After returning home from Amsterdam, MacGyver felt as if he were disconnected and drifting. After Matty had disavowed the team, MacGyver's main focus had been on doing whatever he could to protect Bozer and find a way to get him back home. Even though, for a while there, none of them had the option of going back home to their old lives. Thankfully, in the end, Matty came through for them and, thanks to Bozer, they were able to find the way to exonerate themselves.
It had been a bit strange, receiving a hero's welcome upon their return. Everyone had been clapping and happy to see them. Mac had just been happy knowing that Bozer was back home and safe. Only now MacGyer was worried that his friend would want to go back out into the field again where something else could go wrong.
To that end, instead of going home, MacGyver had headed to the lab to talk to him. "Hey, Boze," he offered in greeting.
"Hey, Mac," Bozer replied, glancing up from the face mask he had been working on. "What are you still doing here? Matty sent everyone home."
"Which totally explains why you're still here," MacGyver teased. "She sent you home too."
Bozer shrugged. "Yeah, I know...but I needed to be here for a bit. It feels..."
MacGyver knew exactly where his friend was going with this. "...safe?" he finished.
"Exactly." Bozer felt a bit embarrassed about how emotional he felt about everything, but he knew Mac would understand and not judge him because of it. "You know...I kept begging Matty to let me go on a mission and now I'm going to be begging her to let me stay locked up in this here lab."
"Bozer..." MacGyver locked eyes with his friend. "I am so sorry about what happened. If we hadn't been able to get back home...I never would have forgiven myself. Because of my work and my secret life, you nearly lost everything."
Eyes going wide with disbelief, Bozer gaped at MacGyver. "Whoa...back up, bro. What the hell are you talking about? You didn't send me on the mission, Matty did that. Matty is also the one who disavowed us. You had nothing to do with any of that. When all that went down, you were there watching out for me. So stop blaming yourself, Mac."
As happy as he was to hear that Bozer didn't blame him, MacGyver couldn't let it go. "Easier said than done," he confessed.
"Make it easy," Bozer insisted. "You don't get to feel guilty about what happened. I mean it." He did mean it, but at the same time Bozer could tell that Jack wasn't buying it. He could see the guilt and regret blazing in his best friend's blue eyes, but he didn't know what else he could say, or do, to make it disappear.
"I appreciate you letting me off the hook, Boze," MacGyver assured him, even though the guilt he was feeling was still firmly in place, clinging to him like a leech. But coming here wasn't about assuaging his guilt, it was about making sure his best friend was okay. "You know, you surprised me today, Bozer. I know you were scared, but you worked through it and you stepped up and we wouldn't have made it back home without you. So I want to tell you again how proud I am of you, because I know this was not what you signed up for."
Bozer felt himself flush with both pride and embarrassment. "That means a lot to me, Mac, especially after getting a taste of what you do every day. I have to be honest, I don't know how you do it." Bozer was beyond sincere about this. "How do you face life and death and not even blink. How do you stay so calm and collected? And how the hell do you make yourself go back out there again and again? I can't do that." Bozer felt good getting this off his chest because he knew Mac expected him to want to continue with field work, but he realized he didn't want to be a big damn hero after all. So he made a confession, "I wasn't kidding earlier when I said I'll be begging Matty to let me stay here in this lab. I don't think field work is my thing, man. At least...not right now."
A part of MacGyver was surprised to hear that, because Bozer had been riding Matty pretty much every day to let him go on a mission. Of course, this one had gone sideways so it had been a harsh introduction to the life of a secret agent. A fully trained agent would be hard put not to feel overwhelmed if their first mission had involved being disavowed, but Bozer had been a real trooper. Mac couldn't believe Bozer was serious about staying put in the lab. "I know it was crazy out there, but you're going to be one hell of a field agent someday, Boze."
"*Someday* being the key word here," Bozer replied. "Down the road, many many years from now, maybe I'll feel inclined to wander out again. Just...not right now. You're cool with that, right?" Bozer was hoping that MacGyver knowing he was going to stay put and stay safe might stop his friend from drowning in guilt. Having been best friends since middle school, Bozer knew full well that when Mac felt like something was his fault he took full responsibility for it in every way. He could pretty much turn guilt into a religion, although he was an expert at internalizing it.
"Of course I'm cool with it," MacGyver stated. "I want you to do what's right for you, Bozer but, most of all, I want you to be safe."
