Ghost + Bomb + Mac - Hands by Emachinescat
A MacGyver Fan-Fiction
Summary: The Ghost survives the confrontation in the catacombs and pursues his cruelest revenge. Even the simplest of bombs can be impossible to defuse without the use of one's hands. Written for Febuwhump on Tumblr. Day 4: impaling
A/N: Hello, and welcome to what is perhaps my darkest fic to date! ;) In which the Ghost doesn't die in 3x08 and escapes to take revenge another day. Spoilers for that episode and season 3 as a whole. Also, a lot of research went into this fic, but I am not a doctor, so if there are any medical inaccuracies, please bear with me. Oh, and the name of the doctor near the end is a nod to perhaps my favorite TV doctor of all time, Dr. Frasier from Stargate: SG1. :)
This one was a rough one to write, but I am very happy with the result. I hope you enjoy - I'd love to know your thoughts!
Ghost + Bomb + Mac - Hands
Previously, on MacGyver…
Mac's head rushed with the thrill of victory and breathlessness at the close call. Wrapping Riley and Bozer into a hug, he squeezed tightly, only halfway believing that they'd done it, that the bomb was disarmed - he couldn't have done it without his friends.
The Ghost was dead - that was even harder to believe. Everything that had happened since he'd been knocked out and dragged deep into the catacombs was a blur, yet he could somehow see every detail with crystalline clarity. Wait until he told Jack - the Ghost was dead, was never going to hurt or kill anyone ever again!
"What do you say we get out of here?" Riley asked, her smile shining all the more brightly against her dirt-smudged face. It was infectious.
Mac laughed. "Please." He turned back, one last time, for closure, perhaps, to say goodbye in a sense to this chapter of his life. He would never forget, and nothing would bring Peña back, but the nightmare was over. The Ghost that had haunted him for so long was finally laid to rest.
He froze, every muscle in his body tensing, disbelief and rage and indignance hitting him full-force like a tsunami. This couldn't be happening. The Ghost was dead. He'd watched Eileen kill him. But then, directly after, he'd had to figure out how to disarm a bomb that was too heavy to lift. He and his friends had been entirely occupied, for how long he wasn't sure.
Long enough for an injured man to drag himself back into the labyrinth and make his escape, it seemed.
The Ghost was gone, and just like his moniker suggested, he seemed to have faded into the ether, almost like he was never there. Even the blood trail didn't go on very long. And by the time they had gotten back to the surface and Riley was able to run an exhaustive search of the area, he'd disappeared.
Perhaps he had died from his wounds, Bozer suggested lamely. But Mac knew better. Fate, as it were, might be kind to some people, but for some reason he'd been on its shit list for a long, long time. Mac knew the truth: as surely as he knew that he wouldn't be getting a moment of sleep tonight, he knew that this wasn't over.
The Ghost was still out there, and with a shudder Mac remembered what he'd said down in the catacombs. A bomb, especially for Mac, hidden somewhere out there in the world, waiting for him to find it. He had a nasty feeling that it was now going to find him first.
Eight Months Later
Mac woke up slowly to a killer headache, what felt like a mouth full of cotton, and the very urgent realization that he couldn't move. He knew almost instantly that he had been drugged.
Opening his eyes was a challenge, as his eyelids had glued themselves shut - perhaps because they knew that the moment light hit them, the headache would only get worse. There were more pressing matters, though, namely that Mac had no idea where he was, how he got there, or who had done this to him - the last thing he remembered was falling asleep on his couch well after midnight. And in order to get an answer to these questions, he would have to open his eyes.
He was right about the headache. It intensified the second the dimly room swam into focus, his stomach roiled, and he almost lost his lunch as the world warbled around him like it was underwater. Thankfully, he managed to gain control over the nausea and was able to get a better look at the predicament he found himself in. What he saw was not encouraging.
He was sitting in a rigid dining chair, slightly slumped but held up by something - was that his own belt? - wrapped around his chest and securing him to the high chair back. His wrists were enclosed in a set of cuff-like clamps that had been attached to the small wooden table his forearms rested on. His shoulders ached a little from his arms being in the same position for who knew how long, but overall he wasn't injured and the measures his captor had taken to restrain him were unimpressive to say the least. He figured he would be able to free himself within fifteen minutes, tops - ideas were already beginning to form in his head as he peered around at the rest of the room and what it had to offer.
