When Jack entered the war room he was surprised to find everyone present and accounted for, except for MacGyver. Catching Riley's eye, Jack asked, "Where's Mac?"
It was Bozer who replied. "In his lab, working on something."
"He has a lab?" Jack didn't bother to hide his surprise.
"Of course he has a lab," Matty countered, rolling her eyes at Jack. "Given that you work with MacGyver I would have thought you'd know that, along with being a bomb expert and a secret agent, he's also an actual scientist who does scientific type things when not working out in the field."
Jack scowled at her. "Of course I know he's a scientist and that he does scientific type things, it's just...we don't usually have the kind of down time from the field work that would allow him to be in a lab doing scientific things." Which was the absolute truth. They were always on some mission, or recovering from said mission.
Before Matty could respond, Mac entered the room in a hurry. He froze when four sets of eyes came to rest upon him. "Uh...am I late?" He glanced at his watch, confused when it showed that he was actually three minutes early.
"You're not late," Matty assured him.
"How come you never told me you have your own lab?" Jack demanded, moving to confront his young friend.
MacGyver frowned at him. "I did tell you," he countered, unable to hide the hint of exasperation that crept into his voice. "When we moved operations here and we did the tour, I showed you where my lab is and you kept on walking."
Jack considered Mac's words and after a moment the memory kicked in. "Oh...yeah. I vaguely remember that moment. It's on the 6th floor, right?"
"Lower level, but thanks for playing," Mac drawled. "Why the sudden interest in my lab? I thought we got called in for a mission?"
"That you did," Matty interjected. "And if everyone would turn their attention to the vid screens, we'll get started."
With that she informed them that Jack and MacGyver would be leaving in twenty minutes to pick up an agent who was on the run from a hit man, contracted by the Russian Mafia. The CIA agent had info on the top level of the organization, hence why a hit man was gunning for him. So Jack and Mac headed off to Detroit, where they rescued the agent, only things didn't go quite as smoothly as they had planned.
Mac got shot and Jack was reeling with guilt, despite the fact that it was a shoulder hit, through and through and MacGyver had signed himself out of the hospital the next day and was now ensconced on the couch with his arm in a sling.
"Can I get you anything?" Jack asked, hovering.
"I think you've got all the bases covered," Mac replied, gesturing with his good arm to the coffee table covered with remotes, water bottles, pill bottles, food, books and paperclips. "I have a sore arm, Jack. My legs work just fine. All that ridiculous guilt you're feeling? Let it go, before I knock you out." Mac was only slightly kidding. He knew Jack meant well, but he didn't need a nursemaid.
Jack heaved a sigh and sat down on the couch, scrubbing a hand over his head. "I can't help it, bud. It's my fault you got shot."
MacGyver pinned him with a scowl. "How is it your fault? The hit man had a partner that neither of us knew about." Because assassins were notorious for working alone. "You can't be in two places at once, Jack, and it was MY decision to tackle Agent Burke out of the way of the bullet. I got myself shot. Time for you to move on and let it go. Please."
"Easier said than done," Jack confessed, but he realized that the kid was right. He had to get over this. He hadn't shot Mac and his friend was alive and well, despite the hole in his shoulder. He would let it go. "Make you a deal," Jack countered.
"What kind of deal?" Mac was wise enough to be wary of what Jack might be offering.
Jack chuckled, knowing exactly what the kid was thinking. "You let me hang out for the next two days, so I can have peace of mind by keeping an eye on you, and I promise not Mother Hen you." He would leave that up to Bozer.
Mac hoped he wouldn't regret it, but he nodded. "Deal."
"So what do you want to binge watch on Netflix?" Jack asked, snagging the remote.
"Walking Dead?" They were behind by about two seasons. Mac watched Jack bring it up but before they could start watching his phone rang. Grabbing it off the coffee table, MacGyver was surprised when he saw who was calling. "Mrs. Keller?" Mac answered. He was boggled by the fact that one of his best friends from his time in the Army as an EOD had his number. The only way she could have gotten it was from her son.
