MacGyver felt strangely detached.
After speaking with Murdoc and realizing that the sociopath had, once again, messed with his head, Mac felt unsettled. He also couldn't shake the feeling that something bad, very bad, was going to happen. A feeling that was not appeased when Matty informed him and the team that Daniel Horn, who had been running the kill squad that had tried to off him and the architect, and who was a part of the Organization that had hired Murdoc and turned Thornton, had wanted to get caught.
That was all Matty had been able to get out of Horn before he had been hauled away to a secure lock up.
It was another piece of the puzzle that MacGyver had been mulling over ever since learning that Nikki had been in deep cover to catch them out. For the past year nothing had been what it seemed to be. Everything MacGyver had believed in had turned out to be a lie of some sort. People he thought he knew, people he had trusted - and even those he didn't - had betrayed him in some way or another.
Last, but surely not least, the time Mac had spent posing as Murdoc had messed with him a bit more than he had let on to Jack. Starting with Murdoc knowing about his Mother being dead and that his Father was alive but not exactly in his life, had shaken Mac to his core. Slipping into Murdoc's dark character had felt somewhat like slipping on a new skin. There had been a couple of moments when Mac had actually scared himself with how easily he had played the part. Once he had tapped into the rage that Murdoc had brought to the surface, it had been a simple matter of letting it simmer into something sinister. Then he had let it seep into his veins, inhaling it's resonance before exhaling his inner darkness through his every thought, move and action. It had startled Mac with how natural it had felt.
Startled him and made him feel so unbalanced that he was starting have self doubt, which was something he couldn't afford to have in his line of work. Lives depended on Mac being cool under pressure and making life or death choices in the blink of an eye. So he couldn't risk being unsure and uncertain in any way. Which meant he hadn't slept more than a couple of hours in the past few days because his emotions were all over the place, his anxiety levels had reached new heights, and his brain refused to shut down and allow him any peace. All of which translated into insomnia and a lack of appetite.
So when Jack appeared on his doorstep, with a box of donuts and a large cup of his favorite coffee, Mac was more than a little bit happy to see him.
"Hey, Jack," he mumbled, as he grabbed the coffee and took a swig.
"Good morning, sunshine!" Jack sing-songed as he placed the donut box on the counter along with his own cup of orange juice. Being as he was as familiar with Mac's kitchen as he was his own, Jack found the paper plates and opened the donut box to place a cinnamon bun on his and a chocolate chip muffin on Mac's. "Eat up, everything is still warm from the oven."
Mac looked at the muffin, his usual favorite, and shook his head. "I'm not hungry."
Jack rolled his eyes, since he had just taken a big bite of his cinnamon roll so he had to chew and swallow before he could reply. "You must be bored, like me. I can't believe Matty hasn't sent us out on a mission yet, it's been almost a week."
"It's been four days, Jack," Mac countered. "And you know Matty is keeping us close to home until we figure out why Daniel Horn wanted to get caught." Which was yet another reason why he needed to get his head straightened out, which would be easier to do if he could get some sleep.
"Speaking of which, what's your take on why the dude wanted to get caught?" Jack countered. "And why go to so much trouble to do it. There are way easier ways than the elaborate set up the Organization went to. And I have one more question, why do they want you dead so badly?" The last question was the one Jack wanted answered most, because it would make it easier for him to keep Mac safe if he knew what he was up against.
Sitting down and rubbing at the ache in his temples, Mac simply shrugged because he had nothing to offer. He had been asking himself those same exact questions. Still, it wouldn't hurt to lobby some ideas back and forth with Jack, but even as he started to speak he found himself cut off by a jaw-cracking yawn.
Jack studied Mac as the kid fought off a second yawn, taking note of the dark circles under the usually bright blue eyes. He knew his young friend wasn't sleeping or eating and he could guess at what nightmare was keeping him awake. It had a name - Murdoc. "You okay?" Jack asked, deciding it was time to just be blunt.
"I'm good," Mac replied, when he finally got his yawning under control. He knew Jack was staring at him and that he was concerned, so he tried to alleviate his worries. "Just couldn't sleep last night."
"Just last night?" Jack countered. "Or was it last night and the night before that, and every night since you had to walk a mile in a psychopath's shoes?"
Mac sighed. He knew Jack hadn't been happy with him pretending to be Murdoc so they could intercept The Architect, but he'd thought he'd fibbed his way out of having this confrontation. He should have known better. Jack was worse than a Bulldog with a bone. "The whole Murdoc thing might have messed with my head a little bit," he confessed.
Jack snorted. "Yeah...just a little bit." He didn't buy that, not even for one minute. Not when he could see how exhausted MacGyver was, and he was pretty sure the kid had dropped a pound or two that he could not afford to lose. "Listen, bro...I know you. Becoming Murdoc went against your very nature so it's not surprising you're having a rough time right now. But brush him off, Mac, like the dirt stain he is. You are the exact opposite of that lunatic in every way, and I do mean in *every way*. So just kick him out of your head and be done with him."
