MacGyver held up the key that Riley had handed to him upon entering the van. He studied it for a moment but found his attention diverted by watching Riley and Jack remove the prosthetics they had been wearing to pull off being an elderly couple.
Bozer was watching as well, because he was damn proud of his work. "I can help you get the mask off," he offered to Riley.
"Please do," she replied, grateful for the help. She'd had to wear a full face mask and make up whereas Jack had gotten off much easier, with only cheek and neck pieces along with the make up. Earlier she had teased that all he needed to pull off the *old man* look was a bit more gray sprayed into his hair.
"So what do you think that key goes to?" Jack asked Mac, as he finished wiping the glue off his face. His pieces had pulled off relatively easily, and all he had left to do was wash the gray out of his hair and that would be just a quick scrub and done.
Mac shook his head. "I don't have a clue, but I'm willing to bet it fits something inside Ernesto Barrero's estate.
Jack concurred, as did Matty, who had been listening in.
"You need to get to that estate and find whatever that key goes to," she ordered. "For all we know it could give us more ammunition to lock Barrero up for two lifetimes.
"Just let me get changed and I'll drive," Jack said, stripping off his loose plaid shirt and baggy Dockers that had made up his *old man* attire.
Riley closed her eyes as Jack's pants came off. "Warn me next time, wouldja?" she complained. The last thing she wanted to see was a pantless Jack Dalton, especially since she was starting to see him as something of 'Father figure' again.
Jack chuckled. "Too much awesome for you to handle, yeah?"
"Too much EW," Riley shot back.
"TMI period," Matty interjected.
Jack had finished changing and he slid into the driver's seat of the van. "So Matty, think you can get Ernesto to tell us what the key from his safety deposit box goes to?" It would sure make their job much easier if the bad guy, who just happened to be in Federal lock up, would help them out.
Matty gave an unlady like snort. "Not going to happen and you know it, Jack. Ernesto isn't saying a word about anything. Riley, have you gotten a look at the flash drive you and Jack retrieved from the safety deposit box?"
"Not yet," Riley replied, her eyes closed as she used makeup wipes to get the mask glue off her face. "Give me a few minutes and I'll get back to you."
"I'll be waiting," Matty replied, before signing off.
Mac joined Jack in the front, sliding into the passenger seat. "You're going the wrong way," he commented, as Jack reached the main highway and signaled to go right.
Jack studied the road signs and sighed, hitting the left signal instead. "Someday I'm going to come back to Miami for a vacation. Hey, we can all take a trip to Disney World!"
"Which is in Kissimmee, not Miami," Mac stated, his eyes back on the key.
"Whatever," Jack drawled. "I'm just glad this has been an easy mission so far. Since our boy Ernesto, the Arms dealer, was kind enough to hand over the key to his safe deposit box, making it easy for me and Riley to get the flash drive with the ledger of all his International customers on it." Jack happily ignored the fact that Ernesto had only agreed to the deal in exchange for a private cell in the Federal Penitentiary. "And now that he's in FBI custody and his estate is locked down, it'll be a walk in the park to go in and find whatever it is that key goes to."
Mac snorted. "Sure it'll be easy enough to get into the estate, since everyone who worked for Ernesto Barrero was either locked up along with him, deported back to Mexico or is in the witness relocation program."
Bozer felt the need to interject at this point. "You do realize that the estate house is over 5000 square feet, right, Jack? It could take days to find whatever ever it is the key opens."
"Why are you all a bunch of Debbie Downers all the time?" Jack scowled. "My gut tells me that whatever that key goes to is probably in Ernesto's bedroom."
"And why do you think that?" Riley queried. Her fingers were flying over her keyboard but half of her attention was on the conversation going on around her.
"Because there's where I would keep something important if I were an International Arms Dealer," Jack replied, smirking.
Riley was somewhat impressed. "That makes sense," she conceded. "Okay, I've got the files for the ledger and it looks like it's very detailed. This stuff should keep Barrero locked up forever all on it's own."
Mac was glad to hear that. "Call Matty and let her know," he instructed, before reaching out to slap Jack's hand away from the radio controls. "No country music."
"Maybe I was going for the rock station," Jack countered, glaring at Mac. "Classic rock. It's totally my jam."
"Find the classical music station," Riley suggested. "He can't sing to Beethoven and Mozart."
Jack used the rear view mirror to glare at her. "The lot of you need to get your hearing fixed, because I happen to have a most excellent singing voice. Karaoke champ in..."
"...four states," the trio replied in perfect unison.
"You all suck," Jack muttered, but he was smiling while he said it. Now that he and Riley had settled their differences, and Bozer was *in the know* about what they really did, Jack didn't believe that his life could get any better than it was right now. He had a job he loved and he worked with people who were more than just friends, they were his family.
So he was still smiling when, two hours later, he and Mac entered Barerro's estate and started hunting for whatever it was the key from the safety deposit box would open. Riley and Bozer stayed in the Van as look outs. Even though the place had been closed up by the FBI, Jack wanted to play it safe. Besides which, Matty had called to ask Riley to decode some information for her regarding a different mission that was taking place in Europe. So, technically, Bozer was the one playing lookout.
The first place Jack headed was for the stairs. "I call dibs on the Master Bedroom," he called out.
"Have at it," Mac replied, waving him off. He took a moment to take in his surroundings, having looked at the blueprint for the manor house that Riley had pulled up before they arrived. His gut instinct pulled him to back of the first floor, where Ernesto Barrero's office was located. It was a huge room, lavishly decorated, and dominated by a giant desk made of gleaming mahogany.
Taking a seat in the leather chair, Mac let his eyes wander over the contents on the desk. There wasn't much that the FBI teams had left behind. The drawers were empty with only a few odds and ends, including a few paperclips, remaining. MacGyver snagged a few and began bending them to his will as his eyes settled on an ornate cigar box.
Sliding it towards him, Mac removed the two broken cigars that had been left behind. the inside was lined with black velveteen, which was excessively tacky in Mac's book. Still he smoothed his fingertips over it only to frown as he realized that the depth of the box was off. So he turned it over and end to end and that was when he realized that one of the ornate cutouts on the bottom was actually a keyhole.
Slipping one hand into his pant's pocket, Mac pulled out the key. Without wasting any time he stuck it into the box and held his breath, only to release it when the key, easily, turned and the bottom panel popped open. "Found it," Mac announced to Jack and the others.
"You found the thing the key opens?" Bozer clarified.
"I did," Mac confirmed. "It's a cigar box with a false bottom."
Jack sighed, loud enough for the others to hear, as he left the master bedroom. "Where are you and what's in it?" he asked.
MacGyver grinned to himself, knowing that Jack was miffed that he wasn't the one to make the find. Still, he played it cool as he replied because he would have plenty of time to rub it in later. "I'm in the office and it's a flash drive."
"What's on it?" Bozer interjected.
"Good question," Mac replied, gazing about the office. To his surprise there was a laptop sitting on the side table. "That's weird," he muttered, even as he grabbed it and moved it over to the desk.
Riley was the one to ask, "What's weird?"
Before replying, Mac booted up the laptop and plugged in the flash drive. "It's weird that the FBI left behind a laptop," he said, as he brought up the files and clicked on the one labeled RED LIGHT.
"It was probably a dummy laptop, one he used as a front," Riley replied. "So once the FBI downloaded whatever files he had on it, it wouldn't be worth taking with them."
"Makes sense," Mac said, as he scanned the icons. "Looks like a bunch of videos. Huh." One of them had the name of a Democratic Senator on it. Another had the name of a Japanese Ambassador that Mac recognized. Still another had the name of a famous actor. Mac clicked on the one with the Senator's name on it and when it began to play he immediately wished he hadn't. He viciously stabbed a button to make it pause, then shuddered in reaction to what he had just seen.
Jack chose that moment to stride into the room and he saw the grimace on MacGyver's face, which worried him. "What's wrong, brother?"
Mac wished there was such a thing as brain bleach. Instead of replying, he turned the laptop around so Jack could see for himself, tapping the button to make it play.
"Whoa!" Jack's eyes went wide as he stared at the images on the screen. "I know that guy! Oh man! Oh...no...that's just...no! Turn it off!" He turned away even as Mac shut it down.
"What is going on?" Bozer demanded. "Are you guys okay?"
Jack mimicked gagging. "I will never be okay again," he responded, over dramatically.
Which left Mac to explain. "The flash drive contains sex videos of the rich and powerful world wide," he explained. "There are at least three dozen videos, maybe more."
"That's disgusting," Riley replied.
"But it'll add years to Barerro's sentence, right?" Bozer piped up, reminding them of the bright side in this scenario.
Jack snorted. "He should get another life sentence, if you ask me."
Mac shook his head as he retrieved the flash drive and put it back in his pocket. "No one asked you, Jack. I think it's obvious that Barrero had these videos to use as blackmail. It'll be interesting to see what the FBI decides to do with it."
"That said," Jack countered, "How about we head for home? I'm beat." With that he gestured for MacGyver to lead the way out. As they exited the office and made their way back to the front of the manor, Jack brought up one of his favorite subjects. Food. "So who wants to go get some fish tacos?" he asked.
"Not me," Riley was quick to reply. "I'm in the mood for pizza. What about you, Bozer?"
Bozer was quiet for a moment as he contemplated his reply. "I'm definitely yearning for a big, beefy cheeseburger."
MacGyver wasn't the least bit surprised that they all wanted something different. "I'm leaning towards Chinese," he stated, in a small part just to be ornery. He could actually go for some orange chicken though.
"I know where we're going," Jack drawled. "Eddie's Smorgasbord." It was a place near the water that offered every type of food you could imagine. Everything the each of them wanted, and then some.
"Sounds like a plan," MacGyver concurred, only catch a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. Acting on instinct he tackled Jack to the floor, just as a bullet whistled over their heads.
Jack was pulling his gun, even as he rolled over to the wall before nearly dragging Mac into the nearest open doorway. "Who the hell is firing at us?"
Bozer couldn't stop his exclamation of surprise. "Is anyone hurt?"
"We're fine," Mac replied. "But Jack's question is legit. Who is shooting at us and why?" He wanted the answer because the place should have been deserted, given that the FBI had closed it up and locked it down.
"What do you want us to do?" Riley countered.
"Stay put!" Jack ordered. "But be ready to move on my say so."
With that Riley ordered Bozer to slip behind the wheel of the van. Her fingers were flying over her keyboard, trying to tap into the security cameras on the estate, but the FBI had shut off the power so nothing was working. "I'm blind over here, guys. I can't help you."
MacGyver didn't want her to worry. "Just keep an eye out and let us know if anyone else shows up," Mac ordered, then he looked at Jack. "Ready to make a run for it?"
"You got any ideas on how to lure shooter out into the open?" Jack countered. No way did he want either one of them to just stick their heads out and offer up a target.
"I do," MacGyver replied, because he realized they had ducked into Butler's pantry. "Pepper bombs coming up," he announced, even as he went to work creating them. A moment later he said to Jack, "Cover me."
Jack grabbed the back of Mac's shirt before he took more than one step. "I said to do something to lure them out into the open, not for you to be a target."
Tugging his shirt free, Mac stated, "We don't have time to argue. I'm going to duck and roll, so you do your thing then I'll do mine. Ready?"
"Ready," Jack grumbled, taking position. The moment Mac dived out into the open, the shooting began and Jack shot back. At which point Mac released the pepper bombs and suddenly the bad guys, who weren't dead, were coughing and sputtering and it didn't take long to take them down.
"We're heading your way," Mac announced to Bozer and Riley as he and Jack made a beeline for the front door. Only to duck as more bullets whizzed by.
Jack was getting pissed. "Where the hell are these guys coming from and how did they know we were here?"
Riley wished she could answer that question. "It's like they appeared out of thin air. I can't even get a lock on if there are anymore."
"There are more," Jack assured her, as he and Mac cleared the front door and raced across the front lawn. "We're coming in hot!"
"Do you want us to come get you?" Bozer asked, feeling anxious to be doing something, anything, to help his friends.
Jack ducked more gun fire before replying. "No! Stay put! But start the engine and be ready to take off the moment we get there."
Bozer turned the key in the ignition then gripped the steering wheel in both hands. "I'm ready."
"I see you and more bad guys," Riley warned, as she slid open the van's side door. "Run faster, old man," she taunted, because Jack was a few yards behind Mac.
"I'm a little busy," Jack replied, firing off two more shots, only to run out of bullets. "Dammit!"
Mac realized what happened and turned to see Jack hurl his gun at the shooter coming at them. The next thing Mac knew, Jack was tackling the guy to the ground. Luckily he was the last shooter and as Mac ran over to help he saw the guy, who was twice Jack's size, toss Jack off him before turning with something in his hand which he was preparing to throw at the van. "Grenade!" Mac shouted.
Jack was on his feet and slamming into the big guy in a heartbeat, but the brute was already in mid throw and the grenade arced low but straight and true towards the van.
