Disclaimer: They are not mine. If they were, we would be seeing Mac without a shirt in every episode.
A/N: To Jenna and Julia, or Jennulia because I am fearful of what their combined skills will do to me if I don't post this. Anyway, this doesn't have a point, but I chuckled a little. Whatev.
"Mac, open the door."
"Mac Taylor, I have seen you with green snot dripping out of your nose, a little upset stomach isn't going to bother me."
She could hear shuffling towards the door and pretty soon the lock clicked over.
She had seen Mac in some bad situations before, but this... this was bad. His hair was a mess (or at least, a mess for him) the bags under his eyes could have carried her entire shopping spree at Macy's last week, and he was emitting quite the odor.
"You're never sick. I'm here to take care of you."
"Okay, go home."
"Go home. I'm a big boy."
"Then suck it up Taylor, because I am nursing you back to health."
He grumbled under his breath but let her in anyway. She stopped in her tracks as he closed the door behind her. Never in a million years would she picture Mac's apartment like this. There were tissue boxes on the floor, dirty dishes on the coffee table, and a newspaper scattered all over the couch. The curtains were closed and the TV was playing a soap opera of some kind.
"Mac, are you okay?"
"You just said I was sick, Stell. What do you think?"
"Do you need to be sent to bed?"
"You've got quite the mouth on you. Want to rethink that attitude there sonny?"
He sighed and pushed the newspaper off the couch before sitting down.
"Why are you here, Stella?"
"To take care of you. I know you don't need it, but you will get better faster if you can relax a little. Now, get up and go take a shower."
"Stella, I just sat down. You're supposed to help me relax, aren't you?"
"A shower is the first step in relaxing. And if you don't go now, I'm giving you a pedicure later."
He stood up with a grunt.
"I hate that my belief in that threat comes from prior experience."
He stumbled into the bathroom and shut the door, and she set to work tidying up the room. The newspaper went into the recycling bin, tissues and their boxes in the garbage, and the dishes in the sink. She straightened the kitchen then moved into his bedroom, stripping his sheets off the bed and throwing them in the washer. She found a spare set in the hall closet and quickly made the bed- complete with hospital corners. It wasn't long before Mac came out of the bathroom, wearing a t-shirt and athletic shorts. His hair was wet, but more tamed than it had been before, and he rubbed at his eyes as he sat down on the couch.
"Nope, you need a bed."
"Don't be a baby. Go lay down in bed while your chicken soup heats up."
"I don't want to."
She sighed and blew a curl off her forehead.
"Fine, stay on the couch. I'm making soup."
"Are you going to wear an apron while you do it?"
She rolled her eyes and headed for the kitchen, as the History Channel theme music began to play over the TV. She found some chicken in the freezer and since the pull date was not during the Reagan administration, she stuck it in the microwave to thaw. She gathered up broth and vegetables, and set to work cutting and slicing. Chicken soup was a cure all. She wasn't sure where she had even learned to make it, but it had brought her back from the brink several times.
She could hear the TV from the other room and she peeked around the corner to see what he was watching.
A documentary on JFK and Dealey Plaza. She should have known.
"Need anything, Mac?"
"You're not hydrated."
"You need something to drink."
"I thought you asked me if there was something I needed and I said no."
"You're never going to listen to me, are you?"
"No. Drink your orange juice."
He sighed and took the cup from her hand, guzzling the whole thing and wiping his mouth on the back of his hand before giving the glass back to her.
"Must have been a good year," she muttered, taking the glass back into the kitchen.
Once the soup was simmering, she returned to the front room, smiling down at the sleeping Mac. She tucked a blanket over him and spent several moments resisting the urge to kiss his cheek. Instead she touched his forehead to check for fever. He stirred slightly under her hand, sniffled a little, and went back to sleep.
He woke up two hours later with his head in Stella's lap. She was watching the WB and he groaned and turned so he could look up at her.
"What is this?"
"A slice of Americana."
"Why is that guy running naked through the house?"
