Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. That's it, typing practice. I'll return them to their actual owners (relatively) undamaged. This is an amateur work of fiction; no profit beyond pleasure was derived from the writing.

Helping Hand

a MacGyver story originally published in Things that Go Bump in the Night #1 from Neon RainBow Press

by Susan M. M.

"Sam" Malloy looked out the window of the Descanso Junction Restaurant. The rain continued to come down, although it didn't seem quite so heavy as before. The young journalist's real name was Sean Angus Malloy, but he preferred to use his initials.

"Looks like it's starting to let up," his father observed. MacGyver preferred not to use his first name at all; he considered it too ethnic for a 20th century American. He waved at the waitress. "Miss? Two more hot chocolates, please."

Father and son nursed their drinks as they waited for the weather to settle. The restaurant was both homey and homely. Calling the décor 'unpretentious' would be a flattering exaggeration. But the sandwiches had been filling and reasonably priced, the soup hadn't come out of a can, and the hot chocolate hadn't come out of a little paper packet. The waitress' smile was sincere. Of course, a lot of women smiled at Mac and Sam. Both were handsome, Mac with long dirt-blond hair – that odd shade that can't quite decide whether to be blond or brown – and his boyish charm, Sam with brown hair.

"So what's the game plan?" Sam asked, his brown eyes alive with curiosity. "Or are we just going wherever the road takes us?"

MacGyver had only met his son two weeks ago. He hadn't known his college girlfriend, Catherine Malloy, was carrying his child when they broke up. The road trip was designed to give father and son a chance to get to know each other.

"Once the rain stops, up through the Cuyamaca Mountains – some of the most beautiful country in the whole U. S. of A. – and on to Julian."

"And in Julian?"

"Overpriced B&Bs, lots of tourist trap one-of-a-kind shops, and the best apple pies in the world." Mac's brown eyes sparkled in anticipation, and despite the lunch he'd just eaten, his mouth watered at the thought of Julian apple pies. "Just ask any coffee shop or restaurant in town: they all claim to have the best apple pies. Jack Dalton got a bellyache once going from restaurant to restaurant, trying to test their claims and decide for himself."

"What else?" Sam asked.

"Well, there's a local history museum. Takes ten minutes to see if you're in a hurry, half in hour if you go slowly. Both the gold mine and the winery give tours. "One of the hotels is supposed to be haunted." Mac exhaled heavily, but didn't quite snort. He didn't believe in ghosts, and took a dim view of the paranormal in general. As far as he was concerned, the Julian Hotel was more important for its role in African-American history, as the first hotel in the state of California owned by African-Americans{1}, then for its alleged ghosts. Mama Colton had stayed there once, when she took a statewide bus tour for senior citizens interested in exploring their ethnic heritage and history. Mama Colton was likely to take a frying pan to anyone who dared call her a senior citizen to her face, but she didn't mind accepting senior citizen discounts.

"My friend, Mary Vernage, runs a B&B up there. She said since it was the off-season, she'd put us up for half-price. After that, I thought we'd go on to Santa Ysabel," Mac continued. "See the mission and stop by Dudley's."

Sam raised an eyebrow in silent enquiry.

"Dudley's Bakery. Best bread in the world. After that," Mac shrugged, "maybe Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and east to Arizona. Or maybe you'd like to pick our next destination. I'm flexible."

Sam nodded. He was used to playing it by ear. His mother had been murdered by officials who didn't want a foreign journalist to tell the truth about political corruption, and he'd taken care of himself from an early age. He glanced out the window. "The rain has finally stopped."

MacGyver pulled his wallet out of his pocket and laid a five dollar bill on the table for a tip. "Let's go."

They walked up to the cashier and paid their bill.

"Thanks for coming," the cashier said as she handed MacGyver his change. "You be careful on those wet roads, y'hear?"

Mac nodded. "We will."

Outside, Mac pulled a towel out of his saddlebag and wiped the motorcycle seats dry.{2} "Ready?"

"Ready," Sam agreed. So far, he was enjoying this road trip. He'd been a little nervous at first, getting to know his father, but so far, it was working out all right. And in Pete Thornton and Jack Dalton, he seemed to have gained a grandfather and an uncle without even trying.

They'd started in Los Angeles, then gone east to San Bernardino. They'd attended the Renaissance Faire there, enjoying the harp and the psaltery music, watching the Morris dancers, ogling the wenches in tightly laced, low cut bodices. Sam had taken many pictures, and hoped to sell an article on the RenFaire to one of his editors. Then they'd headed south to San Juan Capistrano, where Sam had photographed the ancient mission. They'd spent a few days at the Pala Indian Reservation, where Mac had a friend, Nicodemus Whitecloud, who owned the rez garage. Nick pumped gas and repaired cars by day, and worked with young people to keep the Kumeyaay language from dying out in the evening. Then they'd continued down to San Diego, where they'd visited thezoo and Seaworld, just like regular tourists. Now they were headed up into the Cuyamaca Mountains.

The rain made everything alive, awakening the pine scent more than usual, sparkling droplets still clinging to the pine needles.

Highway 79 was a steep road, twisting and turning through the mountains. The rain made it slicker than usual. Controlling their shared love of riding their motorcycles full throttle, both father and son rode slower than they'd normally prefer. Neither one wanted to risk an accident.

A pity we don't always get what we want.

A white-tailed deer ran into the road. Mac and Sam both swerved too avoid the doe. Sam's young reflexes were quick. Mac's bike skidded into a pothole. He went flying off his bike and landed – hard – against a black oak.

Sam halted his motorcycle at once. "Dad, are you okay?"

MacGyver didn't answer.

