The first thing MacGyver did was vomit. It certainly wasn't fun, but he realized it was a clear sign that he was still alive, and that alone made it tolerable. He was sore. The sand under his body was wet and cool; it sloped enough to show him he was sprawled just above the shoreline, with his legs still in the water. By the light in the sky he could see it was a little after dawn, which meant that roughly six hours had passed since the explosion on the Good Tern.
His head hurt, his mouth tasted vile, and he was completely soaked, but other than that he seemed to be in one piece.
I'm not normally an ocean type of person but I can swim well enough to survive--I sure hope someone else has too, he thought.
Getting up was slow; one of his Nikes was gone. Mac stepped away from his regurgitated dinner, rinsed his mouth with salt water, and took a good look around to get his bearings, but what he saw didn't cheer him up very much at all.
The shoreline was a meager strip of fine sand fringing the water. He could see a line of reef over the far horizon of the water, coral standing out like teeth on a lower jaw. Bits of wreckage were drifting on the waves, and more was already washed up on the shore around him. Slowly Mac realized that some of the debris might come in handy before nightfall, and began pulling bits of it above the tide line, thinking hard all the while about what he should do next.
There has to be someone else here besides me, he thought grimly, Five other people had been on the Good Tern besides yours truly, all of them part of the Foundation's reef reconstruction project.
Burly pipe-smoking Randy Howard was the dive master, Hanna Kong the lead marine biologist. The rest of the team should have around too: Lewis Pangolin a coral specialist, ichthyologist Wilson Mays and of course Briar Rose Clowderbock. Thoughts of her made Mac shake his head in rueful frustration. She'd been annoyed when Thornton made him part of the team, he remembered, but the two of them had managed to get along most of the trip, going through their complicated little personal shuffle again, with neither of them ever sure where each stood with the other. A strong attraction was there, and Mac suspected that an exasperated Pete had deliberately thrown them together in a last ditch attempt to let it blossom or burn out.
A squeaking noise brought him out of his jumbled thoughts and he looked down to see a box washing up on the shore. Mac's spirits rose as he recognized Randy's huge tackle box. The sides were lined with cork, so it floated--Randy had pointed out that safety feature nearly a week back. He scooped it out of the water and popped the latches to open it. The contents were jumbled, but intact: fishing line, hooks, lures, a few knives and an assortment of other stuff all tangled up together. It was clearly a godsend, and he carefully re-latched the box.
Which way to go?
He scanned the beach again, looking for anything human or helpful. The shoreline stretched out to the left of him, but the right ended at a cliff, forming a natural cove complete with at least three towering ancient coconut trees. It seemed the right sort of spot to drag all the things he'd found washed up, so he left a pile under the tallest tree. Among the other treasures were some nylon rope, several pieces of canvas, the tackle box, and part of a deck chair, the metal tubing twisted in odd contortions.
After taking off his wet socks and the one shoe, he began walking down the beach, trying to sort out his thoughts. Already his clothes: a Phoenix Foundation sweatshirt over a tee shirt and khaki shorts, were drying out in the growing breeze. He shot a worried look at the sky. A pat to his pocket reassured him that his knife was still handy, and he was fairly sure he could find water . . . but all of it was just distraction from the bigger fears on his mind.
What exactly had happened to the Good
Tern? We had been heading back out-running the storm, making good time back to
As he hiked along thinking, he stumbled over something, and drew back so fast he nearly fell. Mac's stomach lurched, but since it was already empty, all he did was gag; the flies he'd disturbed buzzed angrily and then settled back on the severed human arm tangled in the clump of seaweed.
He forced himself to look at it. Long fingers. Delicate nails. Something inside him twisted hard, forcing his eyes to water up. The pit of his stomach ached as the fact sank in that either Hanna or Rose hadn't made it. Carefully he looked around, but there weren't any other remains along the shoreline that he could see. He didn't know what to do--burying it seemed the decent thing, but he couldn't quite bring himself to touch it. Instead, Mac slowly piled rocks on the remains, trying not to think about what he was doing. He wiped his eyes a lot.
Finally, he finished, and started walking again, a hell of a lot more depressed than he had been before.
Damn. I knew not everyone might survive, but cold reality hurts.
He'd hiked another half mile down the meager beach and was just reaching the end of the sand, studying the coral boulders that jutted out into the water when he heard the voice.
"Mac! Oh my God, Mac! We're over here!"
MacGyver's heart jumped; he swept his vision to the right just in time to watch a tattered and wet Rose race towards him from the edge of the jungle undergrowth. He shot forward himself and snagged her, clutching her close, savoring the warm solid feel of her form against his. A deep chord of relief chimed within him.
She's alive. Thank you.
MacGyver could have stayed that way for hours, and by the strength of her hug suspected she felt the same way, but after a few minutes, Rose sighed, wriggled out of his grip and looked up into his face. She had scratches on the side of her neck, a deep cut splitting her lower lip, and her hair hung in wet tangles around her pale face. She wore tattered thermal long johns that would have seemed ridiculous if the situation weren't already so unreal.
"I found Wilson about two hours ago, hanging onto part of the decking. I dragged him up by that big rock, but he's in really bad shape Mac-- I don't think he's going to make it!" she whispered. "I haven't seen anybody else."
"Hanna's dead," He replied
shortly, following her as she led the way. She didn't ask how he knew and he
was grateful for that.
"Hey . . . MacGyver," the
ichthyologist wheezed. Mac knelt down by him, looking him over. Their eyes met;
"Not much . . . time."
Unable to lie, Mac nodded.
Mac did--their conversation a week back, all on the merits of Manitou boots for hiking. They'd both told their favorite trail stories over dinner, entertaining the rest of the team.
"When I go--take them."
"Wilson! --" Rose interjected. Mac could hear that she was dangerously close to tears; he shook his head.
"Don't be stupid, man . . . if
you're . . . stuck here a while . . . you'll . . . need them,"
MacGyver sat Wilson up again, feeling the pain wracking his friend's body.
"Okay," he muttered, just
to placate the dying man. Rose wrapped an arm around
"My girl, Carole . . . tell her--" and then he was gone, consciousness fading from his gaze as a final gout of blood cascaded out of his lips. Rose and Mac locked gazes; she choked back a sob, and he felt more helpless than he'd ever felt.
*** **** ****
It took most of the morning to bury the body, marking the site with a cairn of beach rocks. Rose quietly insisted Mac take the hiking boots, and he didn't put up much of a fuss about it. Wilson did me a favor by giving them to me, he acknowledged. Rose had a pair of Teva sandals that looked kind of funny with her flowered long johns, but at least her legs were protected from the sun. Sort of, anyway, since there were some rips in a few interesting places. After a prayer and a long moment of silence, Mac told her about the tackle box, so they headed back down the beach to the coconut trees, keeping a good pace.
"So what happened?" She demanded, crossing her arms over her chest and looking up at the overcast sky. Mac shook his head slowly, a frown on his face.
"I don't know. I was with Randy at the helm when it happened, and everything sounded fine."
"I was on my way to the bathroom. Did we hit something?" Mac pondered the idea for a moment, shrugging.
"Possibly, but I can't imagine what would cause that kind of explosion short of a torpedo or a mine."
"Sabotage?" Rose gave him a skeptical glance, but Mac again shook his head.
"Why? We're a nonprofit research group, Rose--it's not like we're wrecking anyone's commercial venture. Besides, even if it were a deliberate strike, we'd have heard something approaching us--a plane or another ship. I've been running it through my mind for a couple of hours and I still don't have any explanation that makes sense." It was exactly the sort of vague answer he hated to give.
They walked in silence for a while. Rose drew in a deep breath.
"Well, let's get practical then. We've got a tropical storm that's going to hit in less than twelve hours. What do we need to get done?"
"Water and shelter," Mac responded promptly. "Those are the priorities. Nobody's going to be able to start looking for us until after the storm passes anyway, and I'm worried about our exposure."
"Yeah--" Rose cast a glance down at her hip, where a large rip flapped with every step. Mac flushed slightly, but he gave a slight nod of acknowledgement.
"There's some fishing line in the box--if I can straighten out a fishhook, you'll have a needle and thread to mend some of those tears."
"Better cloth than flesh. What were you thinking of for a shelter?" Rose replied. Mac pointed to the end of the cove, where the limestone cliffs rose at the water's edge.
"Sections of that are coral, and probably pitted with caves. If we're lucky we might find one high enough to avoid the tide. "
"Okay. And water?"
"If we empty the tackle box we can use it to catch rainwater, but that's a last resort," he admitted. "I'd rather look for a freshwater runoff if we can find one."
"Or a bamboo grove--it grows along streams," Rose added thoughtfully.
They reached the end of the cove, and Rose studied the collected stuff with an approving eye. She was especially delighted with the tackle box.
"Look at all this stuff! Matches, fish shears, bug spray--Thank you Randy," she murmured, pulling out a dive knife and strapping the sheath to her calf. She looked slightly ridiculous; Mac grinned, but Rose caught his look and stuck her tongue out.
"I don't have any pockets in my jammies, so this is the only way I can carry it--" she protested, and he caught the logic of her comment.
"Let's walk along the edge of the cliff into the boonies and see if we can find a cave," he suggested. The sun was out, but large clouds kept scudding across the sky. Rose looked at the rope thoughtfully.
"Should we do the labyrinth thing and anchor a line out here to follow back?"
Startled, Mac looked at her with grudging approval.
They tied the end of a long spool of fishing line to one of the coconut trees. Rose stuck the spool on a stick and let it reel out as she followed behind Mac into the overgrowth. It was cooler under the green shade of the leaves, but slow going as they pushed through dense vines and saplings. The cliff was on their right. Mac stopped suddenly, forcing Rose to bump into him.
"I think I hear water," he replied, concentrating carefully. Rose listened, too. Faintly it came to them both, and they shared a grin at the sound.
"Sounds like it. Let's . . ." Mac stopped speaking and looked at his hand, where it rested against the coral. Rose caught his concern and frowned.
"Look carefully at where my fingers are resting--either I'm seeing things, or that's a step carved into the wall."
She looked. It was definitely a step. There was another below it, and another, but dangling vines hid the ones above. For a long moment, neither of them spoke until Mac frowned decisively.
