A/N: Must apologize for the freakin' long time it took me to get this up. Unfortunately, I can't guarantee another chapter anytime soon, as much as I'd like to - this story just slowed down so that I barely even know where I'm going with it anymore...with any luck, I'll finish it at some point. Hah. But thanks so much for the support, everyone - I'm glad you like it!
I nearly jumped out of my skin when the phone rang, then ran to answer it, grateful for the distraction. I couldn't get out of my head what Mac had said about Black Jack and JC, no matter how hard I tried not to think about it.
"Hello?" I said.
"Richie?" replied an accented female voice.
"Tessa, hey!" I said. "What's up? How are you?" She had been in Paris for the last week with a show of her sculpture, and was supposed to be there for another qweek. I was happy to hear from her - even though, of course, I didn't miss her.
"I'm all right," she replied, sounding like she was smiling. "How are you and Duncan?"
"I'm great - Mac's ok too, except for being a pain in the you-know-where. Maybe he's grumpy because he misses you," I teased.
"And you don't miss me?"
"No - I mean, yes - I mean - oh, forget it. Must you ask things like that?"
Tessa laughed.
"Is Duncan there?"
"You mean all there?" I could picture Tessa trying not to smile.
"May I talk to him, please?":
"Oh, sure! Why didn't you just ask?" I put my hand over the phone and hollered, "Maa-ac!"
"What?" came the annoyed reply. He hates it when I yell.
"Phoo-one! It's Tessa!" He appeared in the doorway a moment later, carrying a polishing rag, and held out his hand for the phone. I gave it to him and prepared to escape before he could hand off that rag, but I wasn't fast enough.
"Here, finish this up for me, would you?" he asked, waving the rag. I shook my head, but he chucked it at me and turned his back. With a sigh, I plucked the rag off my head and went out back.
Mac and I were eating dinner, not saying much. I was still distracted, and it was starting to bug the hell out of me. Mac seemed to be off in his own little world - I wasn't quite sure where that was, but it certainly wasn't anywhere near the place where his body was eating spaghetti.
"Mac, what's the issue here?" I asked, finally getting sick of the silence. "Is your mind in warp mode or something?" He looked up, seeming startled by my voice.
"Richie..." he started, then trailed off.
"Would you be ok here by yourself for a couple of days?"
I raised my eyebrows.
"Why wouldn't I be? It's not like I've never been alone before."
"Yes, but not with an angry head-hunter on the loose."
"What have you got up your sleeve?" I asked. I was starting to sense opportunity somewhere in this conversation, but I wasn't quite sure where yet.
"I need to take a little trip," Mac replied. By the look on his face, I guessed it wasn't a vacation-type trip.
I raised both eyebrows this time.
"Really?" I asked, trying extremely hard not to sound excited. "Where? Why? When? With who? How long?"
Mac snorted and had to clap a hand over his mouth, as he had still been chewing with I let my interrogation fly.
"Slow down," he said, once he had swallowed his mouthful and stopped shaking his head. "Could we keep it down to a dull roar?"
"Sorry," I said, then waited for him to answer. When he didn't seem inclined to do so, I prompted him, "Speak, man, c'mon!"
"Yes, New York, long explanation, in two days, myself, a couple days," Mac rattled off.
I blinked, then thought back over my questions, comparing them with Mac's answers. When my mental hard drive finally completed the operation and cleared for the next task, I asked, "How do you do that?"
Mac smiled. "Years of practice, perhaps?"
I shrugged and made a face.
"Anyway...go over "long explanation," would you?"
He nodded and sighed.
"Well, you know Tessa called earlier."
"I only answered the phone," I retorted. Mac rolled his eyes and ignored that.
"So that's a yes. Anyway, Tessa had lined up a buyer for this desk..." I was tempted at that point to tune out, but I had asked, so I tried to listen. Basically, Tessa and Mac had gotten their signals crossed over some really valuable old desk, and Mac had to go to New York to meet someone and straighten the whole thing out.
"So what you're saying is, you're gonna clear the scene for a couple of days and I'm gonna take care of this end of things, right?" I clarified when he was done. He nodded.
"Pretty much..."
"Except something's bugging you. I can tell."
He sighed.
"Black Jack," was all he said, and I understood.
"Aw, come on, Mac, it'll be ok," I said, trying desperately not to lose my golden opportunity to play owner undisputed by the real owner. "It's only for a coupla days, and I'll take him on if he rears his ugly head."
"Exactly what I'm worried about," Mac muttered.
"But you have to go, right?" I asked. "So there's nothing you can do about it..."
"Yes, I do have to go, so no, I guess not. You're right."
I took a moment to gloat on that before moving on.
"Anything special you want me to do while I'm in charge?"
"Not in charge," Mac corrected me with a Look, "Looking after. And other than staying out of trouble, nothing. Staying out of trouble will be a full-time job for you anyway."
How did I know he was going to say that? But it didn't matter, because I ended up with the right end of things. Mac left a day later.