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The Journey Continues, Continuation of "Continuum"
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Dragondog
Posted: 24 January 2020 - 08:42 PM                                    
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Phoenix Special Agent
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Episode:Halloween Knights
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QUOTE (uniquelyjas @ 24 January 2020 - 10:40 AM)
Ha! I love being able to write a good cliffhanger! Now you have to wait until next week, Dragondog! In response to a couple of your comments, at the end of the episode The Wall, Mac is playing a video game one a computer...I believe hockey so I stole this idea. Joanna's not thrilled he agreed because she really doesn't want him involved with Phoenix in any way...and she knows how these things go!! LOL!! As for the computer games he created, my inspiration was Candy Crush and Pet Rescue Saga!!

Well, the wait will be worth it tongue.gif

Okay, I forgot about the game in The Wall XD

Joanna's reasoning is fair enough. As someone who's never been in a relationship, I'll go by the word XD

Never had the pleasure of playing Candy Crush or any of the others. Maybe someday smile.gif



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 28 January 2020 - 10:36 AM                                    
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DXS Agent
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Chapter 34: MacGyverland (Part 2)


MacGyver was halfway across the front lawn when he heard Joanna call to him from behind.

“Hey! You can’t do that!” she yelled.

He stopped and turned. “Do what?” he asked impatiently.

“Tell me you got an agent killed and then just walk out.”

“I don’t wanna talk about it,” he replied before turning to walk away...again.

“Is it classified?” she asked, now keeping pace at his elbow.

“Not yet,” he mumbled.

“Then please tell me about it while you still can.”

MacGyver stopped in his tracks and looked at her. He should shut down this whole conversation right now. Then he remembered what Pete had said about how lack of communication ruined his first marriage to Connie and told Mac not to make the same mistake he had.

He sighed, running his fingers through his hair. “A veteran field operative was tasked with handing over a microchip containing top secret information to a U.S. representative in an undisclosed foreign country. Instead, it appears he set up a rendezvous with an enemy of the state, gave him the chip, and then was killed with his own gun.”

“He killed himself?”

“The authorities are working to determine whether it was suicide or just made to look that way.”

“But what does all this have to do with you?” Joanna asked, her brow furrowed in confusion.

“The operative was the same agent that had started training for recertification using the new program. A routine cyber security check found that his computer had been compromised. It’s entirely possible the enemy hacked in through the program I designed.” He sighed again. “I should have been more careful, put more security measures in place.”

“You don’t know that for sure,” Jo countered. “And I don’t get why any agent would apparently hand over highly sensitive information to a known enemy.”

“I know,” MacGyver agreed, shaking his head. “None of this makes any sense.”

“So what are you gonna do about it?”

“What can I do? I’m no longer a Phoenix employee, remember?”

“That hasn’t stopped you from working with them before,” she said drily. “Besides, you owe it to yourself and the agent to get to the bottom of this. At least the part about the computer.”

Mac’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Wait a minute. Are you telling me to go to Los Angeles and insert myself into the investigation?”

“That is what you want to do, right?” she asked with a sly smile. “Besides, there’s no school until Monday so I can take your place at Challengers.”

“You are the absolute best, you know that?” he praised just before cupping her face in his large hands and giving her a firm, quick kiss.

XXXXX

MacGyver stared down at the Visitor’s Pass the security guard at Phoenix handed him and curled his lip.

“A tough thing to get used to, huh?” the younger man asked with a smirk.

“Yeah. Kinda makes me feel like a second class citizen around here,” Mac responded flatly.

“You? No way! You’re a legend within these hallowed halls!” the guard exclaimed as he led MacGyver to the elevator and pressed the button.

“A legend?” Mac’s innate modesty scoffed at the idea, but his all-American male ego swelled just a bit.

“You bet! You’re the best field operative Phoenix ever had. Every agent wants to be like you.”

The kid was going overboard now and MacGyver couldn’t help but laugh. “Is that part of the new HR pitch they give you when you get hired now?”

“Hey man, I’m serious! You’re still a big deal around here.”

Uncomfortable with his newly discovered fame, Mac was relieved when the guard deposited him in Craig Bannister’s office and took his leave.

“I don’t suppose I need to ask what you’re doin’ here,” the Director of Foreign Field Operations said after friendly greetings were exchanged.

“I want in on the investigation, Craig.”

“That’s not up to me, Mac.”

“But I thought you were spearheading it.”

Craig chuckled. “That’s above my pay grade, pal. They’re just letting me sniff around because Duncan was one of my men.”

“Who do I need to talk to, then?”

Bannister eyed MacGyver carefully. “You sure you want to get yourself caught up in this?”

“Listen, Craig. I know that his computer was hacked and it could be because of my re-cert program. I need to do this.”

“Fine,” Bannister sighed. “I’ll get you on board. Do you have a place to stay? This could take some time.”

“Yeah, I know. I was plannin’ on lookin’ up an old buddy and bunkin’ with him.”

“Sounds good. You go get settled in and we’ll hit the ground runnin’ in the morning.”

Late that afternoon MacGyver parked his nondescript rental car in front of the Hacienda Village Apartments. A tall, wrought iron fence and sturdy gate separated the courtyard and sprawling, four-story Mediterranean style building from the outside world. It looked like a respectable place in a respectable neighborhood. Mac couldn’t help glancing at the address he had scribbled on a piece of paper while talking to Jack. Yep. The address matched. MacGyver walked to the gate and pressed the button on the panel next to Jack Dalton’s name.

“Hark! Who goes there?!” a gruff voice asked through the speaker.

“It’s me. Mac.”

“Hey buddy!” Jack greeted in his normal voice. “I’ll be right down.”

MacGyver leisurely surveyed his surroundings while he waited for his friend who soon appeared on the other side of the fence, opening the gate to allow MacGyver into the courtyard.

“Nice place you got here. Guess the air limo service is really taking off.”

“Good pun, Kemosabe!” the pilot chortled. “But seriously, I should have taken your advice sooner and got an honest job. I mean, just look at this place! And I don’t have to worry about getting involved with, how shall I say, less than savory businessmen.”

“You mean you’ve finally decided to settle down and stop looking for that one last great adventure?” Mac asked incredulously.

“You bet!” Jack replied, just as MacGyver turned to see his friend’s left eye twitch. “Well, at least for the foreseeable future. Oh, by the way, I got you your own key,” Jack said, digging into the pocket of his bomber jacket.

“You got some pull with the manager?” Mac asked. His question was answered as a tall, blonde female crossed in front of them, waggling her fingers towards Jack. “Let me guess, that’s the manager.”

“You got it, amigo,” Jack confirmed, waggling his fingers in return.

“Sorry I don’t have an extra bedroom,” Jack apologized as Mac dropped his duffle next to the couch.

“No problem. I probably won’t be spending much time here anyway. Mind if I use the phone?”

“Help yourself!”

MacGyver started to dial when his friend interrupted.

“Um, it’s not long distance, is it?”

Mac stopped and glared at his temporary roommate. “Is that a problem?”

“No. I mean, it’s just that I’m on a limited plan,” Jack sputtered.

“I’ll pay you back,” MacGyver muttered.

“I hope you gave Joanna my love,” Jack said when Mac hung up.

“How can you be so sure I was talkin’ to her?”

“Give it up, Mac. You can’t hide your feelings from ole Uncle Jack! I saw you get all googly-eyed as soon as you started talking.”

“She’s fine. And I did not get ‘googly-eyed’!”

Jack held up his hands in surrender. “Whatever you say, compadre! Whatever you say! So, you gonna tell me why you’re back working for Phoenix?”

“I’m not working for them. I’m just helping out.” MacGyver chanced a glance at his friend who eagerly awaited more information. “There was an incidence. I can’t say anything more. It’s--”

“Classified,” Jack frowned. “Why is all the good stuff always ‘classified’?”

“Jack, an agent died! I wouldn’t exactly call that ‘good stuff’!” Mac snapped.

“Oh. That’s too bad, Mac. Really.” Jack paused and the air hung heavy between them. “So, how’d he die?”

MacGyver glared at his friend.

“Right. It’s classified.”

XXXXX

Early Saturday morning MacGyver walked into the Phoenix office building and picked up his pass from the weekend security guard. He smiled to himself when he saw that Bannister had arranged a Civilian Consultant badge for him. Less than twenty-four hours in the city and he was already climbing the ranks. He was headed for Craig’s office when he met the man in the hallway.

“As of thirty minutes ago this investigation is officially classified,” Bannister said in place of a friendly greeting. “From here on in, all information is strictly on a need-to-know basis.”

“Got it,” Mac acknowledged, falling into step beside his friend. He was silently relieved to know he hadn’t really lied to Jack. Just misled him prematurely. Oh great, now he was starting to think like Jack! MacGyver shook his head to reorder his thoughts. “So where are we headed?”

“The computer lab. There’s someone I want you to meet. Oh, and Mac…” Bannister put a hand on his arm to halt their progress. “I just got the medical examiner’s official cause of death on Duncan. The gunshot wound was self-inflicted.”

MacGyver shook his head sadly. “We’ll get to the bottom of this. We have to.”

Moments later the electronic doors to one of the computer labs slid open and Mac and Bannister entered. Several technicians, all wearing white lab coats, worked silently on consoles stationed throughout the room. Craig led them to a young Asian man on the other side of the lab.

“Jimmy Choo, I’d like you to meet MacGyver. MacGyver, this is Jimmy Choo, Phoenix’s number one computer tech. You’ll be working together on the hacking issue.”

“It’s nice to finally meet you in person. I’ve heard a lot about you,” Jimmy said as he shook Mac’s hand.

“Let me guess, the ‘hallowed halls’ speak?”

“No,” Bannister chuckled, “not this time. You might remember Jimmy’s dad, James Choo. He was a foreign operative back in your day.”

“Of course,” Mac replied. “I knew that name sounded familiar. What’s your dad up to these days?”

“He’s retired, sir.”

“Call me Mac. Tell your dad I said hello. We never worked any assignments together, but I heard he was a heck of an agent.”

“Yes, he was,” the younger Choo confirmed. A slight hitch in his voice caught MacGyver’s attention, but he decided not to question it. At least not yet.

“So, what’ve you got so far?” Bannister asked Jimmy, quickly turning the conversation back to business.

The young man sighed. “It was definitely a professional job. The mainframe was hacked externally, not from a Phoenix terminal, so we know it’s not an inside job.”

“Not necessarily,” MacGyver interrupted. “Over half the population owns a computer or has access to one so everyone, even Foundation employees, are still under suspicion.”

“Of course, I hadn’t thought of that,” Choo replied apologetically.

Craig raked his fingers through his hair in both anger and frustration. “We’re supposed to have a state-of-the-art security system throughout the building! How could something like this happen? Did Mac’s program compromise it?”

Choo shook his head. “Nope. The dude who did this was really good. He would’ve gotten in no matter what.”

“Did you find anything else?” Mac asked, leaning over Jimmy’s shoulder staring at the rows of numbers and letters on his computer monitor.

“It appears that once the hacker gained access, he honed in on Duncan’s terminal and wrote a program to piggy-back on the recertification program MacGyver created.”

“What kind of program?” Bannister asked anxiously.

“I don’t know, sir. I’m trying to decode it right now but it’s highly complex as well as encrypted. It’s gonna take some time.”

“Well, then I’ll let you two get at it,” Craig said, patting MacGyver on the shoulder.

“Uh, can I see you for a sec? Privately?” Mac asked, hoping he didn’t sound as uncertain as he felt.

Once they made their way to an unoccupied corner, MacGyver turned to Bannister and lowered his voice.

“My computer skills are a little rusty. That stuff Jimmy was supposedly reading looked like gibberish to me. I think I’d be of better use in the field tracking down whoever Duncan gave the classified info to.”

“I’m sorry, Mac. That’s not my call.”

“Then talk to somebody!”

Bannister’s eyes hit the floor as he remained silent.

“Wait a minute,” MacGyver began thoughtfully. “I got access to this assignment pretty easily. You made a deal with the board, didn’t you?”

“I promised I’d keep you here at headquarters,” Bannister confirmed.

“Aw man!”

“It’s a liability thing, Mac! You’re a civilian now. We can’t send you traipsing into hostile foreign territory! You can either stay here and help out or catch the next flight home.”

“Fine,” Mac replied through a clenched jaw. “I’ll stay and see what I can do. And don’t worry...I’ll stay out of trouble.”

“Famous last words,” Craig mumbled as he walked away, leaving Mac alone with the computer boy genius.

After two hours of watching Jimmy pound away furiously on his keyboard, MacGyver decided it was time for a break. Apparently Jimmy did, too, as he sat back in his chair and scrubbed his hands with his face.

“This is impossible!” the young man spat, frustration overflowing.

“Whoa, take it easy. You said yourself it was a complicated program. Cut yourself some slack,” Mac advised.

“I’ve been working on this for three days,” Jimmy countered. “I can decode most programs in a matter of hours. So much for being the number one computer tech at Phoenix!”

“Look, why don’t we go grab something to eat and you can come back and look at it with fresh eyes?”

“That’s it, MacGyver! You’re a genius!”

“I am?”

“Yeah! I need a pair of fresh eyes! Will you take a look at it after lunch?”

Mac hesitated. “I’m not sure I’m the right man for the job, but I’ll give it a shot.”

When the two men returned from the cafeteria, MacGyver sat down at Choo’s computer.

“I’m gonna try and see if I can find the hacker’s location,” Jimmy said as he booted up another machine.

For the rest of the afternoon, Mac sat staring at the monitor, trying to make sense of the seemingly random rows of numbers and letters. He dug into his memory and ran as many decoding programs as he could remember, fondly recalling his own computer hacking days...all done in the name of research, of course. His eyes were burning and his back was aching and he was ready to call it a day when a small sequence at the bottom of the screen suddenly looked familiar. With renewed energy, MacGyver continued his investigation.

“I think I got it,” he announced to Jimmy thirty minutes later.

“You did? How? What is it?”

“Let me get Bannister down here first.”

“We were overthinking this,” Mac explained once Craig arrived and the three men were gathered around the console.

“What do you mean?” Jimmy asked.

“The encryption as well as the code is actually very basic.”

“That can’t be! I started with the most basic decoding programs I know,” Jimmy protested.

“Exactly!” MacGyver exclaimed.

“Would you care to explain yourself?” Bannister demanded.

“I used an old program, and I mean really old, to decipher it. I doubt that most technicians these days are aware of it and, unless I miss my guess, the culprit was counting on that! It also means that whoever wrote this code is probably closer to my age than Jimmy’s.”

“Okay,” Craig capitulated. “So what does it say?”

Mac turned to face his friend. “Remember back in the late fifties when movie theaters were accused of using subliminal messages in films to advertise popcorn and stuff?”

“Yeah, but I thought that was eventually debunked.”

“Not totally. And from what I see, the hacker programed a subliminal message into my recertification program. At least the one accessed with Duncan’s password.”

“Go on,” Craig urged.

“While Duncan was practicing for re-cert, three phrases were flashed on the screen, each for ten milliseconds, in a continuous loop.”

“And what did these phrases say?” Bannister asked in a childish, sing-song voice that indicated he was growing frustrated with MacGyver’s stall tactics.

“It’s bad,” Mac warned, his stomach churning. “The phrases were: ‘Rendezvous with Ahmad’, ‘Hand over microchip’, and ‘Kill yourself with service weapon’.”

“Oh my god,” Craig muttered as the blood drained from his face. “Duncan was brainwashed.”

“Is that even possible?” Jimmy asked, clearly not convinced.

“Given the evidence, I’d say it is,” Mac replied.

“And since the coding used is basically outdated, we can assume it was probably done by someone close to our age, right MacGyver?” Craig deduced.

“Yeah. But that doesn’t exactly narrow the suspect pool,” Mac replied dejectedly.

XXXXX

That evening, per Nikki’s invitation, Craig, MacGyver, and Jack gathered around her dining room table where she served up a scrumptious meal. However, Mac couldn’t help noticing that she barely touched her food and the normally outgoing, opinionated agent barely contributed to the conversation. It was almost as if she didn’t want them there, even though she had asked them to come. When the dishes had been cleared and she was in the kitchen making coffee, Mac decided to broach the subject.

“Hey Craig, is Nikki okay?” he asked in a low voice. “She doesn’t seem to be acting like herself.”

“It’s this thing with Duncan,” Bannister sighed. “She’s taking it really hard.”

“Did they work together much?”

“A couple times over the past few years, but you know how it is.”

“Yeah,” Mac nodded. He knew all too well that underneath her oft-prickly exterior, Nikki had a soft, vulnerable heart.

“Here we go!” Nikki said with what MacGyver knew was forced cheerfulness as she carried a tray of coffee cups into the dining room. When she set a delicate cup of the dark liquid in front of Mac, his first instinct was to push it away. Apparently she had forgotten he hated the stuff. But he stopped himself. Tonight, for Nikki, he would drink coffee. But before anyone could take a sip, Jack spoke up.

“Sorry Nikki, but I gotta get going. It’s getting late and Mac’s my ride.”

Everyone glanced at their watch with Nikki being the first to speak.

“Jack, it’s not even nine o’clock. Surely you can stay for just one cup,” she protested.

“No can do, mon amie. I have an early flight booked and need to get some shut-eye. Can’t be falling asleep at the controls of my fancy new plane, now.”

“You didn’t tell me anything about a flight,” Mac countered.

“Oh, sorry. Must’ve slipped my mind,” Jack apologized to his friend before turning to address the rest of the group. “This super-rich oil baron hired me to fly him to New York for three days. Wants to leave at first light. As a bonus, he’s putting me up in a five-star hotel and covering all my meals and expenses until it’s time to fly him back. So Mac, you’ll have my place all to yourself. Don’t go throwin’ any wild parties or anything.”

MacGyver pulled a face as the others laughed before exchanging good-byes.

When Mac awoke the next morning, the apartment was eerily silent. Jack had already left. Knowing his friend had never been an early riser, MacGyver couldn’t help wondering if the pilot had really gone to sleep last night or just stayed up until time to leave. Mac mentally shrugged, rolled off the couch, stretched out his back muscles, grabbed a granola bar and headed out the door. Upon arriving at Phoenix, he headed straight to the computer lab.

“Find our hacker yet?” he asked Jimmy Choo who was already hard at work.

“No,” the technician admitted. “But based on what we found out yesterday, I’m running an older tracking program in case he’s using an older computer.”

“Good man,” Mac praised, clapping Jimmy on the shoulder before sitting down.

“Listen, Jimmy. I’ve been thinking about your dad. If I remember correctly he’s a couple years younger than me. What made him decide to retire so early?”

“Why do you care?” Choo asked in a clipped tone.

“I don’t know, I just do,” Mac replied innocently.

Jimmy stared at the floor for so long MacGyver didn’t think he was going to get an answer when suddenly the younger man pinned him with an empty gaze and began to speak.

“There’s not a whole lot to tell. My dad was up for recertification and he wiped out in MacGyverland. Phoenix didn’t want to let him go, so they offered him a job in computer program development. Not many people know that my dad was a whiz with technology. Taught me everything I know. Anyway, he turned down the job and retired instead. Said if he couldn’t work in the field he didn’t want to work at all.”

“Aw man, that’s tough,” Mac acknowledged somberly. “But he must be proud of you, following in his footsteps and all. What’s he up to these days anyways?”

“I gotta get back to work,” Jimmy mumbled, ignoring the question and turning his attention back to the computer monitor.

Uneasiness in the pit of MacGyver’s stomach grew as the afternoon progressed. He kept replaying the conversation with Jimmy in his head and didn’t care for the conclusion it kept leading to. Before leaving for the day, he sought out Craig Bannister.

“Hey buddy, how’s it going? Any new information on the hacker?”

Mac shoved his fingers through his hair and blew out a breath. “I think I know who’s behind this.”

“Well, don’t keep me in suspense! Who is it?”

“I think it’s Jimmy’s dad, James Choo.”