Leo Keller had gone through training with Pena at the same time that Mac had, and they had become fast friends. The other trainees hadn't like the fact that Mac was younger than them by at least four years, and that he had surpassed them effortlessly. Leo hadn't cared about that and had gone out of his way to befriend the eighteen year old.
Rising to his feet, albeit with a bit of pain and difficulty, Mac walked out onto the deck.
"Am I speaking with Angus MacGyver?" she countered.
"Yes, it's Mac," he replied. He had met her twice and she had openly adopted him on sight. She was a warm and vivacious woman and Leo had been her only child and the light of her life. "Is everything all right?" Mac prompted, ignoring the knot of dread that was twisting in his gut.
Mrs. Keller sniffled which turned into a sob, then someone else was on the line. "Mr. MacGyver, this is Martin Keller, Leo's Uncle. I'm sorry to say that Leo passed away last night. He died in the line of duty."
MacGyver had to clear his throat before he could speak. "I'm so sorry for your loss, sir. Leo was a good man."
"Yes he was," Martin Keller, quietly confirmed. "His funeral will be in three days and his Mother wanted me to ask if you would be one of the pall bearers."
"Absolutely, I'd be honored," Mac was quick to reply. "Just text me the details and I'll be there."
They chatted a moment longer then hung up.
Jack had given Mac his privacy, but when he saw his friend step back into the living room, he knew something was wrong. "What happened? Is it work?"
"No." Mac ran his fingers through his hair and paced a few steps, trying to bring his emotions under control. He and Leo didn't get to hang out all that much in the past few years, but they had texted regularly and just last year they had met up in Detroit for two days for Leo's bachelor party. He was supposed to get married this summer.
"You're scaring me, bud," Jack said, taking Mac by his good arm and making him sit down on the couch. The kid looked pale and shaky and Jack feared he was going to pass out. "What's going on?"
Mac heaved a shaky sigh, taking a second to pull himself together before filling Jack in. "That was the mom of a friend of mine from my EOD training days. Leo Keller. Long story short, he was kind of a big brother to me back then and we remained friends. He left the Army two years after I did to go back home to Detroit after his dad died. He became a state trooper and his mom was calling to let me know that Leo died in the line of duty. He passed away last night and his funeral is in three days. They want me to be a pall bearer."
Jack squeezed Mac's good shoulder. "I'm sorry for your loss, brother. Do you want me to go with you?"
"No, I'm good," Mac automatically replied.
"You know that was pretty much a rhetorical question," Jack countered. "You're not going alone. I'll call Matty and fill her in. You rest." Jack went out onto the deck so that he could give Mac a bit of privacy, but still be nearby. First he got shot and now a good friend had died. The kid was having one hell of a bad week.
A bad week that turned into a bad two weeks.
Leo's funeral had been tough for Mac in a myriad of ways. First, upon seeing MacGyver, Leo's mother had burst into tears and collapsed into his good arm. Then, despite one arm being in a sling, Mac had insisted on being a pall bearer and he'd done his duty only to feel the effects after the fact.
Matty had booked them a very nice hotel suite and Jack ordered Mac to take a shower, after which he was going to take a look at his shoulder. He hadn't given the kid a chance to argue and, when Mac stepped out of the bathroom dressed in sweat pants with a t-shirt clutched in one hand, Jack was waiting for him.
The next ten minutes wasn't pleasant, for either of them. MacGyver's shoulder was swollen and he'd torn a couple of stitches, so he was bleeding and in pain. Jack bandaged him up, made him get into bed and practically forced a pain pill down the kid's throat.
Despite the pill, Mac didn't sleep all that well and when they returned to Los Angeles he was still tired and hurting, but he never once complained. When Matty told him to the next week off, Mac didn't argue, he simply told her he would be in the next day to work in the lab.
Jack gave Mac his space, since he knew Bozer would be there to keep an eye on the kid. He wasn't happy when MacGyver showed up to work the next day, but he let it go since the kid didn't insist on going out on a mission. Instead, Mac disappeared into his lab until Bozer showed up to inform him it was time to go home.
