It is 1984. I am ten seconds from success when you destroy my life, a scruffy-looking guy in a junkyard who turned out to be so much more.
It is 1992. I would know your face a hundred years from now. I have not forgotten. And now I have found you...
"OK, easy now..." MacGyver helped Sam carefully out of the cab and unloaded the bags while Sam stood, looking around at the neighbourhood. Sam turned as his father came up behind him, smiling at him and shaking his head.
"I guess I'd forgotten what it's like here."
MacGyver nodded, amused. They'd spent a few weeks here before going on their road trip, waiting for his broken arm to heal enough to ride. Sam, citizen of the world and used to viewing all new places and people as potentially hostile, had been a bit taken aback by MacGyver's neighbourhood and the people in it. MacGyver watched Sam scan the street, the brightly painted houses, the tie-dyed curtains in Kelly's windows, Mel's ancient car with its faded bumper stickers and Mama Lorraine's multicoloured washing flapping on a line in the sun. He smelled incense wafting on the breeze and saw Sam shake his head again as he struggled to find words. "You get used to it, son!"
"It's like the sixties never left!" Sam turned and followed his father into the apartment.
By the evening, Mel had noticed they were back, told everyone and arranged a 'welcome home' party. Sam and MacGyver were just settling down to Chinese takeaway and a hockey game on the TV when the door burst open and Mama Lorraine swept in with a big smile and an even bigger pie. Half the neighbourhood piled in behind her, with Mel grinning like an overage sprite at MacGyver's expression from the safety of the doorway. MacGyver hugged everyone, gravely shook hands with Mel's four year old nephew and pushed through the crush to clap Mel on the back, telling him how good it was to be home. Kelly made a beeline for Sam, sitting far too close and fussing over him until he managed to escape into the kitchen. He filled a glass with ice water and took it outside to the relative quiet of the front step. Sitting down awkwardly, he sighed and took a long sip.
"Hi!" Water splashed as Sam jumped violently, grabbed at his sore shoulder and swore.
"Oh, hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you like that." A figure emerged from the shadows and picked up the fallen glass, handing it back to Sam. Sam pushed back his hair and looked up.
"Hi. Uh, no problem, I guess." He brushed at the wet on his t-shirt briefly and then gave up. "Are you a friend of my Dad's? I saw you earlier inside but I don't think we've met."
"I'm James." The man hesitated until Sam gestured for him to sit down. "I haven't lived here very long."
"Sam." He moved up, letting the middle-aged man sit down next to him on the step. "Dad and I just got back – we had some catching up to do and we've been away for a few months."
James glanced sharply at Sam before returning his gaze to the street.
"That must have been some trip. How did you...?"
"I got shot. It's a really long story." Sam got to his feet, not wanting to explain all over again. "I'm going inside to get another drink. You want anything?"
James drew his knees up and locked his hands around them, staring away down the street.
"No, thank you." He looked back at Sam and smiled. "I'll come inside in a while – the crowd's a bit much for me."
"I know what you mean!" Sam watched him watching the street for a moment longer, then shrugged and headed inside.
Late that evening, after the guests had gone and long after their hockey game had finished, Sam and MacGyver sat on the couch, surveying the post-party wreckage.
"Does this kind of thing happen often?" Sam put his feet up on the coffee table and leaned back, closing his eyes.
"Yeah." MacGyver scrubbed his hands over his face and through his hair, wondering if he should go for a haircut before starting back at Phoenix. "If it isn't someone's birthday, it's the anniversary of something else. Count on one neighbourhood party a month, minimum. Like I said, you get..."
"Used to it, yeah." Sam took a swallow from his glass and then frowned at it. "I went out front a while ago, and met this guy. I think he knew you, but he seemed, I dunno. Odd."
"Tallish? Really pale? Haircut like Jay Leno?" MacGyver nodded. He really didn't want a haircut. Maybe he had an elastic band or something lying around to tie it back for work. "He's Mel's latest project. He's a hard luck case from back East, come to make a new start and he doesn't really know anyone yet. Mel's kind of taken him under his wing seeing as how he's renting just across the street. I only met him tonight though. Odd how?"
"Nervy, I guess. Kind of shy. He seemed interested that you're my Dad. I guess he does look a bit like Jay Leno!" Sam yawned. "I gotta get some sleep, Dad. See you in the morning." Sam rose and picked his way through the party debris, leaving MacGyver alone on the settee.
"Night, son." MacGyver put 'The Magnificent Seven' into the video, turned the sound down low and pulled his feet up on the couch. Why would Mel's new tenant think he knew him? MacGyver couldn't even remember the guy's name. John? Jack? Something... The room was warm, the couch comfortable and soon MacGyver drifted off to sleep.
I see you. I know you but you do not know me. Did you ruin so many lives that the ruination of mine is not memorable to you? You will remember. You will know me. I swear it...