Now it was Craig’s turn to blow out a breath as he sank silently into his desk chair, a look of disbelief shrouding his eyes. “It can’t be,” he finally mumbled softly.

“I know. I don’t want to believe it either. He was a great agent, but all the pieces fit. Think about it. He washed out on his recertification and felt railroaded into retirement. Not to mention he has the computer skills to pull this off. What better way to get what he sees as revenge on Phoenix for ending his career?”

“Mac, it’s impossible,” Bannister said sadly. “James Choo committed suicide two days after his retirement.”

XXXXX

MacGyver flopped down on the couch. He had just gotten off the phone with Joanna. They both knew he couldn’t talk about the investigation, but he was hoping some conversation about Challengers and simply hearing her voice would calm his mind. It hadn’t. Who was behind the hacking and subliminal message sending? Theoretically, they were back to square one, yet Mac couldn’t help feeling that the answer was closer than anyone dared to imagine. The phrase, ‘Taught me everything I know’, kept cycling through his brain. He was on the verge of dozing off when suddenly everything fell into place, like tumblers in combination lock. He was reaching for the phone to call Bannister when the buzzer on the wall sounded indicating that someone was at the courtyard gate. Frustrated that he had to delay his call, he got up and walked over to the intercom.

“Jack’s not here,” he said as he pressed the button.

“It’s me, Mac. Nikki. I really need to talk to you,” came the grainy reply.

The desperation in her voice caused MacGyver’s pulse to beat double-time.

“I’ll be right down,” he said into the speaker.

Moments later he escorted Nikki into Jack’s apartment. She was halfway across the living room before she turned, pointing a revolver at Mac’s chest.

“Whoa, Nikki, what’s goin’ on here?” MacGyver asked, holding his hands up in surrender.

“You should’ve drank the coffee, Mac. It was poisoned. You would’ve come home, gone to sleep, and never woke up. Nice and clean and painless.” Her cold, monotone voice was a stark contrast to the pools of tears forming in her eyes.

“C’mon Nikki. You don’t wanna do this.” His voice was calm and gentle.

She remained silent, the gun still aimed at his heart.

“If you really wanted me dead you would’ve shot me already. Put the gun down.” His voice was firmer now.

“I can’t. I have to kill you.”

“Who said?”

“I have to kill you,” she repeated mechanically.

“Okay. Then what? What are you gonna do after you kill me?”

“Kill MacGyver, kill yourself,” she intoned.

“Nikki, you know you don’t want to do this,” Mac repeated.

“I have to.” A tear slid down her cheek.

“Who told you that?” MacGyver gentled his voice once again.

The woman’s brow furrowed slightly as her finger began to put pressure on the trigger.

Mac could feel beads of sweat beginning to form on his forehead.

“You don’t have to kill me and you don’t have to kill yourself. You don’t have to listen to them, you have a choice.”

Nikki stayed silent, but MacGyver noticed her hold on the weapon waiver just a bit. His first instinct was to use the opportunity to wrestle the gun away from her, but he hesitated. The odds of one or both of them getting hurt were too high.

“C’mon Nikki, this isn’t you. We’re friends. Good friends. You don’t wanna kill me. You can’t kill me. It isn’t in you, Nikki. Now put the gun down.”

“I have to--”

“No, you don’t,” Mac interrupted firmly. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t wanna do. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right.”

Tears were now freely flowing down her cheeks. “But I have to,” she insisted, even as her arms lowered.

MacGyver quickly stepped toward her and wrapped his hand around the gun, easing it from her grip as his other arm snaked around her back before they both crumpled to the ground, Nikki sobbing against his chest.

“It’s okay, Nikki. It’s all over now,” he soothed as he gently rocked her back and forth, stroking her hair.

Mac didn’t know how long he sat on the floor, comforting his friend, but he would sit there all night if he needed. Suddenly Nikki sniffled, hiccupped, and pulled back, looking around before her wide eyes met his.

“MacGyver, where am I? What happened?” she asked, panic tinged her voice.

“Everything’s okay,” he quickly assured her. “You’re in Jack’s apartment. You came to kill me but thankfully had second thoughts,” he teased, hoping to coax a smile from her.

“But why? How?”

“I’m pretty sure you were brainwashed, just like Tom Duncan.”

Mac helped Nikki into the kitchen and settled her at the table with a glass of water before heading towards the telephone.

“Who are you calling?” she asked.

“I’m calling Craig to come pick you up and then I’m going to Phoenix and end this once and for all.”

“I’m going with you!” Nikki stood up so fast the wooden chair she had been sitting on skidded across the linoleum floor.

“No way, Nikki,” Mac began to protest, but then he saw the determination in her eyes and knew he was fighting a battle he wouldn’t win. “All right,” he sighed. “I’ll have Bannister meet us there.”

As soon as the trio entered the foundation, MacGyver headed directly to the security desk to sign them in.

“Is Jimmy Choo on the premises?” he asked the guard.

“Let me check the log.”

Mac waited impatiently before the guard answered.

“According to this he’s in computer lab one.”

“Great. Have the fourth floor security officer meet us there,” Mac directed before herding everyone toward the elevators.

“Do you mind telling me what’s going on?” Craig asked, clearly confused and frustrated.

“As soon as I check something out,” MacGyver replied.

The security officer was waiting for them when they arrived at the lab. He slid his key card through the reader and the electronic door slid open. Jimmy swiveled in his chair where he had been working on his computer, obviously taken by surprise.

“Get him away from there and keep an eye on him,” Mac instructed the guard before sitting down in the chair Jimmy had abandon.

MacGyver pounded away on the keyboard, easily breaking and reading encrypted programs to make sure he had the proof he needed. When he was satisfied with his findings, he turned back to Craig and Nikki.

“Contrary to what we were led to believe, the hacker also breached Nikki’s terminal and loaded it with a subliminal message code,” Mac announced.

“You can’t know that!” Jimmy cried from across the room where he stood next to the guard who had a large, meaty hand wrapped around his bicep. “You said yourself you couldn’t read the codes!”

“I’m a fast learner,” MacGyver replied facetiously. “Besides, it was easy once I figured out you were using a nearly obsolete program.”

“Wait a minute,” Bannister broke in. “Are you saying Jimmy did all this?”

“Yes sir. And if you look you’ll see that the activity can be tracked to his father’s computer.”

“But why?” Craig asked Jimmy.

The young man glared at MacGyver. “Why don’t you ask him since he seems to think he knows all the answers?”

“Because I want to hear it from you,” Bannister ground out.

Realizing there was no way out, Jimmy began his story. “I blamed MacGyver for my father’s death,” he confessed. “Mac designed the obstacle course that my dad failed on and lost his field clearance which led to his suicide. I promised myself I would get my revenge by killing MacGyver. I worked night and day to get hired on at Phoenix. But by the time I came on board, he had already left. When I heard that the board wanted to get rid of MacGyverland, I figured he come back to fight for it. And I was right.” Choo paused to send Mac a triumphant smirk.

“But if your beef was with Mac, why get Duncan involved?” Craig asked.

“I needed something big to get everyone’s attention and then divert it away from me, and it worked. You sent all you’re best operatives to track down the man Duncan met with and left me to work the computer angle alone.”

“That way you could feed us fake information about the hacker and shift any suspicion away from you,” Bannister groaned.

“And it was working, too, until you had MacGyver come sniffing around.”

“That’s what I don’t get,” Nikki piped up. “You had plenty of opportunities to kill Mac yourself. Why bother brainwashing me?”

“I couldn’t exactly off him here at Phoenix without getting caught,” Choo replied, rolling his eyes. “I needed someone he trusted. Someone who could get close to him. You were perfect.”

“Perhaps a little too perfect,” Nikki countered. “Mac was able to get into my head far better than you and because of that, he’s still alive. So you’re grand scheme failed in the end.”

“But why instruct them to commit suicide?” Bannister asked Choo.

“I wanted them to feel the hopelessness my father felt and take their own lives like he took his!” Jimmy spat.

Apparently satisfied with Choo’s story, Bannister turned his attention to MacGyver.

“And you figured all this out?”

“Pretty much,” Mac replied casually.

“How?”

“When Jimmy was telling me about his dad, he slipped up and said that James taught him everything he knew about computers. That meant he would know the old coding that other technicians his age were never taught. After that, everything else just kinda fell into place.”

“But what about all those fancy, new-fangled programs he kept running to track down the hacker?” Craig asked.

“They were fakes that he wrote himself,” Mac explained. “That’s why I couldn’t make any sense of them and no other tech could have read them either. He was counting on you assigning him to this case solo. Isn’t that right, Jimmy?”

This time, the young man remained silent and hung his head in defeat.

“And it almost worked,” Craig groaned.

“But it didn’t,” MacGyver assured his friend firmly. “Now how about we call the authorities and wrap this all up?”

XXXXX

The following morning MacGyver and Bannister stood in Phoenix’s psychiatric laboratory anxiously peering through a glass partition watching Doc Beatty “deprogram” Nikki, much as she had done to Jack several years ago when he had been brainwashed to kill a visiting foreign dignitary.

“Is she gonna be okay, doc?” Craig asked as soon as the session ended and the two women returned to the lab.

“She’s going to be fine,” Beatty assured him. “Everything in her brain is one hundred percent Nicole Carpenter.”

“Aw, man, now we’re really in trouble,” Mac groused, albeit with a playful glint in his eyes as his friends broke into carefree laughter.

































Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 29 January 2020 - 04:02 AM                                    
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QUOTE

“Is it classified?” she asked, now keeping pace at his elbow.
She caught up quick tongue.gif

QUOTE

Mac’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Wait a minute. Are you telling me to go to Los Angeles and insert myself into the investigation?”

“That is what you want to do, right?” she asked with a sly smile. “Besides, there’s no school until Monday so I can take your place at Challengers.”
Mac, you're really lucky with that one XD

QUOTE

“A legend?” Mac’s innate modesty scoffed at the idea, but his all-American male ego swelled just a bit.
My last two brain cells when someone says something nice to me laugh.gif

QUOTE

“Yeah, I know. I was plannin’ on lookin’ up an old buddy and bunkin’ with him.”
Wonder who...

QUOTE
It looked like a respectable place in a respectable neighborhood. Mac couldn’t help glancing at the address he had scribbled on a piece of paper while talking to Jack. Yep. The address matched.
Wonder how he scored that...

QUOTE

“Oh. That’s too bad, Mac. Really.” Jack paused and the air hung heavy between them. “So, how’d he die?”
I had to chortle, literally, because this is exactly me reacting to bad news... My sympathies, now gimme the details roller.gif

QUOTE
“I just got the medical examiner’s official cause of death on Duncan. The gunshot wound was self-inflicted.”
If this is going to go in the direction I think it is, then that little detail means it's not Mac's fault. (Future me commenting: it did not go like I thought).

QUOTE

“Yes, he was,” the younger Choo confirmed. A slight hitch in his voice caught MacGyver’s attention, but he decided not to question it. At least not yet.
hmm.bmp ...What are you hiding, Jimmy?

QUOTE

Mac turned to face his friend. “Remember back in the late fifties when movie theaters were accused of using subliminal messages in films to advertise popcorn and stuff?”
I feel I should research this myself...

QUOTE

“Oh my god,” Craig muttered as the blood drained from his face. “Duncan was brainwashed.”

“Is that even possible?” Jimmy asked, clearly not convinced.

“Given the evidence, I’d say it is,” Mac replied.
*sigh* That's something else I need to research now... XD

Okay, maybe reading this in the middle of the night was a bad idea XD

QUOTE


“Hey Craig, is Nikki okay?” he asked in a low voice. “She doesn’t seem to be acting like herself.”
I feel that Nikki is going to get brainwashed next...

QUOTE
Knowing his friend had never been an early riser, MacGyver couldn’t help wondering if the pilot had really gone to sleep last night or just stayed up until time to leave.
I legit do this though...

QUOTE

“Mac, it’s impossible,” Bannister said sadly. “James Choo committed suicide two days after his retirement.”
As soon as Mac said his theories, I thought it might ctually be Jimmy. Looks like I'm right.

QUOTE
He was on the verge of dozing off when suddenly everything fell into place, like tumblers in combination lock.
Dude, you are slow laugh.gif

QUOTE
She was halfway across the living room before she turned, pointing a revolver at Mac’s chest.
Called it tongue.gif

QUOTE

Mac didn’t know how long he sat on the floor, comforting his friend, but he would sit there all night if he needed.
This is probably my favorite trope in existence wub.gif

QUOTE

“Aw, man, now we’re really in trouble,” Mac groused, albeit with a playful glint in his eyes as his friends broke into carefree laughter.
tongue.gif



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 29 January 2020 - 06:22 AM                                    
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Dragondog...sounds like you enjoyed part 2. Hope it was worth the wait!!



Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Posted: 29 January 2020 - 02:05 PM                                    
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QUOTE (uniquelyjas @ 29 January 2020 - 08:22 AM)
Dragondog...sounds like you enjoyed part 2. Hope it was worth the wait!!

Indeed biggrin.gif

I know that that level of brainwashing is more of a sci-fi thing, but it's still kinda terrifying to read at three in the morning XD



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 29 January 2020 - 02:43 PM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 29 January 2020 - 02:05 PM)
QUOTE (uniquelyjas @ 29 January 2020 - 08:22 AM)
Dragondog...sounds like you enjoyed part 2.  Hope it was worth the wait!!

Indeed biggrin.gif

I know that that level of brainwashing is more of a sci-fi thing, but it's still kinda terrifying to read at three in the morning XD

biggrin.gif



Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Posted: 5 February 2020 - 07:17 AM                                    
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Chapter 35: Christmas Quarantine

“Thanks for the update. I appreciate it.” MacGyver hung up the phone and stepped out of his office and into the rec room at Challengers. Christmas was fast approaching and the teens had been decorating for days. This afternoon, Geena and Joanna were festooning the places the kids hadn’t already gotten to. As it was, they already had three Christmas trees, but this year Mac didn’t mind. Walking towards the two women he couldn’t help overhearing their conversation.

“Shouldn’t that man of yours be helping us with this?” Geena complained as she handed a length of garland to Joanna who was standing on a folding chair, tacking the decor to the wall.

“That man of hers has a name,” Mac informed the part-time law secretary and new Challengers volunteer as he approached and casually put his hands on Joanna’s hips.

“Oh, I know that,” Geena laughed. “I’m just funnin’ her! She never blushes when I just call you ‘MacGyver’.”

“I’m not gonna fall, ya know,” Jo informed him, glancing down at his hands.

“Let’s just call it a precautionary measure,” he grinned, squeezing her hips a bit tighter as she shook her head and returned her attention to the task at hand.

“Girlfriend, if you don’t want this fine man of yours touchin’ you, he can give me some sugar anytime!” Geena gave Mac a conspiratorial wink as she walked away.

“Okay, I’m comin’ down,” Joanna warned. “You might wanna let go and back up so my foot doesn’t accidentally hit you someplace painful.”

Figuring he had pushed the envelope far enough for now he did as she instructed but stayed alert and within arm’s reach in case she lost her balance.

“So, who were you on the phone with?” she asked once back on solid ground and looking up at him.

“Craig Bannister.”

The scowl that usually appeared on her face at the mention of that name remained absent, her expression neutral. Score one for the good guys!

“He wanted to let me know they caught the guy Duncan met with and recovered the documents,” Mac explained.

“I’m sure everyone at Phoenix is relieved,” she responded as she headed toward her office.

“Yeah, but it doesn’t make up for losing a good agent,” MacGyver said sadly, following behind her.

“I suppose not,” she mumbled before stopping halfway to her desk and turning to face him. “What’s going to happen with the recertification program you created?”

Mac was glad to see her taking an interest in his work for the foundation. “It’s been put on hold temporarily. The board will eventually decide whether or not to move ahead with it.”

“Are you okay with that? You worked so hard on it.”

“Yeah. And it almost got me killed.”

“What?! How?!” Joanna shrieked, a look of horror on her face.

“Uh, I really can’t say. It’s classified.”

“Would I want to know the details if it wasn’t?”

“Considering I’m standing here alive and well, probably not. But I will tell you something else you need to know.”

“What is it?” Jo asked, concern in her eyes.

“You have to kiss me now.”

“What?” Mac almost laughed at her befuddlement but knew he had to hold back if he wanted to move forward with this new diversion.

“It’s kinda tradition,” he clarified, snaking one arm around her waist to pull her close while he pointed up to the ceiling with his other hand to the sprig of mistletoe he had hung there earlier in the day.

“You booby trapped my office?” she accused.

His only answer was a slow, crooked smile he knew she couldn’t resist.

“Well,” she gave an exaggerated sigh. “I guess we can’t go breaking tradition now, can we?”

“Guess not,” he agreed as he lowered his lips to meet hers in a long, gentle caress.

“We should go try out the mistletoe in your office,” Joanna suggested lazily once they had broken the kiss.

MacGyver took a step back. “I didn’t put any in mine.”

“Why not?” she asked, taking a step back as well.

“I didn’t think you’d care for me being tradition bound to kiss every female that walked into my office.”

“But you don’t mind me kissing every guy that walks into my office?” she countered, one eyebrow cocked.

MacGyver hadn’t thought about it that way when he hatched this little plan. Time for a little recon. He grabbed a wire coat hanger from the hook on the back of Jo’s office door and gave it a yank to straighten it before reaching up and using the curved end to snag the offending piece of greenery and toss it into the trash.

“I always thought it was a dumb tradition anyways,” he explained when his eyes met Joanna’s quizzical gaze.

“Well, it was fun while it lasted,” she laughed. “Now we better get back to work before Geena starts wondering what we’re doing in here.”

“Oh, I think Geena knows exactly what we’re doin’ in here,” Mac replied. “Besides, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”

“What is it?” she asked, a mix of concern and suspicion in her voice.

“Nothing bad,” Mac quickly assured her. “It’s just that I heard about this really nice ski resort a couple hours north of here--”

“You mean Cascade Ridge?”

“Yeah. I thought that once school lets out for winter break you and I could go up there for a couple days before Christmas to unwind.”

Mac held his breath as he waited for her answer. Knowing her need to plan and schedule, in detail, he expected a string of excuses to spew from her mouth.

“That sounds fun,” she replied.

“Wait, what?”

“I said, that sounds like it would be fun,” she repeated.

“Christmas isn’t until Thursday so I figure we can drive up Sunday night and be back by the twenty-fourth. That way you’ll still have the weekend for any last minute shopping,” he explained.

“Okay,” she said with a slight shrug.

MacGyver was taken aback by this easy-going, carefree side of her.

“Aren’t you going to point out that I just got back from L.A. and should spend the time here at work?”

“That was hardly a relaxing vacation,” she observed.

“But you don’t even ski!”

“I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to pass the time,” she declared. “I do like the idea of snuggling in front of a fire, drinking hot chocolate.”

“Me, too,” Mac agreed, once again reaching out to pull her close. Unfortunately, the moment was marred by his unexpected frown.

“What’s wrong?” Joanna asked, concern evident once again. “Don’t you want me to go?”

“No! I mean, I’m just not used to you being so...so…”

“So flexible and spontaneous?”

“Yeah, somethin’ like that.”

“It’s my New Year’s resolution,” she explained, extricating herself from his grasp with a grin. “I decided that if I’m gonna marry you, I have to get used to things like unexpected trips and surprise calls from Craig Bannister.”

“Aw Jo, I don’t want you to go changing because of me. I love you just as you are,” Mac protested.

“Don’t think of it as ‘changing’, think of it as ‘improving’. So, what’s your resolution?”

“To never let you forget how amazing you are,” he whispered huskily as he stole another kiss.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The following Sunday evening MacGyver pulled his Jeep up to the covered front entrance of the sprawling Cascade Ridge Ski Resort and Conference Center. Joanna couldn’t help but be impressed. She had done a bit of research and discovered that, not only did the large lodge boast an indoor ice rink, but it also had an arcade with a variety of games, several gathering rooms that each had a large stone fireplace for getting together with friends or spending time with a good book, a spa that offered manicures and massages, a number of conference rooms, and a critically acclaimed restaurant as well as a more modest cafe. Outdoor offerings included hiking and snowmobiling trails, tobogganing, and of course several ski hills from basic to advanced to accommodate all levels of ages and skills.