"I've got it. I think we're looking at some sort of fortification from World War two--there's probably a Japanese lookout or pillbox up the face of this cliff," he announced. Rose bit her lip and looked up again. He followed her glance and added softly, "It could be the answer to our shelter situation."
"Yeah, but--" a world of unspoken doubts filled her words. Mac sighed, sensing her trepidation. The steps ran parallel against the cliff, like a fire escape ladder to a building.
"There wont' be much left, Rose. Forty years of exposure will have reduced--remains--to dust, I promise. Shall we look?"
"What about the water?"
"We've got time--let's see if what's up there is worth clearing out."
She shivered, but took the stick that held the spool and jammed it in the coral wall. Mac had already gone up several of the steps and had started to pull away the vines to clear the way. It was slow but steady going, and Rose was glad that the steps were wide, especially as they climbed higher along the side of the cliff. Mac counted the steps in a loud voice as much to scare off any animals as to reassure her.
" . . . Twenty three, twenty four--and here's the entry, I think," he announced, peering at a dark and uninviting opening. Gripping the vines around it, he yanked, uprooting them and tossing them over his shoulder. He peered in, and took a cautious step forward. Rose followed.
The interior would have been cozy if there had been more light. Only a few glimmers of daylight shone through to highlight a sandy floor and a concrete room in an oval shape. Mac sniffed.
"A little dusty, but dry for the most part. The ceiling's low, so watch your head. There should be a port or a slot overlooking the cove--" Both he and Rose stepped over to the right, and began to tug again on the overflow of vines that sprouted from the wall. Mac fished out his pocketknife and began to saw through some of the thicker, woodier stems. After a few minutes of hard work, sunlight began streaming through into the room. Rose gasped.
"What a view!" It was spectacular, the low coral window opening up to reveal a clear panorama of the beach, the reef and the vast ocean beyond. Excited, Rose leaned out a little way.
"We're about fifty feet up--we can't miss anyone headed our way, Mac."
"Only if they're coming from the west," he amended, turning his attention to the rest of the room. He noted a few interesting rectangular shapes and squatted down to examine them.
"Steel footlockers. Maybe we'll find something useful in here--" With a tug, he opened the nearest one, sending a cascade of sand to the floor. The hinges creaked.
"Very old paperwork . . . ammo for a rifle, but no gun. Ah! But this--" he carefully lifted out a rusted machete, looking down the length of the blade carefully. Rose reached past him for something else in the trunk. The binoculars glinted in the light, their leather strap crumbling away. She handed them to MacGyver, who grinned.
"Nice. So what else have we got?"
The other two trunks held the rusted remains of a few canteens, some ancient maps that disintegrated the minute they touched it, and four good sized porcelain bowls with designs of chrysanthemums on them. Rose set them aside carefully, and pulled out the cloth they had been wrapped in, holding it up for inspection.
"Silk--and in pretty good condition too," she noted, admiring the red rising sun in the middle of the huge banner. MacGyver cocked his head and stood up.
"There are collectors out there who'd pay a fortune for that." His tone of voice made it clear what he thought; Rose shrugged and draped the banner over her shoulders.
"The only thing about this that interests me is that it's a natural insulator--if we don't have sleeping bags, at least we can wrap up in the banner and keep our body heat in." She looked down to hide her faint blush.
"What we need now then, is to find a water source, and then start moving things up here for tonight," Mac changed the subject easily. He hefted the machete, and began gathering up the ripped vines, carrying them down the steps. Rose carefully set the bowls back in the footlocker and followed him once more.
The light had changed now, casting longer shadows on the ground. Through the gaps in the leaves overhead, Rose could see the thunderheads approaching across the sky and pointed them out to MacGyver. He nodded. Carefully, he began cutting a path, stopping to listen every few minutes for the falls. Gradually the ground began to slope downward and the sound grew louder.
Rose saw the falls first. A lovely cascade of water crashed down from a gully in the cliff wall to spill into a shallow pool. She brushed the hair out of her face and stepped down to the water, dipping a tentative sandal into the cool water. MacGyver followed her and cast his glance over the scene with a broad smile.
"Postcard perfect--" she murmured.
"--And as potable as we're going to get, I think. Right now we still don't have anything to carry it . . . what are you *doing? *"
"Skinny dipping," Rose announced tugging her shirt up. "I'm ready for a swim."
"Whoah, listen Rose--" Mac tried not to look at her, arguing over his shoulder, "While I'm all for cleanliness, we need to start thinking about how we're going get some of this water back."
"You'll figure out something--you're MacGyver!" she threw back at him in amused frustration. A splash told him she'd gone in; he risked a peek and caught a flash of bare legs as Rose dove into the water.
He sighed. Part of him knew that this break was needed, that both he and Rose were already overstressed not only by the shipwreck, but also by the sudden and gory death of Wilson. At the same time, he was well aware of the continuing perils of their situation. He looked up at the sky, judging the time.
In for a penny, in for a pound I guess--
Carefully, Mac picked up Rose's tattered thermals and draped them on her sandals before kneeling and untying his boots.
"Coming in? It's wonderful!" Rose called to him, her head popping out of the water. He nodded.
"Better hope there aren't any leeches--"
She made a raspberry sound and ducked back under, her body a pale streak of pink through the ripples. Carefully, he peeled off his shirt and sweatshirt,
"I won't look, I prom-ise--"
"*Rose--*" Mac wondered how many more times she was going to make him blush. With a laugh, she turned away, and he hastily shucked out of his shorts, slipping into the water with a gasp.
After a few moments of adjustment, it felt wonderful. Mac scrubbed the dried salt out of his hair, and drank in enough to slake his thirst. Rose was swimming a few yards away, her back to him. In the sunlight, he could see the red hint of sunburn on her shoulders.
"There's some bamboo down here to the left--some pretty big stalks--" she told him conversationally. He looked over.
"That may be the way to carry the water. A big segment with the top cut open could act as a bucket of sorts."
"Yep. And I was thinking about a bed. If we got a bunch of fronds and bamboo leaves then covered them with some of the canvas, we'd be off the floor and padded a little."
Mac was suddenly grateful that the water was cold.
Both of us naked and talking about bed . . .
It was enough to steer his imagination in direction he had been delving into far too often of late, so he gave a grunt and dove under, swimming with powerful strokes across the pool to the shallow falls at the other side. Rose kept her distance, but watched him cautiously. He treaded water when he came up, looking at the cascading water.
"I think I see some sort of block and tackle up there--the occupying forces probably used it to haul buckets of water from under the falls."
"Can you reach it?"
"Only if I get up on the ledge, and right now, that's not something I want to do."
She giggled, and swam back to shore.
"Turn around, Mac. I'm off to gather fronds and coconuts before it gets dark."
Rose pulled on her thermals quickly, not giving Mac time to do more than call out "Be careful!" after her retreating form. He continued studying the weathered pulley dangling high above.
*** *** ***
Rose looked at the pile of fronds and gave a growl of frustration. Although she had managed to drag quite a few of them up, they refused to stay in any sort of neat pile. She set one of them down and glanced around the pillbox, looking at all the supplies Mac had brought up earlier. One of the segments of nylon rope caught her eye. Within half an hour, she'd bundled the fronds, weaving the rope to hold them loosely. The tattered canvas sail went over them, making a serviceable if somewhat scratchy bed. Using a spare frond she swept out the room. That done, she moved to the window and looked out.
Down below on the beach she could see Mac gathering firewood and kindling, stacking it in piles under the coconut trees. He had his sweatshirt off, and was using it to carry something across his back. Rose leaned out and whistled; startled, Mac looked up.
"Whatcha got?" she called down.
"Mangos," he yelled back. "The wind's really picking up, so I don't think we ought to try starting a fire."
"Okay. Is there anything left to bring?"
"More coconuts wouldn't hurt."
He arrived a few minutes later and gently set the fruit in one of the cleaned out footlockers. Rose was kneeling at the window, watching the sunset among angry thunderhead clouds. She shivered, rubbing her arms.
"Storm's almost here. It's weird, Mac, but now I'm scared. We have food, shelter, water and yet right now I'd give anything to be somewhere else."
She said it lightly, but something in the undertone made Mac look down at her woebegone expression. He laid a hand on her shoulder.
"Hey, we've gone through a lot today," Mac reassured her. "It's normal to be scared. *I'm* scared."
"Not you, the great unflappable, unsinkable MacGyver--" Rose weakly smiled up into his face. "Honestly, if you'd been on the Titanic the ship would still be around."
He held her gaze, and for a long moment, they merely studied each other. Mac felt a strong temptation to kiss the cut on her lower lip, and keep kissing until things ended who knew where. For the moment, Rose was vulnerable, a rare state of affairs that Mac knew wouldn't last but one that never failed to drive him to distraction.
Got to get through this--
He let the hand slide up her shoulder to cup her jaw line. She laid her cheek on his wrist for a few seconds, and then seemed to pull herself together; she rose and picked up a mango, peeling it. MacGyver moved to the doorway and studied it carefully.
"Which will make a better door--the last piece of canvas, or palm fronds?"
"Are we merely considering aesthetics, or is there a practical side to this?" she asked through a mouthful of mango as she stood on tiptoe to peer over his shoulder.
"Both would keep out the rain, but we have to jam a lot more pegs into the coral to hold the fronds up."
"Canvas then. Do we have enough?"
"Yeah. Hand me some of those frond spines . . ." he took off one of his boots and used it as a hammer, pounding a row of sticks around the arched doorway. The canvas had a series of brass eyelets that hooked onto the sticks, and when Mac was done, he smiled.
"It's a little long, but we can use a few coconuts to hold it down and keep it from flapping if the wind gets bad."
"Nice job," Rose called sleepily from the window. She had pulled up one of the steel footlockers and was sitting on it. "Hey, do you think you could try and straighten out a fish hook for me tomorrow?"
Another awkward pause filled the room. The light had faded, and the mournful rustling of the jungle sounded loud as the wind gusted through it. Rose stood up.
"Look, I'm tired, and you're tired, and let's just get some sleep, okay?"
"Fine by me." Mac parked his boots by the door and waved a hand at the bed. "Ladies first--if you're on the wall side, the wind won't be as bad."
With alacrity, Rose climbed on the stiff canvas, curling into a ball as Mac followed her. The fronds rustled under their weight, and Rose gave an annoyed gasp as one poked into her side.
