"Man's Best Friend"

"Man's Best Friend"


Absolutely, positively, the only one a man can rely on in time of woe!

A lazy Sunday afternoon, the boys were hanging around the loft doing nothing. At least three of them were, the fourth had yet to surface.

Alphonse had had a rough night. All things considered, he was a very unhappy boy! The bust had gone wrong, with painful and embarrassing results. Lousy information as usual, he lay under the covers brooding irritably on the many wrongs that had been inflicted upon his person. Forced to strip naked at gun point, driven out of town in the boot of a car, then the humiliation of being handcuffed, still naked, to a street light and left shivering and miserable until rescued some six hours later. And then, being laughed at, like it was funny! Ice, Charlie and Ali had exploded with laughter, which set the seal on Alphonse's anger and misery.

So he'd sat hunched up in the back seat of the car, wrapped in a sheet that Chrissy had found from somewhere, even Chrissy laughed! Refused any assistance from his "friends", stalked upstairs and dived under the covers before anyone could make any more wisecracks.

Twelve hours later he felt really lousy. His head ached, he felt hot and cold all over, his wrists were badly bruised and very sore. When they'd first left him handcuffed to the post, he'd struggled to free himself, trying to slip his hands through the steel loops, but they were too tight and all he'd done was tear the skin and bruise the tendons in his wrists.

Only Tilly cares! He sniffed miserably and moved closer to his pet. She'd jumped up on the bed and cuddled up to him when he'd arrived home, her natural instincts told her that master needed her. Tilly lay curled up against her beloved master, on guard.

The boys were just having a lazy argument about whose turn it was to cook dinner, when there was a knock at the door. Charlie opened it to find O'Connor standing there, good grief the man even dresses in charcoal grey on a weekend!

"Is Royo here? I need him to make a statement about the incident." O'Connor cut straight to the chase, although even he couldn't quite contain the smirk at Alphonse's predicament.

"He hasn't surfaced yet! Figure he's not in the best of moods, but you can try if you like." Charlie pointed out Alphonse's bedroom and left him to it.

O'Connor poked his head round the door. There was a large quilt-covered lump in the middle of the bed, and Alphonse's enormous dog lay next to the lump. He approached the bed. Tilly raised her head and looked at him. Her doggy brain had sensed her master's pain, and he was asleep. Protect master! She eyed the intruder.

Tilly "swore" at him.

O'Connor backed up slightly. This is ridiculous! He shook himself mentally, I am a government official on official business. The deep and decidedly unfriendly rumble came again, making it quite clear that his presence was not acceptable.

O'Connor backed out.

"O'Bannon, this dog's half wild!"

"Well only pet the tame half, then." Came the cocky computer expert's reply.

"She growled at me!" O'Connor's outraged expression was a picture.

The boys were bemused. Tilly never growled at people she knew. Charlie moved into 'Phonse's room. Tilly growled again. He backed up quickly.

"Whatsa matter with you?" He glared at the dog.

Two hours later and they were all starting to worry. Fine, if Alphonse was sulking. But he wasn't the kind to bear a grudge. Charlie drew the short straw. Alphonse had quite a hot temper, and although Charlie was 99% sure his big friend would never hit him, there was still that little lingering doubt.

He peered into Alphonse's room. This time there were signs of movement. Snuffling noises came from beneath the quilt. A hand appeared, groping for the tissues on the side table. Charlie cautiously moved closer keeping a wary eye on Tilly, plucked a handful of tissues out of the box and put them into the hand, which withdrew. He was horrified to see the dark bruises and raw scrapes on Alphonse's wrist. Seconds later, a volcanic sneeze shook the bed.

Charlie got up, and went to get his thermometer. He sat on the bed and pulled the covers down to reveal his very bad tempered partner.

"'Phonse, you're sick!" It was a statement, not a question.

"Do tell!" came the sarcastic reply, the effect quite ruined by the hacking cough that followed. The big man sniffed again, and flopped a forearm over his eyes to shield them from the light.

Charlie pulled his arm down. "'Phonse, c'mon, willya!?" he held the thermometer out. Alphonse looked grumpily at him, then gave in with an exaggerated sigh and stuck the thermometer under his tongue. The computer expert timed the three minutes, during which his partner drifted back to sleep. Charlie retrieved it, and stared at the reading in disbelief.

102°, the joke's over! He covered his partner up again and went to phone the doctor. The other two pounced as soon as he left the room.

"Well, what's up with him, man?!" Ice gave Charlie his best steely-eyed glare.

"He's sick, running a temperature of 102°, and his wrists are bruised and bleeding." Charlie's glare matched Ice for intensity. He was starting to feel really guilty. Alphonse was quite badly hurt and they'd not even noticed, too busy laughing at him chained to a street light!! "I'm calling a doctor."

