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The Journey Continues, Continuation of "Continuum"
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 16 October 2019 - 05:06 AM                                    
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Posts: 467
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Gender:  Female
Country: USA
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Season: ---
Episode:Faith, Hope, and Charity
Vehicle: Jeep
Jacket:  Brown bomber
House:  House boat



Chapter 19: The Innocent

The June sunlight poured through the plate-glass window, creating an ethereal glow around Joanna who was busily packing her meager personal belongings into the oversized box MacGyver had brought her. In the waning minutes of her employment at the law firm, she chatted easily with Mike Harlow, Lee Vang, and Geena the Receptionist who had gathered around her now-empty desk to share their farewells and good wishes as Mac casually leaned against the door jamb taking in the scene.

“It’s been great working with you, Jo,” Mike said. “If you ever get bored you can come on back and help me catch up on the data entry I never get around to doing.”

“Thanks for the invitation, Mike, but I think the kids will keep me pretty busy both at Challengers as well as the high school,” she laughed and Mike pretended to pout before giving her a peck on the cheek and heading out the door, stopping to shake MacGyver’s hand.

“You got a good one there,” Mike told him. “Be sure to treat her right.”

“Count on it,” Mac replied with a smile.

Lee Vang was the next to speak.

“You’ll be missed around here,” he told her. “And remember, if you ever need legal counsel, I’m just a phone call away and more than happy to do pro bono work for families in the community.”

“Thanks, Lee. That means a lot to me, and Mac as well.” She gave him a brief hug before he, too, headed to the door, shook MacGyver’s hand and walked back to his office.

That left Geena.

“Oh, girl, this place won’t be the same without you,” she lamented as she embraced Joanna and squeezed her tight.

“I’m gonna miss you, too,” Jo replied, “but you know where Challengers is and we’re always looking for volunteers.”

“I may just have to check that place out one of these days,” Geena agreed. “Now I expect to be the first to know when that man of yours over there finally pops the question. Even if I’m dead in my grave!”

Joanna’s easy laugh made MacGyver’s heart soar.

“I can’t promise you’ll be the first, but you’ll definitely be in the top five!” she responded.

Hmmm. Jo really believed they were on the road to something permanent, and for the first time he could remember that excited him instead of tempted him to turn and run the other way. The phone in the lobby rang and Geena gave Joanna one last hug before hurrying off to answer it. Finally it was just the two of them.

“Any regrets?” Mac asked as he walked further into the room, hands jammed in the front pockets of his khaki pants.

“None,” Jo beamed up at him. “Thank you for encouraging me to do this. I think you’re starting to know me better than I know myself!”

MacGyver grinned as he glanced around the room.

“I thought Hernandez would come by to see you,” he commented.

“I saw him earlier today. Wished me well and offered to be a reference,” Jo said in a clipped tone.

Mac knew there was not much love lost between Joanna and her boss, hence her willingness to leave her current position. Before he could reply, Jo’s desk phone trilled and she frowned, no doubt wondering who would be calling just as she was preparing to leave...for good.

“Hello?” she answered.

“Hey Cynthia, what’s up?”

There was an uncomfortable silence while Joanna listened intently before her gaze caught MacGyver’s and conveyed a sense of urgent concern bordering on panic.

“We’re on our way,” she said firmly before hanging up.

Mac scooped up the box that Joanna had packed and followed her out of the office and down the hall before speaking.

“What’s going on?” he asked as they pushed through the main doors and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

Jo shook her head and kept walking. “It was hard to make everything out because of the background noise, but it has something to do with the Talbot kids. Cynthia said the police and someone from social services are there for them.”

“What?!”

“That’s all I could understand,” Joanna shrugged helplessly.

With lengthened strides they quickly arrived at their respective vehicles. Mac stowed the box he was carrying in the back of the Jeep and peeled out of the parking lot with Jo close behind. Davey and Suzy held a special place in his heart. Especially Suzy whom he had escorted to the Daddy/Daughter dance at her school and who insisted on calling him ‘Daddy Mac’. His stomach roiled at the thought of anything bad happening to those two kids.

Upon arriving at Challengers, MacGyver barreled through the front door stopping only long enough to survey the recreation room. All the teens were actively engaged in various activities, unfazed by any disruption the yet unknown situation may have caused. The only sign that something was wrong was little Suzy, with her brown bobbed hair so like Joanna’s, sitting in the corner Frog had commandeered for himself, hugging the long-suffering dog tight. Davey, with disheveled dark blond hair and an untamed cowlick, stood watch over her while a female police officer guarded them both. Tamping down his desire to comfort and protect the children, Mac strode into Cynthia’s office where Joanna was already witnessing a heated conversation between the club’s co-director and a conservatively dressed middle-aged woman who could only be from social services.

“And I’m telling you that Challengers is a certified emergency shelter! On top of that, Davey and Suzy are registered members of the club and have every right to be here!” Cynthia insisted, sending the other woman a scathing look.

“You don’t understand,” the social worker persisted.

“Oh, I understand all too well!” Cynthia shot back.

“Okay ladies, settle down,” MacGyver interrupted. “Are you all right?” he asked, turning to Cynthia.

“I’m fine, but--”

Mac held up his hand to keep her from saying more as he turned to the other woman.

“You must be from social services?”

“Yes. My name is Mrs. Hawley. May I ask what business you have barging into this private discussion?” she asked haughtily.

Mac swallowed the retort that was on the tip of his tongue and took a calming breath.

“Name’s MacGyver. I’m the director of Challengers Club and would like some answers about what’s going on here.”

Mrs. Hawley sighed before launching into her explanation. “Late this morning, the next door neighbor of the Talbot family called the police when she discovered the babysitter passed out on the couch from an apparent drug overdose and no sign of the children. The officers on the scene found the mother’s work number and address next to the phone as well as that of Challengers and went to the motel to arrest her once the EMT’s arrived and stabilized the sitter.”

“Arrest her?!” Mac nearly bellowed. “On what grounds?!”

“Two counts of child neglect and abandonment to begin with,” Mrs. Hawley sniffed in satisfaction.

“That’s ridiculous!”

“They were just doing their jobs, Mr. MacGyver, and I was called in to collect the children.”

“What’s gonna happen to them?” Mac asked, regaining his composure.

“They’ll be taken down to Child Protective Services and placed with an emergency foster family no later than tomorrow morning.”

“That’s not acceptable,” Mac stated firmly.

“That’s the way the system works, Mr. MacGyver,” the social worker retorted.

“Well the ‘system’ stinks!”

Before Mac could continue, Joanna stepped up beside him and lightly touched his forearm, halting any would-be tirade. Normally not one to raise his voice, all bets were off when someone close to him was threatened in any way.

“Mrs. Hawley,” Jo began in a placating tone, “last year Mr. MacGyver and I had papers drawn up to grant us emergency temporary custody of our clients’ children. I just called the law firm and confirmed that our names are still registered with CPS as emergency foster parents. Since Davey and Suzy are already comfortable with us, perhaps we could streamline the process and have you let us take temporary custody of them.”

“Well, of course I will have to verify that information and it’s not standard operating procedure,” Mrs. Hawley replied icily, “but if it is, indeed, legitimate you may have custody until a more permanent situation can be found.”

“Thank you,” Jo replied sweetly, unfazed by the other woman’s tone. She then turned to address MacGyver.

“I called Lee Vang. He’s agreed to represent Jill Talbot and will meet you down at the police station.”

Mac looked at Jo then out the office window to where the brother and sister remained in the corner.

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of them,” she answered in response to his unspoken question, and it was all he could do not to take her into his arms and show her how much her thoughtful actions and support meant to him, but he thought it best to refrain given the steely gaze leveled on them by the stern social worker.

XXXXX

MacGyver, Lee Vang, and Jill Talbot sat on hard metal chairs surrounding an equally hard metal table in the dank interview room at the local police precinct. Jill was still wearing her uniform from the motel where she worked as a housekeeper. Her eyes were bloodshot and streaks of mascara marred her gaunt cheeks, evidence of the tears she had shed since her arrest.

“We’re here to help you, Jill,” Lee began, “but you need to tell us everything that led up to this. Can you do that for me?”

“I...I can’t afford a real lawyer like you, Mr. Vang,” she sobbed.

“It’s okay,” Mac assured her. “Lee does pro bono work for Challengers. Now tell us what happened.”

“I worked the breakfast shift at the diner this morning like I always do. When I stopped home to change clothes, the neighbor lady who babysits Davey and Suzy wasn’t feeling well and left.”

“Hold on,” Lee interrupted. “Which neighbor lady is this?”

“She lives across the street and offered to watch the kids for free this summer. Her husband died last year and she said it would make her feel useful again,” Jill hiccupped.

Lee nodded, encouraging the woman to continue. “I didn’t know what to do because I had to get to my job at the motel and there was no one to watch my babies so I called my sister to stay with them.”

“Are you aware that your sister is a drug addict?” Lee asked gently.

“Yes, but she’s been clean for almost a year. I thought she’d be fine with the children otherwise I never would’ve called her!”

“Why didn’t you just bring them to Challengers?” Mac asked.

“You and Challengers have done so much for my family already, I don’t want to take advantage of your services.”

“But that’s what we’re there for,” MacGyver insisted.

“I know, and I’m sorry. I was just upset and not thinking straight.” This brought another onslaught of tears. “What’s gonna happen to my babies?”

“Joanna and I are registered emergency foster parents. We’ll take care of them until everything gets straightened out.”

“I can’t ask you to do that! How will I ever repay you?”

“We can talk about that later,” Mac told her, not wanting to upset her any more than she already was. “Now you just listen to Mr. Vang and do what he tells you. Everything will be fine.”

Jill offered the two men a watery smile before a guard entered and led her back to the holding cell.

Mac sighed and scrubbed his face with his hands. “So what happens now?” he asked Lee.

The lawyer glanced at his watch and frowned. “The courts are closed for the weekend. Ms. Talbot will be held here until her arraignment on Monday at which time I’m going to ask that all charges be dismissed.”

“Do you think the judge will agree to that?”

“It’s hard to say, but so far the prosecution has a very weak case, so that’s in our favor. You and Joanna just make sure those kids stay safe and leave the legal stuff to me, okay?” Vang smiled and shook MacGyver’s hand before the two men went their separate ways.

When Mac returned to Challengers, he immediately sought out his new charges. He found Davey sitting cross-legged in an overstuffed chair immersed in a book about dinosaurs while Suzy was carefully creating a finger paint masterpiece under Jo’s supervision.

“Look what I made Daddy Mac!” the little girl called from across the room.

MacGyver made his way over to the newspaper-covered table to examine her creation.

“It’s a picture of all of us!” she proclaimed happily. “See, there’s Mommy, and Davey and me and you and Ms. Joanna!”

“That’s great, sweetheart! But you need to wipe that blob off before it gets on your hands.”

Suzy immediately frowned and Joanna shot him a you-should-know-better scowl.

“That’s not a blob,” the girl protested. “That’s Frog!”

“Of course it is!” Mac replied quickly, trying to pry his foot out of his mouth. “I was just teasing you!”

Relief flooded him when the little girl giggled. “Here,” she said, thrusting the paper toward him. “You can hang it in your office!”

“That sounds like a great idea! Ms. Joanna, would you like to help me?” he asked, hoping she would pick up on what he was really trying to say.

“Sure,” she immediately agreed before grabbing another large piece of blank paper and addressing Suzy. “Here sweetie, why don’t you make a painting for your mom this time?”

Suzy shrugged and wordlessly dipped her fingers into the mushy paint and began drawing as if she hadn’t a care in the world.

Once secluded in his office, MacGyver told Joanna everything that had happened with Jill.

“I hope Lee is right,” she said. “There’s no way those charges should stick! Jill’s a great mom!”

“I don’t get why she’s the criminal in this when it’s all her sister’s fault,” Mac groaned.

“Unfortunately, I saw this type of situation more than once when I was working in the correctional facility. A parent can be prosecuted for leaving their children with a less-than-competent caregiver even if they don’t realize it.”

Mac was about to voice his protest but decided to save his energy and instead asked, “What did I miss on this end?”

“After you left, Cynthia and I asked the kids to tell us what happened. They said they were watching TV when their mom left for her second job and when the show ended they wanted to play with their aunt. When they couldn’t wake her up, they got bored and came to Challengers. Their presence didn’t raise any red flags because they’re here so often anyway.”

MacGyver jammed his fingers through his hair. “Man, talk about a mole hill turning into a mountain.”

“Tell me about it,” Jo commiserated. “Anyway, Cynthia and I talked with them and explained their mom wasn’t feeling well and that they would be staying with you and me for a ‘fun’ weekend so their mom could rest.”

“Well then, I better get the kids back to my place before Mrs. Hawley finds out I kept them up past their bedtime,” Mac smirked. “Wanna come by in the morning for pancakes?”

“Um, sure,” she replied softly, her eyes downcast.

Mac tucked his finger under her chin, forcing her to look at him. “I just said something wrong. What is it?”

“Nothing,” she said, jerking her head away. “I just thought we were in this together. You know you don’t have to do your ‘hero’ stuff alone anymore.”

“Sorry, force of habit. Can you forgive me?” he asked, eyebrow quirked.

She nodded.

“How about we stop by your place on the way so you can pick up some things?”

She looked up at him sheepishly. “While you were gone I called my mom and she packed a bag for me and dropped it off. I’m good to go.”

For the first time that day, MacGyver’s world slowed and his attention was solely focused on the strong, beautiful woman in front of him. “Thank you,” he said before he dipped his head and found her lips with his. He kept the kiss soft and warm and, by necessity, all too short.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

After leaving Challengers, MacGyver stopped at the Talbot home where he and Joanna helped the children each pack a small bag for the weekend before heading to his townhouse. He had barely unlocked the door before the brother and sister scampered across the threshold to inspect their new surroundings.

“How do you expect us to play hide-and-seek in here?” Davey demanded, arms folded across his chest.

“So much for open-concept architecture,” Joanna snickered.

“Where are the bedrooms?” Suzy asked, ignoring her brother’s concern.

“There’s only one bedroom. Upstairs,” Mac informed her.

“Where are we all gonna sleep?” she asked with a huff.

Jo sent MacGyver a bemused look and watched him squirm as he tried to figure out the answer.

“Well...I figure you and Ms. Joanna can sleep in the bed upstairs and Davey and I will bunk down here.”

“Why do they get the bed,” the young boy complained.

“Because they’re ladies and we, as gentleman, need to make sure they are comfortable.”

“Suzy ain’t no lady, she’s my sister!” Davey exclaimed.

Mac looked like a drowning man on dry land and it was all Jo could do to keep from laughing out loud. However, not wanting the battle of the sexes to escalate, she quickly altered the solution.

“How about Suzy and I take the bed and you and Mac can pitch a tent in the backyard and pretend you’re on a camp out?”

“But I wanna go camping, too!” the little girl cried.

Joanna groaned and covered her face with her hands. She could only imagine the goofy pay-back grin on MacGyver’s face and refused to meet his gaze.

“There’s plenty of room for the three of us in my tent,” Mac assured Suzy. “That is, unless Joanna wants to join us.”

This time she did look him in the eye and pulled a face before grabbing her bag and heading up the spiral staircase. “Not me! I’ll be very happy all alone in this great big comfy bed,” she proclaimed.

With the sleeping arrangements settled, at least for one night, they sat down to a late supper after which Mac put up the tent while the children bathed and got ready for bed. It was almost midnight by the time Joanna crawled into MacGyver’s bed and snuggled underneath the covers. The mattress was firm and the sheets smelled fresh. How often did Mac actually sleep in his bed anyway? She knew he had an affinity for couches and had always chalked it up to being part of his loveable quirkiness. But what if it was more than that? What if he got lonely sleeping in an empty bed night after night and crashed on the sofa so he wouldn’t have to face that particular demon? A pang of sadness stabbed her heart just as sleep claimed her.

Joanna slowly opened her eyes. How long had she been asleep? Minutes? Hours? It was impossible to tell, but the one thing she knew for certain was that she was not alone. Rolling over and raising herself up on one elbow she squinted into the darkness to find MacGyver standing at the foot of the bed.

“What’s wrong? Are the kids okay?” She was suddenly wide awake.

“Relax,” he whispered. “Everything’s fine. The kids are sleeping on the couch.”

“Why?”

“Suzy bailed on us after thirty minutes insisting she had seen a bear. About an hour later, Davey went into the house for a drink of water and never came back, apparently succumbing to the comfort of the couch. They just don’t make kids like they used to.”

“What about you?”

“I was only roughing it for them,” Mac replied, then nodded toward the empty side of the bed. “I was kinda hoping you’d be willing to share.”

Joanna silently answered by pulling back the unused covers, allowing MacGyver to slip into bed. She swore he was asleep before his head even hit the pillow, but she stayed awake much longer listening to his soft, rhythmic breathing and enjoying the weight and warmth of his body next to hers. The next time she awoke, rays of sunlight were streaming through the skylight overhead and a small ruckus had erupted downstairs.

“I want my mommy!” Suzy wailed loudly.

“Don’t be such a crybaby!” Davey shouted back.

“I’m not a crybaby!” Suzy protested in return.

Mac bolted out of bed and down the stairs before Joanna regained enough consciousness to sit up.

“Knock it off, you two,” she heard him say in a calm but firm voice.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

After assuring Suzy that she would see her mother soon and convincing Davey not to call his sister names, MacGyver went into the kitchen to whip up a batch of his world famous pancakes while the siblings watched Saturday morning cartoons. Joanna soon joined them, already showered and dressed for the day, but the dark circles under her eyes told him she must have had a restless night. A twinge of guilt shot through him as he recalled the night before. He couldn’t remember the last time he had slept so soundly. Just lying next to Jo had been like a soothing balm to his soul.

“You’re letting them eat in front of the TV?” she asked behind a yawn.

“Good morning to you, too,” Mac grinned.

“Sorry. Good morning,” she mumbled.

“I keep forgetting you’re not a morning person,” he apologized as he pulled a kitchen chair away from the table for her to plop down in.

“So, what’s on the agenda for today?” Jo asked once they had both taken several bites of their breakfast.

“I thought we’d all go to Challengers. You need to pick up your car since you left it there yesterday and Cynthia deserves a break.”

“Sounds like a plan,” she agreed.

After putting away the breakfast dishes, Mac showered and dressed while Joanna wrangled the kids and got them ready for the day. When they arrived at Challengers they found one group of teens in the middle of a heated pick-up basketball game while another group tried their hand at street hockey. Inside the club, members were playing table games, working out on the exercise equipment or simply chatting and laughing amongst themselves. Davey quickly found the dinosaur book he had been reading the day before and buried himself in its pages while Suzy made a beeline for the corner where Frog, up until now, slept peacefully. Joanna followed MacGyver to his office where he quickly placed a call to Lee Vang.

“Any news?” she asked after he hung up.

“No,” Mac sighed. “He said we won’t know anything until after the initial court appearance on Monday.”

“So we just have to wait,” Jo frowned.

MacGyver went to stand behind her and began massaging her shoulders.

“I know it’s frustrating, but we don’t have a choice,” he said before burying his face in the curve of her neck, taking in her sweetness. A soft knock on the door interrupted him.

“Go away,” he groaned, not willing to move an inch.

The knock came again and Joanna eased out of his grasp with an apologetic smile. “You probably should answer that since we are at work.”

With a heavy sigh Mac opened the door and looked down to find Suzy and Davey looking up at him.

“We’re bored,” they informed him in unison.

Of course they were bored. They were the youngest members of the club and few teens wanted to spend their time at Challengers babysitting. It was dumb thinking on his part to expect them to spend the entire day entertaining themselves.

“I just remembered I have some errands to run,” Jo announced, stepping up beside him. “I could use a couple helpers. What do you say?”

“I wanna come! Mommy says I’m the bestest helper in the whole world!” Suzy proclaimed.

Davey rolled his eyes. “I guess it beats sitting around here all day,” he replied flatly.

Mac wasn’t sure if Joanna truly had errands or not, but he sincerely appreciated her efforts to distract the children. She grabbed her purse and shot him a bright smile as if she had read his thoughts before herding the kids out the door.

MacGyver sequestered himself in his office for the rest of the morning. With Joanna now working full-time at Challengers for the summer, he figured he would use this time to revamp the schedule. After an hour of frustrating confusion he was seriously thinking about leaving this particular task for Cynthia, or perhaps even Joanna herself. Coordinating high level security for visiting foreign dignitaries or executing a secret reconnaissance mission in a hostile Middle Eastern country was a piece of cake compared to working out a weekly schedule with a cast of ever-changing volunteers. Not quite ready to admit defeat, he decided to clear his head. He shot a round of pool with Raul before heading outside where he demonstrated the finer points of street hockey to a small group of boys and played a little one-on-one b-ball with some of the newer members. The Talbots might be the youngest members of the club, but Mac would happily admit to being the oldest!

Back in his office, he put in another couple hours of work and actually had a somewhat complete schedule to show for it. By mid-afternoon, a number of adult volunteers were on duty and he was anxious to see how Jo and the kids were doing so he collected Frog and headed home. What he saw when he turned the Jeep into his driveway made his heart ache in the most wonderful way. Joanna was kneeling on the grass between Suzy and Davey, their hands digging in the narrow strip of dirt between the house and walkway which had probably once been a flower garden and would be again if the flat of colorful petunias sitting on the front step was any indication. Was this what other men felt when they returned home to their wife and children? A wave of love and contentment washed over him as he slowly climbed from the car. Frog wiggled past him before awkwardly scampering to the backyard, presumably to avoid Suzy’s strangling hugs, and it was the little girl who first acknowledged his presence.

“Look, Daddy Mac! We’re makin’ a garden!”

“I can see that,” he called back happily.

As he got closer to the little domestic scene, he noticed that Joanna had put Davey in charge of digging holes while she helped Suzy release the plants from their plastic containers and place them in the dirt, carefully burying their roots.

“You’re doing great, keep it up,” Jo encouraged them as she slowly rose to her feet and made her way to MacGyver.

“So this was the ‘errand’ you had to run earlier?” he asked for only her to hear.

“I’ve had the idea in the back of my mind for awhile and today seemed like the perfect opportunity. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not a chance,” he assured her.

“But you’re gonna have to remember to water them every now and again,” she instructed.

“Don’t worry,” Mac said with a wicked grin. “I’ll put Frog in charge of that.”

Joanna playfully swatted his shoulder just as the children announced they had completed their task.

“How does it look, Daddy Mac?” Suzy asked.

“It looks perfect. Every time I see the flowers I’ll think of you.”

Suzy smiled and ran to wrap her arms around his waist, grubby hands and all.

“Why don’t you go in and wash up and we’ll all go out to dinner to celebrate the new garden,” Mac suggested and was met with a chorus of cheers.

Dressed in clean clothes with freshly scrubbed hands, the foursome were soon seated at a table at their favorite Italian restaurant. They had ordered two pizzas to accommodate everyone’s taste and once they were served, there was no shortage of opinions, especially when it came to MacGyver’s half of one of the pies.

“Ew! What’s that?!” Davey asked, wrinkling his nose.

“It’s pineapple,” Mac laughed, holding out a piece to the boy. “Want some?”

“No way!”

“Why do you have so many veggies on your pizza?” Suzy asked him, truly bewildered. “Are you being punished?”

“No. I like veggies,” he answered simply, which caused the little girl to shake her head in dismay before biting into her own piece.

Armed with leftovers in Styrofoam carry-out containers that would be tomorrow’s lunch, they left the restaurant to find dark storm clouds hovering in the western sky. MacGyver checked the weather report as soon as they arrived home and informed Joanna that several strong storm squalls would be passing through during the night. While not looking forward to dealing with potentially frightened children, the wild weather did make sleeping arrangements incredibly easy: Everyone in the household piled onto Mac’s bed, including Frog. Sleep was intermittent at best as the occupants dozed until a loud clap of thunder would awaken them. Finally, near dawn, the last line of storms rumbled away over Lake Michigan allowing exhaustion and fear to give way to peaceful slumber.

Hours later, Mac awoke gasping for air. At some point, Suzy had rolled over and laid her arm across his windpipe. Moving gingerly to relieve the pressure yet not wake the girl, he laid back and listened to the lingering rain fall in a steady rhythm against the roof. Joanna, Davey and Suzy still slept, their faces slightly flushed and serene, while soft snores emanated from the bulldog on the foot of the bed. Oh, how easily he could get used to waking up to a scene like this every day for the rest of his life. The sudden ring of the telephone shattered the dreamy peacefulness. MacGyver rolled out of bed and jogged down the stairs hoping to quiet the phone before it woke anyone else.

“Hello?” he answered, his voice still raspy from sleep.

Hey, Mac! Sorry to disturb you on a Sunday morning.” It was Lee Vang.

“No problem. What’s up?” Mac asked quietly so as not to disturb the still-sleeping trio upstairs.

“I’m preparing for Jill Talbot’s arraignment tomorrow and was wondering if you and Joanna could have the kids there. It’d be even better if you could also get Ms. Wilson and some of the volunteers to go too.”

Mac scrubbed the back of his neck with his hand. “That might be a problem,” he hedged. “See, we kinda lied and told the kids their mom was sick. We didn’t want to upset them more than they already were.”

“I understand,” Lee said, “but I plan on going out on a limb with the judge and could really use some back up.”

“Don’t worry, Lee. I’ll take care of it. We’ll see you tomorrow,” MacGyver promised.

He hung up the phone and turned to find Joanna standing at the foot of the stairs, her arms wrapped around her waist.

“What did Lee want? What are you going to take care of?” she questioned.

He relayed the telephone conversation to her before they both headed back upstairs to get the kids up and dressed. A short while later they were all seated around the kitchen table for breakfast. Mac sipped a protein shake while Jo ran her spoon back and forth through a bowl of cereal. Picking up on the adults’ discomfort, Davey and Suzy took a couple bites of pancakes before declaring themselves full. MacGyver caught Jo’s gaze and they both knew it was now or never. So, over the half-eaten meal, they took turns explaining to the two young children exactly what had happened with their mother and that they would all be going to the courthouse tomorrow. When they were done speaking, Suzy climbed onto Mac’s lap, buried her head in his shoulder and began to sob. Davey shoved his chair back and ran out the front door. Mac watched Joanna follow without trying to intercept him, knowing the boy needed some time to process what he had just heard.

