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The Journey Continues, Continuation of "Continuum"
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 19 March 2020 - 05:19 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 19 March 2020 - 12:59 AM)
So for the time being, my laptop is broken. So unless it fixes itself soon, my detailed reviews won't be what they were. This tablet I'm using doesn't let me run more than one tab at a time, and copying and pasting into quotes are a pain with this thing. I'll do what I can, though sad.gif

Saving Jack again. Joanna was right XD

Jack doesn't want to go to Alaska. I feel the same way about cold weather laugh.gif

Mac's not wrong about Minnesota winters.

Oh, still hanging on that cliffhanger, I see wink.gif I wonder if Joanna will feel reassured that MacGyver was mature enough to back out since he was overpowered here.

Sorry about your laptop. My computer here at work is running annoyingly slow...I think it's due to so many people working from home via the internet...or it's just our crummy computer system!! LOL!!

Thanks for the review. Per suggestions from other readers, things will get more, um, interesting??? hmm.bmp



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: 19 March 2020 - 11:45 PM                                    
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It had it coming. It's been working on and off, and the screen broke, too.

Looking forward to it biggrin.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: 25 March 2020 - 10:14 AM                                    
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Chapter 42: On Her Own


March 24, 1998

“How could you break up with MacGyver?!” Judy Fairfax scolded as her daughter packed a suitcase.

“I didn’t break up with him, Ma,” Joanna clarified, quickly losing her patience. “I just suggested we take some time away from each other to make sure we can trust our feelings.”

“And then you’re planning on staying at his place while he’s gone?”

“That’s right, Mother,” Jo huffed.

“That doesn’t make any sense!”

“Look, I just need some time alone so I can think. Wherever I go, I’m with people. At school, at Challengers, even here at home.”

“When is Mac coming back?”

“I don’t know. Maybe never. We didn’t talk about it,” Joanna snapped.

“Seems to me you didn’t talk about a lot of things,” Judy observed.

Joanna stopped packing and took a deep breath. After leaving MacGyver’s the night before, she had pulled her car to a stop a block away and cried her eyes out before heading home where she held it together long enough to inform her parents that she and Mac needed some space and he was going to L.A. to check on Jack. Of course, her mother knew there was more to the story so Jo recounted the dinner with Craig and Nikki.

“They were telling all these stories about Mac’s assignments and I felt like they were talking about a stranger,” Joanna had tried to explain. After a long, sleepless night of alternately staring at the ceiling and sobbing into her pillow, she went to work as if nothing had happened, stopping at Challengers afterwards to pick up Frog where she learned MacGyver had told everyone he would be gone for a few days while he visited a friend. Of course, Mac’s total absence and her brief appearance garnered curious stares from Cynthia, Geena, and Rosie, but she refused to provide further clarification.

“I agree it wasn’t exactly my finest hour,” Joanna confessed to her mother. “But it’s done now.” She closed and latched her suitcase before heading downstairs, collecting Frog, and driving to MacGyver’s. When she pulled in the driveway his landlord, Charlie, was on the front stoop shaking hands with a man in a suit.

“Have you sold the townhouse yet?” she called to Charlie as she gathered Frog and her belongings.

“No,” the older man sighed. “My real estate agent just suggested I drop the asking price.”

“I’m sorry,” Jo replied sympathetically. “I’m sure it’ll all work out.”

“Mac didn’t mention you’d be staying here,” the landlord said, clearly eager to change the subject.

“That’s because he doesn’t know. Things happened kinda fast.”

Charlie studied Joanna who nervously shifted her weight from one foot to another while Frog tugged on his lead, anxious to head into the house.

“What’s goin’ on with you two anyway?” he asked.

“Mac went to visit--”

“A friend. I know,” Charlie replied, cutting her off. “He told me when I drove him to the airport. At least you got your stories straight. If you ever want to talk about what’s really goin’ on, I’m just next door. Remember that.”

Joanna summoned a small smile. “Thanks. I will.”

Once inside, Jo unclipped Frog’s leash and the pudgy bulldog headed directly to his usual napping spot under the coffee table. He had been spending a lot of time at Challengers and was probably glad for the solitude. Jo inhaled deeply and looked around. Everything was the same as it always was but somehow the space felt incredibly empty without MacGyver there. But that was what she wanted, wasn’t it? Annoyed at her melancholy and vowing not to shed another tear over the man, she picked up the TV remote and turned it on to a national news station.

“Our top news story this evening takes us to Prince William Sound, Alaska, where an American oil tanker struck the Bligh Reef early this morning causing a massive spill. Coast Guard officials report that the spill has been contained and is considerably smaller than the Exxon Valdez disaster that occurred in approximately the same location nine years ago today. The United States Environmental Protection Agency and several smaller agencies including the Phoenix Foundation in Los Angeles are in the process of mobilizing clean-up crews to send to the area. We will update this story as soon as more information becomes available.”

Her heart rate sped up at the mention of Mac’s former employer. Would Phoenix recruit him to go help with the spill? No, knowing MacGyver, if he heard this report, he would willingly volunteer for the job. Was he on his way to Alaska even now? Jo shook her head. That was none of her concern at the moment. She was here to see if there was a place for her in Mac’s life...assuming he even wanted her in it once he returned. If he returned.

After a late supper of leftover tofu casserole and a promise to go to the supermarket the next day, Jo changed into her pajamas and crawled into Mac’s bed. The sheets felt stiff and smelled clean. How many nights did he spend on the couch anyway? Or did he change the linens before he left? He had no way of knowing she would come here. Or did he know her that well? Joanna tossed and turned for an hour before glaring ruefully at the clothes hamper, cursing her traitorous heart.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she muttered as she climbed out of bed and rooted through the dirty laundry to find one of MacGyver’s t-shirts. Quest complete, she grabbed the extra pillow laying next to her on the bed and pulled the stretchy material over it. Snuggling back under the covers, she held the pillow close, breathing in Mac’s scent as she drifted off into peaceful slumber.

XXXXX

Wednesday morning, Joanna arrived at the high school early as usual and quickly checked her mailbox as was her routine. She was surprised to find a note from Vice Principal Varga asking to see her before classes started.

“I see you got one, too,” a rich, deep voice with a hint of amusement said from behind her. She turned toward its source only to find an attractive man looking down at her. About six feet tall, his short yet neatly styled dark brown hair sported natural auburn highlights while his clear, hazel eyes caught and held her gaze. “I guess we were never properly introduced,” he said, holding out his hand. “I’m Tim O’Brien, one of the social studies teachers.”

Placing her hand gently in his, she knew she should offer a firm, professional handshake, but this way just felt..right.

“I’m Joanna Fairfax. You can call me ‘Jo’. I teach English.” Though by the very simple sentences that had just come out of her mouth one would never know it.

“Oh, so you’re in the foreign language department,” he teased, his eyes dancing in the fluorescent light.

“I’m afraid my students would agree with you,” she laughed lightly while reclaiming her hand. “We should go see what Mrs. Varga wants.”

Before either of them could knock on her office door, the vice principal invited them in.

“The bell is going to ring in a few minutes so I’ll keep this short. There’s a statewide teacher’s convention in Madison this weekend focusing on at-risk students. I want the two of you to go.”

With this she handed Joanna and Tim each a large brochure.

“It runs all day Saturday and Sunday morning. I’ve booked you each a room in the hotel where it’s being held for Friday and Saturday nights. I figure it best if you drive up Friday after school and I’ll give you both Monday off to compensate for your time. I do ask that you try to attend as many separate seminars as possible. I’d like you to report what you learned at our next staff meeting. And Joanna, I’ll need your answer regarding your contract when you return. Do either of you have any questions?”

Jo stood speechless. Her head spinning.

“Nope. Everything sounds good,” she heard Tim respond confidently.

With a smile and a nod she turned and headed out of the office with the social studies teacher behind her.

“How about we get together during lunch and pick out which presentations each of us should sign up for?” Tim suggested.

“Sure, that sounds fine,” Jo responded absently, still trying to process all the information that had been thrown at her.

Joanna had just dismissed her last class of the morning when Tim entered her classroom carrying a bag lunch. They spent the next thirty minutes poring over the brochures Mrs. Varga had given them trying to decide who would attend which seminars. Joanna was surprised at how smooth the process went. Tim was organized, flexible, and easy to work with.

“I was thinking,” he ventured, just before the afternoon classes were scheduled to begin. “It doesn’t make sense for us to each take our own car. How about we drive up together. I’m always game for a road trip.”

“That sounds great! I really don’t know my way around Madison and have a penchant for getting lost,” Jo confessed.

“Then it’s settled,” Tim replied, smiling broadly.

Before Joanna could answer, the bell rang and students began to enter the classroom.

That evening Jo curled up on Mac’s couch, Frog snoring beside her. She turned on the television, but nothing managed to hold her attention. Her stomach roiled every time she thought of the upcoming weekend. Last minute assignments were a way of life for MacGyver, but she sorely lacked the confidence and spontaneity to deal well with such situations. Feeling restless, she gently rose from the couch so as not to wake the sleeping dog and began to look around Mac’s apartment. For all the time she had spent here, she realized she had actually paid little attention to many of his possessions. For instance, the yellow rubber ducky on the kitchen counter. She picked it up and gave it a squeeze. It had been there for as long as she could remember, but why? There had to be a story connected to it.

As she continued to stroll about, she noticed framed snapshots of Mac with Pete or Jack or even Nikki scattered about on shelves and the fireplace mantel. There was even one of him with an elderly gentleman she assumed was Grandpa Harry if the fishing hat was any indication. He also had books. Lots of books. Upon further inspection she noticed his preferred subjects were history, biographies, and just about any type of science you could think of. However, these were juxtaposed with a huge collection of video-taped Westerns and a rather impressive amount of records and a few CD’s and, oddly enough, high school yearbooks. Her fingers ached to turn through the pages, but she wasn’t ready to read what would undoubtedly be inscriptions of undying love from his former girlfriends. Having made a circuit of the room, she found herself back in the kitchen. She and MacGyver had spent a lot of time here together and she couldn’t think of a place that suited him better. And therein lie one of the reasons she had been avoiding marrying him. She loved this apartment as much, if not more, than he did. Never had another place felt more like home to her. But it was small. She glanced up toward the bedroom. Save for a small closet and dresser, there wasn’t much storage space. It was fine for a bachelor, but where would her things fit? The apartment didn’t even have room for a guest or even a child should they decide to adopt. Yet the idea of living somewhere else seemed unthinkable. Of course, she had never mentioned this to MacGyver. He had traveled and lived all over the world. Surely to him an apartment was simply a place to stow his hockey gear until he decided to move on. Perhaps that was the reason he couldn’t commit to buying a house when he had moved to Milwaukee. He couldn’t let go of the residue from his earlier transient lifestyle. Was he truly ready to finally put down some roots? But then again, people say home is where the heart is, so if her heart was truly with Mac, shouldn’t she feel at home anywhere as long as they were together?

XXXXX

Thursday at noon Joanna looked up from the essay she was grading to find Tim leaning casually against her door jamb, a brown paper lunch bag in his hand.

“I figured since we’re spending the weekend together we should get to know each other a little better,” he said with a gentle smile.

When she quirked an eyebrow he grimaced. “Sorry, that sounded better in my head.”

Jo laughed lightly. “Don’t worry, I know what you meant. Pull up a seat.”

Over the next half hour, Joanna learned that Tim O’Brien had been born and raised in a suburb of Milwaukee and now owned a home in the city. He had a sister and brother-in-law who had graced him with two nephews he clearly loved. Like her, he had grown up Catholic, attending parochial school until college. He was an avid Green Bay Packer fan and confessed to having only one serious relationship from which, he stressed, he learned a lot and was not about to make the same mistakes twice. If someone had asked Jo to create the perfect guy, before meeting MacGyver, Tim would have very much fit the bill. She had always rued the fact that she was an only child with no nieces or nephews to dote on, especially as time passed and it became clear she would have no children of her own. And, of course, having someone who actively shared her faith was a quality she highly regarded.

“So what about you?” he asked as they tossed the remains of their lunch in the trash. “Rumor in the teachers’ lounge says you’re engaged.”

“Do you always believe everything you hear in the teachers’ lounge?” she countered playfully.

“Only the stuff that’s true,” he replied, then let his gaze land on her modest diamond ring. “So, does that come with a guy or do you just wear it to scare off the weirdos?” He pulled a face causing her to laugh.

“It comes with a guy, for now,” she answered softly.

Tim’s demeanor turned serious. “Sounds like there’s a story in there somewhere.”

“It’s complicated,” Joanna said with a shrug. “He’s in Los Angeles right now. We needed some time apart.”

The bell signaling the end of the lunch period rang, saving Joanna from Tim’s questioning eyes. “Tomorrow? Same time? Same place?”

“It’s a date,” Jo answered, summoning a smile. Her heart was beating double time as students began to drift into the room. What had she been thinking? First, she flirts with the guy and then she leads him to believe that her relationship is in trouble. Of course, there was a very strong possibility her relationship with MacGyver was in trouble.

Friday morning Joanna left for work earlier than usual so she could drop Frog off at Challengers since she’d be gone for the weekend. She also felt she owed Cynthia an honest explanation. After all, both her and MacGyver had practically abandoned the club leaving the older woman to run it single-handedly. After Jo had settled Frog into his preferred corner and set out fresh food and water for him, she crossed the room and tapped softly on Cynthia’s office door.

“Mind if I come in for a minute?” she asked.

Cynthia looked up from her work, surprise registering on her face. “Of course not! Please, have a seat. We’ve missed you around here.”

“I know and I’m sorry,” Jo responded as she sat on the edge of the offered chair. “I wanted to let you know I brought Frog over for the weekend. I need to go to a convention in Madison.”

“That’s no problem. The kids will love having him around again. They missed him these past couple of days,” Cynthia assured her with a smile.

“I’ll also be making it a point to spend more time here.”

Cynthia waved off the comment. “You’re busy with school. We’ll be fine until MacGyver comes back.”

Joanna looked down at the floor. “That’s something else we need to talk about.”

“Well, it’s about time!” Cynthia leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest. “There’s more to Mac’s trip, isn’t there?”

“How did you know?”

“When he stopped in to say he was leaving, he looked like he had just lost his best friend...or maybe someone even more important.”

Joanna reluctantly met Cynthia’s gaze, dreading the censure she assumed she would find, but instead, the woman’s eyes were filled with compassion.

“Mac didn’t totally lie to you,” Jo began. “He was worried about not hearing from Jack so I told him to check things out. But I sent him away because some things happened on his birthday that caused me to start rethinking our relationship.”

“Honey, you have to know that MacGyver is head-over-heels in love with you. I’ve known him a long time and have never seen him this happy. This content.”

“I want to believe you. I really do. But I need to be sure we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons.”

“And how will you know you are?” Cynthia challenged.

Ashamed that she didn’t have an answer, Joanna glanced down at her watch and quickly excused herself saying she was late for work which would be true if she continued with this conversation.

The lunch bell had just rung when Tim poked his head into Joanna’s classroom. She greeted him with a bright smile he did not return.

“Listen, I’m sorry, but I’m gonna have to break our lunch date,” he informed her. “I’m up to my eyeballs in paperwork that I need to get done before we leave.”

Jo sighed in relief. “No problem. I’m actually glad because I still have to get lesson plans together for the sub on Monday. I’m beginning to think it would be easier just to come in myself.”

“No way!” Tim objected. “Mrs. V. gave us the day off. Take advantage of it! By the way, could you give me your address so I know where to pick you up later?”

“Oh, sure,” Joanna mumbled as she scribbled the address to Mac’s apartment on a sticky note. “I’m all packed, I just want to change into something more comfortable for the trip.”

“Sounds great. I’ll see you about four?”

“See you then,” she agreed as both anxiety and excitement about the upcoming weekend did battle in her stomach.

Joanna had just finished taking one last look in the mirror when there was a knock on the front door. Knowing it was Tim, she hurried down the spiral staircase and let him in as she went to retrieve her luggage.

“Play much hockey, do you?” Tim inquired as he examined Mac’s gear.

Jo laughed. “No. This isn’t actually my place. I’m house sitting for a friend.”

“This ‘friend’ wouldn’t happen to be the same guy who gave you that ring?”

Joanna felt herself flush. “Yeah,” she admitted softly. “But I’m not sure how long he’ll be here, especially after his landlord sells the place.”

Not caring for the direction this conversation had taken, she picked up her large suitcase and changed the subject.

“Sorry, I tried to pack light,” she smiled ruefully as Tim quickly took the piece of luggage from her.

“No problem. A girl’s gotta be prepared for everything, right?” he said with a wink as he headed out the door.

Jo felt her heart flip at the refreshing reply. She had gotten so used to MacGyver complaining about how much she packed she never expected some other guy might actually understand.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I thought we’d take Highway 16,” Tim said as they headed west, out of the city. “I figure Friday night rush hour on the interstate will be a nightmare. This way may take a little longer, but it should be a lot less stressful. Besides, it’ll give us more time to get to know each other.”

Over the next two hours, they exchanged anecdotes about attending Catholic grade school, their families, and the paths they had each taken that had landed them both at Lincoln High School. Joanna was surprised and pleased at how easy their conversation flowed. Even the silence was comfortable. They had just reached the outskirts of Madison when they saw a billboard advertising a well-known, casual chain restaurant.

“Wanna stop and get some supper before we check into the hotel?” Tim asked.

“You read my mind,” Jo grinned.

When the server appeared beside their table at the crowded restaurant, Joanna ordered the fish fry, a Friday night staple on any Wisconsin menu. Tim ordered a steak with all the trimmings, causing Jo to frown.

“What?” he asked defensively.

“Nothing,” she murmured.

“C’mon, what is it? You a vegetarian or something?”

“No, it’s just a Friday. In Lent.”

Tim relaxed as understanding dawned. “And you thought I’d abstain from meat like a good Catholic boy.”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed,” Jo stammered feeling suddenly awkward.

“Trust me, I’m sure God, Himself, would break that rule for a good old-fashioned piece of beef!” he laughed while Joanna summoned a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

After having secured and searched out their rooms in the hotel, Tim deposited Joanna’s luggage next to her door.

“Looks like we’re neighbors,” he remarked.

“Looks like it,” she agreed, as she fiddled with her keycard to unlock her door.

“Well, if you need anything during the night, just knock on the wall,” Tim teased with a friendly wink.

“I’m sure everything will be fine, but I’ll keep that in mind,” she replied with a smirk before tugging her suitcase into her room and closing the door behind her as a tingling heat crept up her neck. Later, as she crawled into bed, she stared at the dividing wall, a frisson of awareness passing through her before she drifted off to sleep.

Saturday morning Joanna awoke with a dull ache in her temple and groaned. Her slumber the night before had been riddled with odd dreams. Faceless figures had floated past her mind’s eye. Some warmed her with hope and love while others chilled her with anxiety and fear leaving her feeling restless and out-of-sorts. Thirty minutes later, Tim knocked on her door and together they joined hundreds of educators from around the state in a huge conference room where everyone was taking advantage of a free breakfast buffet. She and Tim compared their schedules one last time to make sure that none of their chosen seminars overlapped as Mrs. Varga had asked. Soon, the large group split into several smaller ones as a number of presentations began in separate, smaller gathering rooms.

By lunch time, Joanna remembered why she hated going to these types of events and would do cartwheels to get out of them. Eventually, all the presenters basically said the same thing which, when boiled down, was basic common sense to any teacher worth his or her salt. Granted, she had picked up some interesting information as well as tips and tricks for teaching and disciplining at-risk youth, but her stiff back and aching shoulders outweighed them all...and there was still a whole afternoon and half day tomorrow to go.

Tim was waiting for her while everyone was herded back into the large conference room for the midday meal. Both needing a break from their colleagues’ incessant chatter, they ate quickly and silently before taking a stroll among the hotel’s common areas which ended with Tim kneading Jo’s taught neck and shoulder muscles. She wanted to moan with delight as the tension quickly melted under his gentle yet firm ministrations, but instead she moaned with disappointment when an announcement beckoned them back to their seminars.

“Tell ya what,” Tim proposed before they parted, “Let’s have dinner in the hotel restaurant tonight.”

“Are you sure?” Jo asked. “It’s pretty high end.”

“Yep! Consider it a reward for surviving a day’s worth of seminars.”

