Author's Note:Thank you for choosing to read my story. It is long and going to get longer, but never fear! It takes a while for the story to gain traction so my advice to you, if you get bored with a chapter, are in a time crunch, etc. would be to read Chapters 1-4 or 5 as this introduces new recurring characters and basically sets the stage for Mac's new adventures. A good place to pick back up is Chapter 16. This is where guest stars start popping in, adventures/intrigue begin, etc. Happy Reading!
The End of the Beginning
The mid-November wind-driven rain battered the walls of the telephone booth.
"We're gonna spend another day here to check out Alcatraz and then head home!" MacGyver all but yelled into the telephone in order to be heard above the storm. "We'll see you when we get back!"
"But Mac!" Pete yelled back as well, aware of the noise in the background, "a lot has changed since…"
MacGyver cut him off. "I know, Pete, and I'm sorry I haven't kept in touch. We'll catch up when Sam and I get to your place!"
"But Mac…" Pete tried again.
"See you soon!"
And the line went dead.
MacGyver sprinted back to the pick-up, hoping to get inside before he got drenched. Too late. His shaggy hair was soaked, plastered to his head, and his clothes hadn't fared much better. Home. When was the last time he had thought of anyplace as 'home'? He glanced at Sam. His son was bone dry and dozing in the passenger seat of the rusted old pick-up they had been forced to buy several hundred miles back, their battered and broken motorcycles secured in its bed.
As the rain continued to pour down, MacGyver sat pensively in the driver's seat. It had been two and a half years since he and his photojournalist son had discovered each other and set out on a journey along the West Coast to do some father-son bonding. It seemed so long ago, now. With the new knowledge that he had a son, albeit a grown one, Mac's priorities had changed in an instant. Without hesitation, he had handed over his letter of resignation from the Phoenix Foundation to his long-time friend and boss, Pete Thornton. He gave his landlord a couple extra month's rent to make up for the lack of notice, trusted that his neighbor and self-appointed caretaker, Mama Lorraine, would put his belongings in storage, and packed only a few necessities on the back of his Harley before heading out with Sam on their motorcycles to explore the country and their new-found relationship.
Everything had started out great. No assignments, no deadlines, no ticking bombs, just two guys and the open road. Exploring big cities and tiny towns not even worthy of a dot on a map, the two crashed in seedy motels or camped and foraged in the wilderness, sharing stories of their past well into the night. The corners of Mac's lips started to curve upwards. Of course, they had also had their share of adventures along the way. Seems the two had a knack for encountering people in need or getting themselves involved in situations that might have been better off left alone. But righting wrongs was something Mac did…would always do, and apparently Sam had inherited that trait.
Sam. The young man and his camera had been inseparable. He could shoot several rolls of film in a day…perhaps more when his dad wasn't watching! At the first opportunity, he would get them developed and stow them safely in his satchel until he had the opportunity to sell some to a local newspaper or magazine. Not that he needed the money or recognition. He simply enjoyed the feeling of creating something to share with others. Mac began to think that, given Sam's natural curiosity, ingenuity, and interest in helping others, he had the makings of a great investigative reporter. Perhaps when they returned to L.A. Sam would consider starting a career in this field.
Upon reaching the Canadian border, an unspoken agreement had the duo turning their bikes south and heading back down the coast. As weeks had turned into months and then eventually years, father and son had both become a bit saddle-weary. The easy comradery and eagerness to learn about each other had slowly dissolved into periods of tense silence and even boredom. The seedy motels became seedier, and the campouts became more work than fun. It was time to go home.
MacGyver sighed as the rain continued to beat relentlessly on the roof of the truck. There was that word again: Home. After over 30 months of living a true nomadic lifestyle, Mac found himself yearning to put down roots for the first time since he was a kid. A plan began to form in his mind. He and Sam would crash at Pete's until Mac could buy them a place…a house…a real home. No more apartments, lofts or houseboats. He had family now and his son deserved stability, permanency. Maybe he did, too. Pete would surely tease him about sounding like an old man. But let's face it, he wasn't getting any younger. This trip had seen him reach the wrong side of forty. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it did get him thinking more about the future. Settling down with Sam, surrounding himself with friends, and maybe even finding a woman to share his life with didn't spook him the way it would have a few years ago. On the contrary, it gave him something to look forward to.