"Riley! Bozer! Get out of the van!" MacGyver screamed. The grenade had landed short, but it was still too close and he put on a burst of speed, praying that he could reach it in time. Time suddenly ticked into slow motion as he saw Riley's reaction to the grenade landing just a few feet away and he heard her yell for Bozer to drive even as she slammed the van door shut. But it was too late. They had only moved a few feet when the grenade blew.
Mac felt the concussive wave of heat and force slam into him, throwing him back and away, even as he caught a flashing glimpse of the van flipping up and over with Bozer and Riley still inside. Hitting the ground hard enough to steal his breath away and send a blinding pain through his head and body, Mac lost his hold on consciousness.
Jack had been further away, finally taking out the big guy with a vicious kick to the thick skull. He glanced up just in time to see Mac racing for the van, and then Jack was being blown back as the grenade went off and he felt like he was tossed upside down and sideways. There was a piercing silence that filled his head for a moment, and then he realized he was lying on his back and he sucked in a few deep breaths before opening his eyes and pushing himself to his feet.
The first thing he saw was MacGyver, lying in a heap a few yards away from him. He ran over to the kid, feeling for a pulse with shaking fingers and breathing a sigh of relief to feel the flutter-thud against his fingers. Checking Mac over, Jack saw blood on his temple and that worried him, but he knew he had to move on. "You're going to be all right, Mac," Jack stated firmly. "You hear me?" Because there was no other acceptable option.
Rising to his feet, Jack spotted the van lying on it's side and he froze for a moment. But only for a moment, fear kick-started him into motion and he raced over to the crumpled vehicle, calling the occupant's names. "Riley? Bozer? Can you hear me?" It took a moment for Jack to get the passenger door open and he climbed inside to see Bozer slumped against the driver's door, blood staining the window. Once again praying hard, Jack felt for a pulse. It was thready and weak, but it was there. So Jack climbed into the back and his heart skipped a beat when he saw Riley buried beneath her tech equipment. Flinging it aside, Jack checked for a pulse and he almost wept in relief. But the fact that her body was twisted up and she was so damn still, terrified Jack.
Yanking his phone from his pocket, Jack called Matty and it took everything he had in him to calmly explain to her what happened. But the calm didn't last long. "I need fireman and EMT's and I need them NOW!"
"They're already on their way, along with an FBI Black squad team to investigate who sent the shooters and why," Matty replied, having made contact with them even as Jack was explaining the situation. "EMT's and rescue are coming by chopper and they're five minutes out."
"They'd better be!" Jack snarled, before tapping off. He was afraid to touch Riley or Bozer, afraid of doing more damage, so he left them for the moment to check on Mac. On the way back he saw the big guy sitting up and laughing and a red-hot rage boiled up inside of Jack. Racing over, his eyes locked on the bad guy's gun which he'd dropped when they were fighting. It was lying in the grass between them.
Big guy realized what was happening a split second later and rose to his feet to lunge for the weapon.
Jack dove forward and scooped up the gun even as he rolled to his feet and fired, hitting the bastard right between the eyes. "You sonofabitch!" he snarled, glaring down at the dead body, chest heaving with the overload of emotion he fought desperately to control. He fell to his knees, head bowed, sucking in shuddering breath after shuddering breath. He finally felt like he could breathe again when the sound of approaching choppers filled the air. Help was on it's way.
Mac heard a strange sound, familiar in some way, even as he forced his eyes open. It was then that he remembered the explosion and he pushed himself to his feet. The van...he had to get to the van. Staggering a bit, Mac doggedly made his way towards the vehicle, gaining speed with every step until something solid blocked his way and he fought to get around it.
"It's me!" Jack said, as MacGyver twisted against his hold. "Mac...it's me! Jack!"
"Let go!" Mac ordered, still trying to break free. "I have to help them!"
Jack held tight to Mac, hoping he wasn't causing any damage. "Help is already here, bud. See the choppers landing? And listen to all the sirens."
Mac heard the words Jack was saying but it took a moment for them to sink in because all he could see was the van tipped on it's side, and he knew his friends were in it and he needed to do something to help them. Going still in Jack's hold, Mac locked eyes with him and he had to ask, "Are they...?"
"They're alive," Jack was quick to reassure him. "I'm not going to lie to you, Bro, they're hurt, but help is here and Bozer and Riley are tough. They're going to be okay." He said it for himself as much as for Mac. Now that the kid had gone still in his hold, Jack could feel how hard he was shaking and that scared him more than a little. MacGyver was usually cool as a cucumber under stress, but his friends were hurt and Jack knew it was the unknown that was messing with Mac as much as anything.
"They are tough," Mac whispered, pulling away from Jack so he could move closer to the van. He watched as EMT's and rescue workers swarmed over the vehicle, cutting it open so they could get Bozer and Riley out. More than anything, Mac wanted to be in there with them, helping, but he knew he needed to stay out of the way and let the Medics do their jobs.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl as Jack and Mac waited for their friends to be extricated from the mangled Van. Finally Riley was placed on a stretcher and a Medic went to work on her. Jack couldn't stay back at this point, he ran over and barely gave them a chance to get her settled before asking, "How is she?"
The Medic looked grim. "She has a broken leg with a compound fracture and there looks to be some internal damage. We're taking her to the base hospital."
"I'm going with you," Jack announced, and he wasn't going to take 'no' for an answer. So he turned to find Mac, only to see that Bozer had just been pulled out of the van and laid out on a stretcher, so the kid was hovering close by. Jack went over to him just in time to hear the kid ask how Bozer was doing.
"He has a head injury and is non reactive," the Medic working on Bozer replied. "We're taking him to Ocean Base hospital. They have the best neurologist in the country."
Mac stared at his friend, unable to speak around the lump in his throat as he looked at the still form laid out before him. Bozer was too still and ashen and broken looking, and Mac had never felt more terrified in his life.
Jack knew it was bad and he was going to be doing a lot of praying for both Riley and Bozer. His concern of the moment was that it appeared they would be going to different base hospitals. "How far away is Ocean Base Hospital?' he asked.
"About twenty minutes by chopper," the Medic replied. "We need to go."
"I'm going with him," Mac announced, finding his voice. He looked at Jack. "See you there?"
Jack shook his head. "Afraid not, they're taking Riley to a different hospital. We'll keep in touch by phone."
Mac hadn't been expecting that, to be separated, and he didn't have the capability of comprehending what that meant at the moment, so he simply nodded and turned to follow Bozer's stretcher into the Chopper.
"Hang on," Jack called out to the assistant Medic, snagging her by the arm. He pointed out Mac and said, "The kid got hurt in the explosion, make sure he gets checked out," Jack requested.
"Yes, sir," she replied, before pulling away and running to catch up with her team.
Jack watched them go, hoping that everyone would be okay and hating that he couldn't be with MacGyver right now. Heaving a sigh, Jack headed for his own Chopper, glad to see that Riley was strapped in and ready to go. So he climbed in beside the pilot and closed the door. "Let's get this show on the road," he stated, and a heartbeat later they were in the air.
It was a short trip to the base hospital for Riley and Jack. A medical team was waiting for them when they set down and, before Jack knew it, Riley was wheeled off into surgery. After assuring a doctor that he was okay and didn't need to be checked out, Jack got on his phone and called Mac.
MacGyver had just stepped off the chopper when his phone rang. He almost ignored the call until he saw it was Jack. "Hello?"
"Hey, bud," Jack replied. "How's it going with Bozer?"
"I don't know," Mac countered. "We just landed. Bozer hasn't even seen the neurologist yet."
Jack winced at the anxiety he could hear in Mac's voice. "I forgot you had farther to travel. Call me when you know something and I'll do the same. Riley's in surgery right now."
Mac froze at Jack's words, thinking about Riley having to undergo surgery and now wondering if Bozer would have to do the same. "I'll call you, Jack," he said quietly, before hanging up and following the med team as they wheeled his best friend inside.
In the blink of an eye, Bozer was whisked away and Mac was left standing in the middle of the hallway, feeling lost and more terrified than he could remember feeling in a long time. He didn't know what to do with himself. He was too wound up to just sit and wait, but there was no where for him to go and nothing for him to focus on but the slow ticking of the clock as he waited for news on his best friend.
With no other options, Mac began pacing the length of the hallway and back again. On one of his passes back around he saw the Medics making their way to the elevator and he had to stop himself from asking if they had an updates on Bozer.
Going back to his pacing, only a few minutes passed when a man in a white lab coat, wearing a stethoscope around his neck approached. Mac hurried over to him. "Any news on Bozer?"
"Not yet, they've taken him to get a CAT scan, but he's in good hands with Dr. Garbusian. He's the best in the field." That said, the doctor held out his hand as he introduced himself. "I'm Tony Poretta."
"MacGyver," Mac replied, shaking his hand briefly. "How long before you know anything?"
Dr. Poretta shrugged. "I don't have a time frame, but I will say that you have a long wait ahead of you. I'm actually here to check on you."
That surprised Mac enough that it took him a moment to respond. "Why? I'm fine."
"You don't look fine," Poretta countered. "For one thing you have blood on your temple and I understand you were caught in the explosion."
"Have you been talking to Jack?" Mac demanded, because there was no else he could think of who could have given him up.
Dr. Poretta didn't hide his confusion. "Jack who? One of the medics told me to take a look at you."
"Jack," Mac whispered to himself, before facing the doctor and stating firmly, "I'm fine. Just please let me know the minute you hear anything about my friend."
"I can do that," Dr. Poretta confirmed. "But while you're waiting, why don't you let me check you out? It won't take long."
Mac had to take a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly, before he could reply without snapping. "I'm sure there are enough actual patients for you to look at, Dr. Poretta. I'm not one of them." With that Mac turned on his heel and resumed pacing.
Almost thirty minutes passed, during which Mac continued pacing, before Dr. Poretta appeared again. He had a familiar looking duffel bag in one hand.
"A Matty Weber had this sent over to you," Dr. Poretta said, as he held out the duffel bag.
"Thanks," Mac replied, as he took the bag. Somehow he wasn't all that surprised to see it. "Any word on Bozer?"
Poretta nodded. "That was the other reason why I came over. Dr. Garbusian is taking him into surgery. Your friend has fluid on his brain and Dr. Garbusian is going to go in and drain it."
Mac felt the duffel bag slip from his suddenly limp fingers. Bozer was going under the knife for brain surgery, which was never a simple procedure. "How long will the surgery take?"
"Could be anywhere from four to eight hours," Dr. Poretta answered honestly. "Which gives you plenty of time to shower and change. There's nothing else you can do, MacGyver, so take the time to take care of your own needs."
"My needs don't matter," Mac shot back.
Poretta looked surprised by that reply, but all he did was shrug. "I know you're going to want to be there for your friend when he gets out of surgery. You can better do that if you get cleaned up and get something to eat before he hits recovery."
Mac knew the doctor was right, but he wasn't ready to deal with the reality of it right this second. "I'll take that into consideration," he countered. "Thank you for letting me know about the surgery."
"When you're ready to get cleaned up, the charge nurse will show you were you can shower and change," Dr. Poretta said. "I'll be back with Dr. Garbusian after the surgery." With that he nodded, then turned and walked away.
The moment he was alone again, Mac called Jack and updated him about Bozer. Before Jack could say anything, Mac asked, "How's Riley?"
Jack heaved a sigh. "Still in surgery, I'll keep you updated. How are you doing, Mac? Did you let the doctor's check you out?"
"I have another call, Jack, I have to go." With that Mac abruptly hung up. He did have another call, from Matty, but instead of answering her he simply turned his phone off. Mac told himself it was because he needed to save the battery, even though he knew there was a charger in his duffel bag. He just wasn't ready to deal with Matty, she could call Jack for an update on Bozer.
Needing to be doing something, Mac started pacing again, eventually counting how many steps it took to go in both directions, before moving on to how many steps it took to make ten passes up and back. It wasn't until he stumbled and had to catch himself against the wall that Mac decided Dr. Poretta might be right. He needed to take a moment to pull himself together so he could be there for Bozer when he woke up.
So Mac walked back to his duffel bag and scooped it up before asking the Charge nurse where he could go to grab a shower. Five minutes later he was standing under the hot spray of water and letting it soothe the aches he had been trying to ignore for the past few hours. Washing his hair was a bit painful, because he had a cut and bruise on his temple at the hairline and Mac was surprised by how much blood he rinsed off, only to remember that head wounds bleed a lot. Which brought him back around to the fact that Bozer was in surgery because of a head injury.
Finishing up his shower, Mac dried off and dressed in a pair of jeans and a blue t-shirt. He had been escorted to a private room to use the bathroom so he sat down on the toilet seat to put socks and his shoes back on. When he stood up, a wave of dizziness hit MacGyver and he had to steady himself against the wall. Sitting back down, he took a moment to let it pass before gathering the used towels and his duffel bag and heading back down to the waiting area.