Bozer chuckled and gestured around him. "I can't get much safer than here in this lab with secret agents wandering around all over the place." Moving to stand face to face with MacGyver, Bozer's smile faded as he stated, with all seriousness, "And I have my best friend watching my back. It doesn't get any better than that, bro."
MacGyver couldn't agree more, and when Bozer pulled him in for a Bozer Bear-hug, Mac went willingly.
Three days after the events in Amsterdam, Jack found himself at MacGyver's, along with Riley, at Bozer's invitation. They were enjoying barbecue ribs and potato salad, with the promise of peach pie for dessert. Everyone was enjoying themselves and the food, bantering and telling stories and fighting over which movies they were going to watch later. Everyone, that is, except for MacGyver.
It bothered Jack that the kid wasn't eating, because MacGyver loved Bozer's barbecue. More than that, Jack could tell he wasn't sleeping either. His young friend was listless and wrapped up in his head. Something was eating at him, and Jack was going to get to the bottom of it.
Catching Bozer's eye, Jack nodded towards MacGyver. Like he expected, Bozer got the message and a moment later he asked Riley to join him on an ice cream run.
"We have ice cream in the freezer," MacGyver reminded him. In fact they had six tubs of various flavors.
"We do," Bozer allowed, thinking on his feet. "But we do not have French Vanilla, which is an absolute necessity to go along with my peach pie. So we'll be back soon." With that he grabbed Riley by the hand and dragged her out the door. He would explain the unexpected trip on the way to the grocery store, because now he had to pick up the ice cream to keep from being caught out as a liar. And, to be honest, French Vanilla ice cream did go perfectly with peach pie.
The moment they were alone, Jack turned to MacGyver. "What's going on, bud?"
Frowning in confusion at the question, Mac looked at his friend and countered, "What do you mean?"
"I know the signs." Jack moved to sit on the edge of the fire pit so he was facing Mac who was in one of the deck chairs. "You're not eating, not sleeping and you're all locked up inside your head. Something is bothering you, and you won't get back to what passes for normal, for you, until you figure out whatever it is that's eating at you." Jack grinned at the look of shock that appeared on MacGyver's face. He had nailed it in one.
"Jack..." MacGyver broke off, reconsidering what he was going to say. The other man was like a dog with a bone when he wanted to know something, so Mac knew he wasn't going to back off until he got answers. He didn't want to lie to Jack, but at the same time MacGyver wasn't sure he was ready to share his thoughts. Then again, maybe telling him about the chaos in his head might be the very thing he needed to clear his mind and bring about clarity.
Realizing that MacGyver was struggling with whether or not to share his problem with him, Jack decided to make it easy on him. "Brother, you know that no matter what you're dealing with...I'm on your side. If you need me to back off for now, just say so. The only thing that concerns me is that you're distancing yourself and that's never a good thing. I just want to help you get to a place where you can eat and sleep again. Okay?"
MacGyver felt his heart clench because it meant more to him, than words could ever say, the way Jack was always there for him, unconditionally. And there was no one else who would understand what he was going through right now. "It's about Thornton," Mac blurted out.
"Okay...what about her?" Jack prompted, not letting on how surprised he was by MacGyver's confession. Sure it had been surprising to find out that Thornton had been behind setting them up in Amsterdam but, then again, after everything else she had done, Jack hadn't really been all that surprised. He knew, first hand, how clever she was.
"I know the consensus is that Thornton set us up and that it had been in the works before she went to prison," MacGyver began. He paused to jump to his feet so he could pace around the fire pit. He felt too anxious to just sit still. "But I don't buy it."
Jack was curious, as always, as to the workings of Mac's ginormous brain. "Why not?" he prompted.
MacGyver had been clicking through various scenarios and possibilities for the past three days, but he kept coming back to the same conclusion and he tried to explain it to his friend now. "Not to blow my own horn, but Thornton hired me to do the impossible and, as a team, we're pretty damn unstoppable."
"Truer words were never spoken," Jack allowed. "But I don't quite see where you're going with this."
"I do what I do because I improvise when things don't go as planned," Mac explained. "Missions are unpredictable, and so am I. Hell, until a situation makes itself known - and even then - I don't know what I'm going to do until I do it and it's all based on variables. Location, surroundings, situation...none of that can be controlled."
Jack thought he was beginning to follow MacGyver's train of thought. "She couldn't have set things up because she couldn't have known the variables. Like Matty sending Bozer along for the ride."
