Ghost in the Graveyard



A MacGyver / Stargate Story

Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me. They just invade my brain, play games with my mind and compel me to put their adventures on paper.

The MacGyver universe and all of its characters belong to Paramount Television and Henry Winkler / John Rich Productions.

The Stargate universe and all of its characters belong to MGM/UA, Double Secret, Stargate Productions and Gekko Film Corporation. No copyright infringement is intended.

Thank you all for letting me play in your universe.

Title: Ghost in the Graveyard

Author: Jynjyr Season: MacGyver Season 2 / Pre-movie & Season 8 for Stargate

Warning: Angst, Character Death?

Authors notes: Before you flame me, I know. I've absolutely blown out of the water the show's canons for both Stargate and MacGyver. As it says in the disclaimer – I was compelled. The fact that MacGyver and Jack O'Neill are (portrayed by) the same person just plays havoc with my imagination.

Hat trick – a hockey term. One person scores 3 goals in a game.

Something you liked? Something you didn't like? Any feedback will be gratefully accepted.

A version of this story previously appeared in print in The Celestial Toybox – May 2004.

Summary: Why Jack rolled his eyes in CotG when Carter talked about "Macgyvering" a system for the Gate.

Ghost in the Graveyard - revisited

Phoenix Foundation – August 3, 1988

"Are we clear on this? You two will work to-ge-ther." Peter Thornton put heavy emphasis on the last word. "In cooperation on everything. Understood?"

Merrin and Malachi both nodded. At Pete's wave of dismissal, the two men stood and turned for the door.

The Director had one more parting comment. "If you foul up one more time, you're both fired. The Phoenix Foundation can't afford to carry screwballs."

Merrin waited until they were safely away from Thornton's door before asking, "Has he always been like this? I was told that he was an easygoing guy."

Malachi, a long time employee of Phoenix shook his head. "Pete used to be a good guy to work for. Everything went downhill after MacGyver went missing. He was a one-man band who always handled the really tough cases. Him and Pete were good friends, too."

"So Thornton takes it out on everybody else?"

Malachi shrugged his shoulders. "MacGyver would have handled that last assignment in half the time and none of the trouble. He was a screwball who got results. Makes a difference."

Behind the closed door of his office, Pete sat staring out the window toward the mountains barely visible in the distance. He was beginning to regret the harsh words he'd used to his men. It wasn't their fault that today was a black day on his personal calendar. His eyes glazed over as he cast his memory back a year.

August 3, 1987

"Knockity, knock, knock, knock." Before Pete could acknowledge this rapid tattoo on his office door, it swung wide open and MacGyver came bounding in.

He stopped in front of the desk, tossing a file folder in the Inbox on the corner as he slid his lanky frame down sideways into the chair and swung one foot over the arm. "There's the report and my recommendations on the Biomass Energy project. Everything looks good to go."

Mac stretched his arms over his head, arching back over the chair until Pete could hear his spine crack. He shook himself like a wet dog before sitting back up.

"There is one more thing before you leave, Mac." Before he could finish the request, MacGyver exploded out of the chair.

"No, Pete, no. Whatever it is." He planted both fists on the desk and leaned over close to his boss.

"Nnnn-oh! Six months ago, when I got back from Egypt, you promised me a month off. Then I got this," he growled, snatching up and waving the file folder.

"Now, I'm taking my month." Striding over to the window, he splayed his fingers against the glass and stared longingly toward the mountains. "Four weeks in the wilderness. Camping, swimming, fishing, hiking, climbing, fishing. Days when the loudest thing I hear is a bird, nights where the brightest things are the stars."

Tearing his gaze from the view, he turned back to his friend. "And my biggest decision for the day will be whether to take out the canoe or fish from the stream bank."

Thornton raised his arms in surrender. "I'm not trying to stop you. But, if you want me to watch your place and bring in the mail, you need to get me a key to the new locks."

The deep breath Mac had taken in order to continue his harangue escaped as a sigh and a sheepish, "Sorry, Pete."

He dug into his pocket, pulled out a single key and handed it across the desk. "I really appreciate you doing this. Don't forget the plants on the balcony."

"I won't." Pete came around to put a hand on his friend's shoulder and give him a gentle nudge toward the door. "Go. Enjoy yourself. You've more than earned it."

When they got to the door, MacGyver stopped. He was strangely serious as he shook Thornton's hand. "Thanks again for everything, Pete."