After handing off the damp towels and his ruined shirt, MacGyver stowed his duffle bag in one corner of the waiting room and headed outside for a moment to call Matty. When he'd stripped to shower, the flash drive with the black mail videos that he'd retrieved from the cigar box in Barrero's compound had fallen out of his pant's pocket. Mac knew he needed to get it to Matty ASAP.
She sounded surprised to hear from him, surprised that he was back to business given all that was happening with Bozer, but she was all business herself when Mac reminded her about the flash drive. Matty promised to send someone over immediately and, true to her word, two FBI agents arrived thirty minutes later. Mac had remained outside to wait for them and he was relieved to hand it over. Now he could focus one hundred percent of his attention to Bozer.
Since not quite four hours had passed since Bozer had been taken into surgery, Mac geared himself up to wait. He headed back inside to pick up where he had left off, pacing. Twice he was interrupted by one of the nurses offering to bring him something to eat. Mac smelled Jack or Matty's hand in that, even as he refused. Instead he counted off hour after hour with every step he took.
Jack had paced and sat and paced again while waiting for Riley to get out of surgery. He took a break from his routine to make a bathroom run and when he returned to his spot in the waiting room, it was to find Riley's mom waiting for him. She looked terrified, but relief washed over her face at the sight of him.
"Diane." Jack greeted her with a hug, feeling her body trembling in his embrace.
"How's Riley?" she asked, when she pulled away.
Jack shook his head. "I'm waiting to hear." As if on cue Dr. Erica Cullen appeared.
She introduced herself to Riley's mom before getting to the point. "Riley's leg was badly fractured, but the repair went well. The bigger concern was her ruptured spleen which caused some internal damage, but I was able to repair everything and she's holding her own right now."
"That doesn't sound promising," Diane stated, reaching for Jack's hand and holding on tight.
"She's in serious condition, I won't lie to you," Dr. Cullen stated. "But she's young and strong and the next twenty-four hours will be critical, but I'm confidant she'll pull through. She will have a long road to recovery ahead of her and a lot of physical therapy for her leg but, like I said, she's young and strong."
Jack was relieved to hear that, but wary, still he would take it as a win. "Thanks, Doc. We're going to stay with her."
Dr. Cullen nodded. "It's already been cleared by Director Webber. I'll talk with you both later." With that Dr. Cullen moved off.
"Riley is going to be fine, Diane," Jack stated, as he drew the shaking woman over to a nearby chair and made her sit. "Can I get you anything?"
"No...just...you're going to stay with us, right?" Diane didn't have it in her to make it through this alone.
Jack gave her a hug. "I'm not going anywhere. I do need to call MacGyver and Matty to let them know about Riley."
Diane could live with that, since Jack didn't leave her side as he made his calls.
Mac was glad to hear that Riley was out of surgery and that her prognosis was good, but he caught on to the fact that she wasn't completely out of the woods yet. He was happy to learn that Diane was there, because he knew that Riley would need her mom, and Jack, during her recovery.
"Is Bozer still in surgery?" Jack queried.
"Yeah," Mac replied. "It's been over six hours."
Jack sighed. "I wish I could be there with you, bro."
Mac was quick to reassure him. "You're right where you belong, Jack. I'm fine. Say 'Hi' to Diane for me and give Riley my love. I've gotta go."
"Will do, pal. Talk at you later." Jack hung up, but he felt like he was letting Mac down somehow.
Diane noticed, despite her concern for her daughter. She like MacGyver, he was an amazing young man. "How is Mac doing?"
Jack shrugged. "Holding up, I guess. I mean, he's strong under pressure and he can handle anything you throw at him."
"But that doesn't stop you from worrying about him," Diane said softly.
"That's my job, worrying about that kid," Jack replied. "He's my heart."
Diane smiled as she watched Jack thump a fist against his chest where his heart was. "You're a good man, Jack Dalton."
Jack made shushing noise. "Don't tell anyone." He saw Diane's walls crumbling again and he hugged her close, soothing her as best he could while they waited for Riley to come out of recovery and get settled into a room. That's when their true vigil would begin.
Mac was sincerely happy that Riley was out of surgery and appeared to be doing well, but all he could really focus on was the fact that they were heading close to the eight hour mark with Bozer's surgery. He was just about to go and hunt down Dr. Poretta when the man himself appeared, with another Doctor in tow.
"MacGyver, this is Dr. Garbusian," Dr. Poretta introduced his colleague.
After shaking hands with the man, Mac spent the next fifteen minutes being updated on Bozer's condition. He learned that it had been touch and go a couple of times, given that Bozer's heart had stopped for a moment. But in the end he had pulled through and the prognosis was promising, even though Garbusian was placing Bozer in a medically induced coma for the next few days. Despite draining the fluid causing pressure on the brain, there was still heavy swelling and the induced coma was the best option. It also meant that Bozer would be on a ventilator and Mac, damn his eidetic memory and perfect recall, knew exactly the risks involved. He also understood what they were doing and why, but he simply nodded and let Dr. Garbusian explain it to him anyway.
Once that was done, Dr. Garbusian excused himself, leaving Dr. Poretta behind.
Mac pulled out his phone and was ready to excuse himself. "I need to call my boss."
"Director Webber," Poretta interjected. "Dr. Garbusian already spoke with her. She asked to be updated and she also said to let you know that she'll update your partner, Jack Dalton."
"I see." Mac wasn't sure how to feel about that, but he slipped his phone back into his pocket. "When can I see Bozer?"
Dr. Poretta looked grim. "I know you've been waiting, but I'm afraid the wait is going to continue. Director Webber told me that she texted you the address and room number for a nearby hotel. She set you up in a suite and I have someone waiting to drive you there. I also have your phone number and I'll call you when Bozer's ready for visitors, but it's going to be at least another six or more hours before that happens." Seeing Mac's surprise, Dr. Poretta laughed. "Director Webber is very efficient."
Mac narrowed his eyes at the doctor as suspicion reared it's ugly head. "You say that as if you know her."
"I've known Matty for about fifteen years, and she's a little scary when she wants to be," Dr. Poretta allowed.
"That she is." MacGyver scrubbed a hand over his face before moving into the waiting area and dropping down into a chair. He felt gutted by the news he had just received and he need some time to process it.
Dr. Poretta sat down in the chair next to Mac's. "I know this isn't the news you were hoping for, but Dr. Garbusian is confidant that your friend is going to pull through. He's young and strong, so it's a positive prognosis."
Mac nodded. "I know." There wasn't anything else to say.
"Let me know when you're ready to go to the hotel and I'll escort you to your driver," Dr. Poretta said, as he rose to his feet. Without another word, he left.
An hour later Mac was still sitting in the same chair, not having moved an inch. He felt like he was lost at sea and adrift without even a raft to cling to. With most things that happened in his life he had some control over it so he could do something, anything. But this time he was helpless. Both of his friends were in serious condition and he couldn't do a damn thing to help them. It left Mac feeling paralyzed and numb.
A few minutes later, Dr. Poretta appeared before Mac holding out his own phone. "It's Matty, for you. She said you're not answering your phone."
"It's off," Mac replied, even as he accepted Dr. Poretta's phone. He really didn't want to take this call, but he knew he didn't have a choice so he would suck it up and deal. "Hello, Matty."
"MacGyver," Matty drawled. "I don't want you to say anything, just listen. When I hang up you are going to let Dr. Poretta escort you to your driver, who will take you to your hotel. You will go to your room and get some sleep. You will not return to the hospital for at least eight hours, unless Dr. Poretta calls you in because of Bozer. I will know if you disobey my orders, MacGyver, and you will regret it. Understand? You may answer yes or no."
Mac sighed. "Yes."
"Smart boy," Matty replied. "Goodnight, MacGyver." With that she hung up.
"I guess I'm going to the hotel now," MacGyver stated, handing Dr. Poretta his phone back. "I'll grab my bag." So that was how he found himself at the hotel, in one of the suites, twenty minutes later. Since he had to kill time before he was allowed to return to the hospital, Mac decided to go for a run. Maybe if he ran long enough he could tire himself out enough to get a few hours of sleep.
He was wrong. Even though Mac ran until his legs felt like rubber, he couldn't fall asleep. The long, hot, shower he took didn't help, so after forcing himself to stay in bed for two hours, he ended up in the living area building a paper clip space ship after finding a huge box of them sitting on the coffee table with a card that had Matty's name on it.
Surprisingly, after completing his paperclip artwork, Mac dozed off on the couch for almost two hours. After the third nightmare of Bozer and Riley being blown up into pieces, Mac gave up on sleep and headed straight for the shower. He got dressed then went down to the front desk to order a rental car. Fifteen minutes later he was on his way back to the hospital.
Making his way to the nurse's station, Mac was pleased to see Dr. Poretta. Making a beeline for him, Mac offered a 'good morning' before asking, "How's Bozer?"
"No change, which is a good thing," Dr. Poretta replied. "Would you like to see him?"
"Yes, thanks." Mac followed the doctor to the last room in ICU and after stepping through the doorway he froze.
Bozer looked small and far too still lying in the stark white hospital bed. There were tubes and wires attached and connected to him, with various machines beeping. It was all the worse because Mac knew exactly what each of those tubes and wires and machines were for and what they were doing.
Dr. Poretta turned back to see the young man frozen in the door way. "MacGyver? Are you all right?"
"Yes," Mac replied, automatically. "I'm fine." There was a chair in the corner and he brought it over to the right side of the bed and sat down. He wasn't leaving until Bozer woke up.
Jack was standing in the corner of Riley's ICU room, stretching the kinks out of his back, when he caught a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned and was thrilled to see Riley staring back at him. Sure she looked confused and a little scared, but she was awake.
Diane was curled up in a chair in the corner and Jack tapped her on the shoulder. "Riley is awake," he whispered.
"What?" Diane snapped awake in a heartbeat and on her feet, nearly running over to the bed. She reached for her daughter's hand, the one without an IV in it and said softly, "Hi, baby. Welcome back."
Riley blinked, feeling confused. Something wasn't right. Then it hit her. "Bo...zer!" she croaked, trying to get up.
Jack was there, carefully pressing her back. "It's okay, you're okay," he reassured her. "Bozer is going to be okay, too. Right now you need to lie still and rest, you hear me?"
Nodding, Riley looked to her right and saw her mom standing there, tears in her eyes. It was then that she realized whatever had happened to her must have been pretty bad, but she was too tired about it now. Instead she squeezed her mom's hand then drifted back to sleep.
Mac was thrilled to get the call from Jack telling him that Riley had finally woken up, and that the doctor's had confirmed that she was well on her way to a full recovery. He wished he could have shared the same news with Jack about Bozer, but his friend was still in a medical induced coma. Mac had been sitting at his bedside, watching the ventilator breathe for him, for the past eight hours. During that time he had read 12 chapters of Lord of the Rings to Bozer, in between bouts of profuse apologies.
When the nurses came in and asked him to leave so they could change Bozer's tubing and bedding, Mac decided to make a bathroom run before grabbing a cup of coffee from the cafeteria. On his way back from the cafeteria he ran into Dr. Poretta and, with the world's worst timing, he found himself getting light-headed to the point where he dropped his coffee cup and nearly did a face plant.
The next thing he knew he was sitting in a chair and Dr. Poretta was holding out a small bottle of orange juice. Mac stared at it for a moment before shaking his head. "Pass." He then sat up and tried to slide off the bed, only for Dr. Poretta to block him. Totally a Jack move.
"You need to rest and drink the orange juice, MacGyver. Doctor's orders." Dr. Poretta smiled as he said it, but the smile quickly slid away. "I'm not letting you get up until you drink the entire bottle. You nearly passed out."
"No, I didn't," Mac quickly protested. "I just got a little dizzy."
Dr. Poretta sighed. "When was the last time you ate something, MacGyver?"
Without even hesitating, Mac lied. "This morning,"
Though he eyed Mac with suspicion, Poretta didn't call him on it. "Drink the orange juice," he insisted, you need to get your blood sugars up."
Accepting the bottle of juice Mac, pointedly, took a sip before stating, "I'm going back to Bozer's room."
"You need to take better care of yourself," Poretta stated. He was about to say more but his pager went off. "I have to go, drink all the juice then get something to eat. I'll check on you soon." With that he was gone.
Slipping off the bed and out of the room, Mac ducked into a nearby bathroom to dump the juice in the sink and toss the bottle in the trash, before heading back to the ICU. Once safely ensconced in the chair by Bozer's bed, Mac pulled out his phone and brought up chapter thirteen of Lord of the Rings and began reading.
The next day Riley was doing much better, although there was a rough moment when she insisted Jack tell her the truth about how Bozer was doing and she hadn't been able to help the tears that flowed for the next few minutes. Even though she was tired and still weak, Riley demanded her laptop, only for her mom to refuse. So she countered with the desire to face time Mac. Since he was with Bozer, Riley felt like it would help her to accept that their friend was truly going to be allright.
Jack was agreeable to the face time, especially since his 'Mac-senses' had been tingling of late. After a nod from Diane to confirm that she was all right with it as well, Jack contacted Mac.
