Joanna sat curled up in the corner of MacGyver's couch sipping a mug of hot chocolate while Frog lay spread out on the cushion next to her drooling in his peaceful doggie slumber. Mac hummed along to Christmas carols playing softly on the radio as he put the finishing touches on the glimmering pine tree that now decorated the far corner of his living room. Jo smiled into her cup as she thought about the several sprigs of mistletoe the man had rigged up to pop out of cabinets and fall from light fixtures when she least expected it. At this rate, she was going to need to ask Santa for a stocking full of lip balm.
"What are you grinning about?" Mac asked, crouching in front of her as he ran his large hands down her jean-clad legs.
"I was just thinking how nice it is to see you finally enjoying the holidays," she responded, reaching out to take one of his hands in hers.
"Well, I have you to thank for that," he said as he leaned in and quickly kissed her chocolate flavored lips.
"You finally made me see that, even though I can't change the past and will always grieve for my family, I'm not only hurting myself but those I care about by trying to avoid the holidays."
"I did all that?" Jo asked skeptically.
"What can I say? You're a very powerful woman, Joanna Fairfax."
Joanna's heartbeat kicked up a notch as she watched MacGyver's brown eyes darken and settle on her lips, his lips sure to follow. To her dismay, the moment was broken when Frog sneezed himself awake, dismounted the couch and made a beeline for the newly bedecked Christmas tree where he promptly raised his hind leg.
"Aw, man!" MacGyver groaned as he got up and followed the determined bull dog. "Frog, we talked about this. You still have to go outside!"
Jo giggled as Mac stood by helplessly watching his dog water the evergreen before she went to the kitchen for some rags to clean up the floor. They were both on their hands and knees underneath the lowest bows of the tree when Joanna decided to broach the subject that had been troubling her for the past several days.
"So," she began, leaning back on her heels. "Are you sure you don't want to exchange gifts?"
Mac sat back as well. "What could I possible want when I have everything I need right here in front of me?"
He let out a laugh when Joanna crinkled her nose. "Pretty sappy, hey?"
She bobbed her head in agreement.
"Want me to take it back?" he teased.
"Not on your life," she retorted, leaning in and initiating a kiss that could start his tree on fire. There was no way she could possibly know that all his Christmas wishes were tucked away in a package he had hidden upstairs.
MacGyver slipped into sweet oblivion. Until meeting Joanna, he had never realized how powerful, all-consuming, and completely satisfying a kiss could be. He felt as if they were touching each other's souls when Joanna broke contact way too soon. He swallowed a protesting groan and refocused his lips on the soft, sweet skin behind her ear. Pressure on his chest made him pause and he glanced down to find her hand pushing him away. Respecting her need for boundaries he relented, immediately missing the warmth of her touch.
"There's something else I need to ask you," she said, almost shyly.
Why did this woman have to talk so much?!
"What is it?" Mac tried to keep the disappointment from his voice.
"Well, I…I mean, my mom was wondering if…if you'd like to come to Midnight Mass with us on Christmas Eve?" she stammered.
MacGyver opened his mouth to reply, only to find Joanna talking again.
"I know it's not your thing so don't feel—"
"Hey, how do you know it's 'not my thing'?" he asked, reaching out to snag her hand, teasing her fingers with his.
"You never really talk about it…"
"Just because I don't talk about it doesn't mean I don't believe," he said softly. "Besides, one of my friends from Mission City grew up to be a priest and several years ago I almost proposed to a nun."
Joanna's eyes grew wide and she stared at him as if he had sprouted two heads causing Mac to realize how his words must have sounded.
"She wasn't a nun at the time," he hurried to explain. "But I still had some pretty stiff competition."
Jo's gaze dropped to the floor and Mac knew that meant she was at a loss for words.
"What I'm trying to say," he continued, "Is that I would love to go to church with you."
Joanna looked up and smiled as he reached for her and took her into his arms for a long, warm embrace.
A week later found MacGyver sitting in a church pew next to Joanna. Mass would begin in thirty minutes, but the choir was already serenading the growing congregation with traditional Christmas hymns. The main lights had been muted to allow parishioners to enjoy the tastefully decorated sanctuary. Mac studied the large pine trees draped in twinkling white lights flanking either side of the center altar before turning his attention to a large nativity scene bathed in soft blue light. He couldn't remember a time when his soul had felt this peaceful or his heart this hopeful and he had the beautiful woman next to him to thank for that.
His musings were interrupted when a small family quietly eased into the pew next to him. He slid over to make room for them and motioned for Joanna to do the same. Their quarters having grown much tighter, he couldn't keep his leg from brushing hers causing a jolt of electricity to shoot straight through him. With a side-long glance at her, he noticed a slight blush to her cheeks and the fact that she could have moved over further toward her parents but had apparently chosen not too, obviously relishing the physical closeness they shared.
Soon the ceiling lights turned bright and the sound of the organ swelled, signaling the beginning of the Mass and sequence of centuries-old prayers and recitations. MacGyver took it all in with rapt attention. There was something magical about a Christmas Mass. After the biblical story of Jesus's birth had been read, Pastor Mike descended the stairs from the altar to stand amongst his flock. Mac listened intently to the priest as he spoke enthusiastically about this special night in a dynamic yet timely fashion. All too soon the service concluded and worshippers bundled up and headed toward the doors to continue their holiday festivities. MacGyver escorted Joanna through the crowd, his hand steadfastly placed on the small of her back, a gesture which rose the brow of more than one elderly lady in the crowd and, if Joanna's smiling response to their whispers was any indication, they thoroughly approved.
