“You have got to be kidding.”
Jack raised one eyebrow and looked at Daniel steadily, waiting for him to realize that he was, in fact, not kidding.
Daniel shook his head. “No. Absolutely not. Forget it.”
“Come on,” Jack cajoled. “Where’s your sense of adventure?”
“Excuse me? I travel to other worlds for a living, you know. My sense of adventure is just fine. Apparently you’ve confused adventure with stupidity.”
Jack nodded slightly. He rose from the couch and walked stiffly into the kitchen, moving to the sink and picking up a coffee cup with a dried brown scrim of old coffee in the bottom. He began washing it, his head down, focusing on his task. Mentally, he counted to ten.
By the time he got to seven, Daniel was in the kitchen. “Look, Jack, I didn’t mean... well, seriously, don’t you think it’s a bit juvenile?”
Jack allowed himself a small smile. Daniel had that hopeful, peacemaking tone. Capitulation was only a guilt trip away.
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” he admitted, giving Daniel a sheepish look over his shoulder. “I just thought it would be... fun, I guess.” He shrugged, lowering his head just a tad more. He set the clean coffee cup in the dish drainer and picked up the next from the collection in the sink.
There was a long pause, and with great effort, Jack refrained from checking Daniel’s expression. Daniel would be suspicious at this point, because he’d given in so easily. He had to maintain the right air of being stung by the ‘stupidity’ comment without overdoing it, and if he tipped his hand now, Daniel would put the pieces together with alarming speed.
“Well...” Daniel said slowly.
Jack’s lips twitched into a triumphant smile, and he quickly schooled his expression. He glanced at Daniel, flicking one soapy hand dismissively. “No, really, you were right. It probably is a stupid idea. Never mind.”
Daniel came up beside him and took a sudsy cup from his hands, rinsing it. He gave Jack a little sideways glance. “Maybe we could try it.”
“Yeah?” Jack grinned, nudging their shoulders together. “You don’t mind?”
“What the hell,” Daniel shrugged, dabbing a few soap bubbles on Jack’s chin. “I could probably stand to have a little more fun.”
Jack wisely swallowed his disparaging remark about what Daniel usually did for fun. Daniel did not welcome slurs against his chosen profession, and use of the term ‘moldy old rocks’ would be met with an icy reception.
“Alright!” Jack dried his hands, leaving the few remaining dishes for later. “I’ll go set up the board. You get the tequila.”
“Tequila?” Daniel inquired in the tone that implied he must have heard incorrectly, because Jack couldn’t possibly have said that.
“And two shot glasses.”
Jack fled the kitchen before Daniel could argue with him. He grinned as he pulled the board from the top shelf of the hall closet. He opened the box and spread the contents out on the coffee table, pulling an armchair closer so he and Daniel could sit more comfortably, facing each other over the field of battle. He began sorting the pieces, turning then all face down and mixing them thoroughly. He looked up when a frosty, nearly full tequila bottle plunked to the table, followed by two royal blue shot glasses embossed with golden hieroglyphs. They’d been a gag gift to Daniel two birthdays ago. Jack suspected this was the first time they’d be used as intended.
“Explain to me why tequila is required to play strip Scrabble?” Daniel’s voice suggested that the explanation had better be good.
Jack handed him the little bracket to put his tiles in. “Sit down. It’s part of the game.”
Daniel sank into his chair, eyeing Jack, the bottle, and the board suspiciously. “How is it part of the game?”
“Well, come on,” Jack said, giving the letter squares one last swirl. “It’s hardly fair to play a straight game of Scrabble with you, isn’t it, Doctor Jackson?”
“’Straight’ is not exactly the appropriate word in this venue,” Daniel replied.
Jack smirked. “Beside the point. That,” he tapped the bottle, “is to even the playing field. A little handicapping, if you will.”
“Hmm.” Daniel narrowed his eyes, tilting his head to one side. “Rules?”
“Alright.” Jack dusted his hands together and cleared his throat. “Rule one: any time one of us scores over twenty points on a single word, the other has to remove an article of clothing.”
Daniel snorted and rolled his eyes, but waved at Jack to go on.
“Rule two: anyone who scores over twenty points on a word has to drink a shot.”
Daniel caught on quickly. “So winning involves getting drunk.”
“That’s how the best games are,” Jack informed him.
“Really.” Daniel looked him up and down, a knowing light in his eyes. “Why do I suspect you’re playing to lose?”
Jack blinked innocently at him. “Pick a tile. Closest to the beginning of the alphabet goes first.”
Daniel muttered and shook his head, but drew a tile. Jack drew one of his own, picking an E. Daniel showed his R, and Jack grinned. They put the tiles back, mixed them, and each drew seven.
“Let the games begin,” Jack growled, leering theatrically and waggling his eyebrows.
Daniel chuckled, his skepticism overcome, as always, by Jack’s relentless charm.
Jack opened with ‘easy’ on the double word score, picking up fourteen points. Daniel quirked an eyebrow at his word choice, but kept his comments to himself. He considered his tiles for a long moment, and then picked up five of them. Jack felt his smile broaden as Daniel laid down ‘zygote,’ playing off his Y and landing the Z on the double letter score for a grand total of twenty nine points.