"Relax--take the flag and wrap up good in it, then get comfortable. I don't think we're going to get too cold." He assured her as he rolled to face the door. She sighed.
"You do realize that if I have to pee in the middle of the night I'm going to have to crawl over you."
Mac laughed, the first genuine one of the day. He reached back and patted her hip gently.
"And here I was thinking that you needed my help. Go to sleep, Rose."
*** *** ***
Within a few hours the storm hit with full intensity, ripping through the jungle with savage fury. The rain smashed down in hard sheets. Fortunately, the cliff was on the southern side of the onslaught, so only a minor amount of the water tricked down through the coral window. The wind blew across the opening in a wild whistling sound. Rose huddled close to MacGyver's back savoring his warmth. She slid her arm around his waist and he drew in a breath.
"It's okay--sort of nice to know you're there," he responded drowsily. Comforted, she tried to go back to sleep, but the howl of the wind was too loud, and they were both content to lie there while the storm raged outside. Finally Rose whispered,
"Mac, just why *did* you sign up for the reef recovery project anyway?"
He spoke reluctantly. "Well it's an important cause, and I knew the team could use an extra diver, and . . ." he trailed off. Rose prodded his shoulder with her chin.
"And Pete told me that you were thinking about leaving the Foundation, so I offered to talk you out of it," Mac admitted uncomfortably. Rose let out a long sigh.
"Oh Mac . . ."
"Come on, Rose you know you've got a great career here with lots of chances to work on your degree."
"It's not about the work, MacGyver. You're right--the Foundation as enough resources and projects to earn me all the degrees I could ever want. But life isn't just about a job, you know."
He tried again. "You've got a lot of friends here too: Evelyn, Jack and Pete--"
"Maybe even you?" she teased.
"Well of course me," came his exasperated reply. "That goes without saying."
He rolled over to face her even though the shadowy darkness made it impossible to see each other. He felt her head settle on his shoulder and he struggled to find the right words.
"Rose we haven't always gotten along, and I know part of that is because I'm not used to anybody getting . . ."
Past my radar and squarely into my libido--
" . . . Under my skin the way you do," he admitted. Unexpectedly Rose reached over and tweaked his nose.
"You bug me too, Mac. I've never met another soul as self-reliant as you are. You don't really need anybody else, and probably never will."
"That's not true," he muttered, but she continued.
"You're right--you need other people, but it takes an act of God to get you to admit it. And every time Pete, or I, or whoever it is actually manages to help you out, we get shoved away the minute your feet are back under you."
The accusation stung; Mac tensed but Rose hugged him tighter, not letting him roll away as the realization hit him.
"So it's me. *I'm* the reason you're calling it quits with the Phoenix Foundation?" came his slightly hurt response. Rose didn't speak, but he could feel her nod slowly against his shoulder.
For the first time in ages, he cursed; a single hard guttural Anglo-Saxon four-letter word that hung in the air.
"You're not taking this well--" Rose ventured.
"You could say that. Were you planning on telling me this before you left Rose, or was it just something I was supposed to figure out after you were gone?" He demanded bitterly.
"Why would it matter? It's not as if you . . . oh God--Mac?" This time realization hit *her*.
He tried to let her go, but Rose was quicker, and shifted to straddle him. Mac felt her weight settle on his stomach as she peered down into his face.
"Fine, we'll do it the hard way. Say you love me, or say uncle," she demanded. Alarmed, he grabbed her upper arms and suddenly stopped, unsure whether he wanted to push or pull. She lifted her bottom and dropped down hard enough to drive the air out of his lungs; he gasped as the fronds under the two of them creaked.
"Say you love me--" She wound fingers through his hair, tugging it hard.
"Rose!" Mac growled angrily, "Stop it!" He tightened his grip and heaved, rolling both of them over to pin her under him, all fumbles and bumps on the makeshift bed. She wriggled, but in the dark, the solid weight of his bigger stronger body on hers turned their struggle into something much more primitive. With a whimper, Rose rocked her hips against him, pulling his face down to hers.
Mac groaned, his entire lanky frame shivering when their tongues slid hotly against each other. His hands, normally so deft and sure, fumbled as they caressed her hair. Rose muffled a gasp against his hard mouth.
When he tasted the copper of her cut lip, a fresh surge of arousal shot through him; Rose pressed hot kisses under his chin, working her way up to lick his ear while his hands blindly stroked her body. Neither spoke. Each kiss intensified as the long denied mutual lust flared between them, driving all rational thought away.
Rose felt one of Mac's hands shift under her thermal top to cup her breast, thumb flicking over her hard nipple. She writhed impatiently, wrapping her legs around him, savoring the heat of his muscled thighs. Somehow they each slipped out of their shirts, and when MacGyver's teeth nipped her ear, Rose squealed.
"Rose--" Lonely desperate desire made his voice husky. She silenced him with another kiss, this one tenderly erotic as her hands glided down his bare back. Breaking off, Rose arched up, letting his mouth travel down her throat to her breasts and for the first time in his life, Mac willingly relinquished himself to a drive stronger than reason. The taste of Rose's mouth, the smell of her skin overrode conscious thought; he gave into the hunger to possess all of her.
Through the slow ache of anticipation, they managed to tug and shift and toss away the rest of their clothing. It was too dark to see each other, but all their other senses were heightened, lending a surreal quality to the night. Mac gasped when Rose curled her hand around the rising thickness between his thighs.
"For me?" she whispered sweetly. Helplessly Mac thrust himself against her palm, his face pressed to her cheek. Rose gently stroked him, feeling his frame shiver against hers as he became more and more aroused. He growled in frustration, and reluctantly she let go, her fingers running up the soft trail of fur on his bare stomach to reach his chest, feeling the rapid beat of his heart.
"We can't--" he sounded shaky, a man on the edge.
"It's all right," she reminded him, bringing her knees up around his hips. Mac stomach tightened and he thrust into her, the sensation so overwhelming that both of them gasped. Rose clutched him, feeling the powerful drive of his body as it fused with hers. They rocked together, making the fronds creak and rustle under them when the pace began to quicken. Rose cried out softly, and the sound seemed to drive MacGyver over the edge; moments later he shuddered and collapsed on her, surrendering to the pleasure of the moment.
Rose held him, running her fingers through his tangled hair, feeling the scrape of his unshaven chin on her shoulder. She tasted the sweat on his cheek.
"Uncle," he whispered resignedly, and Rose smiled in the dark.
*** *** ***
Primitive - Part II
Murky grey daylight filtered through the coral window; Mac pulled on his boxers and khaki shorts then looked out, studying the sky and struggling with far too many conflicting thoughts.
If it was wrong, why don't I feel any remorse? And how am I ever be able to look at her again without remembering. . .
He briefly glanced back at Rose, who was curled up in the silk flag sleeping soundly, and then squared his shoulders. He pulled on his tee shirt then padded back over to her, gently shaking her shoulder.
"Mmmmm . . .?"
"Wake up, Brat--"
"I hate it when you call me that," she growled, opening her eyes and glaring up at him. Mac grinned, relieved to be back in more comfortable territory.
"Then your folks never should have named you Briar Rose Althea Thais in the first place, Ms Clowderbock."
"Oh that's rich, coming from someone named Angus---" she shot back, sitting up and wrapping the silk around her body. MacGyver winced as he handed her some of the scattered clothing from the floor.
"Fair enough. We've got a break in the rain, so I thought we ought to go take care of a few things." He looked away while she dressed.
"What's most important?"
"I was thinking about building a stove. If we use one of these steel footlockers we could invert it over a trench fire and use the bottom panel as a cooking surface," he replied absently as he hacked off the top of a green coconut. Rose nodded thoughtfully while she sat next to him on the footlocker and fastened her rock climbing sandals.
"That would work--what about a signal fire?"
"Once the cloud cover breaks and the fuel dries out, we can think about starting one," he agreed, handing her the coconut. Gratefully she drank the sweet water from it, and sighed. Once she was done, Mac took it from her and sliced it length-wise, handing back half. The inner meat was fresh, and Rose scooped it out with unlady like eagerness.
"Man after last night, I'm famished--" looking up, she caught his blush as it flared across his face. Rose felt a similar heat cross her own features, and when MacGyver looked at her, they both burst into embarrassed grins.
"I--" they both began at the same time, stopping in the awkward pause of two people who care deeply what the other might think. Rose laid a hand on his lips, silencing him.
"I know--it was a one night thing, don't worry. I wouldn't want to lose your friendship, Mac. That's more important to me than . . . anything," she trailed off. A wide range of expressions crossed his face: surprise and confusion settled into disappointment as he set his half of the coconut down.
"Rose--it's not as if we can pretend it didn't happen. And frankly, I don't want to forget it," came his low voice. She bit her lip for a moment, wincing at the pain.
"I didn't say I wanted to forget it, Mac. I just don't want it to change what we have already."
"It doesn't," he replied uncertainly. "After all, we're still fighting."
"Oh we always do that," she pointed out with a rueful expression. MacGyver gave an emphatic nod of agreement and quietly added,
"--Maybe it's time we realized it's the same fight over and over."
She glanced up at him, seeing his hopeful, haunted expression and burst out laughing. Mac looked slightly annoyed.
"Geez, did you just realize that, MacGyver? I think that insight hit me about eight months ago, at Penny's wedding. Remember my date, Ramon Munoz?"
"What about him?" Came the wary inquiry. Mac was suddenly very busy with his half of the coconut, and Rose hid a grin.
"As I recall you were sort of brusque to him, and told me I could do better. Pointed out that he was a bore and didn't know the difference between a jellyfish and a sea slug."
"Well he couldn't--" Came Mac's annoyed reply. "I'll bet that the closest he'd ever come to an intertidal zone was at the parking lot to his marina."
"Maybe, but that's not the issue here. You were jealous," she pointed out.
"I wasn't jealous, I was just trying to make sure you weren't making a mistake--"
"Un huh--" came her cynical response as she rolled her eyes. "And it was just a coincidence that the very next day the Foundation needed me to fly out to Maryland to collect bacteria samples along the bay. That lovely three week assignment had your signature on the authorization line."
Mac flushed again, but said nothing. After a moment Rose took pity on him; she leaned over and bumped his shoulder companionably with hers.
"Ramon was a jerk."
MacGyver pursed his mouth in a thoughtful line and picked up the coconut halves. "So was I, I guess."