Hours later, Joanna was comfortably seated at a cozy table for two in a candlelit corner of the fancy restaurant. The afternoon had dragged, but the thought of spending the evening with Tim provided a much needed shot of adrenaline. She chalked it up to the excitement of getting to know a new friend. At least, that’s what she convinced herself to believe. As had become customary, conversation flowed easily. After debriefing each other on the information each had gleaned from the day, they proceeded to talk about both everything and nothing at all. Jo was once again pleasantly surprised at how relaxed she felt in Tim’s company. Maybe it was because they’re backgrounds were so similar she didn’t feel like she had to defend herself and her choices. Or perhaps it was because Tim was open and straightforward and she didn’t have to worry about saying something that would bring back an old fear or open up a painful memory. Or maybe it was because a kind, handsome, intelligent man appeared to take a genuine interest in her.

After dinner, they slowly strolled to their rooms. Somewhere along the way Joanna’s hand had slipped into Tim’s, but she made no effort to remove it. Arriving at her door she sighed.

“Thanks for dinner. It was wonderful. I hate to see this evening end,” she confessed.

“It doesn’t have to, ya know,” he replied softly.

Warning bells went off in her head, but she ignored them. “Wanna come in for awhile? We could start getting our notes together for the faculty meeting,” she suggested.

“Sure,” Tim murmured, giving her a lazy smile as she again fumbled with her key card.

Once inside, Jo headed toward the desk to retrieve her legal pad, but Tim grasped her hand tighter and turned her towards him.

“I’m really enjoying getting to know you,” he said, his voice husky. “I can’t believe we’ve been teaching in the same school for seven months and I never noticed you. I hope you know what a very special woman you are.”

She watched breathlessly as his clear hazel eyes darkened and he leaned closer. Every nerve ending in her body tingled in anticipation. She stood stock still as his warm lips ever so lightly grazed her own.

“I’m sorry, I can’t,” she said, pulling away.

“Is it because of him?” he asked, looking pointedly at the ring on her left hand. “I thought you were breaking up with him.”

“I said that it’s complicated,” she answered, preparing herself for angry words from Tim accusing her of leading him on.

When he next spoke, his voice was calm and smooth. “It’s not that complicated, Joanna. If that was my ring you were wearing, I wouldn’t have let you push me away in the first place.”

Her feet frozen to the floor, Jo felt him place a chaste kiss on her forehead before leaving the room. She mechanically performed her bedtime routine and it was only once she was snuggled under the covers that she allowed herself to replay Tim’s kiss in her mind. Her eyes welled with tears as she relived the emotions it had awakened. The loneliness, emptiness, coldness she had felt...because he wasn’t Mac.

At some point during the pre-dawn hours, Joanna’s heart firmly decided she truly and deeply loved MacGyver and would for the rest of her life, but it was her head that convinced her guys like MacGyver didn’t date, much less marry, girls like her and she would be much better off with a nice, safe, family-oriented man instead. Decision made, she knocked on Tim’s hotel door early the next morning.

“Can I buy you breakfast as an apology for last night?” she asked when he let her in.

“You have no need to apologize and breakfast is free,” he pointed out.

“But it’s the thought that counts. Right?” she asked with a sassy grin.

“Touche!” he laughed as he grabbed his notebook and draped his arm casually across her shoulders as they headed down to the conference room.

The final seminars of the convention were much more easy-going and laid back than the previous ones. It seemed as if Saturday had drained everyone’s energy, including the presenters’, and Joanna breathed a huge sigh of relief when the final session ended promptly at noon as scheduled. An hour later, she was sitting in the passenger seat of Tim’s car as they headed east on Interstate 94 towards Milwaukee.

“Since I missed my usual Mass this weekend, I was planning on going to a church near the high school that offers an evening service tonight. Would you like to come along?” Jo ventured.

Tim glanced over in surprise. “Naw, I’m good. I was planning on spending the evening with a basketball game on TV and a cold beer.”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed.” Again.

“Don’t worry about it. I figure all the Masses I was forced to attend as a kid have me set for awhile,” he smirked.

“I’m not sure it works that way,” Joanna observed.

Tim shrugged. “I doubt God keeps an attendance log. Unless he works for Mrs. Varga!” Jo smiled but remained silent.

A little while later, Tim spoke again. “So, what are your plans for the summer?”

She couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s only March!”

“What can I say? I’m a sucker for plans...and summer vacation!”

“Mrs. Varga asked if I wanted to teach summer school, but I was planning on working full-time at Challengers.”

“What did you tell her?”

“Nothing yet. But I need to let her know this week.”

“If you want my opinion, just take the summer off. Do some traveling or something.”

“Is that what you’re gonna do?”

“Yep! I’m going to Japan for a month and then maybe take a couple smaller trips stateside if I can fit them in.”

“Wow. Guess you won’t be spending much time at home,” Jo observed.

“Staying home is overrated. I never traveled as a kid and couldn’t afford to when I was in college and starting my career. Now I have the time and the means and nothing holding me back for three months!”

“So you’re making up for what you missed out on?”

He shrugged, “I guess you could say that.”

“I see,” Jo replied before turning to look out the side window and watch the familiar landscape pass by.

When they reached the city, Jo asked Tim to stop at Challengers so she could pick up Frog.

“What kinda place is this?” her colleague asked as they walked through the parking lot.

“It’s a community boys and girls club. Everyone is welcome, though. But most of our members are at-risk or low-income kids. We actually have quite a few from Lincoln High.”

“And you volunteer here?”

“Yeah. Well, actually I’m one of the directors. I feel bad that I haven’t been able to spend much time here since I started teaching full time, though.”

“You seriously want to spend time with your students outside of the classroom?” he asked with a tinge of sarcasm.

Jo stopped and turned to look him in the eye. “Yeah, I do. It’s a great way to get to know them and their background. I feel it helps me be a better teacher when I know what my students are going through after they leave my class. You might want to consider volunteering yourself. We’re looking to get the kids involved in community projects and will take all the help we can get.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll pass. A guy needs his down-time, ya know?”

“Sure,” she replied flatly.

They entered the building to find Cynthia and Rosie chatting at the reception desk. They both looked up when they heard the door open.

“Back from the convention?” Cynthia asked.

“Yeah, thank goodness,” Jo answered before briefly introducing Tim as her colleague. She grabbed Frog’s leash from its hook and headed to the corner where several younger members were petting the dog.

“Sorry to break up the fun, but it’s time for Frog to go home,” she announced.

“You named him ‘Frog’?” Tim whispered in her ear causing her to laugh.

“No. Someone else named him that long before I ever met him.”

As the kids moved on to other activities, Joanna bent down to give Frog a hearty ear rub before clipping the lead on his collar. When he caught sight of Tim standing behind her, he growled low in his throat.

“Hey, what’s that all about?” Jo asked the dog as she smoothed her hand down his back, feeling his chubby body quivering. “C’mon, I want you to meet a new friend.” She tugged on his leash but he remained firmly planted on his bed, his eyes never leaving Tim, his body trembling.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into him,” she apologized.

“He can probably sense I’m not much of a dog person,” Tim remarked.

“Then I take it you prefer cats?”

“Why would you say that?”

Jo hesitated. “Well, one is usually either a dog person or a cat person.”

“To be honest, I’m not really into pets. Too much responsibility.”

Joanna stared at him, speechless. A few days ago she thought he was her perfect match. Now in the span of a couple hours he basically said he doesn’t go to church or like animals and apparently had a low opinion of her involvement with Challengers. She mentally shook her head. She was tired and probably giving his words too much weight.

“You got a kennel or something to put him in for the ride home?” Tim asked, breaking into her thoughts. “My car does have leather seats, ya know.” From the look on his face he wasn’t kidding and Jo felt her blood pressure soar.

“Why don’t you let Frog stay here,” Cynthia suggested with a knowing smile obviously having overheard Tim’s comment.

“But you’ve had him all weekend,” Jo protested.

“And both he and the kids have loved it,” the older woman insisted.

“Alright,” Joanna capitulated. “I’m gonna spend some time here tomorrow since I have the day off so I guess it only makes sense.”

“Good. Now you go home and get some rest. And don’t worry about what time you come in. I can hold down the fort,” Cynthia promised.

The air in Tim’s car was fraught with tension as he drove Joanna back to the townhouse.

“Are you upset because I don’t like dogs?” he finally asked, breaking the silence.

What could Jo say? Yes, she was upset. She had always pictured a dog in her life. And, to be honest, her gut told her not to trust people who didn’t love animals.

“No, I’m just tired,” she finally told him. And it wasn’t a complete lie.

After arriving at the apartment, Tim carried in her luggage and waited until she was settled.

“How about we get together tomorrow and get our notes in order for the faculty meeting. We never did get around to that,” he reminded her with a grin.

“Sure,” she agreed, less enthusiastically than she would have liked. “I wanna spend the morning at Challengers, but you can come by my place say about one in the afternoon?”

“Sounds good,” he confirmed, taking the piece of paper on which she had scribbled her home address. At some point over the weekend she had also decided she needed to move out of MacGyver’s house since she had already moved herself out of his life.

XXXXX

Monday afternoon Joanna watched from the bay window as Tim parked his car in front of the house. She greeted him at the front door.

“Hi, c’mon in,” she invited. “I thought we’d work at the kitchen table,” she said over her shoulder as she led him down the hall.

“This is a pretty big place for just you,” he observed, taking a seat.

“Oh! I guess I never told you that I live with my parents.”

“What?!”

A bit taken aback by his reaction, Joanna went on to give him a brief history of the house and the rationale behind her decision to remain there.

“I don’t know how you do it,” he said, shaking his head. “There’s no way I could live under the same roof as Ed and Irma everyday.”

“Ed and Irma?”

“Yeah, my parents.”

“Do you always call your parents by their first names?” Jo couldn’t help but ask.

“Only when they’re not around,” he grinned. “I mean, there comes a time when you outgrow calling them ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’. Know what I mean?”

Apparently that was a rhetorical question as he continued, “So where are your parents now?”

“Monday is their day to run errands. They’ll be gone for awhile yet.”

Joanna had been looking forward to introducing her family to Tim. Now she just wanted to get him out of her house, and her life, as quickly as possible. Her first impressions of him had certainly been way off the mark. He was in no way the type of man she had imagined him to be, but she was thankful she discovered it so quickly. She should have been this decisive with MacGyver a couple years ago but she was too busy believing they were falling in love.

“Then we better get crackin’,” Tim suggested, obviously eager to part ways as well.

With a minimum of discussion, the two teachers quickly outlined the presentation Mrs. Varga expected from them and as soon as it was done, Tim expressed his need to leave and attend to his own errands. He hurried out the door with a tight smile and a light-hearted, “See ya around!”

Joanna stood in the middle of the living room and watched as his car pulled away from the curb just as her parent’s car turned the corner. Huffing out a sigh and refusing to shed even one tear, she painfully noted that she was once again all alone.

















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: 26 March 2020 - 01:15 AM                                    
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"Seems to me you didn't talk about a lot of things" Boy, Judy is smart biggrin.gif

I thought she might hear about the spill on the news wink.gif it'll be fun to see where this goes...

Tim O'Brien just made a love triangle. Great, XD

The rubber duck. I see what you did there wink.gif

That whole "home is where the heart is" tangent that I can't quote because I'm still stuck on mobile is simply poetic. Well done thumbsup.gif

Yeesh, their chemistry actually makes ME question her and mac's relationship...

Massages? Candlelit tables? I'm suspicious. He knows she's technically taken right now...

Grrr, now I don't like him mad.gif

Frog's vote sells it. Tim is bad news.

I'm glad she's rid of him. But I really want to slap some sense into her 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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bluegirl
Posted: 26 March 2020 - 05:57 AM                                    
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Wow, you had me going there for almost the whole chapter - I really thought you might be bringing up another love interest for Jo, making her even more unsure and confused and giving Mac something to fight against, if he doesn´t want to loose her... But then Frog spoiled it wink.gif

But this whole situation makes me think of an old song I happened to hear today while driving to work: "The Last Unbroken Heart" by Patti LaBelle and Bill Champlin. It´s part of the Miami Vice soundtrack. You can find it easily on youtube. It´s about two people shying away from commitment, because their hearts might be hurt in it - the lyrics fit so well to the story your putting them through blush.gif sad.gif



The stuff is already there, I just find a different way to use it!

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 1 April 2020 - 09:47 AM                                    
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Chapter 43: Where It Began

March 31, 1998

MacGyver opened his eyes and immediately squinted at the bright shaft of sunlight piercing through the grungy window. He looked at his watch, chagrined but not surprised to find that it was already mid-morning. Scrubbing his face with his hands, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and yawned. His flight from Los Angeles to the Twin Cities the day before had been delayed...twice. And then, instead of taking a connecting flight to Mission City, he had chosen to rent a 4X4 figuring the solitude of the drive would give him time to think. Instead, he had brooded big time. It was exactly one week ago that Joanna had told him to leave. Had told him she needed to figure out if she truly belonged in his life. Had, in her mind, set him free when all he felt was tied in knots of despair. In hindsight, he now wondered if he did the right thing by doing what she asked, or if he should have stayed and fought for their relationship. It was a vicious rhetorical circle that was making him dizzy. By the time he pulled up to his grandpa Harry’s cabin in Northern Minnesota all he wanted to do was fall into bed, which he did, fully clothed. He pushed himself upright and shuffled to the kitchen area, grimacing at the dust that had gathered in the one-room hideaway. After pouring himself a lukewarm glass of water from the cranky faucet, he opened the door and breathed in the early spring air. There was something about this place that always soothed his soul, no matter how torn and beaten it was. Perhaps it was the fact that he knew it would always be here for him and would never change. At least he hoped that was the case.

He was about to turn and go back inside when something by the gravel drive caught his eye. It had been well after dark when he pulled in last night, but now, in the light of day, little red and yellow flags sticking out of the ground were obvious against the still-brown grass. MacGyver considered them for a moment. They had most likely been placed by the DNR or Forestry Service to mark something. Perhaps there were plans to repair and widen the deeply rutted road. Or maybe they were indicators of where trees were to be planted or taken down or both. With a mental shrug, Mac grabbed his car keys and headed into town for supplies.

As was his ritual, he first stopped to check out the house he had grown up in. Now a nursing home for more years than he could remember, the lawn and yard were perfectly manicured despite the harsh winter. A sudden yearning to walk through the rooms of his old home tugged at his heart, but he doubted the elderly residents would take kindly to his trip down memory lane so he kept his feelings at bay. Instead, he shifted into gear and headed toward the heart of town. He was a couple blocks away from the supermarket, his main destination, when he glimpsed flashing red and blue lights in his rearview mirror and the single whir of the siren signaling him to pull over. MacGyver groaned but obeyed and watched as the officer slowly climbed from his car and approached the rented vehicle. Mac rolled down the window and waited. This day was not starting out well.

“What seems to be the problem, officer?” MacGyver asked, turning toward the cop and summoning what he hoped was a friendly, innocent smile.

“MacGyver?!”

“Neil!” Mac exhaled when he recognized his childhood friend and Mission City police sergeant, Neil Ryder. “That you’re way of welcoming back an old friend?” he asked with a grin.

“Oh, sorry about that. I got a call from the nursing home about a possible stalker and your vehicle matched the description.”

“A stalker?”

Neil shrugged, “What can I say? The town is growing every day and those folks aren’t accustomed to strangers. So, I guess you’re here for the big town hall meeting tomorrow night, eh?”

“What meeting?”

“Didn’t you get the letter?”

“No. I didn’t get a letter.” Mac was quickly losing patience with his friend.

“That’s odd,” Neil mused.

“Well, I haven’t exactly been home a lot lately. Would you just tell me what you’re talking about?”

“An outfit called North Star Real Estate Developers is proposing to buy up a bunch of land around Bell Lake and build luxury condominiums. They’ve already been here talkin’ to your neighbors.”

“Neighbors?”

Neil chuckled, “I know Harry’s place is secluded, but you do have neighbors, ya know.”

“Well, they can’t be very happy about these plans,” Mac observed, steering the conversation away from the fact that he had never really considered himself as having neighbors up here.

“On the contrary, some are seriously considering the developer’s offers.”

“What about you? You still got the cabin?”

“Naw. I sold it after Sean started college. He didn’t have time to hang out in the woods with his old man anymore,” Neil replied with a wry grin. “Look, I gotta get going. Come to the town hall meeting in the high school gymnasium tomorrow evening at seven o’clock. In the meantime, let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks, I will,” Mac muttered, his friend’s words swirling around in his brain.

After making quick work of his grocery shopping, MacGyver walked into the local sporting goods store owned by his other good friend, Chuck.

“Mac! How the heck are ya?!” the larger man greeted him with a bear hug.

“Good,” Mac grunted, relieved when his friend backed away allowing him to breathe again.

“Guess you’re here for the big town hall meetin’ tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” At least he was now. “What do you know about that anyway?”

“Not much, I’m afraid. I don’t own property up there so they ain’t interested in me. But they’ve been up there surveying the area.” That would explain the little flags MacGyver had found by his drive. “How much they offer you?”

“They haven’t approached me yet,” Mac told him.

“Whatcha gonna tell ‘em when they do?”

“I’m gonna turn them down like everyone else will.”

Chuck shook his head slowly. “I wouldn’t be too sure about that, buddy. Rumor has it they’re playin’ fast and loose with their cash. Might make ya an offer ya can’t refuse.”

“I doubt that,” Mac replied. “Harry’s cabin isn’t for sale.”

“Yeah, right,” Chuck smirked. “We’ll see what ya have to say after tomorrow night when they offer ya a big fat check for that rundown place. If I were you, I’d take the money and run.”

“Well, you’re not me, and I doubt I’m gonna change my mind,” MacGyver retorted. “Now if ya don’t mind, could ya get me some live bait?”

Chuck’s eyebrows came together as he frowned. “Awful early in the season to be fishin’. Lake’s hardly thawed.”

“Great! Then I’ll surprise the fish!”

Back at the cabin, Mac stowed his groceries before grabbing an old fishing pole from the storage closet and heading to the rickety old pier. The late March wind blowing off the water definitely had a bite to it, but MacGyver didn’t really plan on catching anything. He just needed to think. And soaking a line had always been a great way to do that. He inhaled the clean, fresh air while taking in his surroundings. Pine and spruce trees stood tall and green while sunlight poured down through the still-bare branches of the deciduous trees that also populated the area. While he had planned on considering ways to bring his wayward fiance back to her senses, his mind kept wandering to what Neil and Chuck had told him about North Star Real Estate. The unsullied space around him was a priceless refuge. He would go to that meeting tomorrow, politely turn down any offer that might be made, and spend the rest of the night driving back to Milwaukee. Driving home. End of story.

A soft but steady beeping sound pulled MacGyver from his reverie. He looked to find an elderly man walking the rocky shoreline, a metal detector in hand. Mac smiled, picturing Jack Dalton years from now still searching for his elusive fortune.

The man turned and caught sight of MacGyver. “You livin’ in the old Jackson place?” he asked.

“Nope. Just visiting,” Mac replied. “What about you?”

“Me and the missus live around that bend in the lake,” the man pointed in the direction he had come.

“Finding anything good?” MacGyver asked, nodding his head toward the device in the man’s hand.

“Naw,” he sighed dejectedly. “Just some fishhooks and a couple coins, but this cockamamie thing keeps goin’ off like the Titanic was buried here.”

“Well, keep at it,” Mac encouraged as he pulled his fishing line out of the water. “Maybe I’ll see ya around.”

“Yeah, sure,” the older man replied absently as the beeping grew more frantic. Probably another fishhook, MacGyver thought.

XXXXX

Wednesday evening, Mac slipped into an empty chair in the back of the high school gymnasium shortly before seven o’clock. A small stage had been set up at the other end of the room where a middle-aged man, casually dressed in khakis and a polo shirt, methodically set up various maps and charts and readied his slide projector. The gym was packed to capacity so the man gently tapped the microphone with his finger to get everyone’s attention. Once all eyes were on him, he introduced himself as Bill Lichtman, the CEO of North Star Real Estate. MacGyver leaned back, crossed his arms over his chest, and took in the presentation. He had been to more than one of these things during his time with Phoenix and he had to admit that this guy was good. He warmed up the crowd by praising the fine citizens of Mission City before cracking a couple jokes that native Minnesotans could easily relate to before drawing their attention to his company’s plans and vision for the future.

