This is my response to the Iron Chef: Random Pairing Challenge posted by JoeMerl on PPMB. I was lucky enough to draw Brittany Taylor and Michael Mack Mackenzie. This is fan fiction, done for fun and not for profit. All recognizable characters are the intellectual property of Glenn Eichler and MTV/Viacom. This original story 2013 Peetz5050

Ocean City

Mack sped up to full speed then slowed to a jog then a walk as he approached the entrance to the hotel. He didn't go in straight away but crossed to the seaward side of the boardwalk and did some stretching exercises on his tired legs. He was sweating in his track suit but there was a bite in the wind coming in off of the ocean and threatening looking clouds moving in, looked like they were going to have some rain.

'At least it wasn't raining last night at the game.' He thought to himself. 'I hate playing in the rain.' He was out of sorts and he knew it but didn't really know why. The game against the Seahawks had gone well... at least the Lions had won but dammit Kevin! 'Why'd you have to go and get your knee busted when we're this close to winning State, huh?' But that wasn't it either. The new sponsor Ms. Li had found had generously put them up in this fancy hotel, not just for the one night but for the whole weekend! Better again he'd had the room to himself as Kevin was in the hospital so he didn't have to go for a walk while the QB and his girlfriend Brittany, the head cheerleader, had "celebrated".

Twice before he'd ended up locked out of his own hotel room, it was really the only downside to playing away games. If he'd had the money he would have ponied up for a private room, ironically Kevin could easily afford one but that boy could just not take a hint. Mack hadn't bothered going out to celebrate with the team after the game, preferring to sit with his smuggled in bottle of beer watching the waves breaking on the beach and getting an early night. He'd enjoyed his run this morning, the boardwalk was perfect for it and the sea air was pleasant. Off season too so there weren't many people around, he'd had peace and quiet and plenty of time to think.

That was the problem really, now matter what he thought about it nothing was going to change. "You know I can't go with you Michael, my father has arranged for me to accompany him at a dinner with Senator Fairburn, and I have the fundraiser for the children's charity all day Sunday. Please understand, Michael, I'm just too busy."

Just too busy. Just too busy! JUST TOO GODDAM BUSY! AGAIN! Jodie was always busy. He'd begun to feel that he was just an acceptable escort when she needed to attend some function. His family was too poor and too unconnected to matter in Lawndale society but at least he was the right color and had good manners and could remember which fork to use.
'Put me in a suit and make me dance to your tune... all I need is a tin cup to catch the pennies.'

He glanced at his watch, time for a nice long shower then get dressed and grab some lunch in the Captains Table, the hotel's dining room. It was supposed to be pretty good and it was on the school's nickel so he might as well indulge himself. Have some grub then go and see how Kevin was doing. Sounds like a plan.

Half an hour later Mack left his hotel room dressed in his good pants, laced shoes, a white polo neck and his new blue sports coat. He was looking pretty sharp and he knew it. His room was on the top floor (only the best for the team captain and the QB!) so he headed for the elevator and punched the button for the lobby. One floor down the door opened and Brittany Taylor got in. For once she was not wearing her cheerleader outfit but a classy skirt and jacket ensemble.

'Hi Mack!'

'Brittany, lookin' good. Did ya have a good night last night?'

'What have you heard? Listen just because Kevvie's in the hospital doesn't mean that I was fooling around, whoever told you...'

'Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on a minute. I haven't heard anything about anything. You guys were all going out dancing and I stayed in. I was just asking if you had a good night. Britt... look I really don't care what you do or don't do without Kevvie, OK?'

Brittany took a moment to digest this, then cracked a smile. 'Sure, sorry Mack. Where are you going all dressed up? Hot date?'

'Yeah, sure, me and the invisible woman here are going to have lunch then I'm gonna go and smack knucklehead for gettin' his knee busted!'

'That sounds great!' She enthused. 'Mind if I join you? I could use some food, I spent the morning in the health spa.'

'Sure. I was gonna eat here in the hotel so I can charge it to the room. You mind?'

'No. That's fine with me.' She seemed to have been trying to tone down the perky squeak in her voice a bit lately, something Mack, for one, was grateful for. They'd all be heading off to college in a few months anyhow and he could see signs of maturity in most of his classmates, except Kevin, of course, that boy... never mind.

'Table for two sir?'

'Yes please, by the window if you can.'

'Certainly sir, this way.' Mack waved Brittany ahead of him as they followed the waiter to a table for two set with a linen table cloth and silver cutlery.

'If you'd like to see the wine list sir i'm afraid I'll have to see your id.'

'No, thank you, I'll just have a cola. Britt?'

'Soda water with a dash of lime please.'

'Certainly madam. Here are your menus, the specials of the day are on the board but I must point out that the roast lamb is for two.'

Brittany looked at Mack who smiled back.

'The lamb please.'

'An excellent choice, sir, madam. I'll be back directly with your drinks.'

Brittany gazed out of the window at the waves. 'It looks pretty rough out there! I wouldn't like to be out on a boat in that! Do you like to sail Mack?'

'I don't know, I've never been. Took the Staten Island ferry one time I went to visit my gramps in New York. Other than that it was one of those pedal boats in the pond in the park. How about you?'

'Daddy has a boat he keeps at Bird River. He mostly uses it to go fishing with his buddies but I've been on it a few times during the Summer, just on the river though, I wouldn't like to go out on the ocean in it.'