Feeling as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, a weight he didn't even know had been there, Mac grinned broadly as he fired up the truck and headed into town for one last night in a motel bed.
The incessant high-pitched whine slowly penetrated MacGyver's sleep-fogged mind. The pounding in his temple beat in double-time as he reluctantly pealed one eyelid open and then the other. "What the….?" It took him a few moments to remember where he was.
"About time you woke up, Sleeping Beauty!" Sam laughed from behind the kitchen counter where he was whipping up a green concoction in the blender. "Wouldn't want you to miss breakfast," he continued, as he nodded toward the glass container.
Mac grunted and closed his eyes again. He was back in his old apartment, lying on the well-worn couch which, for so many years, had been comfortable and welcoming but now felt harder and lumpier by the day. Mac had insisted his son use the bed. "Fool," he grumbled, as he once again began to pry his eyelids open.
Suffice it to say, things had not gone as planned upon returning to L.A. When Mac and Sam appeared on Pete's doorstep a few weeks ago, it was only to find that Pete and his ex-wife, Connie, had gotten back together and were trying to work things out…finally. During their marriage, she had always complained that Pete was married to his job more than to her. With his friend now completely blind, Mac was glad there was someone in his life to help him adjust to the changes that had been so cruelly forced upon him. Due to a fortunate twist in fate, Mac's old place had been recently vacated and Pete had enlisted Mama Lorraine to retrieve MacGyver's belongings from the downtown storage unit and return his friend's apartment to its former glory, if one could call it that. Mama Lorraine was also quick to see that the refrigerator was filled, a point not wasted on her two returning neighbors.
"What's that?" Mac nodded toward the blender as he pushed himself off the sofa.
"It's a special recipe Mama Lorraine gave me. I told her you had been having headaches and she assured me this would cure just about anything."
MacGyver pinned his son with his gaze. "I have not been 'having headaches'," he said in as surly a voice as he could manage. "The only 'headache' I have around here is you!"
Sam cocked an eyebrow and smirked, "You mean to tell me that a guy who gets knocked out as often as you doesn't get headaches?"
MacGyver was now sitting at the breakfast bar, ready to change the subject.
"So, to what do I owe the honor?" he asked as Sam eagerly poured them each a glass of the green drink.
"What?" Sam asked, feigning insult. "Can't a guy make breakfast for his favorite dad?"
Mac studied his son. The son he had hardly seen since returning to L.A. Their first couple days back they had spent together getting their rides back in working condition. The pick-up had heaved its last breath upon their arrival in Pete's driveway and Mac's Harley was DOA with no hope of an impending resurrection. He had donated Harry's vintage truck to the Challengers Club to be used in a money-raising raffle and his good friend and pain-in-the butt, Jack Dalton, had been awarded custody of Mac's beloved Jeep which he was sure Jack had managed to destroy in short order. He knew Jack would never do such a thing on purpose, but bad things tended to happen when Jack was involved. So that left the Nomad, which MacGyver had put up on blocks before heading out to parts unknown. There were some things a guy just couldn't part with. It didn't take long before the old wagon was up and running and Sam's motorcycle, which had fared much better than his father's, was repaired.
Then Sam had changed. MacGyver couldn't turn around without finding his son's eyes glued to TV news programs or his nose buried in the newspaper or a history book. He started going out for hours on end, sometimes not even coming home to sleep. Mac became worried, his paternal instincts kicking in with a vengeance. More than once he had confronted Sam about his clandestine activities, but his son wouldn't talk to him. The relationship they had built these past three years was crumbling around them and MacGyver had no idea how to fix it. Duct tape and a paperclip couldn't repair this. And then suddenly today, Sam was smiling, energetic, fixing breakfast for his dad and concerned about his headaches. Instead of feeling relief, Mac felt a solid ball of dread begin to form in his stomach. He had learned long ago to trust his gut, and his gut was telling him that something was up. Something he wasn't going to like.
"C'mon Sam, what's up?" Mac was now wide awake and his voice was strong, demanding.
"What makes you think something's up, Dad?"