MacGyver kept his gaze trained on the audience, watching as people whispered into their neighbors ear while others nodded at what Bill was saying. There was a certain energy in the room that Mac found unsettling. Once Lichtman was done with his spiel, he opened up the floor for questions. At first, most inquiries related to the development itself, but soon a woman wearing a state DNR uniform stood up and asked about the impact the project would have on the lake, game, fish, and waterfowl. Mac leaned forward in his chair, knowing that this was where things were going to get interesting. Bill Lichtman gave a smooth, and obviously well-rehearsed, reply about his company’s shared concern for local wildlife and natural resources and assured everyone that several studies had been conducted in order to find a way to make the transition as harmless as possible. MacGyver scoffed to himself knowing full well how these operations worked, always leaving the land raped and pillaged. A murmur slowly rose from the crowd and Mac waited for protests to arise, but other than a few more head nods no one else spoke up. They couldn’t possibly be buying into this guy’s slick explanations! Were the citizens of Mission City going to allow a heartless development company like North Star run roughshod over Bell Lake and the surrounding land?!

In less than sixty minutes the entire event concluded. MacGyver watched as most audience members headed directly for the exits, many of them chatting happily and even laughing. Others stayed behind and visited in small groups while Bill Lichtman stepped down from his platform and mingled with those remaining. Mac soon caught sight of the developer speaking with an elderly couple. He recognized the husband as the man he had seen the day before scavenging with the metal detector. He waited until Lichtman took his leave before approaching.

“Hi there,” Mac greeted the couple before turning his attention to the man. “I believe we briefly met the other day. I’m staying at the Jackson place.”

“Of course!” the man exclaimed, recognition dawning in his eyes. “I’m Arthur and this is my wife, Maggie.”

Mac smiled and shook their hands. “Name’s MacGyver. Harry Jackson was my grandfather.”

“Ah, good ole Harry,” Arthur replied. “Bit of a loner but a heck of a fisherman!”

MacGyver nodded in agreement. “So what do you make of this whole business with North Star? Have they made you an offer on your place yet?”

“Oh, they’ve been an answer to our prayers!” Maggie gushed. “We just can’t take care of our house like we used to and have been wanting to move to Minneapolis to be with our children and their families, but who wants to buy a place that’s literally falling down? Then Mr. Lichtman came along and made us an offer we couldn’t refuse!”

“So you’re selling, then?” Mac asked feeling both surprised and dismayed.

“We finalized the deal earlier today,” Arthur confirmed. “Just came by tonight to thank Bill again for the generous offer.”

“Excuse me, did you say your name’s MacGyver?”

Mac spun around to find Bill Lichtman standing behind him, a wide, friendly grin on his face. How long had he been there?

“That’s right,” Mac said as Arthur and Maggie politely took their leave.

“I’ve been wanting to speak with you, but you’re a hard man to pin down,” Lichtman said, still grinning.

“If this is about me selling the cabin, you can save your breath. It isn’t gonna happen.”

The developer’s smile slipped just a bit. “Now, now, Mr. MacGyver. Let’s not be hasty. You haven’t even heard my offer.”

“It’s not for sale,” Mac told him firmly.

“Perhaps we could negotiate?” Lichtman handed MacGyver a piece of paper with a price written on it. Mac’s eyebrows shot up to his shaggy bangs. There were way too many numbers before the decimal point.

“Mr. Lichtman, you and I both know Harry’s cabin isn’t worth a fraction of this!”

“On the contrary, your grandfather’s cabin is the only piece of real estate standing in the way of our plan and worth a great deal to my company. I’d be more than happy to add to that number if it would get you to change your mind.”

Mac’s stomach fell to the floor. All his neighbors had sold out to North Star?! But then again, if Lichtman offered them anywhere near what he was offering MacGyver, he could hardly blame them.

“I told you, I’m not selling,” MacGyver reiterated between clenched teeth before heading to the door.

XXXXX

The following morning, MacGyver took his fishing pole down to the dock to think. He couldn’t believe that all the owners of land around Bell Lake had already sold out to North Star Developers. Arthur was once again combing the shore with his metal detector, gently tapping the device against a rock every now and again assumedly in response to false readings. The older man looked up and waved to Mac who smiled and returned the gesture. Just then, the whine of a small airplane engine began to grow louder. MacGyver looked to the sky, shading his eyes with his hand, as he watched the yellow and white plane approach and begin to circle over the lake several times, its altitude never changing until the pilot began making larger sweeps just above the top of the tree line. After ten minutes of making progressively larger circles the plane turned and headed back in the direction it had come, leaving Mac with an uneasy feeling. He needed to talk to someone, and who better than his two life-long friends.

“I’ve just got a weird feeling about this whole thing,” MacGyver insisted as he leaned on the counter inside Chuck’s store while his friend stood on the other side with Neil, in uniform, next to Mac.

“You just need time to get used to the idea,” the police sergeant reasoned. “North Star’s been up here surveying and holding meetings like the one last night for months now. Sure, in the beginning, folks were wary, but most of us have come to realize that this condo development is a real good thing for the town.”

“How so?” MacGyver challenged. “How is polluting our lake and taking away our woodlands a good thing?”

“Lichtman promised his company is just as concerned about the environment as we are,” Chuck pointed out.

“Plus, this project will bring in more jobs which will build a stronger economy,” Neil reasoned.

“I know,” Mac mumbled, jamming his fingers through his hair.

“Then why don’t you tell us what’s really bothering you?” Chuck prodded.

“I guess it’s the idea of losing Harry’s cabin,” MacGyver grudgingly admitted. “There are a lot of good memories in that place and I like knowing it’s always here.”

“We get that,” Neil agreed, “But you gotta think about this logically. How often do you come up here anyway? And you know that cabin is fallin’ down around you. Are you really willing to put in the time and money to keep up the old place when you could sell it and use the money for anything you wanted?”

Mac thought about how much Challengers desperately needed extra funds. Was he being selfish? Keeping a place just to know it was there for him, for when he had to run away? But there were bigger issues at stake also, he argued with himself.

“Thanks for the talk, guys. I think I’m gonna take a drive and clear my head.”

“You gonna be okay?” Chuck asked, his face full of concern.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” Mac assured his friend. And he would be, once he drove out to the airport and discovered why that plane had been circling the lake earlier.

Like everything else in his hometown, the Mission City Airport had grown considerably, but he was still able to easily find the small yellow and white plane from that morning. A stocky, balding man in soiled overalls was examining the engine.

“Excuse me,” Mac called as he approached. “That your plane?”

The man looked up, “No sir, this here’s a rental, but I’m afraid it’s booked for the day. Pilot reported some engine trouble so I’m checkin’ it out before he takes it back up.”

“I’m gonna be in town for a while and might wanna take her out. Mind if I look around?” MacGyver asked casually.

“Suit yourself,” the man grunted before returning his attention to the machine.

Mac slowly strolled around the plane as if inspecting the fuselage until he came to the passenger side door. Standing on tiptoe he looked in the window and paused when his gaze fell upon a small black box tucked securely between the two front seats. After making sure the mechanic was still ignoring him, MacGyver opened the door and climbed in for a closer look. On the top of the box were a couple knobs and a small readout screen. Wanting to confirm his suspicions, he pulled out his Swiss Army knife and unscrewed the top panel to look inside. Sure enough, it was a proton magnetometer. Mac carefully re-secured the metal panel and exited the plane, heading back to chat with the mechanic.

“If you don’t mind me asking, who rented this plane for today?”

The man looked up, clearly frustrated with MacGyver’s presence. “Look buddy, I just fix ‘em. All the business takes place in the office.” Mac turned to where the man pointed with his wrench.

“Thanks a lot,” he replied cheerfully. “Maybe I’ll be seein’ ya around.” The man once again returned to his work while MacGyver walked to the rental office.

The little bell above the door jangled as Mac crossed over the threshold and strode to the counter. When no one appeared, he slipped around to the other side and found the reservation book laying open beside a computer monitor. Written in large letters under the day’s date were the words ‘North Star’. The unsettling feeling he had been having since Neil had told him about the development plans came back in full force as he quietly exited the office and headed for the 4X4.

Back in town, MacGyver walked into the library and headed for the section dedicated to the history of Mission City. Hours later he feared he would be permanently cross eyed from studying decades worth of historical data and geological maps. He longed to bounce his thoughts off his friends, but he needed more evidence before he shared his accusations against North Star Developers with Neil and Chuck.

Mac had just started a roaring fire and was about to crash on Harry’s old, thread-bare couch when there was a knock on his door. He opened it to find Arthur standing just outside, holding his metal detector.

“Hope I’m not disturbin’ ya,” the older man said in way of greeting.

“No, not at all. Please come in.”

Arthur took two steps into the room and stopped. “Harry once mentioned he had a grandson who could fix just about everything. You wouldn’t happen to be him, would ya?”

“I’m afraid so,” MacGyver chuckled. “That thing acting up on you again?”

Arthur nodded. “Durn thing keeps beeping at me wherever I go. Would ya mind takin’ a look at it?” he asked sheepishly.

“No problem. Put it on the kitchen table and let’s see what we got.”

Using his pocketknife and the few meager tools his grandfather had left behind, Mac dismantled, fiddled with, and reassembled the device.

“I can’t find anything wrong with it,” MacGyver finally sighed. “Let’s take it outside and test it.”

Arthur held a flashlight as Mac swiped the metal detector back and forth over the ground outside the cabin. He had covered a few square feet before the device squawked to life. MacGyver bent down to brush away the twigs and dried leaves from the autumn before that covered his ‘treasure’.

“Just another rock,” Arthur observed dejectedly as Mac reached for the object that had triggered the detector.

“Yeah, just a rock,” he muttered under his breath.

“Sorry to have bothered you,” he heard Arthur say.

“No problem. Maybe you should look into takin’ up a new hobby,” he suggested with a grin.

“Yeah,” the old man laughed as he headed down the path toward his home.

MacGyver sat on the couch and stared at the flames dancing in the fireplace, the rock he and Arthur had found still in the palm of his hand. The puzzle pieces were beginning to fall into place, but he didn’t like the picture they were forming. From everything he had seen, North Star Developers had been doing some serious land and aerial surveying including mineral deposit detection given the magnetometer he found in the plane. That, in itself, was standard procedure. However, the one thing that bothered him most was the extraordinary amount of money they were paying people for run down homes and cabins. And then there was Arthur, his wacky metal detector, and the rock from tonight. Was North Star really doing what he thought they were doing, or was this his psyche’s way of giving him a reason to resist selling the cabin?

Mac leaned his head against the back cushion and sighed. Up until a couple years ago, he had forgotten this place even existed. Since then, it kept pulling him back and unearthing long-forgotten memories from his childhood. This city, these woods...this was where it had all begun for him before wanderlust overtook him and he fled the small town for the far reaches of the earth. But he knew he could always come back. His roots were here and always would be. His tired, traitorous mind then strayed to thoughts of Joanna. There was no doubt she and her family had strong roots of their own. Would he be able to give her the same? He glanced at the telephone mounted on the kitchen wall. He wanted to talk to her. He needed to talk to her. But he knew he had to respect her wishes if he wanted to keep her hard-won trust. Even so, a glimmer of a plan began to take form in his mind, but he quickly squashed it. He had other things to take care of first.

Early Friday morning MacGyver drove to the nearby university and headed straight to the geology department. He knocked on the office door of the head professor.

“Is there something I can help you with?” the lanky, bespectacled man asked.

“I sure hope so,” Mac replied, quickly introducing himself. “I was doing some exploring with my metal detector around Bell Lake and it went crazy over this rock.” MacGyver pulled said rock from his jacket pocket. “I was wondering if you could examine it. See if it’s valuable.”

The man looked at him over the rim of his glasses. “I don’t get these requests very often, but I could take a look.”

Mac followed the geologist into the lab where he inspected the rock with different types of instruments. Finally he returned to where MacGyver stood waiting and gave him the information he had been looking for.

That afternoon once again found MacGyver, Neil and Chuck leaning against the glass display case in Chuck’s store.

“I’ve been doing some investigating and I think Bill Lichtman plans to do a whole lot more than build luxury condos,” Mac proclaimed.

His two friends groaned and rolled their eyes.

“Would you just stop with this nonsense, Mac?” Neil implored. “You don’t wanna sell Harry’s cabin, we get that. But don’t go making trouble where there isn’t any!”

“I’m not making this up,” MacGyver retorted. “Now just hear me out.”

Chuck and Neil sighed but gave Mac their undivided attention.

“Yesterday before I came into town I saw a small plane circling the lake. After we talked I went to check it out. Turns out it’s a rental and North Star had it booked for the entire day.”

“That’s not a crime, Mac,” Neil interrupted with a scowl.

“I know that,” MacGyver replied sarcastically. “But when I looked in the cockpit I found a portable magnetometer.”

“A what?” Neil asked.

“Think of it as a souped up metal detector. It measures the earth’s magnetic field and records the data. Geologist use them to find mineral deposits. I went to the library and did some research. This whole area of the state used to be the largest producer of iron ore in the country, but since all the high grade ore is now gone, the mining industry is turning its focus to taconite, an iron-bearing rock. North Star isn’t planning on building condos, they’re planning on stripping and mining this land!”

“Mac, that’s a pretty serious accusation you’re making,” Neil cautioned.

“I know that,” MacGyver concurred. “But it makes sense, especially when you consider how much Lichtman is paying for properties!”

“But you don’t have any solid proof!”

“I have this.” Mac held out the rock from the night before. “I found it by the cabin and took it to the university and had it examined. It contains trace amounts of taconite and if my neighbor’s metal detector is accurate, there’s a whole lot more all around the lake.”

“Sounds like he’s onto something,” Chuck observed.

“I’d have to agree,” Neil conceded.

“What all do you know about North Star Developers anyway?” Mac asked.

Neil winced, “Apparently not enough. I’m going back to the station and do some digging, no pun intended. I’ll let you know if I find anything interesting.”

MacGyver had just finished heating up some canned stew for a late supper when there was a knock on the door. He opened it only to come face-to-face with Bill Lichtman.

“How many times do I hafta tell you I’m not selling?” Mac asked, his frustration mounting.

“That’s not why I came,” Lichtman replied coldly. “I came here to get rid of something that’s in my way.” The developer reached into the front of his overcoat and pulled out a small handgun.

MacGyver instinctively put up his hands and slowly backed away as Lichtman moved forward into the cabin keeping the weapon trained on Mac’s chest.

“Hey, let’s not be hasty here,” Mac urged. “Everyone’s got their price, right? Can’t we negotiate?”

“It’s too late for that, Mr. MacGyver. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to let some environmentalist tree-hugger get in the way of my real estate project.”

“Don’t you mean your mining operation?”

The words were barely out of Mac’s mouth before two well-built men in ski masks slipped into the room, each grabbing one of MacGyver’s arms.

“Ya know, a gunshot can echo for miles up here. There’s no way you’re gonna get away with this,” Mac argued as he struggled against the men holding him.

Lichtman’s laugh sent shivers up and down MacGyver’s spine. “You think I’m that stupid? No, you’re going to die and everyone will believe it was simply a tragic accident.”

Mac watched as the developer once again reached into his overcoat. This time he pulled out a neatly folded white handkerchief and a small bottle of clear liquid he instinctively knew was chloroform. He quickly weighed his options. He could easily take out Lichtman, but the two other men were a bit more problematic. He could try and fight all three. That could be very problematic, but he was out of time. As Lichtman raised the cloth, MacGyver began to try and extricate his arms from the masked men while kicking out at the developer as well. The man on his left landed a hard karate chop to the back of Mac’s neck. His knees buckled and he slid to the floor. That was the opening Lichtman needed to press the chloroform soaked handkerchief against his mouth and nose. MacGyver held his breath until his lungs burned and he had no choice but to inhale the slightly sweet poison.

“Go ahead and toss him in the lake. Everyone will think he drown.” These were the last words Mac heard before unconsciousness claimed him.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

It was mid-morning when Neil pulled his cruiser up in front of Chuck’s store.

“Hey Chuck, have you seen Mac around today?” he asked upon entering and finding his friend stocking shelves.

“Naw, he’s probably fishing up at the lake. Why?”

Neil rubbed his brow that had furrowed with concern. “I thought he’d be chomping at the bit to find out what I learned about North Star. You know how he is once he gets an idea in his head.”

“Yeah,” the other man chuckled. “What did you find out anyway? I mean, they’re on the up-and-up, right?”

“I wish that was the case,” Neil said, blowing out a breath. “Turns out North Star Real Estate Developers is a shell company, and ‘Bill Lichtman’ is just one of many aliases the man uses. He’s been running schemes across the country for a couple years now. There’s a federal warrant out for him so I called the FBI and they’re sending someone from the nearest field office before this yahoo can bolt again.”

“So was MacGyver right? About the mining, I mean,” Chuck asked.

“I couldn’t tell, but we’ll find out when we get Lichtman, or whoever he is, in custody.” Just then, the walkie-talkie on Neil’s police utility belt crackled to life.

“Dispatch to Sergeant Ryder.”

“This is Neil. What’s up, Betty?”

“I figured you’d want to know we just received a 911 call requesting an ambulance up at the Jackson place.”

“Thanks, Betty. I’m on my way!”

“Something must’ve happened to MacGyver!” Chuck exclaimed as he grabbed his jacket and followed Neil out the door, locking it behind him.

“We don’t know that. It could’ve been Mac who made the call, but I still wanna check it out.”

The two men piled into Neil’s cruiser and arrived at Harry’s cabin just in time to see MacGyver’s unconscious form strapped to a stretcher that was being loaded into the back of the ambulance. Neil sprang out of the car and jogged toward the emergency vehicle.

“What happened?” he demanded from one of the EMT’s.

“Won’t know for sure until we get him to the hospital. The guy over there found him lying on the shore this morning and called it in.”

“Thanks,” Neil said, clapping the EMT on the shoulder. “Take good care of him, okay?”

“You got it, Sarge.”

Once the ambulance pulled away, sirens blaring even though the road was deserted, Neil walked over to the man who had found MacGyver.

“Hey Arthur, looks like you’ve had a pretty exciting morning. Mind telling me what happened?”

The elderly man looked pale and frazzled. “I was taking my daily walk around the lake and a few yards past the old pier I found MacGyver lying face down on the rocks. His clothes were wet and there was a gash on his forehead that was bleedin’ pretty bad. When I couldn’t wake him up I called 911. What do ya think happened to him?”

“I don’t know,” Neil admitted. “Hopefully he’ll be able to tell us when he regains consciousness.” Then the police officer turned his attention to Chuck. “C’mon, let’s head for the hospital.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

It was dark and cold. So very cold. MacGyver clawed at the water surrounding him but his limbs were stiff and heavy. A jackhammer was going off in his head. His survival instinct told him he had to keep moving, but he was tired. Just a little further, his gut told him. He clawed some more. It felt like hours before his almost completely numb hand touched a rough rock. The shore! Fighting the exhaustion that threatened to claim him, he pulled himself out of the water and groaned as his head hit the jagged edge of a boulder and he drifted off into oblivion once more.

XXXXX

Home. MacGyver was in his childhood home watching his mother prepare the traditional Sunday pancakes for his breakfast. Harry sat at the table grumbling about the weather, but Mac didn’t care. He was safe and warm.

A cloud drifted over the scene, blocking it from view. When it passed, MacGyver stood in his houseboat. No, wait. His houseboat had burned down. He was in his apartment, but it was much larger than he recalled. More like an actual house. Joanna was there, beaming as she prepared his favorite pancake breakfast. Each of them wore a gold wedding band. She gazed lovingly at him and opened her mouth to speak, but when the words came out, it was not her voice.

“Mac. Hey Mac, can you hear me?”

He knew that voice. Had heard that voice since his childhood. He peeled one eyelid open but immediately slammed it shut as harsh, bright light assaulted him along with the antiseptic smell of what he knew was a hospital. He took deep breaths to calm the pounding in his head and reached up to touch his temple, only to feel a heavy gauze pad taped to him. Not again. He did a quick mental inventory and when the events of the past few days came flooding back he breathed a sigh of relief. At least this time he didn’t have amnesia.

“C’mon Mac. It’s me. Chuck!”

MacGyver slowly opened his eyes and looked up into the face of his friend who was leaning over the bed.

“You gave us quite a scare there, buddy,” his friend said, his voice more relaxed now.

“Yeah, tell me about it,” Mac groaned. “Where’s Neil?”

“He’s talkin’ with the FBI.”

“What?! What’s happened? How long have I been out?”

“Your neighbor found you about seven hours ago. We were hoping you could tell us the rest.”