Heavy gray clouds blanketed the sky for the rest of the day, aptly reflecting the mood in the townhouse. Once breakfast dishes were done and the children were settled in front of the TV, Joanna went to her house and then the Talbot’s to collect court-worthy clothes for the next day. While she was gone, MacGyver called Cynthia and a couple other volunteers who knew Davey and Suzy well. They all agreed to be in court for Jill’s arraignment and offered encouraging words. With those tasks complete, the day passed slowly and sullenly. The brother and sister had apparently agreed to divest themselves of adult interference and built an invisible barrier between them and their guardians so much so that after a silent supper of leftover pizza they climbed the stairs together and crawled into bed, leaving Mac and Joanna sitting on the couch to watch an old black and white western on television that couldn’t even hold MacGyver’s interest.

XXXXX

The courtroom was abuzz with activity when Mac, Jo and the kids arrived Monday morning. Davey squeezed Joanna’s hand and clung to her side while Suzy refused to walk, insisting that MacGyver carry her. It didn’t take long before he found Lee Vang, Cynthia, and a couple other Challenger parent volunteers standing in the front row of the gallery.

“Thanks so much for coming and bringing the children,” Lee said as he greeted them with handshakes

“So what’s the plan?” Mac asked as he settled a protesting Suzy in an empty seat while Jo did the same with her brother.

“Just wait and see,” Lee smiled, leaving MacGyver to wonder how the man could appear so confident and optimistic.

A hush fell over the crowd when the judge appeared and took his seat behind the bench as everyone followed suit. Three cases were presented before Jill Talbot was escorted to the defendant's table where Lee waited for her. She was still wearing her housekeeping uniform which was now dirty and wrinkled, but to Mac’s relief, her children were spared from seeing their mother in jail clothes and handcuffs. Once advised of her constitutional rights and having the charges against her read, she was asked to enter her plea. MacGyver watched as Jill peeled her eyes away from the judge only to land on her lawyer as Lee cleared his throat and began to speak.

“Your honor, on behalf of my client, I ask that you dismiss this case immediately and rescind all charges.”

“Counselor, you are well aware this is not the time nor the place for such a motion,” the judge warned.

“On the contrary, your honor, this is exactly the time. Ms. Talbot has two jobs she is currently at risk of losing as well as children who need their mother to return home. What happened last week is not my client’s fault. She did what she believed to be in the best interest of her children. Any and all fault lies clearly with her sister, who is being tried and prosecuted separately.”

“You’re not going to let this go, are you Mr. Vang?” the judge asked the lawyer even as he eyed MacGyver, Joanna, and the rest of the Challengers contingent.

“No, your honor, I am not.”

The judge sighed loudly. “Would all pertinent parties to the case adjourn to my chambers?” Though phrased as a question, Mac knew it was a command.

As the group crowded into the judge’s private quarters, Davey and Suzy ran to their mother, each grabbing one of her hands and holding on for dear life. MacGyver couldn’t help but think he saw a slight crack in the judge’s stern countenance.

“Your honor, I must strongly object to this unprecedented turn of events,” the prosecuting assistant district attorney sputtered.

The judge pinned him with a steely gaze. “This is not a hearing so you cannot object,” he reprimanded, “and even if you could, it would be overruled since I want to hear what Mr. Vang has to say.”

Lee took this opportunity to pounce. “As you can see, your honor, the Talbot children are healthy and well-cared for with no sign of neglect. In addition, my client has never received so much as a speeding ticket. The D.A. has a weak case at best, so I suggest we save the court time, the taxpayers money, and the Talbots a lot of distress by allowing them to walk out of this courthouse today as a family.”

The judge once again turned his attention to the prosecutor who was nervously re-adjusting his tie. “Exactly what type of evidence do you have against the defendant?” he asked.

“I have an eyewitness, your honor.”

“And what will your eyewitness testify to?”

“She found the defendant's sister unconscious and no children in the house.”

“Can she testify that the children were in imminent danger?”

“No, your honor.”

“Can she testify to a cycle of neglect?”

“Um, no, your honor.”

After several minutes of silent consideration, the judge turned his attention to Lee Vang.

“Given the prosecutor’s painful lack of evidence, I will make an exception and accept your motion to dismiss this case.”

The Talbot’s and their supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief before profusely thanking the judge and being led out a side door by the bailiff. In the parking lot, hugs and handshakes were exchanged before Davey and Suzy, along with their mother, piled into Lee’s sedan for the ride home while Joanna and MacGyver climbed into the Jeep with promises to quickly return the children’s meager belongings that remained at the townhouse.

Less than an hour later, the couple sat at Mac’s kitchen table nibbling on a light lunch of fruit and yogurt.

“So, what are your plans for the rest of the day,” MacGyver asked Jo, mainly to break the silence that had fallen between them since leaving the courthouse.

She shrugged. “Since it’s technically my first day of work at Challengers I was gonna meet with Cynthia and start learning some of the behind-the-scenes stuff. You know, the stuff you don’t like to do.”

Mac allowed himself to smile at her quip before turning serious.

“It’s been a pretty crazy past few days. Why don’t you go home and start fresh tomorrow?”

“What about you?” she countered, sidestepping his question.

“I thought I’d pack up the kids’ stuff and drop it off on my way to the club,” he replied. His voice almost monotone.

“Sure is quiet around here without them,” Joanna observed. “They sure have a knack of worming their way into your heart when you’re not looking.”

“No argument here,” Mac agreed. “But there is one member of this household who’s not gonna miss ‘em.”

MacGyver slanted his eyes to where Frog laid stretched out under the coffee table, snoring loudly.














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 October 2019 - 11:15 PM                                    
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First of all, I'm really sorry it took so long to read and review this. But in my defense, since my job keeps me on my feet all day, I'm usually struggling not to pass out when I come home, and I usually end up falling asleep with my light still on, so my reviews will probably be coming in late anyway :/

Anyway, here we go:

QUOTE

Hmmm. Jo really believed they were on the road to something permanent, and for the first time he could remember that excited him instead of tempted him to turn and run the other way.
If this one has the same number of chapters as the last one, we're about halfway through now... What are you waiting for Mac? laugh.gif

QUOTE
The only sign that something was wrong was little Suzy, with her brown bobbed hair so like Joanna’s, sitting in the corner Frog had commandeered for himself, hugging the long-suffering dog tight.
Frog's such a good boy love.jpg

QUOTE


“That’s the way the system works, Mr. MacGyver,” the social worker retorted.

“Well the ‘system’ stinks!”
Lol, that's not the word I would use...

QUOTE

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of them,” she answered in response to his unspoken question, and it was all he could do not to take her into his arms and show her how much her thoughtful actions and support meant to him, but he thought it best to refrain given the steely gaze leveled on them by the stern social worker.

Social Worker: *grumpy witch*
MacGyver: *grabs Joanna and smothers her*
Social Worker:... You're not suitable...

QUOTE

“Look what I made Daddy Mac!” the little girl called from across the room.
I love Suzy so much love.jpg

QUOTE

“That’s great, sweetheart! But you need to wipe that blob off before it gets on your hands.”

Suzy immediately frowned and Joanna shot him a you-should-know-better scowl.

“That’s not a blob,” the girl protested. “That’s Frog!”

“Of course it is!” Mac replied quickly, trying to pry his foot out of his mouth. “I was just teasing you!”
<--- Why I don't spend time with kids XD

QUOTE
Mac tucked his finger under her chin, forcing her to look at him. “I just said something wrong. What is it?”

“Nothing,” she said, jerking her head away. “I just thought we were in this together. You know you don’t have to do your ‘hero’ stuff alone anymore.”

“Sorry, force of habit. Can you forgive me?” he asked, eyebrow quirked.

She nodded.

“How about we stop by your place on the way so you can pick up some things?”

She looked up at him sheepishly. “While you were gone I called my mom and she packed a bag for me and dropped it off. I’m good to go.”
I feel like she spends more time at his place than she does her own XD

QUOTE
“Where are the bedrooms?” Suzy asked, ignoring her brother’s concern.

“There’s only one bedroom. Upstairs,” Mac informed her.

“Where are we all gonna sleep?” she asked with a huff.

Jo sent MacGyver a bemused look and watched him squirm as he tried to figure out the answer.

“Well...I figure you and Ms. Joanna can sleep in the bed upstairs and Davey and I will bunk down here.”

“Why do they get the bed,” the young boy complained.

“Because they’re ladies and we, as gentleman, need to make sure they are comfortable.”

“Suzy ain’t no lady, she’s my sister!” Davey exclaimed.

Mac looked like a drowning man on dry land and it was all Jo could do to keep from laughing out loud. However, not wanting the battle of the sexes to escalate, she quickly altered the solution.

“How about Suzy and I take the bed and you and Mac can pitch a tent in the backyard and pretend you’re on a camp out?”

“But I wanna go camping, too!” the little girl cried.

Joanna groaned and covered her face with her hands. She could only imagine the goofy pay-back grin on MacGyver’s face and refused to meet his gaze.
Ah, the joys of children... yucky.gif

QUOTE


Joanna slowly opened her eyes. How long had she been asleep? Minutes? Hours? It was impossible to tell, but the one thing she knew for certain was that she was not alone. Rolling over and raising herself up on one elbow she squinted into the darkness to find MacGyver standing at the foot of the bed.
All right, creeper, enough already XD XD XD

QUOTE

“Suzy bailed on us after thirty minutes insisting she had seen a bear. About an hour later, Davey went into the house for a drink of water and never came back, apparently succumbing to the comfort of the couch. They just don’t make kids like they used to.”
Another accurate representation of children XD

QUOTE

“I want my mommy!” Suzy wailed loudly.

“Don’t be such a crybaby!” Davey shouted back.

“I’m not a crybaby!” Suzy protested in return.

Mac bolted out of bed and down the stairs before Joanna regained enough consciousness to sit up.

“Knock it off, you two,” she heard him say in a calm but firm voice.
And again... XD

QUOTE
Davey quickly found the dinosaur book he had been reading the day before and buried himself in its pages while Suzy made a beeline for the corner where Frog, up until now, slept peacefully.
So Frog slept at Challengers all night hmm.bmp XD

QUOTE
“I know it’s frustrating, but we don’t have a choice,” he said before burying his face in the curve of her neck, taking in her sweetness. A soft knock on the door interrupted him.

“Go away,” he groaned, not willing to move an inch.

The knock came again and Joanna eased out of his grasp with an apologetic smile. “You probably should answer that since we are at work.”
laugh.gif

QUOTE
With a heavy sigh Mac opened the door and looked down to find Suzy and Davey looking up at him.

“We’re bored,” they informed him in unison.
The best part is that's exactly what happens when couples have children. No more time to themselves tongue.gif

QUOTE
Everyone in the household piled onto Mac’s bed, including Frog
Aww tongue.gif I kinda want to see a drawing of this. Everyone in a pile, with Frog on top XD

It's sad to see the kids getting so upset sad.gif

Glad it got worked out pretty quickly though smile.gif

QUOTE


“No argument here,” Mac agreed. “But there is one member of this household who’s not gonna miss ‘em.”

MacGyver slanted his eyes to where Frog laid stretched out under the coffee table, snoring loudly.
Oh Frog 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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Dragondog
Posted: 20 October 2019 - 09:07 PM                                    
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I randomly woke up at 7 AM, went, "The title of this chapter was Innocence, which I assumed meant that the kids' mother was innocent, but it also has to do with the children, who are unaware of what's going on, and are adorable innocent cinnamon rolls." Then I fell back to sleep laugh.gif



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

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

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

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

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

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 21 October 2019 - 04:57 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 20 October 2019 - 09:07 PM)
I randomly woke up at 7 AM, went, "The title of this chapter was Innocence, which I assumed meant that the kids' mother was innocent, but it also has to do with the children, who are unaware of what's going on, and are adorable innocent cinnamon rolls." Then I fell back to sleep laugh.gif

LOL...Glad you made the connection...that's what I intended when I came up with the title!



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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uniquelyjas
Posted: 23 October 2019 - 05:00 AM                                    
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**Dragondog, I think you will find this chapter quite interesting;) Enjoy!!!


Chapter 20: Deja Vu


“Hello? Hello?!”

MacGyver slammed the telephone receiver back down into the cradle.

“Whoa! What did that phone ever do to you?” Joanna quipped from his office doorway.

He sent a steely gaze her way.

“I’ve been getting prank calls all day,” he growled. “As soon as I answer they hang up.”

Jo shrugged. “It’s the start of summer vacation and kids are bored. Didn’t you ever do stuff like that when you were young?”

Mac’s eyes softened. “Yeah, I suppose I did some dumb things in my time. I guess I’m just cranky today.”

“That time of the month, huh?” Joanna asked, glancing at the pile of invoices on his desk.

“Yeah. I really wasn’t thinking when I told Cynthia to take the day off.” He jammed his splayed fingers through his hair in frustration.

“Why don’t you sign some blank checks and take off. I can handle the bills.”

MacGyver looked at her skeptically.

“Don’t you trust me?” she asked. A mix of hurt and indignation in her voice.

“Of course I trust you. I just don’t want to overwork you right off the bat.”

Jo’s light laugh warmed him as she came to stand behind his chair and massage his shoulders.

“Wow, you really are tense,” she observed, kneading his taut muscles.

MacGyver could feel the warmth of her hands through the thin fabric of his shirt and willed himself to relax as her thumbs began to caress the back of his neck. Man, he loved this woman!

“I’ll go home on one condition,” he told her.

“And what’s that?”

He reached up and grabbed her forearms, gently yanking her upper body over the back of his chair.

“That you come with me,” he grinned mischievously.

Jo pulled free of his light grasp and walked around to the front of his desk.

“That would defeat the entire purpose and you’d just come back to this stuff tomorrow. Go home or go skating or...something! Just get out of here and relax!”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied with a mock salute, giving her a peck on the tip of her nose as he passed her on his way out the door.

XXXXX

After two hours of working up a sweat on the ice followed by a long, hot shower, MacGyver still felt a niggle of soul-deep anxiety. His sixth sense, which he had so often relied on in the past, was clearly trying to tell him something, something he was unable to comprehend. Dressed in grey sweatpants and a black tank top, he now rifled through his refrigerator looking for something to eat. Not particularly hungry, he grabbed an apple from the crisper, took a bite, and pushed the door closed with his hip. No sooner had he swallowed than the telephone rang. He tried, unsuccessfully, to suppress a groan. Tempted to let the answering machine take it, he took another bite of fruit before deciding to answer the call after all. It could be something or someone important...like Joanna.

“Hello?” he mumbled around a mouthful of sweet, juicy apple.

He was greeted with an eerie silence before an all-too-familiar maniacal laugh came over the line, causing him to swallow hard. The voice was raspy and somewhat mechanical, but he would recognize that evil tone anywhere.

“No! No way! You’re dead!” he yelled, before clicking off the call and sending the cordless handset flying across the room.

He dropped his apple on the counter and crumpled into the nearest chair, the heels of his hands pressed against his eyes.

“It’s not him. It’s not him,” Mac muttered over and over, trying to convince himself he hadn’t heard who he thought he heard.

MacGyver had no idea how long he sat there, repeating his mantra, but when he next looked up darkness had settled over the apartment. Both ashamed and angry for letting a dead man control his emotions so easily, he made his way to the couch where he sprawled out and eventually fell into a fitful slumber.

Much to his dismay, Mac awoke several times during the night, his spine tingling with the sensation that someone was watching him. Each time, he took a turn around his apartment to ensure all windows and doors were locked and no one was lurking in the shadows. Even Frog slept undisturbed. He was completely alone.

The following morning, a bleary-eyed MacGyver entered his office to find Joanna leaning lazily against his desk before slowly walking towards him, reaching up to wrap her arms around his neck, and gracing him with a soft yet sensual kiss.

“Wow! What did I do to deserve that?!” he asked, surprised and a bit stimulated by her assertiveness.

“As if you didn’t know,” she chided with a knowing smile.

“With a welcome like that I’d do it a lot more, but honestly, what are you talking about?”

Jo frowned and took a step back. “The flowers you sent to my house yesterday.”

“What flowers?”

“The long-stemmed red roses you had delivered,” she replied.

“As much as I’d like to take the credit, I didn’t send you roses, or anything else for that matter. Wasn’t there a card?”

“Yeah,” she replied, her mood seriously soured. “All it said was ‘Much love, M’.”

“‘M’? Not my name?”

“No,” Jo responded, now seeming to slip into confusion. “But who else could it be?”

“It’s not him,” Mac whispered to himself. “It’s. Not. Him.”

“Not who?” Joanna’s voice was far away.

Mac shook his head to resettle his thoughts and bring himself back to the present.

“A ghost from my past. Remember me telling you about Murdoc?”

“That crazy assassin that kept trying to kill you? Yeah, I remember. But he’s been dead for over a year, Mac. You watched him die. You went to the morgue to make sure he was dead. It can’t be him,” she reasoned.

“You don’t know Murdoc,” he muttered.

“C’mon Mac, think about this logically,” Joanna urged. “Maybe one of your friends is just playing a joke on you. Maybe it’s just Jack and his weird sense of humor.”

MacGyver shook his head adamantly. “No. None of my friends would ever joke about Murdoc,” he told her firmly.

“What about your enemies? I’m sure you have some.”

“Yeah...but the phone calls, the flowers...this has ‘Murdoc’ written all over it,” Mac sighed as he lowered himself into the chair behind his desk.

He was interrupted by a soft tap on the door jamb where Cynthia stood holding a large brown envelope.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, but I thought you’d want to see this.” She raised the package she held a bit higher. “It was in with the morning mail, but there’s no postmark or return address, just your name on the front.”

“Thanks Cynthia,” Jo replied as she took the envelope and passed it to MacGyver as the other woman headed back to her office.

Dread and curiosity warred with each other as Mac stared at the parcel now in his hands. With Joanna watching, he tore it open and tipped it sideways, allowing several photographs to slide out. He studied the grainy images one by one before passing them to Jo, the blood draining from his face. There were pictures of him and her, both alone and together, pictures of their houses, of Challengers, of the club members playing outside.

“He’s been stalking us for weeks,” Joanna whispered incredulously.

“That does it,” MacGyver announced as he stood up and began putting the photos back into the envelope. “This is definitely Murdoc and I gotta get out of here.”

“Why?! Where are you going?!” Jo demanded.

“I’m not sure yet. I just have to get away from you and Challengers. It’s me he wants. I’m not gonna put anybody else in danger.”

“Then I’m coming with you,” she declared.

Mac rounded on her, his voice rising. “Haven’t you heard a word I said? This is Murdoc we’re dealing with. I need to do this alone!”

“Isn’t there anyone you can call? Tell them what’s happening? Maybe they can help.”

“Everyone is convinced he’s dead. They’ll think I’m the lunatic!”

“What about Pete?” she asked quietly.

MacGyver took a deep breath before blowing it out. “It would be a stretch, even for him. I’ll be in touch.” He kissed her tenderly on the forehead before turning to leave.

XXXXX

Mac pulled his empty duffle bag out from underneath the bed, set it on the mattress, and began haphazardly filling it with clothes and other necessities. He had decided to head up to Harry’s cabin. That was probably where Murdoc anticipated he would go. He still hadn’t formed a plan about what to do when he finally came face-to-face with his archenemy. He’d deal with that when the time came. Right now he had to draw the danger away from everything he held dear. His phone rang and he gave it a venomous glare. This time he would let the machine get it. He heard the beep and then a familiar voice came over the speaker.

“MacGyver, it’s Pete. If you’re there, pick up.”

Mac scrubbed his face with his hand. He really didn’t want to talk to anybody, but if things went south with Murdoc, this could be the last conversation he would have with his friend.

“Hey, Pete.”

“Joanna called and told me what’s happening. Are you out of your mind?!”

“Maybe.”

“You and I both know Murdoc is dead, so before you go running off, take a minute to think things through. Who else might be behind this?”

“I don’t know Pete. I just don’t know,” Mac replied despondently before ending the call.

Calmer now, MacGyver forced his mind to go into field ops mode. His history with Murdoc had made their rivalry personal and allowed emotion to get in the way of logic. He wasn’t going to let that happen again. Sitting at his kitchen table, he took a closer look at the pictures that had been delivered to Challengers, studying them objectively. Something wasn’t right. The quality was off. Not quite blurry, but not crystal clear either. Photography was part of the assassin's M.O., but it was also one of his passions. Like everything else he did, the images he produced were neat and clean. And then there was the content. Specifically, the photo of the kids at Challengers. Though most always categorized as a cold-blooded killer, Murdoc drew the line at harming children. While concentrating on the pictures, the phone call from the night before began to replay itself in MacGyver’s head. It, too, had been ‘off’. The raspiness of the voice and that mechanical sound, almost like a...tape recorder!

Mac grabbed the telephone and quickly dialed Pete’s number.

“It’s not Murdoc,” he announced as soon as his call was answered.

“See? I told you!” Pete proclaimed.

“But if it’s not Murdoc, it’s someone who wants me to think it is.”

Mac considered this for a moment.

“Pete, what’s the status of HIT?”

“Well, as you know, we were able to shut them down using the information against them that Murdoc gave to you several years ago, but they somehow resurfaced though not to their initial extent. Shortly after you left Phoenix they went dormant. The Foundation, DXS, and other government agencies all monitored them for activity but by the time I retired it seemed they had shut down for good.”

“Can you verify that and get back to me?”

“Sure,” Pete promised. “You gonna be sticking around for a while?”

“Yeah.” Mac hung up. All he could do for now was wait.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

From the second MacGyver turned his back on her Joanna began to worry. Where would he go? What would he do? He had let his emotions get the better of him and he wasn’t thinking straight. She wanted to help him, but how? If she went to him, she could possibly be putting herself in danger as well as be a distraction for him. If she stayed away, he was on his own. Out there alone with a murderer after him. Hopefully Pete had been able to speak with him and help him see reason. Nervous energy had her re-organizing Mac’s office when Raul came to her.

“Ms. Jo, there’s a man here to see you.”

“Thanks Raul. I’ll be out in a minute. Where’s Ms. Cynthia?”

“She’s upstairs cleaning the dorm rooms. Do you want me to get her?”

“No, let’s see what this guy wants first. If I can’t help him we’ll call for her.”

It didn’t take Joanna long to spot the stranger standing just inside the rec room chatting with some of the teens. She walked slowly, taking time to assess him. Of average height and build, his dirty blond hair was cut military-short showcasing his piercing blue eyes. He wore a loose-fitting suit and his smile was strained. Joanna stood tall and confident as she approached him.

“Good afternoon,” she said in greeting. “I work here at Challengers. Is there something I can help you with?”

He turned his empty smile on her causing a shiver to run down her back as she looked into eyes that were cold as ice.

“I was actually hoping to see MacGyver. He and I are old chums.”

Loud warning bells went off in her head. Was this Murdoc?

“I’m sorry. Mac’s not here right now. If you give me your name I can tell him you stopped by when he comes back.”

“You must be Joanna,” the man said, totally disregarding her suggestion.

“How do you know my name?” She hoped her voice didn’t betray the quivering in her stomach.

“Like I said, Mac and I are old friends. I tend to keep myself abreast of his...activities. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just stay and wait for him.”

The man took a seat on a tattered couch and casually crossed his legs.

“I’m actually not sure when he’ll return. He may have even gone out of town for a few days” Jo said, groping for anything to say that would get this unsettling man to leave.

“You are so naive, my dear. He will come when you ask him to. After all, he’s partial to saving damsels in distress.” The man slowly opened his jacket to reveal a shoulder holster holding a handgun.

Joanna couldn’t believe her eyes. “It’s true. You are Murdoc! You’re alive!” She kept her voice low so the kids couldn’t hear.

“I think it’s time you made a phone call, eh?”

“And if I don’t?”

The man shot to his feet and slapped Joanna across the cheek hard enough to make her head spin.

“Oh, I think you will. Now go call MacGyver like a good little girl.”

Joanna nodded and obediently went to the telephone on the reception desk and dialed his number.

“The line’s busy.”

“Keep trying.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“What do you got for me, Pete?” Mac asked anxiously after answering the phone on the second ring.

“Not much, I’m afraid,” the older man sighed. “HIT is still officially underground, but there is some suspicion among certain government agencies that there’s been some activity in the recent months. Mainly in Europe.”

“What kind of activity?”

“My sources couldn’t divulge that information, but they did tell me that a rogue agent by the name of Clancy has gotten antsy and may have struck out on his own. Possibly to prove his worth to HIT.”

“Did this Clancy character have any connection with Murdoc?”

“Mac, you know I couldn’t ask that! Just my poking around has probably raised some eyebrows. I did, however, put a couple trusted people on alert, just in case Clancy is the one harassing you.”

“I understand, Pete. Thanks for your help.”

“Keep me posted,” Pete instructed as Mac clicked off the call.

MacGyver had barely set the phone back on the counter when it rang again.

“Hello?”

“Hi Mac, it’s me.” Joanna said in a tense voice.

“Are you okay?” he asked, but she just continued talking.

“An old friend of yours is here and waiting to see you.”

Mac’s heart plummeted to his toes. “Do whatever he tells you. I’m on my way!”

MacGyver ran to his Jeep and headed to Challengers. The trip had never seemed so long even though he was pretty sure he was breaking every land speed record known to man. He screeched to a halt in front of the large building before taking a moment to collect his thoughts. He had no idea what he was stepping into. He needed to be calm, careful, and focused. There were too many people in harm’s way. He cautiously entered the recreation room to find everyone huddled together in the exercise area facing a man who had a gun trained on them. Cynthia’s dark eyes were wide with fear, while Joanna’s were mere slits staring down her captor. A reddish mark, much like the imprint of a hand, marred her cheek and made his blood boil. But he had to remain objective and diffuse this situation without anyone getting hurt.

“Rule number one at assassin school is to never leave your back exposed. Were you absent that day, Clancy?”

“Sarcasm doesn’t become you, MacGyver. Besides, rule number two is to know your enemy. I know you don’t carry a weapon, and any attack on me would cause my gun to fire into this mass of humanity you seem so keen on protecting.”

“What are you doin’ here?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Clancy asked, still not turning toward his foe. “I’ve come to kill you.”

“Then kill me and get it over with, but let everyone else go. They mean nothing to you.”