He stopped again halfway through the door and, in a much cheerier tone, said, "I'll be back after Labor Day. There's this new Thai place that opened up down the block from me. I'll take you out to dinner. You'll love it."

"It's a date," Pete agreed with a smile. He watched fondly as MacGyver walked away with a spring in his step and grin on his face.

The phone ringing jolted Pete out of his reverie. It was his private line, a number that only a handful of people knew.

"Thornton." he answered abruptly.

"Mr. Thornton. This is Sheriff Dankin." The sheriff waited a second for an acknowledgment, then continued, "From up by Sequoia National Park? You remember me?"

"Yes, Sheriff. You were in charge of the missing persons investigation." Pete picked up a pen and began fidgeting with it.

"Yep. The oldest open case I have. Well, I've got some news."

He could tell the lawman leaned away from the phone to tell someone, "Take all that stuff over to Doc's. She'll have to do some tests."

"Sorry about that, Mr. Thornton," the sheriff apologized, "The park rangers got in touch with me yesterday. Seems these climbers up in Mineral King Valley may have found your friend."

Pete's knuckles turned white as he tightened his grip on the phone. "Where?" he asked, "We searched everywhere within a three day hike of his last sighting."

"This place was about five miles outside our search area. Conservation folks climbing down to a suspected eagle's nest spotted a piton with broken carabiner. Twenty feet below that they found the rest of the rope and followed it to an overhung ledge in the cliff face. That's where the body was." Dankin hesitated, letting the news sink in. "Doc Emson, our County Coroner, is working on it now but, she's going to need dental records for an official identification."

"Dental records?" Pete's stomach churned as his mind flashed a picture of a year old corpse. "So there's a chance it isn't MacGyver?"

"Sorry, Mr. Thornton. We found some camping gear and a wallet with his ID, too."

"I'll be up in the morning with the ... dental records." His voice caught for a second. "And to make arrangements to have ... him ... brought home."

He gently hung up the phone and turned to stare once again at the mountains in the distance.

Sheriff Dankin eyed the visitor in his office warily. The Phoenix Foundation was an influential organization and their Operations Director didn't seem like a person you'd want to inconvenience.

"Mr. Thornton, you really didn't need to bring these records up here yourself. I could have sent a deputy down to get them," he said, apologetically. "Besides, Doc says it'll be about an hour before she can finish up her examination."

"That's fine, Sheriff. I still have to complete the paperwork to get the body released and sent home to Minnesota." Peter turned away from the cardboard box containing the weathered scraps of MacGyver's camping gear. "There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and red tape. I think red tape is the worst."

"It surely is the longest to fight with," agreed the Sheriff. "I'll take you over to the courthouse and get you set up with Winifred. She's a whiz at those government forms." He gestured for his guest to precede him.

In a little over an hour, Pete was back in the Sheriff's Dept. The deputy at the front desk waved him through the gate. "Sheriff said to tell you to come on back. Doc Emson just got here with her report."

"... Mess. Smashed the hell..." the Doctor broke off abruptly as Pete entered the office.

"Mr. Thornton," she said as she stood and extended her hand. "I'm sorry to have to meet again under these circumstances."

"Thank you, Doctor." He absently shook the woman's hand. "Well, is it him?"

They both sat down as she answered, "Yes, sir. They are the remains of Mr. MacGyver."

Dankin spoke up, "The official report will read: Accidental Death caused by injuries sustained in a climbing accident."

Pete closed his eyes, clenched his jaw and tried to take a deep breath.

The doctor laid a hand on his arm, saying quietly, "I know this is small consolation but, I think it was over pretty quickly. He probably never regained consciousness."

"You're right, Doctor. It is small consolation," he observed bitterly as he opened his eyes. Then he covered her hand with his own, commenting, "Thank you for trying."

Three days later, Peter Thornton stood alone under the brilliant blue August sky in a Minnesota cemetery watching as two gravediggers lowered his best friend's coffin into the ground. There was no service. Everything that MacGyver's friends needed to say had been said at his memorial service in February, this was just the final act. The minister had his few words and left already.

The only other people that would have wanted to be here, Jack Dalton and Michelle Foster, were out of the country and couldn't be reached. Harry Jackson, Mac's grandfather, was already here. He'd been buried in March. The two men unhooked the canvas straps and pulled them out of the hole as Pete turned and walked slowly back to his car.

Pete knew that tomorrow the monument company was supposed to deliver the simple headstone that MacGyver requested years before. It would look a little out of place among the more elaborate memorial statues that decorated the nearby plots but it suited his friend's tastes.