Mac squeezed his eyes shut. “Get Neil. He needs to hear this,” he commanded weakly.

MacGyver gingerly raised the head of his hospital bed as Chuck, Neil, and the FBI agent gathered around him while he recalled his encounter with Lichtman and his thugs the previous evening. When he had finished, Neil told him what he had learned about Lichtman and North Star and the FBI agent assured everyone that the con man was in custody and currently being questioned.

“I’m sorry about what happened to you, Mr. MacGyver,” the agent said. “But if not for you refusing to give in to Lichtman he could very well still be on the loose. The government has offered a reward for his capture and I’ll see to it you get your share.”

“Thanks,” Mac mumbled as his eyelids slid closed and his head lolled to one side indicating he had fallen asleep.

XXXXX

“When can I get outta here, doc?” MacGyver asked Sunday morning as the physician examined his pupils with a bright penlight.

“Slow down, Mr. MacGyver. You haven’t even been conscious for twenty-four hours. If you continue to improve, I’ll sign your release papers first thing tomorrow. You do have someone to check on you, right?”

“Yep! I got that covered!” Chuck proclaimed as Mac glared daggers at him.

“What’d you go and say that for?!” MacGyver scolded his friend once they were alone in the room.

“Geez, take it easy,” Chuck drawled. “If you wanna get outta here, you hafta tell the doctor what he wants to hear. And trust me, I have no intention of playing nursemaid.”

The next day, Neil drove MacGyver home from the hospital.

“Are you sure you’re gonna be okay out here?” he asked.

“I’ll be fine,” Mac promised dutifully. “What’s gonna happen to all this property now that Lichtman, or whoever he is, got caught?”

Neil sighed as he guided Mac into the cabin. “That’s up to the courts and it’s a pretty complex case. I suppose some landowners will be able to opt to turn over the money they were paid and keep their places. Of course, some people have already started spending the payout they received from North Star. It’s gonna be a sticky situation.”

“No kiddin’,” MacGyver agreed as he gingerly lowered himself onto the couch. “I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it.”

“So, what’s next for you?” Neil asked.

What was next for him? It was now two weeks since Joanna had asked him to leave. Being back in his hometown had gotten him thinking.

“I think I’m gonna hang out here for a few more days before heading home. I have some plans I need to hammer out.”

Neil looked at him expectantly, but that was all Mac planned on sharing.





















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: 2 April 2020 - 01:44 AM                                    
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Before I start reading, I just want to say I really want to have a talk with Jo. I just want to be like "Answer just yes or no. Do you trust Mac With your heart? You've trusted him with your feelings over and over, and has he betrayed you? Would you trust him again? Then trust him with his own heart. If he's given his old life up for you, then you have to be enough to make that worth it. And if you trust Mac to protect and take care of you, and he has, then don't you think you can entrust him with taking care of and knowing what's best for himself? Or are you letting fear get in the way of the destiny God picked for the both of you?"

On to reading tongue.gif

Funny how it's only a day away from being today's update (different year, of course) .

As soon as Mac said he hoped the cabin would always be there, I knew what was coming XD

I somehow doubt that's just a fishhook...

I can't not laugh at Mac's "Oh no, not again" when he realized he had a head injury laugh.gif


Still in a cliffhanger, I see biggrin.gif



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

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"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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Posted: 2 April 2020 - 10:01 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 2 April 2020 - 01:44 AM)
Before I start reading, I just want to say I really want to have a talk with Jo. I just want to be like "Answer just yes or no. Do you trust Mac With your heart? You've trusted him with your feelings over and over, and has he betrayed you? Would you trust him again? Then trust him with his own heart. If he's given his old life up for you, then you have to be enough to make that worth it. And if you trust Mac to protect and take care of you, and he has, then don't you think you can entrust him with taking care of and knowing what's best for himself? Or are you letting fear get in the way of the destiny God picked for the both of you?"


I get that you're getting frustrated, but I feel I have to keep some type of tension between Mac and Jo because I think the whole thing will tank if they suddenly live happily ever after. All I can say is...keep reading!!! wink.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: 2 April 2020 - 10:51 PM                                    
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QUOTE (uniquelyjas @ 2 April 2020 - 01:01 PM)
QUOTE (Dragondog @ 2 April 2020 - 01:44 AM)
Before I start reading, I just want to say I really want to have a talk with Jo. I just want to be like "Answer just yes or no. Do you trust Mac With your heart? You've trusted him with your feelings over and over, and has he betrayed you? Would you trust him again? Then trust him with his own heart. If he's given his old life up for you, then you have to be enough to make that worth it. And if you trust Mac to protect and take care of you, and he has, then don't you think you can entrust him with taking care of and knowing what's best for himself?  Or are you letting fear get in the way of the destiny God picked for the both of you?"


I get that you're getting frustrated, but I feel I have to keep some type of tension between Mac and Jo because I think the whole thing will tank if they suddenly live happily ever after. All I can say is...keep reading!!! wink.gif

Hey getting frustrated with the characters is have the fun of reading 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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Posted: 3 April 2020 - 07:59 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 2 April 2020 - 10:51 PM)


[/QUOTE]
I get that you're getting frustrated, but I feel I have to keep some type of tension between Mac and Jo because I think the whole thing will tank if they suddenly live happily ever after. All I can say is...keep reading!!! wink.gif [/QUOTE]
Hey getting frustrated with the characters is have the fun of reading tongue.gif

Glad you feel that way!! Mac and Jo can definitely frustrate you! Heck, they frustrate each other!!



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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QUOTE (uniquelyjas @ 3 April 2020 - 10:59 AM)
[QUOTE=Dragondog,2 April 2020 - 10:51 PM]

[/QUOTE]
I get that you're getting frustrated, but I feel I have to keep some type of tension between Mac and Jo because I think the whole thing will tank if they suddenly live happily ever after. All I can say is...keep reading!!! wink.gif [/QUOTE]
Hey getting frustrated with the characters is have the fun of reading tongue.gif [/QUOTE]
Glad you feel that way!! Mac and Jo can definitely frustrate you! Heck, they frustrate each other!!

I mostly just want to pep talk her more than scold her tongue.gif

I'm kinda used to slow burn/frustrating love stories 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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Posted: 8 April 2020 - 04:29 PM                                    
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Chapter 44: Meanwhile...in Milwaukee

March 31, 1998

Joanna laid in bed waiting for her alarm clock to ring, her stomach roiling with dread of bumping into Tim O’Brien as well as speaking to Vice Principal Varga regarding her new contract offer. She rolled onto her side. Who was she kidding? She had been riding an emotional rollercoaster for a week now. Ever since she told MacGyver to go to Los Angeles...and he did. Why couldn’t she have kept her mouth shut and her feelings to herself? Time and again Mac had proved his commitment to her. But she had to keep pushing. Pushing for constant reassurance that this was what he truly wanted. She wouldn’t blame him if he changed his mind about marrying her. Perhaps, in the end, she was the one with commitment issues. Maybe, contrary to what she had always assumed, it was her, not him, who wasn’t cut out for marriage. Oh, what cruel irony! Would she ever be able to allow the last of her barriers to fall and willingly invite him completely into her life, never doubting the bond of love between them? Or was she fated to live out her days alone, mourning a love she, and she alone, denied herself? The clock began to buzz and she sent it an evil glare before silencing it and throwing off the bed covers while chiding herself for sounding like some forlorn creature in a Jane Austen novel. She would do what she had always done before MacGyver came into her life. She would put one foot in front of the other, doing what she had to do to get through the day and then do it all over again tomorrow, ignoring the constant ache of emptiness in the vicinity of her heart.

She breathed a sigh of relief when she survived the first half of the school day without running into Tim. She had been so foolish this past weekend. Perhaps he was avoiding her as much as she was avoiding him? A girl could only hope! During her lunch break she knocked on Mrs. Varga’s door and was invited in.

“I’m glad you dropped in, Joanna,” the vice principal greeted her. “How was your weekend?”

“It was good. Really interesting,” Jo offered. She had learned a long time ago that the word ‘interesting’ could carry myriad connotations to accurately describe just about any event. “But I came to discuss my contract with you.”

“I was hoping that’s why you were here,” the older woman smiled and Joanna felt her stomach turn into a lead weight.

“When I agreed to take the full time position this semester, I did so with the understanding that it was only temporary. When I started working at Challengers, I promised I would work there full time during the summer and part time during the school year while still working here part time. I would like to continue to honor that original agreement.” Jo bit her bottom lip as she awaited a reply.

“I must admit I’m disappointed,” Mrs. Varga confessed. “You are a wonderful teacher and Lincoln High would benefit greatly if you signed on full time. However, I must commend you on your loyalty to your previous obligation with Challengers. I’ll have a new, part time contract drawn up and you can sign it at the end of the week.”

After thanking the vice principal, Joanna headed back to her classroom feeling as if a great burden had been lifted from her. By sending Mac away, it became her responsibility to step up to her duties at Challengers, especially since their continued funding depended on implementing new and creative programs. Lost in thought, she came within a hair’s breadth of brushing against Tim O’Brien’s shoulder as he passed her going in the opposite direction. A tight smile and barely-there nod was all the acknowledgement he gave her. And she was just fine with that.

Joanna barely waited until the students cleared the building at the end of the day before making her own escape. She was anxious to get to Challengers given her lack of assistance these past few weeks. Getting into her car, she turned on her cell phone out of routine. Her heart began to beat double time when she saw the tiny icon indicating she had a voice message. Everything had happened so fast between her and MacGyver that they never talked about when or if they would contact each other. Had he reached out to her? She punched in her password with trembling fingers and felt a pang of disappointment when she heard the familiar voice of Rebecca Williams asking her to please return the call but not giving any further details. Most likely the young woman was wanting to once again get Jo’s advice on how to deal with her crumbling relationship with Sam. However, Jo was in no position to give advice when her own love life was in shambles. She sighed heavily, knowing she had to call Becca but dreading the conversation. With a fortifying breath, she hit the speed dial button she had designated for her friend.

“Hello?”

“Hi Becca, it’s Joanna. I just got your message. What’s up?”

“My editor just assigned me a new story and I was wondering if I could come up to Milwaukee to work on it. I could really use your help.”

Okay, she had piqued Jo’s interest. “Sure, what’s the story about?”

“It’s kinda weird. I’ll explain everything when I see you. Can you pick me up at the train station tomorrow evening at seven?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“Thanks Jo. I really appreciate this. I’ll call if anything changes.” The line went dead.

Joanna tried to put the odd conversation behind her as she entered Challengers and was greeted by a cheerful Rosie Garcia. She returned the greeting and headed towards her office, passing MacGyver’s on the way. She was taken aback to see Cynthia seated at the desk, head lowered in concentration. She shouldn’t be surprised to see the woman in there, especially since she planned to suggest that Cynthia now occupy it permanently with Mac gone. Another reminder of what she had to put behind her. Before she lost her nerve, she picked up her phone and called Lee Vang. His law firm had been growing and she needed his help. After briefly explaining her situation, he promised he would take care of the details and have something for her to sign in a few days. She blew out a breath as her head dropped into her hands.

XXXXX

Joanna arrived at the Amtrak station shortly before seven the following evening and waited on the platform where the Hiawatha commuter line would deposit its passengers. It wasn’t long before the train glided to a stop and Becca disembarked, wearing a backpack and carrying a tattered suitcase.

“I’m so glad you came,” Becca said as she set down her luggage and embraced Jo in a warm, friendly hug. “I hope I’m not too much of an imposition.”

“Never!” Joanna gently scolded. “Though I keep forgetting you don’t have a car.”

Rebecca looked away shyly. “I don’t really need one in the city. I can either walk or take the train to anyplace I need to go.”

“Makes sense,” Jo agreed. “But what about Cip? Is Sam watching him for you?”

“A colleague of mine at the Tribune has a home in the suburbs with a big fenced in yard and she loves dogs so she agreed to take him in while I’m gone. After staying at a place like that he’ll probably hate going back to my dingy apartment.” Becca dipped her head so her long brunette hair formed a curtain that covered her face from view.

“First of all, your place is not dingy,” Joanna told her firmly. “And secondly, your Cip’s mom. He knows that and just wants to be wherever you are.”

By now the two women had reached Jo’s car. They tossed Becca’s belongings in the Chevy’s trunk before Joanna slid behind the wheel.

“Since Mac’s gone you can stay at his place,” Jo said, handing her friend a set of keys. “One is to the apartment and the other is to the Jeep. I figured you’d need a car since you came by train.”

“Are you sure Mac won’t mind?” Becca asked, reaching hesitantly for the offered keys.

Joanna thought about the times Penny and Jack had stayed at the apartment and borrowed Mac’s Jeep. “I’m positive.”

“When is he coming back?”

Jo fervently wished people would stop asking that question, but she supposed it was only natural.

“I don’t know. Probably not for a while. Hasn’t he been in touch with Sam?”

Joanna grimaced the moment the question left her lips. She had convinced herself that he was out of her life and didn’t matter anymore, yet here she was, asking about him.

Becca shook her head. “He called last week to say he was going to L.A. to visit Jack but that’s the last I heard.”

“How are you and Sam doing?” Jo asked, steering the conversation away from herself. Ah, Sam. Though an adult himself, she’d never forget how happy he was when he discovered she was going to officially become his stepmother. Now, that never could be. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and gave Rebecca her undivided attention.

“We haven’t seen a whole lot of each other,” the younger woman admitted with a shrug. “You know, we’ve both been busy and stuff.”

“Yeah, I know,” Joanna replied with a sad smile.

Once Becca was settled in Mac’s townhouse, Jo plopped down on the couch next to her.

“Now tell me. What’s this assignment all about and how can I help.”

Though not a professional writer, Joanna had taken a journalism course and had been a reporter on her high school newspaper. Coupled with being an English teacher, she was secretly hoping to try her hand at some amateur reporting.

“My editor wants me to do a story about my computer dating experiences,” Becca answered, not meeting Jo’s eyes.

“You signed up for a computer dating service?” Joanna asked, trying to keep her voice as normal as possible despite her shock.

Rebecca shook her head vigorously. “Oh, no! But he wants me to join this site on the internet where you write up a profile about yourself and e-mail back and forth with guys who are interested and even meet in person if you want.”

“No offense, but that kinda sounds like a fluff piece. I thought you were an investigative reporter?”

“I was...am...and it is a fluff piece,” Becca admitted. “And before you ask, I totally messed up a big story I was on ‘cause I was distracted by...I was distracted.”

Jo quickly surmised that Becca had allowed her troubles with Sam to interfere with her work. “So what do you need me to do?”

“I was hoping you could put up a profile, too, and that way I could write about both our experiences. I mean, if Mac wouldn’t mind. It would just be pretend.”

Apparently MacGyver hadn’t said anything about their breakup. “Mac won’t mind,” Joanna said flatly. “But this doesn’t sound like my kinda thing.” Scratch that. This was absolutely, positively not her thing! After the debacle over the weekend with Tim and long lonely nights that followed, she knew the only man for her was MacGyver, but she had single-handedly shattered their relationship. No man could ever make her feel the way he had so why even bother to try and find someone new?

“Oh please!” Rebecca suddenly begged, grabbing Jo’s arm. “I don’t expect many, if any, guys to respond to my profile, but you’d get tons!”

Joanna’s jaw dropped. Apparently the young reporter had no idea that Jo’s experience with men was as non-existent as hers.

“Please?” Becca repeated sheepishly.

“Oh, all right,” Jo sighed. “What can it hurt?”

“Terrific! When do you want to get started?”

Joanna glanced at her watch. “It’s getting late and I have work tomorrow. Why don’t you help out at Challengers until I get out of school and then I’ll meet you at the club and we can work on it there?”

“That’s perfect! Thank you so much!” Becca exclaimed as she squeezed Joanna in a big hug.

Thursday afternoon, Jo hurried over to Challengers after school. She found Becca in a corner cuddling Frog.

“I didn’t think I’d miss Cip this much already,” the younger woman said, looking up guiltily. “I had trouble sleeping last night without him around.”

“Why don’t you take Frog back to the townhouse later,” Joanna suggested as she reached down to ruffle his ear. “All the attention he gets around here gets in the way of his beauty sleep.”

“That’s a great idea! Thank you!” Becca exclaimed and Jo once again found herself in the young woman’s solid embrace.

“No problem,” Joanna smiled as she extricated herself from the hug. “C’mon in my office. I had Rosie set up an extra computer in there so we could work together.” Becca beamed as they walked down the hall.

Once the two women had carefully typed in the web address Rebecca’s editor had given her and provided all the basic information requested in order to become a member of the on-line dating site, Jo sat staring at the cursor blinking in the little box where she had been instructed to describe herself. Her brain froze and her command of the English language slid into oblivion. Her first attempt read like a resume. Her second sounded like an obituary.

“Let’s see what each other wrote,” Becca urged as Joanna completed her third attempt. She turned the screen and her friend’s face scrunched as she read the short paragraph.

“That makes you sound old and boring!” Rebecca protested.

“Maybe I am old and boring!” Joanna couldn’t help but laugh. “Let me see yours.”

Jo studied the self-description Becca had composed and bit her lip. “This doesn’t sound a thing like you,” she observed.

Becca slouched and looked down at the floor before quickly rallying. “I have an idea! I’ll write your description and you can write mine!”

Joanna glanced at her friend skeptically before agreeing. After all, sacrifices had to be made in the name of journalistic integrity. With that step successfully completed, they came to the part that asked them to describe their ideal mate. Both started typing without any hesitation.

“Okay, let me see what ya got,” Jo demanded. Her face fell as she read what Becca had written. “You know you just described Sam, don’t you?”

The young woman nodded sadly as she bent over Joanna’s computer. “And you described Mac perfectly,” she pointed out.

They simultaneously heaved a sigh. “Maybe we should be a little more flexible about what we’re looking for,” Jo offered. “I mean, the whole idea is to get guys to talk to us, right?”

“Right,” Becca echoed as they each returned to their own console, deleted their detailed list of the perfect man and replaced it with a general description just about any guy could relate to.

“Now what?” Jo asked.

Becca shrugged. “I guess we just sit and wait for messages.”

The following day was Friday. Joanna stepped into Mrs. Varga’s office right after school to sign her contract for the upcoming year.

“Are you sure you won’t reconsider?” the vice principal practically pleaded.

“I’m sure,” Jo replied with a tight smile. She had one more stop to make before heading to Challengers.

A few minutes later she entered the law office of Lee Vang and his associates. He offered Joanna a seat before pulling out a form in quadruplicate full of legalize. He began to go over the information when she put out her hand to stop him.

“You don’t have to waste your time. I trust that everything is in order. Just show me where to sign.” The sooner she got this over with the better.

“Are you sure this is want you want?” he asked, his voice full of concern.

Jo nodded firmly and scrawled her signature on the bottom line. “It’s what needs to be done,” she assured him, sealing her fate.

When Joanna finally arrived at Challengers, it was to find Rebecca pacing back and forth in their now shared office. The poor girl was literally wringing her hands.

“Becca, what’s wrong?!” she asked, quickly closing the door behind her.

“Thank goodness you’re here! I don’t know what to do!”

“What is it? What’s happened?” Jo demanded.

“First thing this morning I checked the dating website to see if I had gotten any responses, and there was a message from this guy. We’ve been messaging back and forth through the site all day and he seems really nice, but now he wants to meet me this weekend!”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Joanna asked. “It’ll make for a great story.”

“I know! I just didn’t expect someone to actually want to go out with me! Oh, this is all happening so fast!”

While Becca had been talking, Jo had been thinking. She wanted her friend to write a good article, but she also hated to see her so upset.

“Calm down,” she instructed. “I might have an idea, but first I need to see if any guys wrote to me.”

Joanna logged onto the dating site and gasped when the little envelope icon indicated she had ten messages. She clicked to open her mailbox and read the responses. Soon Becca was peering over her shoulder, reading along. Some of the messages caused them to groan in disgust while others made them giggle, but none of them really appealed to Jo.

“When is the deadline for your story?” Joanna asked.

“My editor wants it on his desk by the end of next week.”

“That doesn’t give you a lot of time.”

“I know,” Becca moaned.

Jo quickly glanced through her messages again. “This guy doesn’t sound too bad,” she said, pointing to the screen.

“You’re not seriously thinking of asking to meet him, are you?” Becca gaped.

“On one condition,” Joanna responded with a sly smile.

Rebecca’s eyes grew wide. “Oh! You want us to go on a double date!”