“Mac, this must be costing a fortune!”

“Don’t worry about it,” he replied with a lazy smile. “Consider it my Christmas present to you.”

“I think you’ve covered about five year’s worth of gifts,” she mumbled despite the anticipation building up inside her. For years, she had secretly dreamed of retreating to such a destination and now, thanks to MacGyver, she was actually here!

Once inside, the couple waited for their turn at the registration desk. A brunette woman and a blond-haired boy stood in front of them while an elderly husband and wife bickered as the clerk tried to collect their information.

“I’m tellin’ ya, Myrna, with a cough like that you should have stayed home!”

“Oh nonsense, George! It’s just the sniffles! The grandkids paid good money to send us here and I’m not going home now.”

“Fine! But if you die of pneumonia, don’t come cryin’ to me!”

Joanna glanced up at MacGyver with a smirk.

“Please, don’t let that ever be us,” he bent down and whispered in her ear, an amused grin on his face as well.

As the elderly couple worked to complete the registration process, the young boy standing in front of Mac began to voice his impatience.

“Mom, I’m hungry,” he whined. “Why couldn’t we have stopped at McDonald’s before coming here?”

“I’m sorry, honey, but how was I to know we were going to get a flat tire? We’ll go grab something as soon as we sign in.”

The boy sighed heavily and Jo noticed the brand new pair of hockey skates he had slung over his shoulder. So did MacGyver.

“Hey, those are pretty cool blades,” Mac observed, tearing the boy’s attention away from his hunger for the moment.

“Thanks! They’re an early Christmas present,” he responded eagerly.

“You on a team?”

“Yeah. I’m missing practice ‘cause I had to come with Mom to her work seminar, but she says I can use the indoor rink.”

“Sounds like a plan. I played on a hockey team when I was your age. Maybe we can do a little one-on-one if your mom says it’s okay. Name’s MacGyver.” Mac stuck out his hand and the boy returned the gesture.

This caught the woman’s attention and she turned around, a slight flush on her cheeks.

“Oh my goodness! I’m sorry if he’s bothering you. I’m Molly and this is my son, Josh.”

“I’m MacGyver and this is Joanna, it’s nice to meet you and Josh is no bother.”

“Mom, can I go skating with MacGyver while we’re here?” Josh asked excitedly just as the clerk beckoned them to the counter.

“We’ll see, honey. I don’t want you bothering the nice man,” Molly responded, sending Mac an apologetic smile.

“But maaa,” Josh whined as they moved forward.

Jo looked up at MacGyver and rolled her eyes as he chuckled.

Finally it was their turn to register. Joanna let MacGyver take care of the transaction and watched as the clerk handed him two key cards.

After taking the elevator up to the second floor and walking down a long corridor, Mac stopped in front of a well-lacquered wooden door. He slid the key card into the slot, threw the door opened, and motioned for Joanna to enter ahead of him. Expecting a modest motel room, she gasped when she saw the small suite. Directly across the room from her were large glass patio doors which presumably opened onto a balcony. The main room itself was outfitted with a couch, matching stuffed chairs, a coffee table and television. She noted two solid doors, one for the bathroom and one for the private bedroom.

“Mac, this is terrific!”

MacGyver shrugged, shying away from the praise. “The couch pulls out into a bed. This way I can sleep out here and get up early without disturbing you.”

His explanation warmed her soul. Not many people, especially morning people, understood her desire for a couple extra hours of sleep on days she wasn’t working. Suddenly she felt Mac grab her hand and she had no choice but to follow him to the patio doors.

“You can’t see it in the dark, but in the morning you’ll see the black diamond ski hill from here. Maybe you’ll catch one of my runs,” he said with a grin.

“Isn’t a black diamond one of the most advanced courses?”

“Yep!”

“Fine, I’ll watch as long as you promise not to wipe out!”

XXXXX

True to her word, the following morning Joanna emerged from her bedroom in flannel pajamas and a fluffy robe. She tugged open the heavy draperies that had been pulled across the patio doors and immediately shielded her eyes as the bright December sunlight glinted off the pure white snow of the ski hill. Once her eyes adjusted to the brightness, her gaze landed on a figure in red ski pants and jacket effortlessly swooshing down the mountain. She smiled as she admired MacGyver’s gracefulness, speed, and economy of movement. When he reached the bottom of the hill he skidded to a stop sending a rooster tail of snow into the air before heading back to the lift for another run. Joanna turned away and hurried to the bathroom to shower and dress before he returned.

Jo had just commandeered a small table for two in the main lobby where a complimentary breakfast buffet had been set up when Mac walked through the front door. His cheeks were red, his damp hair plastered to his head, and his smile larger than she had seen in a long time. He immediately made his way over to her.

“Having fun?” she asked, returning his smile.

“Yeah. I can’t believe how much I’ve missed it,” he responded, still a bit breathless.

“You looked good out there,”

“Thanks,” he replied, self-satisfaction obvious. “But all that exercise sure makes a guy hungry.”

After loading their plates with a scrumptious variety of breakfast treats, they returned to their table and made plans for the rest of the day.

After a long, leisurely hike which included hand-holding, stolen kisses, and more than one impromptu snowball fight, the couple returned to the lodge for a late lunch in the cafe during which MacGyver convinced a reluctant Joanna to resume her skating lessons. When the pair finally made their way to the indoor skating rink, they found Josh in full hockey gear gliding aimlessly around the ice, head down. Mac looked at Jo with a hopeful plea in his eyes.

“Go ahead and play with him,” she directed with a laugh. “My skating lesson can wait.”

After giving her a quick kiss, MacGyver laced up his skates and hit the ice. Joanna could see the boy’s face light up immediately.

“Promise to go easy on me. I’m not wearing any pads,” she heard Mac call to him before they dropped the puck and started a game of one-on-one.

Joanna settled herself on a bench to watch the proceedings. She instinctively knew that MacGyver would let Josh decide when it was time to quit. Given that the boy was only twelve, it could be a while. A few moments later she felt a presence beside her as Molly sat down, her eyes on her son.

“I hope he isn’t bothering your husband,” she apologized.

Joanna let the woman’s assumption about Mac slide. “Are you kidding? He lives for this kind of stuff!”

Just then, Josh slid the puck into the net. He let out a whoop and raised his hands, stick and all, into the air to celebrate.

“Did you see that, Ma?!” he called. “I’m beating Mr. MacGyver!”

“Not for long you’re not,” Mac called back as he returned to center ice with the puck.

Molly laughed. “I see what you mean,” she said to Jo. “If he does become a nuisance, just send him back to the room. Unfortunately, I need to get back to my business meeting.”

That evening, Joanna and MacGyver dined in the lodge’s five-star restaurant. The atmosphere was romantic and the cuisine delectable. After sharing a decadent dessert, they decided to forego returning to their suite and instead ensconced themselves in one of the smaller gathering rooms. Sitting close to each other on a buttery soft leather sofa, Mac put his arm around Joanna and pulled her close. She laid her head on his shoulder and placed her hand on his chest. She could feel the warmth of his skin through his shirt as well as the strong, steady beat of his heart.

“Are you having a good time?” she asked, tilting her head to look up at him.

“I am,” he confirmed with a smile. “How about you?”

“It’s been perfect. I hate to think of leaving.”

“Then don’t,” he instructed. “We still have one full day left.”

Tuesday morning Joanna made a point of waking early. She watched MacGyver make two runs down the ski hill. His speed seemed a bit slower today and his moves just a tad sluggish, but she still could not take her eyes off his athletic, confident form. When he did not return for a third run, she headed to the bathroom.

Stepping from the shower wrapped in a warm bathrobe, her brown hair still wet, she opened the door to find Mac standing by the couch, shedding his ski jacket.

“Done already?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he muttered. She couldn’t help but notice his hand reach for the small of his back and begin kneading it gently.

“Maybe you should go to the spa for a massage,” she suggested with a knowing grin.

Mac grimaced. “I’ll be fine once I get cleaned up and have a good breakfast.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MacGyver took a longer and hotter shower than usual hoping it would soothe the kinks in his back. Two straight days of skiing plus a couple of hours playing hockey had taken their toll, though he was loathe to admit it. On their way to the lobby for breakfast, he and Joanna ran into Josh and Molly. Josh was eager to get Mac back on the ice and there was no way he was gonna refuse the kid, even when Jo shot him a sideways glance that seemed to say he should know better. They had just filled their plates at the buffet and sat down as a foursome when an ambulance pulled up at the main entrance. The hotel manager quickly escorted the medics through the room amidst murmurs and stares from other diners.

“Wonder what’s going on?” Mac mused aloud.

“Some middle-aged guy probably threw his back out trying to act like a teenager,” Jo replied snidely.

They were half-way through their meal when the medics returned with a stretcher carrying an elderly lady wrapped in blankets. A man of about the same age followed behind, carrying her purse.

“Hey Mom, isn’t that the old couple that was ahead of us in line the other night?” Josh asked.

“It looks like it could be,” Molly replied.

“I remember that couple,” Mac added. “The wife had a terrible cough.”

“It must have turned into something more serious,” Joanna observed with a frown, silencing the others at the table.

Once the remainder of the meal had been consumed, Molly headed off to her seminar, Jo returned to their suite to grab a novel to read by the fire, and Mac and Josh proceeded to the ice rink. After some quick warm up exercises and a rousing game of one-on-one, MacGyver showed Josh some easy tips and tricks for him to share with his friends and teammates back home. Acutely aware of the precious time he was missing with Joanna, he cut their session short, much to Josh’s dismay.

“Sorry buddy,” he apologized. “How about you hang out in the arcade until it’s time to meet your mom for lunch?”

The boy nodded in polite agreement and Mac set out to find Joanna.

“So, what do you want to do for the rest of the day?” he asked Jo, settling beside her on the same couch they had cuddled on the night before.

“Whatever you want,” she replied.

Mac stared at her suspiciously. “You’re taking this whole New Year’s resolution thing pretty seriously, aren’t you?”

“I am,” she answered solemnly.

“Aha! I got you now!” he exclaimed.

Twenty minutes later he had her teetering on a pair of figure skates about to step onto the ice.

“You know you don’t really have to do this if you don’t want to,” he said, gazing into her trusting eyes.

She shook her head. “Skating is important to you, and I’ve always enjoyed watching it but I was always scared to actually try doing it myself.”

Taking his hand, she gingerly stepped onto the slippery surface. Much to his dismay, she quickly removed her hand from his in order to grasp the top of the wall. Once she had her balance, she started taking slow steps forward, still clutching the padded wall instead of him. Mac sighed and followed behind, offering encouraging words. Suddenly her hand shot out towards him. He instinctively grabbed it and felt her weight shift.

“I don’t think I need to hang onto the boards anymore,” she explained. “I seem to be remembering what you taught me last time. Just don’t let go, okay?”

“Count on it,” he promised, putting an arm around her waist for extra support.

Lost in both the thrill of skating and the feel of Joanna in his arms, time went by quickly. When their stomachs began to rumble, they agreed to grab lunch in the cafe. Afterward, they decided to check out the arcade and were soon engrossed in various games as if they were kids again. Joanna’s competitive side surfaced as it had when Mac had first introduced her to his video hockey game and she practically wore out her arm trying to beat him at skee ball after she had already won one air hockey game. Aware that their time at the resort was waning, they agreed to take another leisurely stroll through the woods before climbing aboard a festively decorated old-fashioned sleigh for a special holiday tour of the grounds. They ended their day with a long, romantic dinner in the lodge’s exclusive restaurant where they drank in each other’s company with light touches and meaningful glances taking the place of conversation.

The following morning, MacGyver watched Joanna reluctantly pack her things. His duffle was already set to go, waiting by the door.

“You know we can always come back,” he told her, hoping to raise her spirits. “Besides, tonight is Christmas Eve. Aren’t you anxious to see what I got you?”

This got her attention. She turned to him, eyes wide. “You said this trip was my present.”

“I said you could consider it my gift to you. I actually bought you something before we left.”

“Well, I admit I’m looking forward to seeing the look on your face when I give you your present,” she confessed.

“Oh really?!” Mac raised his eyebrows suggestively only to earn a scowl from her pretty face.

Jo had just closed her suitcase when the telephone rang. MacGyver snatched up the receiver to be greeted by a poor quality recording.

“This is the lodge manager. All guests are required to meet in Conference Room One for an emergency announcement at 10:00am.”

The message continued to repeat itself, but Mac only needed to hear it once. His brow furrowed in concern as he met Joanna’s eyes and relayed the message.

“I wonder what that’s all about,” she commented, concern filling her voice.

MacGyver glanced at his watch. It was 9:45am. “We’ll find out soon enough,” he replied before they headed out the door and down to the main floor.

A group of worried patrons had already gathered outside the designated room when the couple arrived and found themselves standing next to Molly and Josh. It didn’t take people long to consider what this imperative meeting might be about.

“Maybe there’s a blizzard on the way and we have to evacuate!”

“Or it could be an avalanche!”

“I bet it’s a bomb threat! There are all sorts of crazies out there these days!”

More people began to add their opinions and soon individual words were indiscernible. Josh looked anxiously at MacGyver.

“It’s probably nothing more than a broken ski lift or a hot tub on the fritz,” Mac said loudly, trying to dispel the rising panic, but his words seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Once inside the large room, the manager stepped up on a podium and spoke into a microphone. Joanna glanced up at Mac, nervously biting her lip, and he reached down to give her hand a comforting squeeze.

“Ladies and gentleman,” the manager began. “It is with great sorrow that I must inform you of the death of one of our patrons.”

MacGyver had no doubt it was the woman who had been removed by ambulance the day before. But why the urgency to announce her fate?

“We now know that the deceased was suffering from a rare strain of influenza before she passed. Due to this, the local Center for Disease Control has issued a quarantine for Cascade Ridge until all persons are tested for the flu and an appropriate treatment can be found. Therefore, I must insist that everyone please remain in their assigned rooms, wash your hands frequently, and avoid other guests as well as common areas as much as possible. The lodge’s restaurant will be providing free room service and asks that all patrons telephone in their orders. These rules will remain in effect until the quarantine has been lifted. In addition, if you, or someone you know, appears to be exhibiting symptoms such as sore throat, fever, body aches, chills, or fatigue, please contact a member of our staff immediately. Later today, a physician will be coming to perform a rapid diagnostic test on everyone. Your cooperation during this time is greatly appreciated.”

“Does that mean I hafta stay in our room all day?” Josh morosely asked his mother as the crowd began to disperse.

“I’m afraid so, kiddo.”

“But there’s nothing to do! And what about hockey practice?!”

“I’m sorry, Josh,” Molly replied, sounding a bit harried by this sudden turn of events. “But we have to do as we’re told. On the bright side, I’ll let you watch as much TV as you want.”

Josh hung his head and kicked the carpet with his foot.

“Listen, Jo and I have a suite. How about we trade so Josh at least has a little more room to move around,” MacGyver suggested to Molly.

“I’m sorry, sir, but that would be breaking quarantine. One of your rooms could already be contaminated,” replied the manager who had just happened to be passing by.

Mac looked at Molly and shrugged. “I tried,” he whispered.

XXXXX

Late that evening, Joanna tossed the television remote onto the coffee table in front of her.

“I can’t believe it! Premium cable, over a hundred channels, and nothing good on TV!” she huffed, crossing her arms over her chest in a pout.

“Why don’t you read the book you brought with you?”

“I finished it while we were waiting for the test results,” she mumbled.

Earlier that afternoon a doctor from the nearest town had come and swabbed everyone’s throat to test for influenza, but both she and MacGyver knew the test was terribly insufficient and not designed to identify individual strains. Nevertheless, it was a process they had to endure even though it would not be enough to lift the quarantine.

“Did you call your folks?” Mac asked in an attempt to get Jo out of her foul mood.

“Yeah. I explained everything and told them I’d call when we knew more,” she sighed. “Did you call Sam?”

“No. He and Becca are spending Christmas with Pete and Connie. I didn’t want to spoil their holiday worrying about us.”

“Speaking of the holiday, this sure isn’t the way I envisioned spending Christmas Eve.”

MacGyver sat down next to her on the couch. “You’re the one who didn’t want to leave,” he pointed out cheekily. “You got your wish!”

“Then I guess I better be careful what I wish for. I didn’t want to be held prisoner!” she complained.

“Perhaps we could find a way to make your sentence more enjoyable,” he said softly, leaning in only to be stopped by her hand on his chest.

“What?”

She felt his forehead with the back of her other hand and squinted her eyes at him. “You don’t have a sore throat do you? Or the chills, or body aches?”

“I get it. You wanna play doctor,” Mac observed with a sexy grin while attempting to move closer. He stopped when his eyes landed on her hard gaze.

“I’m making sure you aren’t gonna give me the flu,” she responded tartly.

“If you recall, my test came back negative,” he reminded her as he wrapped his arms around her, pulled her close, and kissed her deeply before raising his head to observe her reaction. “You, on the other hand, look a bit flushed,” he observed huskily.

“Why might that be?” she asked breathlessly.

“I’m not sure. I think we need to experiment a bit more to find out.”

Joanna giggled before MacGyver’s lips pressed against hers once more and he felt her muscles relax as she gave herself fully to the kiss. Riding a wave of emotion, he barely heard the frantic knock on their door. Knowing everyone was supposed to remain in their appointed rooms, he raised his head and saw Jo’s eyes mirror his concern. With a sigh, he pulled himself away from her to answer the door. Molly was standing on the other side, tears running down her cheeks, her mascara smeared.

“Is Josh with you?” she asked anxiously, shoving past MacGyver before he had a chance to greet her or invite her in.

“No. Isn’t he in your room?” Joanna asked, rising from the couch.

The woman shook her head and sobbed. “No. He was really upset about having to stay in and kept complaining he was bored and missing hockey practice. I went to take a shower and when I returned to the bedroom he was gone! I’ve already looked in the ice rink and arcade, but I can’t seem to find him anywhere!”

With his hands on her shoulders, Mac led Molly to a comfortable armchair while Joanna handed her a wad of tissue.

“I think I know where he may have gone,” MacGyver announced once Molly had calmed down.

“Where?” the mother asked.

“He’s upset about not being able to skate, right?”

Molly nodded.

“When Jo and I were out hiking we saw a small, frozen pond on the property. I’ll go check it out, but first I have to figure a way out of here.”

“What do you mean?” Molly asked.

“We’re under quarantine, remember? I can’t exactly stroll through the lobby and out the front door.”

“I’m sorry,” the woman apologized. “When I couldn’t find Josh I forgot all about that.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Mac replied absently as he opened the sliding patio doors and stepped out on a small balcony before turning to survey the room.

“What are you thinking?” Jo asked, coming to stand beside him.

MacGyver peeked over the railing with a grimace. Of course they had to be on the second floor. “Go in the bedroom and get all your sheets,” he told her, handing her his Swiss Army knife. “Cut them in half the long way and tie them together.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding!”

“I know it’s cliché, but do you have a better idea?”

Jo frowned and hurried off to her bedroom as MacGyver opened up the pull-out couch and set to work tearing those sheets as well. They quickly tied them together and secured one end around the balcony railing. Assured that all the knots were as tight as possible, Mac tossed the sheets over the balcony before climbing over himself.

“Pull these up as soon as I hit the ground so no one sees them,” he instructed

“But how will you get back?” Jo asked.

“I’ll figure that out when the time comes. First I have to find Josh.” With that, Mac shimmied to the ground and watched as Joanna gathered up the sheets.

Moving as stealthily yet as quickly as possible, he regretted leaving his warm jacket behind. But on second thought it was probably for the best since the red material would make him easier to spot and he couldn’t get caught breaking quarantine. At least not until he found Josh.

