Fandom: Clocking Off
Word Count: 1,880 words.
Notes: Mack/Stuart. Probably not quite what you had in mind, jantalaimon, but I've been struck down by the block, and it could only be cured by my sexlexia.
Mack wasn't 'that way'. Not that being 'that way' was wrong or anything, Mack wasn't up for hating people just because of their sexual preferences. He didn't care what other people did in the privacy of their own homes. It was just that he had never been interested in blokes and didn't exactly understand how anyone ever could. Women were soft and curved in all the right places, with big beautiful eyes and tempting mouths. Well, not all of them, of course. But definitely some.
And then there was Stuart. Also not 'that way'. Plus, in a load of deep shit. He'd screwed up his life, lost his wife... he was pretty much in the exact same boat as Mack, only with less cash and more desperation. When Mack had opened his door and seen Stuart standing there, he hadn't known what to do or say.
"Once upon a time, we agreed that I owed you one, Mack. Lemme make it up to you."
"I'm willing to do any odd jobs you've got around the house, totally free of charge."
"What's the catch?"
"Don't s'pose you've a free room? I don't take up much space."
Mack had stared at Stuart and his initial reaction had been to tell the bastard to sod off. But Stuart had looked at him with the saddest eyes he'd ever seen and the small compartment of his heart reserved for compassion opened up and told him to take a chance. So he did, he stepped to the side and let Stuart in and had a fleeting thought about how much Catherine would have hated to have the likes of Stuart Leach staring at her perfectly co-ordinated décor. It was almost worth it for that thought alone.
If it had only stayed like that, Mack wouldn't be so confused.
Stuart was true to his word. He fixed the gutters, he cleaned out the attic, he mowed the lawn. He did all of those small but important jobs Mack had been postponing for as long as he could remember. The things he couldn't be bothered with. And he was looking for another paying job, which was just as well, because Mack wasn't planning on having him as a slave forever.
What Stuart also did was show Mack the kind of interest no one had since Catherine had winged her escape and Trudy had ditched him. He spoke to Mack as a person, not a figurehead; the big scary boss who could make or break you. He actually seemed to care.
"How was work today?" Stuart asked, wielding a screwdriver and working on the hinges to the living room door.
"Same old, same old. Your brother's being a pain in the arse, as usual."
Mack shrugged his jacket off, quirking an eyebrow. "Kev. Martin isn't around anymore, you know that, don't you?"
Stuart shook his head. "Don't know nowt. I've not been in contact since I got out of prison. Ever since our Sue told me I wasn't the father."
"The latest little one, you know, Chris."
"Jesus. I thought my life was complicated." Mack sat down and rolled up his shirt sleeves. "You look like you could use some delectable and delightful grub."
Stuart smiled and his whole face changed. "Are you paying?"
"Paying? I'm gonna make it."
"I'm a good cook."
"Your mummy told you so, did she?"
Mack narrowed his eyes and stopped himself from smiling just in time. "You aren't half a cheeky sod, are you? I've got your life in my hands and yet you taunt me. Vicious, absolutely bloody vicious."
Mack walked into the kitchen and sorted through the ingredients and was surprised when he turned around to see Stuart watching him, eyes fixed and jaw tense.
"I do appreciate it, Mack," Stuart said, voice low.
"Good, you should do. Now make yourself useful and peel these carrots."
It was the first time since he was young that anyone had helped Mack in the kitchen. The first time anyone had said they appreciated him. For that alone, he couldn't help but feel like he'd taken on the world and won. Catherine and Trudy be damned.
"I can't believe you were getting it off with two women at once."
"What can I say? I'm a love machine." Stuart leaned back on the sofa, rolling his head to one side. "No, it wasn't like that. It was a mistake. I fell in love. With two different women. And once I'd dug that hole, I just couldn't see a way out."
Mack looked up at the ceiling, unable to look at Stuart at that moment, because he knew he'd look far too fond. "How many lives have you ruined, Stuart Leach?"
"I dunno, you tell me. What about you, eh? I'm sure you've cocked someone's life up at one point or another. Sacked them when they needed the money most."
"Not quite the same, on the devastation scale, is it?"
Mack told himself he shouldn't ask, but he couldn't help it. "What was prison like?"
"Like a paid vacation. Sensory deprivation to get your creative juices flowing and all the anal sex you could hope for."
Stuart squinted at him as if he'd lost his head. "No, of course not."
"I meant the... you know."
"The sex? Yeah. You think it's a big, exaggerated cliché, but it's not. Men in confined spaces feel the need to release themselves now and then. And if you do happen to have slippery hands when holding the soap, well..."
"I bet you were used all the time, pretty-boy like you."