“Not exactly.” Jo grimaced as she watched her friend’s face fall. “I don’t think the guys would care for that, but we can arrange to be at the same place at the same time,” she explained. “What do you say?”

“I say it’s a great idea!” Becca replied with a full-fledged smile. “And this way I’ll have two experiences to write about!”

Through a series of electronic messages, it was decided that the dates would be pizza and then a play at a local college Saturday night. Becca drove to Joanna’s house where the two women got ready.

“You’re not gonna wear that, are you?” Rebecca asked looking pointedly at Joanna’s engagement ring.

Jo forced a chuckle. “I guess that would look kinda weird,” she agreed, slowly pulling off the gold and diamond band and reverently placing it on her dresser.

“Now you’re sure Mac’s okay with this?”

“I’m sure,” Joanna replied flatly. “What about Sam?”

“Pfft! Like he cares what I do!” Unfortunately, the sheen in her eyes belied her carefree words.

Arriving at the restaurant, Jo and Rebecca parked their respective vehicles several spaces apart and entered through different doors. Joanna easily recognized her date from his picture on the dating site and greeted him cordially before the hostess led them to their table. A few minutes later, Jo watched as Becca directed the same hostess to seat her and her date at a booth just across the way. When the waiter approached to take their order, Joanna’s heart twisted as the man across from her asked for pineapple on his half of the pizza. That had always been Mac’s signature topping when they first started getting to know each other. At times she swore he ordered it just to see her reaction. When she finished her last bite of dinner, she heard Becca’s laugh and looked to see her and her date both leaning forward, sharing a dessert.

“Can I get you anything else?” the waiter asked.

“No,” Jo replied quickly. “We need to get going or we’ll miss the opening curtain,” she explained to her date.

They all took separate cars to the college’s small theater and Joanna froze when she saw the poster advertising the production they were about to see: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Her heart raced and her hands turned cold as she spent the next two and a half hours sitting beside a man she barely knew watching the very same play she had seen with MacGyver and had starred Penny Parker. Unbidden thoughts of her and Mac kissing in the last row assaulted her until she excused herself and hurried to the restroom hoping to regain her composure. When she returned to her seat, her date appeared concerned, asked if she was feeling ill and if she would like to leave. Though she declined his offer since she had promised to be there for Becca, she had to give him points for thoughtfulness. When the actors had taken their final bow and the house lights came on, her date escorted her to her car, giving her a chaste peck on the cheek before heading toward his own vehicle. Nothing was said to indicate they would ever see each other again. Jo had just slid into the driver’s seat when her cell phone trilled. It was Becca.

“Come on over tomorrow afternoon and we’ll compare notes?” Her friend’s voice sounded as listless as Jo felt.

“Sounds good,” she confirmed, before starting her car and heading home.

XXXXX

The following day Joanna pulled her car into the driveway beside Mac’s Jeep. She noticed a strange truck parked out front just as the front door to Charlie’s half of the duplex opened and a young couple emerged and shook hands with a man she had come to recognize as the real estate agent. Apparently the house was still on the market. Becca met Joanna at the threshold with a glass of iced tea. Though not her beverage of choice, she accepted the cold drink and took a sip before stowing her purse and jacket and settling on the couch. As usual, Frog was napping under the coffee table. Becca soon plopped down on the other end of the couch, pencil and notebook in hand.

“So tell me everything,” she directed.

Joanna did her best to relay, in detail, the events of her date the night before. Unfortunately, there was precious little to tell.

“Sounds kinda dull,” Becca observed. Joanna had to agree. The irony was that she and Mac had gone on the exact same date about a year ago and it had been anything but dull.

“What about you?” Jo asked, attempting to change the conversation. “Did you have a good time?” If Becca’s laughter in the restaurant was any indication, she had had an enjoyable evening.

“It was fine.”

“Just ‘fine’?”

“Well, I mean, he was nice and all. Really cute and fun to talk to, but he just wasn’t--” Becca slammed her mouth closed and stared at the notes in front of her.

“He just wasn’t Sam,” Joanna concluded softly.

Rebecca nodded, tears now sliding freely down her cheeks. She didn’t even try to wipe them away.

“I love him, Jo! I love him so much!” she sobbed. “But he doesn’t think I know what love is. He doesn’t know how wrong he is!” she hiccupped.

“Who was it?” Joanna asked, her voice barely more than a whisper.

“Huh?” Becca looked up, eyes already red and slightly swollen.

“Your first love. Who was he?”

Rebecca stayed silent for several moments as if pondering the question and Jo was afraid she wouldn’t answer it. Of course, that was her prerogative, but Joanna couldn’t help but feel it was an important story for her to tell. Finally the younger woman broke the silence that hung heavy in the room.

“It was when I was back in Santa Barbara. Remember when I told you I worked as a secretary at the police department and sometimes helped out the detectives?” Jo nodded but did not speak. “Well, he was one of the detectives. His name was Carlton. That’s why I spell Cip’s name the way I do. The “C” is for him. Anyway, when we first met he came off as being kinda surly and had a reputation for not having much of a sense of humor. But it didn’t take long before I realized there was a lot more to him...he was just hiding it. He was significantly older than me and divorced. He really freaked out when he discovered how young I was.” Becca stopped and studied her fingernails, absently picking at the cuticle. “I was nineteen and he was my first kiss. The first guy I ever really loved.”

“What happened?” Joanna asked quietly.

“Everything was great for a while. We got in a nice routine and would banter back and forth, especially at work. But then, I don’t know. Stuff happened. We both got busy. I was juggling work and school. It sounds cliché, but I guess we just grew apart.”

“I take it you never told Sam any of this.”

Becca shook her head.

“Maybe you should.”

Joanna didn’t know how long they sat there, not saying a word, but the next thing she knew the room was swathed in twilight from the setting sun. Frog’s toenails clicked on the wooden kitchen floor as he most likely searched for his supper. Jo was about to push herself off the couch when Becca asked the question she had been hoping to avoid.

“There’s something going on between Mac and you, isn’t there? Something bad.”

“Is it that obvious?” Jo asked.

Becca shrugged. “Probably only to me. I tend to pick up on stuff like that. Like the way you took your ring off before your date. As if you may not ever put it back on again. And when you talk about him your voice is emotionless.”

Joanna sank back onto the cushions and sighed. “Considering everything you just told me, I suppose you deserve to know. But this has to stay between you and me, okay?”

Rebecca nodded vigorously and turned to face her friend.

“I told Mac to go to L.A. so we could have some time and space to reevaluate our relationship. I needed to figure out how I fit in his life and I’ve decided I don’t.”

“Oh no, Joanna!” Becca cried. “You and Mac were made for each other!”

“It might look like that to you,” Jo replied sadly. “But I’m not the kind of girl he needs. I had to make him realize that...make myself realize that...before it was too late.”

Becca’s eyes were filled with anguish. “Are you saying you’re...you mean you’re not…?” She couldn’t say the words aloud and neither could Jo.

“Yeah. But please don’t tell Sam. Mac will tell him when the time is right.”

Both women sat in silence until Rebecca spoke softly. “I plan on taking the train back to Chicago tomorrow afternoon. Do you think you could drive me to the station?”

“Sure,” Jo confirmed, a lump in her throat.

XXXXX

Joanna hurried home from work Monday afternoon. Once upstairs, she pulled a wrinkled slip of paper from her wallet before crouching on the floor and pulling out a long, rectangular white box from underneath her bed. Despite her best effort, she couldn’t resist taking the top off and running her hands over the smooth, expensive fabric of what would have been her wedding dress. She felt oddly numb and incredibly empty as she gathered up the parcel and headed back out.

Jo picked Rebecca up at the townhouse and drove her to the train station. There was little conversation between them. Joanna found a parking space and popped her trunk. Becca eyed her questioningly as she lifted the large white box out of the trunk, the receipt taped to the top.

“I was wondering if you could do me a huge favor and return this for me?” Joanna knew Becca knew what was in the box so she provided no further explanation. “Just make sure Sam doesn’t know.”

Becca hugged her friend close, tears gathering in her eyes. “Are you sure you want to do this? It makes everything seem so...so final!”

“It’s what needs to be,” Jo stated, taking a step back.

Rebecca slung her backpack over her shoulder, tucked the package under her arm and lifted her suitcase with the other before wordlessly heading toward the boarding platform.

Joanna watched her friend walk away before turning back to her car. She slammed the trunk closed and felt as though she was slamming closed a chapter in her life. A very wonderful, but not meant to be, chapter.












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: 9 April 2020 - 01:45 AM                                    
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I like the chapter title laugh.gif

Jo is as dramatic as I am. And then she tells herself not to be. Just like me laugh.gif (There's actually a Tumblr post about that somewhere, but it's too much hassle to dig up XD)

Does Jo not realize Mac's coming back? I get that she might think he won't return to her, but does she really think he just up and abandoned Challenger's, Frog, his landlord, etc? Planning to have Cynthia take over Mac's office is a stretch, in my opinion.

I have a bad feeling about her calling Lee Vang...

QUOTE
Since Mac’s gone you can stay at his place,” Jo said, handing her friend a set of keys. “One is to the apartment and the other is to the Jeep. I figured you’d need a car since you came by train.”
Jo: speaking on Mac's behalf despite also trying to eliminate him from her life (I watched a lot of CinemaSins over the last couple days, so I'm in a tongue-in-cheek, critical mood laugh.gif )

QUOTE
Joanna’s jaw dropped. Apparently the young reporter had no idea that Jo’s experience with men was as non-existent as hers.
I understand Jo all too well roller.gif

QUOTE
Jo sat staring at the cursor blinking in the little box where she had been instructed to describe herself. Her brain froze and her command of the English language slid into oblivion. Her first attempt read like a resume. Her second sounded like an obituary
Oh, so relatable...

QUOTE
What about you?” Jo asked, attempting to change the conversation. “Did you have a good time?” If Becca’s laughter in the restaurant was any indication, she had had an enjoyable evening.

“It was fine.”

“Just ‘fine’?”

“Well, I mean, he was nice and all. Really cute and fun to talk to, but he just wasn’t--” Becca slammed her mouth closed and stared at the notes in front of her.

“He just wasn’t Sam,” Joanna concluded softly.

Rebecca nodded, tears now sliding freely down her cheeks. She didn’t even try to wipe them away.

“I love him, Jo! I love him so much!” she sobbed. “But he doesn’t think I know what love is. He doesn’t know how wrong he is!” she hiccupped.
Yup, there goes my heart. (Also, quoting really is hard on this thing XD)

I suspect Becca won't be returning that dress for her 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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Posted: 9 April 2020 - 08:18 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 9 April 2020 - 01:45 AM)


Does Jo not realize Mac's coming back? I get that she might think he won't return to her, but does she really think he just up and abandoned Challenger's, Frog, his landlord, etc? Planning to have Cynthia take over Mac's office is a stretch, in my opinion.


At this point, I really think Jo HAS talked herself into that belief. I think she is afraid to trust that he'll return and is basically preparing for the worst. To you and me she may sound misguided, but she pretty much believes this at this point...she's allowing her heart and fears to guide her.



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: 10 April 2020 - 01:29 AM                                    
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QUOTE (uniquelyjas @ 9 April 2020 - 11:18 AM)
QUOTE (Dragondog @ 9 April 2020 - 01:45 AM)


Does Jo not realize Mac's coming back? I get that she might think he won't return to her, but does she really think he just up and abandoned Challenger's, Frog, his landlord, etc? Planning to have Cynthia take over Mac's office is a stretch, in my opinion.


At this point, I really think Jo HAS talked herself into that belief. I think she is afraid to trust that he'll return and is basically preparing for the worst. To you and me she may sound misguided, but she pretty much believes this at this point...she's allowing her heart and fears to guide her.

I'm just sad for her now. I kinda think both she and Mac could use some therapy. Not just for this situation, but they've been through a lot, so it might do both if them some good. I've had it before, so I'm not just dropping it out there or anything



"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: 10 April 2020 - 04:23 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 10 April 2020 - 01:29 AM)

[/QUOTE]
At this point, I really think Jo HAS talked herself into that belief. I think she is afraid to trust that he'll return and is basically preparing for the worst. To you and me she may sound misguided, but she pretty much believes this at this point...she's allowing her heart and fears to guide her. [/QUOTE]
I'm just sad for her now. I kinda think both she and Mac could use some therapy. Not just for this situation, but they've been through a lot, so it might do both if them some good. I've had it before, so I'm not just dropping it out there or anything

When they both get out of their own heads they'll be ok. One of the reasons I have Jo going through this is because I didn't want to make Mac the bad guy (again!) in not being able to commit.



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: 11 April 2020 - 12:32 AM                                    
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It's definitely a unique take, that's for sure happy.gif Looking forward to the next part wink.gif



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

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

 
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Posted: 15 April 2020 - 10:08 AM                                    
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Chapter 45: Secrets Shared

Rebecca quickly found a seat on the train, balancing the awkward package on her lap and absently stroking its lid as she watched Joanna slam her trunk closed before getting into her car. Becca’s heart ached for her friend. There must be something she could do to make Jo see that her and MacGyver were destined to be together, but what? Worse, she had promised Joanna she would keep her secret and Becca never betrayed a friend.

The return trip to Chicago seemed to take twice as long, and by the time the train screeched to a stop beside the platform, Becca was exhausted. She hailed a cab, a luxury she rarely afforded herself, but she did not feel like dealing with riding The El, especially at this time of night and with arms full of luggage. The first thing she did upon arriving at her apartment was call her friend and arrange to have Cip brought home first thing tomorrow morning. She was placing the receiver back into the cradle when she noticed the light on her answering machine blinking indicating she had a message. Her heart leapt. Could it be? No one else ever called. It was with an odd mixture of relief and disappointment that Becca listened to the grainy recording of Connie Thornton’s voice inviting her to a party that Friday in honor of Pete finally getting his cast removed. During the time that she had known them, the couple had become like surrogate parents to her. But how could she go and have a good time when she knew Sam would certainly be there as well, and maybe not alone.

The following morning Becca slipped into her cubicle, but not before feeling Sam Malloy’s eyes on her.

“Where have you been?!” he demanded sharply.

His unexpected outburst startled her and she visibly jumped. “None of your business!” she shot back.

“C’mon Becca, don’t be like that.” He gentled his tone.

Rebecca turned to face him, putting a hand on her hip. “I’m surprised you even noticed I was gone, what with all your dates and everything!” she spat.

“Of course I noticed,” he said. “I was worried sick!”

“You could’ve called if you were so concerned,” Becca retorted, venom in her usually sweet voice.

“I know,” he replied, running a hand through his hair as she had so often seen his father do when he was upset or frustrated. “But after I thought about it I figured you probably just wanted some time alone.”

Rebecca straightened her spine and composed herself before responding. “If you must know, I went to Milwaukee to work on a story I was assigned. I needed Joanna to help out with some research.”

“What about my dad?” Sam asked.

“What about him?” Becca queried in return, all wide-eyed innocence.

“Was he there?”

“No, but Jo let me stay in his apartment,” she replied flippantly.

Sam’s gaze found the floor and his annoyance with Rebecca quickly morphed into concern for his dad. “I haven’t heard from him since he left for Los Angeles and he’s not answering my calls. It’s not like him to stay away this long, especially now that he has Challengers.”

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Becca assured him. “He probably just needed a vacation.”

She stood with her arms crossed in front of her, chewing her lip, and hoping against hope that Sam didn’t question her further about MacGyver’s absence.

“Are you going to Pete’s party on Friday?” she asked, eager to change the subject.

“Yeah, sure. Aren’t you?”

Becca shrugged. “Maybe. If I don’t have other plans.”

“You know they consider you family. They’ll miss you if you don’t show. We can drive over together.”

“You mean you’re not bringing a date?”

Sam rolled his eyes. “No. I’m not bringing a date. Be ready by six.”

XXXXX

Wednesday morning Rebecca arrived at work before anyone else...or so she thought. A pineapple Slurpee, still cold, sat in the middle of her desk. Her lips formed a small smile of their own accord. A peace offering from Sam who was nowhere to be found. This proved to become a pattern over the next couple days. Not only did Sam woo her with her favorite beverage, but she would often look up from her work to find him staring at her. Sometimes he would quickly turn away, but other times he allowed his gaze to linger. She found herself doing the same and wondered if the old adage was true. Perhaps absence really did make the heart grow fonder.

Friday afternoon, Rebecca left work early to get ready for Pete’s party. She put on a pair of her best jeans and her softest oversized sweater. Her hands shook as she attempted to apply a meager amount of rarely used make-up. Her stomach dipped when Sam rang her doorbell promptly at six o’clock. They drove over to the Thornton’s in relative, albeit comfortable, silence. A weak electrical charge seemed to stretch between them, but neither dared broach the subject of their fractured relationship. It had been about a month since the pair had argued about Sam’s supposed dinner-date with a colleague and Becca’s lack of experience with the opposite sex yet neither seemed inclined to bring the subject out in the open.

Once the foursome had consumed Connie’s scrumptious homemade dinner, the matriarch shooed Sam and a still-limping Pete out of the kitchen while she and Becca cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher.

“So, when are you going to tell me what’s going on between you and Sam?” Connie asked as casually as if she was commenting on the weather.

“What do you mean?” Rebecca replied innocently.

Connie sighed and leveled a look that would put Becca’s mom to shame. “For the last several weeks, whenever Sam comes over he’s always alone, and rather broody I might add. And whenever Pete or I ask about you he always gives a vague response. I can only assume you two had a lover’s quarrel. I’m here to listen if you want to talk about it.”

But Becca didn’t want to talk about it. At least that’s what she told herself. Being around Sam these past few days had been sweet torture. Her yearning for him continued to grow, but nothing could ever come of it. He would always find her lacking. A stray tear trickled down her cheek. Connie, astute as ever, whipped out a tissue and handed it to her.

“Talk,” the older woman commanded. And Rebecca talked. She talked about the argument she and Sam had had. She talked about the phone calls to MacGyver and Joanna. She talked about Santa Barbara.

“Have you told Sam about this?” Connie asked gently.

Becca shook her head.

“Don’t you think he deserves to know?”

“That’s the same thing Joanna said, but it shouldn’t matter,” Becca mumbled.

“You’re right. In a perfect world it shouldn’t matter,” Connie remarked. “But this is an imperfect world with imperfect people. Talk to him, Becca.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“She’s drivin’ me nuts, Pete! She still won’t talk to me and I don’t know what to do about it!”

Pete chuckled as he repositioned himself in his recliner. “Ah, young love!”

“It’s not funny,” Sam grumbled.

“I’m sorry,” Pete said. “But don’t you think this is something you should be discussing with your father?”

“I’m trying, but he won’t answer my calls anymore! All he said is that I should apologize even if I didn’t do anything wrong!”

“That’s sound advice. Perhaps Mac is finally starting to understand women after all,” Pete mused.

“I should never have gone out to dinner with Susan,” Sam moaned.

“Ah, so she has a name.”

“It was no big deal!” Sam exclaimed, utterly frustrated with this whole chain of events. “We had both worked late and were hungry. I don’t need Becca’s permission to have a meal with a friend!”

“Is that what this is really all about?” Pete inquired.

“No,” Sam ground out, hanging his head so his dark bangs fell in his face. “We started fighting and some things got said that probably shouldn’t have.”

Pete’s eyebrows rose but he remained silent.

“Fine,” Sam sighed. “I said some things to Becca I shouldn’t have.”

“Did you try and apologize?”

“Not really,” Sam reluctantly admitted.

“You might wanna give it a shot,” Pete suggested.

Before Sam could reply, Connie breezed into the room carrying a gaily decorated chocolate cake as Becca followed behind with plates and plastic forks.

“Is everyone ready for dessert?” Pete’s wife asked cheerfully and was greeted with eager nods. Suddenly, she paused in the middle of cutting the cake and frowned. “Oh no! I forgot to get ice cream!”

Pete sent a sightless eye-roll in her direction. “I’ve been doing nothing but sitting in this chair for the past six weeks. The doctor said I gained ten pounds! We don’t need ice cream!”

“Nonsense, Peter! We can’t have cake without ice cream! Perhaps Sam and Becca wouldn’t mind running to the store and picking some up.”

“Connie…” her husband warned.

“I don’t mind. I’ll go,” Sam replied. “Becca, you wanna ride along?”

The poor girl looked like a deer caught in headlights. He belatedly regretted putting her on the spot like that.