"Bingo," Rose grinned. "But that's one of the things I love best about you, Mac." Rose pressed a kiss to his nose and was out the door, leaving him to stare, stunned, after her. His stomach fluttered.
/She loves something about me. And I thought last night was the last surprise--/
The debris from the storm lay on the tide line; Rose looked back to where Mac was busily trying to separate clumps of seaweed from a plastic Coleman cooler. Neither of them recognized it from the Good Tern, but it was in fair shape, dented only on one corner. They had found bits of deck and tile, a string of glass floats from a fishing net, and three dead seagulls. The amount of litter that had washed up was depressing, and Rose sighed as she picked up her fifth plastic bag on her stroll. The wind was still strong, but occasionally the sun peeked through the clouds. She looked down.
"Mac!" came her yell. He dropped the seaweed and sprinted over reaching her quickly. Rose was kneeling, trying to yank something up that was half-buried in the sand.
"Come on, help me here--" she ordered. MacGyver recognized the duffle bag and quickly began scooping away the wet sand it lay half buried in. They yanked it out within a minute or so, and Rose fumbled with the zipper.
"Yes!" she crowed with triumph. MacGyver reached in and began pulling out equipment: a mask, fins, and a dive vest.
"My dive gear--" came his wondering tone. Rose wrinkled up her nose as she fished out a Ziploc baggie of trail mix, a waterlogged notebook and a single pair of soggy blue boxer shorts.
"Yech--well, after a good wash at least I'll have something to wear."
"No--You are *not* wearing those, Rose!" he growled, trying to snatch them from her. She held the shorts behind her back, dancing away from his impatient grabs.
"Hey, I have to have something to put on while I sew these things up, and *you're* not using them right now--"
"They're my *underwear* for crying out loud!" MacGyver muttered, as if this fact explained everything. Rose cocked her head, her tangled auburn hair blowing in the breeze around them.
"Oh come on--I'd let you wear *mine*--" she offered, waggling an eyebrow. It was too much for Mac, and he charged, tackling her to the sand as she laughed. They landed with a splash in a sandy tide pool, getting soaked in the process. Rose spluttered. MacGyver, not to be denied, managed to snatch the boxers and toss them back to the duffle bag before looking down at his tormentor. Rose was on her back in the shallow water, a furious expression on her face.
"MacGyver thanks a lot! Now I'm soaked again!"
"You know one of the most interesting facts about your average cotton fabric?" he observed as he leaned over her on all fours with a grin.
"What!" she angrily demanded, glaring up into his face.
"It gets transparent when it's wet."
Rose glanced down at her body and squeaked when she saw her own chest wetly on display in all its full-busted glory.
"Gee, I can think of a contest you ought to enter, Brat--" Mac managed with a straight face. She sat up and put her hands on his chest, trying to push him up and away, but MacGyver, being considerably stronger, refused to budge.
"You, you--!" Unable to summon up a label strong enough to vent her displeasure, she continued to push, even when he started laughing.
It was the completely wrong thing to do. Rose's anger crumbled away, and she broke into a tears, dropping her hands from him as she huddled miserably in the water. Mac froze. Finally, he sat down beside her in the tide pool and pulled her into his lap, letting her sobs dwindle away into hiccups against his shoulder. For a long time she clung to him, but finally she raised her face.
"Sorry," she sniffed. "It just all kind of hit at once, you know? Losing everybody, and knowing Wilson's body is just up there under the trees, and last night . . ."
"Shhhh, it's okay--" MacGyver reassured her, pressing a soft kiss to her forehead. "You don’t have to apologize for being human, Rose. Come to think of it, this is the first time I've ever see you cry."
"Clowderbocks are tough--" she reminded him with a weak smile. "Known for their bull-headed ways. You don't cry either."
"I did when I thought you were dead," he admitted in a low voice. Astonished, Rose stared at Mac until he went on.
"I found an arm on the beach yesterday, and it was . . . rough."
Rose hugged him again, and he smiled into her hair as he hugged her back, rocking a little in the water.
*** *** ***
The fire at sunset was a beautiful thing. Rose bathed in the glow of it, and practically danced around the flickering light. Mac looked up from the other two brush piles and watched her for a moment, sighing. The three signal fires were lit, thanks to the box of pipe matches from the tackle box, and now all that remained to do was to keep them burning for a few hours. Most of the kindling was still damp, so the smoke was thick and white as it billowed up into the overcast sky. Rose settled down near the perimeter of one and watched it contentedly. She had cut the long sleeves off her top and used one as a belt to hold up the boxers she now wore.
"Do you think anyone will see it tonight?" She asked in a wistful voice. Mac walked over, tossing a mango to land in the sand near her.
"I hope so--I know it's still overcast, but I'd rather light them now than wait until clear skies--"
"And the water buckets?"
"Right here--" he grinned. The buckets were the day's major achievement and both Mac and Rose were justly proud of them.
Hours earlier, Mac had found the bamboo stalks with the largest diameter. He and Rose used the sticky threads of several sea slugs to encircle them, and then opened the rifle bullets to glue the gunpowder in a ring around the stalks. Once lit, the gunpowder had burned through the bamboo neatly. A few taps with the machete separated the sections, forming the buckets. Now three of them (one next each fire,) sat filled with salt water. A fourth was up in the pillbox, filled with fresh water.
MacGyver took stock of their situation. The mangos and coconuts were good but not plentiful; tomorrow he and Rose would have to consider some serious foraging or fishing. Both of them were sunburned and mosquito-bitten, but generally in good spirits. He sat down next to Rose, who was tossing fronds into the flames.
"The warmth feels good--" Rose stretched her bare toes towards the fire. Mac nodded, his gaze directed upward, watching the white smoke billow up to dissolve against the grey cloud cover. He frowned at the sight.
"The last report indicated that we were outrunning a tropical storm, but I think it may have developed into a typhoon, Rose, because that cloud cover's too thick and widespread," he observed. "And if that's the case, then it may be a while until planes are flying."
Rose digested this news with a depressed sigh, and absently picked up the mango, nicking the peel with the point of her dive knife. The crackle and hiss of the flames blended with the soft sound of the waves out beyond the firelight. Both of them sat lost in thought, and gradually, they turned their gazes on each other. Mac struggled to bring up the issue that had bothered him all day.
/I've never ducked a responsibility yet--and this one's a twenty-four carat doozy, so here goes--/
"Rose, about last night--"
"--Did Pete ever tell you how he and I met?" she interrupted, hugging her knees. Mac tried again.
"No, but listen, I--"
"--It was while I was shopping for condoms," she continued forthrightly. Mac stared at her, and the heat on his face wasn't just from the fire.
"Yeah, it was back when I was working at Shoreline. Pete was in front of me at the grocery store. He had some frozen dinners and a pint of ice cream while I had about seventy five boxes of condoms and a six pack of diet Doctor Pepper."
Mac's eyebrows shot up.
"Seventy five boxes?" he managed to choke out. Rose grinned broadly and nodded.
"At least. I cleaned out pretty much everything they had--Trojans, Sheiks, Lifestyles--Pete kept shooting glances at my cart and then at me. I knew he was dying to ask me what on earth was going on, so before he could say anything I told him they weren't mine, they were for the staff at the aquarium."
A quick grin crossed Mac's face as he pictured blunt Pete Thornton's expression. Rose nodded again.
"Yeah, I'm sure he was thinking it was orgy night or something, but I was so pre-occupied it didn't register. I talked about how the guys at Shoreline were in a hurry, and that if I didn't get back things would really heat up--I must have sounded like some sort of total hootchie--"
"A hootchie?" Mac snorted. "A hootchie?" His shoulders shook as he laughed.
Rose shot him a slightly defiant, slightly amused look. "Better than the other terms, okay? As it was, Pete offered to let me cut in front of him, and it must have really blown his mind to see that I was buying all my goodies with a company credit card. The clerk made some crack about job perks, and I finally realized what it looked like."
"And?" intrigued, Mac waited for the end of the story. Rose closed her eyes.
"I hastily explained there had been a Freon leak at the aquarium."
MacGyver thought furiously, and flashed a smile at her as the answer came to him.
"Of course! You were planning on filling the condoms with ice and floating them in the cold-water tanks to keep the temperature from rising without diluting the salinity--"
"--Bingo. And condoms, being stronger, safer and more expansive than balloons were the perfect choice to do it. The clerk didn't understand the idea, but Pete did. He not only picked up on my urgency, he offered to buy more condoms and meet me at the aquarium."
"Wow," Mac mused, "Must have been a heck of a leak."
"It was," Rose agreed. "And the front lobby looked like a war zone. People were busy crushing ice, setting up tank transfers, moving patrons out--as it was, we lost three of the puffins and a snow crab exhibit before maintenance fixed the problem with the cooling system." She tossed the mango peels into the fire and licked her fingers before adding,
"Pete still teases me about it sometimes--whenever he thinks I look really stressed out, he grins and offers to buy me condoms."
"He never offered to buy *me* any--" Mac commented with mock petulance. Rose arched an eyebrow at him.
"Probably because he figured you'd never understand their primary function--"
"Rose--" he warned, the high color coming back to his face. She swatted his knee playfully.
"Tell you what--next time Peter suggests them, I'll send him to you."
"It might be too late," he muttered shame-faced. "I mean, incredible as last night was, there's still a chance you could be--"
"Ah, no there isn't," she broke in patiently. "Back when Hanna first hired me, she suggested that I go on Depo-Provera like she had, so we wouldn't have to deal with certain, ah, monthly events, shall we say. Since she and I were diving in shark territory, it made a lot of sense."
Mac, startled, said nothing, but a small shiver of relief shot through him. On the heels of it was an even tinier sense of disappointment.
Rose gave him a serious look, her first in a long time. "So trust me, Angus MacGyver, you don't need to Do the Right Thing, as my granny would say."
"And here I was, ready to save you from a terrible reputation--" he shook his head in mock-regret.
"Too late--" She gave a dramatic sigh and laid the back of one hand on her forehead. " My fate is sealed, as a Clowderbock. We skinny girls with big boobs are predestined to the dark and inescapable fate of terminal hootchiedom."
Both of them completely cracked up at this; Rose rolled over in the sand, giggling as MacGyver laughed long and loud. Every time they came near to recovering, they would see the other's face and begin laughing all over again. Finally Rose flopped on her back, wiped her eyes and ran a hand over her aching abdomen.