"Gee, let me see…" Mac's voice dripped with sarcasm. "First we were all buddy-buddy, then for the last few weeks you spend as much time away from home as possible, and when you are home you hardly speak to me, and now you're fixing me breakfast and trying to cure a headache I DO NOT HAVE!" Ouch! That little outburst sent his pounding temple into overdrive causing Mac to think that maybe he should drink the green stuff just in case it worked. Mama Lorraine's natural cures had worked in the past. What could it hurt?
"You really wanna know what's goin' on?" Sam rounded on his father. "I've been doing research for my new job!"
"Job?! You got a job?!"
"Don't sound so shocked, Dad. I've been taking care of myself for a good long time!"
It suddenly felt as if all the air had been sucked out of the room. Mac and Sam rarely talked about the years they hadn't known about each other, but when they did, it always hurt. It was a different hurt for each of them, but a hurt nonetheless.
Macgyver took a deep breath and let his heart rate settle back to normal. "So, what kind of job did you get?"
"I got hired on by a newspaper as a photojournalist." Sam replied proudly.
"That's great!" MacGyver exclaimed, excited for his son. "You're following in your mother's footsteps. She'd be proud of you, ya know?"
Sam sighed and didn't meet Mac's eyes. "There's more, Dad," his voice little more than a choked whisper.
Mac hadn't been a father for long, but he was pretty sure those were words he didn't want to hear.
"Go on," Mac prompted.
Sam forced himself to stand tall and look his father square in the eye. "I'm going to be a photojournalist embedded with U.S. Troops in Saudi Arabia," he said evenly, just as he had rehearsed it a dozen times.
"Dammit Sam!" MacGyver yelled as he slammed the palms of his hands against the kitchen counter, "Are you out of your mind?! There's a war going on over there!"
"Technically the war is over," Sam shot back. "It's now a peace-keeping mission."
"There will always be unrest there, Sam. Why do you think the troops are staying?! And you're putting yourself right in the middle of it! Why?"
"There are stories that need to be told, Dad. Stories that didn't end when the fighting stopped."
MacGyver jammed his long fingers through his hair, fear, frustration, and pride all vying for a place in his heart.
"I know that, Sam, but you don't have to be the one to tell them." MacGyver willed his voice to sound calm, normal. "I just found you, I don't want to lose you again."
Understanding and compassion shown in Sam's eyes. "You're not going to lose me, Dad."
"You can't know that!"
"Look, I know what you're thinking, but when you were my age you were diffusing bombs and disposing of land mines in Vietnam."
Darn kid had a point. Sam was, for all intents and purposes, a grown man. A man on a mission. A man like Mac had been….still was.
"So, when do you leave?" Mac asked calmly.
Sam's eyes found the floor. "Tomorrow afternoon," he stated softly.
"Tomorrow!" MacGyver all but bellowed. "And when, exactly, were you planning on telling me this!?"
Sam remained silent. He could provide no good answer to that question. He had been wanting to tell his dad all week, but the time never seemed right. He had hoped to ease into his announcement over breakfast this morning. Bad plan.
MacGyver had made his way to the living room window and was now leaning his forehead against the cool glass. Physically, mentally, and emotionally depleted, he allowed the silence to hang in the air rather than say something he might regret later.
MacGyver slumped against the back of his sofa, his head tilted and resting on the cushion, his stocking feet propped on the coffee table. It had been over a week since Sam had left. Over a week since Mac had pulled all the window shades, blocking out the bright December sun. Upon hearing about Sam's sudden departure, Pete had called constantly, leaving message after message pleading with MacGyver to call him back. Annoyed by the constant pestering, Mac had given in and answered the phone, grunting "I'm fine, Pete," before ripping the cord from the wall. Periodically, he would hear Mama Lorraine tap her distinctive cadence on his front door. When he was sure she had left, he would amble over, open the door and pick up the brown grocery bag she always left. His kitchen counter was overflowing with various fruits and vegetables while his fridge was about to explode from the stacks of yogurt, tofu, and Tupperware containers filled with Mama's "special" recipes, very few of which MacGyver could recognize and even fewer that he actually felt like eating.