He checked with the cemetery office the next morning around ten o'clock only to find that the monument company had come and gone already. Small clouds were rapidly scudding across the sky as Pete walked the short distance to the gravesite. Busy with his own thoughts, he didn't notice, until he was only a few steps away, that there was another man standing in front of Harry's grave.

Not wanting to intrude, Pete turned back and went to sit on the bench in the shade of a nearby tree. It was ten minutes before his attention suddenly focused on the man by Harry's grave. He was gesturing as though explaining something. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, tall and lanky with close-cropped brown hair. His clothing was nondescript as well, blue tee shirt, gray trousers and black boots. No one thing made him stand out but the way he moved made an eerie chill race up Pete's spine.

Pete stood up and sauntered casually over, stopping near MacGyver's headstone, which was one row behind and to the left of Harry's. Hoping to startle the younger man into turning around, he said abruptly, "Did you know Harry well?"

With a muffled curse, the stranger flinched, taking half a step to the right. "Yeah," he grunted. Slipping on a pair of sunglasses, he turned to leave.

"He was a great guy, wasn't he?" Pete asked, trying to get a few more words from the other.

"Yeah. Real good guy. Gonna miss him." The stranger took another step away.

"I'll bet you knew his grandson, MacGyver, too." Pete moved over next to the man in an effort to catch a glimpse of his face.

"Screwball. Nice guy, but a little nuts." Pulling a plain black cap from his pocket, he put it on, tugging the brim down until it met his glasses. Suddenly, he strode over to the bench by the tree. There he sat, hunched over with his elbows on his knees and his head hanging down.

Pete followed, trying to think of an indirect question that would confirm his growing suspicions. He sat so he could see part of the younger man's profile. "Yeah, he was always making something out of nothing. Never saw him without duct tape and that silly Swiss army knife."

"Silly Swiss army knife?" was the murmured comment accompanied by a twitch of a smile.

"I guess it's dumb but, yesterday we even buried it with him." He watched closely for a reaction.

"That was really nice of you." The man sounded like he was genuinely touched at the gesture.

Pete sighed, maybe he was wrong. But he didn't think so. One last bit of needling. "He was my best friend and I'm going to miss him a lot," he said softly.

Thornton continued indignantly, "But the deadbeat died owing me a dinner."

He could see the other man's shoulders start to shake with suppressed laughter. Pete went on, "He babbled on about some new place, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, something like that."

"Thai." Pulling the sunglasses down, the stranger turned to face Pete, giving him MacGyver's familiar grin. "It was a Thai restaurant."

A thousand impulses raced through Thornton's mind, everything from wrapping his friend in a bear hug to punching out his lights. The questions tangled themselves in knots and he was speechless for a few moments. Finally, totally serious, he looked at MacGyver and said one word. "Why?"

Glancing back to the ground, Mac muttered, "I had to." He rushed on with the rest of the story. "Before we ever met, I did some free-lance work for the government that pissed off some really heavy hitters. We all thought I was in the clear but somebody started leaking information last May. I didn't even know until agents showed up at my door with a new life."

"They can't force a person into the Witness Protection Program," Pete protested.

"I didn't think so either. Then they pointed out the fine print on my original government contract. A little clause regarding National Security issues said they could."

He looked with regret at his grandfather's grave. "I tried to get word out to Harry, but I think they caught it every time. They didn't even tell me that he died. A week ago I found his cabin vacant and started checking."

They sat in silence for a few minutes while Pete's mind raced, recalling comments of Harry's. Finally he spoke up, "He knew."

"What?" Mac asked, confused.

"Some things Harry mentioned at your memorial service didn't make sense. Unless he knew you were alive. He was trying to tell me, and I didn't get it."

Mac hung his head down again. Pulling off the black cap, he ruffled his cropped hair. "At least he had that much, even though I couldn't be there for him when he needed me."

The two men sat in silence; each lost in their own thoughts.

"So. How'd it happen?" Mac asked, cocking his head towards the graves.

"Harry? Car accident. A drunk driver hit him. They were both dead at the scene," Pete answered.

"No. How did ... I ... die?" He shuddered, "Whoa, talk about someone walking on your grave. Yheehh."

"You don't know?" Pete asked incredulously.

"Nope. They gave me two weeks to establish my presence in the Park, then one night they came and took everything. Clothes, wallet, camping gear, my favorite fishing rod. We went to a ... place ... where I couldn't even get a newspaper for almost three months."