As it happened, Mac was outside when Jack face-timed him. The nurses were back in Bozer's room so Mac was stretching his legs. Tapping his phone on, Mac forced a smile. "Hey, Jack. How's Riley?"
"She's awake and asking to see you," Jack replied, handing his phone over to Riley as he spoke.
"Hey, Mac," Riley said, happy to see him.
Mac was pleased to see that, even though she looked tired, Riley looked like Riley. Seeing her awake and smiling at him was like a balm to his soul. "Hey, Riley. It's good to see you."
She nodded. "Same here. How's Bozer doing?"
"Sleeping like there's no tomorrow," Mac replied, trying to keep it light between them, because he knew Riley had a lot of healing to do and she didn't need to be stressed out. "The doctor's tell me that's a good thing."
"Jack said he's in a medically induced coma," Riley countered. "When are they going to bring him out of it?"
Mac went for the general facts without any details. "Two or three days."
Riley was glad to hear that. "Say 'HI' for me when he wakes up," she requested.
"I can do that," Mac allowed. "You get some rest yourself."
"You too, you look tired," Riley stated, before fighting off a yawn.
Mac had to resist following suit. "Talk to you later, Riley."
She simply nodded before handing the phone back to Jack. She was ready for another nap.
Jack took a moment to study MacGyver and he didn't like what he saw. "You doing okay, bud?"
"I'm doing just fine, Jack," Mac replied. "I'll talk to you tomorrow." With that he signed off and headed back inside to Bozer's room. They were on chapter 17 of Lord of The Rings.
Jack felt uneasy as he slid his phone back in his pocket, and it took him a moment to realize that Riley was calling his name. "What's up, kiddo?"
"Is Mac okay?" Riley asked. "He looks so tired. Was he hurt in the explosion?"
"I'm sure he's fine," Jack replied, because he didn't want her to worry. He was worried enough for the both of them. "Besides, if something was wrong he is in a hospital."
Riley fought off another yawn, this one threatening to crack her jaw. "You should go be with him, Jack," she stated. "I'm glad you were here for me and my mom, but I'm good. I think Mac needs you now. We both know he's going to take what happened to me and Bozer personally."
Jack had to bite his tongue to stop himself from confessing just how guilty he was feeling about the whole thing. Instead he scratched at the back of his neck as he realized that Riley was giving him the okay to take off. He had been telling himself that Mac was fine and would tell Jack if he needed him, but he couldn't shake the feeling that the kid was falling apart. Seeing him just now had confirmed Jack's worst fears because Riley was right, Mac looked tired. As in exhausted and ready to drop. Matty had already ratted Mac out to Jack, by letting him know that his partner wasn't sleeping or eating. Facts that she knew because she had spies at the hospital keeping an eye on Mac. But it wasn't the same as Jack being there.
"You sure you're both okay with me going?" Jack asked, looking from Diane to Riley and back again.
"Positive," Mother and daughter sing-songed in perfect harmony.
Riley's eyelids felt like they were weighted with stones, but she offered a sleepy smile. "I'm looking forward to some 'girl time' with my mom," she assured him.
Jack was convinced, probably in big part because he wanted to be. "Okay then. I'll make arrangements to head out in the morning. As for right now, can I get either of you anything?"
"I wouldn't mind a strawberry milk shake for after my nap," Riley replied. "A real milk shake." If she had to be on a liquid and soft food diet for a couple of days, she at least wanted something edible.
If the doctor clears it, I'll get you the best strawberry milkshake money can buy," Jack agreed. "Now get some sleep." He smiled as he watched her eyes close and her body relax against the pillows. Knowing that Riley was going to be all right had lifted a weight off his shoulders. Knowing that he would be seeing MacGyver tomorrow helped ease the weight of the guilt that he was still shouldering.
Mac managed to charm the charge nurse into letting him stay two hours past when visiting hours were over. He probably could have charmed her to stay even longer, but Matty called and the next thing Mac knew he was being escorted out of the hospital and directly to his rental car.
So he returned to the hotel where he changed into running gear and headed out. Two hours later Mac returned with rubbery legs, a stitch in his side and a headache that just wouldn't ease up. A long, hot, shower helped him feel more steady, but his side still ached and his head was throbbing in time with his heartbeat.
The suite he was in came with a small kitchen, so Mac retrieved a bottle of water from the fridge and debated calling the front desk for some Tylenol. He was interrupted by a knock on the door and when he opened it he was surprised to see a
room service employee with a cart loaded with serving trays.
"You're dinner, sir," the server said, waiting for Mac to step aside so he could enter the room.
"Uh...I didn't order dinner," Mac replied, not budging from the doorway.
The server held out a folded card. "There's a note."
Mac accepted it, already guessing what it would say. He almost smiled at he read it. 'ENJOY DINNER, MATTY'. Knowing that he did need to eat something, Mac stepped back so the server could push the cart inside. Remembering that he was in sweat pants and that his wallet was in the bedroom, Mac gestured for the server to wait.
"The tip is already taken care of," the man replied, smiling. "Good night, sir." With that he stepped out, closing the door behind him.
"Thanks, Matty," Mac whispered, as he locked the door again then moved to check out the contents of the tray. There was shrimp alfredo, which was normally a favorite, but just the smell of it turned Mac's stomach. He also wrinkled his nose up at the chef's salad and the garlic bread. Pushing the cart into the hallway, Mac once again locked the door before scooping up his water bottle and heading into the bedroom.
As much as he needed food, Mac also needed sleep. So he crawled into bed and, resolutely, closed his eyes. But less than two hours later he was jolted awake by a nightmare and as he fought to even out his breathing and slow his heart rate, Mac already knew he wasn't going to attempt sleeping again tonight.
When he felt like he could stand without shaking, Mac slid out of bed and padded into the livingroom where he turned on all the lights before curling up in one corner of the couch, remote in hand. Ignoring the pounding in his temples, Mac resolutely focused on surfing Netflix and watching the cheesiest and most mind-numbing shows he could find. The moment the weak light of dawn seeped through the windows, Mac turned off the TV and changed into sweats again. Another two hour run later he showered, got dressed and headed for the hospital. After a pit stop at a nearby coffee shop, Mac was back in Bozer's room, sipping at his latte as he brought Lord of the Rings up on his phone and began to read.
Two hours later he was asked to step out of the room as the nurses changed out Bozer's tubing, his gown and his bedding. So Mac paced the hallway until Dr. Poretta stopped by with an update. It wasn't as good of news as Mac had hoped for, because Dr. Garbusian had intended to bring Bozer out of his induced coma sometime tomorrow. However, unless Bozer showed a more marked improvement, Garbusian now planned to extend the coma for at least one more day. Mac knew that the longer they kept Bozer under, the higher the risk for damaging side effects of the kind that he didn't even want to think about.
Mac did have a few questions he wanted to ask Poretta about Bozer's condition, only the ground beneath his feet suddenly shifted and he had to catch himself with a hand against the wall. Then, as if someone had flicked off a light switch, Mac found himself falling into darkness.
The moment Jack arrived at Ocean Base Hospital, he headed straight for the 5th floor ICU and the Nurse's station. He smiled at the pretty, brunette nurse sitting at the computer and said, "I'm Jack Dalton. I believe Matty Weber called ahead to let you know I was coming."
"She did, Mr. Dalton," the nurse replied. "Did you want to speak with Dr. Garbusian?"
"Actually, I'd like to see Bozer," Jack replied. He figured that was where he would find Mac.
Stepping out from around the desk, the nurse gestured for Jack to follow her. "Right this way, Mr. Dalton."
He fell into step beside her. "Please, call me Jack," he requested. "And you are?"
"Nurse Williams," she replied, blatantly ignoring his flirting. She stopped at the end of the hall and pointed to the open doorway. "Mr. Bozer is in this room. I'll let Dr. Garbusian know you're here." With that she turned smartly on her heel and walked away.
"I'm losing my touch," Jack mumbled, as he stepped into the room, only to freeze at the sight of Bozer. Jack couldn't remember ever seeing the young man so still, and it was like a punch to the gut to see all the machines and lines and IV's attached to him.
Moving over to the bed, Jack carefully pressed one hand to Bozer's shoulder. "Hang in there, pal. Everyone is rooting for you." That said, Jack turned and scanned the room, searching for Mac. To his surprise, the kid was no where to be found.
Stepping out of the room, Jack called out to the first nurse he saw. "Excuse me, but have you seen MacGyver? Blond kid who's been hanging out in this room."
"I know who you mean," the nurse replied. "I believe he's in with Dr. Poretta."
"And where can I find Dr. Poretta?" Jack prompted.
The nurse pointed down the hallway. "Last room on your left."
Following her directions, Jack made his way down the hall. As he reached the last door he heard a familiar voice, Mac's voice, and he was surprised that the kid was almost yelling. Since Mac very seldom raised his voice, that sent off alarm bells in Jack's head. He reached out to knock but paused, opting to lean in and listen for a moment first.
"...this isn't about me!" Mac stated, unaware that they had a third - party listener. "This is about Bozer, he's the only one you need to worry about!"
"Bozer is being well taken care of and you know it," Dr. Poretta countered. "But he isn't the one who passed out, MacGyver, you are."
There was a moment of silence, and Jack took the time to process what he was hearing. He was ready to storm into the room when Mac spoke up again.
"I didn't pass out." He knew he sounded like a petulant child, but he was too angry to care.
"Really?" Dr. Poretta drawled. "Do you remember how you got to this room?"
Mac gritted his teeth, wishing he could snap back a reply. However, the truth of the matter was, he didn't remember passing out, or how he ended up lying on a hospital bed in an empty room with Dr. Poretta hovering over him. As far as he was concerned, none of that mattered. All he cared about was Bozer and he was about to remind the good doctor of that fact when the door opened, and the last person Mac expected to see walked in. "Jack?"
Jack took two steps in and froze, his eyes locked on MacGyver. "Hey, bro," he countered, not even bothering to hide his shock. The kid was on his feet but he was pale, trembling with exhaustion and visibly thinner.
"What are you doing here?" Mac demanded, before a horrible thought struck him. "Did something happen to Riley?"
"Riley is doing great and says 'Hi'," Jack was quick to reassure him, even as he moved to confront his friend. "However, even she noticed how exhausted you look when you were face timing, and Matty gave me the heads up that you're not taking care of yourself, so I came here to check on you." Jack figured he might as well be open and honest about it, since he wasn't going to be able to hide how upset he was about what he was seeing.
Mac could not believe what he was hearing. "If you came all this way just to give me a hard time, Jack,feel free to turn around and go back to Riley, because I don't need you here. Now, if you'll both excuse me," Mac paused to glare at Dr. Poretta before turning it on Jack. "I have to get back to Bozer." Side-stepping, Mac made to slip around Jack so he could leave the room.
Jack, however, side-stepped as well and blocked him easily. "What you need to do is slow down, take a breath, and tell me what is going on here?" Because he knew something was wrong and Jack was going to get to the bottom of it.
"There is nothing going on, Jack!" Mac snapped. "There's just you keeping me from being with Bozer. So, I guess you could say that's my issue right there."
"Want to know what my issue is?" Jack countered, not budging an inch. He ignored Mac mumbling "not really" under his breath. "My issue is seeing you looking like the walking dead, man." When the kid winced and lifted one hand to rub at his temple, Jack grew even more concerned. "Did anyone check you out when you got here?"
"He wouldn't let me," Dr. Poretta interjected, helpfully.
Jack's worry ratcheted up another level. "Bro...you need to take a minute and think this through. Use that big brain of yours. You are exhausted and hurting and I can see that you've lost weight in just a few days, Mac. That's not good, bud, and you know it. You are no good to Bozer in this condition."
That was the wrong thing for Jack to say. "You know what, Jack?" Mac hissed. "I don't have time to listen to this bullshit. I'm fine!" With that he pushed the other man out of his way and stalked out of the room.
"Well, that went well," Jack muttered. He was angry and worried and he wasn't quite sure what to do next. One thing he did know, it was a good thing he'd come to check on Mac. The kid was in a bad way.
"I'm Dr. Poretta, by the way." As he made the introduction, the Doctor moved to stand beside Jack and held out his hand.
Jack turned shook it. "Jack Dalton. Two things, Doc. First, how is Bozer doing?"
Dr. Poretta smiled. "All things considered, he's doing well. The next two days are critical but Dr. Garbusian is hopeful."
"Not as good of news as I was hoping for, but it sort of explains Mac's present condition." Jack sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face, tiredly. "Second thing, and give it to me straight. How's MacGyver?"
"You've already noticed the obvious issues," Poretta replied. "I haven't seen him eat anything since he's been here and it's obvious he doesn't sleep. He does go back to the hotel every night and showers and changes clothes, but he's here from the moment visiting hours start until they end, and sometimes he manages to charm his way into staying longer. He'd be here twenty-four/seven if Director Weber hadn't put a stop to that. He's not allowed to stay."