"To name just one circumstance and variable," Mac confirmed. "Then there's the CIA connection and it's just never sat well with me. I know we have evidence to prove that Thornton is the Mole, but I find it hard to swallow. Maybe it's just that I can't accept that she fooled me all along."
"That's a hard pill for me to swallow as well," Jack conceded. "But it is what it is, and we both know Thornton is smart enough to have pulled this off."
MacGyver did know, and that's where the other side of his doubt came in. He knew she had the ability to pull off being the mole, but at the same time she was too smart to leave the kind of loose ends that had allowed her to be caught. And wasn't it convenient that she's the one who had set them up in Amsterdam. Or was she simply a pawn in a higher stakes game? One thing that Mac knew for sure was that corruption at this level was almost always rooted at the top of the power structure. A part of him was convinced there was more going on here than they understood.
Moving to sit back down again, MacGyver locked eyes with Jack. "There's something I never told you."
"Oh?" Jack knew it was serious because regret was shining in the kid's blue eyes. When Mac didn't speak, Jack reached out to grip his shoulder. "It's okay...you're telling me now. What is it?"
"After we caught Murdoc I needed to clear my head." As he spoke, MacGyver stared at his hands, intertwining his fingers because they nearly ached with the need to be doing something.
Jack reached into his pocket and pulled out a paper clip, which he held out to the kid. "Here, twist away before you have a panic attack."
Accepting the paper clip, MacGyver's fingers went to work bending it to his will, but his eyes were Jack as he stated, "I don't have panic attacks." He may or may not have been pouting as he said it.
"You keep telling yourself that," Jack shot back, smirking. "Cairo?"
"Yeah." MacGyver had to give him that one, but the word also brought him back to topic. "Um...getting back on point. I went to a dinner for coffee."
Jack wasn't all that surprised. "You do like your coffee."
MacGyver started twisting the paper clip into the shape of a mug. "Yeah, well I got more than I bargained for that night. Nikki showed up. She sat down at the booth and drew a gun on me."
"Say what?" Jack jumped to his feet, surprised and angry and itching to punch something just because he need to channel his anger somewhere. Sure it was after the fact and sure MacGyver was okay and, sure, Nikki wasn't a bad guy after all. But back then they hadn't known that and the fact that she had pulled a gun on the kid just rubbed Jack the wrong way.
"This isn't about what she did," MacGyver countered, waving at Jack to sit down again. "It's about what she said. In a nutshell she told me that Thornton might not be who I thought she was. That she wasn't to be trusted."
Jack was stunned by Mac's revelation, stunned and a little bit upset. "And you didn't think to share that with me, bro?"
MacGyver tossed aside the mangled paper clip and scrubbed a hand over his face. He was so damn tired but he hadn't been able to shut his brain off for the past few days. Facing Jack while exhausted and brain fried was not the best scenario, but his friend deserved a reply. "I know I should have told you, Jack. I can't change the fact that I didn't and I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry," Jack countered. "Just explain to me now why you didn't feel the need to tell me."
"To be honest, there were a couple of reasons," MacGyver replied. "The main one being that I didn't want to get you involved in what felt like a personal game of cat and mouse with Nikki and me. At the time I believed it what happened was my fault, because I knew her and I should have seen it coming."
Jack scowled. "Bro...we talked about that. None of it was your fault. Everything Nikki did was on Nikki. Well, until we found out she was undercover CIA that is. But you know what I mean."
That was another part of the puzzle that was driving MacGyver crazy because he couldn't put it together. There were too many missing pieces. "Back then I couldn't wrap my head around what Nikki was implying about Thornton. I needed to gather more intel before I shared anything with anyone. Then suddenly Nikki was back and a deep cover CIA, and things happened so fast. Next thing we know...Thornton is a mole? I just...it gives me nightmares, Jack. I know I can be naïve, but I'm not stupid."
"Far from it," Jack interjected. "So what exactly is it that's giving you nightmares now?" Because he realized that until MacGyver figured it out he was going to agonize over it. Sure he would be able to compartmentalize it and do his job, but to what end? The detriment of his physical and mental health? Jack wasn't going to let that happen, not if he could help it.
"I can't get past what happened in Amsterdamn," MacGyver confessed. "If we hadn't been able to turn things around, our lives would have been over. Bozer's life would have been over."
Jack understood Mac's fears, but he wasn't going to let him wallow in them. "Bozer told you he's staying in the lab for the time being, so he'll be safe. You have to let that go, bud."
