetic, "Sorry, Sandy..." as she laid another green Skip on the pile.

"OH, for crying out LOUD!" Sandburg threw his hands in the air in disgust. "What the hell?"

"Come on, Sandburg. It's just a friendly game." Simon chortled.

"Friendly my ass."

Jim snorted and choked again as the mutters from his partner drifted into a range only he could hear.

Simon tossed a Wild and proclaimed "Blue." H complied and Rafe did too. By the time it got back to Simon the color sitting on top was a cheery yellow. He glared at Blair. "Sandburg, did I not ask for blue?"

Blair just grinned, "It was blue, sir." Simon growled and drew until he pulled a Reverse and slapped it down. Blair and Megan just played on. Joel grinned nastily at Jim, placed a Wild Draw Four and called "Red." Jim groaned and reached for his cards.

Rafe just shook his head, "No I want blue," and slapped another Wild Draw Four. Henry made a similar groaning noise, followed by Simon who also had to go digging. And the game continued.

"Uno." This called from H as he played a red 2 on Simon's green one. Rafe muttered but kept the play going. Jim sent the play around the table. Finally, with Simon's cursing indicating that he couldn't change the color to make Henry do anything else, Jim waited for the game to be over. With a muttered profanity, Henry dove into the pick up pile.

"HA!" Sandburg yelped, "It wasn't red!!" And just laughed as H shot him a glare. Finally coming up with a blue card of the same number, Henry sat back with a huff. Play passed and Joel called Uno, Blair viciously reversed the play back to Megan while shooting a glare at Simon.

Megan played a blue Draw Two and a grin for Joel. "DAMMIT!!!" What is it with you people giving me these cards?" Joel snatched his cards and settled back.

"Uno." Megan calmly announced over the following chuckles.

Jim played his only blue card and announced "Uno." Delightedly, he clutched his long hoarded Wild Card in his hand, certain someone would be able to stop Conner.

Rafe followed by changing the color, Henry had a number card, Simon looked at Sandburg, "You got anything useful over there?"

"No, man. I've got jack. We'll have to just hope it's the wrong color." Simon played his blue 2. Blair, with an intense stare at Conner -- who stared back with a vague smirk, followed it with a blue 7.

"Well gents, thanks for the game. But I've really got to hit the ladies." She stood, savoring her victory, listening to the howls of anguish behind her as the men contemplated the winning card -- a Wild Draw Four.

~End~