Since Mac had also forgotten a flashlight, he was thankful for the full winter moon reflecting off the white blanket of snow. He had been hiking for about five minutes before he reached the pond. He thought he saw something bobbing in the middle of it.

“Josh! Is that you?!” he called in a loud whisper.

“Mr. MacGyver! I was skating when the ice broke and I fell in! You gotta help me!”

“Just hang in there and stay calm. I’ll get you out.”

There was no way Mac could reach the boy without going onto the ice himself and if he fell through, they’d both be in trouble. He needed some type of rope. For an instant he considered returning to the lodge and getting Joanna to toss him the sheets he had used to lower himself from the balcony, but that would take too long. Reaching into the pocket of his jeans he grabbed his Swiss Army knife, thankful that Jo had remembered to return it to him before he left. He opened it up to the longest blade it had, got down on all fours and slowly crawled out on the ice, laying on his stomach, arms and legs spread wide so his weight was evenly distributed over the frozen surface. Once he got as close as he felt was safe he spoke to the boy again.

“I’m gonna slide this knife to you. Take it and stab the thickest piece of ice you can reach and hold on tight. I’ll be right back.”

As soon as Josh did what he had instructed, he carefully returned to solid ground to search for something to pull the boy out. He knew he had to act fast. It wouldn’t be long before the youngster started experiencing shock and hypothermia. With the help of the moonlight he spotted a shadowy figure that looked to be an old outbuilding several yards away. MacGyver hurried through the snow, striking his foot against an unseen rock in the process. He reached the windowless shed and groaned when he saw the door secured with a rusted padlock. Normally he could easily pick it with his knife, but Josh was currently using it to keep himself from sinking into the frigid water. Suddenly, an idea sprung to mind and he backtracked to find the rock he had stumbled upon. Wrestling it out of the snow, it wasn’t as heavy as he first thought, but it should be able to get the job done. Returning to the wooden shed, he hit the lock with the rock several times until it finally gave way. With a sigh of relief Mac entered, pausing to adjust to the darkness. He carefully made his way around the small room, reaching out and touching objects as he went. Finally, his hand landed on what felt like a rubber garden hose. He hoisted the coil from the hook it was hanging on and headed outside to get a better look. He would have preferred something more flexible, like a rope, but this would have to do. He only hoped it was long enough.

Back at the pond he found Josh barely keeping himself above water. The boy’s eyelids were drooping and his arms appeared rigid. Mac stepped as close to the edge as he could.

“I’m gonna toss you this hose. Grab on and pull yourself up. I’ll pull from this end,” he told the frightened boy.

It took a couple tries, but finally Josh, still holding onto the knife with one hand, grasped the rubber hose in the other and began to pull himself up onto the ice. MacGyver braced his legs and pulled on the other end, careful to not rip the length of hose from Josh’s hand. At last, the boy was able to wiggle out of the hole and lay belly down on the ice.

“Stay still and hang on,” Mac called. “I’ll pull you in.”

Once Josh was back on firm ground, he and MacGyver sat in the snow, wet, cold, and exhausted.

“How did you find me?” the boy asked meekly.

Mac shrugged. “I just thought about where I would have gone when I was your age and cooped up in a hotel room when I’d rather be skating.”

“I bet my mom’s gonna be pretty angry.”

“I can just about guarantee it. You gave her quite a scare. Come on, we gotta get back to the lodge and get into some dry clothes before we get into any more trouble,” Mac said as he stood up and reached down to help the boy do the same. The return trek took a bit longer due to cold, stiff limbs.

“So how did you manage to get out without anyone seeing you?” MacGyver asked.

“I snuck out the back door of the laundry room. Is that how we’re gonna get back in?”

“We’re gonna give it a try,” Mac replied with a smile.

Once at the main building, MacGyver had Josh lead the way to the door he had used earlier. Mac reached for the handle but it was locked. Instinctively he stuck his hand in his pocket then frowned.

“Looking for this?” Josh asked, grinning as he held up Mac’s Swiss Army knife.

“Yeah. Thanks buddy.”

Moments later MacGyver had the lock jimmied and they stepped into the blessedly warm room where industrial sized washers and dryers chugged away.

“C’mon, this way!” Josh motioned and Mac followed with a grin. Due to the late hour, very few staff members were present, but they did have to duck into doorways a couple times to avoid detection. When they reached the suite, MacGyver tapped a gentle cadence on the door. Joanna swung the door open before stepping back and staring at them.

“What in the world happened to you?!” she cried as Molly joined her.

“We’ll tell you all about it, but first let us in before someone sees us.”

“It’s a little late for that,” Jo responded as she and Molly stepped aside to reveal the manager of the lodge standing in the middle of the room looking extremely unhappy.

MacGyver and Josh entered the suite and before Mac could speak the manager answered his unasked question.

“Some of the guests reported seeing prowlers outside their windows. We identified you two when we played back the outdoor security footage.”

“So what happens now?” Mac asked.

The tired manager sighed. “Everyone stays put for now. I’ll call the local CDC first thing in the morning and see what the protocol is for this type of infraction. We’ll talk when I know more.”

“I’ll be here,” MacGyver promised as Jo draped a heavy blanket over his shoulders, the manager departing with a scowl.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“C’mon! It’s almost time!” Mac called from where he sat on the couch in his apartment.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” Joanna responded from the kitchen before turning her attention to the bull dog waiting not-so-patiently at her feet.

“Here you go, Frog. Enjoy,” she said as she crouched down and served up a canine meal of fried chicken livers.

“Joanna!”

“I’m coming!”

Jo plopped down next to MacGyver just as he turned up the volume on the television so they could hear the countdown live from Times Square. Watching the big, glistening ball slide down the pole as the year wound down always gave her chills. The crowd soon cheered and a recording of Auld Lang Syne blared. Mac turned and kissed her deeply. When he finally pulled away, she chuckled.

“What?” he asked a bit defensively.

“This just reminds me of when I was little and my dad told me once the ball dropped it was the New Year and I had to go to bed. Then I learned about time zones!”

“Speaking of which, we still have one more to go,” Mac observed.

“If you would have warned me we’d be ringing in 1998 every hour on the hour since midnight in London I would’ve bought stock in Chapstick!”

“Are you complaining?” he asked with a crooked grin.

“Not a chance,” she replied with a smile. “It’s hard to believe that a week ago we were quarantined in a ski lodge.”

“I know what you mean. But in a way it was kinda nice,” he said softly, taking her hand and weaving his fingers through hers.

“Yeah, it was. Especially since you didn’t get punished for breaking quarantine,” she replied dreamily, remembering the three days spent in the comfortable suite, eating gourmet food, talking, kissing, talking some more, and cuddling in front of the television. “But it was still nice to be able to come home after none of the other guests exhibited flu symptoms.”

“I’m sorry we missed spending Christmas with your family, though.”

Jo shook her head. “Spending time alone with you was the best gift I could’ve gotten.”

“Speaking of gifts, we agreed to exchange presents tonight, remember?” he asked as he reached under the sofa cushion and pulled out a small box.

Joanna lifted the lid and began to laugh. “My own Swiss Army knife!”

“I was gonna get you an extra-large roll of duct tape, but I figured this was classier.”

“Oh, I love it, Mac!

“Turn it over,” he ordered.

On the opposite side she found the engraving ‘JF + AM’.

“Our initials! It’s perfect!” she exclaimed. “I’m gonna keep this forever! Now close your eyes while I go get your present.”

“You mean my Christmas gift has been here the whole time?”

“No, I brought it over this morning when you were at Challengers. Now close your eyes because I couldn’t wrap it.”

When she was sure Mac had obeyed, she hurried upstairs and grabbed the present from the back of the closet.

“Okay,” she said when she was once again standing in front of him. “You can open your eyes now!” She didn’t miss the shadow of disappointment that momentarily covered his face.

“You got me a used hockey stick?” he asked, trying to sound pleased as he examined the nicks and scrapes and dried up tape.

“Read the handle,” she instructed.

Scribbled in black magic marker was an unfamiliar script that read ‘Merry Christmas MacGyver’.

She saw the moment when his dismay morphed into curiosity. “Keep reading,” she urged, barely able to control her excitement.

He rotated the stick in his hands until he saw Wayne Gretzky’s autograph in the same handwriting.

“Jo, how did you ever…”

“You never mentioned getting a bonus from Phoenix for your work on the MacGyverland project, so I called Pete who called Craig who pulled some strings and voila! Do you like it?”

“I love it!” he exclaimed. “But not nearly as much as I love you!”

Before she knew it, MacGyver swept her into his arms and was kissing her senseless as the clock struck twelve and a whole new year began.

















Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 8 February 2020 - 10:44 AM                                    
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Sorry, took me a few days to get to this one tongue.gif

QUOTE
Chapter 35: Christmas Quarantine
Interesting... hmm.bmp

QUOTE

“Okay, I’m comin’ down,” Joanna warned. “You might wanna let go and back up so my foot doesn’t accidentally hit you someplace painful.”
"Accidentally" tongue.gif

QUOTE

“Are you okay with that? You worked so hard on it.”

“Yeah. And it almost got me killed.”

“What?! How?!” Joanna shrieked, a look of horror on her face.

“Uh, I really can’t say. It’s classified.”
Uh oh...

QUOTE

“It’s kinda tradition,” he clarified, snaking one arm around her waist to pull her close while he pointed up to the ceiling with his other hand to the sprig of mistletoe he had hung there earlier in the day.
Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky XD

QUOTE

“But you don’t mind me kissing every guy that walks into my office?” she countered, one eyebrow cocked.

MacGyver hadn’t thought about it that way when he hatched this little plan. Time for a little recon.
Smooth, Mac, smooth laugh.gif

QUOTE

MacGyver was taken aback by this easy-going, carefree side of her.

“Aren’t you going to point out that I just got back from L.A. and should spend the time here at work?”

“That was hardly a relaxing vacation,” she observed.

“But you don’t even ski!”
Mac: *is surprised Jo doesn't argue* *argues on her behalf*

QUOTE

“Don’t think of it as ‘changing’, think of it as ‘improving’. So, what’s your resolution?”

“To never let you forget how amazing you are,” he whispered huskily as he stole another kiss.
*squeals* (The newest Miraculous Ladybug season came out, and it left me in a very shippy mood biggrin.gif )

QUOTE

“I’m tellin’ ya, Myrna, with a cough like that you should have stayed home!”

“Oh nonsense, George! It’s just the sniffles! The grandkids paid good money to send us here and I’m not going home now.”

“Fine! But if you die of pneumonia, don’t come cryin’ to me!”
This'll lead to the quarantine, I'll bet. (future me says that his last line here is harsher in hindsight).

QUOTE

This caught the woman’s attention and she turned around, a slight flush on her cheeks.
Surprised it took her that long to notice XD

QUOTE

His explanation warmed her soul. Not many people, especially morning people, understood her desire for a couple extra hours of sleep on days she wasn’t working.
YES!

QUOTE
and more than one impromptu snowball fight,
*squeals again*

QUOTE


“Some middle-aged guy probably threw his back out trying to act like a teenager,” Jo replied snidely.
The SHADE XD

QUOTE

“Ladies and gentleman,” the manager began. “It is with great sorrow that I must inform you of the death of one of our patrons.”
Oh, that's freakin' sad sad.gif

QUOTE

“I can’t believe it! Premium cable, over a hundred channels, and nothing good on TV!” she huffed, crossing her arms over her chest in a pout.
Mood.

QUOTE

MacGyver peeked over the railing with a grimace. Of course they had to be on the second floor. “Go in the bedroom and get all your sheets,” he told her, handing her his Swiss Army knife. “Cut them in half the long way and tie them together.”
biggrin.gif

QUOTE

“This just reminds me of when I was little and my dad told me once the ball dropped it was the New Year and I had to go to bed. Then I learned about time zones!”

“Speaking of which, we still have one more to go,” Mac observed.

“If you would have warned me we’d be ringing in 1998 every hour on the hour since midnight in London I would’ve bought stock in Chapstick!”
Wow, Mac, just pullin' out all the stops tonight, aren't ya? XD

Okay, their gifts to each other are adorable XD



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 13 February 2020 - 06:22 AM                                    
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Chapter 36: The Guest

Mid-January was always an odd time of year. The anticipation of Christmas, New Year’s, and holiday activities was gone. Snowfalls that were magical a month ago were now a nuisance and it seemed the whole world was yearning for spring which was still only a distant promise. MacGyver felt this bleakness more than ever this year. Upon returning to work, Joanna had been offered, and accepted, a full time teaching position at the high school to cover for an instructor who had taken a sudden leave of absence for the second semester. This meant she spent more time at school than with him. He knew that was a selfish thought, but he still missed her presence. Now, the time they had spent together at the ski resort seemed all the more precious. Even if most of it was under quarantine. The telephone on his desk rang, breaking him from his melancholy reverie and he reached for the receiver.

“Challengers Club,” he answered.

“Hi MacGyver! Guess who!” An all-too-familiar bubbly voice greeted him.

“Gosh, I wonder,” he teased as a smile tugged at his lips.

“It’s me. Penny Parker.” Her tone was serious now, almost sad, and Mac could imagine the frown on her face.

“I know, Penny. I’d recognize that voice of yours anywhere.” He’d certainly heard it enough over the years. “What’s up?”

“I’m flying into Milwaukee the day after tomorrow and was wondering if you could pick me up at the airport,” she replied, her usual cheerfulness returning.

“No problem. What brings you here?”

“The university’s drama department contacted me. They want to do a revival of Cleo Rocks and asked me to come and consult with them! Isn’t that wonderful?!” Mac swore her voice rose an octave with excitement.”

“Yeah, Penny, that’s great. But how did they find you? The original show never even opened.”

“They said they found all my information on the internet. Aren’t computers awesome?!”
“Yeah, awesome,” he agreed reluctantly. “Listen Penny, are you sure this whole thing is legit and not someone pulling a prank...or worse?”

“Oh Mac, why do you always have to be so negative?” Before MacGyver could express his doubts she continued. “Anyway, I thought it was kind of strange myself so I called the head of the Fine Arts department and she confirmed everything! This is really happening, Mac! People are finally going to get to see Cleo Rocks!”

Yep. This was definitely an odd time of year.

XXXXX

Two nights later Mac pulled his Jeep into his driveway and smiled to himself when he saw the inside of his townhouse awash with warm, welcoming light.

“Are you sure Joanna doesn’t mind me staying here?” Penny asked, biting her bottom lip.

“Jo’s fine with it,” he assured her, stepping out of the vehicle. “After all, you’re practically family.”

Penny smiled with relief as she joined MacGyver who was already unloading her luggage from the back of the Jeep.

“Here, let me help you,” she insisted as they both grabbed the same suitcase at the same time.

“It’s okay. I got it, Penny,” Mac replied as they lifted the heavy bag together.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure!”

“Okay!” Penny let go of the handle and MacGyver, caught off guard by the sudden extra weight, sank to his knees with a loud yowl.

“Mac! What happened?!” Penny asked anxiously as she crouched by his side.

“I wrenched my back,” he explained through gritted teeth.

“I’ll help you up,” she declared, reaching out to grasp his upper arm.

“No!” Mac exclaimed before taking a breath and getting a grip on himself. “I can manage. Go on in the house. Joanna’s waiting for you.”

“Well…” Penny stood and hesitated, literally wringing her hands.

Suddenly the front door opened and Jo stepped out, breaking into a jog when she saw them.

“What happened?” she asked anxiously.

“MacGyver was taking the luggage out of the car and he hurt his back,” Penny relayed like a dutiful child.

“And Penny was trying to help,” he added with a pleading gaze he hoped Jo would understand. After a moment, she raised her eyebrow indicating she realized what he was trying to say.

“Mac’ll be fine,” she told Penny. “Come on in out of the cold and make yourself at home.” With an arm around the other woman’s shoulders, Jo led her through the front door.

Gingerly regaining his feet, Mac stood and sighed. Penny, much like Jack Dalton, had a way of finding trouble. Or of trouble finding her. Either way, he always seemed to suffer the unfortunate repercussions. With careful movements and measured steps, he once again picked up Penny’s bags and made his way into the house. What he found inside made him stop dead in his tracks. Joanna and Penny stood stock still between the spiral staircase and the breakfast bar as Frog growled at them in a way Mac had never heard before, his entire chubby body quivering.

“What has gotten into you?!” Jo scolded.

“It’s okay, Frog. It’s just me, Penny Parker. You liked me the last time I stayed here, remember?” She bent down and reached out to pet the dog who immediately bared his teeth. Penny quickly snatched her hand back and moved to stand behind Joanna.

MacGyver set the luggage he carried down just inside the doorway and went to stand between the two women and the ornery canine.

“This is ridiculous! Knock it off,” he demanded, giving the bull dog a gentle shove with his foot. The growling stopped, but Frog remained seated, staring Penny down as if she was his worst enemy.

“I’ll put him in the backyard until he calms down,” Jo announced as she reached down, grabbed his collar, and unceremoniously dragged him across the hardwood floor to the patio doors on the opposite end of the room. She snapped on his lead and put him out into the night, closing the sliding door behind her.

“I don’t understand what happened,” Penny moaned. “Animals usually love me!”

“Don’t worry,” Mac told her, summoning up a grin. “He’s just getting old and cranky. Go on upstairs and I’ll bring your luggage so you can get settled.”

Penny turned to him, her big doe eyes wide. “Maybe it would be better for your back if you took the bed and I slept on the couch.”

“No way! My back is just fine. You’ll take the bed,” Mac insisted as he moved to pick up her bags, but she beat him to it, lifting them as if they weighed no more than a feather before trotting up the stairs.

MacGyver looked on in disbelief and then shook his head in dismay as he limped toward his couch.

“She’s only been in town a couple hours and already I’ve thrown out my back and my dog’s gone crazy,” he muttered. “What more could happen?”

“Do you really want an answer to that?” Joanna asked skeptically.

“No. Definitely not!”

XXXXX

The following afternoon, MacGyver was sitting at his desk at Challengers, yawning widely, when Joanna walked through his door.

“So, how did things go after I left last night?” she asked without preamble or a hello kiss.

“Depends on who you ask,” Mac grumbled. “Penny took a shower, went to bed, and slept like a baby. Frog, on the other hand, spent the better part of the night pacing, sniffing, and growling at thin air so I couldn’t get to sleep. I finally decided to watch TV when my VCR ate one of my favorite classic Westerns.”

“Oh Mac! I’m so sorry!”

“Yeah, me too,” he replied, stifling another yawn. “I decided to keep Frog here until Penny leaves. He settled down as soon as we here.”

“Ya know, I hate to say anything, but all this bad luck you’re having reminds me of when we visited Penny’s B&B.”

Mac rose from his chair, pointing a finger at Jo. “No. Don’t even go there. There are no such thing as ghosts, and even if there were, my apartment is not haunted.”

“I know that,” Jo retorted, rolling her eyes. “I was thinking about Penny and Murdoc’s ring.”

Mac shook his head. “Before we left Cloverton I made her promise to get rid of that thing. Ya know...just in case.”

“Then I guess her visit and your sudden string of bad luck is just a weird coincidence,” she concluded. “By the way, where is Penny?”

“At the university. I let her ride in with me this morning so she could borrow my Jeep. Which reminds me,” he continued, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to give a guy a ride home?”

“Mmmm, perhaps I could be persuaded,” she said with a sly smile.

“I’ll cook you dinner,” he offered, grinning crookedly.

“That’s not exactly what I had in mind.” Joanna arched one eyebrow and caught his gaze.

Wordlessly, MacGyver’s hands moved to cup her face as he lowered his lips to hers in an achingly gentle caress. “Better?” he whispered huskily.

“Much,” she murmured contentedly. “But you’re still gonna make me dinner, right?”

Mac leaned back without moving his hands and considered her carefully. “I didn’t realized you were this greedy when I asked you to marry me.”

“Take it or leave it, Angus!”

“Oh, I’ll take it. I’ll always take it,” he confirmed, moving in and kissing her deeply.