Jack didn't like what he was hearing. "You know Bozer was hurt in an explosion?" At Dr. Poretta's nod he continued. "Mac got caught up in the blast wave and he was out for a bit. I know he's hurting but I also know how he ignores his own issues when his friends are hurt. All the more so when he's feeling guilty. So what do we do to help him? Short of knocking him out and tying him to a bed."
Poretta was grim. "I'm not in favor of going down that road, just yet. I think that would make things worse in the long run."
"It would," Jack confirmed. At the look Poretta shot him he explained. "Kinda had to go that route once and he was pissed for a long time. Not that I didn't deserve it, but that was an extreme case and seriously my only option."
"We're getting close to that now," Poretta admitted "He really needs to eat something."
Jack nodded. "I can see that. My boy has always been lean and, I won't lie to you, there have been times when he's been off his feed, but I think he's just taken it to a whole new level."
Dr. Poretta was in total agreement. "If you can get him to eat something, that would be a good start. When he passed out I tried to examine him but he wasn't out long enough for anything but a cursory check. I've been keeping an eye on MacGyver from a distance and I wouldn't be surprised if he had a concussion, which could be part of why he's not inclined to eat. I did, however, get to check for bruising and his ribs are tender so I'd like to be able to do a full exam. Also, and I believe this goes without saying, some sleep would go a long way towards helping him.
"Food and a nap. Got it, Doc," Jack countered, and he fully intended to do whatever it took to get MacGyver to eat and sleep. He would start with the eating. "Is there someplace where I can get a good chicken sandwich? That's kinda like a comfort food for Mac."
"I'll send someone for it right now," Dr. Poretta replied. "I'll call you when it gets here."
Jack grimaced. "I'll be hanging out at the nurses station until then. It's best if I give the kid a few minutes to cool down. Mac isn't one to get upset and start yelling, so when that happens I know I need to give him some space. It's also a clue to how messed up he is. Let's just say that he's blaming himself for what happened to Bozer."
Dr. Poretta frowned. "I don't understand why he'd blame himself. He didn't cause the explosion."
"Let's just say that Mac has perfected the guilt complex and leave it at that," Jack replied, with a clap to Dr. Poretta's shoulder. "So, you know where to find me." With that he left the room.
When the chicken sandwich was delivered, Jack headed straight for Bozer's room. He was surprised to see Mac sitting in a chair by the bed, reading to Bozer off his phone. So he leaned against the doorframe and listened for a moment, before recognizing the story. Lord of the Rings. Mac and Bozer were total geeky fan boys about the books and the movies.
When Mac paused in his reading because of a cough, Jack stepped into the room. He watched the kid lean down to scoop up a water bottle by his chair and take a sip. Every move he made was slow and sluggish and looked painful, which made Jack wince in sympathy even as his heart ached to see Mac in this condition.
"I brought you a chicken sandwich," Jack said, to announce his presence.
"I'm not hungry," was the automatic reply as Mac returned to his reading.
Jack let it go for a moment, rethinking his strategy, when a timely intervention entered the room. Two nurses, one of whom tapped Mac on the shoulder and he surprised Jack by immediately getting up out of the chair. After telling Bozer he would be back in a few minutes, Mac exited the room. Stunned, Jack just stood watching him go until one of the nurses tapped him on the shoulder.
She offered a polite smile. "Sir, you need to leave the room while we change Mr. Bozer's tubing and bedding. You can return in about twenty minutes."
"Got it." Sandwich still in hand, Jack exited the room in search of Mac. He found the kid in the hallway, pacing. For a few minutes Jack simply watched him, taking note of how Mac was almost clumsy every time he turned to circle back around. When he stumbled, Jack stepped forward and blocked his way. "I know what you're doing, bud."
"So do I," Mac shot back. "It's called pacing, and you're in my way."
Jack didn't budge. "What happened to Bozer was not your fault, Mac. You know that, or you would if you weren't so damn tired."
Mac ran a hand through his hair, wishing Jack would stop trying to psychoanalyze him. "I know I didn't cause the explosion Jack," he said quietly.
"That's right, you did not." Jack was glad that he and Mac finally seemed to be on the same page. "If anyone is to blame for what happened, I am. If I hadn't tackled that guy -"
"Don't even go there," Mac interjected, cutting Jack off. "If you hadn't tackled that guy the grenade would have landed right next to the van and there would have been nothing left of Bozer and Riley except little pieces. You're the reason they're still alive!" No way in hell did Mac want Jack to blame himself for any of this.
Jack was relieved to hear Mac saying that, because a part of him was carrying around a crap ton of guilt about the incident, and he felt it melting away. Now if he could just get the kid to deal with it in the same way by letting go of his guilt. "Thanks for saying that," Jack replied. "Until now I didn't realize how much I needed to hear it."
Mac smiled at his friend. "I've always got your back, Jack. You know that."
"I do, I do know that," Jack allowed. "Now you need to remember that I've got your back as well. Which is why I'm taking you back to the hotel and you're going to eat your chicken sandwich then take a nice, long, nap."
"Not happening." Mac made to turn and walk away, only to get hit with a bout of lightheadedness that made him stumble. He felt Jack grab his arm to steady him, and he was grateful for the support. He did not, however, appreciate being practically dragged down the hallway and into the waiting area, where he was pretty much dumped into a chair.
Jack was furious. "That's it, Mac! This stops now! I'm calling Dr. Poretta." But the moment Jack pulled his phone out of his pocket, it was snatched from his hand and tossed across the room.
Mac felt a well of anger that gave him the adrenaline boost he needed to surge to his feet. "You don't get to do that, Jack! You don't get to tell me what to do!"
"Then use that big brain of yours, brother," Jack countered, ignoring for the moment that his phone was probably trashed. "You know you have to eat and sleep or you're going to collapse."
"I will eat when I'm hungry and sleep when I'm tired." Mac kept his tone quiet, but he was vibrating with anger and frustration. Why couldn't Jack see that he needed to be here for Bozer. "If you just came here to harass me, then feel free to go back to Riley. I don't need you here, Jack." That said, Mac stepped around his friend and walked away, feeling more alone in this moment than he had in a long time.
Jack felt the sting of Mac's final words, but he refused to let himself take them to heart. He knew that the kid was messed up right now. More than anything, Jack was worried. So, taking a bite of the chicken sandwich, Jack scooped up his phone and was pleased to see it was in perfect working order. With a heavy-hearted sigh he called Dr. Poretta so they could meet up and talk about MacGyver. Again.
Sitting in the chair across from Dr. Poretta's desk, Jack admitted his concerns about MacGyver. "He's in denial in a big way, Doc," Jack stated. "I really don't know what to try next."
"Tough love," Dr. Poretta replied, without hesitation. "From what you told me about what happened, MacGyver is a few hours away from collapsing. Once that happens I can admit him, hook him up to IV's and make sure he gets some sleep. He'll be able to think more clearly once his physical needs are taken care of."
"Sounds like a plan," Jack confirmed, albeit a bit reluctantly. "I'm going to try, one more time, to talk some sense into the kid." Jack felt like he owed that much to Mac. "But if he refuses to let me help him, then I support your plan all the way." Although it wouldn't be easy to watch Mac ignore his own needs to the point where he simply collapsed.
Dr. Poretta understood Jack's reluctance. "People are often times their own worst enemy. I wish you luck on getting MacGyver to see reason, but I'll be ready to take the next step if he doesn't."
Jack stood up and shook Poretta's hand. "Thanks, Doc. I'll keep you updated." With that Jack left to make his way back to Bozer's room.
He wasn't the least bit surprised to find Mac sitting in the chair by the bed, reading Lord of the Rings to Bozer. Finding another chair in the corner, Jack brought it over next to Mac and sat down. He made himself comfortable and simply listened as Mac continued to read. Jack knew he would have to be patient and wait the kid out. Surprisingly, he didn't have long to wait.
Mac reached the end of a chapter then stopped reading. He stared at Jack for a long moment then said, quietly, "You're still here." If he was being honest with himself, he was glad to not have been abandoned by his friend. Not that he wouldn't have deserved it, given what he'd said in their last encounter.
"You know me better than that," Jack countered. "I'm not going to leave you, Mac. I'll just out stubborn you with patience."
"You're the least patient person I know, Jack," Mac stated, a smile hovering on his lips. Ultimately, however, he was still angry, but he tried to tamp down on it because he knew his friend meant well.
Jack shrugged. "I've been working on it and you know what they say, practice makes perfect. I have to say, you give me reason to get a lot of practice in.
Mac didn't doubt that, but neither did he question, he just went back to reading to Bozer.
"You have to stop punishing yourself," Jack interjected, quietly, when Mac paused for a sip of water.
"Jack," Mac warned. "I'm not punishing myself."
Changing tactics, Jack continued. "Bozer is going to wake up and he's going to be fine."
Mac turned in the chair to scowl at his friend. "You don't know that, Jack. They're keeping him in the coma for yet another day, and the longer he's on the respirator the higher the risk for permanent side effects."
"I get that." Jack shifted his chair around so they were face to face. "I get that, I do, but Bozer is tough, Bud. Tougher then you're giving him credit for. When we went to your home town, Bozer told me and Riley about how you two met. How he punched Donnie the Bully in the nose to get him to stop messing with you. Little Bozer took on Big Bully Donnie...and he won. For you. He's going to win this fight as well. For you."
"Sounds good in theory, Jack," Mac replied, as his eyes drifted over to Bozer lying so still amidst the wires and tubing that were connected to his body, keeping him breathing. Every beep and hiss of the machines throbbed in Mac's temples, echoing like a heartbeat. He turned back to Jack. "But this isn't like throwing a punch."
Jack didn't deny that. "I know, bud, but Bozer has survived everything that has been thrown at him, and I'm telling you that he's going to survive this too." Watching Mac shiver and cross his arms over his chest in an attempt to keep warm, broke Jack's heart. "Truth be told, you're the one I'm worried about not surviving this."
Mac sighed, knowing what Jack was going to say because he had become a broken record, so he cut him off. "I'm fine, Jack. I wish everyone would stop making this about me. The only one who matters right now is Bozer. He should never been put in the position to get hurt, Jack. That's on me and nothing you say is going to change that, so please stop mother-henning me. When Bozer wakes up, and everything is back to normal, I'll get some sleep."
"So what's it going to hurt if you eat something now?" Jack persisted. "I mean, if you mean it when you say you're not punishing yourself, then how about I go fetch you a sandwich?"
"Did you miss the part when I said I'll eat when I'm hungry?" Mac was getting angry again.
Jack knew it was time to back off, because the kid was so exhausted and worn out that he couldn't see reason if he tried. "Fine, no more asking you to eat." Rising to his feet, Jack shrugged off his hoodie and held it out to the kid. "Put this on and I'll sit here quietly."
Mac frowned at him. "What are you doing?"
"You're cold, so put the damn hoodie on or I'll keep complaining." Jack shook the hoodie and was relieved when Mac finally took it. "Put it on," Jack prompted, hovering over the kid until he obeyed. Then Jack turned his chair back around next to Mac's and settled in. "I do have one more thing to say to you," he stated, after only a few seconds of silence.
"Seriously?" Mac should have known better.
Jack locked eyes with MacGyver. "I just want to give you fair warning."
Mac wasn't sure he liked the look in Jack's eyes, like he was both sad and resigned. "Fair warning about what?"
"When you finally pass out, and you will." Jack shook a finger at Mac to stop him from protesting. "When that happens, I'm going to tie you to a damn bed and you won't get out of it until you gain about ten pounds and sleep for a week. Comprende?"
"Whatever floats your boat, Jack," Mac replied, tapping his phone back on so he could continue reading. Which he did for the next two hours without a single interruption from his partner, other than the occasional snore.
After a while Mac realized he was getting hoarse and that the words on his phone were beginning to blur. His head ached and he felt a bit nauseous, not to mention the fact that every muscle in his body felt stiff. Pushing out of the chair, Mac paced slowly about the room trying to stretch the kinks out, only to realize that he was listing sharply. Since he happened to be close to a wall, Mac caught himself with one hand but he was shaking so hard he could barely support himself.
Swallowing back nausea, Mac tried to take shallow breaths but that did nothing to stop his vision from graying out. Between one heartbeat and the next, everything went black.
Jack had been dozing off and on, but woke up when Mac got up and started pacing. It had, almost physically, hurt him not to go to the kid when he started to falter, but Jack knew he had to let this play out to it's inevitable end. Only then would he finally be able to help MacGyver. But he was there when the kid's knees buckled.
Catching him before he could hit the ground, Jack swung Mac up into his arms. Feeling how light he had become in just a few days shook Jack to his core. "What have you done to yourself, bud?"
Heading out into the hallway, Jack found Dr. Poretta waiting for him with a stretcher. Laying Mac down carefully, Jack took a moment to smooth a lock of blond hair off the pale forehead before whispering, "Sorry about this, bud. I'm just doing my job and looking out for you." That said, he nodded and let Dr. Poretta and the nurse wheel MacGyver away.