Daniel looked at him, tapping his fingers impatiently on the table top. Jack removed his left shoe, and then gestured toward the tequila bottle. Grimacing, Daniel poured a shot and swallowed it in one gulp, wheezing and gasping as the liquor burned down his throat.
“God, I hate that stuff,” he muttered, wiping his mouth.
“Give it time. It gets better.”
Daniel snorted. “Yeah, as I get drunker.”
Jack grinned and played his next word, falling short of the coveted twenty points by two. Daniel gave him a suspicious look, but said nothing.
Five turns later, Daniel was definitely winning. Or losing, depending on how you looked at it. As Jack had hoped, Daniel’s competitive nature in his field of expertise had outweighed his better judgment. He’d scored over twenty on three of his words, and his three shots of tequila were making him wobble slightly in his chair. Jack himself had managed one high scoring word, swallowing his tequila without complaint. Daniel, who had started the game barefoot, was now playing shirtless as well. Jack had refused to let him count taking off his watch as removing clothing.
Jack, who’d had the foresight to wear socks and shoes, was down to one sock before he had to start taking off more vital pieces of clothing.
Daniel sighed and eyed the tequila bottle distastefully, but laid his next word down anyway. Quarrel, on a double word score. Jack removed his other sock and poured for Daniel, whose hands were a tad unsteady. “Here you go,” he said, holding the filled to the brim shot glass and grinning cheerfully.
Daniel gave him a narrow look and took the glass. “Thanks,” he said dryly. He knocked the shot back, shuddering at the taste. “Horrible stuff,” he grumbled as he licked the last few droplets from his lips. “Just so you know, if you make me throw up, you’re so going to clean it.”
Jack flashed him an enigmatic smile and laid his next word down. By adding an R to the end of ‘give’ he was able to create his own word and use all seven letters, giving him a fifty point bonus. “Check that out,” he crowed, rapping his knuckles proudly on the board and making all the tiles jitter slightly out of place. “That ought to be worth more than one thing stripped.”
Daniel blinked slowly at the board, squinting, obviously having some trouble focusing. “Readage? That’s not a word.”
“Yes it is.”
Giving Jack his tight, wintry little smile, Daniel said, “No. It isn’t.”
“Sure it is. It’s like mileage. When you sit down and go through one of those huge books in two hours, you’re getting really high readage.”
Daniel stared at him, and then closed his eyes, rubbing his forehead. “Jack, sometimes you make me dizzy.”
“I think that’s the tequila.”
“It’s not a word,” Daniel repeated, folding his arms and sticking his chin out.
“Why is it you only challenge me when you stand to lose some clothes?”
“What? That isn’t why... it’s not a word!” Daniel threw his hands up in the air and then let them drop. Jack thought that he came very close to stomping his feet. He considered mentioning the cuteness factor of Daniel’s sulky, perturbed expression, but decided against it. Tipsy or not, Daniel would make him pay for a remark like that.
“Who made you the final authority on words?” Jack countered, deftly steering the conversation off topic.
Daniel peered down his nose. “I have special dispensation,” he said haughtily. “I’m a linguist, remember?”
“So what? I’m a colonel.”
Daniel sputtered for a moment. “A colonel? That doesn’t have anything to do with the... the...” He waved, deep furrows appearing between his eyebrows as he scowled down at the board. “Scrabble!” he said, seizing a new train of thought. “Being a colonel has nothing to do with Scrabble.”
“So you spent your time at college playing Scrabble?”
“What? No, that’s...” Daniel frowned again, poking disconsolately at Jack’s disputed word. “Wait, wait... there was... where were we?”
Jack manfully suppressed a chuckle. “You were taking off your pants.”
“Oh.” Daniel gave him a deeply suspicious look, but his hands dipped obediently to his waist. He undid his pants and lifted his butt off the chair, sliding them down his hips and then kicking them aside once they reached his ankles. Jack gave a low, approving whistle when he saw that Daniel was wearing his brick red boxer briefs, the ones that hugged his legs and left little to the imagination. Daniel glared at him and flushed, his face and most of his chest soon matching the color of his underwear.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Jack prodded.
Daniel eyed him, and shook his head slowly. “No... am I?”
“The tequila, Daniel. Your turn to take a shot.”
Daniel shook his head rapidly, and then swayed in his seat, closing his eyes for a moment. “No, no,” he mumbled. “You got the high scoring word. You take a drink.”
Jack clucked his tongue disappointedly. “I explained this already,” he said, in the tone reserved for small children and drunken archeologists. “I used all my tiles in one turn, which means you have to take something off and take a drink.”
“You didn’t say that,” Daniel argued, slapping his palm on the table for emphasis. The tiles jumped and skittered, the neat grid of words sliding askew. “I’d ‘member if you said that an’ you didn’t say it.”
“No offense, big guy, but I don’t think your memory is at its best right now. Come on, would I lie to you?”