That evening MacGyver had just pulled a casserole out of the oven as Joanna eyed it suspiciously when Penny came bouncing through the front door.

“Hi everybody!” she greeted them cheerfully. “Here are your keys, Mac. Thanks again for letting me borrow your car.”

“Sounds like you had a good day,” Mac observed, taking the car keys and returning them to the hook next to the door.

“Oh, it was wonderful!” Penny exclaimed, spinning around in circle. “The director found the original script and plans to follow it just as Jacques would have!” At the mention of Jacques, or rather Murdoc, the light in her eyes dimmed, but only for a moment. “And guess what the best part is?” she challenged, her enthusiasm back in full force.

“I don’t have a clue, Penny. What is it?” He chuckled under his breath, his friend’s mood obviously infectious as he glanced to find Joanna grinning as well.

“I’m in charge of teaching Cleopatra how to do the high kick!” she replied, clapping her hands in glee. “Remember how much trouble I had with that move until I finally got it right?!” Once again she sobered, along with Mac, as they both remembered how she used the dance move to kick the gun from Murdoc’s hand as he held her captive and threatened MacGyver.

Soon the somber mood lifted and the threesome enjoyed dinner after which Joanna suggested they watch a movie. Penny flipped through the TV Guide and frowned.

“There’s nothing good on tonight,” she complained.

“That’s okay,” Jo assure her. “Mac has a ton of movies, if you don’t mind Westerns.”
Penny pulled a face but grudgingly gave in as MacGyver pulled Joanna aside.

“What are you trying to do?! Feed my VCR another of my favorite movies?!”

Jo shrugged. “So, pick your least favorite. Besides, do you really think it’ll happen again?”

“There could be something wrong with the machine,” Mac reasoned.

“Fine. If it eats this tape you’ll know you need to get it fixed, but last night was probably just a fluke.”

Not wanting to argue over something as dumb as a video tape, Mac grabbed a cassette covered with dust and jammed it into the machine. Two hours later both Penny and Joanna were doubled over in laughter and he had a headache.

“That was the absolute worst movie I’ve ever seen!” Penny offered in between giggles.

“Too bad you didn’t decide to watch that one last night!” Jo teased him.

“There’s a reason it had two years’ worth of dust on it,” he groused.

“Look on the bright side,” Joanna encouraged as she snuggled closer to him on the couch. “At least it was entertaining!”

“For some people,” he grumbled.

Jo smiled and kissed him indulgently before pulling herself away and rising to her feet.

“I gotta get going,” she announced. “It’s a school night and teaching full time is more exhausting than I remember. Are you going back to the university tomorrow?” she asked Penny.

The other woman shook her head. “No, they don’t start rehearsals until the following day.”

“Then why don’t you come with me to Challengers,” Mac suggested. “We can always use an extra pair of hands.”

XXXXX

MacGyver stepped out of his office and found Penny crouched in a corner, rubbing Frog’s tummy as the dog lay on his back, all four legs in the air. Mac would swear the canine was smiling blissfully. Upon his approach, Penny turned and looked up at him, a bright smile on her face.

“Look! He likes me again! I guess he was just in a bad mood the other night.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Mac agreed, reaching down to ruffle Frog’s ears. “Listen, I have to go pick up some emergency supplies. Joanna will be coming over in a little bit. In the meantime, Rosie and Geena will take good care of you.”

“You don’t have to treat me like a child, MacGyver,” she declared, rolling her eyes. “I’m sure I can find plenty of things to do while you’re gone.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Mac mumbled under his breath as he walked out the door and headed to the jeep.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

A couple hours later Joanna walked into Challengers and cheerfully greeted Geena, Rosie, and Penny who were gathered around the reception desk chatting.

“Hey ladies, is Mac around? I didn’t see his car in the parking lot.”

“He went out to pick up some supplies,” Rosie explained.

“I don’t understand why you don’t just have them delivered,” Penny commented, appearing truly perplexed.

Jo laughed under her breath. “Normally we do, but the holidays messed up the schedule. How long has he been gone?”

“Too long,” Geena replied, studying her watch with a frown. “I hope that man of yours didn’t land himself in trouble.”

“Well, it wouldn’t be the first time,” Penny observed lightly as the others grew concerned.

“I’m gonna call his cell phone,” Joanna announced, but before she could pick up the receiver, the front door banged open and a bedraggled MacGyver tumbled in.

“For pity’s sake! What happened to you?!” Geena cried as all four women hurried to his side.

“Just had a little car trouble,” he said with a lopsided grin. “Nothin’ to worry about.”

His hair was damp, his cheeks red from the cold wind, and his nylon ski jacket dirty and ripped.

“Mac, tell us what really happened,” Jo instructed in a low, firm voice.

“It was the weirdest thing,” he began. “I was coming around a curve and the steering wheel froze. I drove right into a snowbank. Luckily, a passing tow truck saw me and helped pull out the Jeep. I drove it the rest of the way here and everything was fine.”

“You should still take it to a mechanic and make sure everything’s alright,” Joanna urged.

“Yeah, I will, just as soon as I unload the supplies.”

“We’ll help!” Penny offered eagerly.

“It’s no big deal. I can handle it,” Mac told her. Jo and Penny gave him a two step lead before they followed behind him.

The trio was standing behind the Jeep when MacGyver opened the hatch and reached for one of the boxes.

“Aw man…” he moaned.

“What is it?” Joanna asked.

“One of the cleaning solution bottles must’ve busted when I had the accident. Everything’s wet back here,” he explained before turning to Penny. “Go get me some rags. There should be some under the driver’s seat,” he instructed.

Jo divided her attention between Mac, who looked for any damage the fluid may have caused, and Penny, who searched for the rags he had requested. Joanna could’ve sworn she saw the other woman slip something in her pocket, but it was Penny’s suddenly pale face that concerned her.

“Here you go, Mac,” Penny said flatly, holding out a wad of material.

When MacGyver accepted her offering, Joanna took her by the arm and pulled her aside.

“Are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

“There are no such thing as ghosts, remember?” Penny replied with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “It just occurred to me that Mac’s accident could’ve been a lot worse.”

“Yeah, it sure could have,” Jo replied soberly. “C’mon, let’s help him get these boxes inside so he can dry out and clean up.”

Thirty minutes later, Joanna and Penny emerged from the store room where they had neatly arranged the new supplies and met up with MacGyver who had just come from his office. They rounded the corner where Frog was snoozing and Penny bent down to give him a light pat on the head. The dog abruptly struggled to his feet and began to growl at her.

“Honestly, I’ve never seen him this grouchy before,” Jo complained.

“We were getting along fine earlier,” Penny informed her.

Jo looked to Mac for confirmation which came in the form of a head nod. “Must be old age,” he reasoned, before they walked away.

Later that evening, Joanna and MacGyver stood side-by-side at the kitchen counter chopping vegetables for the soup they were making as Penny prattled on about the rock opera that was to begin rehearsals tomorrow.

“Ow!” Mac cried, startling the two women.

“What happened?” Jo asked anxiously

“I cut my finger,” he muttered, more in disgust than anguish.

Joanna peered over him to see the damage for herself. “It doesn’t look deep, but we should go upstairs and clean and bandage it.”

Surprisingly, Mac did not object to her suggestion as they made their way to the bathroom where Joanna cleansed the wound, smeared it with antibiotic ointment, and pulled it together with butterfly bandages before carefully wrapping a gauze pad around his entire finger as an added precaution.

In a short while they all sat down at the kitchen table, a bowl of piping hot vegetable and bean soup in front of them when Joanna frowned.

“We forgot to put out napkins,” she observed and began to rise from her chair before Penny interrupted her.

“I’ll get ‘em!” she volunteered, standing so quickly the table wobbled causing MacGyver’s supper to land in his lap.

He let out a painful cry as if the soup had scalded him right through his jeans.

“Oh Mac! I’m so sorry!” Penny cried, grabbing a pile of napkins and dabbing where the liquid had spilled.

“It’s okay,” MacGyver assured her, putting a hand around her wrist to stop her ministrations. “If you’ll both excuse me I’ll just go upstairs and change. I’ll be right back.” His clipped tone belied his polite words.

Penny’s eyes followed him as she chewed on her lower lip before turning back to Joanna.

“This is all my fault!” she wailed.

Jo’s brow furrowed in confusion. “It is not! Granted, Mac’s had his share of bad luck these past couple days, but you certainly don’t have anything to do with it.”

“Don’t I?” she asked wearily as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a silver chain with a death’s head ring hanging from it.

Joanna immediately recognized the macabre piece of jewelry she had first seen when she and MacGyver had stayed at Penny’s bed and breakfast. It had supposedly belonged to Murdoc, Mac’s greatest nemesis who died an untimely death, and now Penny believed the villain’s spirit was attached to it.

“What are you doing with that?!” Jo whispered urgently, glancing around to make sure MacGyver was still upstairs. “Mac said he told you to get rid of that thing!”

“I couldn’t!” Penny whispered back. “Murdoc loves me. He’s only trying to protect me. I couldn’t toss him aside...again.”

Joanna took a deep breath and leaned back in her chair. She wasn’t totally sold on the idea of Murdoc haunting them, but she couldn’t completely deny it, either.

“It has to be this!” the younger woman insisted. “It explains all of Mac’s accidents and why Frog always growls when he sees me.”

“Hold on a minute,” Jo said, her voice low but no longer a whisper. “Last night we had a perfectly uneventful evening and you said yourself that Frog enjoyed your attention earlier today. How do you explain that?”

Penny’s gaze fell to her lap. “I wasn’t wearing the ring then,” she mumbled before chancing a glance at Jo. “I didn’t even realize I’d lost it, but when Mac had me grab those rags today I found it on the floor of the Jeep. The clasp was broken so it must have slipped off when I borrowed the car to go to the university. That also means Mac was alone with Murdoc when he had his accident.”

Joanna hated to admit it, but Penny did present a reasonable explanation for everything that had happened...if you believed in ghosts. Which Joanna wasn’t sure she did.

“Okay, say you’re right,” Jo challenged. “What are you gonna do about it?”

“We have to find a way to protect MacGyver. You know, keep him away from anything that could be dangerous. Do you think you could get his Swiss Army knife away from him?”

Joanna stared at Penny in disbelief. “That would be like trying to separate him from his liver! Besides, there’s a much easier solution.”

“What is it?” Penny asked, wide-eyed and eager to please.

“Get rid of the ring!”

Penny shook her head, tears pooling in her eyes. “As much as I love Mac, I can’t do that. I just can’t!” she sobbed.

“Alright,” Jo sighed. “Then just keep it away from MacGyver!”

“How?”

“I don’t know,” Joanna moaned, frustration getting the better of her. Suddenly, they heard Mac moving towards the stairs.

“Here, you take it!” Penny commanded, shoving the ring into Jo’s unsuspecting hands.

“I don’t want it!’ Jo protested.

“It’s okay. Murdoc won’t hurt you. He never met you, but he knows you’re my friend. Put it somewhere Mac never goes until it’s time for me to leave.”

“But--” the words died on Joanna’s lips as MacGyver descended the stairs. She quickly slipped the ring into the front pocket of her jeans and pasted on a smile.

Unnerved by the conversation she had just had with Penny, it was all Joanna could do to summon enough pluck to make it through the rest of the meal and make a hasty exit.

“I’m sorry to leave so soon, but I’m starting to get a headache,” she told MacGyver as he walked her to the door.

“Maybe I should drive you home,” he offered.

She smiled. “It’s just a headache, Mac. I’ll be fine.” She reached up and gave him a gentle kiss.

“Call me when you get there?”

“Sure thing,” she promised.

MacGyver stepped back, his eyes boring into hers. “You’re not gonna argue?”

Jo let out a little laugh. “You didn’t argue when I took care of your finger,” she pointed out.

“Alright. But be careful,” he warned.

Once inside her car, she pulled the ring from her pocket and tossed it in the glove compartment.

“Behave yourself, Murdoc,” she instructed, before starting the car and driving off into the night.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The next several days passed uneventfully, much to MacGyver’s relief, and life fell into a somewhat normal routine. He spent his days at Challengers, Joanna taught at the high school, and Penny attended the initial rehearsals for Cleo Rocks. In the evening, they would all convene at Mac’s place for supper, conversation, and sometimes a movie. However, with hockey season in full swing, it was more likely that they would watch the game. Penny got in the habit of sneaking up to the bedroom at some point in order to give Mac and Joanna some private time, and her thoughtfulness was not lost on her host.

Late one afternoon MacGyver overheard Jo speaking with Rosie who was managing the reception desk.

“It was fine this morning, then, on the way over here, the light went on,” she explained.

Mac was at her side in moments. “What light?” he asked.

“The tire pressure light in my car. I’ll check it out when I get home,” she said, waving her hand as if to dismiss the situation.

“It’ll be dark by then,” Mac protested. “I can take a look at it right now. Is your tire gauge in the glove compartment?”

“Yeah,” she replied absently as Rosie handed her some telephone messages.

MacGyver was almost out the door when Joanna called to him from behind.

“Wait! I’ll get it for you!” she suddenly proclaimed, trying to squeeze past him.

He grabbed her by the shoulders to halt her progress. “It’s freezing cold out there. I can handle it,” he assured her, a bit confused by her behavior, as he headed outside.

Using the spare key Jo had given him, he unlocked the door and slid into the passenger seat before opening the glove compartment. As he was rummaging through the maps and various contents he was pretty sure Joanna didn’t even know she had in there, he caught a glimmer of something as it slide out and fell to the floor. Meaning only to return the item to its rightful place, his blood began to boil when he picked up the silver chain with a death’s head ring hanging from it.

“Joanna!” he bellowed as he charged through the front door. She was still chatting with Rosie when she turned around at the sound of her name.

“What is this?!” MacGyver demanded, holding up the offending object in front of her face.

“The reason I didn’t want you going in my glove compartment,” she replied.

“Where did you get it?!”

She tilted her head at him as if to say ‘really’ before replying. “I was keeping it for Penny.”

“But I told her to get rid of it!”

“Well, obviously she didn’t!” she spat back, temper flaring.

Mac glanced at Rosie who was staring at them with rapt attention. “Let’s continue this in my office,” he said, grabbing Joanna’s hand and leading her across the large recreation room.

“How could you be so stupid?!” he rounded on her as soon as he closed the door. A stab of remorse hit him when he saw the hurt reflected in her eyes, but he wasn’t about to let this go.

“I am not stupid!” she shot back. “Penny was only trying to protect you and I kinda got pulled into her scheme. If you don’t like me taking jewelry from other people, maybe you want this back as well!” She ripped off her engagement ring and ground it into the palm of his hand, causing his heart to plummet to the floor.

Dropping down into the chair behind his desk, he let out a long sigh as he jammed his fingers through his hair.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to come down on you like that, but you know how I feel about Murdoc.”

Joanna must have taken pity on him because when she next spoke, her voice was gentle. “I know. But I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts.”

“When it comes to Murdoc, I’m not sure what I believe anymore,” he replied with a self-deprecating laugh. “How long has that thing been in your car anyway?”

“Penny gave it to me the night you got into that accident.”

“The night I cut my finger and had hot soup spilled in my lap,” he added with a wry grin.

“Yeah. She blamed herself because she had the ring. I didn’t even know about it until then. I told her to get rid of it and she ended up shoving it into my hand.”

A grin tugged at the corners of Mac’s lips. “Yeah, that sounds like Penny alright.”

“You’re not gonna yell at her, too, are ya?”

“I probably should, but I won’t. At least now that I have the ring I can make sure it disappears for good.”

“You can’t do that!” Jo exclaimed in horror.

“Why not?” he asked, unwillingly to lose this opportunity.

“You have to understand that even if you and I don’t believe Murdoc’s somehow attached to that ring, Penny does, and she wears it as a talisman of sort.”

“Kinda like rabbit’s foot?” Mac grimaced.

“Yeah. She believes Murdoc is protecting her. It means a lot to her Mac.”

“I know,” MacGyver grudgingly admitted, holding out the silver ring to Jo. “Go put this someplace far away from me.”

“You’re doing the right thing,” she assured him with a tender smile before turning to leave.

“Hey! You forgot something!” he called.

“I did?” Her brows knit in confusion.

“I hope you still want to wear this ring,” he said huskily as he walked up to her and placed the gold band with the tiny diamond back on her finger.

“I will always want to wear this ring,” she promised, tilting her head to receive his lingering kiss.

XXXXX

The next day, Penny stood at the front door to MacGyver’s apartment, her packed bags at her feet, looking more somber than Mac had seen her in quite some time.

“You know you could stay longer,” Mac invited, hoping to lift her spirits.

“No,” she replied, shaking her head. “I need to get back to the B&B. The director has everything under control. I’m sure it’ll be great.”

“But you will come back for the premiere, right?”

“I don’t think so. It just brings back so many memories. Do you plan on going?”

Mac shook his head. “Naw. Like you said, too many memories.”

“Well then, I guess this is goodbye!” Her smile was genuine and her voice more enthusiastic.

“Yeah, I guess so. Of course, we’ll have to say goodbye again at the airport since I’m driving you there.”

This earned a patented Penny Parker laugh. “Yeah, I guess we will.”

“By the way, Joanna asked me to give this back to you,” Mac said, gently placing the chain bearing Murdoc’s ring around her neck.

Penny’s eyes went wide with surprise. “How did you find out?!”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said with a smile.

“You mean you’re not mad that I didn’t get rid of it like you told me to?” she asked, sounding like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

“I was,” he admitted. “But then Joanna explained things. Just promise to keep that thing away from me the next time we visit.”

“Oh, I promise!” Penny vowed, her face fairly glowing as she reached up and hugged MacGyver.

“At this rate you’re gonna miss your plane,” he chuckled. “Let’s get your luggage in the Jeep.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” she asked skeptically as he reached for the heaviest bag.

“I’m positive,” he replied, lifting the bag with ease. “See, no problem!”





























Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 15 February 2020 - 12:22 PM                                    
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QUOTE

Mid-January was always an odd time of year. The anticipation of Christmas, New Year’s, and holiday activities was gone. Snowfalls that were magical a month ago were now a nuisance and it seemed the whole world was yearning for spring which was still only a distant promise.
Yeah, that's the time of year I most question if I may have some kind of depression.

QUOTE


“Hi MacGyver! Guess who!” An all-too-familiar bubbly voice greeted him.

“Gosh, I wonder,” he teased as a smile tugged at his lips.

“It’s me. Penny Parker.” Her tone was serious now, almost sad, and Mac could imagine the frown on her face.
She fell for it laugh.gif

QUOTE

Yep. This was definitely an odd time of year.
*chokes* XD

QUOTE


“Okay!” Penny let go of the handle and MacGyver, caught off guard by the sudden extra weight, sank to his knees with a loud yowl.
Mac, you've got no one to blame but yourself for that one XD

I might be more baffled by Frog's behavior if I hadn't scrolled down, happened to see something about the ring, and rememered that chapter XD

QUOTE
“There’s nothing good on tonight,” she complained.


Is there ever? (pretty much everything I watch these days is streamed XD)

QUOTE


“Then why don’t you come with me to Challengers,” Mac suggested. “We can always use an extra pair of hands.”
So Frog can go nuts.

QUOTE

MacGyver stepped out of his office and found Penny crouched in a corner, rubbing Frog’s tummy as the dog lay on his back, all four legs in the air.
Penny's not wearing the ring.

QUOTE

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Mac mumbled under his breath as he walked out the door and headed to the jeep.
Exactly what I thought XD

QUOTE

Surprisingly, Mac did not object to her suggestion as they made their way to the bathroom where Joanna cleansed the wound, smeared it with antibiotic ointment, and pulled it together with butterfly bandages before carefully wrapping a gauze pad around his entire finger as an added precaution.
I headcanon that the reason he doesn't object is because he likes the attention, at least from her XD

Seems a little overkill, though... *old man voice* In my day, cold weather made ones hands split all over, and bleed a lot, and we just sucked it up and dealt with it. (Okay, in all seriousness, dry, cracked skin is why I hate winter most XD)

QUOTE

“I couldn’t!” Penny whispered back. “Murdoc loves me. He’s only trying to protect me. I couldn’t toss him aside...again.”
*puppy whimpering sound* Okay, that's adorable, I mean, frickin' adorable. Especially because I've always felt bad for Murdoc when Penny rejects him (not that I blame her, or anything, but still...)