“Sure,” she agreed with a half-hearted shrug.

A few minutes later Sam pulled into the grocery store parking lot. He turned off the ignition but instead of opening the door he turned to Becca.

“You know Connie set this up, right?” Sam asked.

“Yeah,” Becca replied. “I like her a lot but sometimes she’s not very subtle. You know you didn’t have to bring me along if you didn’t want to.”

“I wanted to. You didn’t have to come.”

“I wanted to,” Becca said shyly.

Sam’s heart flopped in his chest. It was now or never. “I’m really sorry for the things I said to you. I don’t blame you for getting upset with me. It’s just that I felt like things were happening pretty fast and I guess it scared me a little. Now I know how my dad must’ve felt about relationships when he was my age.”

“Have you been dating other women?” Becca asked, eyes downcast.

“I went out to dinner with a couple, but I didn’t enjoy it,” Sam confessed. “What about you?”

“I got assigned to do a story on computer dating. I ended up meeting a guy.” Rebecca finally looked up and caught his eye. “I didn’t enjoy it either. He wasn’t you.”

Sam felt immensely relieved, but one thing still niggled at him. “I was wrong to accuse you of not knowing your feelings for me.”

“Yeah, you were,” Becca agreed, surprising him with her candor. “I need to tell you about someone I met when I moved to Santa Barbara. His name was Carlton…”

By the time Rebecca finished her story, Sam’s heart hurt for her. In his fear and frustration he had erroneously assumed that Becca had been unscathed by love’s wrath. Knowing differently only made him admire her more. She was the most giving, genuine, gentle person he had ever met. She was also intelligent, stubborn, courageous, and always willing to stand up for what she believed in. And she had taken a chance by opening her heart to him. He was indeed humbled.

“Becca,” he began, his voice raspy with emotion, “I’m so sorry I ever questioned your feelings for me and even more sorry that I felt the need to run from them. Do you think you can forgive me?”

“I might be persuaded to,” she drawled, and Sam mentally added ‘sassy’ to the list of things he loved about her. He slowly leaned over the center console and was delighted when he she met him half-way. In the semi-darkness of the parking lot they shared the sweetest kiss he had ever known.

“Well it took you long enough!” Pete complained when Becca and Sam returned with the ice cream. “What’d you do? Make it yourself?”

The couple glanced at Connie who sent them a knowing smile before turning on her husband. “Peter!”

“I’m sorry,” he sighed, absently massaging his healing leg. “Guess my first physical therapy session took more outta me than I thought. Let’s cut that cake!”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The rest of the evening passed quickly and before she knew it Sam was escorting Becca to her apartment door.

“Would you like to come in?” she asked shyly, not quite sure what she wanted his answer to be. Sam’s apology and the kiss they had shared in his car had really muddled her brain.

“I would,” he replied with a sincerity she hadn’t heard before.

As soon as Becca opened the door, Cip came bounding down the hall to greet them, welcoming Sam with a wiggling behind and slobbery doggy kisses.

“Hey buddy! I’ve missed ya!” Sam told the dog as he bent to ruffle the mutt’s ears.

Cip wasn’t the only one who had missed Sam. Becca had missed him immensely though she didn’t allow herself to realize that until tonight.

“Can I get you something to drink?” she called from the kitchen as he made himself comfortable on her couch.

“Naw, I’m good,” he replied, glancing around the eclectically decorated apartment.

Becca returned to the living room intending to sit in the overstuffed chair facing the picture window, but as she walked by Sam’s hand snaked out and caught her wrist, gently tugging her down beside him.

“There’s a Star Trek marathon on the retro channel this weekend,” he informed her.

She sighed. “I know, but I don’t have cable.”

“I do,” Sam said matter-of-factly. “I thought we could watch it together. Ya know, make a day of it.”

Rebecca’s heart flopped and she was sure she was blushing. “Th...that sounds nice.”

“We can order pizza,” he offered. “With pineapple.”

He flashed her a devastatingly sexy grin and she was helpless to refuse. “Count me in,” she replied softly, hoping she didn’t sound as breathless as she felt. From a distance she heard Sam’s voice penetrate the fog that had enveloped her brain.

“What’s that?”

She followed his gaze to the large white box sitting on the coffee table.

“Um, just something I need to return,” she muttered.

Sam leaned forward and studied the receipt taped to the top. Becca cringed. What a lousy time for his investigative instincts to kick in.

“You bought something at a bridal boutique?” he asked, turning toward her, eyebrows raised.

“No!” she answered instinctively before realizing her error. “I mean...yes. Something for a friend,” she blurted out.

“Which friend?” Sam’s eyes narrowed and he was now in full interview mode.

“Ummm…” Rebecca fidgeted as she tried to come up with something to say without giving away Joanna’s secret. Lying didn’t come easily to her. “If I tell you, you have got to promise not to breathe a word of this to anyone. Understand?”

“Fine. I won’t say anything,” Sam conceded.

Rebecca took a long, deep breath before speaking. “It’s Joanna’s wedding dress. She asked me to return it for her.”

“Why? Did she decide she doesn’t like it?”

Good grief! Why were men so dense?!

“Something like that,” Becca shrugged. Sam’s eyes bore into her until she couldn’t stand it anymore. “Oh, all right! She changed her mind about marrying your dad!” she exclaimed.

“What?!” Sam bellowed as he rocketed off the couch. “You can’t be serious!” He jammed both hands through his hair and began pacing.

Rebecca sat quietly, hands cradled in her lap, picking at her cuticles.

“You are serious,” Sam said as he deflated back onto the cushions. “How did this happen? They’re crazy about each other! My dad didn’t do something stupid, did he?”

Rebecca shook her head.

“Then tell me, Becca! What happened?!”

She felt unbidden tears welling in her eyes. “I can’t! I’ve said too much already!”

“Then tell me the rest!”

Becca took a few moments to compose herself. “Okay. But you have to keep your original promise not to tell anyone. Especially Jo and MacGyver.”

“I don’t think I can do that. This is my family we’re talkin’ about.”

Rebecca stared at him long and hard until he relented. “Fine, I won’t say a word.”

Once she had Sam’s promise she proceeded to tell him everything Joanna had told her and, quite frankly, it felt good to share the burden she’d been carrying.

“Wow. How does my dad feel about all this?”

“I don’t know. Jo hasn’t heard from him since he left. Apparently no one has.”

“But he’s comin’ back, right? I mean, they’re meant for each other! He has to convince her to marry him!”

All Becca could do was stare at the floor. She had no answers.

“There must be something I can do,” Sam muttered.

“No!” She grabbed his arm and pleaded with her eyes. “I promised Jo I wouldn’t tell and you promised me you wouldn’t tell and if you do something they’ll know we told!” she sobbed.

Sam turned and gathered Becca close. “Alright. I won’t say anything,” he sighed, kissing the top of her head. “I just hope my dad doesn’t screw this up.”

“If it’s any consolation, I can guarantee you that Joanna still loves him,” Becca mumbled against his chest.

“And I know my dad still loves her. We just have to hope they know that.”







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: 16 April 2020 - 03:02 AM                                    
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"Why are men so dense?" That got me laugh.gif

I'm glad one pairing is back to good terms again



"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: 22 April 2020 - 04:53 PM                                    
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Chapter 46: Hello, Goodbye?

April 11, 1998

Joanna stood in the darkened church, her bright pink outfit belying her dour mood. Of all the Masses she ushered for throughout the year, the Easter Vigil was the worst. For forty-five minutes before the liturgy began she was stationed in one of the vestibules opening doors and handing out candles and orders of worship to parishioners, an odd juggling act that made her appreciate the octopus. Now, she listened as Pastor Mike prepared the Easter Candle and blessed the fire. Soon, it would be her duty to light her own small candle from the sacred flame and, in turn, light the candles now held by the congregation. She soon recognized her cue and walked up and down the aisle with her small, white, taper sharing the holy fire with others to pass on, all the while hoping the movement wouldn’t extinguish her own little flame. Upon reaching the back pew, she carefully guided her candle to the one held in the large, strong hand of a gentleman shrouded in shadow. Once his candle was lit, she could breathe a sigh of relief having accomplished her small mission. Instead, she looked up at the man and had to swallow a gasp. The dim light softened his normally high cheekbones and chiseled jaw, the reflection of the fire dancing in eyes that searched her own. He took a step sideways, a silent invitation, and she hesitated just a moment before moving to stand beside him. MacGyver had returned.

As lectors read passages from the Bible and cantors led the faithful in hymns, all Joanna could do was focus on the man next to her who dutifully followed the proceedings, seemingly unaware of the effect he had on her. Handsomely dressed in a light gray suit, she could feel the heat emanating from him even though they never actually touched. Her heart raced and her hands trembled to the point where she considered blowing out the candle she held before she accidentally dropped it and burned down the church! To her amazement, she somehow managed to sit, stand, and kneel at all the appropriate times. When she dared to glance around the sanctuary, she saw her father, also an usher, standing sentinel in the main aisle, oblivious to the tilt-a-whirl of emotions his daughter was experiencing. In the section of pews across from her, Joanna’s mother smiled like the cat who swallowed the canary, no question whose side she was on.

Jo was relieved when it came time for her to leave her seat and pass the collection basket and even more grateful when the longest Mass of the year concluded and she could return to the safety of her position in the vestibule to hand out the weekly parish bulletin, collect the used candles, and bid a happy farewell to her fellow parishioners. Unfortunately, much to her dismay, MacGyver followed her out into the small gathering area. As the final hymn was sung and the congregates began to pour out of the church, she couldn’t help but watch with admiration as he graciously helped her with her duties and engaged in light-hearted conversation with people he didn’t even know, a genuine smile lighting up his face. More than once Joanna heard the loud clearing of a throat or felt a gentle whack to her leg with the tip of a cane reminding her to press the elevator button. All too soon, the people were gone and she was left alone with MacGyver. He stood in front of her, refusing to be ignored.

“You came back,” she remarked in little more than a whisper.

“I said I would,” Mac replied with far more conviction.

Joanna sighed as frustration, and resignation, mounted. “I didn’t want you to come back because of a promise. I wanted you to come back because you chose to.”

“What makes you think I didn’t?”

Jo turned away and shook her head while MacGyver jammed his splayed fingers through this unruly hair. “Can we go somewhere and talk?” he asked.

Joanna forced herself to meet his gaze. “I’m tired. It’s been a long day.”

“Tomorrow then. Come on over to my place.”

“On Easter Sunday?” she asked.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. Do you and your parents have plans?”

Yes! She wanted to scream. She wanted to tell him that she had plans for the rest of her life in order to avoid the inevitable conversation she, herself, had created. But she was a horrible liar. Maybe even worse than Mac.

“No,” she mumbled.

“Good! Come hungry. I’ll make pancakes.”

“Fine,” she muttered before turning her back to him and walking off in search of her family.

That night Joanna laid in bed, curled up on her side, watching the glowing digits of her alarm clock tick away the hours. She should have just bitten the bullet and agreed to talk with MacGyver after Mass instead of prolonging the agony. Sometime before dawn she grew even more restless. Something wasn’t right. Mac had been too nice. Too understanding. Had he not received the letter she had signed off on a week ago? Oh, why couldn’t he have just called her from California and asked her to pack up his stuff and send it to him? She consoled herself with the fact that, if everything went as planned tomorrow, this would be the final time she would speak to him before starting to rebuild the life she had shattered.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Easter morning brought heavy gray clouds, cool temperatures, and the threat of rain. Despite the dreary weather, MacGyver stood looking out his front door, anxious for Joanna to arrive. He could hardly wait to see the look on her face when she discovered the surprise he had for her. He wanted nothing more than to turn back time to when they were happily in love, before fears and doubts had assailed her. Without a time machine, this was the best he could do.

It wasn’t long until Jo pulled her Chevy into his driveway. He watched as she exited the car and began to make her way toward his apartment before she caught sight of the For Sale sign on the lawn. She regarded it for a moment before he greeted her at the door, not caring if he appeared eager to see her again. The sooner they got things back to normal the better. She offered him a polite, wordless smile before stepping over the threshold.

“I see Charlie finally sold the place,” she remarked casually.

“Yeah, he said it happened last week. Kinda a spur of the moment thing, I guess.” Mac ushered Joanna to the kitchen table in anticipation of their brunch.

“Did he tell you anything about your new landlord?”

“Actually, I already met him,” MacGyver replied, busying himself in the kitchen to hide his smirk. “He seems like a nice guy. About my age, I guess, and looking to put down some roots. He’s moved around a lot and decided it’s time to find a place to call home.”

“So he’s single, then,” Jo interjected.

“He’s engaged.” Joanna frowned. “What?” he asked.

“Won’t the place be a little small once he gets married and his wife moves in? Or are they already living together?”

“His fiancé is staying with her folks for the meantime, and we actually talked about some ways to make more space for them.”

“Oh,” Jo replied meekly, but Mac wasn’t to be deterred. He went over to the bookcase-lined wall that separated the two apartments.

“This is a load-bearing wall, so he can’t tear it down completely, but he can get creative with doorways to open up the area. Same goes for upstairs.”

“So then you’ll be moving out?” There was a disturbingly hopeful tone to her voice and MacGyver was disappointed she hadn’t caught on to what he was trying to tell her.

“Don’t ya get it, Jo?” he asked, reaching for her hands and pulling her to her feet. “I’m the guy! I bought Charlie’s house for us!”

“But why?” Mac’s heart dropped at the confusion in her eyes.

He led her to the couch where they sat side-by-side, still holding hands.

“I spent the last two weeks in Mission City and it got me to thinking. It’s time I got a place, a real home, that I know will always be there for me. For us. A place to put down roots and make a life. You’ve been questioning my commitment to you. Well, here it is. I don’t know how else to prove that I’m not goin’ anywhere. That I don’t wanna go anywhere.”

“It’s a done deal then?” Jo asked cautiously.

MacGyver shook his head. “I just got back in town yesterday so I need to go sign the papers tomorrow, but I was able to do everything else by phone and Charlie vouched for me so the real estate agent agreed to put the ‘Sold’ sign up so I could surprise you.”

“You shouldn’t have done that, Mac. Please don’t sign those papers tomorrow,” she all but begged, pulling away from him to go stare out the patio doors at the drizzle that had begun to fall.

MacGyver was momentarily speechless. He never expected her to react to his news like this! As he got off the couch and made his way toward her he realized his mistake.

“Aw, baby,” he crooned, gently taking her shoulders and turning her to face him. “I’m sorry. I should’ve figured you’d want a new place that we picked out together.”

Her gaze met his as tears welled in her eyes. “It isn’t that,” she insisted. “I love this place. It feels like home. But that’s just it. We can’t be together. I can’t let you marry me.”

Mac’s breath caught and it felt as if a thousand swords were piercing his lungs. Before he could form a cohesive thought, there was a knock at his front door. Joanna turned and continued to stare out at the rain.

“Hope this isn’t a bad time,” Charlie greeted him, standing on the front stoop, umbrella in hand. “I noticed you were home and thought I’d bring your mail over.”

“Thanks,” Mac muttered, preparing to close the door.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’ve decided to buy this place,” Charlie continued. “I hated the thought of handing it over to a stranger. Guess I’m just a sentimental old fool!”

“Nonsense! I’d feel the same way,” Mac assured the older man. “And thanks for this,” he said, holding up the pile of envelopes. Charlie simply nodded and headed next door.

MacGyver was about to toss his mail on the kitchen counter and go talk some sense into Joanna when the return address on the top letter caught his eye. ‘Lee Vang and Associates, Attorneys at Law’. Mac tore open the envelope and skimmed the contract inside. He felt as if he had taken a sucker punch to his gut. He read the contract again, this time it made his blood boil.

“What in the hell is this!” he yelled across the room to Joanna who whipped her head around, eyes wide with surprise. He couldn’t recall ever having used even a mild expletive in her presence and he tried not to use them at all, but this occasion seemed to call for it.

“You want me to sign away all my rights to Challengers?!” No way! This couldn’t be happening!

Joanna’s eyes sparked, her tears replaced with fire. “When you didn’t come back I had to make sure that Challengers was protected!” she yelled back, stalking toward him.

“But I had promised to come home!”

“And how could I be sure of that!” she spat. “Days, weeks passed and you didn’t even bother to call! What was I supposed to think?! I had to make some hard decisions. I turned down a summer teaching placement and full-time position next fall so I could take your place at the club while you were off gallivanting around Los Angeles!”

MacGyver’s head was spinning, caught in an emotional whirlpool. “First of all,” he hollered, his voice rising. “I was not ‘gallivanting’! Secondly, you’re the one who told me to go to L.A. in the first place!”

“But you could’ve stayed!” she shouted, even though they were now just feet apart.

“What?!”

“You could’ve stayed and fought for me. For our relationship. But you took the easy way out. Just like you always do when things get serious!”

Mac took a deep breath and tried to rein in his emotions.

“So let me get this straight,” he said, his voice calmer. “You told me to leave, but you really wanted me to stay?”

“No! I wanted you to go so I could have some time to think things over!”

“You’re not making any sense, Joanna!” MacGyver exclaimed.

“I know that!” she replied vehemently. “I also know I’m not the girl for you!”

She dug in her pocket, pulled out his engagement ring, and slapped it into the palm of his hand before grabbing her coat and purse and stomping out the door, slamming it shut behind her with a finality that just about brought Mac to his knees.

XXXXX

“Well, look what the cat dragged in,” Cynthia remarked from where she stood just inside the doorway to MacGyver’s office at Challengers. “It’s good to have you back.”

“I’m glad someone thinks so,” he mumbled from behind his desk as he scrubbed his face with his hands. He had spent a sleepless night on his couch and had arrived at work shortly after dawn unable to keep the events of the previous evening a bay.

“Did you and Joanna get a chance to talk?”

“Yeah.”

“So then you know about the project she came up with for the kids,” she assumed.

“Um, we didn’t talk about work.”

“Oh,” Cynthia frowned. “Well, I don’t want to steal her thunder so you’ll have to wait and hear about it from her, but she’s been spending every spare minute on it and I think it’ll really impress the Phoenix board members.”

“That’s great,” Mac replied flatly.

The hours crawled by as MacGyver waited for Joanna to arrive. Four o’clock came and went and he began to worry that she would stay away from Challengers in order to stay away from him. Another hour passed before he heard her breathlessly greet Rosie at the reception desk.

“I’m sorry I’m so late, but there was an emergency faculty meeting after school,” Jo explained.

The two women proceeded to exchange pleasantries before Joanna headed for her office, not even glancing in MacGyver’s direction. He gave her a few minutes to get settled before appearing in her doorway.

“Can we talk?” he asked softly.

“We talked last night. I have nothing more to say,” came the curt response.

“We yelled last night,” he clarified. “And I do have more to say.”

Joanna looked up from organizing the papers on her desk. Bloodshot eyes with dark circles under them testified that her night hadn’t been any better than his. Mac entered her office and took a seat across from her. Suddenly, all the fancy words and phrases he had mulled over in his brain all day vanished and he was left with nothing but the simple truth.

“I love you, Joanna, and I want to marry you,” he declared. “Ever since I left, all I could think about was coming home to you and picking up where we left off. But I respect you too much to force you to feel something you don’t. Tell me you don’t love me. Tell me you truly don’t want to marry me, and I’ll leave you alone. I won’t buy the townhouse and I’ll hire someone to replace me here and help you out. Just say the word and I’ll disappear, but know that I will always love you.”

An errant tear rolled down Jo’s cheek and Mac reached across the desk to wipe it away with his thumb. Her skin was soft and warm and he savored the moment. Would this be the last time she allowed him an intimate gesture? His heart pounded in his ears as he waited for her response.

“I love you too. And I do want to marry you,” she confirmed meekly. “But--”

“No ‘buts’,” Mac interrupted. “We’ll deal with those as they come up, together, just like we planned.

Jo graced him with a watery smile and before he knew what had happened they were standing beside her desk, locked in each other’s embrace.

“Cynthia says you came up with a great project for the kids. Come on over to my place for dinner and tell me all about it.” To Mac’s relief, she readily agreed and he squeezed her tighter.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

For the second time in two days, Joanna pulled her car into MacGyver’s driveway and took a moment to gather herself. Mac had seemed to think everything between them would magically go back to the way it had been, but life didn’t work like that, at least not in her experience. They needed to deal with their past before they could share their future. She walked into his apartment to find the kitchen table full of Chinese take-out containers.

“Supper?” she asked, quirking a brow.