He dialled and got through to Dr Quincy. The old doctor had dealt with all of them at one time or another. Alphonse was his least favourite patient. In fact, patient was not a word the old man would use to describe the hot-headed undercover agent.

"Mr O'Bannon, what seems to be the trouble this time." The doctor's voice was slightly sour. He didn't mind, but they never paid any attention to the advice he gave anyway.

"Doc, Alphonse is really sick. He's running a temperature of 102° and he's got this bad cough. He was on the receiving end of a bad bust, so he's kinda beat up too."

The old doctor sighed. "Alright, I'll be along shortly. Keep him in bed, at least until I get there."

When Quincy arrived, his attitude changed abruptly. Royo was more ill than he'd imagined. The big man's skin was chilled, and he was obviously suffering from exposure. Both wrists were swollen and scraped. Quincy examined them closely, Alphonse flinched when the doctor manipulated his wrists.

The old man wrote out a prescription, which he handed to Ice.

"Go and get this filled will you?" He glanced over the top of his glasses. "And will somebody please get that animal off the bed."

His patient, up to then silent, objected. "No, Tilly stays!" Alphonse tried to glare at the doctor, but the effort made his head swim. Tilly cuddled closer. Alphonse had had enough man-handling, he rolled onto his side and cuddled his pet.

Quincy sighed. "Most unhealthy, but it does not surprise me. Now, Mr Royo, I'm going to deal with your wrists. This will hurt. How exactly you've managed to sprain both wrists quite so badly, I'm not sure." He ignored the irritable glare thrown in his direction and turned his attention to the battered wrists.

Ten minutes later, Alphonse was allowed to relax back onto the bed. He'd endured quite a lot of pain, while Quincy cleaned, disinfected and dressed the cuts and then strapped both wrists firmly.

Ice returned with the prescription. Quincy took the bottles from him.

"Okay, we'll get some of this into him now. Then he'll need a further dose of the cough syrup in about 4 hours. Leave the tablets until around 10 pm tonight. See how he does, and call me in the morning." The doctor looked up at the anxious trio, "Keep him warm, plenty to drink when he wakes and most of all, keep him in bed!"

The guilt pervading the room was palpable. Ali went and got his quilt and covered Alphonse, the other two discussed who was going to sit with the big man.

Alphonse was dimly aware of all the attention he was getting. It didn't make any difference, he cuddled closer to Tilly, he wasn't about to forgive them in a hurry.

The guilty trio took it in turns to watch over their sick friend. Alphonse steadfastly ignored them, he was starting to feel a bit better, so now it's payback time. On one level he was perfectly well aware that he was being childish, but he was still too sick to care. Tilly curled up next to him, and he rested his head against her shoulder, pulling the two quilts closer round himself he drifted off to sleep.

In no time, he was being wakened by Charlie's voice in his ear. "C'mon, 'Phonse, it's time to take some more of this stuff."

"Gerrofff!" Alphonse moved away from the hand shaking him.

"'Phonse, give me a break, willya!"

Alphonse pulled the covers down, and scowled darkly at his cocky, pain-in-the-ass partner.

"Huh!! I seem to remember I was the one chained to the street lamp, or maybe I got that wrong. I definitely remember feeling crap and being laughed at!!" All or nothing here!! He watched the guilt flicker in his partner's sharp blue eyes, Gotcha! He decided to go for broke. Play this one for all it's worth. He pretended to lose the drift, and pass out. He just about detected the flare of panic on Charlie's face as his eyelids drooped closed.

Tilly moved closer as her master went limp against her. Her great brown head swung protectively over his shoulder. Far off volcanic noises issued forth.

Charlie jumped up. He glared at the dog, "Dammit, stop doing that!"

Tilly was unimpressed, she "swore" again.

"You don't cut that out, and I'll have you seen to by the vet!"

It slowly dawned on him, that his partner was not quite so sick as he had thought. Alphonse was shivering with the effort of keeping his laughter under control.

Charlie snapped irritably at his friend. "What's the big idea, huh!!" Alphonse looked at him, choked and burst out laughing, which turned into a prolonged bout of coughing. Charlie grinned to himself, okay, arguing with a dawg, yup that has to be a sign of impending insanity. Enough! He held out the medicine bottle again.

Alphonse held his left arm tight against his ribs, shit, that hurt! He took the spoon and bottle from Charlie and gratefully swallowed some of the contents. His gratitude soon turned to revulsion as the vile taste swamped him, his stomach churned. This is one time, the cure is definitely worse than the sickness. He groaned and curled up against his faithful pet again. Tilly settled back down and curled protectively round her master. On guard, as ever!