QUOTE

Joanna stared at Penny in disbelief. “That would be like trying to separate him from his liver! Besides, there’s a much easier solution.”
I laughed at that line, and it's so true laugh.gif

QUOTE

“It’s okay. Murdoc won’t hurt you. He never met you, but he knows you’re my friend.
Mac is also your friend, and Murdoc hurt(s) him all the time XD

QUOTE

“Behave yourself, Murdoc,” she instructed, before starting the car and driving off into the night.
I had to smile at this part XD

QUOTE

“It was fine this morning, then, on the way over here, the light went on,” she explained.

Mac was at her side in moments. “What light?” he asked.

“The tire pressure light in my car. I’ll check it out when I get home,” she said, waving her hand as if to dismiss the situation.
Murdoc did that on purpose, I bet.

FIIIIIIGGGHHHHTTTT XD

QUOTE
If you don’t like me taking jewelry from other people, maybe you want this back as well!” She ripped off her engagement ring and ground it into the palm of his hand, causing his heart to plummet to the floor.
Oooh snap...

QUOTE


“I will always want to wear this ring,” she promised, tilting her head to receive his lingering kiss.
Oh good, that's one less thing to worry about XD

QUOTE

“By the way, Joanna asked me to give this back to you,” Mac said, gently placing the chain bearing Murdoc’s ring around her neck.

Penny’s eyes went wide with surprise. “How did you find out?!”
So, was Penny planning to sneak over to Joanna and ask for the ring back, or did she totally forget? laugh.gif



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 15 February 2020 - 01:26 PM                                    
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I thought you'd enjoy this chapter, Dragondog!!



Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Posted: 15 February 2020 - 09:13 PM                                    
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QUOTE (uniquelyjas @ 15 February 2020 - 03:26 PM)
I thought you'd enjoy this chapter, Dragondog!!

Murdoc and Penny are kinda hard NOT to enjoy laugh.gif



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 21 February 2020 - 06:14 AM                                    
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Chapter 37: Valentine’s Prey

Joanna sighed as she crossed yet another name off the list in front of her and leaned back in the hard wooden desk chair. She turned her head to look out the classroom windows where darkness had fallen and sighed again. Although she loved her job as an English teacher at Lincoln Charter High School and had willingly added classes to her schedule to cover for a colleague, she still hated parent/teacher conferences. Not because she was required to stay into the evening to accommodate the hours of working parents or even because she too often had less than stellar news to share regarding their teen’s performance in her class, but because she was lucky if one third of the moms and dads cared enough about their kids’ education to even bother to show up. Yet she had to be available if they did.

The last parent she had spoken with was Rosie Garcia, Raul’s mom and Challengers part-time volunteer receptionist. The kind woman had brought platters of her famous tamales as well as empanadas and containers filled with Mexican rice to share with the over-tired, always-hungry teaching staff. They had engaged in friendly conversation about Raul’s success in his studies as well as his behavior that set an example for others in his class. That had been well over an hour ago, and now there was only one more name left on Joanna’s list: Mr. Richard Miller, father of Trent Miller. If there was one person she hoped wouldn’t show, it was this one. But something in her gut told her she wouldn’t get off quite that easily. A soft yet firm knock on her door confirmed her suspicions. She stood up, pasted on a smile, and greeted the final parent of the evening. Of average height and build with nondescript features, Mr. Miller still somehow managed to exude a dominance that made her feel a bit uneasy. Or perhaps she was just tired, her nerves frayed from the long day. Determined to remain confident and professional, she reached out to shake his hand.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said in greeting. “I’m Ms. Fairfax. I’ll be Trent’s teacher for the rest of this semester since Mrs. Dunham has taken a leave of absence.”

“Then I suppose I have you to thank for this!” he sneered as he tossed Trent’s tattered report card onto her desk before taking a seat across from her, his dark eyes seeming to challenge her.

Joanna calmly unfolded the piece of paper, already knowing the unsatisfactory grades and comments she would find. She pretended to study it in order to give the man before her a chance to cool off.

“Mr. Miller, I’m afraid I must inform you that these are Trent’s grades from the previous semester that ended a few weeks ago. Mrs. Dunham submitted them before she left.”

“You women are all alike,” he grumbled. “Always trying to shift the blame.”

Any trepidation Joanna had felt immediately fled as a flare of anger raised her hackles.

“While I did not issue the grades you see, I am more than happy to discuss Trent’s performance and behavior since I took over his class.”

“I don’t need no uppity teacher telling me about my son! I know my boy. He’s gonna be the first generation of Millers to go to college!”

“Sir, with all due respect, Trent is only a sophomore. Talk of getting into college may be a bit premature.”

“Is that your pretty little way of tellin’ me my boy don’t got what it takes to get a higher education?!”

Joanna took a long, cleansing breath and weighed her words carefully before speaking.

“What I’m saying, Mr. Miller, is that it might be a good idea to let Trent explore his options. From what I’ve seen, he may be better suited for a technical or trade school.”

“So now you’re sidin’ with his mother?!” The man shot out of his chair, momentarily startling Joanna before she, too, got to her feet. There was no way she would let him glower over her. “Let’s get one thing straight, missy,” he warned, shaking a finger at her. “No one’s gonna stand in the way of my son goin’ to college. Not you, not my ex-wife, no one!”

Before Jo could gather her thoughts, Mr. Miller snatched Trent’s report card from where it lay on her desk and stomped out of the room. Feeling thoroughly defeated, she sank down in her chair, massaging her throbbing temples until a light tap on her door drew her attention.

“I see you met Mr. Miller,” Ms. Braun, the young algebra teacher observed with a sympathetic smile. “I guess we should’ve warned you about him.”

Joanna waved off the remark. “No need. I’ve taught in a correctional facility. I think I can handle one ornery parent.”

“Well, I’m taking off for the night. You want to walk out together?”

Jo looked around the classroom. “No, you go ahead. I want to tidy up a bit. I’ll be right behind you.”

“Okay. See you tomorrow!”

Joanna watched Ms. Braun leave and breathed a sigh of relief. Her classroom was as tidy as ever...she had made sure of it before any of the parents saw it. She just didn’t feel like making small talk, if only for a few minutes. Once she was sure there were no more well-meaning educators waiting to accost her in the hallway, she shrugged on her coat, grabbed her purse and secured her classroom for the night. Outside, the air was unseasonably cold causing her to hurry toward her car, key in hand. She quickly opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat when her cell phone began to trill. Snagging it from the front pocket of her purse she clicked onto the call.

“Hey, you still plannin’ on comin’ over for a late dinner?” She allowed MacGyver’s smooth, warm, wonderful voice to wash over her.

“Actually I think I’m just gonna head straight home,” she replied.

“You sound rattled.”

Joanna sighed. “I’m just really tired. It’s been a long day.”

“See you at Challengers tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there,” she promised.

XXXXX

A bleary eyed Joanna slogged through her lessons the following day. Although a deep, peaceful slumber had immediately claimed her the night before, she awoke in the wee hours of the morning, thoughts of how she could have handled the meeting with Mr. Miller more positively flitting through her brain, refusing to allow her any further rest. Just when she was pretty sure she was going to doze off despite the lecture she was in the middle of giving, a soft tap on the doorframe caught her attention. Vice Principal Varga walked up to her.

“There’s a telephone call for you in the office. I’ll watch your class,” she said lowly.

Joanna’s heart, which had initially stuttered at the sight of the woman, now beat double time as she hurried down the long corridor. Mrs. Varga coming to her and offering to monitor her students meant the call was about something bad. Really bad. Upon entering the main office, the receptionist held out the receiver to her which she grabbed immediately.

“Hello?” she answered, willing her pulse to stop pounding in her ears so she could hear the caller, but the line remained silent. “Hello?!” she repeated with growing urgency. Still no answer. She hung up with a worried frown.

“Were you the one who took the call?” she asked the middle-aged receptionist.

“Yes. I was told there was an emergency and to contact you immediately.”

“Did the caller identify themselves?” Jo prodded, tamping down the panic that was growing exponentially.

“No,” the woman frowned. “In fact, I wasn’t even sure if the voice was male or female. It was a bit garbled.”

“Do you mind if I make a couple calls?”

“Go right ahead. I’ll be in the copy room.”

With trembling hands, Joanna dialed her parent’s number and huffed when the machine picked up. They were screening their calls.

“It’s me. If you’re home pick up,” she said after the beep.

“Hi honey,” her mom answered. “I thought you had classes all day. Is everything okay?”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I was sent to the office to take an emergency phone call, but when I got here the line was dead. Did you or Dad call me?”

“No. In fact, we just got home from grocery shopping.” Her mother sounded as bewildered as Joanna felt. Then her stomach plummeted to the floor.

“Mac! It must have been Mac!” Joanna cried, hanging up the phone without even saying goodbye. She quickly punched in the number for Challengers.

Geena was only halfway through her professional greeting when Jo interrupted her. “Did someone call me? Is everything okay?! Is Mac there?!”

“Joanna?”

“Yeah, it’s me. Is everything alright?”

“Everything’s fine. Very quiet, actually. MacGyver is in his office if you want me to transfer you.”

Jo took a deep, calming breath. “No. I don’t wanna bother him. I’ll see ya later.”

When Joanna returned to her classroom, the vice principal motioned her to the hallway.

“Is everything okay?” she asked, her voice full of concern.

“That seems to be the question of the day,” Jo told her boss, then continued to explain the events of the last several minutes.

“It sounds like you’ve been the victim of a prank call,” Mrs. Varga told her. “We do our best to safeguard our staff, but every now and again something slips through the cracks.”

“I understand,” Joanna assured the woman, her exhaustion returning in full force. “Actually, I’m glad it was just a prank and not a real emergency.”

The older woman smiled. “Well, you certainly have a good point there!”

A few hours later, Jo walked through the front door of Challengers wanting only to be wrapped in MacGyver’s strong, comforting embrace. What she got was a steely command.

“In my office. Now,” he instructed as soon as their eyes met.

After securing the door so they wouldn’t be interrupted he rounded on her. “Mind telling me what’s up with you?”

“What do you mean?” she replied, indignation rising above her shock and confusion.

“Geena told me about the strange phone call she got from you this afternoon.”

“Geena needs to keep her mouth shut,” she murmured, crossing her arms in front of her.

Mac blew out a breath and scrubbed his face with his hands. “Look, last night when I called you didn’t sound like yourself, and I’ll admit I was disappointed when you didn’t want to have dinner together, but I figured you were just tired and needed some space. Then you call here in the middle of the day to make sure everything’s okay. I just want to know what’s goin’ on.”

His eyes were deep and dark and Joanna couldn’t resist their plea. “The last conference of the night went pretty bad. One of the fathers really tied into me and caught me off guard.”

“And you laid awake all night thinking about how you could have handled it differently,” he concluded, a smile tugging at his lips.

“I did not!” she retorted, before turning contrite. “It was only half the night.”

“Okay. Then what happened today?” His voice was calm and gentle.

“Mrs. Varga came to me in the middle of my class to tell me I had an emergency phone call in the office, but when I got there whoever it was had already hung up.”

“And you assumed something bad had happened here.”

Joanna nodded slowly. “Turns out it was just a prank.”

“But it still scared you.”

She nodded again.

“Aw baby,” he sighed as he drew her into his arms. Finally in the place she longed to be she could’ve cried when there was a knock on his door.

“Duty calls,” he said, reluctantly stepping away. “Let’s pick up where we left off later.”

XXXXX

After spending a cozy evening with MacGyver and getting a peaceful night’s rest, Joanna felt like a new person the following day. The sun seemed brighter, the temperature warmer, and the students more cooperative. Her good mood lasted until she headed to her car after classes were dismissed only to find that her left rear tire was flat as a pancake.

“Terrific,” she mumbled under her breath, stowing her belongings in the backseat before reaching for her cell phone. A phone she hardly used until a couple days ago.

“Looks like you got a problem,” a masculine voice said from behind her.

She turned to find Mr. Miller headed her way. A heavy lump of dread immediately formed in her stomach.

“It’s just a flat tire,” she replied, trying to sound nonchalant. “My fiancé will come over and change it.”

“No need to bother him. I’m already here and would be happy to do it,” he told her almost sheepishly. “Consider it an apology for the other night. My ex always said I had a short fuse. Especially when it comes to that boy of mine. Go ahead and pop the trunk and I’ll have you on your way in a jiffy.”

Joanna opened the driver’s door and did as instructed.

“So what brings you here today?” she asked, trying to make small talk to make the time go faster.

“Thought I’d surprise Trent by picking him up. He’s stayin’ late to get some science tutorin’. Save him a long walk home.”

“I’m sure he’ll appreciate that,” she smiled.

“Listen, it’s pretty chilly out here. Why don’t you go on inside while I take care of this?”

Joanna hesitated. She wanted to trust the man and certainly didn’t want to anger him by refusing his help, so she did as he suggested. Once in the warmth of the main entrance, she peeked out a side window to keep an eye on him until Ms. Braun distracted her.

“Everything okay?” the algebra teacher asked.

“Yeah,” Jo answered. “I came out to a flat tire and Mr. Miller offered to fix it.”

“What’s he doing here?” her colleague asked, scrunching her nose in distaste.

“He’s picking up Trent.”

“Well, he wasted trip. I saw Trent leave with a bunch of his buddies a nanosecond after the final bell.”

“I’ll let Mr. Miller know,” Jo replied. “Hopefully he won’t get upset.”

“Good luck with that,” Ms. Braun said sarcastically before walking out the door.

Joanna turned back to gaze through the window and saw that Mr. Miller was putting the jack back in her trunk, the flat tire still leaning up against her back bumper.

“That was quick!” she observed cheerily as she approached him.

“Told ya it was no big deal,” he shrugged.

“Well, I still appreciate it,” Jo confirmed. “Oh, by the way, one of the teachers said she saw Trent leave school with some of his friends. It looks like he skipped out on his tutoring.” She winced, prepared for Mr. Miller’s reaction.

Instead of exploding as he had done in her classroom a couple days ago, he simple hung his head and shook it sadly.

“That boy’s gonna be the death of me,” he groaned.

Joanna couldn’t help but chuckle. “I hear that from a lot of parents. I’m sure you’ll all survive.”

Mr. Miller looked up at her then, a glint in his eye. “Since I don’t have a kid to take home, how about I buy you a piece of pie at the diner across the street?”

Jo immediately knew where this train was headed and she needed to derail it before it picked up any steam.

“I’m sorry, but I have a prior commitment and thanks to the stupid flat I’m already late.”

“No problem,” he replied brusquely. “I see how things are. I’ll just be on my way.” He reached down and picked up the ruined tire, but instead of putting it in the trunk as Joanna expected, he began to walk away with it.

“Mr. Miller!” she called. “You can put the tire in my car. I can take it from here.”

The man stopped in his tracks, but for a moment looked as if he would not comply. Finally he turned and unceremoniously tossed the tire into the trunk and slammed it closed before walking away without another word.

“A flat tire?” MacGyver repeated as she was relaying the events of the afternoon to him in his office at Challengers.

“Must’ve gone one too many rounds with a pothole,” she reasoned. “They’re absolutely terrible and winter’s not over yet.”

“And it was fine this morning? The tire pressure light wasn’t on or anything?” Mac probed.

“No. Everything was fine,” Jo confirmed, his tone making her uneasy.

“Do you mind if I take a look at it?”

Joanna tossed him her keys. “Knock yourself out.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MacGyver frowned as he pulled the now-useless tire from Jo’s trunk. In his experience, a tire did not get that flat that quick without some help. His frown deepening, he examined every inch of the rubber until he found what he didn’t want to find...a number of barely discernable slits that no one would see unless they were looking for them.

When Mac walked back into the building, he found Joanna chatting with Rosie who sat at the reception desk, Raul next to her doing his homework.

“We need to talk,” he whispered urgently into Jo’s ear as he headed straight for his office.

“What’s up?” she asked lightly.

He hated to give her the bad news, but she needed to know.

“Your tire was slit,” he said flatly. “Several times,” he added for emphasis.

“Another prank?” Her eyebrows knit together in what appeared to be a combination of confusion and fear.

“Or something more serious. Any idea who’d wanna do this?”

“Well, the obvious suspect is Mr. Miller,” Jo stated.

“Agreed.”

“But he hardly knows me. He already knows I’m not responsible for Trent’s report card. Besides, how could he know which car is mine?”

“He probably hid outside and waited until you left the building after parent/teacher conferences. It was dark so he’d easily go unnoticed.”

“And I made a point of parking by a streetlamp that day for safety’s sake so he could’ve easily seen me get in the car,” she said, punctuating the irony of her statement with an un-ladylike snort that made MacGyver grin in spite of himself.

“But on the other hand, our lot isn’t secured and it could’ve been some kid just picking a random car to vandalize,” she added.

“True,” Mac conceded.

“So we’re back to square one?” she asked.

“Looks that way. Just promise you’ll be more careful, especially at school. Try to walk in and out with another teacher and be sure to report this to the principal first thing so the administration can take proper precautions.”

He wanted to add that he would happily drive her back and forth and watch her back, but he knew she would resist, claiming he was being overprotective. Hopefully she would be right.

They lingered at Challengers well into the evening until Joanna’s stifled yawns caused MacGyver to encourage her to go home and get some rest.

“Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday,” she said, gathering her things before heading to the door. “It’s been a really long week.”

“Listen, it’s Cynthia’s turn to take the weekend shift. Valentine’s Day is next Saturday. How about you and I just lay low this weekend and celebrate a little early?” Mac asked, hoping to spend more time with her. It seemed like since they got engaged they actually saw less of each other. He was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to work like that.

“Sounds like a great plan,” she smiled wearily, standing on tiptoe to give him a quick goodnight kiss.

MacGyver watched to make sure she got safely into the car and stared at her tail lights until they disappeared. Soon he, too, was on the road toward home and was surprised to find his side of the townhouse ablaze with light when he pulled into his driveway. He wondered who the surprise visitor was this time. He really needed to change his locks.

Walking through the front door, Mac was met by a blur of brown and white fur that settled happily at his feet and stared up at him expectantly with big brown eyes. MacGyver could swear the dog with the long, droopy ears was smiling at him.

“Hi Dad,” Sam greeted him from across the room as the visiting canine drooled on Mac’s shoe. “You remember Cip, don’t ya?”

“Yeah, I remember him,” MacGyver replied, regarding the dog thoughtfully. “Kip with a ‘C’. Well, there are worse names. What are you two doing here?”

“Becca’s at a journalism seminar in Indianapolis. I’m dog-sitting.”

“Um, Sam?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m pretty sure she intended for you to keep Cip at your place.”

Mac’s son laughed. “That’s a good one, Dad! Can’t a guy visit his favorite father?”

“I’m your only father,” MacGyver replied dryly. “Now what are you doin’ here?”

“Relax. Things have just been slow at work so I thought I’d take a little break. Where’s Frog? I figured him and Cip might hit it off.”

“He’s at Challengers. Joanna and I were kinda planning on having the weekend to ourselves.” Mac knew he sounded pretty blunt, but a guy could be straight with his own son, right?

“Oooh...sorry,” Sam winced. “We can leave…”

“No. But you can do me a favor.”

“Sure, what is it?”

“You know Charlie, my landlord, who lives next door?”

“Yeah.”

“He’s out of town for a few weeks and I promised I’d look after the place. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you and Cip stayed over there for the weekend.”

Sam’s face lit up as MacGyver handed him the spare key Charlie had given him.

“To be honest, now that I have my own place, I’m used to having a lot more room to myself. This’ll be perfect!”