'Wow, never knew he owned a boat.'

'Yeah, he bought it when he sold half his business back during the building boom... that was when we moved to Crewe Neck. You know... I preferred our old house we lived in when we were in elementary school, do you remember it?'

'Yeah, it was nice... that was before your Mom...'

'Yeah.'

'Sorry.'

'Yeah... me too... so, your family never moved huh?'

'Nah, I was born in that house... tell you one thing though... I ain't dyin' in it! Football's gonna get me through college then I'm gone.'

'You wanna be a pro ball player?'

'Honestly? No, I don't think I'm good enough and I'm not sure I want to. What I really want to do is study medicine, but unless I win the lottery I'll never be able to afford it. I might go for nursing instead.'

Brittany laughed and then apologized. 'I'm sorry, Mack. I can see Doctor Mack but somehow I don't see you giving bedpans to old ladies. Can't you borrow the money? Once you became a doctor you'd be making lots of money.'

'If I had much of my own to start with maybe but my Dad... ah, here's the food. God that smells good!'

A little while later they were both enjoying their meal when two of the other guys from the team came in with two of the cheerleaders. They sat at a table not far away and took menus from the waiter. After a few minutes they stood up to leave and came up to Mack and Brittany's table. 'Hey Mack, what are you guys eating?'

'The lamb special, it's really very good. You should try it'

'Nah. We want some real food, we're gonna go out and find somewhere that serves burgers and fries. What is this? It looks like a bowl of snot!' The boy had taken the miniature ladle out of the silver bowl and was sniffing at it suspiciously.

'Mint sauce, it goes with the lamb.'

'Yeuchh!' With that he dropped the ladle back into the sauce causing a perfect spatter pattern of little green spots on the pristine white tablecloth. 'Whoops! Sorry Mack, seeya.' He apologized and fled.

Mack was mortified at the mess especially as the waiter appeared as if by magic at his elbow. Mack stuttered. 'I'm.. I'm... we didn't...'

'Of course not sir, I saw what happened, let me just clean this up. Would you like a new tablecloth, or a different table?'

'No... thanks... maybe just put a napkin over it.'

'Certainly sir, shall I fetch you another dish of mint sauce?'

'No thanks, we have plenty on our plates... the lamb is excellent by the way.'

'Thank you sir, I'll be sure to inform the chef.'

As the waiter left Mack saw that Brittany was doing her best to hold her laughter in... and failing.

'What's so funny? Was he patronizing me? Did he...?'

Brittany shook her head and got her breath back. 'No... it was just the look on your face when Jamie dropped the spoon in and it all just went sploosh! I wish I had my camera. You take everything so seriously Mack. Relax, they have to clean up bigger messes all the time. One time at Chez Pierre my little brother threw up all over the table, you shoulda seen it! It was like the exorcist but the smell... yech! But the staff just came out and cleaned everything up and they were all "Can I get you anything else Mr. Taylor", they're not gonna make you wash up or anything, you know?'

Mack couldn't help but smile. 'Yeah I guess I was just... I mean did you hear what Jamie said? Real food? I mean I was brought up in a poor household but I know what good food is... and in a place like this it's practically an insult...'

'I know what you mean. Daddy always insists we have dinners at home with the good plates and the silverware. We have wine all the time too, I'd love a nice rosé with this but it's not the sort of place where you'd get away with a fake ID, you know?'

'Yes, I've had some at formal meals in the Landon's, I think Jodie's Dad thinks of himself as a bit of a connoisseur, he'll have a different wine for each course.'

'Like a sommellier.' To his surprise Brittany had pronounced the French word perfectly. 'My Daddy always asks for that when he's entertaining clients, it costs a fortune!'

'I can only imagine, well, maybe one day I'll be able to afford it.'

'You will Mack, you deserve the good things in life. Maybe when you marry Jodie her Dad will make you a partner in his business and you'll be rich.'

'Hahaa, hahaa!' He guffawed. 'I can promise you that THAT is one thing that will never happen. College, me, her, whit! whit! Different places, different worlds. Don't take me up wrong on this I really love her but there's no way we can maintain our relationship, such as it is, after high school.'

'But.. but I thought you guys were so happy together! You look so good together like a perfect couple!'

'Yeah... well... we're very good at appearances. We look happy so we must be happy, right? Wrong. If she would just once just... '

'I'm sorry Mack... I was only...'

'No it's me, I've been feeling sorry for myself lately... I mean things have been going well for me, my grades are up in everything but science, my Dad's business is doing better so he'll be able to help me with college expenses... not med school of course but... the team is on a winning streak and we might even take State if Kevin can get back for the end of the season it's just...'

'You want someone to tell you how great you're doing.'

'Now you're making me sound like some little kid.'

'No, you're not a kid. You're a guy... a good guy... you need someone to grab you and give you a kiss when you win a game, even more when you lose a game. Jodie doesn't do that I guess huh?'

'No... she doesn't come to the games any more, she always has something more important to do. Student council, one of her charities... something anyhow... Damn, I'm sorry Britt, you don't want to have to listen to me crabbing on, tell you what, let's get dessert, something disgustingly sweet with chocolate sauce, what do you say?'

Brittany gave him a saucy look. 'Well you know just how much I loooorve chocolate!'