"He has nightmares. He thinks assassins are after him. Next he falls into a rosebush and gets thorns in his butt."
"This amuses you?"
"Not one of my favorite episodes, but it's got some good moments. Like the standing still part."
"You've seen this before."
"It's a girl thing. Lindsay got me started on it."
"Is this why you guys talk so fast when you're together?"
"Stella, I'm sick here and you're making me watch a chick show."
She sighed and changed the channel, then urged his head up from her lap.
"You need soup."
"I'm not hungry."
"Yes you are."
She stood up from the couch and went into the kitchen.
"Did you cook, Stell?"
"No, the soup materialized. I just turned on the stove."
He chuckled as she handed him a bowl and spoon.
"Eat this and then we'll talk Day-Quil."
He sighed and obeyed while she flipped through the channels.
"Mac, you need to get satellite."
"Monday afternoon, nothing's on regular cable."
"I'm not normally home on Monday afternoons, and I don't plan on making this a usual thing."
"You should still get satellite. All that's on are chick shows. And while that doesn't bother me..."
"You could go home."
"No I couldn't."
"Yes you could. In case you haven't noticed, I'm a grown man."
"I've noticed, Mac," she said, looking down at her fingers. He glanced over at her, his brow creasing.
"Stell, why are you here?"
"Claire. A long time ago, when I first met her, she made me promise to always have your back. I don't go back on a promise, Mac. Never."
He sighed and slid his arm around her shoulders.
"I miss her," he said after a long moment of silence. "Every day when I wake up, I miss her."
"I wish you didn't have to. I miss her too. Leaving the house at 4 am to go shopping on Black Friday is just not the same without her."
"And then you would crawl in the door around noon with about 15 bags each, and crash on the floor, only to wake up a few hours later demanding that I make you ice-cream sundaes."
"Shopping is hard work."
He smiled and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
"Stell, can you promise me something?"
"Don't let me forget her."
They regarded each other for a moment before she smiled and rested against his chest.
"Mac, why do you have a Nintendo?" she asked, grinning.
"Adam's apartment was being fumigated. He stayed over here for a weekend and left that. I keep forgetting to give it back to him."
"You let Adam stay here for a whole weekend? You're brave."
"It's my job. Want to play a little?"
"A little what?"
"I can't remember the last time I played a video game. I wasn't even big into PacMan."
"Come on, it will make me feel better."
One Hour Later
"Stop lightening me!" Stella shouted, elbowing Mac in the ribs. "I hate you."
"I can't help what it gives me to use! Besides, you just hit me with three red shells in a row. I must retaliate."
"I'm sending a blue spiky shell your way. Watch it."
"Thanks for the warning, but I'm in second place. It won't hit me."
"You should be nicer to me. I'm the princess."
"Stell, you need a man."
"Believe me, I know."
They played for a few more minutes and Mac won the Cup with 30 points, while Stella only had 4.
"I don't even want to watch this stupid ceremony if you're getting first place."
"Then push the reset button."
"I'm too sad and lazy," she mumbled pathetically.
"You really need a man."
"I could get him to push the button for me."
Mac laughed while she glared at him, then set her controller on the coffee table.
"Well since you're feeling better I'm just going to go."
"Hey, I'm not feeling better at all. Maybe I'm a little jovial, but I really am on the brink of a hospital stay. I can feel it in my bones."
She rolled her eyes and ruffled his hair.
"It's getting late, and you should probably go to bed."
"I know," he said, standing up from the floor and stretching a little. She stood up too, reaching over to check his temperature.
"Go to bed, Mac. Get some rest and call me in the morning."
She turned to leave the apartment and was almost to the door before he spoke.
He crossed the room and gathered her in his arms.
"I may not be your man, but I'll always be here to push your reset button."
"Mac... I know."
A/N II: So originally, this was going to have way more Claire memories and such in it... but it sort of took on a life of its own... and then my brother and I had the reset button conversation (without the Smacked parts of course) and... well... men plan, God laughs.