Mac chuckled to himself. “Go on over and get settled. I’ll see you in the morning.”

It seemed that MacGyver’s head had barely hit the pillow when his alarm began to ring. He swatted the clock, hitting every button he could find, but it still blasted away. Groggily, he realized it was his telephone.

“Hello?” he answered, his voice raspy from sleep.

“Mac, something’s happened.”

Three words from Joanna and he was wide awake and already reaching for his clothes.

“Where are you? I’m on my way.”

“I’m still at home.”

“Is everyone okay?”

“Yeah, it’s just…”

“I’ll be right there!”

MacGyver pulled onto the Fairfax’s street to find two squad cars parked in front of their house, the family and police officers gathered around Jo’s Chevy standing in the driveway. The Jeep’s tires squealed as Mac slammed on the brakes and hurried over to find his fiancé.

“What happened?” he called to no one in particular. A number of grim faces turned to look at him and everyone stepped back to allow him a look at the car. There, scrawled along the driver’s side in black spray paint were the words ‘I’ll get you!’.

Mac was still processing the scene before him when he felt Joanna approach. He instinctively reached out and grabbed her around the waist, pulling her close.

“I found it when I came out to go to work,” she said softly. “This jerk knows where I live.”

MacGyver tore his gaze from the vandalized car to Jo’s sweet face. Any sign of shock or fear had long since been replaced with anger and determination.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” a police officer said as he approached, “But you need to finish giving your statement Ms. Fairfax.”

“You did tell him about the prank call and flat tire at school, right?” Mac asked in a whisper.

“Of course I did!” she spat before turning her attention back to the cop.

“Do you have any idea who may have done this?” he asked. “Any former students from the correctional facility or the school for at-risk teens?”

Joanna rolled her eyes. “I don’t know!” she huffed in frustration. “Anyone I suppose!”

“This isn’t some random act, ma’am. This is more personal than the others.”

“And dangerous,” MacGyver added. “Any chance we can get some extra patrols or protection for her until whoever is doing this is caught?” He knew the answer, but he had to ask anyway.

“Sorry sir, the department is short-handed as it is. I already advised Ms. Fairfax to take extra precautions.”

Mac nodded in understanding and then turned to Joanna. “Could this be the work of that Miller guy?”

“But how could he know where I live? The school considers all teacher information confidential.”

MacGyver thought for a moment. “What about when he changed your tire? Were you with him the whole time?”

“Yeah. Well, he told me to wait inside where it was warm but I watched him through a window.”

“And you never took your eyes off him?”

“No!” she exclaimed defensively before suddenly looking guilty. “Except when I was chatting with the math teacher.”

“That’s it!” Mac proclaimed, snapping his fingers. “He must have been watching you, too, and when you turned away he slipped into the car and got your address from your vehicle registration. That could’ve been why he slashed your tires in the first place.”

“We still don’t know for sure that he’s the one responsible for the flat,” Jo argued.

“I know,” MacGyver groaned, scrubbing his face with his hands. “But whoever is doing this is getting closer to you and I don’t like it!”

“I’m not exactly thrilled about it, either,” she responded wryly. “Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about it except be extra vigilant. Now, since you’re here, would you mind giving me a ride to school? I don’t want to be seen driving around in that.” She waved her hand at her beloved and now defaced Chevy coupe.

“You’re still planning to go to work?” he asked, concerned that she wasn’t taking the situation more seriously.

“I’m not gonna let some yahoo rule my life. I won’t give him the satisfaction,” she stated firmly.

“So this is about pride?” Mac asked, his voice rising of its own volition. “What good is pride gonna do you when he kills you?!”

“Whoa! You are blowing this way out of proportion.” Her eyes held wild concern...for him.

“I hope I am,” he admitted, knowing he was letting old fears control him. “I’d just rather be safe than sorry.”

“So what’s your plan, then?” she challenged.

“Call Mrs. Varga, tell her what happened, and take the day off. Then go pack a bag and I’ll take you to my place where you’ll be safe while we figure this out.”

Joanna stayed where she was, chewing her bottom lip as if weighing her options.

“C’mon,” he encouraged. “We were planning on spending the weekend together anyway. Now we’ll have three days instead of two.” He summoned up the roguish grin that always crumbled her defenses.

“What about my folks? Do you think he’ll hurt them when he can’t get to me?”

Ah ha, so she was taking this more seriously than she let on. But what could he say to assuage her fears that wouldn’t be a lie?

“So far everything’s been directed at you,” he reasoned. “Last night he could’ve vandalized the house, but he targeted your car.”

“Again.”

“Again,” he added sympathetically.

“Fine,” she sighed, twisting his heart. “Come inside while I get some stuff together.”

MacGyver called and made arrangements with a local auto body shop to get Jo’s car repainted as quickly as possible.

“The police took lots of pictures, but you’re gonna need to call your insurance company as soon as we get back to my place,” he told her as they headed to his apartment.

Joanna remained silently lost in thought until they pulled into his driveway. Then she gasped.

He followed her gaze to where Sam stood on Charlie’s front stoop, coffee mug in one hand and leash in the other while Cip did his morning business.

“Why didn’t you tell me Sam was here?!” she admonished, slapping him on the bicep for good measure.

“I’m sorry! When I got your phone call all I could think about was you!”

“Well I can’t stay here now! There’s not enough room for all three of us!”

Mac grinned slyly. “There’s plenty of room. Sam is staying at Charlie’s while he’s out of town. And this way, you’ll have two built-in protectors.”

“Oh, goody,” she replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

MacGyver blew out a breath as he exited the Jeep. “Look, I know you don’t want us hovering over you, but I’m only trying to keep you safe and hopefully get a hold of whoever is threatening you.”

“I know,” she replied softly, eyes on the ground. “It’s just been kinda a rough morning, ya know?”

“Yeah, I know,” he agreed, lifting her suitcase with one hand while he draped the other around her shoulders and pulled her close as they walked to the door.

“Hey Joanna!” Sam called. “What brings you here?”

“A very long story,” she mumbled.

While Joanna settled in upstairs, MacGyver booted up his computer and filled Sam in on the details.

“I don’t know, Dad. Maybe Jo’s right about this guy. I mean, he has means and opportunity, but no motive. Or at least not a very good one. Maybe it is someone from her past.”

Terrific! Now even his own son was working against him! Mac turned in his chair and began tapping on the keyboard.

“Whatcha doin’?” Sam asked.

“I’m accessing Wisconsin Circuit Court Records. Tryin’ to find out if Richard Miller is as squeaky clean as you and Joanna seem to want to believe.”

MacGyver could feel the younger man’s breath on his neck as Sam peered over his shoulder to read the results that had popped up on the screen. Mac slowly scrolled through them, clicking the mouse every now and again to go deeper into the case files, and then leaned back in his chair with a groan.

“Wow, Dad! You were right to be worried about this guy,” Sam confirmed. “Do you think Jo knows any of this?”

“No. But I gotta tell her. Maybe then she’ll be more cooperative.”

Sam drew his eyebrows together and regarded his father. “You make her sound like an assignment instead of the woman you love.”

“I’m afraid that in this case, she’s both.”

Sam made a hasty retreat to the other side of the townhouse as Joanna began to descend the stairs. Mac waited for her at the bottom, dreading the news he had to share with her. He waited until they were both comfortably seated on the couch before he spoke.

“What do you know about Trent Miller and his family?”

“Not much, really,” she shrugged. “I only started teaching his class a few weeks ago. I know he’s an only child and his parents are divorced. His dad wants him to go to college, but his mom just wants him to do what makes him happy. Nothing exactly new and exciting from a teacher’s standpoint.”

“Jo, when you were upstairs, I ran a quick background check on his dad.”

“You’re not gonna tell me Mr. Miller’s an ax murderer or something, are you?” she asked, eyebrows raised.

“No, nothing quite that dramatic. But before coming to Milwaukee, the family lived in Green Bay. Last year Mr. Miller physically assaulted Trent’s male math teacher for a poor grade on his report card. The school expelled Trent and pressed charges against his dad. Miller served a few weeks in jail and paid a hefty fine before moving south.”

Joanna’s soft eyes studied his face. “There’s more, isn’t there?”

“Yeah. His parents got divorced last summer, after the incident. Mrs. Miller has taken out numerous restraining orders against her husband and he’s broken several of them. A couple of assault charges have been filed against him as well, but they were always dismissed because Trent’s mom refused to testify.”

“Okay, you’ve made your point,” she conceded, but not without a challenge. “That still doesn’t give him a reason to want to harm me. Like I said, we straightened out that whole report card business and he seemed like a decent guy after that. He even wanted to buy me a piece of pie after he changed my tire.”

“Wait a minute! What?!”

“He offered to buy me a piece of pie at the diner across the street from the school.”

“What did you say?”

Joanna rolled her eyes. “I knew he was either hitting on me or trying to get on my good side so told him I had a prior commitment.”

“How did he take it?”

“Okay. I mean, I guess he was a little short with me. He almost forgot to put my tire in my trunk. He started walking away with it.” Here she paused before speaking again. “Do you think he was planning on taking the tire away so we wouldn’t find the slashes?”

“I’d pretty much count on it. And as for a motive, what better motive is there than rejection? He got upset when you turned down his offer to take you to the diner.”

“You were right about him, Mac. I can’t believe this is happening.” Her voice trembled as she laid her head on his shoulder and threaded her fingers through his.

“I know, baby. But we’ll figure out a way to end this. I’m not gonna let anything happen to you,” MacGyver vowed, hoping fervently this was one promise he would always be able to keep.

A couple hours later, after reluctantly leaving Joanna in Sam and Cip’s care, Mac hurried over to Challengers to tie up some loose ends and collect Frog for the weekend. He returned to find his son and fiancé locked in a competitive game of Monopoly. However, everyone’s attention soon turned to the two canines who were meeting each other for the first time. After locking eyes and emitting low, guttural grumblings, the dogs cautiously sniffed the surrounding air and eventually each other. Apparently unimpressed, the two soon parted with Frog crawling under the coffee table, presumably for a nap, and Cip standing by the patio doors in a silent plea to be let out.

Relieved that the two dogs appeared to accept each other, Jo and Sam returned to their board game while Mac plopped down on the couch and turned on the television set. Unfortunately, nothing could hold his interest. Remote in hand, he surfed through every available channel twice before turning it off and pacing the floor. It didn’t take long for Sam to voice the thoughts that had been troubling his dad.

“So, what’s the plan?” he asked.

“I don’t know yet,” MacGyver replied flatly.

“What plan?” Joanna asked.

“The plan to catch this Miller dude,” Sam supplied. “Do we just sit back and wait for him to strike again?” The query was directed at Mac.

“Wait a minute,” Joanna interrupted. “I thought the whole point of me staying here was so that he wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

“She’s got a point,” Sam observed.

“I know,” Mac groaned, scrubbing his face with his hands.

“I guess we could just wait for the cops to get him,” Sam suggested.

MacGyver shook his head. “They can’t do anything unless they catch him in the act. Even now what little evidence we have is only circumstantial.” He caught Sam’s gaze, willing his son to understand what he couldn’t say aloud. That in order to draw Miller out, they’d have to use Joanna as bait. And that was something MacGyver would never do.

“Well, I can’t stay here indefinitely!” Jo huffed. “Come Monday I’m going back to work.”

Mac wanted to argue, but she did have a point. Yet, she would still be putting herself in harm’s way.

“Maybe Mr. Miller will cool down by then and this whole thing will be over,” she said as if reading his thoughts.

“I hope you’re right,” he replied. Man, he hoped she was right!

The rest of the afternoon and evening passed uneventfully and MacGyver knew he should be glad about that, but it only increased his tension. Eventually Sam and Cip returned to Charlie’s apartment and Joanna went upstairs early, novel in hand. He sat on the couch and was about to kick off his shoes until he thought better of it, his old Boy Scout motto coming to mind. Fully dressed, he sprawled out on the couch and stared at the ceiling. Slowly, he drifted off to sleep, only to be startled awake by a strange sound. He surveyed as much of his apartment as he could without moving. Frog lay snoring next to him under the coffee table. Perhaps it had been his imagination. After doing a thorough walk-through of the first floor and stopping by the stairway to listen to Joanna’s gentle snores, he peeked out every available window until he was satisfied they were alone. Settling back onto the couch, this became his hourly routine until dawn.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Joanna must’ve been more stressed than she realized. Last night, she headed to bed as soon as Sam had left, intending to read several chapters of a novel she had been neglecting, but she only finished one chapter before the words began to blur and her eyelids grew heavy. Placing the book on the nightstand, she snuggled under the covers of MacGyver’s bed and allowed a deep, peaceful slumber to claim her. When she next awoke, sunlight was streaming through the windows and she heard muffled voices in the kitchen. She smiled as she imagined Mac and Sam working side-by-side to fix breakfast. Yips and yaps from outside told her the dogs were in the backyard, probably playing in the snow left from a storm a couple weeks ago. She stretched languidly before crawling out from under the cozy blankets, pulling on a clean pair of jeans and sweater, and heading downstairs for breakfast which, like most of last evening, was a quiet affair. Yes, she had wanted time away from work to spend with Mac, but this was not turning into the weekend she had envisioned and, by the frown lines marring his brow, she knew he felt the same.

They had just finished clearing the kitchen table when the telephone jangled. Mac picked it up on the second ring.

“Hello?”

Joanna watched as he listened intently, nodding every now and again as if the caller could see him.

“I understand. I’m on my way,” he said before hanging up.

“What’s happened?” Jo asked, feeling Sam standing close behind her awaiting the answer as well.

“That was the fire department. There’s been a natural gas leak at Challengers. Everyone’s okay, the building’s been evacuated and the supply cut off, but I need to go down and sign off on some stuff. Sam, do you mind stayin’ until I get back?”

Joanna held back a protest, but Sam was much more agreeable.

“No problem, Dad,” he grinned mischievously. “I have a Monopoly score to settle with my future step-mom.”

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Mac promised, bending to give Jo a peck on the cheek before walking out the door.

Joanna turned to Sam and placed a consoling hand on his shoulder. “I hate to tell you this, future step-son, but I’m gonna be upstairs cleaning your dad’s bathroom. It looks like a science project gone rogue.”

After donning heavy duty rubber gloves and liberally spraying the bathtub with a lemon scented foaming cleanser, Jo began to scrub. She was half-way through when there was a knock at the front door.

“I got it!” Sam called up to her as the dogs began to bark.

She returned to the task at hand, but soon became curious about their would-be visitor and annoyed that Sam wasn’t quieting the dogs. Dropping the sponge in the sink, she peeled off her gloves and headed toward the staircase. She was halfway down when she saw Mr. Miller standing just inside the door. The dogs’ barking turned to low growls, yet they did not advance on the intruder.

“How did you find me!” she gasped.

“Yesterday morning I hung around so I could see the look on your face when you found my message. Then that boyfriend of yours parked practically right in front of my nose. I figured you’d end up with him sooner or later so I took a peek at his registration. Ya know, you people should really lock your glove boxes,” he smirked.

Wanting to wipe that grin off his face once and for all, Joanna charged down the rest of the steps but came to an abrupt halt when she saw Sam’s unconscious body lying prone on the floor, Frog and Cip guarding him.

“Sam!” she cried, lunging toward the helpless young man as Miller’s arm snaked out to stop her, grabbing her bicep in a vise-like grip.

“What did you do to him?!” she demanded, trying to wrench herself free.

“Nothin’ a nice long nap won’t cure.”

“What do you want from me?” she hissed through gritted teeth refusing to let fear usurp her anger.

“First, I want to buy you a piece of pie. Then, I want you to go to the school and fix Trent’s report card.”

“You’re outta your mind!” she exclaimed loudly.

Mr. Miller reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small handgun, pointing it directly at her heart.

“You’re gonna wanna keep your voice down, Ms. Fairfax. You don’t wanna be disturbin’ the neighbors.”

Joanna clamped her mouth shut, even as her jaw began to tremble.

“Now slowly put on your coat and walk outside all nice and normal-like. We’re goin’ for a ride and don’t’ wanna be attractin’ no attention. Understand?”

What she did understand was that this man was in desperate need of grammar lessons, but she nodded dutifully so as not to upset him more. Once in the passenger seat of his car, she closed her eyes and sent up a heartfelt prayer for the wisdom and courage to get herself out of this situation. She heard the engine rev to life and then felt the car lurch forward. Squeezing her eyes shut even tighter, she had no way of knowing Cip had snuck out the front door and was even now following behind them.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MacGyver was detained longer at Challengers than he had anticipated and he was anxious to return to Joanna. However, he was required to remain on-site when it was discovered that the leak was not an accident but a deliberate act. Someone had broken the valve. When Mac was finally able to return home, his anxiety ratcheted up when he found his front door ajar. He quietly crossed the threshold in case an intruder was still inside and quickly surveyed the apartment, dropping to his knees when he saw his son’s unconscious body lying on the floor, Frog licking his cheek.

He gently shook the younger man’s shoulders. “Sam! Sam! Wake up! What happened?!”

Frog’s mournful eyes watched as Sam finally began to regain his senses.

“Whoa,” Sam groaned, struggling to sit up.

Mac put a steadying hand on his shoulder and spoke softly but firmly.

“Sam, what happened? Where are Joanna and Cip?”

Sam rubbed the back of his neck before speaking. “This guy came to the door. He said he was a teacher at Lincoln High and had some important papers for Joanna. She was upstairs cleaning and when I turned to call her he must have hit me on the back of the head with something and knocked me out. Is Joanna okay?”

“She isn’t here and apparently Cip isn’t either.”

“Aw man, he must have taken her!” Sam exclaimed as fiercely as he could given his pounding head.

“How could you let this happen?!” Mac rounded on his son, his anxiety now giving way to anger. “I was counting on you to protect her and you let a stranger, who was most likely Miller, waltz right in!”

“How was I supposed to know it was Miller?! I don’t even know what he looks like and this guy looked pretty normal.”

MacGyver’s anger quickly turned to shame as he realized he had never even asked Joanna for a description of the man. Mac, himself, could bump into the guy on the street and not even know it.

“I’m sorry. You’re right,” Mac apologized as he helped Sam walk over to the couch. “This is all my fault. I should’ve gotten a description and I should’ve been here. I’ve lost my edge.”

“You can’t blame yourself, Dad. Pete would tell you you’re too close to the situation.”

“And he’d be right. We need to call the police.”

After being put on hold and transferred several times, MacGyver was finally connected to the police officer who had taken their statement at Joanna’s house the previous morning. After a heated discussion, Mac slammed down the phone.

“What’d they say?” Sam asked.

“They can’t do much. No one saw Joanna being forcefully taken and she hasn’t been gone long enough to be considered a missing person.”

“Then it looks like it’s up to us to find her,” Sam declared.

“And just how are we gonna do that? We don’t have any leads. They could be anywhere!”

“I can give you a solid description of the guy and then you’ll come up with a plan like you always do,” Sam replied full of optimism. Only Mac wasn’t sure he could figure this out, at least not before he lost yet another loved one.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“Was I right or was I right?” Richard Miller asked gleefully.

“You were right,” Joanna agreed, unable to suppress a small smile. “This is definitely the best piece of blueberry pie I’ve ever had.” Despite being kidnapped and worried about Sam, she had somehow managed to keep her emotions in check. Any display of fear or anger would only make the situation worse. She’d been in tight spots before. But, then again, MacGyver had always been with her. She was completely on her own this time...unless Mac somehow miraculously found her.

Mr. Miller tossed some bills on the table and stood. “Now, let’s get over to the school and take care of that business we discussed,” he prompted with a self-satisfied grin. “And don’t try anything funny,” he grunted in her ear as he pressed the muzzle of his gun against her side through the material of his own jacket.

Using the key Mrs. Varga had given her, Joanna opened the main door to the school and slowly led the way to her classroom, trying to stall for as much time as possible. She didn’t know what Mr. Miller had in store for her once she completed her ‘assignment’, and she highly doubted he did either, but she knew it couldn’t be anything good.