He'd said it before he could think about it and coughed to conceal his embarrassment. If Stuart had been at all bothered, he didn't show it, because he shrugged. "You get so used to it, it isn't like you're being forced anymore. You just... submit."
Mack felt intensely uncomfortable with the conversation and decided it was time to leave the room, but Stuart grabbed hold of his wrist as he stood. "Sorry. Didn't mean to freak you out. I'm not traumatised or anything."
"That's the problem. You should be. You should feel angry or something --- anything."
"Can't change the past, Mack. You can only live in the present. And hope for a decent future. What's happened to me's happened and no matter how angry I get, I can't deny that. Not unless I get conked on the head again and forget all about it."
Stuart's fingers were warm against Mack's skin and he looked down at where they were joined, his throat suddenly feeling dry and constricted. He thought about Stuart's words. The best way to get his own back on Catherine was to get over her. He hadn't really thought of it like that before.
He couldn't sleep that night, and he didn't know why, but he kept thinking about Stuart in the room down the hall.
Mack came home to find Stuart ironing one of his shirts.
"What're you doing?"
"I've a job interview tomorrow."
Mack put his briefcase down and leaned against the doorjamb. "You can't wear that."
"Come on, Mack, I need to look presentable."
"And you won't in a shirt that's at least three sizes too big. You'll look like a little kid in his daddy's business suit. Get your shoes on, I'll take you shopping."
Stuart looked up, his eyes wide. His hands stopped smoothing down cotton. "No, really, Mack, you've already done so much."
"You can pay me back, don't you worry about that. And anyway, if it's gonna get you outta my house and outta my hair, I might as well contribute, right?"
Stuart nodded dully. "Yeah, sure. Won't be a minute."
Mack undid his tie, opening up his collar. He listened to the sounds of Stuart clomping about upstairs and didn't know why he felt slightly sick at the prospect of Stuart leaving. He could wash his own dishes, after all. It wasn't like Stuart filled a gap in his life. Except that he did, of course. He was the closest thing Mack had had to real, human contact in a long time. He was willing to spend a bit of money on that. More than he ever had at Catherine's request for the finest fashions.
They went to Mack's tailor's and bought Stuart the most expensive clothes he had ever owned. Stuart grinned at Mack with an enthusiasm he had never seen before.
"How do I look?"
"Like a million pounds."
Despite looking like a million pounds, Stuart didn't win the position. His criminal record was apparently a matter of grave concern. He looked close to tears as he told Mack, sitting on the stairs, shoulders hunched.
"It's not like it's even fucking relevant for a bloody sales job, is it?"
"Were you arrested for polygamy or stealing?"
"Come and work at the factory."
"I've told you before, I can't. Kev's there and ---"
"You still haven't got in contact?"
"No. I couldn't." Stuart sighed. "I'm sorry, Mack, I understand if I've overstayed my welcome and I'll be gone by the weekend."
The weekend was three days away. There was no way in hell Stuart could find suitable arrangements in that time. "Where would you go?"
Mack realised there was every chance Stuart was playing him for a fool, but it didn't feel like it. Stuart looked sincere.
"No, sorry, can't allow that. You still owe me thousands worth of labour for that suit you're crumpling. You'll just have to make do."
They were both blindingly drunk, Mack could remember that much. They'd spent part of the night sobbing into their beers, declaring themselves pathetic and useless. There had been some football watching and jumping up and down as City won whatever match they were playing. There'd been lots of laughs.
And then, suddenly, there was kissing. Which Mack really couldn't understand, even as he had his hand tangled in Stuart's hair. Stuart straddled his thighs, his top three buttons undone. He was an aggressive kisser, all teeth and tongue. They fumbled, Stuart's fingers with Mack's zip and Mack's fingers digging into Stuart's side. Stuart gave a low groan as Mack's jeans came undone and Mack arched up, longing for contact.
Mack had a momentary pulse of fear. "You're not just submitting, are you?"
"No. God, no. I want this, Mack," Stuart replied, showing Mack just how much by crawling backwards and dropping to the floor. He looked up at Mack with heat in his eyes and licked his lower lip.
That was it. Out of nowhere, Mack was in a relationship he would never have predicted, with another man. It was complex, and frustrating, and tinged with all kinds of issues Mack didn't really want to spend his time thinking about, but it made him feel wanted and if not loved, definitely liked.
Now, this, Catherine would have really hated. Nothing like finding your ex-husband shacked up with another bloke to make you question yourself, and if there was one thing Catherine had always been, it was insecure. Even though he knew it wasn't the best motivation ever, it gave Mack renewed vigour. And hopefully in time, he wouldn't need it.