The following day MacGyver arrived at the Fairfax house shortly after noon. Joanna and her mother were already busily preparing the Christmas Day meal so, after being shooed out of the kitchen, Mac headed to the living room and settled himself in a recliner to watch a basketball game with her dad. MacGyver felt more at home than usual and a ball of dread formed in the pit of his stomach whenever he thought about returning to his cold, empty apartment. Before he knew it, the turkey dinner with all the trimmings Judy Fairfax had so painstakingly prepared was devoured and Joanna's mouth-watering dessert was nothing but a memory. The dishes had long been cleared from the table, yet the two couples remained at the table, engaged in easy conversation until Mac glanced at his watch and caught Judy Fairfax's eye.
"Mac, why don't you and Jo go relax in the living room while her dad and I do the dishes?"
"Now wait a minute…" Joe Fairfax began to protest until his wife shot him a pointed look that quelled his objection.
MacGyver held his breath and watched as Joanna curiously regarded first her mother and then her father before acquiescing and leading him out of the room.
"Not sure how we got out of KP duty tonight," she mumbled before stopping short when she saw the medium-sized box wrapped in red paper and topped with a gold bow sitting in the center of the coffee table.
"I thought we agreed not to exchange gifts?" she spouted, turning to face MacGyver.
"You should know by now that I've never been very good at following rules," Mac replied, summoning up his brightest smile just for her. The sternness in her face disappeared immediately and she turned her attention back to the box.
"Go ahead, open it," MacGyver encouraged. He prayed silently that this would not be the one time she told him 'no' because the next few minutes could change the course of their lives forever.
He watched breathlessly as she seated herself on the couch, reached for the gift, lifted the top of the box and pulled out a Milwaukee Admirals hockey jersey. The smile that lit up her face was quickly replaced with a frown when she turned the jersey around and found an empty name placard. Her disappointment caused Mac's heart to drop to his stomach, but he hoped what he had to say next would cause her smile to return.
"There's a reason I didn't have a name put on it," he began as she looked at him with a questioning gaze.
"I wasn't sure which—" at that moment his cell phone buzzed in his pocket. He dropped his chin to his chest in disgust. Not now! Choosing to ignore the rude interruption, he tried again. "I need to ask you which name—" The phone rang again. MacGyver ran his fingers through his hair. This caller would not give up!
"Maybe you should take that," Joanna sighed. "It could be something important."
"But it's Christmas!" Mac retorted.
Right. Someone would only call on a holiday if it was important.
"Hello!" MacGyver snapped into the phone, wincing at his rudeness.
"MacGyver? This is Francine Leyland. I mean Dalton. Jack's mom."
"Oh, uh. Hi Francine." A jumble of confused thoughts assaulted Mac's brain as he tried to figure out why Jack's mom would be calling him. And on Christmas.
"I'm sorry for interrupting your holiday," she replied in a shaky voice. "I found your number in Jack's coat pocket and figured you would want to know."
"Know what?" Mac's heart was beating fast. Joanna now stood at his elbow, concern marring her features.
"Jack was in an accident. His plane crashed," Francine sobbed.
MacGyver didn't want to ask but needed to know. "Is he…?"
"He's in the hospital, but it looks bad, Mac," she hiccupped.
"Just sit tight. I'll be there as soon as I can," he promised before clicking off the call.
"Who was that?" Jo asked hesitatingly.
"That was Jack's mom," he answered her, his voice raw with fear. "He's been in a plane crash."
He was vaguely aware of Jo's arms wrapping around his waist as he quickly placed a call to the first airline he could think of.
"I need to be on the next flight to LAX," he told the operator, foregoing any pleasantries.
"I'm sorry, sir," came a saccharine sweet voice, "But it's Christmas night. All our flights are either booked or grounded in anticipation of the approaching snowstorm. I could wait-list you, but you probably won't get a flight out until tomorrow evening at the earliest."
Mac clicked off the call without even saying good-bye. He had been wait-listed when Harry had his heart attack and died alone because he couldn't get a flight. It wasn't going to happen again. He pulled away from Joanna and grabbed his jacket.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
"I have to get to Jack!"
"But how? Surely you don't plan on driving!"
"Look, I could be halfway there by the time I could get on a plane."
"Mac, there's a storm coming. Would you stop for a minute and be reasonable?"
"If it was you in that hospital bed I'd be doing the same thing," he said through clenched teeth, his urgency mounting. "I have to get to him. Now!"
"Then let me come with you."
"There's nothing you can do."
"I could at least help you drive. Be there for you…"
"No! This is something I have to do."
MacGyver was halfway to his Jeep before he turned to find Joanna standing in the doorway, her doe eyes full of love and concern.
"Will you look after Frog while I'm gone?" he asked.
"You know I will," she replied. "But call me, Mac. I need to know you're safe."
With a wave of his hand, MacGyver jumped into his Jeep, turned the ignition, and drove off into the night.
A/N: This is the final chapter of Continuum. Don't you just love cliffhangers? If you've enjoyed reading about MacGyver and Joanna, please watch for the sequel: The Journey Continues which picks up where this chapter leaves off. Also, keep your eyes open for a couple MacGyver one-shots! Thanks for reading and as always feel free to leave comments...I LOVE them!