He was in what looked like a gray, dirty basement. The lighting was terrible, that eerie haze of illumination that hovered just above your head, not quite making it to the floor. A sat phone lay on the edge of his table, just out of reach.
The only other thing in the room was a large cart, the kind that waiters or caterers often used at big events. Something rested on the surface, but whatever it was had been covered up by a small tarp. It could have been anything - a toolbox, a typewriter, a record player - but he knew it was something far more sinister.
Before he could finish formulating a plan, let alone set that plan into motion, a voice spoke up from the back corner of the room, and Mac realized with horror that he'd not been alone this entire time. The horror was tenfold when he recognized the lilting Irish accent tasting his name as if it were something distinctly unpleasant.
"Hello, Mr. MacGyver."
Mac swallowed heavily, forcing himself to remain calm outwardly while inside his heart tumbled over itself like a shoe thrown in a dryer. He'd been dreading this moment for a long time now, his reunion with the Ghost, but he'd always hoped he'd have the upper hand. Tugging experimentally once more at the cuffs clamping his wrists to the table's surface, he realized that at the moment he didn't actually have any hands at all.
The Ghost moved forward, closer to Mac, but Mac didn't give him the satisfaction of trying to crane around and see the oncoming threat. The man was playing with his fear, his footsteps slow, each one purposefully placed, building up the anticipation. He stopped right behind Mac - his breath was warm and muggy as he whispered in Mac's ear, "I've been looking forward to this for a very long time."
He came around the front of the table, and he looked much the same as he had the last time they'd met, except maybe thinner with more pronounced bags under his eyes. Mac gleaned that his recovery had been long and hard. He didn't respond, just channeled every ounce of rage and revulsion into the glare he sent the Ghost's way.
The Ghost laughed, a strange, haunting sound. "I suppose you feel rather different about this meeting, though?"
Mac quirked an eyebrow and shrugged the best that he could with the restraints. "I mean, can you blame me?" He prayed that his bravado held strong; it felt like it was all that stood between him and his own personal hell. It wasn't fair, he thought bitterly - why did the people who tried to take everything from him keep coming back? Hadn't they stolen enough already?
Mac nodded toward the phone resting before him. "So what's that for?" he asked. "Catching up with the fam? Does Eileen know you're still alive? If not, you should call her up, give her a chance to fix her mistake." Though he didn't really want to know what the Ghost had planned for it - or for him - he hoped that if he nudged the man to start talking, he might be distracted enough for Mac to attempt some kind of escape.
The Ghost didn't rise to the bait at Mac's taunt. Instead, he grinned a grin that set Mac's nerves on edge and offered up a frankly surprising piece of information. "Do you know that your team is on its way here to fetch you at this very moment, MacGyver?"
Mac narrowed his eyes suspiciously. If this were the case, why would the Ghost be so calm? Why would he still be here at all, and why was Mac still breathing?
Seeing Mac's confusion, he nodded sagely. "Oh, yes - they tracked me the moment I initiated contact with them."
Mac growled, "If you're leading them into a trap…"
"No trap," the Ghost assured, and Mac was anything but. The man was acting unpredictably, and for a man who thrived off of routine and had a very strict M.O., it was enough to set Mac ill at ease. "But we are a bit off the beaten path, you and I. It's going to take them a while to get to you. But they will arrive, unharmed."
Mac scoffed, understanding immediately where this was going. "Right, when the place is reduced to rubble and I'm beyond help."
"No, no, no, Mr. MacGyver - see, this is it. This is the one."
Mac knew instantly what he was referring to. "The bomb you left out there for me, the one you expected me to find." He'd had his suspicions about what lay on the cart for a while, and now they were confirmed. "What happened - you got so impatient you had to arrange the meeting?"
