so i was inspired for this little one chapter story by the s1 ep: Recylcing (which is one of my all time favs!), Gary reading Steinbeck and *lisasimpson* rated pg-13 for some language ----------------- Mac and Charley The alarm clock was painfully loud and it seemed to reverberate inside his skull, bouncing from one side back to the other. With a groan, Mac rolled over and slapped it off. He squinted his eyes open and quickly shut them again as the morning sun stabbed to the back of his eyeballs. With another muffled sound of agony, he pushed himself up slowly, turning his back to the bright window. His head pounded as he sat on the edge of the bed. Leaning his elbows on his knees, he held his head in his hands, eyes closed, willing the hammer in his skull to stop its beating. It did. Minutely. “Ah, fuck,” he groaned wearily. Gingerly standing up, he made his way to the bathroom for a shower and substantial amounts of Excedrin. As he simply stood in the shower and let the water pour over him, he thought back on the previous evening, and despite his still massive headache, he couldn’t help grinning. It had been a rare night. After he and Stella had left the show (he still couldn’t believe she had insisted on the ten bucks), she had further insisted on more than dog show hot dogs. Mac had invited Aiden to join them, and she met them at Sullivan’s. He should have known better than to go out with those two alone and without backup. A few beers over food had turned into more serious drinks, and he was happily past the point of buzzed when Aiden had disappeared and came back, plunking an amber coloured shot in front of him. He looked suspiciously between it and the mischievous half-grin on her face. She raised her own shot as she handed one to Stella, although Mac noted it was obviously different than the one she had gotten him. “Drink up, Taylor,” she told him as he continued to eye it. “Don’t I get to know what it is?” he asked. “Nope!” Aiden told him. “And why are yours different?” Stella punched him lightly on the shoulder, “Come on Taylor, stop being such a pansy!” He shook his head with a little laugh of disbelief, “Oh you just didn’t!” “Oh yes I just did!” Stella retorted. “Now, are you going to continue…” He downed it before she could finish her sentence, smacking the glass back down on the table emphatically and resisting an almost involuntary grimace as the incredibly powerful bite of three different whiskeys mixed together hit the back of his throat. “There,” he said, grinning instead, “Happy?” Aiden and Stella had given him their approving nods. And so the rest of the night went. Despite all of them ending in the ‘very drunk’ end of the spectrum, Mac had a sneaky suspicion that the two of them were working together to ensure that their boss, who almost never went out socially, would receive the brunt of the next-day effects. He was also fairly certain they had succeeded. Damn, he thought, he hadn’t had that much to drink in one evening since getting back from overseas two years ago. He rubbed his face with his hands as he could feel the Excedrin start to work. He smiled again. He had actually really enjoyed himself, and that realization in and of itself was a surprise, and not an unpleasant one. Coffee, a bagel and a bottle of water later, he walked out the front door to head to work. And he felt them: the eyes. They had stared at him unrelentingly every time he left and came home for the past week. If he would walk in any particular direction, they would skulk behind him. If he got in a cab, they would be waiting to continue watching him when he got back. If he simply stood in front of his building, they waited and watched. It was unnerving. He knew why he was being surreptitiously followed, and it was his own damn fault. He had been approached close to his apartment building on his way back from a run, with a request for a simple meal. And he had obliged. That had been it. Just the one initial meal. But it had been enough for him to now be followed in a sort of persistent expectation of more. Unable to ignore the obvious need, he had continued to oblige. And that had obviously only made matters worse. The eyes followed him as he hailed a cab and got in, and he could feel their sadness and determination. He sighed. Something would have to be done. A slow day at work couldn’t have been more opportune given his improving but annoyingly persistent headache. On the downside, it gave him ample time to contemplate what to do about his creepily, worshipful and very bedraggled stalker. He couldn’t just stop helping now, but by the same token he really did not want to be any more involved than he was already. The irony of the timing of yesterday’s case wasn’t lost on him either. Obligation and reluctance bounced around inside his head to the rhythm of his headache the whole day, and by the time he left, he was no closer to a decision than when he had walked in. He brooded about it all the way back in the cab. He knew they would be there waiting when he got back. They always were. As they rounded the corner and approached his apartment building, Mac once again saw the patient, waiting figure. For the umpteenth time that day he heaved a sigh. He knew the ultimate decision he had been trying to both avoid and put off. As the cab stopped and he got out, the waiting figure’s head lifted in anticipation, and the eyes shone with hope. Mac heaved another sigh. He was really out of excuses. He had