“What did you expect on such short notice,” Mac teased.

“So, what’s your plan to get Challengers back into Phoenix’s good graces?” MacGyver asked once they had loaded their plates with food.

“I think Cynthia may have oversold it,” she chuckled, feeling happier than she had since before Mac’s fateful birthday dinner.

“Let me be the judge of that,” MacGyver replied before taking a healthy bite of his eggroll.

“Two of the biggest problems in the community we serve are kids using drugs or joining gangs or both,” Joanna began. “I thought it would be a good idea to have the club members make posters discouraging these behaviors and then go and display them in local schools along with a list of places where students can go to get help and support. Places like Challengers.”

“That sounds great! How far along are you?”

Buoyed by Mac’s response, Jo continued, “The kids will be finishing up their posters this week. I figure next Monday we can start taking them over to the schools and it’ll encourage more teens to join Challengers when summer vacation starts.”

“You are awesome! You know that?” MacGyver kissed the top of her head as he stood to collect the dirty dishes and empty food cartons. Joanna blushed at his praise as well as his kiss. She had missed his touch more than she cared to admit.

Together they went into the living room and sat on the couch, Mac draping an arm across her shoulders.

“So what happened when you got to L.A.?” she asked, trying to sound nonchalant despite her curiosity. “Was Jack okay?”

MacGyver took a fortifying breath before launching into his recount of the past few weeks, starting with finding Jack broke and homeless to his time in Mission City.

“I heard about the oil spill on the news,” she told him. “I figured you’d go.”

“You know me so well,” Mac smiled, dropping a chaste kiss on her forehead. “What about you? Anything exciting happen a work?”

“Not really,” she shrugged, hoping MacGyver wouldn’t question her further, but she should have known better.

“C’mon, tell me even if it’s boring,” he urged.

“The weekend after you left, Mrs. Varga sent me and another teacher to Madison for a two-day seminar. Then the following week Becca came up from Chicago and I helped her with research for an assignment. The rest of my time was spent at Challengers.”

Mac removed his arm from her shoulders and turned to face her. “That’s it?”

“Yeah,” she replied.

MacGyver studied her for several long minutes until she began to squirm under his scrutiny. “What?” she asked, feigning annoyance to hide her dread.

“I know you, too, Jo. You just summed up three weeks in three sentences. What aren’t you telling me?”

“Nothing important.”

“What kind of research did you help Rebecca with?”

“Nothing dangerous if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I’m glad to hear that. Then what was it?”

Joanna glared at him. The insufferable man was like a dog with a bone when he was on a mission. She might as well tell him everything if she had any hope of getting home tonight, well aware that what she had to say could rip them apart forever.

“Her editor wanted her to do a story about computer dating so she signed us both up so she could write about our experiences.”

“You’re kidding!” Mac burst out laughing. “What happened?”

“For your information we both met someone and went out on a date.”

“Wait a minute. You went on a date?” MacGyver quickly sobered and Jo rolled her eyes.

“Don’t worry, my match was a complete bore. All I could think of was how much I would rather be with you.”

“Really?” Mac asked with a self-satisfied smirk. “So you missed me then.”

“Maybe,” Jo grudgingly admitted, trying to save face and get his ego back in check.

“What about the teaching seminar?”

“It was...interesting,” she hedged.

“That’s a good thing, right?”

“Right,” Joanna agreed. She wanted to leave it at that, but the two-by-four whacking at her conscience wouldn’t allow it. “Mac, there’s something I need to tell you.” Her stomach rebelled as she watched the color drain from his face. “The colleague I went with...his name is Tim O’Brien.”

Jo told MacGyver about the weekend...and Tim, her heart sinking with every word. When she was done she held her breath and waited for his reaction.

“So let me get this straight,” Mac said, pushing himself off the couch and pointing a finger at her. “You let this guy take you to a romantic dinner and kiss you in your hotel room, all the while leading him to believe you were available?! How could you?!” He jammed his fingers through his hair and turned his back to her.

“I didn’t mean to let it happen, at least not at first,” Jo explained, standing up as well. “But you gotta understand, I had already convinced myself that I would never fit in your life. That you would be better off without me. Tim and I seemed to have so much in common and he felt...safe. But I was wrong. He was nothing like I thought he was. He was nothing like you!”

MacGyver walked to the kitchen, rubbing the back of his neck, and poured himself a glass of juice that he didn’t even want, but he needed time to think.

“Mac…?” Her voice was soft and meek and vulnerable.

“What’s it gonna take for you to believe, without a doubt, that you are exactly the kind of girl I can’t live without? You say you love me and that you’ll marry me, but there’s still a part of you holding back. I don’t know what to do, Jo. I don’t know what you want me to do. I’ve opened up to you, given you all I got. What’s it gonna take for you to do the same?”

If MacGyver was looking to tear her soul to shreds he was doing a great job of it. She stood frozen, unable to talk, cry, or even breathe. He was right. He was absolutely right. She was holding back, but even she didn’t know how to fix it. All her life she had always held a little piece of herself back to protect her from people who got too close. He needed all of her. He deserved all of her. What would it take for her to completely let go and love Mac the way she wanted to? She dared to look him in the eye, afraid of the anger and disappointment she’d find there, but she only saw pain...and love.

“I don’t know,” she finally whispered.

Mac strode to where she stood and gathered her close. “Don’t worry, we’ll get through this just like we’ve gotten through everything else,” he assured her.

“I love you, Mac. I really do,” she murmured against his chest.

“I know, baby. I know.”











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: 23 April 2020 - 02:04 AM                                    
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*reads title* ohmy.gif

Boy, they're a rollercoaster of emotions this chapter, aren't they?

Mac lays out the facts. i like it.

I'm glad to see they managed to work it out (I know it's not fixed, but it's something better than what they were doing). But now., since Sam and Becca were going on about wanting to help, I just picture Mac and jo embracing, right before Sam and Becca crash the door down screaming at them, before realizing they worked things out already laugh.gif

I love how reading the first part where jo visits Mac, I feel frustration at Jo on his behalf, but the second time, in her viewpoint, I'm able to sympathize with her more...



"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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Posted: 23 April 2020 - 09:53 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 23 April 2020 - 02:04 AM)


I love how reading the first part where jo visits Mac, I feel frustration at Jo on his behalf, but the second time, in her viewpoint, I'm able to sympathize with her more...

This is exactly what I was going for. Remember I said I didn't want to make Mac the bad guy in the relationship, but I also didn't want to make Jo a complete jerk. I wanted the reader to be able to sympathize with BOTH of them.



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: 24 April 2020 - 01:13 AM                                    
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You did a good job of that wink.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: 24 April 2020 - 08:00 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 24 April 2020 - 01:13 AM)
You did a good job of that wink.gif

THANKS!!



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 April 2020 - 11:43 AM                                    
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Chapter 47: Puppy Love

The following morning MacGyver wandered through the empty rooms at Challengers alternately jamming his splayed fingers through his hair and scrubbing the back of his neck as he recalled, in vivid detail, his recent conversations with Joanna. He had sent Cynthia home, giving her the rest of the week off to make up for all the extra hours she had put in covering for both him and Jo, but now he wished she were here as he really didn’t care to be alone with his thoughts right now. He had assumed surprising Joanna at church would have been a good thing given her strong faith. Apparently not. She had been as ornery as a snapping turtle and he had no idea why...until he spoke to her the next day. His all-American male ego urged him to be angry and jealous because Joanna had gone out with other men while he was away, but the bigger part of him, the part that loved her in a way he had never loved any woman before, refused to blame her for her actions. She had been confused and scared and honestly believed he would sooner or later decide to leave. While it stung that she had such little faith in him, who was he to throw stones? She was only trying to protect her heart, and if her tears last night were any indication, she had failed miserably. What’s more, she wasn’t the only one at fault. After all, he had bailed on her instead of standing his ground and insisting they work things out. Had he done that, the story would read a whole lot differently. But he felt as if he’d been placed between a rock and a hard place. No matter which decision he made, it would have been the wrong one in her eyes at the time. But that was all water under the bridge. He was home to stay and Joanna still loved him. Everything else would eventually work itself out...he hoped.

Mac stopped at the long table where half-finished posters encouraging kids to stay away from drugs and gangs lay. While some were simple and to the point, others were creative and more artistic. His heart swelled with pride, not only because the Challengers members were doing something productive for the community, but because Joanna had thought of and initiated this project all on her own. This club was as much hers as it was his and he suddenly understood why she had petitioned for him to give up his rights to the place when she believed he wasn’t going to return. She was making sure that Challengers would continue to exist and be a vital part of the city with or without him. How could he fault her for that?

MacGyver was about to head to his office when he heard the front door creak open. He made a mental note to oil it later. He turned around to find a lanky teenage girl looking warily about the place. Her hair was cut short and straight and she wore a tattered flannel shirt underneath an equally tattered denim jacket. Her blue jeans were threadbare and dirty.

“Hey there,” Mac greeted her in a gentle voice.

“Hey,” the teen responded, so softly he almost didn’t hear her. “What sorta place is this?” she asked, eyes darting around the room but never making contact with his.

“It’s a boys and girls club, but everyone is welcome,” MacGyver replied as he tried to assess her situation.

“Oh, I thought it was a shelter or something.”

“It’s that, too. Basically it’s anything you need it to be.” When the girl didn’t reply, Mac pressed on. “Are you in some kind of trouble?”

The disheveled teen shook her head.

“Do you know someone who is?”

“Maybe,” she mumbled, looking up and finally meeting his gaze.

“What’s your name?”

“Jaime.”

“Nice to meet you, Jaime. I’m MacGyver but everyone calls me ‘Mac’. The place is empty now, but feel free to hang out if you want,” he offered.

“Naw, thanks,” Jaime said with a shake of her head. “I gotta get goin’.”

“All right, feel free to come by any time.”

The girl nodded in agreement and MacGyver thought he saw a slight smile tug at her lips before she walked out.

XXXXX

Later that afternoon Mac watched from his office doorway as club members trickled in. It wasn’t long until Joanna arrived and encouraged her recruits to finish their posters. On her way to her office, MacGyver gently snagged her arm.

“Got a sec?” he asked.

“Sure. What’s up?”

MacGyver pulled her into his office. “I signed the papers for the townhouse a couple hours ago. How about we go out to dinner later to celebrate?” He stepped close and bent to give her a quick yet tender kiss. When he pulled away, he was gutted by the haunted look in her eyes.

“Mac, after everything that’s happened between us these past weeks we can’t just hit the rewind button and pick up where we left off. I told you last night, I still have some things to figure out.”

MacGyver stepped back and jammed both his hands through his hair. “I’m trying to be understanding, Joanna. I really am. But I feel like we keep having the same conversation over and over. We promise each other we’ll trust, we’ll commit. Then one of us messes it up! Maybe you’re right after all. Maybe we aren’t meant to be together.” The grief on her face ripped at his heart, but frustration kept him from reaching out to her.

“Do you really mean that?” she asked, her voice thick with emotion.

Mac scrubbed the back of his neck. “No, I--”. His response was interrupted by a ruckus in the recreation room.

“Mom! Everyone! Come look what I found!” Raul called from the main entrance.

“Mijo! Calm down!” Rosie, who was working at the reception desk, admonished her son.

“Hurry!” Raul urged.

MacGyver and Joanna hurried to where the boy stood, Rosie and a handful of teens behind them. There, on the top step, was a large cardboard box with high sides and no lid. Mac threw a quick glance over his shoulder, but Jo just shrugged. Weak mewling sounds came from the mysterious box and when he looked in he found five balls of fur, whimpering and crawling over each other as they jockeyed for space. Puppies.

“Can we keep ‘em?” Raul asked.

“Yeah, can we?” his peers echoed.

“First let’s get them inside and take a closer look,” MacGyver suggested, dodging the teens’ questions for the time being.

He picked up the box and carried it inside. Club members scurried ahead of him to remove their posters from the table and make room for the new additions. It was then that Mac saw a piece of white paper folded up and stuck in a corner of the box. He reached in carefully and snagged it. Surrounded by curious eyes, he unfolded the note and read the short message: Please keep them safe.

“That means they’re ours!” Raul crowed as the others cheered. The sudden noise sent the puppies tumbling to the safety of a corner in one large ball of fluff.

“Raul, you’re scaring them!” Rosie once again scolded. “All of you, go back to what you were doing. You can see the puppies later.”

MacGyver sent her an appreciative smile as the club members moaned their displeasure but obediently headed back to the activities they had previously been engaged in. Mac felt Joanna press against him, her breath tickling his neck. “Oh, they’re precious,” she crooned, leaning in to get a better look. “I wonder what breed they are?” she asked, more rhetorically than to him, but nevertheless he reached in and carefully cradled one of the pups in his large hand. Distinctive black, copper, and white markings on its face, legs and chest as well as chocolate brown eyes gave him the answer.

“They’re Australian Shepherds, or Aussies, and they look pure-bred,” he told her as she gently smoothed the puppy’s coat with her index finger.

“How can you tell?” she asked in a soft voice so as not to frighten the little animals.

Still holding the pup, MacGyver quirked his lips. “I grew up in rural Minnesota, remember? They were often used as herding dogs, but they make great pets, too.”

“How old do you think they are?”

Mac regarded the warm, quivering body in his grasp. “Probably not more than six weeks, I’d guess.”

“Isn’t that awful young for them to be away from their mother?”

“Yeah, it is.”

“Where on earth did they come from?” Jo asked, watching Mac tenderly place the puppy back into the box with its littermates. He had been wondering the same thing himself until his hand brushed a soft piece of fabric. He gently disentangled the Aussies and pulled out a tattered flannel shirt that he immediately recognized from this morning.

“Jaime,” he whispered.

“Who?” Joanna asked.

MacGyver told her about the teen he had met earlier and suddenly her question made sense. “She asked if this was a shelter. I told her it was.”

“But where would a girl like that get dogs like these?”

“No idea,” Mac frowned, but his brain was already in high gear eager to solve the puzzle that had literally landed on his doorstep.

“Can we see the puppies yet?” Raul asked, approaching the table.

MacGyver sighed and smiled. No sense delaying the inevitable. He just hoped the kids wouldn’t bond with their temporary visitors, but that was like asking the grass not to turn green. “Sure,” he replied. “But you come up one at a time for a quick peek. No talking and no touching. They’re just babies and they’re scared right now.”

Surprisingly, Raul stepped aside and let the younger kids look first. When it was finally his turn, the boy pointed to a pup that had settled itself apart from its littermates.

“Why is that one so little?” he asked. “Is he sick?”

MacGyver regarded the dog in question. “Looks like he’s the runt of the litter.” When Raul continued to look at him, he continued, “It’s not unusual for there to be one puppy that’s smaller than his brothers and sisters. If he gets proper care he’ll grow up to be big and strong, just like the rest.”

Seemingly satisfied with this answer, Raul walked away. Once everyone had had a chance to peek into the box, Mac reached to pick it up and take it to his office, but Joanna’s index finger stabbing him in the bicep stopped him.

“What is it?” he asked her.

“I think we forgot about someone.”

He followed her gaze to the floor and found Frog looking up at them, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, eyes curious.

“Hey buddy,” Mac greeted the canine as he crouched down, box in hand. “We’ve got some friends for you.” MacGyver set the box on the floor and Frog simply stared at it. He then scooped up one of the pups and held it for Frog to see. The bull dog took a couple lumbering steps towards him before sniffing the strange animal and giving it a gentle lick. Apparently accepting the intruders, he headed back to his bed in the corner and quickly fell asleep.

“That went well,” Jo remarked, her voice tinged with surprise.

“Yeah,” Mac agreed in the same tone. “We’ll see how he does when they start getting more attention than him.”

Straightening to his full height, MacGyver once again picked up the box and headed to his office, Joanna following of her own accord. Knowing she loved animals just as much as he did, her actions did not surprise him. In fact, when he had been in Alaska cleaning wildlife that had been caught in the oil spill, he had often imagined her working beside him in easy comradery. Instead, he had stood next to Jack.

“What do we do now?” Jo asked, interrupting his wayward thoughts.

“Call the police,” he said, trying to ignore the frown she wore as she watched the puppies sleep. “You know it’s the right thing to do, Jo.” She nodded her acquiescence as he picked up the phone and dialed the non-emergency number. When his call was answered, he put it on speaker so they both could hear. After stating the situation and being put on hold a couple times, a friendly sounding female voice finally came on the line and she introduced herself as Officer Carter.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. MacGyver, but we’ve been inundated with similar calls the past couple of days.”

Upon hearing this, Mac and Jo exchanged curious glances.

“Really?” Mac responded.

“Unfortunately yes. People are finding boxes of puppies at hospitals, libraries, even individual homes.” Carter replied.

“Any idea what’s goin’ on?” MacGyver asked.

Officer Carter sighed. “Near as we can tell, some grass roots animal rights activists are hiring kids off the street to steal them from a puppy mill.”

“Puppy mill? Here in Milwaukee?” Jo asked incredulously.

“I’m afraid so, ma’am.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?” Mac asked.

“Well, the local animal shelters are already filled to capacity and veterinarian clinics are overrun. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Challengers Club and wondered if you’d be willing to take care of the puppies. At least until the Humane Society is able to take in more. I can give you a number to contact to get instructions on how to--”

“That’s not necessary,” MacGyver interjected. “I know what to do.”

“Good,” Carter responded. “We’re getting a task force together to deal with this issue. I’ll check in with you as soon as I can.”

Mac hung up the phone and looked at his watch. “I’m gonna hit the pet store for some supplies before they close. Would you mind watching these little guys while I’m gone?”

“Of course not,” Jo replied, holding a squirming little fur ball up to her cheek. “But why do you keep assuming they’re all male?”

“I don’t know,” Mac shrugged. “Why don’t you check ‘em out while I’m gone and see if there are any girls in the group.” He turned and headed out of his office, laughing as Joanna pulled a face behind his back.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Joanna watched as MacGyver spread out an old blanket on the floor in front of his desk. He then placed five small bowls on it and gently set a puppy beside each one. He explained that he was serving kibble soaked in canine milk replacer. When he took the last pup from the box, he sat on the edge of the blanket, looking up at her expectantly. Able to read the question in his eyes, Jo lowered herself so she was kneeling on the opposite edge of the blanket, ready to wrangle any runaway Aussies.

“So, what did you discover while I was gone?” he smirked.

“There’s only one female in the litter,” she sighed sadly.

“What’s wrong with that?”

“She’s the runt,” Joanna replied with a frown. “While you were gone I was watching them and none of her brothers wanted to play with her.” Unbidden tears burned at the back of her eyes.”

“Hey, you heard what I told Raul. There’s every chance she’ll grow up to be just like her brothers.”

“I know,” Jo murmured.

“You know what I think?” Mac asked.

Joanna shook her head but didn’t say anything.

“I think she’ll grow up to be the prettiest Aussie anyone’s ever seen and these guys here will be beating all the other male dogs off with a stick!”

Jo couldn’t help but chuckle at the image that formed in her mind. At the same time, her heart warmed because she knew Mac understood she wasn’t just talking about the puppy, but herself as well. Did he really think she was the prettiest girl around? Or should she be offended that she had just been compared to a dog? She decided to go with the former. They sat in companionable silence, watching as the pups worked the tiny pieces of food around in their small mouths before she noticed something.

“Mac, she’s not eating,” Joanna observed, eyes fixed on the runt that sat beside her.

“That happens sometimes,” he assured her. “Try helping her out.” He demonstrated by picking up a bit of kibble and offering it to the dog closest to him.

Joanna mimicked his actions, but the undergrown female wouldn’t even open her mouth. “It’s not working.”

“Try holding her,” Mac suggested.

Jo scooped up the pup and cuddled her gently before presenting her with another piece of food, but the result was the same. She was getting genuinely worried now.

“I got an idea,” MacGyver said, sensing her concern as he rose from the floor. “I picked this up just in case we had problems.” He produced what looked like a small baby bottle from the bag he got at the pet store. He went into the staff kitchen and when he returned it was full of warm milk replacer. He handed it to Joanna.

“I’ve never done this before,” she told him, hoping he wouldn’t notice her trembling hand.

“First of all, you need to relax,” Mac told her, crouching down and placing a hand on her shoulder causing a stream of awareness to course through her body. “Now, just hold the bottle up to her mouth.”

Joanna gingerly followed MacGyver’s instructions and soon the pup was suckling eagerly from the rubber tip.