Sam laid his bike down on the side of the road and checked his father. MacGyver was still breathing, but he was unconscious. "Dad? Dad?"

The older man didn't answer.

"A-B-C," Sam remembered. "Airway. Breathing. Circulation." He gave his father a cursory check. Then he pulled out his cell phone to dial 911, but the batteries were dead. He searched his father's body, and found his phone. "Damn." It had been smashed when Mac had hit the tree.

"Looks like you got a problem, Bud."

Sam whirled around, startled to hear a voice behind him.

A grizzled old man stood there. Sam couldn't tell if the hair under the battered fedora was white or gray. His craggy face was decorated by overlarge ears and nose. Time's pen had left numerous wrinkles. He wore a brown leather jacket over a black and white plaid shirt. Years of hard work had left him slightly stooped; Sam guessed that he'd be MacGyver's height, or perhaps an inch or two shorter, if he stood completely upright.

"Where'd you –" Sam broke off in mid-sentence. It wasn't important where he'd come from. What was important was getting help for his father.

"My phone's dead, and his is broken." He held up the shattered wreckage of the cell phone. "Do you have a phone, or can you help me get to one?"

The old man shook his head. "My cabin is too far to get to from here." He looked up and down the deserted road. "Off season. Won't be many tourists comin' by."

"Then what can we do?" Sam was scared. He'd never been responsible for anyone but himself before.

"You know how to make a fire?" the old man asked.

Sam nodded. "But the wood's all wet."

"Wood on the ground is wet. Find some dead branches on the trees. Break 'em off. Then peel the bark off 'em; the wood inside will be dry. Shave it real thin, and you'll have kindling." His bushy eyebrows rose, and he gave Sam a warning look. "Mind you, make sure it's dead branches you break off 're either in or close to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park; I misremember where the boundaries are. You're near to Cleveland National Forest. Between the park rangers and the volunteer fire department, someone's bound to see a signal fire."

Sam nodded.

"You start on gatherin' some kindling. I'll check out your Pa."

The old man knelt beside MacGyver. "You hang tough, Bud. It ain't your time yet." He glanced over at Sam, who was carefully removing the bark from the branches. "Besides, you got someone who needs you now."

"How is he?" Sam asked when he came back with the wood.

"Hit pretty hard. Concussion, maybe. Damned good thing he was wearin' that helmet. His breathing is kinda ragged. Might have some cracked ribs." The old man looked up at Sam. "I ain't no doctor, but I don't think it's fatal." He shrugged. "Painful, probably."

Sam took a deep breath. Having someone to talk to helped him calm down and stay focused. "There's a first aid kit in the motorcycle saddlebags. I'll go get it."

"I ain't as young as I used to be, Bud. Hope you won't think badly of me if I ask you to handle the first aid."

Sam fetched the first aid kit. Under the elderly man's patient direction, he patched up his father as best he could. Then he started the signal fire.

"I can't stay long," the old man announced. "But I reckon I can keep you company till someone sees your fire and comes to investigate."

"I'd appreciate that," Sam admitted.

Without another word, the old man bent over and picked up a piece of broken branch from the ground. He leaned against a tree and reached into his pants pocket. Pulling out a Swiss army knife, he began whittling.

Twenty minutes later, a park ranger pulled up in a jeep. "Just what do you think –" He closed his mouth when he saw MacGyver lying on the ground, and the wreckage of his motorcycle against the tree. "How bad is he hurt?"

"Pretty bad, I think," Sam confessed.

"Looks like you two have things under control," the old man observed. "Time for me to get along. Grandma Celia's waitin' on me."

Sam stuck out his hand to shake the old man's hand, but the elderly man was already heading back into the forest.

"You take good care of him, Bud. That's what family's for." A moment later he was out of sight, hidden by the thick trees.

MacGyver opened his eyes. The light was far too bright, and the air smelled of disinfectant, not pine, not apple pies. He exhaled. Then he flinched; exhaling had hurt. He was not in Julian. "Damn, I hate hospitals."

"Dad!" Sam dropped his magazine and hurried to his father's side.

"Hi, Sam," Mac said weakly. "I suppose the standard question in a situation like this is 'where am I?' How long have I been out of commission?"

"A couple of hours. And you're in Grossmont Hospital."

"What happened?"

"You argued right-of-way with a deer. The deer won."

"And my bike?" Mac asked, afraid to hear the answer.

"Well, I hope you have insurance." Sam watched as his father grimaced. "It's totaled."

Mac sighed. "I suppose they'll want to keep me overnight for observation?" When Sam nodded, he continued, "Can you get my wallet? I need to call Mary so she doesn't worry."

Sam dug through Mac's clothes and found his wallet. "Here you go."

Mac sorted through a disorganized mess of ATM receipts, library card, photos, etc. until he found Mary's business card.

"Can I look at the pictures?" Sam tried to keep the eager note out of his voice, to sound calm and nonchalant.

"Sure."

The young photojournalist flipped through the pictures. Some he recognized: Pete Thornton, Jack Dalton. Others his father had to tell him: Penny Parker, Lisa Woodman, Frank and Jesse Colton. Suddenly Sam stopped, staring at a picture of an old man in a battered cloth coat. "What's this picture doing here?"

"Huh? That's my Grandpa Harry. Your great-grandfather."

"But you said Grandpa Harry was dead," Sam said quietly.

Mac nodded. "He died a few years ago." His brown eyes took on a faraway look, remembering. "He never liked the name Angus either. Always called me Bud."

"Dad, this is the man who helped me in the mountains. And he never asked my name. He just called me Bud."

1 Ex-slave Albert Robinson and his wife Margaret. She was an excellent baker who started the Julian tradition of apple pies.

2 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is right: you should always know where your towel is.