"Easier said than done," Mac mumbled.
"Shouldn't be," Jack insisted, even though he knew the kid wasn't bouncing back from this the way he should have. "What's going on, bud? Usually you shake stuff off and move on. What's the deal with this?"
MacGyver took a few sips of coffee to give himself a moment to gather his thoughts, because he wasn't quite sure how to explain it to Jack. But after feeling the weight of his friend's gaze burning into him, MacGyver gave it a shot. "Here's the thing you have to know about Murdoc. He truly believes that what he does and what we do, ultimately boils down to the same thing."
Jack shrugged. "So he finds a way to justify it. Not all that surprising, we all do that."
"It's not that simple, Jack." Mac scrubbed a hand over his face then rubbed at his aching temples again. He knew that no matter what he said, he couldn't explain what he had felt when he'd slipped into Murdoc's skin. How he had so easily taken a walk in the psychopath's shoes. "I understand Murdoc better than I care to think about, and the turning point was when I learned that he actually kills some people for free." Mac felt a shudder run through him at the memory of how stunned he had been to realize that Murdoc killed people not for money or even, necessarily for sport, but because he genuinely liked killing. "To play him convincingly I had to find a way to wrap my head around that and, here's the thing, it wasn't as hard to do as I expected it to be."
"And that's the thing that's messing you up right now," Jack guessed. "But what you need to remember, Mac, is that even when you told me you had gone full Murdoc on the Architect, you never actually crossed that line. You're not capable of crossing that line."
Mac wanted to believe Jack, but he wasn't sure he could. "Murdoc knew exactly how to push my buttons to make me tap into the dark side. He knew because he understands me better than I know myself."
Jack shook his head, shocked that Mac would even think such a thing. "Not true, my friend!" he insisted. "Not even close to true. Murdoc was messing with you, no doubt about that, but right now you are over thinking things because you're so damn tired. Once you get some sleep you'll be able to put everything into perspective again."
"You don't get it, Jack!" Frustration welled up in MacGyver and he couldn't contain it. "I know that everyone has a dark side, I know that, but what I tapped in to was darker in a way that makes my skin crawl. It scares the hell out of me because I only tapped into the surface of it, but it's there and now it haunts me knowing what's lurking below. With what I know, what I can do and create...the damage I could do is infinite! With the flip of a switch I could become a killing machine that makes Murdoc look like a damn Boy Scout!" Shouting now, Mac was on his feet and ready to bolt, only there was no where he could go to get away from himself.
"Just hold on there!" Jack interjected, moving to intercept Mac. He could see panic glowing in the blue eyes even as the slender body vibrated with the need to run. Letting the kid leave in this state of mind wasn't an option, what Jack needed to do was calm him down enough to get some sleep. Once Mac shut down and rested, he would be able to think clearly and see the truth. "You could never be like Murdoc, bud, not in a million years. Hell, not even if you sincerely tried, and you know why?"
Mac gave up trying to get around Jack and settled for pacing the room. "I don't know anything right now, Jack," he confessed, unaware of how broken and defeated he sounded.
Those words broke Jack's heart a bit because he knew that Mac was feeling lost and adrift and alone. Which was never the case, because Mac had Jack and that would never change. "I'll tell you why then," he stated, as he cornered the kid and, taking him by one arm, made him sit on the couch. "You have a deep-seated moral compass inside of you, Mac," Jack said, after the kid had curled up in the corner. That worried him a bit as well, because Mac only did that when he was feeling threatened and defenseless, which meant his carefully crafted walls were slowly crumbling down. Jack would have to help him build them back up because he knew how important those walls were. He wielded his own like damn shields, protecting him from the big, bad world.
"The guard at the meeting place...he was terrified of me," Mac said softly, drifting into the memory of that moment. "And when I grabbed Joshua at his house, he was shaking so hard he could barely keep on his feet. In the hotel room, when I questioned him, the way he looked at me..." Mac broke off, closing his eyes as the image of Joshua's face filled his head. "I could almost taste his fear," Mac whispered. "It was so tangible I could have wrapped it around me like a cloak."
"You did your job," Jack countered, reaching out and patting MacGyver on the leg to get him to refocus. He didn't want the kid getting trapped in the dark and twisted chaos that had become his mind right now. "Look at me, Mac," he demanded, and he was relieved when the blue eyes locked with his own. "Let me simplify this for you. Do you trust me?"
MacGyver didn't know what Jack was getting at, but he was too tired to play. "That's a stupid question," he countered, because even though he felt like he couldn't even trust himself right now, the one person he would always believe in was Jack.