" Oh Lord, my ribs hurt--"
"Mine too." MacGyver lay down as well, resting the back of his head companionably on her stomach, and they both studied what few stars were peeking through the clouds overhead.
"Last night--" she stopped uncertainly. MacGyver held his breath, but he let his hand reach out to squeeze one of hers, and it seemed to give her courage. She rushed on.
"I guess I kind of vented a little at you. It's been hard to think about leaving the Foundation, and even harder to be honest about the reason why."
Neither one of them spoke for a moment. MacGyver drew in a deep, deep breath.
/It's time. There won't be a better moment, and as Harry used to tell me, without risk there's no reward-/-
"Rose, do you remember that fundraising reception for the Collier group last year? The shindig Pete called Chatting for Checks?" MacGyver mused. "You wore a green dress and had your hair up."
"Yeah?" puzzled by the wavery sound of his voice, Rose thought back for a moment. "I was there to translate for the two guys from the Ukraine. . . I remember you were in a really bad mood that night. Man you hate to wear ties."
"It had nothing to do with ties, but everything to do with that green dress," Mac confessed huskily. Rose thought harder.
"What? You liked the color?"
"When we were setting up, you went up the spiral staircase. Someone opened the lower lobby doors, and the gust caught your skirt. I was standing right under those stairs. I looked up and--" he trailed off. Swiftly, Mac sat up, and leaned over until he was looking down into her face. Rose swallowed hard.
"There hasn't been a week since that I haven't thought about that moment. Your tanned legs, the curve of your hips, the lacy garter belt, and the incredible mind-blowing fact that you didn't have a damned thing else on--" he breathed. She stared at him, wide-eyed, and he made a small pained sound.
"So that's why you were such a pain in the ass that night."
"Believe me, it wasn't my *ass* that was having a problem," Mac blurted bluntly. "Not to be crude about it." He hung his head, and Rose pushed herself up on her elbows as she murmured,
"Oh dear. MacGyver admits to harboring lust, details at eleven--"
"Brat, you act as if it's no big deal, but it was one of those things that was driving me out of my mind for a while. You're my friend, for crying out loud! You don't go fantasizing constantly about your friends!"
"Well *sure* you do," she shot back cheerily. "Along with strangers, models in magazines, characters from TV--"
"Normal, Mac, completely normal," Rose announced, sitting up. "So I was a featured attraction in your late night round-up--lucky me."
He took her chin in his hand and stared at her, his expression darkly serious.
"Rose, I have never thought about *anyone* before in the ways I have about you."
"O-kay . . . " she murmured uncertainly, but leaning forward, Mac followed it up with a slow deep kiss of such intensity, that she shuddered against his mouth. When they finally broke for a breath she groaned.
"Damn you MacGyver! This is making it really hard not to want you again--"
"That was sort of the whole idea," he admitted candidly. She studied his expression in the glow of the firelight, her pulse beginning to race. Two days of light stubble shadowed his strong chin, and his uncombed blonde mane hung in tangles to his shoulders. His dark eyes glittered through his bangs. Rose scooted closer until she was able to touch noses with him.
"We want each other--I guess that's pretty much a fact. So what are we going to do about it?"
"Stand up--" he whispered, his voice brooking no argument.
Rose slowly got to her feet. Mac slid his warm hands around her calves, and bent forward, pressing kisses to her knees. Leisurely, he let his hot mouth travel up the front of her legs as his hands slid up the backs. Rose trembled, and dropped her palms to his shoulders to support herself.
"Mac . . ." she blurted unsteadily. He reached the hem of the boxer shorts she wore and paused for a moment, then yanked the fabric hard. She gasped; the shorts fell away to a pile on her bare feet. He continued his trail of kisses upward, lingering first on one thigh then the other until his lips reached the soft tangle of her fur. Without hesitating, Mac pulled her right knee up, hooking it over his shoulder, and her inner thigh brushed against his ear as his strong hands slid over her bottom, pulling her to him.
"Oh!" she gasped as his tongue glided in slow strokes over the sensitive bud deep between her thighs. Rose wobbled, her fingers spasmodically gripping MacGyver's hair as she squirmed. His hands steadied her as he continued the erotic assault on her senses, and Rose began to pant.
"Oh God . . . Maaaaaaaac . . ." her head lolled back, and she spasmed, rocking against him for a moment. When she finally caught her breath and recovered enough to bring her knee off his shoulder, Mac rose up, hands moving under her shirt, tugging it up over her head. She gasped, feeling the warmth of the fire against her bare skin, realizing she was completely naked now. Then MacGyver's hungry mouth came down on hers and she wrapped herself around him tightly.
His face reflected a heart-rending mix of shyness and passion; Rose could feel the heated tension rising from his skin as she struggled to get him free of his clothes. Her eagerness amused Mac; he caught her hand before it snagged his shirt, and brought it to his mouth, kissing it.
"Slow down, Brat," he chided in a hoarse whisper. "Just--" She understood, and took a deep breath. He guided both of them down to the sand and pressed his lips to her forehead while she gently tugged his shirt up.
"I remember this chest--" she ran her fingers through the soft fur, making a happy sound. MacGyver shivered, and stretched out in the cool sand. Rose bent over him to drop kisses down his lean stomach, and with nimble fingers undid the shorts. Pleased, he glanced down his body. She tugged.
"Now *that* is not a Swiss army knife--" Rose smiled almost wickedly. MacGyver raised himself up on his elbows, watching her with helpless fascination as she bent forward, her lips parting around him. He gave a deep groan; his fingers dug grooved in the sand as Rose moved in slow strokes, her hair brushing his thighs and stomach. Gradually his breathing grew erratic; he reached for her shoulder with a clumsy grab; Rose reluctantly drew back, pursing her wet lips as he shook his head.
"Got to stop that or . . ." he warned hoarsely. She paused, but he hooked his fingers under her arm and tugged, pulling her up and across his body. The heat of his flesh under hers was shockingly good, and his hands caressed the slope of her back to grip her bottom hard. Rose could feel the throb of him against her belly; he was biting his chiseled lip as he struggled with the pleasure. She raised herself up, one hand guiding him, and slowly sank down with a grateful sigh. His fingers tightened around the curves of her bottom.
"Ah! Rose, Rose . . ." came his soft, passionate groan. She swiftly kissed his face as they swayed together, the rhythm of their bodies increasing. Rose gripped his bare shoulders, arching back gracefully as he grunted low in his throat. She collapsed against his chest, panting as he shuddered under her.
After that, for a long quiet time they said nothing, but their hands moved in a slow dance across each other's skin. MacGyver stroked her back, caressed her long spine and drew aimless designs across her shoulder blades. She smiled, her ear pressed to his chest, listening to the strong beat of his heart. Rose sighed.
"That was really good,"
"No, that was incredible. If I had any common sense or physical strength left, I'd go stomp out the fires right now."
"We've got to get rescued--" Rose chided him. He raised his head and looked at her, a mischievous expression on his face.
"You in any particular hurry, Brat?"
She thought about it. "No."
"Good. Me neither." he sat up with her still straddling him, and pressed his forehead to hers. "But once we get back, some things are definitely going to change."
"Mac--no promises, okay? We're not exactly in our right minds right now--" Rose warned softly. He swiftly kissed away her protests, and whispered,
"Not promises, Rose, just realizations. Can you get used to that?"
And she nodded slowly, hugging him in the dim light of the fading fire.
Primitive – Part III
The morning was bright and fair, promising to be a scorcher by noon. Standing in the waves just in the waterline, Rose spit into the mask, and rubbed it around absently. She cast a glance back at the beach, looking at the burnt remains of the nearest signal fire and involuntarily a blush crossed her face. Even the cool water didn't eradicate it. She splashed some into the mask to rinse it out and moved deeper until she was in the water up to her waist.
Sitting on the sand, MacGyver was busy straightening the deck chair tubing, his strong hands bending and twisting the soft aluminum until it conformed to the design in his head. He looked up to see Rose pull the mask down and adjust the straps around the back.
"Stay inside the reef . . . we don't know how strong the currents are near the drop off," he advised. She nodded, bit down on the snorkel mouthpiece and glided off across the top of the water as Mac watched her go. He rubbed his unshaven cheeks and smiled crookedly to himself.
/Stubborn as I am, and just as uncertain--if only she'd say something, *anything* about what she's thinking. What do you want, Rose? Whatever it is, I'll get it for you. /
He looked down, thinking hard. The aluminum frame would work, Mac knew. Stretch the silk flag over it, sew it down and keep it buoyant with floating coconuts trapped underneath, and voila, a bright eight by twelve foot floating sign they could anchor out on the reef. The white silk would be sure to catch anyone's eye.
It was a lot of work--the sewing alone would take a good part of the day. They could take turns at that, but the sacrifice would be that it would cut into their foraging time. Mac was heartily sick of mangos and longed for something a little different, so when Rose volunteered to check out the reef and possibly bring something edible back, he let her go.
"Let's see--got hooks, fishing line, rope--" he muttered to himself, keeping one eye out on the distant figure in the ocean. He worked steadily, drinking water from the bamboo bucket at his side. After an hour, he looked up just in time to see Rose walking out of the surf carrying one of the plastic grocery bags. She saw his grin and tried to cover up her chest.
"No ogling the mighty huntress, thank you. I got a whole bunch of green lip mussels and a nice sized snapper we can steam for lunch--or are you a really strict vegetarian? I can't remember."
"I'll do fish or shellfish in a pinch," he admitted, taking the bag from her and handing over the bamboo bucket. "See anything interesting down there?"
"Yeah," she took a long drink before continuing. "There's a thriving community of soft corals and related symbionts along the breakwater--lots of healthy ecosystems, but there's also a section of reef that's obviously artificial--the coral's growing on what looks like a bunch of scrap metal left by the Imperial Navy. One of the spots has an almost perfect orb . . ."
Alarmed, Mac shot her an intently serious look. "Perfectly round? Or does it have projections on it?" He made a quick drawing in the sand; Rose shook the water out of her ears and glanced at the sketch.
"Sort of like that--it's got a coral coating about six inches thick I think--"
Mac drew in a shaky breath. "It's not an orb, Rose, it's an underwater mine! And I bet that's what the Good Tern hit--the engine's vibrations must have set off those sixty year old chemically unstable explosives--"
Rose dropped to her knees on the sand, wide-eyed.