“Mmmm, no. I think not. You see, your friend Murdoc had somewhat of a moral code, albeit a bit twisted, that caused him to leave loose ends, especially where you were concerned. I, on the other hand, have no such qualms regarding children and innocent bystanders. I do whatever it takes to get the job done. And this time I will succeed where Murdoc consistently failed and become HIT’s new golden boy.”

“But HIT’s been disbanded. There’s nothing in this for you,” Mac argued.

“Oh, MacGyver,” Clancy chuckled. “You and your intelligence agents are such simpletons. HIT has been active for years. Carrying out assignments right under your noses. But that’s neither here nor there. It’s time for you and me to take care of some business of our own.”

“This is flat out murder, Clancy. How do you plan to get away with it?”

The hitman sighed. “If you must know, while your friends are mourning your untimely death, at my hands, no less, the stove in your so-called kitchen will suddenly have an unexplained gas leak causing an explosion. It could be days before all the bodies are recovered from the rubble. But, alas, your friends will have succumbed to the fumes before the blast can kill them. Unfortunately, it will be quite painless for them.”

Tired of talking to the back of the madman’s head, MacGyver’s first instinct was to shout out and make him turn around and face him like a man. Mac was, as always, more than willing to give up his life for his friends, but this time, his death would seal their fates as well. He needed a plan, and he needed one quick. His eyes began to methodically search the room until his gaze fell upon a pair of hand weights someone had forgotten to pick up and put away, a bright pink vinyl covering concealing the five pounds of solid cast iron underneath. Too bad they lay just on the edge of Clancy’s peripheral vision. He’d need a diversion to get the man’s eyes to move away just a bit. Knowing he needed help and trusting in the unspoken connection he and Joanna often shared, he stared at her until he knew she felt his gaze. He breathed an inward sigh when he felt her eyes collide with his. Once he had her attention, he let his eyes slide from hers, to the weights, and back. After two glances she lowered her chin imperceptibly to indicate she understood.

“You’re awful quiet back there, MacGyver. What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?” Clancy taunted snidely.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Joanna knew Mac was counting on her to keep Clancy occupied while he reached for the would-be weapons. But what could she do? As a teacher, she had learned to quickly evaluate her students’ strengths and weaknesses. She thought she had a pretty good idea of Clancy’s as well.

“You’re a real piece of work, you know that Clancy?” she said, her voice steadier than she could have ever anticipated.

“What do you mean?” he snapped, his gaze sending icy shards through her.

Ah, yes. A person’s ego was always their downfall. He had to know what she thought of him.

“You think you’re better than Murdoc. That you can do what he couldn’t. But the funny thing is, you wouldn’t be here today without him.”

“How so?” There was no denying the anger in the man’s voice. She had hit a nerve. Caught him off guard. She took the smallest of steps to her right, but he didn’t notice. Gotcha!

“Well, you see,” she began to explain, all the while taking miniscule steps that, if his gaze followed, would keep Mac out of his field of vision. “It took you using Murdoc’s tricks to reel MacGyver in. The phone calls, the flowers, the paranoia and fear. You knew Mac would rise to Murdoc’s bait, but not to yours. Not to plain old Clancy who he didn’t even know existed until today. And then you go and turn your back on the most dangerous man in this room.”

Her heart was in her throat as she watched Mac, over Clancy’s shoulder, move just enough to reach out and quickly grab the bright pink dumbbells.

“Shut up!” cried the assassin. “You know I could shoot you right now!”

“You’re gonna kill us all anyway so what difference does it make,” she shot back, belatedly realizing that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say. Thankfully she seemed to have already lost his interest.

“Enough games! MacGyver, come stand in front of me and face me like a man while I kill you!”

“Yeah, no, that’s not gonna happen.”

“Why not?” Jo detected an uneasy edge in Clancy’s voice. “Afraid I’ll miss and hit one of the little hostages instead? Well, let me assure you, Mr. MacGyver, I don’t miss!”

Joanna knew Mac wouldn’t make a move until everyone else was out of harm’s way. She had to get Clancy to turn around. She hoped that the adrenaline already flowing through his system coupled with every human’s basic fight-or-flight instinct would do the trick.

She took a deep breath and then, without warning, screamed “Look out!” as she raised her arm to point to a spot behind him.

Clancy automatically pivoted, holding his gun out in front of him. MacGyver took the opportunity to bring one of the weights down hard across the man’s wrist, sending the weapon clattering harmlessly to the floor. He jammed the other weight into Clancy’s gut, causing the hit man to fall backwards, gasping for breath. One final shot to the jaw and the man was unconscious.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Hours later, MacGyver sat on the front stoop of Challengers. Dusk had fallen and the club members had headed home. Moments after Clancy had been subdued, officials from various agencies had descended on the club like a swarm of killer bees. Pete had already called to inform Mac that the assassin was in custody and providing authorities with enough information to permanently neutralize HIT. He was lost in his own thoughts when he felt Joanna’s hand lightly squeeze his shoulder.

“How’re you doin’?” she asked.

“I should be asking you that,” he replied, reaching up to take her hand and gently eased her down beside him. “You did a really good job in there, but you did have me worried when you started comparing him to Murdoc. That could have gone south really quick.”

Jo shrugged. “I took a calculated risk. I figured if I was going down, I’d go down swinging. I’m pretty sure I learned that from you.”

MacGyver remained silent as he fiddled with the audio cassette tape he had found on Clancy that had captured Murdoc’s evil laugh one last time.

“I guess I finally believe that he’s dead,” he murmured.

A tall man in a dark suit approached. “Excuse me, sir, but I need that for evidence.”

Mac wordlessly relinquished the tape. The weight he had carried for almost two decades lifted from his shoulders only to be replaced by a strange sort of sadness.

“Tell me about him,” Jo requested softly.

“Huh?”

“Murdoc,” she clarified. “Tell me about him.”

Mac scrubbed his face with his hands. He had worked so hard to shield Joanna from the exact person she was now asking about. What could he say?

“Murdoc worked for HIT as a contract assassin who spent approximately fifteen years trying to kill me.”

Jo shook her head. “That’s what he did, I want to know who he was. There must have been something special about him to have affected you so deeply. Besides trying to kill you, that is,” she concluded with a smirk.

MacGyver sighed thoughtfully before speaking again.

“He was highly intelligent, very creative, and had a really twisted sense of humor.”

“Kinda sounds like you,” Joanna observed.

“Maybe, if he had made a few different life choices, we could’ve worked for the same side.”

“So then you don’t believe he was inherently evil?”

“I did. For awhile. But then he came to me. Told me he had a sister who was in trouble and asked for my help.”

“And you gave it,” Jo surmised.

Mac nodded. “We worked together to rescue her, only she had no idea who Murdoc really was. That was his doing. His way of protecting her from his enemies. She never knew he was her brother. While we were trying to get to her, I could feel the pain inside him. It was then that I knew he was capable of unconditional love even if he didn’t realize it himself.”

“So he wasn’t pure evil,” she concluded.

“No,” Mac replied. “But I think he always saw himself that way and acted accordingly. I bet he never even had a funeral. Every man deserves at least that.” Mac’s voice was husky now and he allowed Jo’s warm hands caressing his back to comfort him.

“Sounds like you two may not have been that different after all.”

MacGyver let himself chuckle at this. “If you would have said that ten years ago I would have unequivocally denied it. But now...I guess you could say we’re more like opposite sides of the same coin.”

“And you miss him.”

“I wouldn’t go that far!” Mac exclaimed. “But no man should die believing he’s evil and unlovable. Not even Murdoc.”

Jo laid her head on his shoulder, still rubbing his back, and he reveled in her love and understanding.

“He must have been a very lonely man,” she mused.

A lump formed in MacGyver’s throat. “I suppose he was.”



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 October 2019 - 06:48 PM                                    
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QUOTE
**Dragondog, I think you will find this chapter quite interesting;) Enjoy!!!
Yay biggrin.gif

QUOTE

Mac’s eyes softened. “Yeah, I suppose I did some dumb things in my time. I guess I’m just cranky today.”

“That time of the month, huh?” Joanna asked, glancing at the pile of invoices on his desk.
I COMPLETELY misunderstood what Joanna meant X'D X'D X'D

QUOTE


He was greeted with an eerie silence before an all-too-familiar maniacal laugh came over the line, causing him to swallow hard. The voice was raspy and somewhat mechanical, but he would recognize that evil tone anywhere.
Can't wait to hear this explanation... XD

QUOTE
Both ashamed and angry for letting a dead man control his emotions so easily,
With the amount of trauma he caused you, you're within your rights Mac.

QUOTE

Jo frowned and took a step back. “The flowers you sent to my house yesterday.”
DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN

QUOTE
“That does it,” MacGyver announced as he stood up and began putting the photos back into the envelope. “This is definitely Murdoc and I gotta get out of here.”

“Why?! Where are you going?!” Jo demanded.

“I’m not sure yet. I just have to get away from you and Challengers. It’s me he wants. I’m not gonna put anybody else in danger.”

“Then I’m coming with you,” she declared.

Mac rounded on her, his voice rising. “Haven’t you heard a word I said? This is Murdoc we’re dealing with. I need to do this alone!”
I really, really want him to realize: Murdoc knows about Joanna. She's in danger regardless...

QUOTE
Though most always categorized as a cold-blooded killer, Murdoc drew the line at harming children.
Was this ever stated in canon?

QUOTE
The raspiness of the voice and that mechanical sound, almost like a...tape recorder
Yeah, I kinda figured XD

QUOTE

It didn’t take Joanna long to spot the stranger standing just inside the rec room chatting with some of the teens.
He's gonna try to kill you, Jo...

QUOTE
“Shut up!” cried the assassin. “You know I could shoot you right now!”

“You’re gonna kill us all anyway so what difference does it make,” she shot back, belatedly realizing that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say.
Oh my gosh, this us exactly what I would say laugh.gif

That conversation in the end is heartbreaking and amazing and ARRRRRRGHHHH love.jpg 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: 25 October 2019 - 05:03 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 24 October 2019 - 06:48 PM)
That conversation in the end is heartbreaking and amazing and ARRRRRRGHHHH love.jpg XD

I thought you'd appreciate the ending conversation!! As for Murdoc not killing children...not sure if it's doctrine but it seems I read or heard about it somewhere. Regardless, he only killed adults.



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: 25 October 2019 - 09:00 PM                                    
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I know the VS said he won't kill children... Considering he didn't kill Amy or her mother in Strictly Business, but only tried to trick them (until Amy's mom found out the truth), I'd say it's pretty solid 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: 26 October 2019 - 10:10 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 25 October 2019 - 09:00 PM)
I know the VS said he won't kill children

Aha! That must be where I got that idea. Honestly, my mind has so many weird Mac/Murdoc facts it's scary!! LOL!!



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: 27 October 2019 - 09:27 AM                                    
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QUOTE (uniquelyjas @ 26 October 2019 - 01:10 PM)
QUOTE (Dragondog @ 25 October 2019 - 09:00 PM)
I know the VS said he won't kill children

Aha! That must be where I got that idea. Honestly, my mind has so many weird Mac/Murdoc facts it's scary!! LOL!!

Some of the best facts to have! tongue.gif



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

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

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

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

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

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 30 October 2019 - 05:02 AM                                    
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Chapter 21: Saving the Dude Ranch

Joanna carefully balanced two glasses of ice cold lemonade in her hands as she used her elbow to slide MacGyver’s patio door closed behind her. She set the drinks on a small, wrought iron table which also held the cordless phone and watched as Mac tossed an old tennis ball across the backyard and Frog gave chase. She smiled at his odd, bow-legged lope as he retrieved the ball and returned to drop the slobber-covered toy at Mac’s feet. His master rewarded his effort with a hearty ear rub.

“Why don’t you two take a break?” she called as she sat down in a lawn chair next to the table.

MacGyver turned and graced her with a smile which she automatically returned. He retrieved a fresh bowl of water for Frog before joining her at the table and taking a sip of his own drink. It was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon which they both surprisingly had free from Challengers thanks to the large number of community volunteers. It felt good to be together, just the two of them, away from work and responsibilities on this lazy summer day.

“You know, pretty soon it’s gonna be a year since the law firm forced us into becoming emergency foster parents and our licenses are gonna expire. Do you plan on re-upping?” Mac asked.

Wow, that question had come out of left field!

“I actually haven’t thought about it. What are you planning on doing?”

“After the situation with the Talbot kids I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

“You have a good point,” Joanna conceded, taking a long drink of her lemonade before staring off into the distance, knowing that now was as good a time as any to bring up what had been weighing on her mind lately.

“Do you want kids of your own, MacGyver?” she asked softly.

“I’ve already got one,” he chided playfully.

“Sam’s an adult. I was thinking of the younger variety.”

“I don’t know,” he replied as Jo saw him shrug out of the corner of her eye. “Years ago the idea was always in the back of my head, but when Sam showed up I guess I stopped thinking about it.”

“Well, you better start thinking about it,” Jo replied a bit more harshly than she intended. “If you want a bunch of baby MacGyvers you’re gonna need to stop hanging out with me and find someone to help you with that.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Mac asked, his voice full of disbelief.

Joanna stared straight ahead and shrugged even as a shiver slid down her spine. She felt awkward talking about this, but she didn’t want him to have any regrets if he decided to stay with her.

“Jo, what are you trying to tell me?!” There was a hint of panic in his voice. Was she using this as a way to back out of their relationship?

“Let’s face it, Mac. I’m not getting any younger. You can still have children. Me, not so much.” This time she turned and looked him in the eye.

“And I’m perfectly okay with that,” he replied, his voice both gentle and firm. “I always figured if we wanted kids we’d adopt. Rather than bring a new one into this world I think I’d rather help out the ones already here.”

“Mac, did you hear what you just said?” she asked, her eyes wide with surprise. But before either of them could say anything the telephone rang.

MacGyver grabbed the handset and clicked onto the call.

“Hello? Hey, how’s it going?” He got up from his chair, offered Joanna an apologetic smile, and slipped into the apartment for some privacy leaving her to mull over what she had just heard. He had used the words ‘we’ and ‘kids’ in the same sentence as naturally as breathing!

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“Sorry to interrupt your Sunday, but me and Neil didn’t know who else to call.”

“What’s goin’ on, Chuck?” Mac asked, his voice serious. It had been a while since he had seen his two best friends from Mission City and was now concerned about what had prompted the call.

“Remember Mark Bennett from high school?”

“Yeah,” Mac replied thoughtfully. “Didn’t his folks own a farm just outside of town.”

“Yep. They sold it to Mark and his wife, Linda, when they retired and moved to Arizona. Mark and Linda turned it into a dude ranch.”

MacGyver could hardly contain the laugh that tried to escape.

“A dude ranch?! In Minnesota?!”

“I know it might sound a little corny, but it was actually doing quite well up until recently.”

“Why? What happened?”

“Ya know that old abandoned hospital? Well, some big Japanese electronics company bought it and turned it into a state of the art factory that opened about a month ago.”

“What does this have to do with the ranch?”

“The factory offers great pay and benefits that Mark couldn’t match. He lost almost half his employees to it and he didn’t have that many to begin with.”

“That’s too bad, but why are you telling me this?”

“Mark’s got a big group coming in this week. We’ve been asking friends and neighbors to volunteer some of their time to help out. I remember you used to hang around your grandpa’s farm as a kid and you know your way around horses so I just thought…”

“That I’d drop everything and come help at the ranch.”

“Well, yeah! I guess.”

Mac pinched the bridge of his nose and tried not to sigh. “Things are different now, Chuck. I have responsibilities.”

“You mean you have to clear it with the little woman.”

MacGyver could practically see Chuck’s smirk over the phone line. “There is no ‘little woman’,” he replied firmly.

“Hey, sorry man! It’s just that Neil told me you showed up at the reunion with a real special lady. I just assumed…”

“Well, you assumed wrong! Listen, let me think about this and I’ll call you back later.”

Mac hung up the phone before his friend could say anything else. He returned to the patio where Joanna was tossing Frog’s ratty old ball.

“Who was that?” she asked absently.

“My friend, Chuck, from back home.”

“The one who owns the sporting goods store?”

“Yeah, that’s him,” Mac confirmed before relaying their conversation to Jo.

When he had finished explaining everything his friend had told him, Joanna finished the remainder of her lemonade in one long gulp and rose from the chair.

“Well, I better get out of your way so you can pack,” she announced.

MacGyver’s hand snaked out and grabbed her arm.

“Wait a minute! You’re okay with this?”

Jo looked at him, a bit stunned. “Of course I am. It’s what you do, right?”

“Right. I mean, I used to, but,” Mac shut his mouth to stop the stuttering.

“Don’t worry about it,” she laughed lightly. “Cynthia and I will make sure everything’s covered at Challengers. In fact, I’ll take Frog over there right now. You go do what you have to do.”

Mac wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close.

“You’re amazing, you know that?”

“Of course,” she shrugged playfully. “But it’s nice to hear once in a while.”

Not knowing when he’d get another chance, he slowly lowered his head to hers until their lips met in a tender caress.

“I’m gonna miss that,” he told her in a husky voice.

“Me too,” she replied softly before clipping Frog’s leash to his harness and leading him out the gate.

XXXXX

Mac tossed his last pair of clean jeans into his duffle and was ready to call it a night when he heard a knock on his front door. There, grinning like a Cheshire cat, stood Jack Dalton.

“Hola mi compadre!”

“Jack, what are you doin’ here?” MacGyver moaned, knowing that even though he didn’t mean to, Jack always managed to bring trouble his way.

“Can’t an old buddy drop in to see how another old buddy is doing?” he asked innocently.

“Not when one old buddy lives two thousand miles away!”

“Au contraire! I just flew a couple of fat cats into the Windy City for a convention and thought I’d cruise on up.”

Mac popped his head out the door to find a flashy red sports car parked in the driveway.

“She’s a beauty, ain’t she? High end rental,” Jack announced as if reading his mind.

“You can’t afford that!”

“Big tips! One of the perks of the job!” the pilot exclaimed as he eased his way into the apartment. Tossing his ever-present aviator cap on the kitchen counter he caught sight of MacGyver’s bag

“Going somewhere?” he asked, eyebrows raised.

“Yes, I am,” Mac replied succinctly. “And no, you cannot stay here while I’m gone.”

“In that case, I’ll come with you.”

“Don’t you have clients you need to take back to L.A.?” MacGyver asked, not even trying to hide the frustration in his voice.

“Huh?...oh, them...they’re catching a flight out of O’Hare for Tokyo day after tomorrow and my schedule just happens to be clear. So, where’re we goin’?”

Realizing he was stuck with Jack like green on grass, Mac flopped down on his couch and began to explain.

“Do you remember Mark Bennett from high school?”

“Mark Bennett...Mark Bennett,” Jack rolled the name around on his tongue. “Was he ever in the market for a fake ID?”

“I don’t know,” MacGyver groaned. “Do you want to hear this or not?”

“Sorry, I’m all ears.”

“Mark and his wife, Linda, run a dude ranch outside of Mission City. They’re a little short-handed this week so I’m going up to help out.”

“Sounds like a blast! When do we leave?!”

Mac sighed. “Jack, what do you know about ranches?”

“What’s there to know?! Campfires, s’mores, singing Kumbaya with cute cowgirls.” Jack waggled his eyebrows.

“I meant horses, Jack. Horses.”

“No problemo! I learned everything I need to know about equines from my uncle Charlie!”

“Uncle Charlie?!” MacGyver shook his head in disbelief. “You’re thinking of horse racing! Your uncle was a con who used to rob your piggy bank!”

“So?”

Mac squeezed his eyes shut already regretting what he was about to say.

“Fine, Jack. You can come. It’s a long drive so we leave at first light.”

XXXXX

It was early afternoon the following day when MacGyver drove his Jeep up a long, gravel driveway and parked next to a sprawling ranch house. Three women stood on the porch exchanging hugs before the younger two skipped down the stairs to a battered pick-up truck. The remaining woman was tall with curly red hair and looked to be about six months pregnant, though Mac was no expert in that area. He hopped out of the Jeep and headed to the porch with Jack on his heels.

“Excuse me! Could you tell me where I could find Mark Bennett?” he asked, keeping his tone light and friendly.

“He’s out grooming one of the trails,” the woman replied. “But I’m his wife, Linda. Is there something I can help you with?”

“Name’s MacGyver. This is my friend, Jack Dalton.”

“Of course! Chuck said you’d be arriving today, but I thought you were coming alone?”

“Slight change of plans,” Mac explained with a forced smile as Jack climbed the steps, doffed his aviator cap, and brought Linda’s hand to his lips.

“A pleasure to meet you, ma cherie.”

It was all MacGyver could do to not roll his eyes, but Linda seemed to find the gesture amusing as she giggled before inviting them in.

“I’ll give you a tour of the house and by then Mark should be back to show you around the grounds. As you can probably tell, we’ve done quite a bit of remodeling,” she called over her shoulder to the men who followed her slightly waddling gait. “We downsized the living room to serve as the lobby and expanded the dining room to accommodate the maximum number of guests.”

“Do all your guests eat here?” Mac asked as she guided them into a large country kitchen.

“It depends,” Linda answered airily. “Each cabin has a small kitchenette since eating out isn’t exactly a prime option in this neck of the woods. We’re prepared to provide three meals a day for everyone.”

“So, exactly how many is ‘everyone’?” Mac inquired.

“We have five cabins that can house up to five people, so when we’re booked, that’s twenty-five guests.”

“And you’re booked for this week?”

“Yep! The first family arrives Wednesday. We should have a full house by Thursday evening.”

Jack let out a whistle through his teeth.

“Couldn’t have said it better myself!” Linda quipped with a smile as she continued the tour. “Back here are the bedrooms for Mark and me and the household staff. You two’ll be in the bunkhouse with the rest of the guides and ranch hands. There’s a kitchen in there as well and the foreman likes to think he’s a chef so you won’t have to worry about going hungry.”

“So how many employees do you have?” MacGyver asked.

“Depends on how busy we are. Thanks to you and Jack and other volunteers, the ranch care and activities are all covered. I have three housekeepers coming in, but unfortunately, you just saw half of my kitchen staff leave when you pulled up. They got full time jobs at the new factory,” Linda frowned.

“Then there are only two people to cook for everyone,” Jack concluded after doing some quick mental math.

“Yep. Just me and Ellie.”

“Don’t you have anyone else to help out?” Mac asked.

“Nope. Not on short notice like this. But we’ll get by. We always do!”

They had returned to the lobby in time to see Mark striding toward the house. MacGyver greeted him enthusiastically and then introduced him to Jack.

“I remember Jack,” Mark smiled. “By reputation, mostly. I never found myself in need of a fake ID!”

The three men shared a laugh before Mark led them to the bunkhouse. The wooden structure was well built with all the basic amenities. Bunk beds lined one wall while the rest of the area consisted of a small kitchen and dining area as well as a corner with a TV and a few comfy chairs.

“You two can bunk here,” Mark said.

“Thanks,” Mac replied, tossing his duffle on the lower mattress.

“Hey, why do I have to take the top bunk?” Jack complained. “I get airsick!” His left eye twitched.

“You’re a pilot, Jack. You don’t get airsick. Besides, I’m the one afraid of heights, remember?”

“All right,” Jack grumbled as he hoisted up his luggage. “But if I fall out of bed and break my neck it’s all your fault.”

XXXXX

The rest of the afternoon went by quickly as Mark first took his two new volunteers on a tour of the guest cabins randomly spaced amongst large pine trees. They were relatively new buildings made to look old and rustic but with all the comforts of home. He and Mac then saddled three horses and the trio checked out one of the shorter, easier trails available for guests to ride with a guide. MacGyver noticed Jack holding the reins a bit too tight and shifting uneasily in the saddle whenever his horse twitched.

“You doin’ okay, Jack?” he asked with a smirk.

“Yeah. Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?” Jack’s wide eyes were glued to the dirt path ahead and his knuckles were turning white as one hand now gripped the saddle horn and Jack tilted precariously to the side as his horse adjusted its gait to the terrain.

Mac reached out, grabbed Jack’s sleeve, and righted him on his mount.

“You’ve got to squeeze him with your knees,” MacGyver instructed. “Make sure he knows you’re up there and that you’re in charge.

“In charge. Right,” Jack repeated a bit breathlessly.

“Now loosen your grip on the reins. The horse knows where he’s going and you’re confusing him,” Mac coached.

Jack slackened his grip completely, but the well-trained horse continued to plod evenly down the trail. MacGyver shook his head, wishing yet again that he had listened to his gut and left Jack back in Milwaukee.

After they had returned to the ranch and tended to their horses, the three men and Linda sat down to a hearty meal she had prepared in their absence.

“Tomorrow I’ll show you guys the other trails we use,” Mark said in between bites of his wife’s delicious stew. “Today I took you on the one we use for kids and beginners. The ‘bunny slope’ so to speak. The others are much more interesting.”

“Interesting?!” Jack croaked as he almost choked on his sip of iced tea.

“And more challenging,” Mark added with a cheeky grin.

“Um, I was thinking,” Jack hedged. “Maybe it would be better if I stayed behind and learned how to do some of the other things around here. Ya know, maybe muck out the barn or something?”

“You? Muck horse stalls?” Mac looked at his friend with both suspicion and concern.

“Yeah! You got a problem with that?!” Jack responded a bit more defensively than necessary.

“No way. Suit yourself,” Mac answered evenly, slathering butter on a hot biscuit and smiling to himself. Go figure, Jack Dalton was afraid of riding horses!

The conversation continued to center around the ranch and it wasn’t long until the subject of the kitchen staff, or lack thereof, came up again.

“You shouldn’t be working so much,” Mark gently scolded his wife. “I’m sure if we look hard enough we’ll find somebody.”

“Don’t worry, sweetheart,” Linda replied. “Ellie and I spoke earlier and planned a very simple menu.”

“But still…”

“Hey! What about Joanna?” Jack eagerly suggested.

“Joanna?!” Three voices echoed back.

“Who’s Joanna?” Linda asked.

“She’s Mac’s...um...well, it’s kinda hard to explain,” Jack replied.

“She’s a friend of mine,” MacGyver replied succinctly.

“A very good friend, if you get my drift,” Jack added with a wink.

Mark and Linda exchanged hopeful glances. “Do you think she’d come?” Mark asked.