The Ghost smiled wryly. "Something like that." Mac had nothing against the Irish language, nor the accents it produced, but the harsh consonants of the Ghost's words hit his ears like the crack of a pistol. Or maybe it was just the person who spoke them that made his skin crawl. "But never mind that - you may not believe this, MacGyver, but I respect you. I do!" he insisted at Mac's snort. "You've proven yourself a worthy opponent, so I'm going to give you a chance for survival. If you succeed, your friends will be here to bust you out and you'll never see or hear from me again." Mac's stomach twisted. The only way the Ghost would ever make such a generous offer was if he truly believed that there was no way that Mac could succeed.
Good thing Mac had a habit of proving murderous psychopaths wrong.
"What's the catch?" Mac asked.
"There's no catch," said the Ghost. He walked over to the cart, removed the covering with a flourish, and whatever Mac had expected to see - this wasn't it.
It looked to be one of the simplest devices that he had ever seen. Even a child could disarm it if they had the tools. And, to Mac's growing discomfort - something was so wrong here - he saw the tools that he would need, laid out neatly on the cart, right next to the bomb.
"It's rigged," Mac said. "There's no way it can be that simple."
"But it is," said the Ghost, his face unreadable, his tone giving nothing away. "I want you to have a fair chance, after all."
"Given what you know I can do, that's a little insulting."
"My, you are ungrateful," the bomb-maker growled. "I blow up your commanding officer, and it's too much, I give you an easy out, it's too little. Maybe we should meet somewhere in the middle? Who's someone I can blow up that will hit that sweet spot between too much and not enough? What about Desi Nguyen, hmmm? She took the place of your precious Dalton, didn't she?"
Mac didn't give the man the dignity of a response. The fire in his eyes said it all. The Ghost sighed. "You know what, just to prove my good faith to you, I'll leave you alone in just a moment. And beyond that, I'll free your wrists! Then it's just a matter of unbuckling the belt around your chest, making your way across the room, picking up those very precise tools, and using them to disarm a very delicate device. Easy peasy, as you Americans say."
Something in the way he spoke of the tasks ahead made Mac's skin itch with discomfort. He couldn't put his finger on what the Ghost had planned, but whatever it was, it was the opposite of good. Mac tugged his wrists again, feeling cool metal rub painfully against the already raw skin, but there was no give.
"Oh, you know what?" the Ghost spoke up, a quasi-contrite expression on his conniving face. "I almost forgot - there is a wee, little catch to this whole affair. Just a bit of added challenge, for old time's sake."
Mac's pulse beat wildly, and a bead of sweat ran down his forehead despite the chilly air. What the hell was this lunatic planning?
And then everything kicked into fast-forward - what happened next was so quick, so unexpected, that Mac didn't even realize that it had happened until it was over, and twin daggers were driven into the tops of his hands, through flesh and muscles and tendons, and thudded firmly into the wood below.
At first he didn't feel anything. And then he felt everything.
Mac couldn't help it. He screamed.
Over the raw, shrieking pain of split skin and parted muscle and the rushing in his ears and the pain and the panic clawing at the inside of his chest, he saw the Ghost lean over him, sensed the click of the lock as the clamps around his wrists were released, and vaguely heard the Ghost repeat his own words, this time with a mocking, sadistic twist: "It's only a matter of unbuckling the belt around your chest, making your way across the room, picking up those very precise tools, and using them to disarm a very delicate device. Easy. Peasy." He added, voice positively gleeful, "Starting now, you have ten minutes. Good night - ah, I mean, good luck."
And then he was gone. Mac didn't see where he went and didn't know where the door was and didn't care and was going to be sick -
Wrenching to the side, Mac vomited, the motion pulling at his impaled hands and causing him to gag anew. When he'd finished, the sour smell curdled his stomach further and he realized with some concern that only one of his hands was hurting now - the right one. A large portion of the left one had gone completely, terrifyingly numb.
Composing himself the best he could, pain radiating from his mutilated hand and racking through his entire body, he examined the damage through tear-blurred eyes. It wasn't a pretty sight, and it almost sent his stomach over the edge again.
The good news was that while some blood had pooled around the entrance - and exit, he presumed - wounds, blood loss was not a big concern at the present. The knives were stemming a large portion of blood flow. The bad news was that the bomb - one he could normally disarm in less than a minute, easily - was set to go off in less than ten minutes - it had to be closer to nine now - and he had been effectively stapled to the table by his hands. Despair flooded him, nearly choking out the agony. Almost.