"Oh my God--but why is the island mined? As far as we can tell this place is too small to register on any map."
"It's got fresh water. Back then that was probably enough," MacGyver mused. Both of them looked around uncertainly, and Rose shivered.
"Think there are any mines in the sand?"
"No." Mac shook his head confidently. "Wouldn't have been worth the time to bury them. My guess is that this was a refueling rendezvous that had water--nothing more. The floating mines were all they intended to use."
For a moment, neither of them spoke. Rose absently twisted her long hair, wringing the water out of it. She looked at Mac's project and brightened.
"Hey, it looks good. Here, let me do some while you take a break, okay? No sense in straining your eyes any more than you have to."
"Fair enough--I need to refill the bucket anyway, and bring down one of the footlockers." He gave her shoulder a squeeze as he got up, dusting the sand off his legs. Rose picked up the fishhook needle and continued the stitching around the edge, letting the sun dry her as she worked.
After a while, she could hear footsteps approaching behind her; she glanced back to see MacGyver lugging the steel footlocker, corded muscles of his arms standing out. He dropped it with a loud grunt, sending sand over her thigh.
"Kinda heavy," he apologized. She gave him an arch look, but brushed the grains off her leg and finished up the last stitches on the third side of the frame. Mac had his knife out and was squatting in the sand, taking the lid off the footlocker.
"Brat?" he replied with easy affection, tugging on the hinges. She drew her mouth into a thin line.
"Don't do this to me, okay? You've got that whistling man happy attitude that's going to drive me insane, so stop it."
"Whistling man what?" came his puzzled response. She gave a noisy sigh and set the needle down.
"Whistling man happy attitude. Men get it after they get laid--it's like all's right with the world, even if it isn't--" she tried to explain. Mac's brows drew together and he cocked his shaggy head, trying to follow her reasoning.
"Wanna run that by me again, Rose?"
"MacGyver!" she punched a fist into the sand. "You act as if everything between us is settled, that it's all some sort of done deal just because we've . . . done the mattress mambo."
He laughed, unable to help himself as she pushed herself to her feet and stalked over to him.
"The mattress mambo? Whatever happened to plain and simple verbs, like made love?" he asked reasonably. She looked furious, and Mac rose up to quell her wrath.
"It wasn't--to be lovemaking, people have to be in love," she growled.
Moment of truth. I thought it would be a lot tougher than this--
Mac shrugged lightly.
"I love you."
"No you don't."
"Prove it," he challenged, crossing his arms.
"Prove you *do*."
"No. I called it first, Rose--so now you have to prove I don't love you. Rules of the game."
"What?" she glared up at Mac, confused. "How the hell do I do that?"
"That's your problem," he admitted cheerfully. "So it stands now, I win unless you can find some concrete evidence to make your case. While you're at it, could you start cleaning the fish?"
Totally bewildered, Rose blinked, turned away and picked up her dive knife while Mac grinned to himself and went back to the footlocker.
He started whistling.
*** *** ***
Both of them were hungrier than they wanted to admit, and it seemed to take forever to get the fresh water at the bottom of the footlocker to boil. Rose gently dropped the mussels in, and looked at the other fire, where MacGyver was frying the fish on the steel lid. She could feel her stomach rumbling. He used the edge of the dive knife to carefully flip one of the filets.
"If you pass me one of the bowls, I think this is going to be ready in about two minutes."
"Here--" She handed him one and turned back to the mussels. They had started to steam open, sending a sweet fragrance up in the air. Rose frowned.
"Mac, the mussels are done, but how do we get them out of the pot?"
"Use one of the other bowls as a scoop," he directed absently. She brightened, and gently did so, letting them cool for a moment while she wiped her fingers on her thighs.
"This is going to taste sooo good--" she murmured. MacGyver nodded.
"Protein generally does." He handed her a bowlful of fish, warning, "It's hot."
Rose sat cross-legged and passed the mussels to him, then started on the fish. For a while they ate without talking, simply enjoying the meal. Mac broke the other filet in two parts, give the bigger piece to Rose; she shook her head.
"You're doing most of the labor--you need it more," she acknowledged. He gave a modest shrug and ate it in a few bites. Rose sighed.
"Oh that hit the spot. I didn't realize I was so hungry," she admitted, lounging back. "Time for a nap."
"Good idea--for the next few hours the sunlight is going to be rough without sunscreen or sunglasses," MacGyver pointed out as he took the bowls to the edge of the water to rinse them. Rose squinted at him, realizing he was right. The footlocker was still too hot to touch, so she stood up, dusting sand off of her boxers and collecting the skin diving gear.
"Going to rinse the mask at the falls?" MacGyver asked her as they trudged up to the cliff wall. She nodded.
"Yeah, get the salt off of it, and maybe off of me too. My hair is starting to fry--I would give *anything* for some conditioner," she commented. Mac gave her tangled locks a speculative look.
"I've got an idea . . ." he didn't say anything further until they reached the water. Rose hesitated in stripping off her clothing, but Mac was busy opening a coconut, and she quickly took advantage of his pre-occupation to dive in.
"In a minute--let me finish this up--" came his absent reply. After a while, Rose waded closer, but he set whatever he was working on aside and pulled his clothes off. She drew in an appreciative breath as he waded in, wincing at the chill.
"Habit--growing up in Minnesota doesn't give you many opportunities to skinny dip," he admitted. Rose laughed, and swam closer, splashing him.
"Cold water ought to be second nature to you then."
"Cold showers anyway," he shot her a knowing look; she blushed and dove under, heading for the falls. Once there, Rose let the falls cascade over her, enjoying the sting against her sunburned shoulders. Treading water below the ledge, Mac returned the long appraising look; she quickly turned her back to him.
"Isn't it a little late for modesty, Brat?" he chided.
"Maybe, but it doesn't mean I can't try--" came her retort. He laughed at that and swam off in another direction. Finally, when the water was too cold to take any longer, both of them clambered out and dressed, teeth chattering.
"How does it get so cold?" Rose complained. Mac handed her his tee shirt and motioned for her to dry herself off with it.
"The aquifer's pretty deep under the limestone, and we're close to the source, so it hasn't had enough time in the sun to warm up."
"Lucky us," Rose muttered. She started to dry her hair with the shirt, but MacGyver shook his head and took it back from her.
"No, you want it damp. Sit down--" he directed. Puzzled, Rose found a spot on the bank in the shade of a hibiscus tree. Mac retrieved the coconut he had opened earlier and moved to sit behind her, his legs bracketing hers. She looked over her shoulder at his bare chest.
"What the heck are you doing?"
"Gonna detangle this mop of yours, Brat. Fortunately your typical coconut has just about everything we need--a non-processed monosaturated oil, plant protein and fairly nice fragrance. I chopped it up and let it steep a little while we were swimming."
"MacGyver: scientist, environmentalist, hairdresser--" Rose giggled. He continued, loftily ignoring her.
"We haven't got a comb, so I'm going to have to use my fingers, but I'll try not to pull too hard . . ."
Gently, he poured the grated milky mass on the top of her head; she squealed as it trickled down. His big hands lathered it though all the way down to the ends. Rose began to relax as he gently, section by section, started to rake her hair through his fingers.
"Oh man, I think you missed your calling," she purred after a while. He grinned, working on a knot.
"Somehow I just don't see adding it to my resume," Mac drawled lightly.
"I'll never tell," she agreed, "As long as you make house calls."
"Well I'm pretty much booked through Prom season--"
Rose giggled again, the sound floating up to join the rustle of the wind overhead and the occasional call of the birds.
"If you want to keep it out of your way we ought to braid it," Mac announced thoughtfully. Rose agreed.
"But how are we going to tie it off? The fishing line's too slick and the nylon rope's way too thick."
Mac already had the knife out. He took his t-shirt and cut the hem off of one sleeve, picking up the tube of material and handing it to Rose.
"Whoa, instant scrunchie--sort of."
MacGyver began sectioning her auburn hair into thirds; the long glossy strands hanging down her back shone in the dappled sunlight that filtered through the trees.
"Not too tight, okay? I want to be able to blink--" came her warning. He dropped a quick kiss to her shoulder; she shivered.
"Trust me, I'm going to make you look fabulous--" he murmured in a teasing tone. She erupted in laughter.
"Please! And where did you learn to braid anyway?"
"Boy Scouts. We had to make our own lariats--" fingers moving quickly, he plaited her hair into one long lustrous rope, and wound the t-shirt loop around the end tightly. Rose rolled her head from ear to ear, pleased.
"I wish I had a mirror--"
"Ah, not quite done--" Standing, Mac reached up and plucked one of the red flowers off the hibiscus bush and neatly tucked it behind her left ear. She gave him a shy smile, touched by the intimacy of the gesture. MacGyver swallowed hard and turned away.
/Inside, outside, she's beautiful. How the hell could I have missed it?/
"And now Brat, nap time. Later we'll get back to arts and crafts on the beach," he hoarsely announced as he squatted on his haunches and rinsed the coconut off of his hands. She was sniffing the end of her braid.
"I smell like a giant macaroon."
"Could be worse--I could have used fish oil--" He slung the tee shirt over his shoulder as she picked up the dive gear.
"Urgh--" They made their way up the cliff to the pillbox, where Rose promptly dropped herself on the canvas covered fronds with a sigh. Mac set his boots down and went to the window, scanning the horizon with the binoculars.
"Ocean. Sky. Rocks," he reported dutifully. "Tide must be going out because I can see the coral formations you mentioned. Where would the mine be?"
"On the left, about twenty yards in from the edge of the drop off," Rose murmured sleepily. He shifted his gaze and refocused the binoculars until he found it.
"Yep, there it is, on the bottom. Normally they float, so it must have gotten waterlogged at some point. It could be a dud, or just corroded after sixty years--or, it could be waiting for one sharp blow--"
There was no answer; Mac looked over to see Rose sound asleep, and a smile crossed his face. Moving gently, he settled in beside her. She curled against him without waking, and contentedly, MacGyver closed his eyes.
*** *** ***
"How many more do you think we're going to need?" Rose asked anxiously. MacGyver counted the coconuts and thought a moment. The framed flag sat on the sand, weighted down by two of the bamboo buckets.