MacGyver’s first instinct was to shut down this idea immediately. Jo didn’t deserve to get caught up in his problems, or those of his friends.

“Jo’s covering for me at Challengers,” he replied, hoping that would end the discussion.

“C’mon Mac!” Jack exclaimed. “You and I both know Cynthia could run Challengers on her own with one arm tied behind her back. Can’t you just call Jo and see what she says?”

MacGyver knew he was fighting a losing battle with his friend. He also knew that Joanna would never forgive him if he refused to ask her for help she might be able to provide.

“Fine. I’ll give her a call,” he relented as Linda pointed to the telephone mounted on the wall next to the oversized refrigerator.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Joanna guided her car up the long driveway and parked to the side of the large ranch house. Except for MacGyver’s Jeep, the place looked to be deserted even though it was mid-afternoon. As she stepped from her vehicle, she inhaled the combination of fresh cut grass, hay, manure, horse sweat and smiled. Her friends in the city would probably think she was crazy, but the earthy smells of the ranch soothed and grounded her. She had been so jealous that Mac had been invited up here, but she hadn’t let on, knowing she had her own duties at Challengers. However, after receiving MacGyver’s call last evening she could hardly wait to arrive. Ever since she had been a little girl she had dreamed of living on a farm, preferring livestock to people. Even though she was here to help in the kitchen, she was bound and determined to enjoy her surroundings.

She had just raised her face to the warmth of the sun when she heard the front door to the house open with a soft creak. A pretty redhead with an extended belly stood on the porch and waved to her.

“You must be Joanna!” she called. “Grab your things and come on in!”

Jo did as she was told and soon found herself back on the front porch sitting in a white wicker chair and sipping a glass of ice water.

“I didn’t expect it to be so quiet around here,” she observed as Linda reached for her own glass of lemonade.

“Consider it the calm before the storm. Forty-eight hours from now we won’t have time to breathe.”

“Speaking of which, shouldn’t I be learning my way around the kitchen?”

Her hostess literally waved off her question. “There’ll be plenty of time for that. Life moves slower out here. None of that big city rush. Besides, it’s much more fun to make a new friend.”

Linda’s warm smile immediately endeared the woman to her.

“Where are the guys?” Jo asked, looking toward the stable area.

“Mark took Mac to check out a couple of the riding trails our guests will be using. They won’t be back for a few hours yet.”

“What about Jack?”

“Last I heard he was laying down clean straw in the horse stalls.”

Joanna’s eyes went wide with surprise. “I thought he’d be out riding with Mac?”

“They all went for a trail ride yesterday,” Linda said, her eyes gleaming with mirth. “Let’s just say I think it gave Jack a new perspective…a very high perspective!” The two women giggled at the thought of Jack’s fear of horseback riding before Jo sobered.

“I shouldn’t laugh,” she confessed. “My mom’s the same way so I know how he feels. I’m just glad he can still make himself useful.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. We can never have too many extra hands! Now, why don’t you tell me how you and MacGyver met?”

“It’s kinda a long story,” Joanna hesitated, her head spinning at the quick turn of direction the conversation had taken.

“Like I said, we got nothin’ but time, for now anyway.”

Jo spent the next several minutes trying to condense the events from the time Mac had saved her from falling off a stool at the now-defunct Challengers Academy to now.

“So you two are quite the item, huh?” Linda asked with a smile before taking a sip of her cool drink.

“What makes you say that?”

“Weren’t you listening to yourself just now? Besides, when Jack brought up your name at supper last night, Mac got the same look on his face that Mark gets on his whenever he looks at me and Junior, here. I know two people in love when I see them.”

“Yeah, well, we’re taking things slow. Really slow,” Jo responded, a bit unsure why she felt the need to defend the pace of their relationship. The heat of a blush began to blossom and she decided to turn the tables. “So, you and Mark met in high school?”

“Oh, no,” Linda laughed. “Mark is several years older than me. Besides, I was born and raised in St. Paul. In college I had gotten an internship at a big marketing firm where Mark was already halfway up the corporate ladder. We hit it off and the rest is history!”

“Is this your first?” Jo nodded toward her new friend’s belly.

“Yep! We had finally settled into married life and were thinking of starting a family when the Bennett’s retired and we decided to move up here and take over the ranch. After eight years of putting all our energy into this place, I finally put my foot down and told Mark it was now or never if he wanted to have a little cowpoke. No way am I havin’ a kid after I turn forty, you know what I mean?!”

Joanna summoned a smile and nodded, recalling the similar conversation she had with Mac a couple days ago. Before the two women could say anything more, a familiar voice floated around the side of the house.

“So there we were, high above the Pacific Ocean, both engines on fire with no land in sight when--Oh! Hiya Jo!”

“Hi, Jack,” she greeted him, a pretty young housekeeper at his side. He whispered something in her ear, making her giggle before she turned and headed back to one of the cabins.

“What can I say?! The ladies love a pilot!” he boasted. “Aren’t Butch and Sundance back yet?”

Linda glanced at her watch. “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed. “I guess we really did lose track of time! They should be back soon. Jo, let’s go start dinner so you can get familiar with the kitchen.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Mark and MacGyver guided their horses around the final bend in the trail that ended in the pasture just beside the barn. Mac’s stomach did an odd little flip of happiness when he saw Joanna’s car parked next to his. Once their mounts were groomed and fed, the two men headed into the main house to find Linda and Jo working companionably in the kitchen, preparing a light supper. Soon the two couples and Jack were sharing the meal and engaging in light-hearted conversation. MacGyver was pleased to see Joanna relaxed and laughing. Upon Mark’s recommendation, everyone went to bed early as their first guests of the week were due to arrive tomorrow.

Just before noon on Wednesday, a green mini-van pulled into the drive and a man, woman, and twin pre-teen girls emerged. The Donaldson family. They received a warm welcome from their hosts as ranch hands emerged from the bunkhouse to deliver their luggage to the cabin they would call home for the next several days. Insisting that they were planning on providing their own meals and entertainment, Linda gladly sent them on their way with a map of the grounds which included hiking trails and directions to “secret” fishing holes. The remainder of the day kept the staff busy preparing for the Schultz family scheduled to descend upon the ranch the following day. Ranging in age from seven to seventy and spanning three generations, the family had indicated on their reservation form that they would be taking advantage of all the food and entertainment services available. They were obviously the reason the Bennett’s needed as much help as they could get. It was nearly twilight before MacGyver had a chance to slip out of the stables with some snacks for the horses grazing in the paddock. As he rounded the corner of the building he saw Joanna standing by the split-rail fence, stroking the blaze of a pretty little chestnut mare. He watched as Jo lowered her hand, only to have the horse nip at her shoulder. Joanna’s girlish giggle carried on the soft summer air as she resumed caressing the mare’s muzzle. Mac smiled as he pulled out his Swiss Army knife and cut one of the apples he carried into wedges.

“Here,” he said, approaching Jo. “Try this.”

Jo put the wedge of fruit in the palm of her hand and offered it to the mare who gently took it between her velvet lips, chewed, swallowed, and nickered for more.

“What’s her name?” she asked MacGyver.

“Missy.”

“Well, Missy, you’re incorrigible, you know that?” Joanna teased the mare as her friends, spurred by the presence of a sweet treat, gathered along the fence.

“You’re really good with them,” Mac complimented her once the apples and carrots had all been eaten and the horses resumed munching on the grass.

“I wish I knew more about them,” she shrugged.

“You love them and respect them. That’s an awful good start.”

They stood in companionable silence watching the horses graze and frolic until pinpricks of starlight studded the now-black sky. After exchanging tender kisses and whispered farewells they returned to their respective quarters to prepare for the busy days ahead.

Morning came way too quickly for MacGyver and his counterparts who spent the day tending to the horses as well as the seemingly never-ending influx of Schultz’s. Every now and again he would catch a glimpse of Linda, Joanna, and Ellie setting out the cold buffet lunch or family style dinner they had prepared for the guests. Mark had sent Jack out with a bucket, work gloves and trowel to gather any stray stones from the riding trails that may have appeared since their last grooming leaving Mac to help out wherever he was most needed until he was summoned to his friend’s office late that evening. Mark was slumped in a chair behind his desk when MacGyver knocked softly on the already open door.

“Mac, thanks for coming. Please have a seat.” Mark motioned to a well-worn leather couch on the opposite wall as he came around to lean against his desk.

“I take it this isn’t a social call?” MacGyver ventured.

“Unfortunately not,” Mark replied. “Consider it more of a pre-emptive strike.”

Mac’s tired eyebrows shot up. “That sounds interesting.”

“I’ll cut right to the chase,” Mark began. “Grandpa Schultz signed up the entire family for a trail ride tomorrow.”

Mac quickly did the calculations in his head. “That’s twenty people!”

“Including children,” Mark sighed. “Our limit on any ride is ten. Generally less if there are kids.”

“Aw man…”

“But, he did sign a waiver stating he understood our policies and the risks that going against them may incur. He also signed waivers to use the black diamond trail and not require helmets.”

Mac winced at the ski term reserved for the most challenging slopes. “Are they nuts?”

“Maybe. More importantly, they’re rich and used to having their own way,” Mark stated. “Unfortunately, he has his mind made up and all the proper paperwork has been filed. To top it off, they’re all novice riders.”

“That’s where I come in?” Mac asked, getting a feel for what his friend was going to ask him.

“Yeah. There’s no way I’m taking them on a half-day ride on our most difficult trail alone. I need you to have my six.”

“You got it! What time do we leave?”

Early Friday morning MacGyver joined all available ranch hands to help saddle and assign the horses to their riders. The youngest, seven-year-old Timmy, would be riding Missy, the chestnut mare that Joanna had grown so fond of. She was small, gentle and predictable, and Mac was going to be sure to keep the boy close to Mark at the front of the line with the older, and hopefully somewhat more experienced, riders toward the back.

With the ride scheduled to begin at nine o’clock, the Schultz family gathered outside the stable at promptly eight-thirty to review the rules and riding tips Mark made sure everyone heard before mounting up. Unfortunately, Mark was nowhere to be found. With each passing minute, the riders grew more restless. MacGyver was just about to go to the house to see what the hold up was when he saw Mark and Joanna walk out the front door and head toward the eager group, their faces full of concern. He politely excused himself from the Schultz’s and met them halfway.

“What’s wrong?” Mac asked without preamble.

“It’s Linda,” Mark replied. “She’s been sick all night and now she’s worried about the baby. So am I. We have an emergency appointment with her doctor in Mission City this morning.”

“You take care of Linda,” MacGyver instructed. “I can handle the trail ride on my own.”

“Thanks Mac,” Mark said, clapping a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “But I can’t let you do that.”

“What other option is there? I doubt the Schultz’s would take kindly to rescheduling.”

“There is one option,” Mark replied, looking at Joanna.

“Her?!” Mac exclaimed as if Jo wasn’t there.

“Yes, me!” she bit back, taking offense to the tone he had used.

MacGyver scrubbed his face with his hands. “I’m sorry, Jo, but you don’t have much more experience than most of these riders. It’s too risky.”

Mark reached out and grabbed a grey gelding he introduced to Joanna as ‘George’.

“Look Mac, you told me Jo has a way with horses, and I know she has a way with you as well. You’ll make a great team and ole George here has done this a hundred times. He’ll take care of both of you.”

“I don’t know…” Mac waffled, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

“Look, it’s either me or Jack,” Joanna said firmly.

MacGyver’s eyes met hers and his gaze softened in an attempt to convey a silent apology for his earlier reaction. He knew she could sit a horse well enough, and he knew these horses were trained and docile. And he could use another hand in case something went wrong.

“Alright,” Mac capitulated. “But we’ll take it nice and slow...for everyone’s sake.”

Mark breathed a sigh of relief before he went to address the group and Mac and Jo mounted up. With MacGyver in the lead and Joanna bringing up the rear, the group set off to the trailhead single file. Mac took a deep breath before guiding his charges into the woods.

An hour and a half into the excursion, many of MacGyver’s initial concerns had been seemingly put to rest. The Schultz contingent turned out to be much more level headed and friendly than he anticipated, and they took direction well. Only a few times had he heard Joanna call out reminders to keep the horses on the smooth dirt path or ride single file and he had done the same. Now they had come upon a grove of trees with a natural spring.

“Okay everybody, let’s stop here for a while.”

Saddles creaked as riders dismounted. Some older riders groaned, already getting a little saddle sore. Mac couldn’t help but grin.

“Lead your horses over to the spring and let them drink. I suggest you do the same,” he instructed. “The facilities are behind the trees. We won’t be stopping again until lunch.”

“Don’t you mean the facilities are the trees?” Joanna asked, already standing by his shoulder with George in tow.

“Nope,” Mac smirked. “Go ahead and have a look. I’ll take care of ole George here.”

Jo headed toward the clump of trees he indicated while the family broke off into small groups to chat about their experience so far and some took advantage of the snacks Ellie had packed in their saddlebags. He had just begun leading the horses away from the water when Joanna emerged from the woods shaking her head.

“Port-a-Potties?! Really?!”

MacGyver smiled widely. “Only the best for Bennett Ranch guests! You see, people like to think they’re roughing it without really, well, roughing it!”

“And I, for one, appreciate that policy!” Jo teased.

It wasn’t long until they were back on their way. Some riders had fallen out of order, but they had all proved to be responsible so Mac wasn’t worried. There was more conversation and laughter as everyone relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. MacGyver answered as many questions as he could regarding the area and pointed out spots of interest that Mark had introduced him to the other day. With the summer sun high in the sky, the trail opened out into a wide meadow sooner than Mac had expected. Once again, he told the group to dismount and take their horses to a large, clear stream for a drink. With that chore accomplished, boxed lunches, once again courtesy of Ellie, were removed from saddlebags and the family once again broke off into groups to share their meals. Mac and Jo unloaded feed bags with oats, carrots, and apples and tended to the horses before settling down with their own food.

“Everything goin’ okay back there?” Mac asked, just as Joanna took a bite of her chicken salad sandwich.

“Hmm,mm,” she confirmed before swallowing. “From what Mark said I was afraid there’d be trouble.”

“I’m certainly not gonna complain,” Mac promised, leaning back on his elbows and tilting his face to the sky. When Joanna finished eating, she did the same.

“This sure is a beautiful spot,” she commented softly.

“Yep,” he agreed. “Probably the best on this trail.” He recalled another lovely spot Mark had shown him not far from the ranch. Hopefully he would find some time to take Joanna there...just the two of them. But right now the Schultz’s were packing up the remains of their lunch, eager to get back to their ride.

The second half of the trail wove in and out of shady woods, sun splashed meadows, and gurgling streams that seemed to follow them wherever they went. The hills were a bit steeper, the path narrower than before. Mac made sure to set a comfortable pace for the horses as well as their riders. None too soon they came upon their final resting site before returning to the ranch. Now used to the routine, the group of riders dismounted and watered their horses without MacGyver’s instruction before tending to their own needs. Everyone had spread out, some to take pictures of the landscape, others to stretch their legs. Joanna approached Mac as if drawn by a magnet.

“I think we’re gonna make it,” he said, sliding his arm around her shoulders after stretching out his own back.

“I don’t suppose the Bennetts have a hot tub hiding somewhere?” she asked as he felt her muscles flex under his hand.

“I doubt it,” he replied. “But don’t worry, you’ll feel a lot worse in the morning!”

“Oh, thanks a lot!” she grumbled.

Suddenly, from somewhere in the trees, they heard the sound of branches snapping, a panicked whinny, and a high-pitched shriek. Mac, Joanna, and several of the adults charged into the woods in the direction of the noise. Several yards away they saw Timmy sitting on the ground, tears rolling down his cheeks while the mare he had been riding had her reins caught in a tree branch and was refusing to put any weight on her hind right leg.

“You check on Timmy,” MacGyver directed Jo, “And I’ll take care of the horse.” He saw myriad emotions quickly play out across her face as she looked at her favorite little mare before heading towards the boy.

In no time the area was packed with well-meaning relatives and Joanna was in the middle of the chaos. When she finally made her way back to MacGyver it was to tell him that Timmy was fine, just a little shook up and more worried about the horse than himself.

“And well he should be,” Mac muttered, holding back the seething anger that roiled in his gut. “He knew better than to take her off the path.”

Joanna reached out and gently touched his forearm. A calming source just when he needed one the most.

“How is she?”

“I’m not sure,” he sighed, holding onto the reins he had just finished untangling. “I think she might have a stone in her shoe, but I’m more concerned about the gash on her fetlock.”

The couple’s gaze fell to the mare’s lower leg where blood streamed onto the mossy ground. When they looked up it was to find Grandpa Schultz and Timmy approaching.

“Terrific,” Mac muttered under his breath. “They’re probably gonna find a way to blame us for this and a lawsuit would kill the business.”

“Mr. MacGyver, my grandson here has something to say to you.”

Mac and Jo exchanged curious glances before giving the boy their full attention.

Timmy kept his eyes averted, “I’m sorry, Mister. I know I wasn’t supposed to take Missy off the trail, but I thought she might like some shade. Everything was fine until I tripped over an old dead log and yank her reins too hard. She reared and…”

“Wait a minute,” MacGyver interrupted, letting go a breath he didn’t know he had been holding. “You weren’t riding her?”

The boy shook his head and looked up cautiously. “Is she hurt?” he asked meekly.

“Yeah,” Mac replied, refusing to sugarcoat the situation. “I’m just not sure how bad.”

“Is there anything we can do to help out?” Schultz asked.

MacGyver looked to where the family had gathered a short distance away.

“I’d really appreciate it if you could get everyone back to the trail. I need to get the mare outta here and the less people around, the better. She’s spooked and in pain.”

The older man immediately headed back to his clan and took charge as MacGyver quickly and skillfully removed Missy’s saddle.

“What do you need me to do?” Joanna asked softly from behind him.

“Missy knows and trusts you. You can help me get her back up on the path where I can take a closer look at that wound. Give me your blouse.”

Without question, Jo shrugged out of the lightweight cotton shirt she wore over her tee. Mac took it and together they began to approach the injured horse, murmuring encouraging words to her all the way. Once Joanna had grabbed the mare’s reins, Mac slowly lifted the shirt and wrapped it around the horse’s eyes to blindfold her so she would need to rely on them to lead her out. It was tough going as the mare struggled not to use her injured leg, but eventually, with Jo’s and Mac’s hands gently yet firmly guiding her, all three made it back to the trail. MacGyver carefully removed the blindfold and handed it to Jo.

“Take this to the stream and get it cold and wet. And grab the first aid kit from my saddlebag,” he instructed.

He crouched down and examined the mare’s leg more closely as he waited for Joanna to return. It was bleeding much heavier than he would have liked. Sooner than expected Jo was handing him the cold, wet cloth. He gingerly began to wipe the blood away. He was hoping to use the gauze pads and tape in the emergency kit as a bandage, but the bleeding was too heavy. Instead, he tightly wrapped the shirt around the mare’s leg to create a pressure bandage. He then got out his knife, lifted the injured hoof, and selected a tool to dig out the stone he found lodged in her shoe.

“Is she gonna be okay?” Joanna asked, concern shadowing her face.

“I hope so,” Mac sighed, even as he saw fresh blood already seeping through the cloth. “At least we’re three-fourths of the way home. I’ll take Timmy up with me, you bring up the rear with Missy. Take it slow and easy.”

“Okay everybody! Time to get movin’!” Mac called as everyone mounted up. He swung Timmy up on his horse before climbing on himself and watched as Joanna mounted George and grabbed Missy’s lead, waiting for everyone to be on their way before she began the trek.

They hadn’t traveled very far before Jo called out to MacGyver.

“Mac, you better come back here!”

He quickly dismounted, but instructed the others to remain in the saddle.

“What is it?” he asked, but he answered his own question when he looked down to find the mare’s makeshift bandage saturated with blood that was now leaking onto the ground.

“Aw man,” he said, scrubbing the back of his neck. “We gotta find a way to stop the bleeding.”

“Any ideas?”

Mac jammed his hand into his pant pocket and wrapped it around his ever-present knife.

“Just one. I can try to cauterize the wound, at least enough to keep the bleeding manageable until we can get back, but it’ll take time and I’ll need your help.”

“What about them?” Joanna nodded toward their guests. “The trail’s well-marked. Should we send them on ahead?”

Mac shook his head. “Ranch policy says guests must not ride this trail without a guide. If anything happens, there would really be trouble.”

Not knowing what else to do, MacGyver headed over to speak with Grandpa Schultz. After relaying the guidelines they needed to follow and what needed to be done to the horse, the family elder ordered everyone to dismount and promised to keep them occupied while Mac and Joanna took care of Missy.

As Jo worked to soothe the horse and keep her calm, MacGyver went back into the woods to find some twigs and kindling. He soon had a small fire started a few yards down the path. As the flames grew, he placed his open knife on a rock to allow the flames to heat the steel blade. When he was satisfied it had grown hot enough, he kicked dirt onto the fire to extinguish the flames and then, wrapping his hand in Joanna’s damp, blood-stained shirt, picked up his knife and headed back.

“Okay, stand off to the side and hold onto her lead and try to keep her still,” he instructed. “But let her go if she bolts. Trying to pin her down would be more dangerous for all of us.”

Jo did as he asked, stroking the horse’s muzzle the entire time. Mac let his hands run lightly over the horse’s wither, side and flank to reassure her before crouching down by the bleeding fetlock. He could picture many outcomes, most ending with a hoof in his face. He silently prayed she was too tired and weak to fight him and then set to his task before the blade of his knife cooled off. He took a deep breath and firmly applied the flat piece of metal to the cut on the mare’s leg. The smell of blood and burning flesh caused bile to rise in the back of his throat. A few peaceful seconds passed before Missy reacted, sidestepping away from him before yanking the halter lead out of Jo’s hand. She hobbled down the path as fast as she could before stopping, her twitching body shiny with sweat.

“Go back to where I left her saddle and get the blanket,” Mac said.

He slowly approached the frightened animal and, once Jo gave him the saddle blanket, he began to rub her down, all the while speaking in low tones and making sure she could see him. After several minutes, the mare became calmer than she had been since the accident and was actually putting more weight on her injured leg. Cautiously optimistic, MacGyver examined her wound once again. Though some blood still seeped out, most of the gash had been sealed. It wasn’t pretty, but it would have to do until they could get back to the ranch and call for a vet.

Mac stepped up behind Joanna and began kneading her neck and shoulders, the knots there belying her calm, confident demeanor.

“Is she gonna be okay?” Jo asked, looking up at him with tired eyes.

“Yeah,” Mac nodded with a smile. “She’s gonna be okay.”

XXXXX

When they arrived back at the ranch an hour later than expected, a controlled chaos erupted. Ranch hands were dispatched to tend to the horses while MacGyver told Mark everything that had happened. Much to everyone’s surprise, Grandpa Schultz offered to cover all the vet bills since the injury was his grandson’s fault. Once the horses and guests were taken care of, Mac and Joanna headed to their separate quarters to shower and change before supper.

That evening’s meal was a casual affair. After getting cleaned up, Mac and the other ranch volunteers built a huge bonfire and set out bales of hay at a safe distance as seating for their guests. Once everyone was settled, including the Donaldson family who had decided to join in the festivities, Linda, Joanna, and Ellie emerged from the house carrying trays loaded with hot dogs, buns, various condiments and homemade potato salad. Everyone burst into cheers in anticipation of the weenie roast...and the s’mores making which was sure to come later. MacGyver caught Jo’s eye and motioned her over to where he sat. She gave him a tired smile and plopped down beside him, resting her head on his shoulder. He wrapped an arm around her waist to keep her close.

“Tired?” he asked, and felt her nod against him.

“How’s Missy?” she asked.

“The vet says she’ll be fine. He said we did a good job given the circumstances. How’s Linda?”

Joanna raised her head. “She’s basically fine, as well. The doctor said her blood pressure is slightly elevated, most likely due to the stress she’s been under. He ordered her to start taking it easier with the threat of three months bedrest if she doesn’t.”

“Sounds like Mark’s gonna have a battle on his hands,” Mac said drily, earning a laugh from Jo.

“What about Mark?” the ranch owner asked as he headed toward them carrying two plates laden with food.

“Just that you’re gonna have your hands full if you expect Linda to take it easy,” MacGyver explained as he eyed his supper warily. “Do you have any idea what’s in these things?” he asked, poking at his hot dog.

“No. And I don’t think I want to!” Mark laughed, patting Mac on the shoulder before heading back to his wife.

MacGyver had a fork load of potato salad headed for his mouth when an all-too-familiar voice called out.

“Hola, Kemosabe and maybe-hopefully-soon-to-be Mrs. Kemosabe!”

“Hi Jack,” Mac and Jo answered in unison.

“Heard about your little adventure today, pal. Trouble just seems to dog ya!”

If that wasn’t the pot calling the kettle black, MacGyver didn’t know what was, but before he could open his mouth to protest his friend continued.

“Look what I found in the bunkhouse.” Jack produced an old acoustic guitar from behind his back. “Perhaps you could grace us with some dinner music?”

“Fat chance!”

“Aw, c’mon Mac!” Jack whined. “I know you don’t like to play in front of people, but what would a campfire cookout be without a sing-a-long?!”

“Quiet?”

“Exactly! And we can’t have that now, can we?!”

“Apparently not,” Mac muttered.

As guests and staff alike finished their meals, made s’mores, or just relaxed around the fire, MacGyver grabbed the guitar and began to pluck out the notes to “Home on the Range.” Soon everyone was singing along and he played a few more songs that he figured both adults and kids would know. It didn’t take long before voices began to fade and the events of the day caught up with everyone. Small groups began to excuse themselves and head back to their cabins. Those remaining helped clean up before turning in themselves. Soon MacGyver found himself alone. Warmed by the fire and looking up at the stars, he leaned back against the hay bale he was sitting on, cradled the old guitar, and began to play the quiet strains of a piece he had composed himself and titled “Eau d’Leo”. The last time he had played that song had been over a year ago on New Year’s Eve when a blizzard had stranded the Thorntons, Joanna and him at a B&B in Door County. It was there that he told Pete he had feelings for Jo. The corners of his mouth tugged upward at the memory.

“Whatcha smilin’ about, cowboy?” Joanna asked as she settled next to him.

“Nothin’,” he lied as he went to set the guitar aside.