even checked the online copy of his lease. As he walked towards the steps up to the door, the figure got to its feet and brazenly approached him. The unbridled eagerness in those eyes as it almost ran up, made Mac smile despite himself. Leaning over to greet his knee-high, enthusiastic stalker, he ruffled ears and deftly slipped on the cheap collar and leash he had ended up getting on his way home. The bounding owner of the eyes could hardly contain himself with this new-found attention, and Mac chuckled as the dog turned round and round and shuffled his paws on the sidewalk, tail trying to helicopter its way off its body. “Come on,” Mac said, leading the insatiable bundle of energy up the steps. ‘Stalker’ (for Mac had no idea what else to call it yet and had been calling it this in his head all week) bounded three steps ahead of him, and bounced right back, up four more, and back behind him. As they crossed the entranceway to the elevator, Mac got the familiar nods of hello from fellow tenants that he usually did, but he was acutely aware of more than one bemused and puzzled stare after him. Never had some of them thought to see Mac Taylor with a dog, let alone a bouncing, bedraggled one. Mac studiously ignored them. The tail never stopped trying to helicopter its escape from gravity as Mac unlocked his door and pushed it open. Well, he would have pushed it open had not a nose, a face and a furry body done so before he’d gotten the key out of the lock. “Hey, hold up!” he exclaimed, tightening his grip on the escaping leash. ‘Stalker’ (he really was going to have to change that name) turned and looked back, a positive grin on his face, and Mac thought he might actually achieve lift-off in very short order. “You can’t just go running through my place,” Mac continued the lecture. The dog stood in place, but his paws never stopped shuffling on the wood laminate floor of the kitchen, tail still whirring. “You’re filthy, and there’s no way in hell you’re doing anything, dinner included,” he warned sternly “Until you’re clean.” He gave the leash a tug as he marched imperiously down the hall to the bathroom, “Come on.” Tongue hanging out, grin still in place, paws talking twice the number of steps necessary, ‘Stalker’ (Mac winced in his head at the ‘name’ again) followed Mac obediently towards the bathtub. He ordered his new-found bundle of energy into the tub and took off his shirt. He had no idea of the any sort of history of ‘Kipper?’ (no, definitely not that either), but the dog had obviously had a home at some point. Either that, or he just liked baths. Mac found himself actually enjoying the task. He hadn’t done this since just before he had left for college longer ago than he liked to think about. ‘Chopper’ (oh hell no, Mac decided as instantly as the idea had crossed his mind) was evidently fascinated with the extendable shower head, and kept trying to get his face in front of it. It was all well and good as it got him quite effectively wet initially, and the entire bathroom Mac noted with a grimace. This constant dancing in the tub however, did not translate well to shampoo rinsing, and due to the handle being slippery with soap, a particularly well aimed nudge knocked it completely out of Mac’s hands and to the other side of the bathroom, water spraying everywhere. “Charley!!” Mac yelled without thinking specifically about a name as he lunged for the errant shower head. ‘Charley’ (yeah that wasn’t bad…) turned round and round in the tub and gave several excited small barks at the commotion he had caused. Now half-soaked himself, Mac grabbed ‘Charley’s’ (it might stick…) collar and held him sternly in place as the bath was finished. He glared at the dog, and Charley sensed his disapproval and looked contritely back. The rest of the bath went smoothly, and after drying him, Mac gave Charley something to eat while he took off his soaked t-shirt, put on a dry pair of lounge pants and dried the pools of water that were now all over the bathroom. He sighed, what the hell have I gotten myself into? he mused. But he grinned despite himself as he heard Charley’s paws still skittering away as he ‘ran’ in place while he ate. Hanging the drenched towels over the shower curtain to dry, he made his way out to the kitchen to fix himself dinner. Charley joined him in the living room as he lounged lengthways on the couch with a plate of spaghetti and garlic bread. He flicked on the tv, and felt a pair of eyes staring at him. He looked down and saw Charley sitting patiently next to the couch. As he met those eyes, they got bigger, and Charley gave a little whine as he laid his head on the cushion next to Mac’s hip. Mac sighed. He jerked his head to the side in an invitation to Charley’s unspoken request. “Come on up, stupid mutt.” Those eyes lit up, and Charley bounded on top of him, nearly knocking his plate to the floor. “Hey!! Watch it!” Mac exclaimed. Charley shot him a marginally apologetic look before turning round and round over his upper legs and curling up in a soft, fuzzy ball. Mac grinned as he held his plate in one hand, and fondled the floppy ears with the other. He could get used to this again. “But don’t get any ideas,” he told Charley after a few minutes of peaceful, mutual TV watching. “You are not sleeping on the bed.” Charley lifted his head and looked reproachfully and beggingly at him. “Hell no,” Mac said firmly. Charley laid his head resignedly back on Mac’s knee and went to sleep.