“Get a move on, missy. I ain’t got all day,” he growled, nudging her in the back to quicken her steps.

When they reached her classroom, she unlocked the door, took a seat behind her desk and fired up her computer.

“The grading system is all computerized,” she explained in what she hoped was a calm, controlled tone. “Since Mrs. Dunham was the one who input Trent’s grades, I may not have access to them.”

“Stop all that mumbo jumbo and get to work,” Miller commanded, pacing the aisles in the room like a caged lion.

Joanna typed furiously on the keyboard to make it sound as if she was complying. In reality, she was hitting random keys and buying time. At least until Miller came to stand behind her and watch. Her stomach sank. So much for faking it. She logged onto the system, after purposely entering the wrong password several times, and set about trying to find Mrs. Dunham’s electronic grade book. At this, she did not need to fake her incompetence.

“What just happened?!” Miller demanded after several minutes of curses on his part and sighs on hers. “Why did the screen go dark?”

“Mrs. Dunham locked her electronic grade book with a personal password so no one can get into it and tamper with it.”

“You’re lyin’! You just don’t want to give my boy the grade he deserves. Now fix it!” he roared.

“I can’t!” Joanna yelled back. “I entered too many incorrect passwords and it caused the computer to shut down.” That wasn’t exactly true, but it was close enough. Mr. Miller didn’t possess the technological skills to know any better.

“Now what am I gonna do?” the man moaned, pacing and rubbing his forehead with the hand that wasn’t loosely holding the gun.

Joanna had quickly come to the conclusion that Richard Miller wasn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier and, if he was going to harm her, she might as well make it worth it.

“Guess you don’t have a plan B, huh?” she asked wryly.

“Shut up and let me think!”

“We’re gonna be here awhile then, aren’t we?” she goaded.

“I said ‘shut up’!”

He stalked to her desk, pulling out random drawers and rummaging through them until he found what he was looking for. A roll of duct tape.

“I don’t want to hear another peep outta you! You got that?” he yelled as he firmly slapped a piece of the tape across her mouth.

He was about to return to his pacing but suddenly turned back to her. Tearing off longer lengths of the silver tape he bound her ankles and wrists in front of her.

“Can’t have you go runnin’ off on me now, can we?” he jeered.

Joanna leveled her best dagger-shooting stare at him, but he quickly turned away. She assessed the new situation she found herself in. Apparently this guy didn’t watch much TV because everyone knows that you should tie a person’s hand behind their back. Thankful for his miscue and the potential opportunity it offered, she focused on creating an escape plan.

Jo didn’t know how long Mr. Miller paced and muttered, but instinct told her it was time for action. She would either succeed or fail. As surreptitiously as possible, she moved her bound hands toward the pocket of her coat which she had hung on the back of her chair upon arriving. Twisting her torso while still keeping an eye on her captor, her fingers grasped the flap covering the pocket, allowing her to pull it closer until she could slide her hands inside and grasp what she needed: The Swiss Army knife Mac had given her for Christmas. She clutched it in her fists and turned just in time to see Mr. Miller swivel towards her. He spared her a glance before once again turning his back to her. She let out a silent sigh of relief and worked the knife until she found the blade she wanted. She then pulled her feet up as close as she could and began sawing away at the duct tape. It was a lot harder than she had anticipated and she made the crucial mistake of allowing her mind to focus solely on her immediate task and forget about Miller’s presence. She first realized her error when he wrapped a meaty hand around her arm and yanked her from her chair, causing her to lose her balance and fall to the floor. Thankfully, she still held the knife and when he reached down to grab her again she jammed it into his forearm with all her might, his piercing scream reverberating in her ears.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“I think the eyes were a just a little wider,” Sam said thoughtfully, looking over his dad’s shoulder at the computer screen where MacGyver was using a program to recreate Miller’s face. “And his lips had a slight curl to them.”

“Sam,” Mac sighed impatiently. “We are not recreating the Mona Lisa here. Now does this look like the guy you saw?”

“Yeah, except his nose was just a tad--” MacGyver hit the print button before his son could continue. Mac was a fan of precision, but he had a feeling time wasn’t on their side so they just had to do the best they could.

Sam had just grabbed the sketch from the printer when Cip skidded through the front door and immediately sought out Frog. Soon the two dogs were nose-to-nose, sniffing, grumbling, yipping, and wagging.

“What’s going on?” Sam asked his father.
“How should I know? I don’t speak canine. But we do know Cip isn’t with Jo.” Mac’s heart fell to the ground. He had been hoping the odd little hound had been protecting her. Obviously, that wasn’t happening.

Moments later, the two dogs sat in front of their respective masters. Cip pulled himself up straight and kept moving his eyes from Sam to the door, then back to Sam. Frog crouched in front of MacGyver, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, drool dripping on the floor, and soulful eyes wide and alert as his entire chubby body quivered with energy.

“What is it, guys?” Mac asked the doggy duo, feeling only partly silly for doing so.

“Do you know where Joanna is?” Sam asked Cip who immediately stood up and ran to the door with Frog right behind him.

“They know something!” Mac exclaimed, grabbing his jacket from the bench by the door. “C’mon!” He opened the door and the dogs took off at a run leaving their human companions no choice but to follow.

Sam and MacGyver were breathing hard by the time Cip sat down on the sidewalk in front of the diner. Frog had fallen behind, but caught up quickly and soon had his nose to the ground, walking in circles, before he sat down and began to whine.

“Do you think Cip followed them?” Sam gasped, trying to catch his breath.

“Looks that way,” Mac confirmed. “And I think Frog’s picked up Joanna’s scent. Let’s go inside and see if we can get some answers.”

“Sorry hon, we got a packed house. You’re just gonna hafta wait,” a middle-aged waitress said in way of greeting as they entered the restaurant.

“Actually, we just have a question,” Mac explained as he motioned for Sam to show her the computer-generated picture of Miller. “Did you see this guy come in about an hour ago. He would have been with a pretty brunette.”

“Yeah, I remember him,” the waitress replied. “He comes in every so often. Always orders a slice of pie. Nothin’ else. Just a slice of pie.”

“Was there a woman with him today?” MacGyver inquired anxiously.

“Yeah. Sweet lookin’ thing. Wonder how he landed her.”

“Did you see where they went after they left?” he asked.

“Honey, I’ve got enough people to worry about inside the diner. Once they leave they’re somebody else’s problem.”

After thanking the waitress for her time, father and son headed back outside to the waiting dogs.

“Now what?” Sam asked dejectedly.

With a groan, Mac slapped the palm of his hand against his forehead. “Of course! It should’ve been obvious!” he said as he looked at the high school across the street.

“That might be a little too obvious,” Sam pointed out.

“Maybe. But right now it’s the best shot we got.” MacGyver called to Frog who slowly ambled over. Mac bent down and ruffled the dog’s ears. “Frog, find Joanna! Go find Joanna!” he commanded.

Frog shook himself from the tip of his nose to his barely-there tail, sniffed the air, and took off toward the school, only stopping when he reached the front door. Mac tested the handle.

“It’s open,” he whispered to Sam, signaling that they needed to be as quiet as possible from here on in.

They stepped into the large entrance and Mac winced at the sound of doggy toenails clicking on the tile floor. He was about to herd them back outside when Frog started waddling down a long corridor.

“That’s the way to Jo’s classroom,” MacGyver told Sam, still whispering. “They must be in there.”

A sudden yowl rent the air, causing the dogs to run toward the source, barking furiously, leaving Mac and Sam to follow them yet again. When MacGyver got to the classroom, he found Mr. Miller standing next to Joanna’s desk, one dog tugging on each pant leg as he tried to kick them away. Unable to hold back his anger, Mac called the dogs off before balling up his fist and hitting the man square on the jaw, knocking him to the floor where his head connected with the hard tile with a sickening thud.

“Ow! Why do I do that?!” Mac exclaimed, shaking out his hand which stung from the force of the contact.

When he was sure Miller was down for the count, he looked around to find Sam helping Jo release herself from her bindings.

“Duct tape! Can you believe it?” she asked ruefully. “Talk about irony!”

MacGyver had her in his arms before she could say another word.

“Aw baby, I’m so sorry!” he apologized, kissing the top of her head. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, I think,” she replied, wriggling out of his grasp so she could look him in the eye, tears shimmering in her own. “I was afraid I might never see you again,” she confessed in a watery voice. “How did you ever find me?”

“We had a little help,” Mac told her, drawing her attention to Cip and Frog who were licking the face and hands of the unconscious kidnapper.

XXXXX

Valentine’s Day

A week later, MacGyver and Joanna were sitting on his living room floor, the coffee table holding the Monopoly board between them and Chinese take-out cartons scattered about. Jo rolled the dice and scowled when her little silver Scottie dog landed on one of Mac’s properties.

“Aha! I got you now!” Mac crowed triumphantly. “Let’s see, that’s Boardwalk with three houses so you owe me…”

“More than I’ve got,” she stated, tossing all her toy money at him.

“Gosh, I didn’t know you were such a sore loser.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just been a long week,” she replied as she collected the remains of their dinner and MacGyver put the game away.

“Have you gotten any updates on Mr. Miller?” he asked, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her gently onto the couch with him.

“The school administration is pressing charges but he somehow managed to make bail. He’s under orders to stay away from Trent, the school, and all staff members.”

“Are you gonna have to testify at his trial?”

She shook her head. “Given Miller’s record, the prosecutor says our police statements should be enough evidence for a solid case.”

“I’m still sorry I wasn’t here for you.”

“Would you stop with that?! You had to go to Challengers. You didn’t have a choice,” Joanna insisted, turning to snuggle into his chest.

“Yeah,” Mac grunted. “And I played right into Miller’s hands. Who would ever have thought that he’d tamper with the gas valves just to get me out of the way?”

“Well, one good thing did come out of all this,” Jo mused.

“And what was that?”

“I finally got to use my Swiss Army knife,” she replied, smiling up at him.

“I’m really proud of you. You know that, right? You must have been scared to death but you held it together and did all the right things.”

He felt her shrug against him. “I just kept trying to think of how you would handle the situation. So you see, you were kinda there with me anyway. I guess you’re finally starting to rub off on me.”

“Oh really? Well then, Ms. Fairfax, how do you think I would handle this current situation we find ourselves in?”

“Hmmmm,” she responded thoughtfully. “You’d probably do something like this.”

She reached up and, cupping his face in her hands, gently guided his lips to hers until they met in a feather-like caress. A thrill zinged through him like an electric shock as it always did when she initiated contact and he savored every moment until she slowly pulled away.

“So, was I right?” she asked, her voice low and a bit husky.

“You know me so well,” he grinned before pulling her closer and kissing her deeply.




















Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 24 February 2020 - 11:19 AM                                    
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I split this over two days, since it was so long XD

QUOTE
Chapter 37: Valentine’s Prey
I automatcially thought of Murdoc laugh.gif

QUOTE

“You women are all alike,” he grumbled. “Always trying to shift the blame.”
Can I gouge his face out? I want to gouge his face out.

QUOTE

“I don’t need no uppity teacher telling me about my son! I know my boy. He’s gonna be the first generation of Millers to go to college!”
Then why are you here?!

QUOTE
“Let’s get one thing straight, missy,” he warned, shaking a finger at her. “No one’s gonna stand in the way of my son goin’ to college. Not you, not my ex-wife, no one!”
Oh good, she divorced him, I would do. What a jerk!

QUOTE


“Hey, you still plannin’ on comin’ over for a late dinner?” She allowed MacGyver’s smooth, warm, wonderful voice to wash over her.

“Actually I think I’m just gonna head straight home,” she replied.
You know she's had it rough when she turns Mac down.

QUOTE


“And you laid awake all night thinking about how you could have handled it differently,” he concluded, a smile tugging at his lips.

“I did not!” she retorted, before turning contrite. “It was only half the night.”
Me in a nutshell.

Anyway, I'm 100% convinced Mr. Miller prank called her, deflated her tire, and does not care that she's engaged.

QUOTE
He really needed to change his locks.
Bruh laugh.gif

QUOTE
Kip with a ‘C’. Well, there are worse names.
Like Angus, you mean?

QUOTE
Can’t a guy visit his favorite father?
Bruh XD

QUOTE

“He’s out of town for a few weeks and I promised I’d look after the place. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you and Cip stayed over there for the weekend.”

Sam’s face lit up as MacGyver handed him the spare key Charlie had given him.
TWO WEEKS LATER:
Mac: Hello, son who doesn't live here.
Sam: Hey.
Mac: I gave you the key for EMERGENCIES.
Sam: I was out of doritos.

QUOTE
He even wanted to buy me a piece of pie after he changed my tire.”

“Wait a minute! What?!”

“He offered to buy me a piece of pie at the diner across the street from the school.”

“What did you say?”
Please pay attention, Mac.

QUOTE
Apparently unimpressed, the two soon parted with Frog crawling under the coffee table, presumably for a nap, and Cip standing by the patio doors in a silent plea to be let out.

Relieved that the two dogs appeared to accept each other, Jo and Sam returned to their board game while Mac plopped down on the couch and turned on the television set.
So you're just going to leave poor Cip by the door, or...?

QUOTE

“That was the fire department. There’s been a natural gas leak at Challengers. Everyone’s okay, the building’s been evacuated and the supply cut off, but I need to go down and sign off on some stuff. Sam, do you mind stayin’ until I get back?”
I'll lay down my next paycheck on the likelihood that Mr. Miller caused the leak knowing it'd get Mac out of the house, freeing him to go after Joanna.

I won't lay money down on this one, because I'm not certain, but I'm theorizing that he doesn't know Sam and Cip are there, and that'll be an advantage. Better yet if Frog and Cip are the heroes...

QUOTE
She was halfway down when she saw Mr. Miller standing just inside the door. The dogs’ barking turned to low growls, yet they did not advance on the intruder.
Called it XD

QUOTE
Ya know, you people should really lock your glove boxes,” he smirked.
He does have a point...

QUOTE

Wanting to wipe that grin off his face once and for all, Joanna charged down the rest of the steps but came to an abrupt halt when she saw Sam’s unconscious body lying prone on the floor, Frog and Cip guarding him.
Well, Sam won't be much help...

QUOTE


“First, I want to buy you a piece of pie. Then, I want you to go to the school and fix Trent’s report card.”
Not to be dark, but in a way, she's damn lucky if that's all he wants out of her...

That being said, I wouldn't cry if Mac sterilized him with his SAK or anything... whistle.gif

QUOTE

What she did understand was that this man was in desperate need of grammar lessons
Joanna throwing shade laugh.gif

QUOTE
Squeezing her eyes shut even tighter, she had no way of knowing Cip had snuck out the front door and was even now following behind them.
Oh. I was actually on to something earlier... XD

QUOTE
However, he was required to remain on-site when it was discovered that the leak was not an accident but a deliberate act. Someone had broken the valve.
I called it XD

QUOTE
He quietly crossed the threshold in case an intruder was still inside and quickly surveyed the apartment, dropping to his knees when he saw his son’s unconscious body lying on the floor, Frog licking his cheek.
Okay, I now headcanon that this is what happened:

Dogs: *growling*
Mr. Miller: *pulls out gun*
Frog: That guy's crazy!
Cip: Yeah, and we dang well can't just go bite him, not without someone possibly getting shot...
Frog: And Sam's already down!
*Joanna and Mr. Miller leave*
Cip: *glancing between Sam and the door hesitantly* I'm gonna follow them.
Frog: That's crazy, you could end up in real trouble!
Cip: Not if I stay at a distance. Someone has to help!
Frog: Then I'm coming too.
Cip: No, stay with Sam, try to wake him up. When MacGyver comes back, he needs to know what happened, and only Sam can tell him. And no offense, I know you've helped a lot in the past, but I think with my breeding and past experiences, I might be a bit better suited for tracking them down. And with your drool content, you're better at this.
Frog: I'm gonna try to forget you said that... *goes over to Sam*
Cip: *sneaks outside*

QUOTE

“How could you let this happen?!” Mac rounded on his son, his anxiety now giving way to anger. “I was counting on you to protect her and you let a stranger, who was most likely Miller, waltz right in!”
Mac, your son was literally unconcscious two minutes ago, come on.

QUOTE

“You’re lyin’! You just don’t want to give my boy the grade he deserves. Now fix it!” he roared.
I mean, sure, if you want to believe that she's lying, despite the fact that you have a gun shoved into her and she's been compliant so far, knock yourself out...

QUOTE

“Guess you don’t have a plan B, huh?” she asked wryly.
Me if I ever get held hostage. I mean, I'd probably die fast, but still laugh.gif

QUOTE

“We’re gonna be here awhile then, aren’t we?” she goaded.
I repeat...

QUOTE

Sam had just grabbed the sketch from the printer when Cip skidded through the front door and immediately sought out Frog. Soon the two dogs were nose-to-nose, sniffing, grumbling, yipping, and wagging.

Frog: Cip? Cip! Yer alive! Didja find her?
Cip: Yes, and we gotta hurry! Think we can get Mac to follow us?
Frog: No problem, Sam's awake too!
Cip: Good job, ol' dog!

QUOTE

Moments later, the two dogs sat in front of their respective masters. Cip pulled himself up straight and kept moving his eyes from Sam to the door, then back to Sam. Frog crouched in front of MacGyver, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, drool dripping on the floor, and soulful eyes wide and alert as his entire chubby body quivered with energy.


Cip: How're we gonna tell em?
Frog: Watch and learn!
Cip: I'll just... you're not doing anything...
Frog: He'll get it, just wait!

QUOTE

“Do you know where Joanna is?” Sam asked Cip who immediately stood up and ran to the door with Frog right behind him.


Frog: Toldja!
Cip: He understood ME not you...

QUOTE

Sam and MacGyver were breathing hard by the time Cip sat down on the sidewalk in front of the diner. Frog had fallen behind, but caught up quickly and soon had his nose to the ground, walking in circles, before he sat down and began to whine.

Cip: This is where I last saw 'em!
Frog: *sniffing* Good job, but they're not here now. Lemme have my turn, show ya how it's done.
Cip: *watching* Gotta admit, you're better at tracking than I thought.

QUOTE
When MacGyver got to the classroom, he found Mr. Miller standing next to Joanna’s desk, one dog tugging on each pant leg as he tried to kick them away.
I can picture them barking different rants and bellows, but out of sequence so no one could tell what they're each saying XD

QUOTE


“Ow! Why do I do that?!” Mac exclaimed, shaking out his hand which stung from the force of the contact.
Classic XD

QUOTE

“We had a little help,” Mac told her, drawing her attention to Cip and Frog who were licking the face and hands of the unconscious kidnapper.

Cip: Oh dog, is he dead?
Frog: Lemme check... Nope. Ooh, c'mere, he tastes salty!
Cip: *licks* Ooh, you're right!

QUOTE
Jo rolled the dice and scowled when her little silver Scottie dog landed on one of Mac’s properties.
I like the Scottie too XD

QUOTE

“Gosh, I didn’t know you were such a sore loser.”
It's Monopoly, I mean, what'd you expect? laugh.gif

QUOTE

“I’m still sorry I wasn’t here for you.”

“Would you stop with that?! You had to go to Challengers. You didn’t have a choice,” Joanna insisted, turning to snuggle into his chest.
*squeals* I've been reading a lot of fluffy fanfiction lately, so I'm in a mood XD




"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 24 February 2020 - 11:39 AM                                    
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Thanks for all the great comments, Dragondog!! I TOTALLY love the "doggy conversations" you added!! Yeah, I think if anyone held me hostage, try to carjack me, etc. I'd be pretty snarky....and dead:(

Isn't the Scottie dog everyone's favorite!?!?



Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 24 February 2020 - 09:45 PM                                    
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Any time wink.gif

I actually ended up dreaming that I got abducted, but just spent the time playing Animal Crossing. Stayed asleep long enough to dream the part where I called the police and got rescued laugh.gif



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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