“No, don’t,” Jo commanded, putting a staying hand on his arm. “Keep playing. Please? I love that song.”

“But you’ve only heard it once,” he pointed out skeptically.

“Well, it made a strong impression on me.” She smiled and then snuggled against his side.

Repositioning the instrument, he started playing from the beginning, wishing it never had to end.

XXXXX

Late Sunday morning, the Bennetts, MacGyver, Joanna, and Jack waved good-bye as the final members of the Schultz family drove away.

“I hate to do this, Mark,” Mac said when the car was out of sight, “but we really need to get going, too. I’m sorry we can’t stay longer and help out.”

“Didn’t you hear?”

“Hear what?” Jack asked.

“When I took Linda to her doctor’s appointment on Friday I was approached by the leader of the high school’s 4-H Club. They’ve decided to make the Bennett Dude Ranch their summer project. We’re gonna have all the help we’ll ever need!”

“That’s great!” MacGyver said. “But what about when the baby comes? The kids’ll be back in school.”

“Things always slow down a lot by then,” Mark explained. “Besides, while we were in Mission City I also heard some rumblings that some of our former employees aren’t enjoying their high paying factory jobs as much as they thought they would. Any ranch hand worth his salt can’t stand to be cooped up, standing over an assembly line for twelve hours a day. I have a feeling I’ll be doing some rehiring over the next few months.”

After exchanging handshakes, hugs, and farewells, the trio from Milwaukee headed toward their cars.

“Hey, Jo! I’ll drive your car if you wanna ride home with Mac,” Jack offered.

Joanna sent MacGyver a panicked look that made him laugh.

“Don’t worry,” he assured her. “Jack drives better than he flies.”

“Ya know, Mac. If you keep complaining about my piloting skills I’m gonna have to ban you from my plane!”

“Promises, promises….” Mac whispered in Jo’s ear causing her to giggle as he slung his arm across her shoulders and guided her to the Jeep.

































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 November 2019 - 12:04 AM                                    
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Ok, this chapter is really long... But even though it's two in the morning, I will read through and review it, because my laptop is going in the be serviced, and may be kept overnight, so it's better I do this now (also, I don't have to go to work until noon, so being up so late shouldn't affect my shift that much XD)


QUOTE
and watched as Mac tossed an old tennis ball across the backyard and Frog gave chase. She smiled at his odd, bow-legged lope as he retrieved the ball and returned to drop the slobber-covered toy at Mac’s feet. His master rewarded his effort with a hearty ear rub.
Funny story, this French Bulldog (or Boston Terrier) mix used to wear all the fuzz off of his tennis balls, and chew on the bare rubber, and it would get all slick from his drool, and randomly come flying out of his mouth. Sometimes it'd go straight up and he'd jump up and catch it again XD It was hilarious every time XD XD XD

QUOTE

“Do you want kids of your own, MacGyver?” she asked softly.
Hey hey, proposal first, missy XD (Not that planning ahead is a bad idea, of course)

QUOTE
“If you want a bunch of baby MacGyvers you’re gonna need to stop hanging out with me and find someone to help you with that.”
As someone who doesn't want kids, I can relate to Jo's statement XD

QUOTE
leaving her to mull over what she had just heard. He had used the words ‘we’ and ‘kids’ in the same sentence as naturally as breathing!
How long you been dating now? What'd you expect? XD

QUOTE
It had been a while since he had seen his two best friends from Mission City and was now concerned about what had prompted the call.
That moment you realize your friends only call you when they need you for something XD

QUOTE
“You mean you have to clear it with the little woman.”

MacGyver could practically see Chuck’s smirk over the phone line. “There is no ‘little woman’,” he replied firmly.

“Hey, sorry man! It’s just that Neil told me you showed up at the reunion with a real special lady. I just assumed…”

“Well, you assumed wrong! Listen, let me think about this and I’ll call you back later.”
I'm really glad Joanna didn't hear that...

QUOTE
There, grinning like a Cheshire cat, stood Jack Dalton.
I can picture that in my head XD XD XD

QUOTE

“Hey, why do I have to take the top bunk?” Jack complained. “I get airsick!” His left eye twitched.
Of all the excuses you could've come up with, Jack XD

QUOTE

“She’s a friend of mine,” MacGyver replied succinctly.


“A very good friend, if you get my drift,” Jack added with a wink.




I'M SORRY BUT THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING ON IN THIS STORY:






QUOTE

“But, he did sign a waiver stating he understood our policies and the risks that going against them may incur. He also signed waivers to use the black diamond trail and not require helmets.”
Someone's gonna get hurt...

QUOTE


MacGyver smiled widely. “Only the best for Bennett Ranch guests! You see, people like to think they’re roughing it without really, well, roughing it!”

“And I, for one, appreciate that policy!” Jo teased.
Same, Jo, same XD

QUOTE

“I think we’re gonna make it,” he said, sliding his arm around her shoulders after stretching out his own back.
But then, suddenly,-

You gotta admit, the Schultz family, including little Timmy, is much more reasonable and responsible than anticipated.

I feel like they're going to make a donation as an apology.

QUOTE

“Just one. I can try to cauterize the wound, at least enough to keep the bleeding manageable until we can get back, but it’ll take time and I’ll need your help.”
Sounds painful.

QUOTE
“Look what I found in the bunkhouse.” Jack produced an old acoustic guitar from behind his back. “Perhaps you could grace us with some dinner music?”

“Fat chance!”

“Aw, c’mon Mac!” Jack whined. “I know you don’t like to play in front of people, but what would a campfire cookout be without a sing-a-long?!”

“Quiet?”

“Exactly! And we can’t have that now, can we?!”

“Apparently not,” Mac muttered.
Oh, I can't WAIT for this one roller.gif

Okay, not what I expected was gonna save the ranch, but close enough laugh.gif



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

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

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

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

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

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 1 November 2019 - 05:11 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 1 November 2019 - 12:04 AM)
Ok, this chapter is really long... But even though it's two in the morning, I will read through and review it, because my laptop is going in the be serviced, and may be kept overnight, so it's better I do this now (also, I don't have to go to work until noon, so being up so late shouldn't affect my shift that much XD)


Yeah, it was a long chapter. I find whenever I introduce new OC's they get kinda long! Thanks for staying up and reading it! That story about the dog was so cute and funny. I can see that happening to Frog...well, maybe not the jumping up and re-catching it part...not sure he'd have the energy...LOL!!



Jody~

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

 
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Posted: 5 November 2019 - 12:27 PM                                    
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Chapter 22: A House Divided

MacGyver stood on the front stoop of the Fairfax home. A bouquet of wildflowers in one hand, he knocked on the door with the other. He inhaled deeply, enjoying the sweet scents of the warm summer day.

“I got it!” Joanna called from inside and he smiled at the lightness in her voice.

“Hi there,” he grinned when she appeared in the doorway. She wore a white tee and black shorts and looked carefree and wonderful. His heart did a little flip.

“Oh, you shouldn’t have!” she exclaimed, reaching for the flowers he held.

“I didn’t,” he confirmed, pulling them away. “At least not for you. These are for your mom.”

Joanna wrinkled her nose playfully. “You don’t have to butter her up, you know. She already loves you!”

Mac shrugged as Judy Fairfax appeared behind her daughter. “You could at least invite the poor man in!” she admonished.

Jo’s cheeks flushed slightly and she stepped aside, allowing MacGyver to enter the small foyer attached to the living room. Before he could say anything, Judy Fairfax had him wrapped in a motherly hug.

“It’s been too long, Mac! I’ve missed having you around!”

“I’ve missed you too, Mrs. Fairfax, but things at Challengers have been keeping me pretty busy.”

“You know to call me ‘Judy’,” she scolded, “And I know that my daughter has also been keeping you busy, but I won’t complain about that!”

As he followed Jo and her mom through the house to the backyard where Joe Fairfax was putting supper on the grill, he could feel the love and support that made this house a home. Joanna was the third generation to live here and, as an only child, one day it would belong to her. Would he be sharing it with her?

Mr. Fairfax greeted him with a hearty handshake as his daughter beamed. Mac knew how much this little family meant to Jo and his heart swelled knowing they had unconditionally welcomed him into their ranks, even if he did tend to go AWOL with their daughter at times!

Dinner was a casual affair filled with easy conversation and light-hearted banter. Jo and Mac regaled her parents with stories from their time at the ranch which awakened memories of the family’s first trail ride which brought even more laughter as Judy expressed her horror at how tall her horse was and bemoaned the fact that it wiggled and twitched.

After dessert was eaten and the dishes were cleared, the small group adjourned to the living room where Joe tuned the television to a baseball game, sans volume, but still earned a scowl from his wife which made Mac chuckle. Dusk fell as conversation continued and MacGyver became loath to return to his empty townhouse. Suddenly, a car in desperate need of a muffler roared up the street and pulled to a screeching halt in front of the Fairfax home. Joanna’s mother was out of her chair and looking out the bay window before Mac could blink.

“Jude, would you just settle down,” Joe complained as his wife partially blocked his view of the TV screen.

“That’s the third time this week that car’s been around here,” Judy protested. “And here comes the other one!”

Joanna rolled her eyes. “Ma, would you just sit down and mind your own business?!”

Ever curious, MacGyver joined Judy at the window.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“These two cars pull up, just sit there for awhile, and then speed off. I think it’s a drug deal,” Judy informed him.

“Could be,” he muttered. Even though the Fairfaxes lived in one of the safest sections within the city limits, crime did not discriminate. “Let’s call the police.”

“By the time they get here it’ll all be over,” Judy protested. “I’m not gonna take this anymore!” She pushed off the window sill and charged through the front door before anyone realized her intentions.

MacGyver was the first to gather his wits and, with long strides, quickly caught up to Jo’s mom who was halfway across the front yard, headed toward the offending autos.

“Get out of my neighborhood!” she yelled, stalking purposefully toward the vehicles.

Mac glanced at the car parked closest to them. As the occupant rolled down the window, MacGyver saw a ray of light from a nearby streetlamp glint off of what he immediately recognized as the muzzle of a gun.

“Get down!” he cried as he lunged through the air, placing himself between Joanna’s mom and the weapon, pulling her to the ground with him at the same time. He felt a white-hot heat slice through the side of his abdomen before landing on the soft grass, his head hitting something hard before everything went black.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Joanna and her dad had been watching the scene unfold from the front steps when the flash of a gun firing sent them running toward the two crumpled forms on the lawn as the cars sped away. Neighbors quickly emerged from their homes to see what the ruckus was all about and commands to call 911 quickly filled the night air.

With tunnel vision brought on by blind panic, Joanna fell to her knees and rolled MacGyver’s large form off her mother’s much smaller one. Both were covered in blood, but her mom was already struggling to sit up as neighbors came to her aid. With Judy insisting that she was fine and her husband now by her side, Jo turned her focus solely to MacGyver. He had a long gash on his temple where his head had connected with a decorative garden rock when he fell, but of more immediate concern was the dark stain flooding his shirt. Instinctively, Joanna pressed on the ragged wound with the palms of her hands in hopes of staunching the blood that flowed freely through her fingers and onto the already dewy grass. Her next door neighbor took off his own T-shirt and handed it to her. She took it wordlessly and pressed it to Mac’s side, holding her breath until the wail of sirens began to draw near.

Moments later, the once peaceful street erupted in chaos as paramedic and police units arrived. Firm but gentle hands grasped Jo’s shoulders and pulled her away from MacGyver’s prone, unconscious body.

“Let them work,” a soothing female voice told her as paramedics began to tear away Mac’s shirt and evaluate his injuries.

“You need to give us your statement, ma’am,” that same voice said. “What happened here?”

“Mac. I have to stay with Mac. I can’t leave him. I can’t run.”

“There’s nothing you can do for him now, ma’am. Please come with me.”

Joanna connected the voice to that of a female police officer and reluctantly allowed herself to be led to a quiet corner of the yard before her knees buckled and she sunk to the ground once again.

“Are you injured as well?”

Jo followed the officer’s concerned gaze to the bright red stain on her shirt. Blood. Mac’s blood. She shook her head in reply.

“Then tell me what happened.”

Joanna mechanically chronicled the events of the evening, all the while attempting to catch glimpses of MacGyver which the officer deftly blocked, much to Jo’s frustration. However, when she finally saw the gurney being lifted into the back of an ambulance she stood up.

“I have to go with him,” she declared.

“I’ll have an officer take you to the hospital when we’re done here.”

“I am done,” Jo firmly informed the woman, and headed toward the ambulance.

She had only taken a few steps before she was intercepted by a taller, stronger male officer. She was about to protest when a grandmotherly neighbor she had known most of her life wrapped comforting arms around her waist.

“We need to get you cleaned up, child,” the elderly woman said. “You can’t show up at the hospital looking like that!”

Her mind slowly beginning to clear, she looked down at the stain on her shirt as well as the sticky blood now drying on her hands. The adrenaline from earlier was quickly leaving her system only to be replaced by the chills and dizziness of shock. With the woman’s arms supporting her, they went into the house where she was quickly divested of her soiled clothes and wrapped in a warm blanket while her hands were scrubbed clean in the kitchen sink. Feeling physically improved, she went upstairs to pull on jeans and a clean top. When she returned to the living room where the remaining neighbors and emergency personnel now gathered she found herself pulled into her mother’s arms.

“I need to go to him,” Jo murmured.

“I know, baby,” Judy replied, stroking her daughter’s hair.

“Don’t call me that!” Joanna cried, jerking out of her mom’s grasp. Mac called her ‘baby’. Only Mac could call her that!

“Maybe you should wait until tomorrow, after you’ve had some rest,” Judy suggested, her eyes full of concern.

“No!” Jo shook her head emphatically. “I have to go now!”

“Then at least have your father drive you.”

Joanna capitulated since arguing would only keep her from getting to Mac. Father and daughter rode in silence. Joe dropped her off at the emergency entrance where she promised to call with any news before hurrying through the automatic doors and into the antiseptic environment of the hospital.

“I’m here to see MacGyver,” she said without preamble upon reaching the front desk. “He was brought in a while ago with a gunshot wound and head injury.”

“Are you a relative?” the young receptionist asked.

“No, but--”

“Then I’m sorry, you’ll just have to have a seat.”

Joanna closed her eyes and took what she hoped would be a deep, calming breath, but it didn’t work.

“Isn’t there anything you can tell me about his condition?”

“No ma’am. I’m sorry.”

Jo was trying to decide whether to scream or cry when a petite, dark-haired woman of Asian descent approached her.

“Excuse me,” she said gently. “I heard you ask for MacGyver. What is your name?”

“Joanna. Joanna Fairfax,” she replied, staring blankly at the woman in scrubs.

“I’m Wendi Vang, a trauma nurse here. I believe you and Mr. MacGyver used to work with my husband, Lee.”

Jo’s mind sputtered as she tried to process what the kind-looking woman had said. Then it finally clicked.

“Yes,” she responded on a sigh of relief. “He’s helped us out on a couple of occasions. Can you tell me anything about Mac?”

“Come with me,” Wendi instructed quietly.

Together they walked to the nurses’ station where she quickly logged onto a computer.

“These new privacy laws stink,” she said for Jo’s ears only. “And I’m afraid they’re only going to get worse. Anyway, MacGyver was immediately rushed into surgery and is there now.”

Joanna’s breath hitched at the news as Wendi’s well-trained fingers flew over the keyboard.

“I put your name on his chart as the main contact person. Make yourself as comfortable as you can and I’ll see to it that you receive any information on his condition as soon as it becomes available.”

“Thank you,” Jo whispered as tears held at bay too long threatened to fall.

Wendi stepped beside her and put a hand on her shoulder.

“From what Lee has told me, you and MacGyver have a very special relationship. It’s only right.”

Joanna nodded and sank down in a cushioned vinyl chair to wait. It seemed like an eternity before Wendi Vang appeared again, this time with a small smile on her face.

“Mac is out of surgery and in recovery. The doctor said the bullet went straight through and missed all his organs and major arteries. He lost a lot of blood, though, and that will slow his recovery. Plus, he has a pretty bad concussion.”

Flooded with relief that MacGyver would survive, Jo let out an exhausted giggle. “A concussion is nothing new for him. He’ll be fine.”

Wendi’s smile disappeared as she sat down in the chair next to Joanna’s.

“I’m afraid that’s the doctor’s main concern at this point. MacGyver’s charts show a history of head trauma. With each injury, his chances for a full recovery decrease.”

“What exactly are you trying to tell me?”

“I can’t really say anything. A neurologist will be working with him and able to give you more details. Right now the important thing is that he wakes up, and the sooner the better.”

“When can I see him?”

“They’ll be moving him to a private room within the hour, but I can take you there now, if you like.”

Joanna simply nodded and before she knew it she was standing in the doorway of an empty hospital room on the fourth floor. Wendi grabbed the attention of the head nurse.

“This is Joanna Fairfax. She’ll be staying with Mr. MacGyver.”

Joanna had just walked over to a large window that looked out over the lights of the city when she heard Wendi’s voice again.

“Just put it over there,” she ordered.

Jo turned around to find two orderlies positioning a reclining chair with footrest where Wendi indicated.

“I figured you’d want to stay the night so I thought we could at least try and make you comfortable.”

“You sure have a lot of pull around here for a trauma nurse,” Joanna observed with a thin smile.

“You mean I have a lot of pull around here for a trauma nurse whose husband is a lawyer and willing to represent doctors or patients,” she laughed warmly.

After thanking Wendi for all her assistance, Jo surveyed the sterile room, her eyes coming to rest on a telephone sitting on the nightstand. Even though it was late, she had some calls to make.

“Hello,” Judy Fairfax answered in a brisk tone.

“Hi Mom, it’s me,”

“How is he?”

Jo told her mother what Wendi had told her.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to send your father to pick you up so you can come home and rest?”

“Yeah, Mom. I need to be here.”

Judy sighed wearily. “I understand. Keep us posted and tell Mac we love him.”

Joanna disconnected the call and dialed a different number.

“MacGyver, I swear if this is you calling in the middle of the night to ask me for another favor I’m--”

“Pete, it’s Joanna.”

The man on the line gasped and immediately gentled his voice.

“What’s happened to MacGyver?”

“If Sam is there, can you put him on the extension so I don’t have to repeat myself? I’m sorry, but it’s been a long night.”

Joanna heard Pete tell Connie to go wake Sam and as soon as she heard the telltale click indicating Sam had picked up his line she launched into the reason for her call.

“I’m on my way,” Sam said as soon as she finished her monologue.

“No, Sam. Get some sleep and drive up in the morning. The last thing I need is for you to get in an accident because you’re tired and upset,” she instructed.

After a long silence Sam grudgingly agreed. She was just hanging up the phone when a pair of orderlies wheeled MacGyver’s bed into the room and locked it in place. She smiled at them weakly before they turned and left.

Joanna lovingly studied Mac’s unconscious form, drinking in the sight of him. The harsh overhead fluorescent lights made his pale skin appear gray. A large gauze bandage covered the gash on his temple. She gently smoothed back the long bangs that had fallen over his forehead. Watching the steady rise and fall of his chest, she carefully pulled back the lightweight blanket and thin sheet that covered him to find him shirtless, his abdomen wrapped in sterile dressings protecting the bullet wound. Tucking the covers back over his broad chest and muscular shoulders she finally allowed herself to slump down in the recliner and shed silent tears until she fell asleep.

Jo awoke in the pre-dawn hours when a nurse came in to take MacGyver’s vitals yet again.

“Any change?” she whispered hopefully.

The nurse shook her head. “Everything’s the same, but his vitals are strong so that’s a good sign.”

Joanna thanked the nurse for the information and changed positions in her chair hoping to get a couple more hours of rest, but sleep would not come. Instead, her mind began replaying the events of the previous evening. They had all been having such a nice time. Then her mother had to be nosy and look out the window. Then she ran out the door. Then she yelled at the hoodlums. Then she fell to the ground with Mac. Then Mac was shot and unconscious and it was all her mother’s fault. If only she had kept her mouth shut. If only she had stayed inside and minded her own business. Anger sparked deep in Joanna’s soul and over the next hours became a raging inferno that forced her into a decision she never thought she would have to make.

A soft knock on the doorjamb startled Jo awake. Apparently she had managed to doze off at some point without realizing it. Weak rays of sunlight told her it was early morning. She turned toward the door to find Sam standing there, wide eyes fixed on his father. Rising from her chair, her movement caught Sam’s attention and he strode to her and embraced her firmly.

“How is he?” Sam asked, his voice raspy.

“The same.” Jo smiled sadly.

Before they could say anything more, a nurse entered the room followed by two orderlies.

“Excuse us, but Mr. MacGyver has an appointment in radiology this morning,” she said a bit too brightly for Joanna’s taste. “It’ll take about an hour so feel free to grab some breakfast in the cafeteria.”

They watched silently as a still unconscious Mac was wheeled out of the room for what Joanna knew was a brain scan.

“You hungry?” Sam asked after everyone had departed.

“No, but I would like to go home. I know you just got here but would you mind--”

“C’mon,” Sam said, keys already in hand. “You’ll feel better after a long, hot shower and a few hours of sleep in your own bed.”

“Actually I was gonna...oh, you’re crashing at your dad’s place, aren’t you?” she asked deflatedly.

“Yeah. Something wrong with that?”

“No, I was just planning on doing the same thing.”

Sam shot her a questioning glance.

“It’s a long story,” was her reply.

“None of my business,” he shrugged easily. “I’ll just take the couch.”

It was still early when Sam deposited Joanna in her own driveway. Knowing her parents would still be asleep, she quietly slipped in the back door and trudged up the stairs. She had just pulled out her suitcase and began to toss some clothes in it when the telltale squeak of a step forewarned her that she was not alone. Her jaw and fists clenched as she summoned the last of her energy to keep her composure.

“I thought I heard you come in,” her mom said softly. “How’s MacGyver?”

“The same,” Jo replied coldly.

“What are you doing?” Judy asked, noticing the suitcase.

“I just can’t be here right now,” she answered flatly.

“Why? Where will you go?”

“Mac’s. Maybe Challengers.”

“But sweetheart, I just don’t understand.”

“I need some space, all right?” Joanna’s frustration was mounting.

“Look, I know you’re upset about Mac, but he’ll be just fine.”

“That’s just it, Ma! If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be upset about Mac because he wouldn’t have gotten shot and be lying unconscious in the hospital as we speak!”

“Honey, I never thought anyone would get hurt.” Judy Fairfax reached out to touch her daughter’s arm but Joanna quickly pulled back.

“Do you have any idea what it was like for me last night, hearing a gunshot and watching the two of you fall to the ground?!” Jo shot back. “I thought I lost two of the people I love most in this world! I’m glad you’re okay, Ma. I really am. But if you had just minded your own business the man I love wouldn’t be hurt! I’m sorry, but I just can’t be around you right now.”

Ignoring the tears pooling in her mother’s eyes, Joanna slammed her suitcase shut, hurried down the stairs and got in her car. She saw Judy watching her from the living room window as she pulled out onto the street, but she didn’t give her mom a backwards glance. Right now her world was all about MacGyver.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MacGyver’s head pounded, his side ached, his mouth was dry, and he felt like he’d been asleep for a month. He tried to peel an eyelid back, but as soon as a pinprick of bright light hit it he slammed it shut. Ouch! That little experiment just ratcheted up his headache exponentially. Where was he? What had happened to him? He calmed his racing mind and allowed his natural thoughts to fall into order. Then he remembered. He had been visiting with Joanna’s family. Her mom had gone outside. He had followed. He saw a gun. He had been shot. That explained the pain in his side. He fell. His head hit something hard. Aw, man. He was recovering from another concussion. After all the blows he had taken to the head, he should have figured that part out sooner. An involuntary moan escaped his lips and set off a cacophony of voices around him. Some were familiar, others not. Before he could sort them out, someone pried his eye open and aimed a blazing light right at it. He winced and pushed his head as far into his pillow as he could trying to escape the offending brightness to no avail. The same procedure was performed on his other eye. He worked his mouth, trying to make words come out, but nothing happened. Suddenly he felt something against his lips. A straw. He began to greedily suck in cool water, but it was pulled away all too quickly. The voices had quieted. He decided to test his own.

“Jo?” he croaked pitifully.

“I’m here, Mac. I’m here. You’re gonna be alright.”

He felt her warm hand cup his cheek and he leaned into it. He forced his eyes open and met her liquid brown gaze, shiny with unshed tears. Hopefully of relief.

“Your mom…” He hated how weak and hoarse his voice was.

“She’s fine, thanks to you. She sends her love.”

Mac tried to smile and hoped he succeeded. He saw another figure step up to stand next to Joanna.

“Sam?”

“Hey, Dad! How you feelin’?”

“I’ve been better,” he quipped before turning serious. “How long have I been out?”

“About two days,” Joanna told him. “The doctors have been running brain scans and they say everything is normal.”

“If they’re describing my brain as normal then something must be wrong with it.” He summoned enough energy to pull a face, making Sam and Jo chuckle.

A deep, unfamiliar voice interrupted them. “Now that Mr. MacGyver is conscious, he needs to rest,” a doctor in a white lab coat informed them. “You can come back in a few hours.”

As Joanna turned to leave, Mac reached out and grabbed her wrist with more strength than he thought possible. It was then that he saw the recliner positioned behind her.

“You’ve been here this whole time?” he asked, his eyes sliding to the chair.

“Most of it,” she amended. “Now get some rest and I’ll see you later.” She bent down and placed a soft kiss on his forehead, her lips lingering just a moment longer than necessary. He was pretty sure he drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face.

MacGyver slept sporadically over the next twenty-four hours. Each time he awoke it was to find either Sam or Joanna, or sometimes both, watching over him. Initially he wanted to tell them to go away, that he was fine. But he soon discovered he found comfort in knowing that they were by his side.

A few days later, the doctor deemed Mac recovered enough to be discharged. He was sitting on the side of his hospital bed dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt when Sam appeared in the doorway, accompanied by a nurse pushing an empty wheelchair. Time to go home at last!

Sam hovered over MacGyver like a mother hen as they made the short trek from the driveway to the front door. Upon entering, Mac noticed rumpled blankets piled on his couch.

“Haven’t you been sleeping upstairs?” he asked his son.

“Nah, that mattress is too hard. The couch is fine.”