The next day was a repeat of the first, only MacGyver showed up without his sling on. It took all of Jack's will power not to yell at him or, at the very least, gently scold him. However, when Mac disappeared into his lab again, Jack called a meeting with Bozer, Riley and Matty.
"I'm worried about Mac," Jack blurted out, once they were all in the conference room.
"You and me both," Bozer spoke up.
Matty sighed. "I think it's safe to say that we're all worried." She turned to Jack. "Does he get like this often?"
Jack knew exactly what she was asking. Mac was too quiet, too subdued. He wasn't pushing to get back into the field and he was hiding out in his lab. The last time he'd acted like this was when he'd gotten shot on the night they all believed Nikki had died. Only Jack remembered because Mac had put up a good front of being okay for Bozer's sake, since he hadn't yet learned the truth about what MacGyver and Jack really did for a living. As for Riley, she hadn't beome a part of the team yet.
"I've only seen something similar once before," Jack replied. "Mac turns inward when he's hurting, especially when he's hurting both physically and emotionally. He forgets to eat and finds it hard to sleep. He'll deny that anything is wrong, so don't even ask. We'll just have to be sneaky."
"I'm pretty sure we can handle sneaky, Jack," Matty replied. "Being secret agents and all." She gave Bozer a sideways glance. "Well, most of us."
Bozer thought about taking offense at her comment, but decided that since it was the truth he would let it go. "So we need a game plan," he announced. "First thing we need to deal with is the fact that Mac's not eating. I've got some experience with this and what I've learned is that you can't push him into eating. However if you're eating and you make food available to him, especially if it's more like snack type food, then he'll eat."
Jack nodded. "That does work, if you're subtle enough."
"We can make that happen," Matty allowed. "What about sleeping? It's pretty obvious he's not getting enough rest."
"That's going to take a lot more effort," Jack conceded. "We may have to resort to slipping him a mickey, so to speak."
Matty was okay with that, if it became necessary. She wanted MacGyver back in fighting form. "I think we should start Operation Take Care of MacGyver by letting Bozer test his theory in regards to getting Blondie to eat." She turned to the young man in question. "So, Bozer...what are you going to do to get some food into MacGyver?"
Bozer considered for a moment, then a smile split his face. "I think we should send Riley down with a bag of almonds. Mac loves almonds and the last person he would suspect of trying to make him eat would be Riley."
"I can do that," Riley stated. "Anybody have a bag of almonds handy?"
"I'll go get some," Jack replied. "Be right back."
So thirty minutes later, Riley strolled into MacGyver's lab, munching on almonds. "Hey, Mac," she offered in greeting.
He looked up from the circuit board he'd been working on and managed a tight smile. "Hey, Riley. Is something wrong?"
"No, other than the fact that I'm bored out of my skull," she countered, moving to stand across from him and setting down the bag of almonds so that they were in easy reach between them. "Bozer is in his lab making molds, and Jack is helping on some local mission, while I'm stuck here with nothing to do. So I figured I'm come bother you." It wasn't the first time she'd been in Mac's lab, but it never ceased to amaze her how ridiculously neat he was with all his stuff. There was lots and lots of stuff, big and small, filling every nook and cranny of the large room, but it still looked neat.
"Matty doesn't have anything for you to hack in to?" Mac was surprised, their boss usually had no problem keeping Riley busy.
Riley shrugged. "Apparently not. She's in some phone meeting at the moment, so she told me she'll text me when she needs me. Which leaves me...bored." Riley nudged the bag of Almonds. "Want some?" she asked, trying to be casual about it.
Mac had gone back to working on his circuit board, but he paused to look at the bag. After a moment of hesitation, Mac reached into the bag and took a small handful of the almonds, popping one into his mouth. "Thanks." Almonds were one of his favorite snacks and, even though he wasn't really hungry, he found them hard to resist.
"So what are you working on?" Riley asked, after softly exhaling the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. MacGyver was eating and that made her feel better. In the past few weeks it was obvious he'd lost weight that he could ill afford to lose. A few almonds wasn't much, but it was a start.