Knowing that his friend was in good hands, Jack returned to Bozer's room and sat down. Dr. Poretta had promised to text Jack the moment he had Mac settled in, so for now Jack would pick up where the kid had left off. Keeping watch over Bozer.
Awareness came to Mac in ever shifting layers. The first thing he was aware of was the buzz of voices filtering in and out almost like an echo. Then he sensed movement around him and the strangely familiar scent of antiseptic. He tried to puzzle out why that scent was so familiar, but gave up when it made his head ache.
He knew that voice. Jack's voice. Peeling open eyelids that felt glued shut, Mac blinked hard to see a fuzzy blob hovering over him. Blinking again, he managed to bring the blob into a kind of hazy focus.
Jack was thrilled to see Mac's baby blues peering up at him. "Welcome back, pal. How are you feeling?"
There was something wrong with what Jack was saying, but it took Mac a minute to figure out what. "Bozer," he croaked, his throat feeling dryer than the Sahara desert. Which set off a persistent tickle that made him cough, which sucked because the coughing set off flares of pain throughout his body.
"Take a sip, Mac," Jack ordered, holding out a glass and pressing the straw to his lips. He was pleased when the kid stopped coughing long enough to take a few sips, which seemed to help ease the bout the rest of the way.
Now that the coughing had stopped and the throbbing in his temples had eased, Mac was able to take stock of his surroundings and he wasn't happy when he realized where he was. In a hospital bed. The last thing Mac remembered was reading to Bozer. Which reminded him, yet again. "Bozer!" Mac reached for the covers to yank them back only to come up short. In shock he stared at the soft restraints circling his wrists. "What the hell?"
Jack was quick to grip Mac by the shoulders and ease him back against the pillows. "Just relax and let me explain. First off
Bozer is fine. Dr. Garbusian brought him out of the coma yesterday and he woke right up. In fact, the first thing he said was your name."
"Bozer's awake?" Mac heard what Jack said but it was only now registering what that meant. "He's...he's okay? For real?"
"For real." Jack smiled at seeing the relief that washed over Mac's face. "Truth be told, he's doing better than you are."
Mac tugged at his restraints. "I need to see him! Please untie me, Jack. Please!"
Jack winced, but held firm. "Sorry, bud, but that's not gonna happen just yet."
"You can't do this, Jack!" At this point Mac was half angry, half desperate. "You have no right!"
Actually the restraints are my doing." Dr. Poretta had entered the room just in time to hear Mac's accusation. "You resisted the sedative I gave you and yanked out your IV, got out of bed and took a fall that knocked you out."
Jack made a face as he picked up the story. "That was kinda my fault. I knew you wouldn't want Bozer to be left alone so I was splitting my time between your rooms and you got up while I was gone. Although I did warn the Doc that you had a weird tolerance to most sedatives. So if you've got a headache, I apologize in advance."
"Wait a minute." Mac felt almost dizzy trying to follow the conversation, but what he took away from it left him with one burning question. "How long was I out?"
"Technically you've been 'in' and 'out' for about two days." Jack could see how surprised Mac was to hear that. "You have to remember, you were exhausted and weak, which is why you're going to stay in this bed. In case you don't remember, I warned you this would happen and what the consequences would be."
Mac wanted to argue with Jack but he knew anything he said would be shot down by both his friend and Dr. Poretta. So he chose another tactic, a sure fire one. "I have to pee."
Jack started laughing. "Funny story about that. You actually woke up twice to go to the bathroom, pretty much just sleep walking, but very determined to get there by yourself. I told Doc here how determined and independent you are, but he didn't believe me until he saw you in action."
"That's not really funny," Mac countered. "But I need to go. Now."
"You should thank me, by the way," Jack shot back.
Mac sighed. "What for?"
It was Dr. Poretta who replied. "I wanted to catherize you but Jack told me it wasn't necessary, which I believe is the actual punch line to his story. As he spoke, Poretta moved to the bed and began undoing Mac's restraints. "Here's the deal, MacGyver. You use the bathroom then you get right back in bed."
"After I see Bozer." Mac could out stubborn a mule, at least that's what Jack was always telling him, so he was going to put that particular skill to good use in this particular instance.
"Getting to see Bozer face to face is a whole other deal," Jack interjected, even as he moved to help Mac slide out of bed. He was ready when the kid's knees buckled, slinging the arm that didn't have an IV attached to it over his shoulder. He waited for Poretta to unhook the IV line from the pole attached to the bed and rehook to the rolling pole. Mac wasn't happy about it, but the kid was smart enough to pick his battles, so he seemed willing to let this one go.
Mac didn't argue about being helped into the bathroom either, although he glared at Jack until the other man stepped out.
"Do not pull out your IV!" Jack shouted through the door.
After taking care of business, Mac washed his hands, carefully avoiding looking in the mirror. When Jack pounded on the door before barging in, Mac just accepted it, and Jack's help, to make his way back to the bed. Never in a million years would he admit it, but lying back down was a relief, because Mac realized that just the walk to the bathroom and back left him feeling light-headed and surprisingly weak. But that didn't mean he had lost track of his focus. "I want to see Bozer, Jack."
Jack pulled a chair over to the bed, turned it around and straddled it. "He wants to see you too. He wasn't too happy this morning when I told him you were a fellow patient."
"I'm not a patient!" Mac insisted, only to be ignored.
Pulling his phone out, Jack tapped at the screen for a moment then turned the phone around and held it out to Mac. "Say 'hi' to Bozer." He had set them up to face time.
"Bozer..." The sight of his friend awake and smiling at him, hit Mac in his emotional core. He felt so overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that he felt himself tearing up. "It's good to see you," Mac whispered.
"Good to see you too, Mac," Bozer replied.
Swiping at the tear that slid down his cheek, Mac managed a wobbly smile as he took the phone in his IV-free hand. "I want to come see you but Jack's being an ass."
"You're the one being an ass," Bozer countered. "A stubborn jackass, to be specific."
"Bozer..." Mac started to protest but his friend cut him off.
"You look like hell, Mac." Bozer sounded angry even though he looked scared and concerned. "Even on this tiny screen I can see how super skinny you are and it's freaking me out. So you need to eat something, okay? Eat and then you can come see me. Okay, Mac? Will you do that for me?"
Regret washed over Mac. He felt terrible that Bozer was worrying about him. It wasn't supposed to be like this. "I'm fine, Bozer. You don't have to worry about me."
Bozer closed his eyes. "You're my best friend, Mac. I always worry about you." He opened his eyes but they were droopy and it was obvious he was drifting off to sleep.
"No worries, Boze," Mac replied. "Go to sleep and when you wake up I'll be there. I promise." And it was a promise he was going to keep.
"Holding...you to it," Bozer mumbled, before drifting off.
Mac dropped the phone into his lap before looking at Dr. Poretta. "Is he okay?"
Poretta nodded. "He's fine but he's weak so he's going to sleep a lot. It's a good thing. Bozer is doing well, MacGyver. In fact Dr. Garbusian is surprised by just how well he's doing."
"Now we need to work on you doing better." Jack retrieved his phone then sat on the edge of the bed. "So here's the deal, Mac. You eat then you can go see Bozer, but you go in a wheel chair."
"No way!" Mac wasn't about to give in on that one.
Jack wasn't giving in either. "No wheel chair then no deal."
Mac glared at Jack only for the other man to glare back at him. "Then I want a shower, sweatpants and a t-shirt and no IV."
"Deal on the shower and the sweats, but we'll negotiate the IV," Jack countered. "That one is totally up to the Doc."
"Which depends on how well you do with the eating," Poretta stated. "That said, I'll send the nurse for some toast. You're going to want to start with something simple and bland." He patted Mac on the shoulder and exited the room.
Left with nothing to do but wait, Mac's thoughts drifted internally. He was thrilled that Bozer was awake and that he was going to be okay, but at the same time he was shaken by the fact that his friend was worried about him. Bozer needed to focus all of his attention on healing.
Jack could almost see Mac drifting away from him and that was the last thing he wanted to have happen. Sometimes the kid got lost inside his own head, and that was never a good thing, because it usually meant he was in a bad place beating himself up.
Before Jack could think of something worthwhile to distract the kid from his own thoughts, Dr. Poretta returned with the toast.
Pulling the rolling tray table over Mac's lap, Poretta set the plate down on it.
Mac stared at the single slice of dry toast which had been cut in half. Just the sight of it made his stomach churn and he knew he couldn't eat it all.
"If you can eat just half a slice we'll call it a win," Dr. Poretta said, as if reading MacGyver's mind.
"I don't need an audience," Mac muttered, because the last thing he needed was an eyewitness to his struggle to get down a damn half slice of toast.
Poretta gave a curt nod then said to Jack, "Give me a call if you need me." With that he breezed out of the room.
Jack took a moment. He knew MacGyver all too well. "I'll be right outside, in the hallway, stretching my legs. So don't even think about attempting a great escape. I already warned Doc P about how skilled you are at sneaking out of places."
As true as that was under normal conditions, Mac doubted he could make any kind of escape that didn't involve crawling. Not that he was going to admit that to Jack. Instead he put on an air of innocence because, truth be told, he had been thinking about making a getaway. Only it would have to wait until he saw Bozer. "You don't have to stand guard, Jack. I promise I'll be good and eat my toast. Which is your cue to leave," he added, pointedly.
"Copy that," Jack replied, throwing a snappy salute. Turning sharply on his heel he strode out of the room, even though it took an extreme effort on his part not to turn around. Jack didn't want to leave Mac alone because he knew his young friend was struggling. At the same time, he knew Mac needed a moment to confront his demons on his own. For once Jack would be patient and bide his time. When the kid was ready, Jack would be there to support him in every way.
Since he had a few minutes to kill, Jack pulled out his phone and made a few calls. He knew Matty and Riley would want updates on Mac and Bozer. He just wished he had better news on the MacGyver front.
The moment Jack walked out of the room, Mac glared at his slice of toast. Just the thought of having to take a bit made his stomach churn, but he wanted to see Bozer. He needed to see his friend. So Mac grabbed a half slice and took a tiny bite. He chewed, swallowed and gagged before taking another bite and another until it was gone.
Jack picked that moment to return and one look at MacGyver's face and he knew the kid was struggling. However, he didn't comment on it, he simply asked if he wanted some water.
Mac nodded and, gratefully, accepted the glass Jack handed to him. Two sips later and he felt fairly confident that he could keep the toast down. "Can I shower now?" he requested.
"Don't see why not, you kept up your end of the deal." Jack moved the rolling table off to the side, and he caught Mac's look of relief as the remaining half slice of toast was removed from his sight. "I'll find Dr. Poretta."
Five minutes later Mac's IV was removed, with the warning that having it out was a test run only. Mac, however, had no intention of letting it be put back in. He did, however, accept Jack's help to make it into the bathroom, where he saw his duffle bag sitting on the counter. After a quick rummage, Mac was relieved to see everything he would need to shower and dress in his own things. He would have preferred a pair of jeans instead of sweatpants, and shoes would be nice, but he would take what he could get for now.
Jack tried to convince Mac to let him help him shower and dress, but found himself nudged out before the door was closed firmly behind him. So he was left to pace and worry and pace some more as the seconds ticked by slowly. When he heard the shower start, Jack made himself sit down and play a game on his phone, but within a few minutes he was on his feet and pacing again. Twice he nearly knocked on the door to ask if MacGyver was all right.
On his end, MacGyver found himself using every scrap of stubborn will power he possessed to make it through showering. He lathered up from head to toe and rinsed off as quickly as his trembling limbs would allow, all the while cursing his weakness. He was about to turn off the shower when his stomach twisted into a knot and nausea hit him like a sledge hammer. He didn't even have the chance to leave the shower before he was puking up the toast and bile. When his stomach finally settled down, Mac leaned against the shower wall as he let the water wash the sickness down the drain. When he felt somewhat steady on his feet he turned off the water, dried off enough so his clothes wouldn't stick to him while he dressed, then he shuffled over to the sink to brush his teeth then rinse with mouthwash.
Having paced himself into a state of near dizziness, Jack was ready to storm into the bathroom when the shower suddenly turned off. Which meant Mac was conscious and capable at the moment. He waited another few minutes before finally giving in and striding over to the bathroom door. He counted to ten then lifted his hand to knock, only for the door to swing open, revealing MacGyver.
Having expected Jack to be hovering, Mac wasn't surprised to see his friend looming in the doorway when he opened the door. He smiled and said firmly, "I'm ready to see Bozer."
"Put this on." Jack snagged a gray, MIT hoodie off the end of the bed and held it out. He was pleased when Mac took it and pulled it on instead of arguing. The next thing he did was grab the wheel chair that Poretta had dropped off while Mac was showering. He rolled it over and said, "Have a seat."
"I can walk," Mac ground out, glaring at Jack even though a part of him was longing to sit down.