Mac eyed Sam curiously but decided not to waste his energy pursuing this particular conversation. He gingerly climbed the winding stairs to his bedroom, with Sam close behind. The bed was neatly made and immediately he honed in on the fresh scent of Joanna’s coconut shampoo.

“Has Jo been sleeping here?”

“Yeah, sometimes,” Sam replied evasively. “We figured you wouldn’t mind.”

And he didn’t. In fact, a secret part of him that he rarely acknowledged thrilled to the idea that Jo wanted to feel close to him when they were apart.

“Where is she now?” he asked.

“Challengers. Cynthia wasn’t feeling well this morning. That’s why Jo couldn’t come with me to pick you up,” Sam explained. “Why don’t you lie down for a while? She’ll probably stop by later and you could use your beauty sleep,” he teased.

Mac summoned a weak smile, stretched out on the bed, and fell into a blessedly deep and uninterrupted slumber.

XXXXX

After a few days of recuperating at home under Sam’s careful supervision, MacGyver began to grow restless and, much to his son’s dismay, decided it was time to head back to work and for Sam to do the same. He had no sooner entered the Challengers Club when he was accosted by teens cheering his return. Joanna and Cynthia hung back, smiling widely, but it was Jo’s pale skin and hollow eyes that held his attention and concern.

“Why don’t you take the rest of the day off and get some rest?” he urged her once they were alone in his office.

“That’s okay. I’m fine,” she insisted.

He reached out and caressed her cheek. “No, you’re not. You’ve been running yourself ragged between covering here and checking up on me. Let me take you home.”

She shook her head vigorously. “I said I’m fine.”

Mac knew better than to push the issue, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to keep tabs on her. Something wasn’t right and he was going to find out what it was.

MacGyver quickly regained his energy as the days passed and he found himself arriving at Challengers earlier and staying later, just like he used to. And when Joanna wasn’t spending time with him at his place she was at Challengers as well, and Mac couldn’t help noticing that her car never seemed to move from its reserved space. Late one night, on a hunch that had been growing steadily stronger, MacGyver hopped into his Jeep and headed to Challengers. Sure enough, there was her car, parked exactly as it had been over twelve hours ago.

His unexpected arrival raised the eyebrows of more than one third-shift adult volunteer. He smiled in greeting as he made his way to the staircase which led to the second floor dorm rooms. Word of their shelter services hadn’t yet spread so only one door was shut tight. Mac tapped gently before entering. Joanna was lying on her back and from the glow of moonlight coming through the window he could see her open eyes staring at the ceiling. He perched himself on the edge of the empty bed next to hers.

“Wanna tell me why you ran away from home?”

“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about,” she mumbled.

“Look, I know that you stayed at my place while I was in the hospital and that’s okay,” he quickly reassured her. “I want you to feel safe and comfortable there. But now you’re staying here?”

“I worked later than I planned so decided to crash here for the night.”

MacGyver’s eyes slid to the suitcase propped up against the wall and back to Jo who was now looking at him. He raised his eyebrows in question and Joanna rolled her eyes.

“You’re not gonna leave until I talk about it, are you?” she asked with a sigh.

“Nope,” he replied with what he hoped was an encouraging grin.

Joanna sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed so she was facing him.

“Sitting in the hospital room with you the night you got shot gave me a lot of time to think. By morning, I decided the whole thing was my mom’s fault and I went home to pack a bag.” She then recounted the words she and her mother exchanged.

“And you haven’t been home or talked to her since?”

Jo shook her head.

“You do know that the only person responsible for what happened that night is the jerk who fired the gun.”

This time Jo nodded, but Mac could tell she wasn’t convinced.

“Okay, so you think your mom is nosy. That’s just a part of who she is, just like running to the rescue is a part of who I am.”

This time Joanna’s gaze locked with his.

“Promise me that tomorrow you’ll go talk with her and straighten everything out.”

“Fine,” Jo murmured, her shoulders slumped either in defeat or relief.

“Good. Now that that’s settled, let’s get some sleep.”

MacGyver sprawled out on top of the bed covers.

“You don’t have to guard me like some prisoner. I said I’ll go home and I mean it.”

“Good,” Mac confirmed without moving muscle. He smiled when he heard Joanna let out a huff and grumble as she crawled under the covers, her back to him.

XXXXX

Late the following afternoon MacGyver sat tapping a pencil against the top of his desk with no particular rhythm while staring out into the recreation area waiting for Joanna’s return. Her bed had been empty when he awoke this morning, both her suitcase and her car gone. A pang of envy hit him square in the chest as he yearned for the chance to go home and speak to his own mother just one more time. Even if only to say goodbye. Joanna and her parents loved and protected each other fiercely and he had been humbled when they opened their lives and their hearts to include him. As if his thoughts had conjured her, Jo came swooping into the room wearing a pastel sundress and a lighthearted smile. She cheerily greeted everyone she passed and looked as if a great burden had been taken off her shoulders. A heavy burden she had carried around needlessly for too long.

“I take it things went well with your mother?” he inquired once he had her attention.

“We had a good talk,” she confirmed. “About a lot of things. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“I’m glad,” he smiled. “You know, I never meant to come between you and your mom. I don’t want you to feel like you ever have to choose between me and your family.”

“I know, and you didn’t. This was all on me. I was scared and needed someone to blame, even if it was misdirected.”

Mac draped his arm over her shoulders and pulled her to his side, the one without the bullet hole, and kissed the top of her head.

“So, did the cops ever catch the creeps who started all this?”

“Oh! With everything that happened I forgot to tell you!” Jo exclaimed pulling away from him. “One of my neighbors got their license plate number and they were apprehended a few blocks away.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“Yeah,” Joanna sighed. “Now things can get back to normal.”

Mac quirked a brow at her.

“Or at least as normal as things can get around here,” she laughed

















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: 8 November 2019 - 08:27 PM                                    
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*phew* Okay, finally making the time to get into this happy.gif

QUOTE
Chapter 22: A House Divided
Huh, wonder what this entails?

QUOTE
Before he could say anything, Judy Fairfax had him wrapped in a motherly hug.
Fsr all I can think of is this:
user posted image

QUOTE
“By the time they get here it’ll all be over,” Judy protested. “I’m not gonna take this anymore!” She pushed off the window sill and charged through the front door before anyone realized her intentions.
Wow, mark this as the stupidest thing you've ever done, Judy...

QUOTE

“Get down!” he cried as he lunged through the air, placing himself between Joanna’s mom and the weapon, pulling her to the ground with him at the same time. He felt a white-hot heat slice through the side of his abdomen before landing on the soft grass, his head hitting something hard before everything went black.
This is why you don't interfere with criminal activity...

Also, this is why the house is divided, isn't it? Judy almost got Mac killed here (though we all know he'll pull through in the end XD)

QUOTE
“Maybe you should wait until tomorrow, after you’ve had some rest,” Judy suggested, her eyes full of concern.
Because she's totally going to be able to get some rest after that. Right.

QUOTE
Jo turned around to find two orderlies positioning a reclining chair with footrest where Wendi indicated.
She's really going all out, isn't she? I like her XD

QUOTE

“Pete, it’s Joanna.”

The man on the line gasped and immediately gentled his voice.

“What’s happened to MacGyver?”
He. Just. KNEW. *insert a crying emoji that doesn't exists on this site yet*

QUOTE

“No, Sam. Get some sleep and drive up in the morning.
Okay, does no one realize that people dealing with trauma don't just "go to sleep"? XD

QUOTE

Joanna lovingly studied Mac’s unconscious form, drinking in the sight of him.
That's really creepy... XD

QUOTE
The harsh overhead fluorescent lights made his pale skin appear gray.
Everyone's a vampire tonight...

QUOTE
Then Mac was shot and unconscious and it was all her mother’s fault. If only she had kept her mouth shut. If only she had stayed inside and minded her own business. Anger sparked deep in Joanna’s soul and over the next hours became a raging inferno that forced her into a decision she never thought she would have to make.
I knew it. But... *swallows hard* what "decision she never thought she would have to make"?...

QUOTE
Apparently she had managed to doze off at some point without realizing it.
I do that a lot... XD

QUOTE

“C’mon,” Sam said, keys already in hand. “You’ll feel better after a long, hot shower and a few hours of sleep in your own bed.”
Sam's already treating his future mother-in-law right XD

QUOTE

“Honey, I never thought anyone would get hurt.” Judy Fairfax reached out to touch her daughter’s arm but Joanna quickly pulled back.
WELL WHAT DID YOU THINK WAS GONNA HAPPEN?!

QUOTE
He fell. His head hit something hard. Aw, man. He was recovering from another concussion.
Lol, he's used to it by now XD XD XD

Of course Mac tries to get Jo to make up with her mom... XD

Aaaand happily ever after. For this chapter XD



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

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

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

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

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

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 9 November 2019 - 12:03 PM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 8 November 2019 - 08:27 PM)

QUOTE
“By the time they get here it’ll all be over,” Judy protested. “I’m not gonna take this anymore!” She pushed off the window sill and charged through the front door before anyone realized her intentions.
Wow, mark this as the stupidest thing you've ever done, Judy...


For the record, though I doubt in this day and age my mom would actually go running outside, she IS always in the window if there's a strange car parked in our neighborhood, etc. And she's not afraid of them seeing her! We have had some drug deals go down like that (rarely)...so this really isn't much of a stretch if you can believe it!



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: 9 November 2019 - 11:42 PM                                    
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QUOTE (uniquelyjas @ 9 November 2019 - 03:03 PM)
QUOTE (Dragondog @ 8 November 2019 - 08:27 PM)

QUOTE
“By the time they get here it’ll all be over,” Judy protested. “I’m not gonna take this anymore!” She pushed off the window sill and charged through the front door before anyone realized her intentions.
Wow, mark this as the stupidest thing you've ever done, Judy...


For the record, though I doubt in this day and age my mom would actually go running outside, she IS always in the window if there's a strange car parked in our neighborhood, etc. And she's not afraid of them seeing her! We have had some drug deals go down like that (rarely)...so this really isn't much of a stretch if you can believe it!

Oh I believe it, my mom does the same thing. But she's more likely to call the police than she is to go running outside. But we live in a really bad neighborhood, so getting shot is kinda expected if we were to try that out.

I hope that comment didn't come out as offensive, I can be pretty toungue-in-cheek, but at most I just meant that personally confronting baddies is a bad idea most of the time blush.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: 10 November 2019 - 11:58 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 9 November 2019 - 11:42 PM)

[/QUOTE]
For the record, though I doubt in this day and age my mom would actually go running outside, she IS always in the window if there's a strange car parked in our neighborhood, etc. And she's not afraid of them seeing her! We have had some drug deals go down like that (rarely)...so this really isn't much of a stretch if you can believe it! [/QUOTE]

Oh I believe it, my mom does the same thing. But she's more likely to call the police than she is to go running outside. But we live in a really bad neighborhood, so getting shot is kinda expected if we were to try that out.

I hope that comment didn't come out as offensive, I can be pretty toungue-in-cheek, but at most I just meant that personally confronting baddies is a bad idea most of the time blush.gif

No offense taken!! We live in a very good neighborhood which can lull you into a false sense of security. But times are changing and crime IS moving in. Back in the '80's, a small grocery store by us got robbed one evening and my dad took off in pursuit of the robber and "treed" him! So I kinda transferred that incident to this story.



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 November 2019 - 11:09 PM                                    
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[QUOTE=uniquelyjas,10 November 2019 - 02:58 PM] [QUOTE=Dragondog,9 November 2019 - 11:42 PM]
[/QUOTE][quote]
For the record, though I doubt in this day and age my mom would actually go running outside, she IS always in the window if there's a strange car parked in our neighborhood, etc. And she's not afraid of them seeing her! We have had some drug deals go down like that (rarely)...so this really isn't much of a stretch if you can believe it! [/QUOTE]

[quote]Oh I believe it, my mom does the same thing. But she's more likely to call the police than she is to go running outside. But we live in a really bad neighborhood, so getting shot is kinda expected if we were to try that out.

I hope that comment didn't come out as offensive, I can be pretty toungue-in-cheek, but at most I just meant that personally confronting baddies is a bad idea most of the time blush.gif [/QUOTE]
[quote]No offense taken!! We live in a very good neighborhood which can lull you into a false sense of security. But times are changing and crime IS moving in. Back in the '80's, a small grocery store by us got robbed one evening and my dad took off in pursuit of the robber and "treed" him! So I kinda transferred that incident to this story. [/QUOTE]
I guess it depends on the neighborhood. I've lived in this one a long time, and sometimes I can hear gun fights going on during the summer. Usually mistake it for fireworks, though hmm.bmp

Glad no offence was taken smile.gif



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

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

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

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

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

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 11 November 2019 - 08:21 PM                                    
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What's even up with the quotes?..

Forget it, you get the idea XD



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

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

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

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

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

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 12 November 2019 - 06:45 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 11 November 2019 - 08:21 PM)
What's even up with the quotes?..

Forget it, you get the idea XD

I thought the same thing, but I'm used to wonky computer stuff so it didn't both me!! LOL!!



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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uniquelyjas
Posted: 14 November 2019 - 09:41 AM                                    
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Chapter 23: Mid-Summer Gala

Sam stepped off the elevator and scanned the large, third floor room affectionately known as the bull pen by his fellow stringers. Flimsy partitions divided rows of computer desks into small cubicles and he soon found his prey tucked away in the far corner staring blankly at her monitor.

“Hey! How’s my favorite crime beat reporter today?” he asked cheerily.

“Hi, Sam,” Becca replied listlessly.

Rebecca Williams was a freelance journalist who, like Sam, had connections at the Tribune and impeccable references, yet she, like him, had been relegated to the role of stringer until a permanent position opened up. A couple years younger than Sam, she hailed from Kentucky but had moved to Chicago after graduating college in Santa Barbara. A bit short and a little on the chubby side, she generally wore her long brunette hair in a ponytail and her striking green eyes hidden behind glasses. She had been one of the first people Sam had met at the Tribune since she was always there searching for a story. Shy and reserved in the beginning, they eventually struck up an easy friendship. He was like a big brother to her and she was like the girl-next-door to him.

“You sound kinda down,” Sam observed. “Maybe this’ll help.”

He handed her a tall, clear plastic take-out cup and she immediately recognized the bright yellow contents.

“A pineapple Slurpee!” she exclaimed, her face brightening as she took a long pull of the frozen beverage through the straw.

“Better?”

“Not really,” she sighed, leaning back in her chair.

“C’mon Becca, talk to me,” Sam said as he pulled up a chair next to hers. He made a face when she looked at him strangely. “What?!”

“You’re the only person who calls me that,” she told him thoughtfully.

Suddenly ashamed that he may have crossed some invisible boundary by calling her by a nickname Sam quickly backpedaled.

“I’m sorry. You should have let me know you didn’t like it.”

“It’s not that,” she replied with a genuine smile. “It’s just that everyone I know always calls me ‘Rebecca’. It’s kinda nice that you don’t.” Her gaze suddenly slid to the floor and her cheeks began to turn pink. Sam suppressed a grin. It had been awhile since he caused a girl to flush.

“You gonna tell me what’s bothering you?” he pressed.

“This.” Rebecca slapped a square envelope of high quality paper down on her desk. “It’s an invitation to the Annual Tri-State Fundraising Gala for Non-Profit Agencies. My editor assigned it to me because all of the other lifestyle reporters have other functions to cover.”

“So?”

“So, I’m a crime reporter! I don’t do ‘fluff’ pieces. Especially ones that involve getting all dressed up and eating dainty finger foods just to garner inane quotes from people who have more money in their bank account than I’ll ever see in my lifetime!”

“It could be fun.” Sam tried to sound encouraging as he perused the invitation. It certainly sounded like a dull way to spend an evening, but he thought women liked that sorta thing. Suddenly, he found himself pinned by emerald green eyes.

“I’m glad you feel that way. My editor wants pictures, too, so I told him you’d go as my photographer.”

“Whoa! No! No way!” he protested.

“Why not? It could be fun,” she responded with a sly smile.

Sam closed his eyes and sighed. He knew he was going to give in. There was something about Becca that made him always want her to see her happy.

“Alright. Just tell me when and where and I’ll be there.”

“It’s Saturday night...in Milwaukee. I was kind of hoping you would give me a ride.”

“Milwaukee?”

“Yeah. The three states take turns hosting it. Last year it was here in Chicago and the year before that it was in Minneapolis. I thought it would also be a good opportunity for you to visit your dad.”

Sam couldn’t argue with that, and he appreciated Becca’s thoughtfulness, even if it was a means to her beneficial end.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MacGyver was beginning to hate Mondays. When he worked for the DXS and Phoenix, he could never understand why people dreaded Mondays and looked forward to Fridays. Out in the field, hours blended into days, days became night and then day again. The focus was always on the mission at hand, not which day of the week it was. Since he had settled into a somewhat normal routine, he was beginning to see Mondays in a whole new light. Even though he still worked some nights and weekends, Mondays brought a special, and not very pleasant, feeling. Perhaps it was the pile of phone messages, or the stack of mail, or the ever-present to-do list of things to get accomplished by the end of the week. Yeah, there was just something about Mondays he didn’t like and he had a feeling today was not going to be the exception.

Plopping down in his chair, he scrubbed his face with his hands before his eyes landed on a square envelope placed front and center on his desk between the piles of phone messages and bills. A yellow sticky note on the front read ‘Don’t Forget’ in Cynthia’s flowing handwriting. Mac sighed and reached for the envelope, carefully extracting a single piece of cardstock.

“You are cordially invited to the Annual Tri-State Fundraising Gala for Non-Profit Agencies to be held on--”

Mac’s eyes widened and he barreled out of his office and into Cynthia’s waving the invitation in her face without losing momentum.

“When were you going to tell me about this?!” he demanded. “It’s this Saturday!”

“Calm down, MacGyver,” Cynthia replied in her naturally soothing voice. “It was delivered several weeks ago but your mind was on other matters so I RSVP’d for both you and Joanna.”

“Does she know?”

“Of course she does. She even bought a new dress for the occasion. Which reminds me, you can pick up your tux from the cleaners on Wednesday.”

“What?! How did you even know I own a tux?!”

By now Joanna was peeking around the doorframe, probably to see what the ruckus was about.

“One night when you were working late I went by your place and did a little recon mission. I found it stuffed in the back of your closet,” Jo explained.

“Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner?” Mac’s angry glare bounced between the two women who at least had the decency to appear slightly remorseful.

“We know how you feel about these things, MacGyver,” Cynthia responded, her voice still calm and steady. “Besides, you’ve had so much going on lately there never seemed to be a good time to tell you.”

Mac’s anger deflated a bit. “Well, you’re not wrong,” he conceded. “But from now on remember that tampering with someone else’s mail is a federal offense!” He then returned to his office, slamming the door closed so loudly it even made him wince. Yeah, there was just something about Mondays.

After an hour of staring at a spreadsheet on his computer, MacGyver heard a light tap on his door. When no one took the initiative to enter, he got up and opened it himself to find Joanna standing there, looking contrite.

“I’m sorry we kept the invitation from you. We really didn’t mean to upset you.”

Mac jammed his fingers through his hair. “Nah, I’m the one who needs to apologize. I was way out of line coming down on you and Cynthia like that. I don’t know what got into me.”

He noticed a small group of teens begin to take notice of their conversation and silently motioned Jo into his office and closed the door behind her. She looked timid and unsure. His heart squeezed. He went to stand in front of her, just close enough so that when he reached out his hands rested lightly on her hips. When she didn’t pull away, he moved closer and tightened his grip.

“So, tell me more about this gala,” he urged tenderly.

Joanna looked up, her eyes hopeful. “We were actually lucky to get invited since we’ve only been in existence a few months. I think the Phoenix Foundation might have had something to do with that.” She stopped here and smiled a little. “Anyway, it’s a great opportunity to meet leaders of organizations like ours as well as donors to aid with financial backing. If we hit it off with the right people, we may not have to solely rely on the Foundation for grants.”

“Then I guess dusting off the ole penguin suit will be worth it,” he replied with a crooked grin.

XXXXX

Late Wednesday afternoon, while trying to keep his freshly pressed tuxedo wrinkle-free, MacGyver opened his front door to a ringing telephone. Hanging the outfit on the railing of his staircase, he quickly answered the call.

“Hello?

“Hey dad! What’s up?!”

“Hi Sam! How’re you doin’?”

“I’m good. Listen, a friend of mine here at the Tribune is going to Milwaukee to cover a story this weekend and I’m coming along as the photographer. I was wondering if we could hang out and get ready at your place Saturday?”

“Sure!” Mac agreed, a wide smile on his face. Sam, like him, was pretty much a loner. But unlike him, Sam hadn’t made any lifelong friends, not even someone like Jack Dalton. It was good to hear that Sam had a buddy to work with.

“Tell ya what,” MacGyver continued, “Why don’t you come up in the morning and we’ll spend the day together. Joanna and I have an event to go to that evening but I don’t want to waste one of your visits.”

“I don’t suppose your ‘event’ would be the fundraising gala? It sounds like something Phoenix or Challengers would be invited to.”

“Actually it is,” Mac replied slowly. “And I bet your friend is covering it, right?”

“Right! Hey, that’ll be cool! We can all go together!”

“Sounds like a plan,” Mac agreed. “See ya Saturday!”

Saturday morning, MacGyver opened his front door to find his son standing next to...a woman? She wore baggy shorts, a loose-fitting t-shirt, and had her long dark hair pulled through the back of a baseball cap.

“Hi Dad! This is my reporter friend Becca. Becca, this is my dad, MacGyver. But you can call him ‘Mac’.”

“Nice to meet you, Mac,” the girl said shyly as she tentatively held out her hand.

“It’s a pleasure,” MacGyver replied with a smile, shaking her hand. “Please, c’mon in.”

Once inside, Mac noticed his son had a garment bag draped over his shoulder.

“Want me to put that away for you?” he asked. “Wouldn’t want your tux to get wrinkled.”

“Yeah, sure,” Sam replied. “Becca’s dress is in there too.”

MacGyver took the bag upstairs and removed the pair’s outfits. He hung Sam’s tuxedo next to his, but upon seeing Becca’s dress, his jaw dropped. He held up the yards of white fabric with large blue flowers. Admittedly, he was a typical man and didn’t know all that much about women’s fashion but, as with art, he knew what he liked, and this wasn’t it. In fact, the piece reminded of him of his grandma’s old living room curtains. He had always hated those curtains. Feeling oddly protective of the near stranger, he knew he couldn’t let her go to the prestigious event in this so he picked up the phone and hit one of two numbers he had on speed dial.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The ringing of the telephone startled Joanna awake. She groaned. Figuring it was going to be a late night at the gala she had wanted to sleep in this morning.

“Hello?” she answered groggily.

“Jo. I need your help.”

MacGyver. This must be how Pete Thornton feels when Mac calls asking for favors in the middle of the night.

“What is it?” she ground out, her throat still dry from sleep.

“Remember I told you Sam and his friend from the Tribune were coming in today?”

“Yeah.” She suppressed a yawn.

“Well, his friend turned out to be female.”

“Sam’s got a girlfriend?!” Jo exclaimed, suddenly wide awake.

“No! I mean, I don’t think so. But she brought this dress that’s...well...I really need you to come over. It’ll all make sense when you see it.”

“Fine, I’ll be there soon.” Joanna shuffled off to shower and dress, wishing Mac would make half as big a deal out of her new outfit later that day.

An hour later Sam introduced Jo to Becca. Though shy and a bit awkward, Joanna took an immediate liking to the young woman.

“Listen,” Joanna addressed the girl. “I was just in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop by to see what you’re wearing to the gala tonight. Since we’re all going together I’d hate for our outfits to clash.”

Waves of doubt flitted across Rebecca’s face before she finally gave into the three encouraging smiles and went up to the bathroom to change.

When the journalist next appeared, Jo couldn’t help but gasp. There stood Becca, her hair loose and heavy around her face, her body swallowed up by billows of blue and white fabric.

Joanna turned her head and whispered in Mac’s ear, “She looks like she could be a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!”

MacGyver nodded grimly. “That’s why I need your help,” he whispered back.

“It’s horrible, isn’t it?” Becca asked in a sad voice as she teetered in high-heeled pumps.

“I wouldn’t say it’s horrible,” Sam offered as Jo stepped forward and began plucking at pieces of the material.

“Sam’s right,” she agreed. “It’s just needs a few adjustments.” Jo tried to keep her voice positive as she glanced at her watch. Eight hours until they were due to arrive at the gala.

Joanna sat cross-legged on the floor as she folded over the hem that reached the girl’s ankles.

“Mac, do you have pins or something to hold this hem up?”

A few seconds later he held a roll of duct tape in front of her face.

“You’re kidding, right?” she looked up at him, rolling her eyes when he simply shrugged.

Tearing off a piece of the silver tape, she started tacking up the skirt and then stood to observe her handiwork. Even that little alteration had made a difference. Jo then examined the sleeves that were way too long and poufy and the bodice which was way too blouson. No amount of duct tape could fix this and there wasn’t enough time to rip out all the seams and re-sew it to fit.

“It’s hopeless!” Becca cried. “I’m not the type of girl who gets all dressed up and goes to charity events! I’m just a big old klutz who can’t even pick out a decent dress!” She turned and ran up the stairs, almost tripping as she got to the top.

Joanna turned to find MacGyver and Sam staring like deer caught in a car’s headlight, obviously on the verge of panic at the thought of having to deal with a hysterical female. In a way she couldn’t blame them, but she knew what she had to do.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” she told them before heading after Becca.

By the time Joanna got upstairs, the dress was nothing more than a puddle at the foot of the bed and the bathroom door was closed. She knocked on it lightly.

“Becca? It’s me. Can I come in?”

When there was no answer, Jo tested the doorknob to find it unlocked and poked her head into the small room. Becca was bent over the sink already wearing her shorts and t-shirt and splashing cold water on her face. When she noticed Joanna’s presence she turned off the faucets and grabbed a towel to dry her face.

“You okay?”

Shaking her head Rebecca perched on the edge of the tub. “I shouldn’t have come. This stuff is way outta my league.”

“Why did you buy that dress?” Joanna asked gently.