"Probably about ten. If we can find another tree, or pick up a few from the tide line we'll have enough to keep this marker floating for a while. Up for a little hike?"
"Sure--let me get a bag." She picked up one of the plastic tissue ones and tucked it into her waistband. MacGyver hefted the machete and used it to point up the beach.
"We haven't tried that way yet."
Rose nodded, and followed him as they set off as a good pace, looking around.
"So--who was your first crush, Mac?" she asked, looking up at him. He thought a moment, and replied,
"Miss Cindy Pheltzer. She was barely twenty, had big blue eyes, and the greatest perfume I ever smelled. I'll never forget the day she leaned over me and whispered those special words--"
"--'You have a real aptitude for science, young man.' She made me the happiest second grader alive," Mac finished with a sigh. Rose snorted and lightly punched him on the arm.
"What were you doing? Making baking soda volcanoes?"
"Something like that. What about you?"
"Oh he was an older man--very continental, very sophisticated," Rose blushed. "I hung on his every word, and knew someday we'd be together."
MacGyver shot her a sidelong glance.
"Sounds serious--how much older?"
"Well, when I first saw him, I was ten, and he was--about fifty two I guess? Hard to say," Rose admitted. Mac stopped walking.
"And married, with two sons. But that didn't stop me from believing that someday I'd be with him, exploring the mysteries of the sea, sailing on--"
"--The Calypso. You had a crush on *Jacques Cousteau*?"
"Oh yeah--that accent, those sweet eyes, all that knowledge--I was seriously smitten for the longest time," Rose sighed. Mac shook his head.
"Jacques Cousteau. It figures. Nice to know that the only serious rival for my affection is not around anymore--"
"There's no rival for your affection, Mac. I thought you were wonderful within a month of meeting you," Rose confessed candidly. She scooped up a coconut from the tide line and dropped it in the bag before adding, "But I sure as heck wasn't going to tell you."
"Why?" Mac asked curiously. She raised an eyebrow in a slightly exasperated gesture.
"Because as far as I could see, you had girl friends, but no girlfriends. At first I thought it might have been because you were playing the field, or maybe you'd just broken up with someone, but after a while it didn't seem to make sense."
"All right, I may be somewhat commitment-phobic--" he reluctantly admitted.
"Only beyond a certain point," Rose interrupted. They both spotted the towering palm tree at the same time and moved towards it.
"You make good friends, Mac, and you're loyal to them. I daresay that if Pete or Jack or Penny needed a kidney, you'd be first in line to get tested for compatibility. But if *you* needed a kidney, you'd never tell anyone until you were in your last hours."
"I don't want to be a burden to anybody--"
"I know. And so does everyone who already loves you, MacGyver," came her disheartened mutter. He had no answer for that; he impatiently grabbed the coconuts and jammed them roughly into the bag, almost tearing it. Rose frowned.
"Mac, stop it! You may not be crazy about the truth, but don't take it out on me--"
In sheer frustration, he threw the bag down, coconuts bouncing through the undergrowth at their feet.
"The truth! Okay fine. The truth is that the ultimate price for my loving anybody is to see him or her die, Rose. And that price is pretty damned high."
She blinked, startled at his vehemence. He drew in a shaky breath.
"That's why I've never owned a pet, never gotten engaged, never given serious thought about anything beyond the camaraderie of the moment. I'm tired of paying that price."
Rose narrowed her eyes and glared at him.
"Of course it's high, MacGyver. The ultimate risk is really only a long-term bet. I'm going to die, Pete's going to die-- it's a fact, accept it, and stop trying to fight off reality with your duct tape and Swiss army knife!"
"What?" Confusion diffused part of his anger; Mac blinked as Rose scooped up a coconut.
"Stop fighting the natural course of events! People love, fight, die, marry, are born, grow apart--it's the way of life, Mac. They're all connected. You can't pick and choose them, honey, it's a package deal."
She stepped closer; looking up into his haunted face and lightly rubbed his stubbly chin with the palm of her free hand.
"There--I think I just proved you don't love me, so I win," Rose turned away. "Let's get these picked up--"
He grabbed her with a strength that startled both of them, and yanked her back. She dropped her armload and winced as he pressed her back against the palm tree.
"Rose, stop it! Don't you think I know I've got problems?" he hissed unsteadily. "And that maybe, for the first time in my life, I might be ready to start dealing with them?"
They stared at each other for a long moment. Rose studied his face, and a faint hope lit her features. Mac held his breath, his pulse racing.
/It hurts. I never thought I'd drop the shell for anyone, but it's worse than I thought. So much is hanging on this moment! I can't do it--If she hates me, if she laughs--/
Slowly Rose reached out, took his head in her hands and slowly brought it to her chest, letting him rest his scratchy cheek against her tattered shirt. Mac's arms went around her tightly. Leaning back against the tree, Rose murmured soft soothing sounds as she held him; his shoulders shook soundlessly for a long time.
*** *** ***
Primitive Part – IV
The shadows were starting to slant up the beach, and Rose looked with awed pride across the water. Floating in its frame, just as Mac had predicted, the white and red silk flag stood out against the crystal blue green water. A splash, and Mac surfaced, giving her a quick wave. She nodded and turned back to the fire, tossing more dried fronds on it.
With neat slices, Rose chopped up the yellow fruit, hoping to be done before Mac made it out of the water. She kept peeking over her shoulder, watching him swim to shore. Finally he strode out, shivering, to stand by the fire and never in her life had Rose wished so much that she had a towel. Instead, she made him peel off the wet, tattered tee shirt and boxers to put on the phoenix sweatshirt and dry shorts. MacGyver smiled, teeth chattering.
"It's anchored pretty well now, but if you dive more than ten feet down, the temperature drops by about fifteen degrees," he commented wryly. She nodded.
"Want to roast some pineapple?" She handed him a frond spine with yellow chunks skewered on it. He flashed a huge smile, scooting closer to the fire.
"Hey that's great! Where'd you find it?" Carefully he squatted and held the stick over the flames. Rose draped the wet clothes up to dry, then began making a skewer for herself.
"Practically tripped over it while getting firewood. Three plants, and only one had a ripe pineapple, so I brought it back. I'm saving some to drizzle over the toasted coconut."
"You know, once we get off this island, I don't ever want to see another coconut--" Mac grumbled, "Ever."
"Amen," Rose laughed. She handed him one of the porcelain bowls and kneeled in the sand, holding her skewer over the flames. The sun slowly set out over the water and the first stars began to glimmer. Rose took a drink of water from the bamboo bucket.
"So here's to tomorrow. With any luck a coast guard plane that will finally spot us here." They were the right words, but they came out with a hint of reluctance. MacGyver felt the sentiment echoed within himself. He tossed the empty skewer into the crackling flames and glanced up into the night sky.
"Getting rescued means we'll be going home--" he gently prodded. Rose looked up at him, surprised. He noticed the sunburn on her shoulders was starting to peel.
"Yes, home. Back over Pratchett's Pet Shop on Primrose and Third, back to my stupid unfinished article on the life cycle of the parrotfish, and about a dozen frantic phone messages from Newt and Mom--you remember the place--home."
"So--you're not moving?" he locked eyes with her; she fidgeted, playing with her braid.
"Well not right away. I mean, with Hanna gone, Trevor will probably need all the help he can get, and I haven't even thought about sending out resumes, plus Pete hasn't finished my letter of recommendation--" she babbled helplessly as Mac waited for her to wind down. When she did, he managed a small smile.
"--So, no, I guess I won't be leaving right away . . ."' she trailed off. He looked up again, just in time to see a faint streak swiftly cross the sky.
/Starlight, star bright--/
"Good. Because I'm not ready to move either," he replied softly. Startled, Rose met his gaze and pinkened.
"What? You'd leave the Foundation just because I wasn't around?"
"No," Mac announced quietly, "But I'd leave to get you back."
Rose tightened her lips and stood up, her entire frame radiating tension.
"Don't you dare say something like that to *me, * MacGyver. I'm not going to be lulled into staying on at the Foundation just because you've slept with me, you know!"
Startled at her anger, he shot up, looming over her as she tried to turn away.
"I say what I *mean*, Rose. Making love to you has nothing to do with your job!" came his impatient reply. His hand seized her shoulder and he yanked Rose into his arms, his mouth swiftly descending on hers. She struggled for a second, and then yielded with pliant desperation; they swayed against each other as the pineapple-flavored kiss went on and on.
"Say you love me, or say uncle--" MacGyver huskily murmured into her ear, his grip around her tightening. She writhed.
"God, why? It's not as if it matters now. Nothing that happens here is real anyway, Mac! Once we get back we'll drift right back into that safe, safe rut of being good friends--the way you are with *all* the women you know--"
"--YES," she persisted wearily. "You know I'm right."
"Not this time," he warned her. Rose dropped her forehead to his chest, and Mac felt the wet trickle of her tears through his sweatshirt. He bit his lip.
"I don't want to be--good friends--anymore, Rose. We've gone beyond that point," came his slow voice. "So tell me the truth--do *you* want to go back to the way it was?"
/Have the wish I wish tonight. Please--/
She snuffled, ever so slowly shaking her head from side to side. MacGyver shakily let go of the breath he was holding in one relieved sigh, and planted a light kiss on her crown.
"Okay, Brat, good enough. Right now we need to bank the fire and get to bed." He gently released her.
Rose said nothing, but wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand and obediently began to clean up the porcelain bowls, dipping them into the nearest tide pool. MacGyver dragged a few damp fronds over the flames and stacked the rest of the fuel well away from the fire trench. Slowly they headed back to the cliff in the moonlight. After a few steps, MacGyver reached for her hand; Rose wove her fingers with his.
"Mmmmm?" They walked in the wet sand as small waves lapped at their feet. Overhead the waning moon lit their path amid a scattering of stars.
"Does this mean . . . we're . . . going steady?"
The question caught him off-guard and he laughed, the deep rumble rising out of his chest as he threw his head back.
"If you want to call it that, sure. I tend to think it's a little more complicated though, Brat. I'm kinda past carrying your books home from school--"
"Or taking me to Homecoming, yes, I know--" she added with a giggle of her own. "Although you can share my locker if you want."
"Just as long as you don't have a certain French oceanographer's picture pinned up in it--" he teased, pulling her close and nuzzling her hair. She made a little growling noise in her throat.