He knew what he would have to do in order to even have a chance to escape and disarm the bomb, and it terrified him. Leaning forward as far as his belt would allow, he peered at the macabre visage of his own hands - his hands, his job, his life, what if the damage was permanent, he needed his hands (his breaths came in short, desperate pants), and it hurt more than anything, more than pulling a coffin out of a lit incinerator, more than a gunshot wound in the leg, more than anything (breathe, calm down, you can do this, you have to do this).
It was as he'd thought - the knives were long and thin, so the hilts were not flush with his flesh. About two inches of each blade remained, and they, along with the hilt themselves, were how he was going to get his hands free. Essentially, he was going to have to lift one of his hands up so that the top of the hand was pushing up against the bottom of the hilt. It hadn't sounded like the knives had been driven too deeply into the wood of the table below, so he most likely wouldn't have to put too much upwards pressure on the hilt.
The real issue came with how the knives widened closer to the hilt, which meant he would not only be shoving the knife through already raw and shredded muscle, but he would actually be enlarging the wound - the pain of which he didn't even want to consider - and risking further damage. Already he feared what the Ghost had done to him, even if he survived - what if he could never use his hands again?
No, focus. The future beyond the next eight minutes doesn't matter right now, because if you don't get it together and do what has to be done, there will be no future. A small, ugly part of his mind snapped back, Maybe it would be better that way, because if he couldn't use his hands, then what was he? He shoved that terrible thought away and forced himself to work past the agony he was already drowning in and that which was surely to come. One thing at a time.
He found himself very tempted to enact his plan with the hand that was already mostly numb - after all, he wouldn't feel the knife slicing deeper. But there was a big problem with that - a rough sob choked out of him at the building crescendo of anguish that wracked from his hands, up his arms, and throughout his whole body when he attempted to move the fingers on each hand. And that was the first problem: Although he could move all fingers except for the index with great pain and difficulty on his right hand - thank God, somehow the blade must have managed to avoid all extensor tendons except the one - the middle and right portions of his left hand were numb and the only finger on that hand that he could move was the pinky. He tried very hard not to consider the extent of nerve and tendon damage done and whether or not they could be repaired. That meant that even if he did use his left hand to push the knife up and out of the table, he wouldn't be able to use that hand at all, and he'd be back to square one.
He wasn't entirely sure how much time had passed - the Ghost must have taken his watch when he captured him - but he knew that the minutes were racing ahead faster than he could catch them. If he wanted any chance of disarming that bomb, he would have to move now.
In the end, he had to approach it like he did jumping out of a plane or scaling a tall structure. Without wasting any further time contemplating what was going to happen, without trying to prepare himself or psych himself up for the pain that was to come, he wrenched his right arm up as fast as he could, and it seemed that he could feel every fiber of muscle tearing as his impaled hand traveled up the length of the blade until it rested against the hilt. A horrible sound erupted from deep within him, something foreign and unexpected and wrong, but still he wrenched the hand up and for a terrifying moment he thought that it was too firmly stuck in the wood as he was rapidly losing strength and black spots flickered across his vision and he couldn't pass out, not now, he was so close -
And then the tip of the dagger parted from its wooden sheath and somehow he managed to hang onto consciousness by the thinnest of threads. Knowing that he truly could not afford to lose any momentum now that he'd started - how many minutes left? Three? Two? - he brought his hand to his face and awkwardly but efficiently used his teeth to pry it free. He was left with a gaping wound but thankfully he still had four working fingers, and the blood was flowing freely now, unfettered by the blade, he had to move fast.
In less than a minute, he'd managed to find enough strength in his mangled right hand to pull out the remaining knife and clumsily unbuckle the belt around his chest, the metal now slick with blood - there was blood on the table, running down his palms and soaking into his shirt sleeves and plinking on the floor as he forced himself to his feet and then promptly lost a short but ferocious battle with his stomach.