Becca sighed. “I got the assignment on short notice. I ordered it out of a catalogue and even paid extra for next day delivery. I thought it would camouflage this.” She glanced down at her less-than-perfect figure. “Instead it just makes it worse!”

“I understand. I used to have the same problem,” Jo assured her.

“You? No way!”

“Yep,” Joanna smiled sadly as she carefully sat down next to Becca. “I had a medical condition that caused me to gain a lot of weight in a short amount of time. I got it under control rather quickly, but the damage had already been done. I thought wearing loose, baggy clothes would hide my curves, but they only made me look bigger. I eventually lost a lot of the weight, but more importantly, I learned how to dress in a way that complements my figure.”

“That’s great, but how’s that gonna help me tonight?” Becca moaned.

“We still have time and I know a few places. Grab your purse,” Joanna ordered.

The two women returned downstairs to find Mac and his son sprawled on the couch already engrossed in an old black-and-white movie.

“I’m stealing Becca for the rest of the day. Pick us up at my place,” Jo called.

Mac lifted his hand and waved to indicate he had heard her before she turned and walked out the door.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“Would you stop that!” Mac ordered, swatting at Sam’s hands and trying to pull away.

“But you’re tie’s crooked.”

“No, it’s not!”

“Fine! Have it your way!” Sam threw up his hands in disgust.

“Thank you! I will!” Mac shot back. “We need to hustle if we’re gonna pick up the girls on time.”

“Yes sir,” Sam replied with a mock salute that lightened the mood and put an end to their senseless bickering.

Half an hour later father and son stood in the Fairfax’s living room waiting for their ‘dates’. Joanna entered the room first and MacGyver’s jaw dropped of its own accord. Somehow she always managed to look beautiful, and somehow she always managed to take his breath away. Tonight she was dressed in a pale yellow satin sheath dress with an ivory lace overlay that fell just below her knees. Strappy, high-heeled sandals accentuated her legs, and she had done something to her bobbed hair to make it extra full and bouncy.

“You look great,” Mac told her as she walked up to him with a smile and began to straighten his tie.

“Oh, sure…you’ll let her fix your tie,” Sam complained.

MacGyver shot him a quelling sideways glance.

“I told you it was crooked,” his son smirked.

Sam looked away from his dad just in time to see Rebecca make her own appearance. Neither man could believe this was the same girl they saw earlier. Her long, slightly curled locks had been tamed and captured in a simple up do making her appear taller. She wore an emerald green dress that added extra depth to her eyes in spite of her glasses. The top of the dress was fitted, but not too tight, while the knee length skirt flared out slightly giving her the illusion of an hourglass figure. Sensible yet stylish black flats completed her ensemble.

“What do you think?” she asked, wringing her hands nervously in front of her.

Mac looked at Sam’s stunned expression and gave him a little nudge to get his attention.

“Oh...um...you look awesome,” Sam stammered before regaining his usual charm.

He walked up to his friend and took her hands in his.

“Who are you and what have you done with Becca?” he quipped, causing the young woman to smile as Mac choked back a laugh.

A short while later, with Joanna seated next to him and Sam and Becca in the backseat, MacGyver pulled the Nomad up to the Pabst Mansion, the historic site chosen for this evening’s festivities.

“Very impressive,” he observed, not even trying to hide the awe in his voice. “Looks like Flemish Renaissance Revival architecture.”

“You have a good eye,” Jo complimented him. “Captain Frederick Pabst, founder of Pabst Brewery, had it built for him and his family in the late 1800’s. Now it’s a national landmark.”

The foursome entered through the large, carved front doors and were greeted by a butler standing in the main foyer. Upon inspecting their invitations, he welcomed them warmly and wished them an enjoyable evening. From floor to ceiling, the house was ornate and opulent. Abundant with valuable works of art and antique furniture, it was an overwhelming sight. Small groups of people were scattered throughout the front parlor and gentlemen’s study chatting and laughing with food and drink in hand. Other guests strode the long hallways and grand staircase simply admiring the mansion itself.

It didn’t take long before a city councilman recognized MacGyver and approached the small group. They exchanged the proper niceties before the discussion turned to Challengers Club. Mac knew that this was one of many conversations he would have that night to promote the club and hopefully secure extra funding.

Once the man left, MacGyver guided Joanna toward the plush dining room, his hand placed lightly on the small of her back. He grinned when he saw Sam copy the gesture. Though he had only spent a small amount of time with Becca, he easily pegged her as the shy, quiet type. What puzzled him was his son’s sober demeanor. Normally enthusiastic and talkative, Sam had hardly said a word after leaving the Fairfax’s. Come to think of it, neither had Rebecca.

The large dining room table was laden with food and the two couples helped themselves to glasses of punch, dainty finger sandwiches, and mini cream puffs and chocolate eclairs. Once everyone’s appetite had been sufficiently satisfied, MacGyver suggested they split up so they could complete their tasks more quickly, emphasizing his request by running his finger along the inside of his collar and grimacing.

“Would you just give it up?” Jo snapped as soon and Sam and Becca were out of earshot. “I see you in buttoned up shirts rather frequently and your tie is not that tight.”

“Yeah, but it’s still a tie!” he retorted.

Joanna rolled her eyes, causing him to chuckle as he put his arm around her waist.

“Come on,” he instructed. “Let’s go see and be seen so we can get outta here.”

About an hour later, after giving his Challenger’s spiel at least a dozen times to prominent potential donors, MacGyver was leading Joanna back to the refreshment table when Sam suddenly appeared beside them, an anxious look on his face.

“Have you seen Becca?” he asked breathlessly.

“No, we thought she was with you,” Joanna replied, her brows knitted together in concern.

“She was. We were upstairs and she managed to snag an interview with the mayor. It seemed like it was gonna take a while so I decided to sneak away and take some exterior shots, but when I came back she was gone!”

“Well, people don’t just disappear. She has to be around here somewhere,” Mac reasoned.

The trio began to scan the crowd when a sudden, high-pitched shriek came from the butler’s pantry. They hurried toward the sound and stopped in the doorway to find Rebecca standing on a chair, her face contorted in horror as a man in a maître de uniform berated her.

“Madam! I must insist you get down from that chair immediately! It is original to the house, a veritable antique worth much money and you are ruining it with your shoes!”

“I’m not going anywhere until you kill it!” Becca shot back.

“Kill what madam?!”

“The spider! The spider that’s on the floor!”

“I assure you, madam, you are quite mistaken. I oversaw the preparation of this room myself and can assure you there are no spiders on the floor or anywhere else for that matter!”

By now MacGyver had eased his way into the small room and, by following Rebecca’s line of sight, saw the tiny spider in question. Somehow the fortunate arachnid had escaped the footsteps of the waiters, but his luck had just run out. Mac grabbed a small cocktail napkin from a nearby counter, reached down and squashed the little fellow even as he felt a pang of guilt.

“Alright Becca, you can come down now,” he assured her. But the young woman did not move.

Sam reached his hand up to her. “Come on, Becca. You heard my dad. The spider’s gone.”

In a daze of shock, the young woman mechanically grabbed Sam’s hand and allowed him to help her climb down from the chair. Once on solid ground, she wrapped her arms around his waist, buried her face in his chest and began to sob. Sam was soothing her as best he could when she pulled away without warning, looked at him as if he were a spider, and bolted from the room.

Sam exchanged a perplexed look with his dad. “What just happened?” he asked before both men turned helpless gazes toward Joanna.

“What?” she asked defensively, knowing full well what they expected her to do. “You want me to go after her, right?”

They both nodded.

“Because I’m a girl and I understand these things?”

Again they nodded, Sam’s puppy dog eyes boring into hers and Mac’s imploring smile melting her heart.

“Fine,” she replied firmly, pulling herself up to her full height and squaring her shoulders before leaving the room in Becca’s wake, albeit at a more sedate pace.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Joanna followed the path she assumed Rebecca had taken, peeking in each room she passed, but the girl was nowhere to be found. On a hunch, Jo opened the front door and stepped out on the large porch to find Sam’s friend sitting on the top step, her knees pulled up to her chin, her face in her hands, and her shoulders trembling with sobs.

“Mind if I join you?” Jo asked before slowly lowering herself onto the step. She rubbed soft, comforting circles on Becca’s back and waited for the tears to stop.

Finally, the young woman raised her head, face flushed and mascara smeared.

“I made such a fool of myself back there,” she moaned, and Joanna was afraid she’d start crying again.

“No you didn’t,” Jo assured her. “A lot of people are afraid of spiders. You’ve heard of ‘arachnophobia’ haven’t you?”

Becca shook her head. “That doesn’t even begin to cover it. I have arachnophobia to like the one-hundredth degree! I didn’t get you kicked out of the party, did I?”

“No. Everything’s fine,” Joanna promised and hoped she wasn’t lying.

“I’m just so embarrassed! Sam’ll probably never wanna look at me again!”

Aha! So this was about more than just spiders!

“No way! In fact, Sam’s the one who asked me to come look for you. He’s worried about you.”

“Then why didn’t he come find me himself?”

“Because everybody is scared of something, and I think Sam has a phobia about crying girls,” Jo chuckled and Becca offered her a watery smile.

“You really like him, don’t you?”

Rebecca nodded shyly. “What’s not to like? He’s kind, thoughtful, handsome, charming. But…”

“But you don’t think a guy like him would be interested in a girl like you,” Joanna surmised.

“How did you know that?” Becca asked, looking at Jo with something akin to awe.

“‘Cause I felt the same way about his dad. Sometimes still do, actually. I’m constantly amazed that a man as well-traveled and experienced as he is could ever be content with a girl who’s lived in the same place all her life.”

“So, you think there’s a chance that Sam could like me too?”

“I do.”

“Then why has he been acting so strange tonight?” Rebecca frowned.

“How do you mean?”

“He’s hardly said a word to me all evening and he totally bailed on me when I was interviewing the mayor.”

“Didn’t you see the way he looked at you when he first saw you tonight?” Jo smiled. “I think he was a little shocked by your transformation. You went from being the girl next door to Cinderella. Guys have a hard time processing that. And as for him not talking? Anyone who can render that boy speechless has to be pretty special.”

Rebecca’s only response was a grin and a thoughtful sigh.

“Tell you what,” Joanna continued. “Why don’t we get you freshened up and then we’ll get outta here.”

“I can’t go back in there looking like this!” Becca protested.

“Don’t worry. I saw a back entrance that the staff uses. We can sneak in that way.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MacGyver strode toward Sam who was standing in the main foyer.

“I can’t find them anywhere!” he said, throwing up his hands in frustration.

“They’re sitting on the front steps talking,” Sam replied quietly.

“Then why aren’t you out there?”

“I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“Since when?!” Mac didn’t wait for his son to answer but instead grabbed him by a lapel and led him to a dark, empty corner. “What is with you tonight anyway?” he asked in an exaggerated whisper.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean my usually charming, talkative kid has hardly said a word all night! Now, what gives?”

Sam shrugged his shoulders and lowered his gaze to his shoes.

“You like Becca!” MacGyver proclaimed.

“Of course I do. She’s a nice girl,” Sam muttered.

“You know what I mean. I saw the way you looked at her earlier, and I also saw the way she looked at you.”

“There’s nothing going on between us, Dad.”

“Do you want there to be?”

Sam sighed. “I don’t know,” he moaned, running a hand through his hair. “Becca’s a really great girl but I’m afraid I’ll end up hurting her.”

“How so?”

“What if I get bored at the Tribune? What if I decide I want to travel? Try new things?”

“What if you ask Becca out for a cup of coffee or a burger and go from there?”

“I guess I am kinda puttin’ the cart before the horse,” Sam admitted. “Did you ever feel like this with Joanna?”

“Sam, you know I did. But we cared enough about each other and our relationship to work through those things together. Now why don’t you go out there and butt in like you normally do?!”

Sam laughed as he opened the front door and stepped out onto the large porch, but the women were gone.

XXXXX

Sunday morning MacGyver and Joanna stood in the doorway of his townhouse waving good-bye to Sam and Becca. Once their car was out of sight they walked into the living room and collapsed on the couch.

“You look beat,” Mac observed.

“Gee, thanks,” Jo responded, pulling a face. “Becca kept me up half the night talking about the gala...and Sam.”

“I know the feeling. Sam slept like a log.”

When Joanna shot him a questioning look he laughed and explained, “A log being cut in half by a chainsaw is quieter than him. Man, can that kid can snore!”

“Do you think we’ll see her again?” Joanna asked soberly.

“If Sam has his way I’d say we can count on it. He’s gonna ask her out on a real date when they get home.”

“Really?! That’s terrific!” Jo exclaimed before becoming oddly silent.

“You’re worried about something. What is it?” MacGyver probed.

“Is Sam really serious about her, or was it just the fancy night and pretty dress?”

“Well, the dress sure didn’t hurt,” Mac replied, recalling the effect Joanna’s own appearance had on him. “But Sam knows his feelings. I think he would’ve asked her out sooner but he’s afraid he’ll end up hurting her.”

“Do you think he will?”

“Not on purpose. I told him to just take things slow and not give up too easily.”

“Sounds like good advice,” Jo praised. “Are you speaking from experience?”

“You know I am. I guess only time will tell...for all of us.”













Jody~

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

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 15 November 2019 - 01:33 AM                                    
Quote Post


Phoenix Special Agent
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Posts: 3,078
Joined: 11 Dec 2017
Gender:  Female
Country: U.S.A.
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Episode:Halloween Knights
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Jacket:  Brown bomber
House:  House boat



QUOTE
“It’s not that,” she replied with a genuine smile. “It’s just that everyone I know always calls me ‘Rebecca’. It’s kinda nice that you don’t.”
Shipshipshipshipshipshipshipship...

QUOTE

Sam closed his eyes and sighed. He knew he was going to give in. There was something about Becca that made him always want her to see her happy.
First two sentences: Like father like son. Third sentence: Shipshipshipship...


QUOTE

“What?! How did you even know I own a tux?!”

By now Joanna was peeking around the doorframe, probably to see what the ruckus was about.

“One night when you were working late I went by your place and did a little recon mission. I found it stuffed in the back of your closet,” Jo explained.
Totally not creepy at all... XD

QUOTE

MacGyver took the bag upstairs and removed the pair’s outfits. He hung Sam’s tuxedo next to his, but upon seeing Becca’s dress, his jaw dropped. He held up the yards of white fabric with large blue flowers. Admittedly, he was a typical man and didn’t know all that much about women’s fashion but, as with art, he knew what he liked, and this wasn’t it. In fact, the piece reminded of him of his grandma’s old living room curtains. He had always hated those curtains. Feeling oddly protective of the near stranger, he knew he couldn’t let her go to the prestigious event in this so he picked up the phone and hit one of two numbers he had on speed dial.
'Kay Captain Posh... XD

QUOTE

“Sam’s got a girlfriend?!” Jo exclaimed, suddenly wide awake.
I can't decide which is funnier: The concept of Sam having a love life being shocking enough to jolt her awake, or the idea of shipping him with someone exciting her so much that she doesn't even realize that she's acting like he does when he sees his dad and her together XD

QUOTE

“It’s horrible, isn’t it?” Becca asked in a sad voice as she teetered in high-heeled pumps.
Poor thing sad.gif

QUOTE

“Mac, do you have pins or something to hold this hem up?”

A few seconds later he held a roll of duct tape in front of her face.
*chokes* roller.gif

QUOTE

“It’s hopeless!” Becca cried. “I’m not the type of girl who gets all dressed up and goes to charity events! I’m just a big old klutz who can’t even pick out a decent dress!” She turned and ran up the stairs, almost tripping as she got to the top.
That's a mood XD

QUOTE

Joanna turned to find MacGyver and Sam staring like deer caught in a car’s headlight, obviously on the verge of panic at the thought of having to deal with a hysterical female.
Oh come on guys! X'D

QUOTE

Becca sighed. “I got the assignment on short notice. I ordered it out of a catalogue and even paid extra for next day delivery. I thought it would camouflage this.” She glanced down at her less-than-perfect figure. “Instead it just makes it worse!”
I repeat: Poor thing sad.gif

QUOTE

The two women returned downstairs to find Mac and his son sprawled on the couch already engrossed in an old black-and-white movie.
...Okay then... XD

QUOTE

“Would you stop that!” Mac ordered, swatting at Sam’s hands and trying to pull away.

“But you’re tie’s crooked.”

“No, it’s not!”

“Fine! Have it your way!” Sam threw up his hands in disgust.
Classic parent/child banter (speaking from experience) XD

QUOTE
Somehow she always managed to look beautiful, and somehow she always managed to take his breath away. Tonight she was dressed in a pale yellow satin sheath dress with an ivory lace overlay that fell just below her knees. Strappy, high-heeled sandals accentuated her legs, and she had done something to her bobbed hair to make it extra full and bouncy.
Somehow all I can picture is Belle XD

QUOTE
“You look great,” Mac told her as she walked up to him with a smile and began to straighten his tie.

“Oh, sure…you’ll let her fix your tie,” Sam complained.

MacGyver shot him a quelling sideways glance.

“I told you it was crooked,” his son smirked.
XD XD XD

QUOTE

“What do you think?” she asked, wringing her hands nervously in front of her.
Glad I'm not the only one with that tic XD

QUOTE
Mac looked at Sam’s stunned expression and gave him a little nudge to get his attention.

“Oh...um...you look awesome,” Sam stammered before regaining his usual charm.
When you've spent two hours looking for the perfect word, and then you give up XD

QUOTE

“Who are you and what have you done with Becca?” he quipped, causing the young woman to smile as Mac choked back a laugh.
I read that in the same husky tone Mac uses for Joanna XD

QUOTE
What puzzled him was his son’s sober demeanor. Normally enthusiastic and talkative, Sam had hardly said a word after leaving the Fairfax’s. Come to think of it, neither had Rebecca.
Hmmm...

QUOTE

“Have you seen Becca?” he asked breathlessly.
Uh oh...

QUOTE

“I’m not going anywhere until you kill it!” Becca shot back.
*sigh*

QUOTE


“The spider! The spider that’s on the floor!”
I don't like spiders either, but geeze...

QUOTE

Sam exchanged a perplexed look with his dad. “What just happened?” he asked before both men turned helpless gazes toward Joanna.

“What?” she asked defensively, knowing full well what they expected her to do. “You want me to go after her, right?”

They both nodded.

“Because I’m a girl and I understand these things?”

Again they nodded, Sam’s puppy dog eyes boring into hers and Mac’s imploring smile melting her heart.

“Fine,” she replied firmly, pulling herself up to her full height and squaring her shoulders before leaving the room in Becca’s wake, albeit at a more sedate pace.
roller.gif

QUOTE


“I made such a fool of myself back there,” she moaned, and Joanna was afraid she’d start crying again.
Now I feel guilty...

QUOTE

“I’m just so embarrassed! Sam’ll probably never wanna look at me again!”

Aha! So this was about more than just spiders!
Shipshipshipshipshipshipship...

Also, she kinda sounds like a freshman high shool student XD

QUOTE

“Because everybody is scared of something, and I think Sam has a phobia about crying girls,” Jo chuckled and Becca offered her a watery smile.
tongue.gif

QUOTE
And as for him not talking? Anyone who can render that boy speechless has to be pretty special.”
Yeah 'cause he never shuts up, right? XD

QUOTE


“Since when?!” Mac didn’t wait for his son to answer but instead grabbed him by a lapel and led him to a dark, empty corner. “What is with you tonight anyway?” he asked in an exaggerated whisper.
Time for the male version XD

QUOTE

“You like Becca!” MacGyver proclaimed.
Anything else to proclaim, Sherlock?

QUOTE

Sam sighed. “I don’t know,” he moaned, running a hand through his hair. “Becca’s a really great girl but I’m afraid I’ll end up hurting her.”
Like father, like son...

QUOTE
Sam laughed as he opened the front door and stepped out onto the large porch, but the women were gone.

XXXXX

Sunday morning
That was a sudden time jump XD

QUOTE

“Really?! That’s terrific!” Jo exclaimed before becoming oddly silent.
Literally everyone in this story is a shipper XD

QUOTE

“You know I am. I guess only time will tell...for all of us.”
For Sam and Becca that's a given, but for you two... it's been how long now? XD



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

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

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

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

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

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 19 November 2019 - 02:33 PM                                    
Quote Post


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Season: ---
Episode:Faith, Hope, and Charity
Vehicle: Jeep
Jacket:  Brown bomber
House:  House boat



Ch. 24: Heat Wave

Joanna sat back on her heels and tossed the ragged sponge into a bucket of dull, gray water which had been clear and soapy when she began scrubbing one of the dormitory’s bathroom floors thirty minutes earlier. She stretched her back muscles as rivulets of sweat trickled down her neck, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand.

“Has the air conditioner stopped working?” she asked.

Cynthia, who had been cleaning the toilets, laughed ruefully. “It better not have! A lot of people are counting on it.”

Milwaukee was in the second day of what was predicted to be a week-long heat wave with temperatures in the nineties and high humidity. Thanks to their networking the weekend before, the mayor had asked MacGyver and Joanna to make Challengers an official shelter and cooling station until the dangerous weather released its grip on the city. That meant a lot of foot traffic and strangers coming and going twenty-four hours a day.

“Besides,” Cynthia continued, “MacGyver could fix it in an emergency. That is, after he talks the firemen into opening the hydrant so the kids can cool themselves in the water.”

Jo smiled sadly. Poor Mac. So many people relied on him, yet he hardly ever relied on anyone. Even her.

“What do you say we break for lunch?” Cynthia suggested.

“You don’t have to ask me twice!” Joanna snapped off the protective rubber gloves she had been wearing and scrambled to her feet before the other woman changed her mind.

Back in Cynthia’s office, Joanna frowned.

“Have you seen my ring?” she asked.

“What ring is that, dear?” Cynthia inquired absently while shuffling through a pile of messages.

“The sapphire one I always wear. I took it off and left it on your desk.”

“It must be around here someplace then,” the older woman replied. “It surely didn’t grow legs and walk away.”

Joanna was about to commence her search when the main door slammed open followed by a wave of giggles. Curious, she and Cynthia quickly headed toward the noise. When she saw the cause she stopped dead in her tracks. MacGyver stood in the doorway soaking wet. His hair slicked back and his t-shirt and jeans clinging to him like a second skin accentuating his firm, athletic build.

“They opened the fire hydrant,” he announced with an adorably crooked grin.

He glanced around the room until he pinned Joanna with his gaze. She felt a flush bloom on her cheeks, embarrassed that he had caught her staring at him. But his eyes gleamed with mischief and his grin widened just for her.

“Lucky I keep a change of clothes upstairs,” he said as he went to step into the room.

“Don’t you move!” Cynthia admonished. “I don’t want you dripping all over my clean floor. I’ll go get you a towel.”

A few minutes later, Mac was vigorously rubbing his shaggy hair with one towel before using another to remove as much moisture from his clothes as possible before Cynthia allowed him to go to the dormitory and change.

When the commotion had died down, Joanna returned to Cynthia’s office to resume the search for her ring. Once certain that the piece of jewelry was not on the desk or hidden under a stack of paperwork that had accumulated during the morning, Jo dropped to her hands and knees to begin a thorough search of the threadbare carpet when a masculine voice from behind startled her.

“Looking for something?” MacGyver asked, leaning casually against the doorframe clad in fresh, dry clothes.

“No! I mean, I thought I dropped a paperclip,” she sputtered.

“Ah,” came his reply, the tone telling her that he would accept the lie...for now.

Joanna was surprised that the fib came so easily to her. But then again, she was more than a little embarrassed that she may have lost one of her most precious possessions due to her lack of responsible behavior. She figured she would be cleaning today, yet instead of keeping the ring in her jewelry box, she slipped it on her finger out of habit. Now it was gone. Presumably lost as she balked at the thought that anyone at Challengers would trespass in Cynthia’s office and steal it. Yet, Rosie Garcia had been in and out all morning to deliver messages and other paperwork. But Rosie would never do something like that!

“Cynthia said you guys were taking a break. Wanna go grab something to eat?” Mac asked, breaking through Joanna’s thoughts.

“Sure,” she replied half-heartedly as she considered the whereabouts of her ring.

“Great! Come on,” he said, spontaneously grabbing her left hand and rubbing his thumb over her knuckles.

“Hey, you’re not wearing your ring today,” Mac observed.

Joanna shrugged. “I knew we’d be cleaning today and I didn’t want to risk damaging it so I took it off.” At least that wasn’t a lie and MacGyver accepted her explanation without question.

They were headed out the door when Raul Garcia rushed in.

“Ma! Ma! The ice cream truck is here! Can I have some money?!”

“Mijo! Slow down!” Rosie scolded. “You’re not a little boy anymore. And what happened to the money from your allowance?”

Jo watched as the young teen’s gaze dropped to the floor.

“I kinda spent it all,” he mumbled.

“Ack! What am I going to do with you! You need to learn the value of a dollar!”

“I’m sorry, Ma.” Raul looked up now. “I’ll do better next week, but can I please have some money before the ice cream truck leaves?”

Mac and Joanna grinned as Rosie shook her head even as she removed her purse from the drawer she always kept it in. Finding her wallet, she opened it up only to frown.

“I could’ve sworn I had more cash than this,” she lamented, handing a couple of singles to her son. “I just went to the bank a few days ago!”

“Maybe you need to watch your money better, too,” Raul replied cheekily before barreling out the door to buy his treat.

“I do not understand…” Rosie muttered.

“Maybe you stopped somewhere and picked up something you weren’t planning to,” Jo suggested. “It happens to all of us!”

Rosie summoned a smile. “I suppose you must be right. What other answer could there be?”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MacGyver and Joanna returned from lunch to find Cynthia standing on the front steps of the club, speaking with a police officer.

“Excuse me, is there something wrong?” Mac asked, approaching the cop.

“And you are?” the man in the dark uniform asked.

“Name’s MacGyver. I’m the director here at Challengers.”

The other man extended his hand in greeting. “Nice to meet you. I’m Officer Hill. I was just informing Ms. Wilson that we will be running extra patrols past your club for the next few days. People tend to get a little crazy when it gets this hot. I also think you should know there’s been a rather significant rise in gang activity in the area, so please don’t hesitate to call us if you see anything out of the ordinary.”

“Will do. Thank you, officer,” Mac said warmly, the two men shaking hands once again before the policeman returned to his car.