The day Sam left, Mac's first instinct had been to pack up his camping gear and head for the forest to take refuge in the glorious solitude of nature. That was his usual MO when he felt like brooding. This time, however, the idea just made him tired…and sad. A reminder of all those nights spent under the stars sharing stories with his son. So he decided to stay put, literally.
Over the last couple of days, MacGyver's thoughts had slowly shifted from Sam to himself and what the future now held for him. The warm, cozy images of hearth and home he had briefly harbored had left with Sam despite his son's not-so-subtle hint that he wouldn't mind having a new step-mom when he returned from his assignment. The corners of MacGyver's mouth spontaneously curved upwards as he remembered their departing conversation. "Yeah, good luck with that one, kid," he had grunted.
With a sigh, Mac heaved himself off the couch. Even though his mind wanted nothing but to shut out the pain of yet another loss, his body began to protest the lack of movement it used to crave. He lazily padded through the kitchen, opened the refrigerator door, surveyed its contents and let door swing closed. He glanced at the array of fresh fruit on the counter, much of it beginning to spoil which sent a pang of guilt through MacGyver's already wounded heart. His gaze landed on three black plums, looking ripe and juicy. He heard himself chuckle as he recalled the time Mama Lorraine had tossed him one of those plums, assuring him the inside was "as red as your sweetheart's lips." He picked up the fruit and took a healthy bite, checking out the flesh as its juices dribbled down his chin. "She wasn't lyin'" he mumbled to himself as he went for another bite. One last taste and the fruit had been consumed, its pit tossed in the trash. MacGyver continued to amble through his apartment looking at this and touching that when his hand happened upon his trusty Swiss Army Knife laying on his desk. Mac ran his long, capable fingers along the tool, gently caressing it before grasping it tightly in his fist. He closed his eyes and was bombarded by unbidden images….jungles, deserts, mountains, avalanches, camels….camels? His eyes popped open and he saw his surroundings, and his life, in a clear new light. He knew what he had to do.
MacGyver took a quick and much-needed shower before slipping into fresh clothes. Soon he was standing in front of Pete's house, urgently ringing the doorbell, an energy coursing through him he hadn't felt since he and Sam had left L.A. He could hear Pete grumbling on the other side of the door, "Hold your horses, I'm coming…"
Pete opened the door and was greeted with a familiar voice, "Hiya, Pete!" MacGyver! In an instant, the two friends were in a strong embrace, slapping each other on the back as guys do because it makes hugging another man look okay.
Pete stepped back. "How've you been, Mac?" he asked gently, concern evident in his unseeing eyes.
"I'm okay, Pete," Mac replied confidently. "I wasn't for a while, but I am now." Mac smiled. For the first time, he noticed Pete was still in his bathrobe.
"It's past noon. Shouldn't you be dressed?"
"What? Uh?" Pete stammered as Connie appeared behind him adjusting the satin belt of her dressing gown.
Mac felt his cheeks grow warm. "Um, maybe I should come back….?"
"Nonsense!" Connie quickly replied as she reached out and put a hand on MacGyver's should. "Pete's been worried sick about you! Now you come inside and make yourself comfortable while I put on a pot of coffee."
MacGyver took a breath, but before he could say anything Pete whispered, "She doesn't know. It's what she does when we have guests. You don't have to drink it."
Mac grinned and allowed himself to be led inside. He was soon ensconced in a supple, over-stuffed leather chair. Pete sat in a matching one across from him. A coffee pot and ceramic mugs sat untouched on the table between them.
"Gosh, Mac, I can't tell you how relieved I am that you're here and okay. I kept calling and calling….I tried to get over to your place, but Connie refused to take me, insisting you needed some space."
"It's alright, Pete. And Connie was right. I needed some time to work things out in my head."
"Probably not an easy feat given that complicated brain of yours," Pete teased and both men laughed.
"So, now that you've had some time to think things through, what's the next move?" the older man asked.
"What makes you think there is a 'next move'? MacGyver asked.
"You wouldn't have come out in the sunlight if there wasn't."
"Well, Pete," Mac began, leaning forward in his chair, elbows resting on his knees, "I wanna come back. I wanna come back to the Phoenix Foundation."