"I *am* serious," he replied. "We'll get back, I'll start looking for someplace big enough for all our stuff combined and we'll take it from there."
"Whoa, let's not get rash, MacGyver--one thing at a time. Let's just get used to the idea of being a couple first, okay?" She looked up into his dark eyes. The moonlight lent his tousled hair a silvery aura, and lit the bearded angular planes of his face.
"Okay, okay--" he sighed. "One thing at a time."
They looked at each other a moment longer, and Rose shivered, reaching up to toy with his bangs.
"Are you sleepy?" she asked softly.
Without warning, he scooped her up, tossing her onto his shoulder with ease.
Rose squealed, braid flying as he began to march purposefully towards the cliff.
"Bed. NOW," came his growly reply. Delightedly, Rose let herself be jostled through the dark jungle and up the coral steps to the pillbox. Once there in the darkness, MacGyver set her gently on the frond bed. He kneeled over her.
"--Shhhh. Don't talk--" His hands slid across her skin possessively. Rose sighed, stretching out, letting MacGyver gently tug away the shirt and boxers. A single shaft of moonlight shone through the coral window pooling in a silvery puddle and reflecting in spangles across the room. The light put a silvery glow on their bodies. Rose tried to sit up, but she felt Mac's heated breath in the shell of her ear as he loomed over her.
"Just like this . . . in my bed, warm and waiting--" he admitted in a rough whisper.
MacGyver's hands roamed, gliding with eager strength over her bare flesh. Rose felt the tingle of desire left in the wake of his touch, a trail of fire that flared through her. She reached for him, but Mac caught her wrists and pinned them down on either side of her shoulders.
"No matter how far I go, or how long I'm gone--"
Rose impatiently rolled her hips, making the fronds under her creak. Mac laughed low and dropped his head until his mouth pressed into the hollow at the base of her throat. Rose squirmed: his beard tickled, and his hot tongue left her weak with longing.
"--You'd be here," he insisted, words muffled against the side of her throat, "You'd be mine the way I've longed for you--"
"Yours," she agreed huskily. He lifted his head to meet her eyes, and sighed. Swiftly MacGyver dropped his full weight onto her eager frame; they thrashed through frantic kisses, and Rose managed to get him out of the sweatshirt and shorts with out ripping anything--barely.
Rose kissed his eyes, his nose, and his mouth as he gently thrust himself into the slick heat between her thighs, groaning her name softly. Her hands raked his strong back, urging him on. After a few moments, Mac groaned, shuddering in the throes of his passion. He dropped his forehead against her shoulder.
"*Damn!* I--I'm sorry, Rose. I know it wasn't--sorry that you didn't--" the heat of his blush against her skin made her smile.
"Ever the considerate Lutheran Midwesterner, Mr. MacGyver . . ." Rose cradled his head, basking in the intimacy of his orgasm. She stroked his sweaty cheek. "Always putting those you love first--"
"But nothing. Believe me, I'm feeling pretty sated right now, and more than a little humbled to have felt your passion for me, your inner fire," she kissed his scratchy chin. "My God, you're gorgeous when you come, did you know that? All muscle and growl and salt."
"Um . . . " he moved close enough to rub his nose against hers, "Rose, I still feel bad about . . ."
"Oh hush--" she murmured sleepily. "--Getting in sync takes practice, Mac. We just need practice."
He thought about that a moment.
"Mmmmm. Lots of practice. Nightly. Hourly--" he offered with a raise of his eyebrows. Rose chortled.
"Hourly? Nice try, MacGyver, but we do have to eat and wash occasionally. Besides, you're not seventeen anymore."
"Try explaining that to selected systems of my anatomy, Brat," he grumbled. "Ever since that green dress--"
"Shhhh--" they lay contentedly, listening to the sound of the waves and the rustle of the palm fronds and drifted off to sleep, still entwined.
*** *** ***
"Yes, mostly in casseroles."
"No. Not in any form or dish. They're slimy."
MacGyver looked up from the edge of the water where he was collecting dark chunks of coral rock and shook his head at Rose. The mid-afternoon was breezy, and cooler than before.
"Okay, we won't have lima beans. How about broccoli?"
"Yes. Cooked or raw, but not cauliflower because it looks like alien brains and smells gross when it's cooking," she replied over her shoulder. She was arranging the dark rocks on the beach, working with MacGyver to spell out a large SOS in the light sand. He lugged another over and dropped it at her feet.
"Tofu. Tell me you'll at least *try* it," he pleaded. She made a face, shuddering.
"Mac, tofu is what they use to make those Dr Scholl's shoe inserts--the same springy tasteless stuff. No."
He moved the rock, frowning. "I *like* tofu."
"Fine. *You* eat it while I have a pizza," she muttered absently. "It's not as if we have to agree on *everything* you know. I bet you're not so keen on pickled beets and Black sea Caviar topped with mandarin orange slices and a big squirt of soy sauce."
The look MacGyver shot her was priceless; half exasperation, half horrified curiosity. Rose started to laugh when both of them heard the faint droning hum. Immediately they looked up, searching the sky. Rose handed the binoculars to Mac, and waited tensely for his report.
"From the north--let's get the fire good and smoky . . ." he directed as she dashed up the beach. Swiftly she dragged the stacked fronds and threw them on the embers, stirring them up as MacGyver kept scanning the sky. For a while the drone didn't fade, but it didn't seem to get any louder, and Rose kept her impatience out of the way by fanning the smoke with a smaller frond. White billowy puffs sailed up to circle and dissipate in the sky.
"Anything?" she asked, trying to keep her voice level.
"Yeah--take a look--" Mac passed her the lenses and pointed to the northwest. She squinted, and after a few minutes danced up and down.
"Coast Guard search and rescue out of Honolulu! Mac, I can *see* it!" she shouted. He grinned at her joy.
/Whatever you want, Rose--I'll get it for you./
After half an hour, the sound was stronger, and the silver plane came across the horizon. It slowly circled the island, dipping a wing as it spiraled high over their heads while they waved.
"That means they've seen us," MacGyver explained. "Since they can't land, they're radioing the co-ordinates to a cutter. If we sit tight Rose, we could be picked up by tonight--maybe tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" she looked crestfallen. "I want to go home right now--"
"Me too, but it's going to take some time for the ship to get here. We've made it this far, Brat--don't wimp out now--" He chucked her under her quivering chin. She gave a nod, her focus on the plane as it turned and slowly headed back in the direction it had come from. Mac gently rubbed a hand on her back.
"Come on--let's go get some sleep and think about dinner."
"Broiled sea urchins, or Coconut surprise?"
"Brat, feed me another coconut at your own risk--" MacGyver muttered, and she laughed.
*** *** ***
Pete Thornton shook his head and sighed. Doctor Ellison grinned, setting the chart back on the hook at the end of the bunk.
"Dehydrated of course, so they're both on IVs, and some secondary sunburn was to be expected, but on the whole it's remarkable how healthy they both are--we'll get the tests tomorrow to see if there's any malaria or parasitic problems, but I don't expect anything we can't treat right away."
"That's MacGyver," Pete muttered. "Falls into manure and comes out with gold--it's the story of his life."
"So it seems. I'm going to give them both some sedatives so they can catch up on some rest--"
"Let me talk to him again first, will you?"
Pete peeked around the sickbay curtain at MacGyver, who lay on the bed, eyes shut, but fidgeting. He looked thinner and browner than Pete remembered, but the smile was still as genuine.
"Hey Pete. How's Rose?" Mac tried to sit up, but Thornton motioned for him to lie back.
"She's fine. The doctor's going to give her something to sleep in a few minutes--you too."
"Mmmmm." It was a sound of resignation; Mac closed his eyes again and Pete grinned briefly. He moved closer to his friend and lightly touched the IV pole.
"Mac, Rose told me she's reconsidered leaving, so I guess you succeeded in changing her mind." He let the statement hang in the air, the unspoken question hovering just under it. MacGyver drew in a deep breath.
"Yeah, you could say I finally managed to . . . break through," he replied very softly. Pete patted his shoulder.
"Good," he said simply. For a minute they looked at each other, and slowly grinned in complete understanding. Pete shook his head.
"By the way, you are aware that there's going to be interesting when you two get back--it's a hell of a story. Man and a woman trapped on an island that hasn't been inhabited since World War two--I expect the press is going to love this."
"Great--" came Mac's annoyed grumble, "Let's just forget that four respected scientists died, and that the reef recovery project's been set back by about a year--"
"Hey, I know," Pete frowned. "I may be the boss but I'm not heartless, MacGyver. The Foundation isn't about to ignore what Hanna and her team died trying to do."
"Sorry," came the contrite response. Pete sighed.
"Me too. Get some rest, okay?"
*** *** ***
Rose squirmed. By anybody's standards she should have been out, sleeping soundly on the clean sheets and pillows of the bunk, but even with a mild dose of sedative in her system she was still restless. The IV was making her arm cold, and she couldn't bring herself to admit what was really wrong.
She sighed in the semi-darkness, resigning herself to a sleepless night when the curtain shuddered and a soft voice broke into her thoughts.
"Mac! What are you doing out of bed--Doctor Ellison said--" Rose sat up, long hair falling in a cascade down her shoulders.
"--To get some sleep, I know, I know," He murmured. Mac dragged his IV pole in as he moved to sit on the edge of her bed.
"Funny thing is, I can't," he admitted, a shy and comical expression crossing his face. Her hand found his, and they squeezed fingers tightly.
"It's kinda hard to explain, but if you're--"
"--Not there, is doesn't feel right," she finished with a grin. " I know the feeling. I think we have survivor's syndrome or something."
"Or something," he agreed. "You mind?"
"Nope." came Rose's grin. She studied his face.
"I was just getting used to the scruffy look--when did you shave?"
"An hour ago--it was itching," came his off-hand response. "Gave me something to do besides toss and turn."
"Here--" she lifted the blanket and patted space on the mattress next to her invitingly, "Hop in and catch some sleep."
"Don't tempt me!" came his mild groan. She leaned closer, her eyes shining as she looked at him.
"No matter how far you go, or how long you're gone--" Rose reminded him in a whisper. He leaned forward and hungrily kissed her.
"Mine. Scoot over--"
The night shift nurse later commented to Doctor Ellison that it was interesting to see that someone had managed to tie the IV lines so they were neatly out of the way, and that both of them were sleeping so soundly.