“So, who are the popular gangs around here?” he asked, turning to Joanna.

Jo raised her eyebrows in response. “I’m hardly an expert,” she began sarcastically, “But the Latin Kings were the main players last I heard.”

“Good to know,” Mac replied with a smile before heading inside.

The afternoon sun bore down relentlessly as Challenger members and volunteers helped prepare for the expected influx of people seeking relief from the heat. Joanna and Cynthia finished cleaning while MacGyver and a couple of older boys carried in large cases of bottled water and huge bags of ice. Rosie collected donations from people in the community who offered everything from box fans to brownies. As the sun descended in the western sky, people from all walks of life began to file in seeking a comfortable place to sleep. Many were homeless and Mac recognized them from the neighborhood. Others were elderly or families with small children who were living in dangerously hot conditions. Club volunteers assisted with getting the guests settled and familiar with the rules. When most of the activity had died down, Mac pulled Joanna into his office.

“I just wanted to let you know that I’m spending the night here,” he said. “With all these strangers I wanna be around just in case something happens.”

Jo laughed. “Cynthia told me the same thing earlier. In fact, I offered to stay with her so I guess we’re all here for the long haul.”

After a short, impromptu meeting, it was decided that the three of them would take turns monitoring activity in the center. MacGyver volunteered for the first shift and Joanna and Cynthia headed to their respective offices to rest until it was their turn. He settled himself in the chair behind the small reception desk that was normally occupied by Rosie. He silently shook his head, wondering how she managed to work a full time third shift job and volunteer all day at Challengers as well as raise Raul. He made a mental note to sit down with Cynthia and go over the accounts to see if there was a way to pay her for her services.

Macgyver’s chin had dropped to his chest and he was struggling to keep his eyes open when he heard raised voices coming from the parking lot. He glanced at his watch. It was just a couple of minutes before midnight. He rose from the chair and hurried outside to see what was going on.

“You don’t belong here! This ain’t your turf!” a teen Mac recognized as a Challengers Club member yelled at a group of young men hidden in the shadows.

“Oh yeah?! I heard the mayor on the news and he said anyone could come so here we are!” a twenty-something man with a rather thick Hispanic accent shot back.

Mac watched as the teen from Challengers lunged at his opponent and wasted no time getting between the two.

“Hold it!” MacGyver commanded, separating them before either could throw a punch.

When Mac was satisfied that a brawl was not about to ensue, he turned his attention to the young man who seemed to be the antagonist and the small group of teens standing behind him and immediately understood what the problem was.

“Challengers doesn’t turn anyone away,” MacGyver began to explain. “But it’s also a gang-free zone. You’re more than welcome to join us, but you gotta lose the colors first,” he said, looking to the yellow and black bandannas the boys wore either on their heads or around their necks.”

“Forget it, man!” the leader spat. “The Kings don’t go nowhere we ain’t respected.” He turned, snapped his fingers, and the others fell in behind him stalking off into the night.

MacGyver turned to the remaining teen who stood under a street lamp and now recognized him as Diego.

“That was a really dumb thing to do,” Mac scolded. “What made you come out here in the first place?”

The teen shrugged. “I heard a noise outside my window and wanted to see what was up.”

“Well, the next time you hear strange noises come and get me. You know that could’ve turned out really bad for you tonight.”

“Yes sir,” Diego responded sullenly as they both headed inside.

Mac returned to find Joanna standing next to the chair he had recently vacated, her arms crossed protectively in front of her.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“A few members of the Latin Kings decided to pay us a visit.”

Jo’s eyes grew wide and MacGyver knew what she was thinking. “Don’t worry, everything’s fine,” he assured her. “Why don’t you go back to the office?”

She shook her head. “It’s almost time for my shift, anyway. Besides, I haven’t been able to sleep.”

“Why not?” Concern furrowed Mac’s brow.

“It’s probably just the heat and knowing there are strangers around,” she replied before settling herself in the desk chair.

Mac wasn’t buying that. Joanna had been distant all afternoon and evening, and he doubted the heat was to blame, but he’d have plenty of time to ferret out the truth tomorrow.

“All right,” he reluctantly agreed. “But come and get me if there’s any trouble.” He headed towards his office even though he knew he would be wide awake the rest of the night.

The following day, as the ones before it, dawned sunny, hot, and humid. A truck arrived from a local store to deliver donated cases of bottled water, ice, and snacks. Mac was helping Jo and Cynthia put away the needed supplies when Diego came running up to them.

“My bike’s gone! The Latin Kings stole my bike last night!”

“Whoa, take it easy,” Mac replied, gently grabbing the boy by the shoulders. “Are you sure it was stolen?”

Diego rolled his eyes. “Of course I’m sure! It was there when I went to bed and now it’s gone!”

“How do you know one of the Kings took it?”

The boy looked at him as if he was questioning Mac’s sanity.

“They were here last night,” Diego said, as if that proved their guilt.

“Yeah, but I didn’t see any of them take your bike. Did you?”

“No, but one of them could’ve taken it before we went outside.”

“And you’re sure you locked it up on the rack yesterday?” Mac inquired.

Diego’s gaze fell and he refused to look MacGyver in the eye. “I lost the lock last week,” he mumbled. “But I thought it would be safe with all the other bikes there!”

Mac sighed. “Anyone could’ve taken your bike. You know that. And why didn’t you ask me for a new lock? We have to be extra careful with things that are important to us.”

He looked up at Joanna for reinforcement but was met with a stunned expression before she turned and hurried away.

“Go with Ms. Cynthia and call the cops to report your stolen bike,” Mac instructed before going after Joanna.

He found her in her office, organizing her desk like she always did when she was upset about something. His eyes found her hands of their own accord. She still wasn’t wearing her beloved ring.

“When are you going to tell me what’s going on with you?” he asked softly.

“There’s nothing going on with me,” she replied defensively. “I told you last night, it’s just the heat.”

“I didn’t believe that last night and I don’t believe it now,” he informed her, walking up to her and grabbing her empty left hand. “Does it have anything to do with this?” he asked, tenderly stroking the finger that usually displayed the dark blue sapphire.

Joanna’s eyes welled with tears. “I think it’s been stolen,” she sighed shakily. “I hadn’t meant to wear it yesterday, but put it on by force of habit. I left it on Cynthia’s desk before we went upstairs to clean the dorm bathrooms. When we came down for lunch it was gone.”

“Are you sure you just didn’t misplace it or overlook it?” Mac asked, squeezing her hand tighter hoping to comfort her.

“I looked everywhere. Yesterday and last night. I even questioned some of the volunteers, but no one has seen it.”

“Who had access to the office?”

“I know for sure that Rosie did. But if someone forgot to lock the door, anyone could’ve gone in.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner?”

Joanna’s chin began to quiver. “I didn’t want you to think I was some dumb, irresponsible flake.”

“Aw baby,” he crooned, stepping around the desk and pulling her to him. “You are absolutely none of those things. You had every right to believe your ring would be safe in Cynthia’s office.”

Jo buried her face in his shirt and he rested his chin on the top of her head as she allowed tears to fall. He held her tight until her trembling stopped and she started to pull away.

“We should call the police,” he suggested gently.

“It won’t do any good,” Jo replied, wiping the moisture from her cheeks. “Whoever took it is sure to have pawned it by now.”

“It still wouldn’t hurt. And we need to get the word out around here in case it’s just lost.”

Joanna nodded her acquiescence just as Rosie knocked frantically on the office door.

“Mr. MacGyver, I am so sorry to interrupt, but I need you to look at something.”

“Sure, what is it?”

Rosie reached into her purse and pulled out a clear plastic zip bag with a powdery white substance inside.

“Is this what I think it is?” she asked anxiously.

Mac dipped a finger in the bag and gingerly tasted a bit of the white powder.

“It’s cocaine. Where’d you find this?”

“It was floating in our toilet this morning. I wanted to ask Raul about it, but he had already left. I thought he’d be here, but he’s not.”

“I’m gonna go find him,” MacGyver declared, shoving the bag of drugs into his back jean pocket.

“Do you know where he is?” Rosie asked.

“No, but I have a hunch.”

MacGyver replayed the last twenty-four hours in his mind. Joanna’s ring and Diego’s bike had both mysteriously disappeared as well as cash from Rosie’s wallet. And then, for no apparent reason at the time, local gang members showed up. Now, a bag of coke had been found in the Garcia home.

He turned to Joanna and kissed her quickly on the lips, not caring that Rosie was watching. “Don’t worry, we’re gonna get to the bottom of this,” he promised before walking away.

After getting some information from Diego, MacGyver took off in his Jeep to cruise the Latin Kings’ turf. He slowly drove up one block and down another, but the streets were empty. Apparently, like cops, gang bangers were never around when you needed one. He was just about to give up when he passed an alley and caught movement in his peripheral vision. Parking the Jeep, he climbed out and walked back toward the alley, his nerve endings tingling with awareness. Before moving further, he did a visual assessment of the narrow passageway. Nothing. But a shiver sliding down his back told him things may not be as they seemed. He began to stealthily walk through the alley, alert and ready to pounce on anything that moved. He was about halfway in when he saw a pair of ragged tennis shoes peeking out from behind a large cardboard box.

With the element of surprise on his side, MacGyver grabbed the box and in one swift motion flung it aside to find Raul huddled against the brick wall of the building behind him, knees pulled up to his chest, eyes wide with fear.

“Raul! What are you doing here?”

“I’m hiding from them! They’re gonna kill me!” the young teen cried.

“Who?! Who’s after you?”

“The Latin Kings. They’re gonna kill me!” Raul repeated.

MacGyver pulled the small bag of cocaine out of his pocket.

“It wouldn’t have anything to do with this, would it?” he asked calmly.

Raul nodded as Mac sat down on the ground next to him.

“So, you usin’, dealin’ or both?”

“I ain’t doin’ none of that,” the teen insisted.

“Raul, your mother found this in your house. Now what’s goin’ on?”

“I was taking a shortcut home a couple days ago and accidently walked through Kings’ turf. They jumped me and tried to get me to join. When I refused, they said I would have to pay up if I didn’t want them to hurt me or my mom.”

The gears began to turn in MacGyver’s mind and suddenly clicked.

“So you were supposed to sell this coke and give them the money to keep them away from you and your mom?”

Raul nodded. “I didn’t want to! Honest! So I flushed it. Or at least I thought I did.”

“Plastic floats, man,” Mac reminded him only to be greeted by silence, but he figured he could guess the rest.

“Okay, so you planned to get rid of the coke, but you still needed to pay them off so you took money from your mom’s wallet and stole Diego’s bike and Ms. Joanna’s ring. Am I right?”

“Yeah,” Raul mumbled. “Only, when I tried to hock the bike and ring I didn’t get as much as I thought I would. If I don’t get the money by six o’clock tonight I’m a dead man!”

“Relax. I’m not gonna let anything happen to you,” Mac promised.

“How you gonna do that?”

“Well, first of all, I’m taking you back to Challengers and we’re gonna call the police.”

“Are you loco?! Do you know what gangs do to snitches?!”

“Raul, it’s the right thing to do. Now let’s get outta here.”

Back at Challengers, Rosie greeted her son with a suffocating hug followed by a scathing reprimand when he confessed to what he had done.

“C’mon,” Mac said, putting a guiding hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Let’s go in my office and make that phone call.”

A few minutes later they emerged from the room to find Joanna, Rosie and Cynthia huddled nearby.

“Well…?” Joanna asked impatiently.

Mac jammed his splayed fingers through his sweat-dampened hair. “I talked with Officer Hill, the cop we met yesterday. He said there was nothing the police could do unless the gang was caught doing something illegal. Raul gave his statement and Hill is gonna pass it on to the anti-gang taskforce.”

“What about tonight?” she pressed as Rosie stood next to her anxiously wringing her hands.

“I don’t know,” MacGyver sighed, keenly aware of the expectant gazes that had settled on him. He had always been the man with the plan. The guy that got called in to do what the best of the best could not. Today, he felt horribly inadequate.

“I got an idea!” Raul suddenly exclaimed. “The cop dude said they needed to catch the gang in the act right?” He waited for Mac to nod before continuing. “Then let’s go through with the payoff! You can put a wire on me. We’ll get them on tape and take it to the police! I just saw it on TV and it worked like a charm!”

“No way! It’s too dangerous,” Mac proclaimed. “Besides, this is real life, not some television show.”

There had to be something he could do. But what? Back in L.A. he would’ve gone to one of his trusted friends on the police force but here he had no one. Nevertheless, he mentally scrolled through the Rolodex in his brain.

“I think I might have an idea,” he announced.

“What is it?” Jo asked.

“I need to make a phone call,” was all he said before turning and walking back into his office, well aware of the frustration on Joanna’s face at being left out of his plan. But he didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up in case things didn’t work out.

“Lee Vang, attorney at law, how may I help you?”

“Hey Lee, it’s MacGyver.”

“Mac! Good to hear from you! Step in front of any speeding bullets lately?”

“Ha, ha, very funny. What ever happened to doctor-patient confidentiality?”

“When your wife works as a trauma nurse you hear a lot of stories. Wendi knew we were friends and thought you wouldn’t mind.”

MacGyver hadn’t met Wendi Vang when he had recently been rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound, at least not while he had been conscious, but Joanna had told him how understanding and helpful Wendi had been and he would be forever grateful for that.

“Is there something I can help you with?” the lawyer continued.

“You wouldn’t happen to have any connections in the police department? Maybe someone who owes you a favor?”

“What kind of trouble are you in this time, Mac?” Lee chuckled.

MacGyver explained everything about Raul’s run in with the Latin Kings and the impending repercussions.

“Raul Garcia. Isn’t that the young man I defended earlier this year in a case involving vandalism and gang activity? The one whose mom makes those killer tamales?”

“I’m afraid it is,” Mac admitted.

“That boy sure has a knack for finding trouble. Are you sure he’s not related to you?”

“You’re just a regular comedian today, aren’t you, Vang? Can you help us out or not?”

Lee’s voice became serious. “I have some people I can contact. I’ll have them meet you at Challengers.”

XXXXX

MacGyver saw Joanna look nervously at her watch. It was five o’clock. One hour until Raul was scheduled to meet the Kings at the abandoned factory by the river. Lee Vang had sent over four off-duty narcotic detectives, two of whom were already in position in the communication van a block away from the meeting site. The van was disguised with signage indicating it was an air conditioning repair company, a rather common sight in the city these days so it was doubtful anyone would find its presence suspicious. The two remaining detectives had commandeered MacGyver’s office and swiftly secured Raul and his mother behind closed doors. Joanna had taken Rosie’s place at the reception desk, happily greeting bedraggled persons seeking relief from the heat, pretending that Challengers was operating as usual. He knew she was upset that he planned to tag along with Raul and the detectives, and even more upset that she couldn’t join them, but it was important for her to remain and help Cynthia keep the club running. Mac pulled up a chair and sat next to her, wanting to spend a few quiet moments together before he headed out.

“What are they doing in there?” she whispered to him as she glanced at his closed office door.

“They’re wiring him up and giving him instructions on what to say and how to act given different scenarios.”

“So he really is gonna be like that guy on television?”

“Pretty much,” Mac confirmed, putting a calming hand on her thigh. “But don’t worry. We’ll have lots of eyes on him. He won’t be alone for a second.”

Joanna turned to look at him. “That’s what they always say and the sting always goes south.”

“Have you been watching TV with Raul?” MacGyver teased, trying to lighten the mood. However, given Joanna’s deep frown and steely gaze, his effort had been unsuccessful.

“I don’t like this, Mac.”

“Neither do I. But we don’t have many options at this point. If he would’ve come to us right away then maybe…”

His office door opened and the small group emerged and headed toward MacGyver.

“Ready to go?” the first detective asked.

“Let’s do this,” Mac replied.

“Okay, we’re going to leave the building separately and at intervals, just in case they have someone watching the place,” the second detective instructed. “MacGyver, you go last. Make sure Raul doesn’t get intercepted between here and the factory. And when you get there, go straight to the van. I’m not in the mood for any collateral damage.”

Fifteen minutes before the designated meeting time, MacGyver slipped through the back door of the surveillance van. A detective handed him a pair of headphones and binoculars. Mac climbed into the driver’s seat and trained the binoculars on the front of the abandoned factory where Raul stood just outside the main doors.

“I’d feel better if we had some cameras on him,” Mac commented.

“Didn’t have enough notice to get them set up,” came the officer’s curt reply. “Besides, didn’t want to risk being made by any Kings that might be hanging out.”

Mac couldn’t argue with that. As he sat watching Raul, he felt his adrenaline build and his heart rate increase. The worst part of any mission, at least for him, was the waiting. He glanced at his watch. Six o’clock on the nose. When he looked up, he saw three gang members sporting their black and yellow colors approach Raul from either side of the old building. MacGyver put on his headset and readjusted the binoculars. A tall, broad shouldered male separated himself from the others and stood to face Raul.

“You got my cash?”

“I changed my mind, Manny,” Raul said in a stronger voice than Mac expected. “I ain’t sellin’ no dope.” Raul held out the bag of coke to the gang leader who snatched it from his hand.

“Sounds like we got ourselves a problem then,” Manny sneered, moving in closer.

“There’s no problem. Let’s just forget the whole thing,” Raul suggested.

“It don’t work like that, dude. You come around on King turf you either join up or pay up.”

“I ain’t joinin’ and I ain’t payin’!”

“I guess you don’t care about that pretty little mama of yours.”

“What do you mean?” Raul asked, his brave facade crumbling.

“You gotta protect your family, man. That’s what I mean.”

Raul shifted his weight from one foot to another, nervously licking his lips as he glanced around to find the other gang members slowly surrounding him, guns and knives visible and threatening.

“All right! All right! I’ll sell your stupid dope! But just this one time so you don’t hurt my mom!”

An evil, satisfied grin spread across Manny’s face as he handed the coke back to Raul. As soon as the bag with the white powder hit Raul’s hand, the detectives lunged from their hiding places and the two officers in the van barreled out the back doors. Shouts of “Freeze! Police!” and “Drop your weapons!” rent the evening air. For a moment it was if time stood still. Then suddenly the police had all the boys down on the ground, handcuffs snapped into place. MacGyver breathed a heavy sigh of relief. The takedown had been quick and harmless. He lowered his binoculars and was pulling off his headset when he saw a teen in Latin Kings colors race from the factory, past the van Mac was in. Acting on pure instinct, MacGyver tumbled out the driver’s side door and quickly regained his feet to chase after the boy. It didn’t take long for Mac to catch up and, hurtling through the air, slam the gang member into the ground, landing on top of him. Before Mac could right himself, the teen rolled over, knife flailing in his hand. MacGyver felt the sharp sting of the blade as it sliced his bicep, but his focus remained on the miscreant writhing beneath him. He reached out, grabbing the knife-wielding arm and pounding it hard into the ground until the boy’s grip slackened and the weapon fell harmlessly away. Mac stood, wadding the teen’s shirt front in his fist and pulling him up to his feet. Together they stumbled back to the van where MacGyver handed the escapee over to one of the detectives.

“Looks like we better get you an ambulance,” the officer said, looking at the blood flowing from Mac’s upper arm as he took custody of the boy.

“It’s just a flesh wound,” MacGyver shrugged. “I’ll be fine.”

“Yeah, right,” the cop smirked before turning to speak into his walkie-talkie.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Joanna sat at the Challengers reception desk smiling welcoming smiles at newcomers seeking relief from the heat and happily accepting donations from the community, but inside her heart was fluttering and her stomach churning. She glanced at her watch for the fifth time in the last four minutes. How long until she heard something? The meeting should have taken place thirty minutes ago and yet no one had called to inform them of the outcome. She was about to glance at her watch again when Cynthia approached and put a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“I just heard from the detectives,” she informed Joanna. “Raul is safe and all the gang members are in custody.”

“So no one was hurt?” Jo asked with cautious hopefulness.

“MacGyver sustained an injury. They wouldn’t give me any details, but he’s on his way to the hospital right now.”

Without a word, Joanna quickly retrieved her purse, grabbed her keys and headed out. It wasn’t until she was behind the wheel, already driving down the road that she realized she hadn’t even said good-bye to Cynthia much less apologized for leaving her alone to run the center, but upon hearing Mac was hurt, nothing else seemed to matter.

Joanna rushed through the automatic doors of the emergency room only to be greeted by Wendi Vang.

“Wow! You made good time. The ambulance hasn’t even arrived yet!” Wendi grinned, but Jo failed to find any humor in her observation. “The medics just called in. Mac’s okay, just a knife wound that’s going to need stitched up.”

Joanna breathed a sigh of relief, thankful the injury wasn’t worse. The nurse’s pager went off and she politely excused herself, leaving Jo to take a seat in the emergency waiting room. Sitting on the hard plastic chair, she leaned her head back against the wall, her eyelids fluttering closed of their own volition as the stress and excitement of the day finally caught up with her. To her surprise, she must have dozed off because the next time she opened her eyes it was to find MacGyver standing in the waiting room watching her, a crooked grin on his face. The only evidence of his injury was a ripped and bloodied shirt sleeve and the white dressing peeking out of the tear.

“Hi,” he greeted her softly. “Tough day, huh?”

“You could say that,” she agreed, standing but not moving towards him.

“You’re upset,” he observed.

“I was worried,” she amended. “But Wendi assured me you’d be okay even before you got here.”

“But you stayed.”

“I figured you’d need a ride home,” she shrugged.

A young doctor wearing glasses and a lab coat interrupted them.

“Excuse me, Mr. MacGyver, but here are your discharge papers. Remember to keep the site clean and dry and we’ll see you back here in ten days to take out the stitches.”

“Thanks,” Mac murmured, taking the papers and shaking the physician’s hand before turning back to Joanna. “Shall we go?”

Jo turned her back to him and headed out the door, leaving him to follow in her wake. Once in the car she cranked the engine and jacked up the air conditioning as MacGyver struggled to push the passenger seat back and buckle his seat belt.

“You’re upset,” Mac repeated as she pulled out of the parking lot feeling his eyes on her.

“I’m not upset,” she sighed heavily. “I’m just trying really hard to get used to the idea that the emergency room is your second favorite hang-out after the ice rink.”

“That’s not true,” he retorted. “Wherever you are is by far my absolute, number one hang-out. The ice rink is second and the hospital is a distant third.”

By now they were parked in MacGyver’s driveway, the car idling. Joanna finally turned to look at him and genuinely smiled for what seemed to be the first time in days. When he smiled back, her stomach did a funny little flip.

“You wanna come in?”

“Do you need help with something?”

“No, I just thought…”

She reached out and put a hand on his cheek to silence him. “I think it’s best if we both just get a good night’s sleep.”

“But we’re okay, right?” he asked, the worry in his eyes and concern in his voice tugging at her heart.

“We’re way better than okay,” she assured him before they leaned toward each other, their lips meeting in a kiss that melted her from the inside out.

XXXXX

Joanna looked up at the clock on the wall and frowned.

“I thought MacGyver would be here by now,” she said, a bit deflated.

“I called him last night and told him to take the day off,” Cynthia informed her.

“I know. That’s why I thought he’d be here already!” she chuckled with Cynthia joining in.

An unpredicted cold front had swept through the region the night before leaving behind comfortable temperatures and low humidity. Cynthia, Joanna, Rosie, and several Challengers members had spent the better part of the morning cleaning the dorms and recreation area in an effort to get the club back to normal since there was no longer a need for cooling stations. Jo had just stowed the last of the cleaning supplies in a closet when MacGyver poked his head through the doorway.

“Is Diego here?” he asked, a secretive smile on his face.

“Yeah, he’s around,” Jo replied.

“Go find him and bring him outside.”

Knowing better than to question Mac’s request, Joanna went in search of Diego and escorted him out to the parking lot, the others following close behind out of curiosity. There, MacGyver stood grinning widely with a bicycle standing in front of him.

“Well, what do ya think?” he asked the boy whose eyes had gone wide.

“Is that my bike?” Diego asked in disbelief.

“Sure is!” Mac proclaimed. “Bought it back from the pawn shop this morning.”

Diego whooped with joy as he grabbed his bike, hopped on, and began riding laps around the lot. As everyone laughed and clapped and congratulated MacGyver on his find, Joanna snuck back into the building and slunk into her office. Sitting at her desk, she put her face in her hands, ashamed of her selfish feelings. Naturally, she was glad to see that Diego had gotten his bicycle back, but she couldn’t help feeling jealous because his property had been recovered but not hers. Of course, pawn shops were notorious for quickly selling valuable items like jewelry as opposed to a boy’s old, rusty bike. Suddenly, she heard footsteps approaching and quickly lowered her hands, pretending to study her blank computer screen.

“Why aren’t you outside with the others,” Mac asked, standing casually in the doorway.

“With all the craziness of the past few days I have a lot of work to catch up on,” she replied, hoping her voice didn’t reveal her true thoughts.

“Well, when I was out this morning trying to track down Diego’s bike, I found something in one of the pawn shops I thought you might like.” He slowly walked behind her desk and, with a hand supporting her elbow, silently encouraged her to stand as she gazed at him skeptically.

Once they were standing face-to-face, he reached into the front pocket of his pants and pulled out his gift. Between his thumb and forefinger he held a dark blue sapphire ring with diamond accents. Joanna’s breath caught. She couldn’t believe her eyes.

“It can’t be,” she shook her head in amazement. “Is that really my ring?”

“Now you sound like Diego!” Mac laughed. “Yes, it is really your ring. The store owner recognized it as a high quality piece of jewelry that most likely didn’t belong to the man who hocked it. He didn’t put it on display in case someone came looking for it.”

“I can’t believe it!” Jo exclaimed, finally allowing her excitement to bubble to the surface.

She reached out to take the ring, but MacGyver quickly pulled his hand away.

“Hey!” she scolded.

“If I’m going to give you a ring I’m going to do it the right way,” he explained as if to a child. “Now, hold out your hand.”

Joanna gave him an exaggerated eye roll but held out her right hand, palm up.

“Not like that,” Mac chided as he stepped even closer and took her left hand in his. With his other hand he gently, almost reverently, slipped the precious piece on her ring finger.

Jo’s jaw slackened and her mouth went dry. “Maaac?” she asked uncertainly.

MacGyver bent his head so his lips were against her ear, his breath tickling her neck.

“Don’t worry. I’m just practicing.”










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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