MacGyver wished it was that simple. "I know and it's that so much. I'm thrilled that Bozer wants to stick to being in the lab for the time being. That said, what if the Amsterdam scenario happens again?"
"I don't see how it could," Jack countered. "Thornton is being watched 24/7."
"She was being watched 24/7 since she got arrested," MacGyver stated. "No phone calls, no visits, no contact with anyone. She's been in solitary all this time because she won't talk. Her only contact has been with Oversight officials and her guards. Which is one of the reasons why I have my doubts that she was responsible for what happened in Amsterdam."
Jack considered what MacGyver was saying, mulling it over in his head. "Well, maybe she bribed a guard or something."
MacGyver shook his head. He'd considered that and every other scenario, over and over again, breaking down every detail and no matter how he rearranged the facts, it didn't make sense to him. "Given what she did, Oversight is going to be careful about who's watching her, everyone will be hard vetted. Which leaves me with one of two conclusions and I don't like either one of them."
"Lay them on me," Jack invited, although he had a feeling he wasn't going to like them either.
"If we accept that Thornton is the mole and she did this, she didn't do it alone." MacGyver was back up and pacing again, trying to override the rise in anxiety that was tingling under his skin. "Whoever helped her has connections and power, be it a guard who is more than a guard, or someone higher up, someone in Oversight."
Jack hadn't thought about that as a possibility. He didn't want to think about it because it led to a scary place. "Not feeling that scenario, bud. What's the other one?"
MacGyver moved to stand at the railing, looking out over the hills. "Thornton was set up and whoever did it has a lot of power and connections and they will come after us again, of that I have no doubt. That's what's haunting me, Jack. My gut is telling that, even if Thornton is Chrysalis, what happened to her came from way above her pay grade. I firmly believe that she was set up to take a fall and that we're next on the list. Whoever is in control is going to keep coming at us and we don't know when or where. We can't get ahead of this, Jack. We dodged a bullet with Amsterdam, what happens the next time? I can't live with the idea that I could lose one of you and that it would be my fault!" Fear and anger overwhelmed Mac and he could feel himself shaking, his hands gripping the railing as he fought to control his emotions.
"Back up the bus, bro!" Jack moved to MacGyver and he could see how pale he was and that fact that the slender body was trembling. "What makes you think any of this is your fault in any way?"
"Because that's the only thing that makes sense, Jack. " MacGyver locked eyes with his friend. "It stared with Thornton and the fact that she brought me into DXS, then when you factor in Nikki...I'm the bridge that connects everything. The rest of you are just going to end up as collateral damage."
Jack wasn't going to listen to this any longer. "You stop right there, Mac. None of this is on you! Do you hear me?" He knew the kid heard him, but he also knew that he wasn't listening or believing it. It was time for Jack to take things into his own hands. He gripped MacGyver by the shoulders and made him focus. "I'm not going to lie, bro. All these things you're thinking about...now that you've got me thinking about them it's scary as hell. Most of all because it makes sense, but not in a good way. That said, you're making yourself crazy right now because you're tired and burnt out. You need to shut down that ginormous brain of yours and get some sleep. I know you, once you rest and hit the reset button...you'll figure it all out."
MacGyver wished it was that easy, but it was anything but. "This isn't some TV drama, Jack. Someone is gunning for us and we're flying blind here." He couldn't hide it any longer, he was terrified for his friends.
"You're flying on no sleep and not eating is not helping your cause," Jack countered, taking MacGyver by the arm and leading him inside. He made him sit at the counter while he made his way into MacGyver's master bathroom. After rummaging in the medicine cabinet, Jack returned with a prescription bottle in hand. After being shot and believing Nikki was dead, MacGyver had gone through a period of insomnia and Jack had made him go to the doctor for sleeping pills. He'd only managed to get the kid to take one of them at the time, but even that had helped. A good night's sleep didn't change the world or fix problems, but it helped offer clarity so problems could be dealt with. Jack knew that MacGyver would figure out what he needed to do, once he got some sleep.
"I'm not taking those, Jack," MacGyver said, when his friend set the bottle on the countertop.
Jack opened it then fetched a water from the fridge. "Oh, yes you are. You can take them voluntarily or I can make you take them. You need to sleep. So swallow a pill then, when Bozer and Riley get back with the ice cream, we'll all have peach pie and watch movies until you fall asleep." He knew most people would be out within twenty minutes and sleep for at least twelve hours on the dosage in those pills. MacGyver had to be difficult, so it would take a couple of hours for him to be affected and then he would only be out for six to eight hours, if he were lucky. Still, 6 hours were better than none.