Pete did a quick calculation in his head before he replied, "They had to call off the search by then because of snow in the high country where you were last seen. I don't think there was any more news coverage after that." He paused, gathering his thoughts.

"C'mon, just spit it out," Mac demanded impatiently.

"You fell fifty feet down a cliff face and bashed in your stupid head on a ledge," Pete snapped. His voice faltered as he continued, "Then laid there for almost a year until there wasn't enough left to identify without dental records." He twisted around on the bench, hunching over and putting his back to his friend.

"Oh, God. Pete, I'm so sorry," Mac groaned, lying a comforting hand on Pete's bowed neck. "I never thought they'd drag it out like that."

Pete coughed a couple of times and rubbed his smarting eyes before turning to face his friend again. In an effort to lighten up the conversation, he asked, "What is with the hair? If you had to pick one sure way to change your appearance, that was it."

"Not my choice but, it goes with the job." Mac grimaced as brushed his fingers through the short scruff.

"Well, you look like a Marine," Pete said with a chuckle. He did a double take as MacGyver sat there silently with his lips pressed tight together. "You're not," he exclaimed unbelievingly, "That's the last place I'd expect you to be."

"I work for the government, and I travel a lot. Let's leave it at that," Mac said with finality as he pulled on the black cap. Getting up, he slipped the sunglasses over his eyes. His tone, gestures and stance all changed. It was once again a stranger who stood before Pete and shook his hand. "It was nice meeting you Mr. Thornton. Take care of yourself."

As he turned away, he added, "Who knows? You might meet up with a ghost again."

Pete began to smile as his mind put words to the familiar whistled tune fading into the distance. "Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun . . . . . "

Stargate Command – October 26, 2004

"Mr. President, are you sure this is a good idea?" General Jack O'Neill bent over his desk, drumming his fingers on the report in front of him.

"Yes, sir. I agree that the NID has been a royal pain in our butts for years. But, sir, this is a civilian organization." He leaned back in the chair, rubbing his free hand through his hair and over his face as he listened.

"Yes, I know their history of involvement with Top Secret government projects." Better than you'll ever guess, Henry. "And I understand that the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs have approved this."

"No, sir. I don't have any specific incidents that indicate a problem." Jack swung around, putting his back to the door. He stared up to heaven and gritted his teeth. How do I tell the President that the reason I don't want to work with this group is because I used to work for this group.

"No, sir. You don't need to make it a direct order." His shoulders slumped in defeat. "We'll meet with the Board of Directors in Los Angeles next Monday."

Jack O'Neill strolled down the street, enjoying the California weather. Yesterday's blustery wind from off the ocean blew the smog away and left Los Angeles basking in the sunshine. He was a little surprised at how much of the area he remembered. It was seventeen years since he'd been to this beach. Sitting on the low concrete wall that surrounded the parking lot, he studied his former apartment building. The corner unit on the third floor used to be his. There was an avocado tree on the balcony that had grown as high as the building's roof. When he left, it was barely a seedling. It was nice to see that someone still cared for the little guy.

The street corner deli / coffee shop had the same owners and, just for the heck of it, he ordered his old favorite. Margy's Special – two shots of expresso, cinnamon, honey and nutmeg poured over a dollop of whipped cream. He took a sip as he walked along the sand. Daniel would love this. Margy still puts a touch of cayenne pepper in the coffee.

He'd pulled rank and left a couple of days early for L.A. If he had to revisit his old world, he might as well go whole hog. There was little danger that anyone would recognize him. Not compared to the longhaired, devil-may-care beach bum kind of guy he was back then. He hardly recognized himself from back then.

One person will still know. Pete. Peter Thornton was the main reason O'Neill came ahead of everyone else. Thornton was on the board of the Phoenix Foundation and he didn't want to surprise his old friend in public. Jack took a bearing on the familiar mirrored glass building and began walking toward downtown.

O'Neill collapsed gratefully on the bench in the park across from his target. Man, flying that damn desk everyday has really gotten me out of shape. Hiking all over the place off world had its plus side. He massaged his aching knees, knowing that tomorrow he'd be lucky not to be limping. Great first impression – a commanding General who can hardly walk. He hoped that it would be worth it and Thornton still kept the habit of coming to the park for lunch when the weather was good.

The outdoor clock chimed one o'clock. I guess it isn't the done thing for a member of the Board to eat in the park. Jack settled his sunglasses firmly but left off his cap. His close clipped, silver hair was more of a disguise than any hat could be. He stuck his hands in his pockets though; the curved back thumbs were much too distinctive.