“It’s working!” Jo exclaimed in a whisper, beaming up at Mac.

“See. I told ya,” he smiled back.

When the puppies’ appetites had been sated, MacGyver carefully returned them to the large box with the old shirt and a hot water bottle he had found to help keep them warm. Joanna wished they had better accommodations, but she understood that they needed the familiarity and comfort of their current surroundings. With their new charges settled in for the night, or at least the next couple of hours, Jo and Mac took a seat on an old couch he had commandeered for his office.

“So what’s your plan?” Joanna asked, stifling a yawn.

“What plan?” MacGyver looked as bewildered as he sounded.

“The plan to track down Jaime and have her lead you to the puppy mill so it can be shut down.”

“You heard Officer Carter, they’re getting a task force together and don’t need us in the way.”

Jo stared at Mac incredulously. “So that’s it?! You’re not gonna do anything?!”

“I’m already doing something. I’m gonna stay here and take care of the puppies.”

“Then I’ll help you,” Joanna declared.

“No you won’t,” MacGyver countered. “They’ll need at least one more feeding during the night and you have work in the morning.”

“So do you,” Jo argued.

“Yeah. Here. Where I can nap while the pups are sleeping. You can’t exactly doze off while you’re teaching.”

“I hate it when you’re right,” Joanna frowned.

“I know,” Mac chuckled.

When Jo got home that evening she quickly told her parents about the puppies and promised her dad she wouldn’t bring one home...at least not to stay...and then hurried to her bedroom where she set her alarm clock for an hour earlier than usual. She was already anxious to return to Challengers and spend more time with the Aussies...and Mac.

Joanna arrived at Challengers the next morning to find the parking lot empty except for MacGyver’s Jeep. She found him in his office, slouched against the base of his desk, legs straight out. His head was tilted at an odd angle, causing his bangs to fall freely across his forehead. His eyes were closed and he snored softy. Jo’s heart sped up and she couldn’t tear her gaze from him. He looked so carefree and vulnerable. As she studied his softened features she noticed he cradled a squirming puppy against his chest, a bottle of milk lay next to him on the floor. She took a deep, fortifying breath before she turned into a puddle of mush at the sight. Mac’s love and tenderness knew no bounds and she was on the verge of throwing it all away. The little dog’s whine refocused Joanna’s attention and she carefully took the creature from Mac’s hand, picking up the bottle and offering it to who she immediately recognized as the runt. She was returning the pup to the rest of the litter when she heard MacGyver groan in his sleep. Kneeling beside him, she lightly brushed the hair off his face. Why could she not open her heart completely to this man?

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MacGyver felt something gently brush across his forehead. His eyes drifted open and he groaned when he tried to straighten his neck. When he turned his head, his eyes slammed into Joanna’s and took his breath away.

“Are you stiff from sleeping like that?” she asked softly.

“Yeah,” he replied absently, reaching up to massage his tight muscles with one hand as he looked around for the puppy he had been holding before he dozed off.

“I fed her the bottle and put her back with her brothers,” Jo informed him.

“How do you always seem to know what I’m thinking?” he asked, still a bit dazed from his nap.

“It’s a blessing,” she shrugged, “or a curse. I haven’t decided which.”

Her playful smile did something odd to his stomach...in a good sort of way. She had been so sad and serious lately, that it was good to see her sense of humor return. He reached up with his other hand to try and ease the pain in his neck.

“Here, let me,” she offered. “Just turn a little bit.”

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he obeyed. At first, her touch was soft and hesitant and he was saddened to realize that this relatively intimate gesture they used to indulge in had now become uncomfortable for her yet again. Before his worries could take root, her ministrations became stronger, more sure, and while she focused on relaxing his neck muscles, she allowed her hands to explore his shoulders and upper back as well. He tried to remain still and quiet, but then her fingers hit a spot just right and he couldn’t help but let out a moan of pleasure. She giggled and he smiled to himself. She began to play with the hair at his nape and a shiver darted down his spine. If only this moment would last forever, but he knew that all too soon reality would smack him in the face. It always did.

“I hope you don’t mind that I came by so early,” she said huskily, the impromptu massage apparently affecting her as much as it did him.

“I can’t think of a better way to start the day,” he assured her, turning so they were facing each other, their lips tantalizingly close. While she didn’t lean in, she didn’t pull away, and for the first time since returning home Mac felt as if they were back on solid footing. No longer able to resist, he tenderly cupped her cheek in his hand and tilted his head, moving ever so slightly. Suddenly, a snuffle, a snort, and a woof coming from the doorway caused them to jump apart as if hit by a bolt of lightning.

“You got really lousy timing, Frog,” MacGyver muttered under his breath as the dog remained in the doorway, staring guilelessly at them.

“He probably has to go out,” Joanna surmised.

“I’ll get his leash,” Mac grumbled as he rose from the floor. “Would you mind keeping an eye on the pups ‘til we get back?”

Joanna glanced at her watch and smiled. “No, take your time.”

Biting back some choice words for his canine companion, MacGyver led the dog out the door and across the parking lot when Frog put on the brakes almost causing Mac to go flying over him.

“You’re really trying to ruin my day, aren’t you?” he asked testily, trying to meet the dog’s gaze, but his eyes were focused back towards the building they had just left. Mac turned to see what had gotten Frog’s attention just as a shadow of a figure disappeared around the corner. MacGyver dropped the leash and took off in pursuit confident that the bow-legged bull dog would follow. As he raced around to the back of the building, he found a lanky teen with short brown hair attempting to scale the chain link fence on the boundary of the property.

“Jamie!” he called, knowing without a doubt it was the young lady he had met yesterday. She ignored him but two large steps brought him to her. He grabbed onto her leg, even as she tried to kick him away, and managed to get her safely to the ground.

“Whoa!” he said, holding her tight as she struggled against him. “What are ya doin’ here?”

“I just came to check on the dogs,” she mumbled.

“Then why did you run?”

“I don’t know! I just did!” she spat.

“It wouldn’t have anything to do with those dogs you’ve been paid to steal now, would it?”

Jaime suddenly stopped fighting and turned to face him. “You’re crazy! I ain’t gettin’ paid to steal those dogs! I’m gettin’ paid to keep ‘em alive and I’m tryin’ to get them outta that place before they’re sold to the highest bidder!”

“You sayin’ you work at a puppy mill?” Mac asked more calmly.

“Wow, you’re just a real Einstein, aren’t you?”

“And you’re a smart aleck,” MacGyver shot back. “Come with me. We need to talk.”

Mac placed a guiding hand on Jaime’s shoulder and herded her back inside Challengers with little protest. They found Joanna in the small staff kitchen preparing the milk-soaked kibble that would be the puppies’ breakfast. Once introductions were made and the pups fed, Jo excused herself and left for work, leaving MacGyver alone with Jaime who was sitting cross legged on the floor playing with one of the dogs. Mac lowered himself and sat next to her.

“Mind telling me how you got yourself mixed up in this?” he asked, keeping his voice as non-threatening as possible.

The girl shrugged. “One day a guy came up to me on the street and asked if I’d like to earn some extra money. Cash. No strings attached. I mean, who wouldn’t? So he took me to this warehouse and told me all I needed to do was make sure the dogs had food and water. There were other kids my age there, too.” Here she paused, head down. “It was horrible, MacGyver! They had all these little puppies crammed into wire cages that never got cleaned or anything and we were only allowed to feed them once a day but a lot of them hardly ever ate. I think they were sick. The older dogs were thin and tired. The guy would come and take them away but never brought them back.”

“How come the Aussies you left here are so healthy?” Mac asked.

“I made some friends there. We decided to start sneaking the new puppies extra food and made sure they had clean water to drink. We knew we needed to get them outta there so a couple weeks ago we started taking a few here and there and leaving them someplace where we could trust the people to take care of them.”

Mac sighed. “You know you should have gone to the police or at least the Humane Society and reported this instead of taking matters into your own hands.”

“I know,” Jaime answered softly. “But we were afraid we’d get in trouble too.”

“Listen, I called the police yesterday and they’re setting up a task force to take down the puppy mill. Since you’ve actually been there, I’m sure they’d appreciate any information you could give them.”

After several moments Jaime nodded and MacGyver placed a call to Officer Carter. Their conversation was short and to the point.

“Jaime, can you come back about six o’clock tonight? The cop leading the investigation would really like to talk to you and she promised me you won’t get in any trouble if you cooperate. Do we have a deal?”

The teen glanced at the clock on the wall. “Yeah, sure, whatever. I gotta go,” she said nervously and got up and quickly left the building.

XXXXX

At five thirty that afternoon, MacGyver, Joanna, and Officer Carter closeted themselves in Mac’s office where he explained everything that Jaime had said earlier in the day. In return, the police officer shared the information the task force had uncovered. It seemed that an abandoned warehouse had been sold to a businessman looking to relocate a few months ago. The same man had also leased office space in a large building downtown. On the surface, everything appeared legit. However, when the task force began investigating newly acquired real estate in the area it turned out this particular buyer had used a fake identity.

“We could bring him in for fraud,” Carter explained, “but it’d be better if we could prove he’s running this puppy mill so we’re setting up stakeouts at both locations to get enough cause for a search warrant.”

“Won’t that take awhile?” Jo asked with a frown.

“Maybe,” the cop replied, “but I’m hoping Jaime can give us some inside info to speed up the process. However, the last thing we need is to bust this guy and then not have it stick.”

At six o’clock the trio moved into the recreation area and waited by the reception desk for Jaime to arrive. As the minutes ticked by, Mac’s discomfiture grew. When half an hour had passed and the girl had not arrived, MacGyver caught the skepticism in Carter’s eyes, but it was Joanna’s expression of concern and compassion that captured his attention. More than likely she knew what he was thinking, and she was thinking the same...that something bad had happened to Jaime. If Jo could read him so well, how could she not know how much he loved her and wanted her in his life forever? Perhaps she did know and that was the problem...she was scared. Carter’s voice broke into his musings.

“Looks like your little friend decided not to show,” she remarked sarcastically.

“She’d be here if she could. Something must have happened,” Mac replied.

“Yeah, she got a bad case of ‘cop-itis’. Happens all the time with kids like these,” Carter scoffed.

“Jaime loves those animals as much as any of us here!” he rounded on the officer. “She’s already proved that. She’s in trouble and needs our help!”

“And how can you be so sure of that Mr. MacGyver?”

“I feel it in my gut. We need to find her.”

“Unfortunately, a gut feeling isn’t enough cause to put out an APB on a runaway teen,” Carter all but snarled.

“Look, you can either help me find her or you can get out of my way. Now, what’s the address of that warehouse?”

MacGyver could see Carter’s mental struggle. Finally, she rattled off the address with the promise to send in backup while she and another unit checked out the downtown office.

“Thanks,” Mac called as he charged out the door and headed to his Jeep.

XXXXX

The evening twilight cast an eerie glow over the now-defunct industrial area where the alleged puppy mill warehouse was located. MacGyver doused his headlights and let up on the gas as he approached the only building with artificial light pouring from its windows which were surprisingly all intact. He slipped out of the Jeep and hurried to the back entrance, careful to stay in the lengthening shadows. There were no other vehicles in the area, including police back-up, but that didn’t mean he was alone. The hairs standing up on the back of his neck told him as much. The windows were set too high for him to peek through so he’d have to go in blind. He tested the rusty knob on the solid steel door and it turned with surprising ease. The old hinges complained as he pushed the door open just enough for him to squeeze through. He ducked behind a pile of cardboard boxes and waited to see if anyone had heard him enter.

After ten minutes, Mac was fairly certain no one was in the building so he took the opportunity to survey his surroundings and what he saw made him sick to his stomach both figuratively and literally. The large facility was filled with wire kennels and cages stacked one upon the other in long rows with only narrow aisles separating them. He quietly walked up and down these aisles, fighting his gag reflex as the cloying smell of days old feces, urine, and vomit hung in the air like toxic fog. The smaller cages held puppies weaned too early and suffering from malnutrition and other conditions he rather not identify. Most slept, their little rib bones already showing. Some looked at him with hopeful eyes, others with emptiness or fear. He bent down to look in the larger kennels. Adult dogs laid listlessly in their own filth. As with the pups, many were just skin and bones. Others were plump and most likely only days from giving birth. Perhaps his most unsettling observation was the preternatural quiet. Here and there a dog whimpered or wheezed but if he hadn’t seen them with his own eyes, he would never know that he was standing among what had to be hundreds of canines. His tour ended in a dark corner where heat emanated from an ancient but still operable incinerator. Mac swallowed the bile that rose in his throat. He knew enough about puppy mills to know that this was where the female dogs were disposed of when they became too sick or too old to breed.

MacGyver took a deep breath and refocused on why he was here in the first place and that was to find Jaime. A sudden bang came from behind a door next to the incinerator. Then another, and another along with what sounded like muffled cries for help.

“Jaime?!” Mac called, “Jaime! Is that you?!”

More banging.

MacGyver tried the doorknob, but of course this one was locked.

“Hold on, I’ll get you out!” he hollered through the door as he reached into his pocket for his Swiss Army knife. As he did so, he felt the tingle of a presence behind him. He turned only to have something heavy and blunt connect with his temple. He felt himself slump to the cold, concrete floor before unconsciousness claimed him.

Yips, yaps, barks, and a persistent pounding sounded at a distance as Mac struggled to push through the darkness that had claimed him. Dogs. Jaime. He needed to rescue them. He slowly peeled one eye open and immediately slammed it shut against the bright light. He moved his hand to rest on his forehead. He was hot...so hot. Clenching his teeth he forced his eyes open and found the source of the heat. Wooden pallets stacked along the walls of the warehouse were on fire, tongues of flame flared into the air. He scrambled to his feet, ignoring the pain in his head. Fumbling with his pocket knife, he clumsily picked the lock on the door and opened it to find Jaime and a boy about the same age with gags in their mouths and rope binding their wrists and ankles. He quickly freed Jaime’s hands and gave her the knife to work on the rest of their bindings as he watched the fire grow and move closer. A quick glance around the small space told him they were in some kind of storage closet. Unfortunately, it was the kind that did not contain a fire extinguisher. Out of the corner of his eye, he spied two large tarps rolled up against a shelving unit. He grabbed one, quickly unfurled it, and tossed the other to the still nameless teenage boy who was now on his feet. Together, they started batting down the flames as Jaime followed close behind.

“We have to save the dogs!” she yelled over the crackling flames.

MacGyver nodded, but his first priority was to get the humans to safety. Thankfully the fire concentrated itself around the large perimeter allowing them to safely reach the door that Mac had used to enter the building not that long ago.

“The dogs!” Jaime cried as she lunged back toward the engulfed warehouse. MacGyver grabbed her around the waist, holding her back.

“You stay out here,” he instructed. “Your friend and I will hand you the cages.” It would be quicker and easier to simply open the kennels and allow the dogs to make a run for it, but most weren’t strong enough and there was no guarantee they would head for the door. Mac heard sirens wail in the distance as he and the other teen began grabbing cages and passing them to Jaime. Bystanders appeared out of nowhere and soon formed a human chain, passing the kennels along to safety. MacGyver saw Joanna jump from a squad car and join in as fire trucks rolled up and began pumping water on the inferno while other firefighters and policemen joined in the frantic effort to rescue as many animals as possible. Mac’s arm muscles screamed from the repeated lifting of heavy loads and his legs felt like jelly, but he didn’t slow down even as a familiar haze threatened to envelope him. He coughed, choking on the acrid smoke, but still he kept grabbing kennels full of frightened puppies until a pair of strong hands grasped his shoulders and steered him out through the door. To MacGyver’s chagrin, his legs soon gave out and he slumped against the sturdy form that propelled him to an area filled with flashing red, white and blue lights.

Still in a daze, Mac allowed the paramedics to perform a cursory exam before he was coaxed onto a gurney, a plastic oxygen mask placed over his nose and mouth, and was loaded into an ambulance that immediately headed to the nearest hospital.

Upon arriving at the emergency room, MacGyver’s head wound was cleaned and stitched up before he was taken to radiology for a CT scan. By the time he was returned to his designated bed, he was fully conscious, alert, and seeking answers from those around him. Unfortunately, those around him, namely police officers including Officer Carter, had just as many questions for him with a few reprimands thrown in for good measure. It was only the sight of Joanna standing at the foot of his bed that assuaged his frustration.

“Were they able to save all the animals?” he asked, his gaze locking with hers.

“There were too many,” she told him softly. “They were weak and the smoke was thick.”

Mac squeezed his eyes shut and pushed his head back, deep into his pillow.

“We got the majority of them out,” Officer Carter informed him. “They’re at various veterinarian clinics as we speak. It could have been a lot worse.”

“Did you get the jerk behind all this?” he croaked, his throat still sore from the smoke he had inhaled.

“Yeah,” Carter confirmed. “We caught him several blocks away. Not only is he facing the slew of charges that go along with illegally operating a puppy mill, but we’re also charging him with arson, assault, and three counts of attempted homicide.”

“Good,” Mac murmured, even though he couldn’t think of a harsh enough punishment for such an unspeakable crime. Just then a grey-haired middle-aged man in a white coat entered and introduced himself as MacGyver’s doctor. Thankfully, he ordered everyone out of the room, with the exception of Joanna, so he could speak with his patient.

“What’s the verdict, doc? When can I get outta here?”

The man sighed, adjusted his reading glasses, and looked at his chart. “You’re in good shape considering the danger you put yourself in. Obviously you have a laceration to your temple and some minor smoke inhalation which may cause you some discomfort for the next few days, but my main concern is the hit you took to your head. The scan shows a mild concussion and your medical records indicate this is not the first.”

MacGyver almost laughed out loud. That was the understatement of the decade! He also knew the spiel that was about to come.

The doctor took off his glasses and looked at his patient. “Is there someone at home who can keep an eye on you for the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours?”

Mac bit back a mischievous smile as he turned his attention to Joanna and waited for her to do the fiancé/wife routine they had perfected so well, even in the early days of their budding friendship, but she averted her eyes and spoke to the doctor.

“No. He lives alone,” she stated.

MacGyver felt the blood drain from his face as shards of emotional pain sliced through his body. Over the past few days he had allowed himself to believe that Jo was breaking down whatever barriers she had put up as together they tended the abandoned puppies. From the neck massage to the almost-kiss he was positive that their relationship was once again moving forward. Now, with a simple statement, it had all but collapsed, at least as far as he was concerned. She had barely known him when he sustained his first concussion in Milwaukee, yet she insisted on playing nursemaid and stayed overnight at his apartment, waking him hourly to make sure he was okay. Fast-forward to today, when they were supposed to be an engaged couple, and she totally bailed on him.

“Well, in that case,” Mac heard the doctor say, “I’m afraid I need to admit you for observation for at least the next day. I’ll have someone come in and take care of the paperwork.”

MacGyver nodded mechanically and watched as the doctor turned and left the curtained-off bay, Joanna right behind him, her head down.




































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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bluegirl
Posted: 29 April 2020 - 12:29 PM                                    
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Aw, man....

Deep, deep sigh at the end... surprise.gif



The stuff is already there, I just find a different way to use it!

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 29 April 2020 - 01:34 PM                                    
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QUOTE (bluegirl @ 29 April 2020 - 12:29 PM)
Aw, man....

Deep, deep sigh at the end... surprise.gif

LOL..per the end...can't have happily ever yet!

I wrote this, in part, as homage to Whiskey, Andy, and all the Aussies RDA has been a dog-daddy to!!



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: 30 April 2020 - 01:22 AM                                    
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I actually didn't know about the incinerator thing hmm.bmp

*sighs heavily at Jo in the end*

I take it we may being seeing more of the puppies? At least for a little while?



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

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

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 30 April 2020 - 07:54 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 30 April 2020 - 01:22 AM)
I actually didn't know about the incinerator thing hmm.bmp

*sighs heavily at Jo in the end*

I take it we may being seeing more of the puppies? At least for a little while?

Yeah, when I was researching I found out about the incinerator thing.

Unfortunately this is the last you'll see of the puppies. I really wanted to keep at least one and would have if Mac didn't already have Frog. I wasn't sure what I'd do with them and want to keep Frog as the main dog!! Sorry blush.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: 1 May 2020 - 01:12 AM                                    
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It's ironic, because a few years ago I was doing research on puppy mills for a school paper tongue.gif

So will the next chapter have a time-jump, so the puppies can already be out? Will there be a reference to them and where they've gone?

Am I asking too many questions? 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

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