"A circuit board for a prototype laser - slash - stun gun," Mac replied. "Something an agent could use in various ways on a mission, but one that's small enough to keep hidden in case they get captured in the field."
Riley was impressed. "That sounds so cool!" she exclaimed. "How does it work?" Her interest was genuine and she spent the next half hour listening to Mac's explanation as they munched their way through half the bag of almonds. When Matty finally texted her, Riley felt pleased at having accomplished her mission of 'Get MacGyver to eat'.
The next step in taking care of Mac was a bit more difficult and it fell to Jack. When it was time to leave for the day, he made his way to the lab, strolling in and taking a moment to gaze about in surprise, before noticing that Mac was leaning against one of the tables and rubbing his shoulder. "Hey, bud...you all right?" Jack was by his side in an instant, unable to hide his concern.
"Yeah...I'm fine." Mac straightened and forced a smile. The ache in his shoulder had been getting steadily worse, but he'd made himself ignore it. However, at the moment the stabbing throb was impossible to ignore and Mac knew Jack could see that.
"Time to go home," Jack stated. "I'll give you a ride."
Mac sighed. "I don't need a ride, Jack, I drove here."
Jack began herding the kid towards the door. "I know, but you're in no shape to drive. You're tired and you're hurting, bud. If the tables were turned you wouldn't let me drive home in that condition, and you know it."
"Fine." There was no room for argument because Jack was right. So Mac let himself be guided out of his lab and into the elevator that spilled them out into the underground garage.
"Did you bring any pain pills with you?" Jack asked as he hit the highway. He knew the answer, but he felt compelled to ask anyway.
Mac resisted the urge to heave another sigh. "No, Jack. I don't need them."
Jack drummed his fingers against the steering wheel, debating the best way to respond to such nonsense. "You're still healing, Mac, which means you're still hurting. We both know, from experience, that suffering through pain just slows down the healing process."
"I'll take some Tylenol later. Okay, dad?" Mac drawled, hoping that his snarky response would get Jack off his back.
"Okay." Jack knew to agree then let it go, because getting the kid to take any kind of pain killer was the entire point of the exercise. He almost laughed out loud when Mac pinned him with an incredulous stare. "Take a picture, it lasts longer," Jack teased.
Mac scowled. "What did you do with Jack?" he countered. "You know, the guy who loves to Mother-hen me to death."
Jack shrugged. "I decided to go the *friend* route this time."
"Thanks." Mac meant it. The last thing he wanted, or needed, right now was people hovering and worrying about him. He was dealing with everything that had happened, and he preferred doing it on his own, in his own way.
"Sure thing, bro." Jack let silence fall between them for the rest of the drive and he was surprised when he pulled up in front of Mac's house and the kid invited him inside. "Movie marathon?" he guessed, figuring that Mac wasn't ready to try and get some sleep yet.
Mac pointed to the car in the driveway. "Bozer's already home so, why not?" Bozer was all about mother-henning Mac so he figured if Jack was with him he could draw some of the attention.
Jack knew what Mac was doing, but he played along. "Bruce Willis Marathon?" he asked, hopefully, as he turned off the engine and stepped out of the car.
"No Bruce Willis," Mac stated, as he led the way into the house.
Three hours later, Jack and Bozer high-fived before Jack headed out the door to go home. Mac had eaten one slice of pizza and several handfuls of popcorn before falling asleep during the first Lord of the Rings movie. Bozer had even convinced him to take a pain pill which should keep him out for at least six hours. Sure he was sleeping on the couch, but all that mattered was that he was sleeping.
Jack was feeling good as he slid into his car, cranking the country station and singing along as he hit the highway. Now they just had to keep the positive momentum going and Mac would be back on track.
The next day Mac woke up late because his alarm never went off and, surprisingly, his internal clock didn't wake him up either. Apparently Bozer over slept as well and they ended up riding in together, with Bozer making a pit stop for bagels and coffee, despite their being late.
"Matty likes bagels," Bozer said, by way of explanation. "I figure if I bring her favorite bagel and coffee, she won't yell at us."