Crossing the street, he pushed through the doors and approached the security desk in the middle of the floor. His trained eye spotted the two plainclothes officers prowling the public area around the lobby. The man watching the closed-circuit monitors never even looked his way. The receptionist was an armed guard as well.

"May I help you, sir?" She asked, smiling genially at him.

Jack coughed and rasped out, "Yeah. I need to see Peter Thornton, please."

"Do you have an appointment?"

"No." He coughed again. "Sorry, can't get rid of this darn cold. No appointment, but I think he'll see me anyway. Tell him its … Angus." If that doesn't catch his attention, nothing will.

The young woman picked up the phone spoke to someone for a moment. Hanging it up, she told him, "I'm sorry, sir. His assistant says that he just left for lunch."

As he turned away with a muttered "Thanks", she continued, "He should be coming through here in a minute or two. He likes to spend time in the park."

"Thank you very much." He dazzled her with his best smile. He also noted that the two roaming guards were closing in on him. Just in case he was a danger to Thornton. Nice coverage.

The ping of elevators stopping heralded a small flood of people exiting the corridor. O'Neill stayed where he was, in the middle of the floor with his hands in his pockets. At first to show that he was no threat but, then in shock as his friend unfolded a white cane and confidently tapped his way out the door and down the steps.

"Sir? Sir? Sir!" The receptionist came around and touched his arm. "Sir, that was Mr. Thornton."

"Yeah, I know." Jack shook his head and looked at the young lady. "He's … blind. When did that happen?" He didn't wait for an answer.

Distracted, he mumbled, "Thanks," again and followed in Thornton's footsteps. How do you NOT startle a blind man? Jack waited until Pete was settled on a bench.

Taking a seat at the other end, he began softly whistling a song he'd come to know very well, " Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun … "

"… Here they come zooming to meet our thunder, At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun!" Pete whispered the next two lines as the whistling trailed off. Turning his face toward his unseen accompanist, he held out his hand and commented, "A long time ago I knew someone who knew that song."

Jack slid closer to the other man, shaking the outstretched hand, "Happy Halloween, Pete. From your favorite ghost."

"My God. Is it really you?" He laid his palm over their clasped fingers, confirming the other man's identity by touch. "It is. What on earth are you doing here, Ma … Man?"

"The name's Jack. Let's go for a walk. Your guardian angel keeps giving me the eye." O'Neill stood up and offered his arm as a guide. When they began moving, the plain-clothes officer intercepted them.

"Mr. Thornton, is there a problem?" She asked worriedly.

"No, not at all, Claire," he reassured the woman, flashing her a hand sign for 'stand down'. "Jack's a friend I haven't seen for close to twenty years. We're just going to catch up on old times. Please tell Jerry that I left for the weekend."

"Yes, sir." She whispered into a radio for a moment. "He says to remind you that you're meeting with the Air Force people on Monday."

"I remember. See you later, Claire. Have a nice weekend." As they strolled away, he asked quietly, "How big of a tail do we have?"

Turning a corner in the path, Jack answered, "Two. A dog walker in the park and shopper across the street."

"They're not used to this," he said, tugging at the other man's sleeve before stepping away and unfolding his cane. "I rarely let anyone guide me."

The two men kept walking, their arms barely touching. "Now?"

"The shopper turned back. The dog walker is coming in at two o'clock." Jack gave the approach angle in the vernacular of fighter pilots and the blind. Two o'clock was approximately halfway between straight ahead and directly to the right.

"Good-bye, Kayla," Thornton told her as she passed.

"Sandalwood and ginger," he explained. "She wears it just so I can identify her out here."

O'Neill glanced around, checking for loose ends. "Protective bunch. Does everyone on the board have their own squad?"

"No. I'm the only one who's 'quote foolish enough unquote' to want to walk around in the world. The rest go from their homes to their cars to the office and back. Boring." Pete tipped his head back to feel the sun on his face. "I may not be able to see much but I don't want to shut anything out."

Uncomfortable, Jack asked, "What happened? To your eyes?"

"Glaucoma." The answer was very matter of fact. "I waited too long to get it treated. I'd lost most of my sight by '92. It's like looking down a tunnel but, when the light's right, I still get something."

He stopped and turned the other man so the sun was shining on his face. By scanning the figure in front of him, Thornton built up a picture of his friend. Blue tee shirt, gray trousers, black boots, sunglasses. The only thing missing is the black cap. "The Air Force life must suit you. You've barely changed. Except for the hair. Is that gray I see?"