Jack shrugged. "It's the chair or no visit." He wasn't going to put it up for negotiation, especially since he could see that Mac was pale and shaky and ready to keel over. Pointing it out would be useless because he knew the kid would just lock his knees and insist that he was perfectly fine.
Mac scowled at Jack, but sat down in the chair. He would never admit it, not even to himself, but it felt good to be off his feet. He tuned out Jack's whistling as he was pushed out of the room and down the hallway. To Mac's surprise they passed by Bozer's ICU room. "Jack, where are you going?" Mac protested.
"Bozer was moved into a suite last night," Jack replied, continuing on down the hallway to the last room on the left. He pushed Mac through the doorway but jolted to a stop when the kid grabbed the wheels. "Mac?" He leaned down, fearful that something was wrong.
"I just need a minute," Mac replied, his eyes locked on the figure in the bed. Bozer was still hooked up to a few machines and tubing, but the respirator was gone and his eyes were closed in a natural sleep. Relief made Mac feel a bit dizzy and over-whelmed. He scrubbed a hand over his face before pushing himself out of the wheel chair.
Jack tried to intervene but let it go when Mac shot him a pleading look. So he pushed the wheel chair off to the side as he watched MacGyver move to Bozer's bed side. It did his heart good to see the two friends back together. Stepping over to Mac's side, Jack said quietly, "Bozer is doing great. His doctor thinks he'll be able to go home in about a week. He'll have to take a few weeks to recover, but he's going to be okay."
Mac exhaled a shuddery sigh of relief. "When can Riley go home?"
"Couple of days, her mom is going to go with her." Jack was happy to report good news for a change. "Look, Bozer sleeps a lot so why don't you catch a few zzzz's yourself?"
"I'm not leaving," Mac stated. Now that Bozer was awake and healing, Mac was going to stick close by until his friend was released to go home. Feeling himself listing to the left, Mac caught himself with a hand on the side of the bed. Not that sitting down wouldn't be a good idea. He turned to seek out a chair, but froze at the sight of the second bed.
Jack winced as he caught the anger that flashed in Mac's tired eyes. He knew the kid was going to believe he was set up, and he couldn't totally discount that fact. "I know you're mad, but you're also smart enough to realize that you aren't up to par, bud. You need to eat and sleep -"
That's where Mac cut him off. "NOT as a patient! I'm not sick, Jack!"
"Bozer?" Mac turned to his friend, thrilled to see dark eyes blinking at him, sleepily. When Bozer reached out to him, Mac was quick to squeeze his hand. "It is so good to see you awake. How do you feel?"
Bozer frowned, his eyes narrowing as he studied Mac. "I feel way better than you look, dude. I think you need to sit down before you fall down."
MacGyver shook his head, which was not a smart move because it made him dizzy.
Jack caught Mac by the arm and guided him over to the other bed. He manhandled him into it, feeling concern wash over him when the kid didn't put up a fight. Jack cupped the pale face in both hands and asked, "You okay, bro?"
"I just need a minute," Mac whispered, nudging Jack's hands off his face only to replace them with his own. In this moment he felt as if he had failed Bozer somehow.
"Mac, you okay?" Bozer asked, watching his best friend like a hawk.
Heaving a sigh, Mac dropped his hands and offered a wobbly smile. "I'm fine, Boze, just a little tired."
Bozer smiled back. "That's what happens when you don't sleep or eat. It's okay, though, Mac. Now that we're roomies, we can turn our recovery into a competition."
"We're not roomies," Mac insisted, because he had absolutely no intention of staying.
"Can I say something?" Bozer interjected, before Mac could continue. He didn't even wait for a response before stating, "I need you here with me, okay? I don't want to do this alone, Mac. It's bad enough they shaved my head!" Bozer pointed to his head as he spoke. "Don't leave me to deal with being bald all by myself."
Mac knew what Bozer was doing, trying to con him because he was worried about him. Truthfully it just made Mac feel more guilty but, at the same time, he found himself giving in. Mostly because he realized that Bozer did need him and that he hadn't been there for him up to this point, so he was damn well going to do what he could from this point on. "I'll be your roomie for one night," Mac allowed.
At which point Dr. Poretta entered the room. He was followed by a nurse who had two IV bags in her hand.
"Those better not be for me," Mac growled.
Before Dr. Poretta could reply, Bozer spoke up.
"Are you forfeiting our competition already?" he demanded.
"What?" Mac stared at Bozer, not even bothering to hide his confusion.
Bozer rolled his eyes and said, patiently, "If you're not going to do what you need to do to get better, I assume you've already conceded the win to me."
Mac got it now, Bozer had been serious about competing to see who got better faster. At the same time he didn't miss the worry that clouded his best friend's dark eyes. Worry for him that Mac wanted to make disappear. "No, Bozer," he replied. "I'm not conceding you the win."
"Good choice," Jack interjected, moving aside so the nurse to do her job and hook Mac up to his IV's.
"I'm out tomorrow," Mac stated, wincing as the nurse pierced the back of his hand with the IV needle. "So I've pretty much already won."
Bozer didn't look concerned. "We'll see about that, brother. I'm not going to be easy to beat."
It made Mac happy to see Bozer being so positive, when just over one day ago he'd been in a coma and on a respirator. "Prepare yourself to eat your words," Mac countered.
"Speaking of eating..." Dr. Poretta slid that in as smoothly as he could. "How about another slice of toast, MacGyver."
"I just ate!" Mac protested, because the last thing he even wanted to think about was food.
Jack patted him on the shoulder. "I don't think half a slice of toast counts as eating," he put in, even though he knew that it wasn't what the kid wanted to hear.
Mac bit back a sharp retort and heaved a sigh to calm himself. "I'm not hungry right now."
"That's fine, we'll try again later," Dr. Poretta allowed. "Just so you know, I'm giving you nutrients, saline for hydration and a mild sedative. The more sleep you get the better."
"Whatever." For once Mac wasn't going to argue. He'd accept the IV, sleep a bit and in the morning he'd be back sitting at Bozer's beside and he could finish reading Lord Of The Rings. Which was his last thought before he found himself drifting into darkness.
Despite Mac's best intentions, he wasn't able to get himself released the next day. He and Bozer were both brought oatmeal and toast for breakfast. Bozer was able to eat everything put in front of him, whereas when Mac took a spoonful of oatmeal, it came back up almost before he was able to swallow it down. He did better with the toast, which took almost two minutes to make a reappearance. So Dr. Poretta gave him an anti-emetic, but come lunch time he still wasn't able to keep anything down.
Same thing happened at Supper time, at which point Mac was frustrated to the point of anger. Because he didn't want to worry Bozer, Mac pushed the anger down but it simmered inside and he found it impossible to sleep.
Jack had been keeping a close eye on both Mac and Bozer and while Bozer seemed to be recovery at twice the expected speed, MacGyver was was backsliding and Jack could tell it was eating away at the kid. To the point where Mac couldn't sleep and Jack went to Poretta and made sure something was slipped into his friend's IV.
It was hard to watch Mac struggling when Bozer was, steadily, getting better. Struggling to the point where even the sedatives weren't working to keep Mac asleep and he refused to let them give him anything stronger. Which meant that he got caught up in a vicious cycle of not being able to eat or sleep, so he remained weak and growing weaker which frustrated him all the more.
On Jack's part it started to seriously scare him, especially when Dr. Poretta explained to him that MacGyver's body was turning on him. He was trying his best to eat, but he wasn't able to keep anything down.
"So what does that mean for Mac?" Jack queried. "What can you do to help him?"
"I'm already doing what I can do for him physically," Dr. Poretta replied.
Jack felt anger well up inside him. "Well whatever you're doing is not good enough!" he snapped. "Do more!"
Dr. Poretta didn't take offense at Jack's anger. "To be brutally honest, MacGyver is creating his own symptoms."
"Are you telling me that he's making himself sick on purpose?" Jack stared at the doctor in wide-eyed disbelief.
"I'm telling you that it's a psychological issue." Dr. Poretta did his best to explain. "Whatever is going on inside MacGyver's head, whatever he's dealing with emotionally, it's affecting him physically."
Like a light switch being flipped on, Jack understood what Poretta was saying. "He's punishing himself."
Poretta nodded. "Could be."
"That's something I can work with." With that Jack left the office, returning to Mac and Bozer's room. He was surprised to see that Bozer's bed was empty. Jack would have panicked but a nurse entered at that moment to explain that Bozer had been taken upstairs for some tests and that he would be returned to his room in about an hour.
Jack thanked her then turned his attention to MacGyver. He was pleased to see that the kid was asleep. So he settled down in the chair in the corner of the room, pulling out his phone and searching for a game to play, only to be interrupted by a soft moan from Mac.
Rising to his feet, Jack moved to the bed, just in time for MacGyver to jack-knife upright with a muffled scream. Moving to grab the kid's shoulders to steady him, Jack could feel the tremors coursing through the thin body. The body that was becoming much too thin. As blue eyes flew open in a panic, Jack was quick to reassure him, "It's allright, but. You're okay."
"J-jack?" Mac stuttered, his nightmare slowly fading away as he felt strong hands supporting him even as he took comfort in the sound of Jack's voice.
"You okay?" Jack couldn't hide his concern.
Shifting against the pillows, Mac brushed Jack's hands away and tried to plaster on a smile. "Sure...I'm good." It was such an obvious lie that it made him wince, but he stood by it. That was when he noticed that the other bed was empty. "Where's Bozer?" Panic swirled through Mac, twisting in his gut and making it suddenly hard to breathe.
Jack was quick to reassure him. "They just took him for tests. Follow up. He's fine."
"For real?" Mac had to be sure.
"For real, bro." Jack hated seeing the fear that glittered in Mac's blue eyes. Eyes that were haunted and rimmed with black circles, attesting to the fact that he wasn't sleeping well despite being sedated. The kid was beyond exhausted and too damn thin, it was starting to seriously scare Jack. He knew if something didn't change, Mac was only going to get sicker and Jack might lose him. That was a reality that he wasn't ready to deal with, not by a long shot.
Mac rubbed at his eyes, trying to scrub away the memory of his latest nightmare. The one where Bozer died in his arms without ever waking up..
Jack pulled his chair over to the bed. "Nightmares?" he guessed.
"I'm just tired," Mac countered, finally allowing himself to relax back against the pillows. He hated being stuck in this bed. Hated that his own body was working against him, but he didn't know how to break the cycle. Sleep brought nightmares, that woke him up filled with terror, which left him without an appetite continuing a downward spiral he was looped in to.
"Might help to talk about them," Jack prompted.
Mac sighed. "It won't."
Jack reached out, gripping Mac by the forearm, offering a solid anchor. "Keeping it bottled inside of you is making it worse. You're smart enough to know that. Besides which I can guess what you dream about. Bozer."
"I know that he's awake and getting better every day." MacGyver didn't have to add what they both knew, that Bozer was getting better while Mac kept getting worse. "But every time I close my eyes, I'm terrified that when I open them Bozer will still be in the coma...or dead."
"I think you need to talk to Bozer about what you're feeling," Jack stated. He knew if Mac didn't face his fears, he would never get past them. He knew this from experience.
Mac shook his head at the idea. "I can't lay that on him, Jack. I won't. It's my issue and I'm not dragging Bozer into it. He got hurt because of me, I've done enough damage."
Jack was starting to understand what was going on inside Mac's ginormous brain, the kid was drowning in guilt. Like Jack had said to Dr. Poretta, MacGyver was punishing himself. "We've talked about that, bud. Technically I made the big guy drop the grenade so that guilt is mine to claim. But you let me off the hook, and now it's time for you to do the same for yourself. You don't blame me and Bozer doesn't blame me, and he sure as hell doesn't blame you for any of this. Now it's time for you to stop blaming yourself."
Before Mac could respond, the nurse and an orderly returned with Bozer. They got him back to bed and settled in, then the orderly left with the wheel chair, while the nurse turned her attention to MacGyver.
She asked how he was feeling, checked his IV's and vitals, then told him she'd be back in a few minutes with soup and toast.
Mac didn't bother to tell her not to bring it, he knew she would anyway. Instead he plastered a smile on his face as he asked Bozer how he was doing. He was happy to hear that his friend was doing great and should be released on schedule, but it was hard not to burn with anger at the fact that his own progress was stunted. Mac knew he had to pull himself together and turn this around somehow.
So when Bozer dozed off a few minutes later, Mac asked Jack if he would get him a vanilla shake. A real one and not one of the chalky protein shakes the hospital tried to force down him.
"You think it's going to stay down?" Jack was thrilled that Mac was asking for food, but he couldn't pretend he wasn't worried whether or not the kid could tolerate it.
"I think I'm going to do my best to make it stay down," Mac countered, firmly. He was pleased by Jack's reaction, because he looked relieved instead of worried for once. Mac wasn't the least bit hungry, but he was all the more determined to make this work.