Jack shook a finger at him. "Eh! Wrong answer, bro. I'm looking for a simple yes or no."
"Yes," Mac replied, hoping his friend would get to the point quickly.
"Good." Jack was relieved. "Since you trust me, you know that I'm going to be straight with you. Which means that you can believe me when I tell you that you are nothing like Murdoc. You will never cross that line, Mac. I know that like I know the sun is going to set tonight and come up again tomorrow morning."
Mac appreciated what Jack was trying to do, but that didn't stop him from playing Devil's Advocate. "Yeah...but people aren't predictable the way sunrises and sunsets are." Murdoc had proven that to him all too well by being able to manipulate him so damn easily, more than once.
Jack wasn't going to give in to Mac's negativity. "I know what I know," he insisted. "Just like I know that you aren't going to be able to figure this out until you get some sleep. You know it too, pal. After a nice, long, twelve hour nap, I'll order in Chinese and we can talk about you walking the walk in Murdoc's shoes. I promise you'll see everything in a new light."
"Sleep isn't a cure all, Jack," Mac protested. "It isn't going to change what I feel about any of it."
"Maybe not," Jack allowed. "But it will change your perspective on it, and you'll do what you always do and find a way to compartmentalize it. Which means you'll be able to use it as a reminder of just where the line stops, so you won't cross it. Okay?"
Everything Jack was saying made sense, Mac knew it did, but his thoughts were too twisted and knotted to allow him to just simply accept it. "The line has become too blurred for me, Jack," he responded.
Jack sighed. "That's because you're too tired to see straight, kid. I'm telling you, once you've taken you're nice, long nap everything will make sense again."
"If you wanted me to sleep, why did you bring me coffee?" Mac asked, because even with his fogged up brain he knew that didn't make any sense.
"To prove my point," Jack stated. "It's decaf." He grinned as he watched Mac shudder in reaction, the kid hated decaf with a passion. "See, if you weren't so tired you would have tasted the difference in the first sip and thrown your cup at me for messing with you. So you need to sleep and I brought something to help you do that." Reaching into his front jean's pocket, Jack pulled out a silver packet with a white tablet in it.
MacGyver knew what it was, one of the pain pills that Jack had been given when he hurt his arm last month. Mac was very familiar with the prescription because it was one of the few drugs that actually put him to sleep. Most other pain pills tended to make him wired instead of sedated. Sure he needed to get some sleep, but he wasn't at the point where he wanted to drug himself to do it, so he shook his head. "I don't want that."
Jack wasn't surprised by Mac's reaction. "I know, but you need it, bud. It's the only way you're going to be able to shut down and get some sleep. I'll stick around to keep an eye on you, and later we'll talk. Bozer and Riley aren't back from the training retreat until tomorrow night, right?"
"Right," Mac confirmed. Matty had figured since she wanted them all close by and secured, she would at least make sure Bozer and Riley continued their training. The Phoenix Foundation had a facility in the hills that was a lot like the Farm that the CIA used for training their agents.
"So it's just you and me, bro," Jack said, getting to his feet and grabbing a water bottle from the fridge. He brought it over to the couch and held it, and the packet, out to MacGyver. "Take the pill. The lines won't be so blurred when you wake up...I promise."
Because Mac trusted him, he took the packet and the water from Jack and made himself take the pill. A part of him almost welcomed the oblivion that sleep would bring. Putting the water bottle on the coffee table, Mac pushed himself to his feet. He knew the pill would take about ten minutes to fully kick in, so he would brush his teeth and pull on sweat pants and a t-shirt before getting into bed.
Jack watched him go. "I'll be right here if you need anything, bro."
"Thanks, Jack." Mac turned back around to face him. "For everything."
"You know I always have your back and I always will, Mac." Jack shooed him off. "Sweet dreams, kiddo."
Mac snorted. "No dreams would be better." With that he went into his room and closed the door. Soon he was changed and sliding under the covers, eyes wide-open at the moment, watching the shadows chase about the room. He had black out curtains because with his job he often got home in the early morning and needed to crash. The shadows reminded him of the place he had walked on his journey to immerse himself into becoming Murdoc. That murky place between light and dark that he had never ventured into before.
Crossing that line had been too easy, and Mac felt the overwhelming sense of drowning sweep over him. He closed his eyes and willed himself to breathe in and out slowly, even as he resisted the urge to scratch at the cold itch that tingled beneath his skin. He knew Jack was right. He was so exhausted he didn't know which way was up in this moment.
After a time Mac's breathing eased and he felt a soft and warm darkness drifting over him and he let himself sink into it. He would let himself shut down and sleep, and when he woke up he would shed the ill-fitting skin he had been forced to assume and sweep it away along with all his self-doubts.
When he woke up MacGyver would be himself again and he would move forward, leaving Murdoc and his darkness behind.