"Do I go with the tie? Maybe I shouldn't bother." MacGyver frowned at his reflection. He combed his hair back, tied it into a ponytail and then shook it out again. "I look like Dexter..."
Sam grinned at him around a mouthful of cereal. He shook his head and swallowed.
"Don't sweat it, Dad. It's not like Pete's going to mind. Who's Dexter, anyway?"
MacGyver glanced across at Sam and smiled.
"Dexter is... Never mind. I just feel like I should make a good impression on my first day back." He sat down to lace his shoes. "I did kind of leave Pete in the lurch when we took off like that, even if he did encourage us to go."
Sam followed his father into the garage, watched him shrug into his jacket and check over the bike. It seemed so empty without his own bike or his Dad's Jeep. Raising the door revealed James putting out his garbage across the street. He straightened up, waved and came over.
"Hi." James stood at the edge of the sidewalk, hands in his pockets and looking awkward. MacGyver smiled at him as he strapped on his helmet and walked the bike to the front of the garage.
"Morning. We kinda got introduced at the party, didn't we? I didn't get your name though...?" He held out his hand for James to shake. James hesitated, staring hard at MacGyver before abruptly stepping forward and taking his hand.
"James. You're MacGyver. And you're Sam. That's a nice bike." He stared intently at them both, his gaze straying back to MacGyver again. The silence stretched, and MacGyver glanced at his watch.
"I gotta go. Sam, let me know how you get on at the hospital, OK? James, nice to meet you again." MacGyver nodded at them both, revved up the bike and turned out along the street.
James watched until the bike was out of sight and then turned back to Sam.
"I could take you to the hospital if you want. Mel said I can borrow his car until I get one of my own. I'd really like to help." He looked hopefully at Sam.
"Um, I can get a bus, I don't want to trouble you..." Sam coloured up, hating to be dependent on someone else. James shook his head faintly, once again looking up the road after the bike.
Mel backed away from his car, lifted a boot and kicked the car hard just below the door handle. The old car rocked on its springs and the door lock popped up. Mel opened the door and grinned at Sam.
"Been meaning to get that fixed. Doors all jam up regularly but you just have to show them who's boss. Trick is to hit it right below the mechanism." He brushed a potato chip packet and some unidentifiable bits and pieces off the seat into the foot well and waited while Sam got in. He tossed the keys across to James and squinted against the sun. "Don't run any red lights, OK?" He waved as James put the car in gear and drove away, pleased to see that James seemed to have finally made a friend.
Sam lifted his foot and tried to work out what he'd stepped on. Something shiny winked up at him out of the assorted trash. Why would Mel have barbeque tongs in his car? He toed the tongs to one side and set his foot down on a pencil, which broke. He sighed.
"Mel's car is a tip. Not that I'm complaining, you understand, it beats getting lost on a bus." He glanced across at James, hunched over the steering wheel. "This is really kind of you, thanks." James smiled without taking his eyes off the road.
"No trouble. Have you and your Dad lived here long?" Sam shook his head, popping the cassette from the player.
"Dad's been here for a while, but I'm only staying until I get a place of my own sorted out." He looked down at the tape. "Jefferson Airplane. Why am I not surprised..." He cranked the window handle to let in some cool air but it spun uselessly and the window stayed closed. "The neighbourhood's growing on me though; I might stay round here too." James nodded, licking his lips.
"What do you both do?"
"I'm a stringer, a photo-journalist. I'm kind of between jobs at the moment though, just until my shoulder heals. Dad works for the Phoenix Foundation, they do research and environmental stuff." James nodded again, concentrating on nursing the spluttering car through the morning traffic.
"And what does he do, at the Phoenix Foundation?" Sam glanced across at James, something about his tone making Sam wary.
"He's kind of a troubleshooter, he does a lot of different things. How about you, James? Tell me about yourself." James hunched a little closer over the steering wheel and thought a long time before replying.
"I'm from Nowheresville, West Virginia, I had some bad luck and I'm making a fresh start out here. I'm going to make sure everything's right this time." James's hands clenched and Sam, watching his knuckles whiten, wondered if he should have taken the bus after all.
"Troubleshooter..." James's voice sounded far away. "What kind of trouble does he shoot at?" Sam shifted in his seat.
"It's not like that. He's really good at thinking on his feet, so he gets called in to sort out projects that have gone wrong and deal with situations that have got difficult. No shooting."
"And has he always done that?"
"No." Now Sam was getting annoyed. "He used to work for the government. Look, this is our turn. Here." He pointed and James obediently steered the car to the kerb.
"I'll wait for you in the car." James placed a hand carefully on Sam's arm. Sam shook him off, got out and slammed the door.
"I can get a cab, James. Thanks for the lift but I can find my own way back." James continued to stare at him.
"It's no trouble." James watched Sam walk up the steps into the hospital and settled back in his seat to wait. His gaze strayed across the street to a low-loader carrying fork-lift trucks. He watched it turn towards the docks and his hands clenched in his lap. "Troubleshooter..."