Jumping to his feet, Jack was halfway out the door. He would ask one of the nurses for the best place to get ice cream and go from there. "I won't be gone long," he promised. "Get some rest, bud. Just focus on the fact that Bozer is here and doing great and you can beat the nightmares."
Mac nodded. "I'll do my best."
"Your best is always more than enough," Jack replied, then he was gone.
The moment the coast was clear, Mac pulled out his IV and slipped off the bed. He had to lean against the bed until the dizziness he felt passed, but then he made his way to the small closet where he grabbed jeans and his sneakers. Exchanging the sweat pants he was wearing took longer than he would have liked, but he slipped the sneakers on deftly enough, then he shrugged into his leather jacket.
A heartbeat later Mac slipped out of the room.
Jack got directions to a diner that made great shakes, across the road from the hospital. So he was back in just under twenty minutes to find Dr. Poretta waiting for him. His felt his gut twist and the hairs on the back of his neck rise. "What's going on? What happened? Is Mac okay?"
"He's missing," Dr. Poretta replied. "The nurse brought him a tray but he was gone. We're searching the building but he's pretty sneaky. No one's seen him and I'm guessing he has a ten minute head start."
"More than enough," Jack muttered. "I'll look for him." He thrust the shake at Poretta. "But that in the freezer for me? The kid likes em that way." Jack was about to take off when he heard his name. Realizing that Bozer was calling him, Jack excused himself and headed into the room.
Bozer eyed him with concern. "I know you're anxious to go find Mac, and I want you to find him, but I think we need to talk first." He gestured to the chair by his bed.
Jack dropped into it. "What's this about?"
"I know that Mac isn't doing good." Bozer held up a hand to stop Jack's protest. "I have eyes, and he's my best friend, so despite everyone trying to be all Pollyanna and Susie Sunshine around me, I know what's happening. I've seen it before, when Mac's father left him. He couldn't sleep or eat and he collapsed and ended up in the hospital. It scared the crap out of me."
"How did he get past it?" Jack was curious about the whole story, but right now he focused on how they could use the past to fix the present.
Bozer shrugged. "I asked him, a few months later when he finally getting back to normal, or what's normal for Mac. But all he ever told me was that it was something his Grandfather said to him." Heaving a sigh, Bozer scrubbed a hand over the peach fuzz that covered his head. "I also asked him what pushed him to that point in the first place. I mean...I knew it was connected to his Father leaving. "
Jack leaned forward. "Did he ever give you an answer?"
"No. You know how private Mac is." Bozer gave a wobbly smile, his dark eyes filled with worry. "I know it's because of me, this time. I just don't know what to do to fix it."
"I think I might," Jack said softly, hoping that he was right. But he put on a bright smile for Bozer and patted him on the shoulder. "Rest and I'll be back soon with Mac." With that Jack jumped to his feet and dashed out of the room. First things first, he had to find the kid.
Mac figured that the best place for him to go when he snuck out was to the roof top, only to realize that he couldn't risk using the elevator and there was no way he would be able to climb all those stairs. Down was far easier than up so Mac headed out the back entrance and he was surprised to see that the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.
There was a park nearby so Mac headed in that direction, resting far more often than he wished was necessary, but he used his stubbornness to make his way there. There was a bench set back into a nest of trees and Mac sat down with relief, because his legs felt rubbery and he was pretty sure they weren't going to hold him up much longer.
In fact he wasn't sure how much time passed as he sat there, eyes closed, soaking up the sunshine, when he sensed a presence. Opening his eyes, Mac wasn't actually surprised to see Jack sitting next to him.
"You doing okay, bud?" Jack queried, his eyes roving over Mac from head to toe. He was both pleased, and a bit concerned, that the kid had made it all the way to the park. Pleased, because he hadn't expected MacGyver to be strong enough, and concerned because the kid looked done in.
"Been better," Mac mumbled, not having the energy to pretend otherwise.
Jack huffed a soft chuckle at that. "That's a fact," he allowed.
Mac sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face as he settled on the best way to deal with this situation. He decided being honest and blunt was the way to go. "I'm not going back to the hospital, Jack. Not as a patient," he amended, because he was definitely going back to see Bozer.
"What's happening with you...you can't will it away, Mac." Jack didn't sugar coat it, because they both needed to face facts in this moment.
"Watch me," Mac hissed, surging to his feet only to stumble as dizziness washed over him. He would have fallen if not for Jack's strong hands supporting him. Next thing he knew he was sitting on the bench again and Jack was hovering over him.
Torn between going for help or simply calling for an ambulance, Jack waited for Mac to come back to himself. He felt relief wash over him the moment blue eyes focused on him. "You okay, bud? Can I get you anything?"
Mac opened his mouth to reply, only he didn't know what to say. What he wanted was to feel normal again, but he didn't know how to do that. "Leave me alone, Jack," Mac whispered, pleading.
"You know that's not going to happen, kid." Jack moved to sit beside his friend. "I've got your back, brother, just like I always do."
Words that should have reassured Mac, were the very thing that shattered him. He fought against the tears that burned in his eyes as he confessed, brokenly, "I don't want to do this. I can't do this...not again."
Jack realized what was happening, that MacGyver had reached his breaking point and he was going to be there for him, picking up all the pieces and helping the kid put himself back together again. First he had to bring a little tough love in the form of a reality check and complete honesty between them. "You mean like when your Dad left?" At the look of surprise on Mac's face, Jack explained. "Bozer told me what happened. You know he's worried about you and so am I, but we're going to get you through this, bud."
"I don't want him to worry about me," Mac muttered. Bozer needed to worry about himself and focus on healing. Swiping at a stray tear, Mac whispered, "But I don't know how to fix this, Jack. Fix me."
"First off, you're not broken," Jack insisted. "You're might have a few cracks here and there, but nothing we can't deal with. You're just so overwhelmed right now it's like you're adrift in a choppy sea and there's nothing for you to grab on to. But you can grab onto me, Mac. Grab on to me and I'll help guide you back to yourself."
Mac couldn't hide his surprise at Jack words. "How very metaphorical of you," he said, with a spark of his old sarcasm. It was a flicker of normal and Mac wanted to latch on to it.
Hearing that touch of sarcasm gave Jack hope, so he kept his momentum going. "You start with what you can control, bud. Your body."
"If I could do that we wouldn't be here having this conversation!" Mac hissed, frustration coloring his tone.
"You can do it," Jack shot back. "It starts by owning the guilt you're feeling. Grab it in both hands, look it in the eye, deal with it...then let it go."
There it was, the crux of Mac's problem and he knew it. "Bozer and Riley almost died, Jack! They almost died!"
Jack nodded. "Don't I know it. I relive that nightmare every night." He knew Mac was doing the same, hence why the kid was unable to sleep which had looped into an endless cycle that was sucking him dry.
"But you're not weak or useless," Mac snarled, heaping more guilt and frustration down upon himself. "You can eat and sleep."
"Because of you," Jack shot back, seeing Mac's surprise. "When I was wallowing in guilt you reminded me that it wasn't my fault, that the big, bad ugly was to blame. So I let it go. That doesn't stop the nightmares, but it allows me to control them." Reaching out, Jack gripped Mac by the shoulder. "Subconsciously, you are punishing yourself because you feel like you failed your friends. You blame yourself for what happened, when nobody else does...least of all Bozer and Riley. You know they don't blame you for this, bud."
Mac nodded. He did know, but his heart - his body - wasn't listening to his head. "I know, but I can't help it."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Of course you can. Mac, you're the toughest, strongest, person I know. The most stubborn and determined as well. When you set your mind to do something, you just make it happen."
"Not this time." Mac continued to layer on the guilt and frustration, hauling along a fair portion of disgust.
"I have faith in you, brother." Jack could see the kid turning back onto the dark path and punishing himself, but like hell he was going to let that happen. "Besides which, Dr. P and I have a side bet and I'd hate to lose."
Mac frowned. "A side bet? Seriously, Jack?"
Jack shrugged, not the least bit repentant. "He thinks Bozer will be released before you are, but I told him to get his wallet out because he was going to owe me a steak dinner."
"You bet on me for food?" Mac could totally see the irony of it, which was probably Jack's intent.
"I like steak." Jack grinned, happy to see a half smile flitter across Mac's pale face. "So what do you say? Pick your goal, focus on it and make it happen. Let's do this."
Mac knew it was time to take control back and he was going to give it a shot, but first he had to thank Jack for being there for him. "Before we head back, I need to tell you something."
Jack heard the serious tone. "Okay. What is it?"
"What you said to me about letting go of my guilt and taking control of the things that I can..." Mac paused as a memory washed over him. He felt the prickle of tears and swiped at his eyes before taking a shaky breath and clearing his throat so that he could continue. "That's what my Grandfather said to me, when it happened...before."
"He sounds like a very wise man," Jack countered. "I wish I could have met him."
Mac wished that too. "He would have liked you."
Jack snorted. "Of course he would have liked me. What's not to like?" That got a chuckle out of Mac, which lifted some of the crushing weight of worry off of Jack's chest. He got up and reached out to help Mac to his feet, only to have his hand slapped away. Already making progress. "So, have you picked your goal yet?"
"I have." Mac knew he was going to be stuck in the hospital when they got back, but he did have a plan. "I'll be released in two days. So you win your bet with Dr. Poretta and I win mine with Bozer."
"Two days?" Jack countered, liking Mac's enthusiasm, but not sure how realistic it was.
Mac wasn't backing down. "Two days," he stated, firmly. "You know how I am when I set my mind to something." At the same time he knew changing things around wouldn't be easy. His body had turned against him, but that was because he had let it. Now he was ready to take control back and defeat his demons.
Jack wasn't going to rain on Mac's parade now. Besides which, if anyone could do it, the kid could and would. "Sounds good to me, I'm ready for steak." With that he moved to Mac's side as they made their way back to the hospital. He would catch him if he stumbled, and support him all the way.
Once they got back to the room, Mac assured Bozer he was fine and asked Jack to get him toast and soup while he took a quick shower. He was beyond exhausted by the time he was put back to bed and hooked up to an IV, but he made himself stay awake long enough to choke down a piece of toast and several swallows of soup. It wasn't easy, but it was the first step in achieving his goal. Bozer's happy chatter helped to distract him and followed Mac into his dreams. Dreams that, for once, didn't include any nightmares.
Bozer fell asleep soon after, leaving Jack and Dr. Poretta to chat.
"Mac intends to be released in two days," Jack informed the doctor.
"That's not a very realistic goal," Dr. Poretta replied.
Jack grinned. "That's what my boy does, he blows up expectations. He'll do it."
Dr. Poretta believed him. "He's made a good start."
"Get ready to pay for my steak dinner," Jack replied, before heading back into the room to keep watch over his friends. He called Riley and Matty to update them both, then he settled in to play games on his phone.
Two days later, Mac was officially released from the hospital. He knew he wasn't back to normal and Jack was going to be watching him like a hawk. In fact he was under doctor's orders to take vitamins, drink supplements and eat something every two hours. He was still limited to bland foods, hence the supplemental drinks with tons of calories, and it was still an effort to eat and keep it down, but Mac knew he was back on track.
Bozer was thrilled for Mac, all the more so when he learned Riley was back home now and that he would be released to go home in two days. And things continued to spiral in a good direction from there. Mac was able to stick to his regimen of eating and sleeping, although not without a few glitches here and there. Overall though, he made steady progress.
So that three days after Bozer came home, the gang met up at MacGyver's. Because Bozer was still recuperating, Jack ordered pizza and wings, while Matty brought beer and Riley's mom brought dessert.
They sat around the fire pit, happy to be together again. There will a few physical reminders of their ordeal. Riley's leg was still in a cast and Bozer hair hadn't grown back in yet. There was also the fact that MacGyver was still way too thin, but they were all moving forward and well on their way to being back to normal. Their normal.
Jack was happy to sit back, beer in hand, and watch the others. He smiled to see Riley teasing Bozer about his peach fuzz for hair, and see the happiness on Diane's face as she soaked up the fact that Riley was going to be okay. But most of Jack's attention was on Mac.
The kid had come a long way in a week. No surprise to Jack. Once Mac set his mind on something, he made it happen. Sure he was still too thin and he needed to spend the next two weeks of their break sleeping every possible minute that he could, but that was small potatoes at this point. It would happen.
Right now Jack was content. Mac had only managed to eat one slice of pizza, and a small slice at that, but he also ate a small piece of carrot cake so it was a win-win all the way around.
"It's good to be home, isn't it?" Mac stated, as if reading Jack's mind.
"That it is." Jack replied. "It was a long, hard road getting here this time." He wasn't going to deny the truth.
Mac knew what his friend was thinking. "But worth it."
Jack raised his beer and he and Mac clinked bottles They were all here and all safe. "Absolutely," he drawled. "But next time maybe we can take a shortcut?"
"Deal." Mac took a swig of his beer and considered getting another slice of pizza, only to discard the idea. Slow and steady was the perfect pace. He glanced around at his friends and was content to simply live in this moment for as long as he could.