"Yeah," Jack sighed. "But at least it's hair."

Pete laughed, touching his own bald head. "There's that."

They started walking again as he asked, "I'm guessing you're part of this delegation we're meeting with on Monday. Why would they send you back to the Phoenix Foundation, of all places?"

"They don't realize that it could be a problem. You and I are the only two people alive who know first hand about the charade in '87." O'Neill chuckled ruefully, "I'm two for two with those guys, by the way. I pissed 'em off again in '93."

"You didn't go for the hat trick?" Thornton asked, sarcastically.

"Other things took precedence." I killed my son and traveled across the galaxy trying to kill myself. "I was retired for a while."

Even behind the dark glasses, Jack could tell Pete was giving him a disbelieving look. "I really did. For over a year."

A snort of laughter interrupted him. "You? Retired? Hah!"

"Well, I tried," he protested, "I bought Harry's cabin. Even I can only fish for so long though. When the program was re-activated, they asked me to come back to active duty. I was bored. I agreed."

They came to another little tree-lined square. It was an oasis of green with benches and a fountain amidst the concrete gray walls of the city. Jack stopped, saying, "Let's take ten. It was a long hike from the beach this morning."

Pete sat down, happy to give his feet a rest. "That must be twelve miles. Are you nuts?"

Jack rubbed his aching knee. "Habit. I can't remember how many pairs of boots I've worn out over the last eight years."

"I don't suppose you can tell me how you wear out boots doing radar telemetry." He leaned back, enjoying the sun's warmth, the breeze and the gurgling water.

"Ask me again, next week, after the meeting."

"Ah, yes. The meeting. I feel like we're conjugating the Pentagon," Thornton observed, changing the subject. He ticked off people on his fingers. "General O'Neill, Colonel Carter, Major Davis, Captain Harlan, Lieutenant Simmons and two wildcards. Doctor Jackson and Mr. Teal'c. Where do you fit? Or are you their 'ace in the hole'?"

Jack stretched his arms above his head and leaned backward over the bench until his spine cracked. He shook himself like a wet dog before relaxing back into a slouch and answering. "Sometimes I wish I was 'in the hole' and that far undercover. Nope, I'm right out there. Front and center. Brigadier General Jack O'Neill – Commanding."

"Uh, Pete?" Concerned, he glanced over at his silent companion. "Pete?"

"General?" Thornton couldn't believe his ears.

"What?" O'Neill joked, "Did you think I got busted so many times I was still a Captain? Even in the military they sometimes cut a little slack for. What was that phrase? A screwball who gets results."

Thornton sat up abruptly, started shaking his head and laughing. "Oh man. I should have guessed, George. I should have guessed."

"What? What?" Jack was puzzled at this reaction. "George who?"

"Let me tell you a story." Pete shifted on the bench so he was facing the other man. "Back when I was still in the army, I worked on a couple of joint service operations with Major, then Colonel Hammond."

He couldn't see the incredulous look plastered on Jack's face at these words.

"We kept in touch off and on over the years. Eight years ago I had to be in Washington for a meeting at the Pentagon. I ran into General Hammond. One evening we went out to shoot the bull and catch up. Somehow we got to griping about our … problem children." His tone put quotes around the last words.

O'Neill mouthed the words "problem children" and looked faintly insulted but amused.

Pete kept talking, oblivious to the comment. "He said that he was concerned about this one man. He had a list of commendations as long as his right arm, and list of reprimands as long as his left. Almost every reprimand was tied to a commendation. He was trying to decide if he should send this guy back into retirement or keep him on active duty."

"I know what he decided. What did you tell him?"

"I told him that I used to have an operative like that. Unorthodox as hell. A bit of a screwball, you might say. However, he was the best man I had and always got results. Not always the results that were requested but always the results that were required."

"Why, thank you, Pete," Jack said, touched by the compliment.

"You're welcome. It was only the truth, M … Jack." Chagrined at the almost mistake, he continued, "You know, that's going to be a problem. You sound the same. Without any visual cues, I'm going slip and call you by the wrong name."

"No, you won't," Jack reassured him, "We've got all weekend to work on it." He took the other man's arm, leading him to the curb and hailing a cab.

"C'mon, I still owe you a dinner." Even thought Pete couldn't see it, MacGyver's broad, carefree grin was shining on O'Neill's face. "I know this little Thai place down by the beach. It's been there for years. You'll love it."


© 2004 Jynjyr