Never had he ever wanted to give up so badly. After all, how could anyone expect him to do what had to be done now? He could feel the shock setting in, he was continuing to lose blood rapidly, one hand was almost completely useless, and the other was like a medical pump, except instead of morphine it dispensed only unbearable pain. He thought about the floor, how it was probably a lot less uncomfortable than it looked, and how even now the darkness was eating away at the corners of his vision so that he would probably pass out before the bomb exploded…
But then he thought of his friends, his team - Riley, Matty, Boze, Desi, maybe even his dad, and Jack, who was so far away but who was counting on Mac to still be alive and thinking when he returned - and he knew that he couldn't just give in. He had to try, for them. Even if he failed - which was a very real possibility - at least he would be fighting to see them again, and that was, at least, something.
So he tucked his hands into his armpits as tightly as possible in a futile attempt to stem the blood flow and forged forward, focusing on one foot in front of the other, staving off the dark with everything he had left, feeling the warm blood from his hands running down his sides and fighting nausea at the stench of tang and iron. He fell a few feet from the cart but dragged himself forward on his knees, then used his right hand, pain exploding, to pull himself up to roughly eye level with the device.
It was so simple, and the time read 00:01:05. Normally, it would be no problem. But his hands were almost completely out of commission. He couldn't do it, there was no way he could disarm this bomb in that amount of time when he could barely use his hands, let alone wire cutters or pliers.
Well, at least he had tried. He swayed where he knelt, ready to give in to the darkness and the end. And then -
A pounding from somewhere behind him, on the other side of the door, wherever that was. A voice, frantic, muffled, screaming his name, "Mac! Are you in there?"
"Riles?" he mumbled, barely able to form the words. His mind was sluggish, and he was cold, and glancing down blearily at the timer, it had gone down to 00:00:50. It took every effort to raise his voice enough to be heard, "Get out of here! It's about to go off!"
"Not without you!" Desi's voice called, and he'd never heard her sound so desperate.
"Mac! Either get the hell up out of there, or disarm the damn bomb!" Bozer shouted.
"Don't you dare give up on me now, Blondie." Matty had the steel in her voice that brooked no argument.
"Working on hacking the electronic lock now," came Riley's voice, and the timer read 00:00:38.
"You don't understand," Mac protested. "I can't - you'll die."
But he knew the awful truth - even if they turned and ran now, it would be too late. They would never clear the blast in time. Because he wasn't strong enough, because he gave in to the pain and the shock and the lull of nothingness, they would die.
Painfully, Mac reached out and grasped the pliers between his three working fingers and thumb in his right hand. He had no idea how he managed it, but by the time the clock had reached 00:00:20, he had separated the wire he needed to cut. His head swam and he shivered and blood coated the surface of the bomb and the pliers were sticky with it. The wire cutters were a bit easier to use. Once he got them situated in his hand, which still hurt like hell but didn't really feel like it was a part of his own body anymore, it was just a simple snip. He almost cut the wrong one. All the wires were red now.
The moment before he cut the wire, he realized that the Ghost might have lied and set up a secondary device. He wasn't one to stray from his M.O. Come to think of it, though, he hadn't seen a camera, either, and that was also one of the bomb-maker's signatures. Well, he thought as he cut the wire, I suppose it doesn't matter now.
In fact, nothing did.
The second it was cut, the tool clattered from his hand and he slumped forward, passing out right on top of the defused bomb.
Seconds later, the door burst open and his team, along with a dozen agents in full tactical gear, barged in to see something that would never, ever leave them - and that they would have nightmares about for the rest of their lives.
Mac half stood, half slumped over a bomb on a cart, face translucent, lips tinged blue, blood everywhere - there was a trail of it leading from a table upon which had been discarded two bloody knives - and when they moved Mac's too-still, barely breathing body off the bomb and laid him out on the floor, elevating his legs and applying pressure bandages to his horrifically maimed hands, the timer read in great red letters 00:00:02.
Six Weeks Later
"How're ya hangin' in there, hoss?" the always-welcome voice of Jack Dalton drawled. He sounded chipper enough, but there was a heaviness in his words, and Mac wished not for the first time that video calling was an option wherever Jack was at. He supposed he should be grateful that he was getting to talk to him at all, though.