"How do you know what her favorite bagel and coffee are?" Mac countered, grinning to himself as he watched Bozer squirm in embarrassment.
Bozer heaved a dramatic sigh. "I did research," he confessed. "I figured it wouldn't hurt to have some leverage for the times I ticked her off."
Mac almost laughed at that. "So you were planning on ticking her off?"
"Have you met me?" Bozer snorted, feeling pleased when Mac actually laughed out loud at him. He hadn't heard that sound in far too long. So he was feeling mighty pleased with himself when they entered the Phoenix building and Riley cornered them to say they were late for a meeting.
Said meeting went off smoothly as Matty looked surprised by her bagel and coffee, but accepted it with only a slight glower, given that she wasn't actually mad that they were late. Coming in late had actually been the plan, so Mac could get some sleep. So the team ate together, even as Matty conducted the meeting before sending Jack and Riley out on a local mission. Mac accepted their departure with surprising grace, given that they were only going to be monitoring a suspect. So Bozer and Mac went off to their labs, meeting up for a late lunch of Chinese food, which Riley and Jack brought back with them.
The week passed following much the same routine, sliding into the weekend, where Mac finally had enough of being an invalid and started running again. He was halfway back home when it hit him.
"I'm such an idiot!" he chided himself, easing into a walk as he relieved the past week and found himself shaking his head. In retrospect it was so obvious that Mac wanted to smack himself for not noticing before now. "Some secret agent you are," he muttered to himself, as he picked up his pace and returned home to shower.
Later that night, the team met up at Mac's for Bozer's famous pulled pork and a movie. They were finishing up dessert, strawberry shortcake, while sitting around the fire pit, when Mac decided to bring up the topic.
He finished off his beer then said, "So how long were you guys going to continue finding ways to get me to eat and sleep?"
"I'm sorry...what?" Jack countered, eyes going wide at Mac's question in pretended ignorance. Only to drop the fake surprise and shake his head when he realized the kid was on to him. "Took you longer than I thought it would to figure out, bud."
"Yeah...I'm kicking myself about that," Mac confessed. "You guys were pretty slick."
Jack shrugged. "You were hurting and we wanted to help, but we know how you get. So we had to tread the fine line between subtle and effective."
Mac couldn't deny what Jack was saying, so he let it go. "So...you even got Matty in on it?" He was thinking about how she hadn't argued about the bagels and Chinese for lunch, or how the other night when they'd all stayed late to work on a puzzle involving a case and Matty had called for Pizza.
It was Bozer who replied. "Well, it does take a Village to care for a MacGyver," he drawled, before ducking the empty water bottle Mac lobbed at him with, purposely, terrible aim.
"Thanks...for everything," Mac said, looking at each of them in turn. "I know I can be rather high maintenance at times."
"You're the exact opposite," Jack countered. "You're low maintenance to an extreme sometimes. You don't want to let people in to help you, you always want to do everything for yourself. Makes it hard to take care of you sometimes."
Mac got the message loud and clear, but he had something he needed to say. "I really appreciate you guys looking out for me, I do...but I can take care of myself."
Jack nodded. "I get that, but it doesn't mean you always have to. That's what friends are for."
"Friends and family," Bozer interjected. "Because that's what we are, Mac, the lot of us. We're family."
"I know." Mac eased up out of his chair and went to Bozer to give him a hug. He did the same with Riley, ending up getting bear-hugged by Jack. He had to blink back tears as he smiled at the three most important people in his life, filing away a reminder to call Matty and thank her as well. "Thanks," he said softly, because there really wasn't anything else he could say to explain to them how important they were to him.
Jack ruffled Mac's hair, snorting with laughter when his hand was smacked away. "No thanks necessary, pal. It's what we do, we have each other's back."
Mac nodded. "That we do." He brushed at his eyes with the back of one hand, then offered a smile. "So who's up for a Die Hard marathon?"
There was a chorus of "Count me in!" and Mac smiled as he headed into the living room to make popcorn.
Life was good.