Knowing that Jack would follow through on his threat of making him take a pill, Mac accepted one and the water and swallowed it down. He knew he needed to sleep. But there was something he needed to know. "Do you think I'm just sleep deprived and talking crazy?" MacGyver asked Jack.
"I wish I could say yes," Jack admitted, grinning at his friend. But his smile soon faded. "The fact is, as much as I've been trying to convince myself otherwise, this whole thing with Patty isn't sitting right with me either. But we're the underdog here, Mac. We don't know who, or what, we're dealing with."
"We'll figure it out eventually." It felt weird to MacGyver that he was the one now comforting Jack.
Clapping MacGyver on the shoulder, Jack nodded. "I know you will. Once you give your brain a rest you'll come at the problem fresh. It'll click and then we'll take care of business."
Mac found himself believing his friend. It wasn't going to be easy, and they didn't even have a clue where to start looking for answers but, together, they would figure it out. "We can do that. Thanks, Jack."
"For what?" Jack had grabbed the pill bottle to put it back in the medicine cabinet, but he paused to look at MacGyver.
"For always watching my back," MacGyver replied. "Thank you. I may not say it often enough, but know it's always implied."
Jack patted him on the shoulder. "Right back atcha, Bro." He heard voices approaching the front door open so he trotted off to the bathroom and by the time Riley and Bozer entered the house, Jack and MacGyver were back out on the deck, fresh drinks in hand. Beer for Jack and a soda for Mac.
Bozer stepped out holding up a carton of French Vanilla ice cream. "Who's ready for peach pie to die for?"
"Is it as good as Mama Colton's Buttermilk pie?" Riley teased.
"Almost," Bozer allowed, because even he could deny the awesome that was Mama Colton's Buttermilk pie.
MacGyver was the first to say, "Bring on the pie." He actually felt a little bit hungry for the first time in three days.
Bozer was pleased, because he knew Mac hadn't been eating, or sleeping, and he hoped that Jack was able to get to the bottom of things and fix it. "Coming right up," he said, moving back into the kitchen to serve it up.
"I'll help," Riley offered, following Bozer.
Jack looked at MacGyver, pleased to see him looking a bit less haunted. "So what are we going to watch after pie? Die Hard?"
MacGyver glared at him. "No Bruce Willis movies."
"Why are you always hating on my man, Bruce?" Jack pouted.
"We need to expand your horizons, Jack," MacGyver countered. "How about a Lord of the Rings marathon?"
Jack pretended not to hear him correctly. "Hang over marathon? Sounds like a plan." He laughed at the expression on Mac's face until he saw his friend stick a thumb in his soda bottle and shake it. "Don't you dare spray me," Jack warned, too late. A moment later he was blinking away Sprite fizz.
MacGyver doubled over with laughter.
"Payback is going to be a bitch," Jack promised.
"Couldn't have been worse," Riley interjected, having stepped onto the deck to hand Jack and Mac plates filled with peach pie covered in whipped cream and a generous side of ice cream. "It could have been root beer fizz, Jack." She might have teased him some more, but she found her face full of pie.
Jack was now the one doubled over as he stared at the pie, whipped cream and ice cream sliding off of Riley's face. He stopped laughing when she nailed him with pie remnants.
"Let the games begin," she taunted.
"Oh...it's on," Jack promised, jumping to his feet and chasing her around the fire pit.
MacGyver watched, laughing in between bites of pie and ice cream. He watched Bozer sit down in the chair Jack had vacated. "My money is on Riley," Mac stated.
Bozer snorted. "Sucker bet. My girl is relentless."
"Your girl?" MacGyver echoed, knowing full well how Bozer felt about the hacker.
"Uh...you know what I mean," Bozer stuttered.
MacGyver nodded. "I do. It's all good." He pointed to the dessert. "And so is this pie. You did good, Boze."
Bozer was about to reply, but he found himself choking on pie when Riley paused in chasing Jack to tip Bozer's plate into his face. A heartbeat later Bozer was in on the chase.
Which left MacGyver to cheer his friends on and before he knew it his plate was empty and he realized that had been the point of the whole exercise. He felt better having eaten and the antics of his friends had helped him to relax. He was a lucky man. So he would do whatever it took to figure out who was gunning for them and take them down, even if it meant going after Thornton again.
There was nothing MacGyver wouldn't do for his friends.