They hadn't been able to contact Jack until two weeks after Mac had nearly lost his life - and then possibly the use of his left hand - to the Ghost. To say that Jack was enraged was a vast understatement, and he almost abandoned his entire mission, almost went AWOL, just to get back to his partner. He knew how devastated and traumatized Mac would be, and it killed him. He'd been persuaded to stay where he was, because if he didn't, he'd be crossing all kinds of lines and could get into serious trouble that could significantly delay when he'd be able to actually come home to his boy for good.
Mac sighed. "Better, I think. You're not on speaker phone, you know."
The excitement in Jack's voice infected even Mac, who'd been unusually subdued and distant from the moment he'd woken up in Phoenix's hospital. "You're holding the phone? Atta boy, this physical therapy stuff's no joke!"
Mac couldn't help but grin, a bit of pride in his voice. "And I'm holding it with my left hand!"
Jack whooped a whole-ass yippee-ki-yay and Mac actually laughed. This was more than Jack could have hoped for, as the last time he'd been able to talk with Mac his kid had been miserable and drugged up, fresh out of his third reconstructive surgery, this one to remove dead nerves and graft in new ones. Of course, Jack had kept up with Channel Mac News (as he lamely called it) via other means of communication - texts and radio messages and even the odd telegraph - but it was so good to hear the kid's voice, to hear him speak of his progress.
"Yeah," Mac chuckled, his voice lighter than it had been in a while. "I've got most of the feeling back now, thanks to the incredible specialists Phoenix flew in." He sobered. "But even they are not optimistic that I'll regain full range of motion or finger articulation in that hand, though."
"Well, you've proved plenty of doctors wrong before, dude. But even if you don't get your elocution back-"
"Whatever. Even if you don't get that back completely, that doesn't make you any less you. You hear me, hoss?" And now Jack was using his serious voice as he went into a speech he'd been practicing for nearly a month. "Even if you got the news that you could never use your hands again, you'd still be Mac. It don't matter if you've got one working hand, or two, or none - it ain't your hands that give you value. It's what's in here."
Mac couldn't help but smile. "You know I can't see where you're pointing, right, Jack?"
"You know full well where your worth is, brother," Jack responded, not even rising to the bait. "It ain't in your hands or even your brains - no one would love you less without them, and you'd still be the most important person in the world to me. You gotta learn to love yourself no matter what."
Mac blinked at the sudden rush of moisture to his eyes and cleared his throat. "Thanks, man," he said, his voice gruff. Then, to lighten the mood - "Being on this mission sure has made you sappy," he joked. "Remind me why I'm going to therapy when I've got you to unlock the secrets of the soul?" He'd been forced by his entire team to talk to a Phoenix-sanctioned psychologist two times a week. Though he fought it at first, he had to admit that Dr. Frasier had given him some helpful techniques to work past the worst of the panic attacks, and that he'd gradually felt more like himself after each session.
He could hear the grin in Jack's voice, could see it perfectly in his mind's eye. "What are you talking about, man? Ol' Jack's always been in touch with his emotions. Ain't nothing wrong with that - I learned that from my pop."
Muffled voices from the other end of the call signaled that their talk was coming to an end. Jack had to be heading out soon, back on the trail of the killer that had torn their team apart.
"I know," Mac interrupted, and even though his hand was shaking with the effort of holding it to his ear for so long, he didn't change hands or put the phone on speaker. A brief pause. He asked the question he always did every time he talked to Jack, but this time even he could tell that his voice was more wistful than usual:
"When are you coming home?"
And Jack responded the way he always did, and even though Jack hadn't come home yet, Mac believed him, because he knew that Jack was doing everything to return safely to his family as soon as possible.
"Real soon, brother."
"Geez, kid, I'm on a schedule," Jack complained, but Mac heard the smirk in his voice.
"When you get home," Mac promised, determination to keep healing, to beat the odds, welling up inside of him, "I'm going to beat you in an arm-wrestling contest."
Jack laughed. "There's not one part of me that doubts it, kiddo."
Though Mac couldn't see it, Jack wiped a tear from his eye as he hung up and went back to join his team with the biggest smile on his face he'd had in a very, very long time.
A/N: Thanks so much for reading! Please consider leaving a review and letting me know your thoughts - there are more Mac fics coming up over the course of the month, so if you're interested, keep an eye out for those! :)
Thanks so much for your support - I truly love writing for this fandom!