Jack was worried about Mac.

Three days had passed since Zoe had sacrificed herself to save the others on the damaged ship, and MacGyver had been going through the motions of being okay, but Jack knew better. He knew what tell tale signs to look for, such as Mac fake- eating to make everyone thing he was. Not sleeping, however, was something Mac couldn't cover up, hard as he might try. The kid was thinner, exhausted and stretched thin to beyond his breaking point. There was no doubt in Jack's mind but that the kid had made a real connection with Zoe, and now MacGyver was blaming himself for her death.

A part of Jack wanted to grab Mac and shake some sense into him, but he knew that it wasn't that easy. Guilt was an all too familiar companion to Jack, so he knew he had to tread carefully if he didn't want to make things worse. At the same time he knew that he had to honest with the kid because MacGyver wouldn't accept anything less than the truth and hard, cold, facts.

Using the spare key that Mac had gifted him with many years ago, Jack let himself into the house. He called out his presence as he headed into the kitchen, setting a take-out bag down on the counter before going in search of his young friend. "Mac? Where you at?" Jack peeked into the bedroom and smiled to himself at the messy desk, but the smile faded at the sight of the bed that no doubt hadn't been slept in for days.

Moving on, Jack headed out onto the deck, pleased to see his young partner sitting at the fire pit. "I brought your favorite turkey sandwich from the deli on 5th," Jack announced, as he dropped down next to MacGyver. "You hungry?"

"No," Mac whispered, eyes locked on the flickering flames in front of him.

"You need to eat," Jack said, gently. He noticed the pint of Rocky Road ice cream sitting next to Mac, mostly melted. It didn't look like the kid had taken a single bite.

Rising to his feet, Mac grabbed the pint of melted ice cream and headed inside where he dumped it in the sink.

Jack was hot on his heels. "You feel like talking?"

"No." Mac grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge and took a few sips before heading for his bedroom, in search of absolute solitude. Only to find his way blocked by a very determined Jack. "What do you want from me?" Mac demanded.

"For you to be okay," Jack replied, without hesitation. "But that's not going to happen unless you talk about what happened to Zoe."

Mac pushed past Jack, meaning to leave the house if that's what it took to avoid this particular confrontation. But, instead, he found himself hooked by the arm and manhandled over to the couch in the living room.

Jack dropped down onto the coffee table in front of Mac, blocking his escape. "What happened to Zoe wasn't your fault, bud...you know that."

"I don't know that!" Mac spat back. "It was up to me to save her, Jack! ME! And I failed her!"

"In a perfect world you can save everyone, Mac," Jack shot back. "But the world we live in is far from perfect, and Zoe made the same choice that you would have made in her place. Don't even try to deny it." Jack was done pussy footing around the subject matter. He'd allowed the kid to stew in his grief and guilt for the past week and it was time to put an end to it. Whether Mac liked it or not.

Mac wasn't going to deny it. "It's part of my job to make those kinds of decisions, Jack. Zoe didn't sign up for that. And it was my job to bring her home. We were going to go out for ice cream when she got back." He broke off and buried his face in both hands, fighting hard against the sting of tears.

Jack felt a bit gobsmacked by that little tidbit of information, but he didn't let it deter him from what needed to be done. "Listen to me, bud. We make choices every day that put our lives at risk, and we make those choices to protect others...to save their lives. That's what Zoe did and you beating yourself up with guilt is disrespecting her choice, so knock it off, will ya? I respect the hell out of what she did and you need to get on board and do the same."

"Jack ass," Mac mumbled between his fingers, before dropping his hands and locking eyes with his friend. "Not quite what I was expecting you to say, but effective," he allowed.

"I spoke the truth, plain and simple." Jack smiled, feeling himself relax as he took note of the tiny changes in Mac. The way the kid's shoulders were relaxing and how some of the sadness in his eyes was fading. He was taking that step to turning the corner on his guilt and striding towards acceptance. Now he would be able to shake it off and move on. Reaching out, Jack clapped Mac on the shoulder, nearly knocking him off the couch. "How about you eat the burger I brought you so that you don't get any scrawnier than you already are, then we'll watch a movie, then we'll call the others and go have some ice cream in honor of Zoe."

Mac was about to protest everything but the ice cream part, but then he realized he actually was a bit hungry. "Sounds like a plan," he said, shifting over on the couch so Jack could join him, before tossing his friend the remote.

Jack tapped the Netflix button. "Die Hard sound good?" It was their go to movie of choice.

"Sounds perfect." Mac felt the suffocating sensation that had been dogging him for the past weak was slowly dissipating, allowing him to breathe again. Zoe had died a hero and he needed to remember that and honor it, not mope around making her death about himself and his regrets. Nudging Jack in the shoulder, Mac said, "Thanks." He knew Jack would get what he meant without having to say all the words.

"My pleasure," Jack replied, propping his feet on the coffee table and getting comfortable. Only to realize he was thirsty. "I forgot the beer."

Mac jumped to his feet. "I got it." He grabbed two beers and his burger before settling back down. He handed one to Jack and uncapped his own before holding it out. "To Zoe."

Jack clinked it with his. "To Zoe. Wish I could have met her."

"You would have liked her," Mac assured him.

"Copy that, brother," Jack confirmed.

Mac found himself smiling as he tucked into his burger, realizing that the time he had with Zoe was brief and unconventional, but it had been a blessing all the same. He would remember her as a shining moment in his life, moving forward.

THE END