Daniel snorted. “About this? Hell yes.” But he poured the shot anyway, slopping a small puddle of tequila onto the table in the process. “Oopsie,” he murmured, snickering softly. He swallowed the shot and winced at the taste, but only slightly. “Gah. Gahhhh...” Daniel laughed again, smiling dazedly at Jack. D’you think that’s a word? Gah. Maybe we should look it up.”
Jack raised his eyebrows. Daniel had gone from slightly unsteady to this startlingly fast. Apparently the rapid series of shots had caught up with him. “Ooookay,” he said, pulling the bottle toward him and capping it. “I think that’s enough Scrabble for today.”
“Nono, I wanna keep playing,” Daniel protested, yanking the board close before Jack could take it. All the tiles pooled against his chest, several tumbling to the floor, and he blinked at them, frowning deeply. “Jack? They spilled.”
“I see that,” Jack replied, biting the inside of his cheek. “Look, you just sit there and I’ll get you a big glass of water and some aspirin.” Because if Daniel was anywhere near as hung over as Jack thought he’d be in the morning, Jack would never hear the end of it.
He left Daniel sitting in the living room, pondering the laws of gravity and falling Scrabble tiles, and went into the kitchen. He grabbed a tall glass from the cupboard and filled it with water, and then paused, reconsidering. He dumped the glass out and got a bottled water from the fridge instead. He could just see himself trying to explain to Fraiser how Daniel had wound up cutting himself on broken glass while playing strip Scrabble in Jack’s house. She’d have his ass once she got the readings back on his blood alcohol level.
Jack hunted through his cabinets for the aspirin, then carried the pill bottle and the water back into the living room, where Daniel was... not.
“Daniel?” Jack raised his voice, glancing toward the hall and the front door. The deadbolt was still thrown, which was a relief. At least Daniel hadn’t left the house. In his underwear. Drunk off his ass. Jack winced, putting the water and medicine down and running a hand through his hair. It had seemed like such a good idea, too. A little alcohol, a little stripping, fun to be had by all. What could go wrong?
There was a thump overhead, followed by a strange hooting noise. Jack closed his eyes for a long moment.
He went out the back door and climbed the steps to his roof deck in double time, shivering in the chill November air. Daniel was standing against one rail, his hands braced against it, gazing up at the sky. He seemed unconcerned with the cold, even though Jack could see him shivering, his exposed skin prickling into goosebumps.
“Get back inside,” Jack hissed, looking around furtively. At least it was fairly late at night. With luck, none of his neighbors would see the nearly naked man on his roof.
“I’m the word exprit... expent... expert,” Daniel declared triumphantly. “I know that wasn’t a real word, Jack. I know. You were tryin’ to fool me but I know.”
“That’s great, Danny,” Jack said soothingly. He got behind Daniel, pressing his chest against the other man’s back and wrapping his arms around Daniel’s waist, trying to lend him some warmth. His bare feet were freezing, and the cold bit easily through the thin material of his shirt. Jack could only assume it was the alcohol keeping Daniel warm. Either that, or he was already numb.
“I’m the word master,” Daniel continued, leaning back against Jack and spreading his arms out. He stepped up, his toes on the slightly raised base of the deck railing, his hips balanced against the top rail. “I’m... I’m king of the word!”
Jack snorted, pressing his mouth against a bare shoulder and chortling. He was never going to let Daniel forget this. Ever. “Okay, Leonardo, let’s get you inside before you fall off the roof and wind up king of the lawn ornaments.”
Daniel pointed one finger at him, waving it imperiously. “Not Leonardo. Daniel. Get it right.”
“Daniel,” Jack agreed, tugging him toward the stairs.
Jack wished fervently for a tape recorder. Or even better, a video camera. “Yes, your majesty,” he said. He wrapped an arm around Daniel’s waist and carefully walked them down the steps. Daniel’s teeth were beginning to chatter.
The house was blessedly warm and Daniel made a sleepy kind of moaning noise as they walked in, slumping against the wall when Jack released him. “Ohhh,” he mumbled. “Nice.”
Jack grabbed the afghan off the back of the couch and wrapped it around Daniel’s shoulders. Daniel squirmed happily into the soft material, making Jack take nearly all his weight as they shuffled down the hall.
Jack gave him a little shake. “Hey! Daniel, listen, this is important. Do you feel alright? Are you going to be sick?”
Daniel wrinkled his nose. “No. Sleepy.”
“I can tell,” Jack replied. “I’m going to hold you to that. No throwing up, you got it?”
“Uh-huh.” Daniel flopped onto the bed when Jack pushed him in that direction, sprawling with his arms and legs strewn in every direction. “Jack?”
“Yeah?” Jack asked as he pulled more blankets over Daniel’s lax form.
“Did I win?”
Jack opened his mouth, and then shut it again when he realized Daniel was sound asleep. He considered the bed, which Daniel was now in sole possession of, the spilled liquor and Scrabble tiles that he would have to clean up, and the irritable, hung over man he’d be dealing with in the morning. Then he thought of Daniel in nothing but his underwear, flinging his arms out and yelling up at the sky that he was king of the word.
“Nah,” Jack said softly. “I think I won the real prize.”
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