Author's Note: This story is a response to a challenge issued by the ever-creative Jackie Clouse, the other writer of MacGyver fan fiction. The rules were simple: Get the characters in costume without it being Halloween, and have one of three items in the story. I chose the carwash.  I've attempted to write this one in MacGyver's point of view--with any luck it might actually be convincing. The action here takes place between the stories Rose Red and Primitive, so while MacGyver and Rose are friends here, they have yet to become romantically involved.



Tiny Bubbles

The first thing I want to make clear is that I'm not an expert on women. Truth is, most physics textbooks, even the ones in Swahili, are easier to understand than the other half of the planet's population. This doesn't mean I don't like, or even love women at times, but as for understanding them--forget it. It won't happen in my lifetime.

 Case in point, Rose Clowderbock and Penny Parker. You'd think on the face of it that these two would be mortal enemies, because they're as different as night and day. Rose is an off-the wall type. She's a looker if you don't mind them on the curvy side, but tends to speak her mind in no uncertain terms and has a way of sizing you up good.  Penny on the other hand--well, she's Penny. Very pretty, sweetly goofy, prone to getting into trouble--a lot of trouble, usually. Like I said, nothing like Rose. So why these two plotted my downfall is beyond me, and all I can think is that had to have been something in the air.

The Foundation had been planning the Summer Carnival of Nations for weeks. Pete made sure every department had booths or stations for the event, which was to last from ten in the morning to ten at night on Saturday. Every week there was a new memo about something Carnival related, and it got so that most of us were sick of the whole thing. Turned out Trevor Buchanan really *was* sick of it. He'd gulped down some contaminated water while cleaning out the tide pool tanks on Friday night, and was at home with a serious stomach bug. His bad luck left the Marine Studies department short-handed, so Pete pulled me off of the construction crew to fill in. I didn't mind, especially when I found out Penny was going to be a mermaid on the tide pool display. Of course I'd have to be a pirate, since the whole thing was for the kids, but what the heck, it was for a good cause right?

Early Saturday morning was a chaotic madhouse. Pete was everywhere at once, and the sight of him bouncing around in Lederhosen was hard to take without chuckling. The emergencies were small ones-- Moon Bouncer was filling too slowly, one of the freezers was shorting out--that sort of thing. I made my way over to the far side of the carnival, where the Marine Labs had been opened to the public. Rose was already there with my costume over her arm. She looked worried.

"Penny hasn't shown up yet, Mac--Any sign of her?"

"She'll be here--" I tried to reassure her, but she wasn't having any of it. Rose tended to take things like punctuality seriously. She handed me my pirate costume and went off in search of Penny so I didn't see either of them again until I was dressed. I was grateful that Trevor and I had roughly the same build. I kinda liked the red Captain Hook coat and tricorn hat, but the long curly wig was hot, and eye patch was annoying. At least everything fit, which was more than I could say about part of Rose's mermaid costume. Ahem.

A true gentleman wouldn't have said anything, but I gave up that label years ago, so I can tell you that the clamshells that made up the top part of Rose's costume were a bit on the small side. Or perhaps the appropriate observation would be that Rose was just a bit more abundant than the average mermaid, unless the mermaid was from Las Vegas. Either way, she was not a happy camper, and even Penny was a bit disgruntled.

"Can't you do something MacGyver?" she pleaded. I didn't have the gall to admit I was already doing something, but it wouldn't be anything she'd want to hear about. Instead I muttered something about using my wig, which would be long enough to drape over her shoulders, but Rose shook her head.

"I'm going to be the one in the water, so the wig's out. I'll just go with the flowered bikini in my locker--"

Penny went with her, and I took the moment of peace to look at the setup. We had a walkway of tidal pool tables, a sand bucket area and Penny had a throne in the middle where she could pose for pictures and smile prettily. A perfect job for her. Rose was going to be our diving mermaid. She had a seat on the dunking booth platform, and I would sell chances to dunk her into the tank. We had a nice covered walkway so none of us would roast in the heat, and it looked as if everything would be running smooth.

Ha.

That said, it should have been easy to spot the first problem, namely tails. Mermaids have'em, and they kinda prevent walking. Penny called for help again, and I ended up carrying her to her throne. This wasn't a hard chore, since she's fairly light, but it took a while for her to get settled in. Rose didn't want to be carried and walked out with her unzipped fishy tail dragging behind her. I gave her a fin up, so to speak and she mounted the platform with less than good grace.

"The water looks cold," she muttered, doing up the tail. Penny was busy powdering her nose as she looked in a mirror.

"What's that twinkly stuff at the bottom of the tank?" I wanted to know. Rose dabbled a hand in and shivered.

"Prizes--there's a treasure at the bottom and I get to grab a parting gift for my dunker."

"Nice touch--" I thought it was, but Rose shivered again.

"Hope we have enough--Penny? You have any waterproof mascara?"

"Never travel without it!"  She sang back and tossed the tube to her sister in fins. Women--you'd think that if you were going to get dunked in the water all day, the last thing you'd be worried about would be makeup. Still, it didn't hurt to look good and both of them did. The carnival was due to open in fifteen minutes and the last minute adjustments were going on all around us, so I took a moment to check the softballs our guests were going to heave at the target to drop Rose in the water. We had six. I picked one up; sorely tempted to dunk her myself, but she caught me and glared.

"Put it down, MacGyver or you're gonna be a pirate's ghost, pal!"

"Hey, a test run is a good idea--what if the platform doesn't work?"

"Then we get the money and I get to stay dry--I'm good with it."

"Stop fighting you two--we have to be ready to charm--" Penny chided us. She pouted her red lips and gave her Princess Storm Cloud face, so both Rose and I stopped bickering and got ready to play.

It was fun. I arrrghed and matey'ed my way through the morning, shilling the game and helping the littlest ones toss the softballs at the target. Rose, trouper that she was took each dunking with a loud shriek, and swam up to the glass to stick her tongue out. The kids loved it. She surfaced and tossed a string of beads to the winner, then quickly pulled herself back up to the platform, ready for the next pitch.

"Come on you guys--your mamas wear seaweed!" she taunted them. "I've seen guppies that pitch better than you do!"  Across the way, Penny cracked up, her bubbly laugh clear and bright. All around us music blared over the PA system, mostly 80's rock, and both Rose and Penny were swaying to it.

Penny was a real charmer, and unexpectedly good with kids. I didn't think she would be, but it goes to show you how little I know about women. She cooed over babies, and answered questions about being a mermaid with a perfectly straight face, then posed for pictures with them. By mid morning, she must have been photographed about 80 times.  They tried to nab me for a photo or two, but I managed to get out of it most of the time by sticking close to the dunking tank.

The crowd thinned out around noon, and both girls wanted a break, so we closed down for half an hour. Rose tried to unzip her tail, but it was jammed, and the harder she struggled with it, the worse it got. I carried Penny into the building's lounge and came back for Rose a few minutes later only to find her still trying to get free.

"Come on--" I started to pick her up; she gave up on the zipper and sighed, letting me haul her off of the dunking platform. She was lighter than Penny, and I could feel her shivering.

"Stupid thing--not you, the zipper--" came her grumble.

  "A little WD 40 and I can get you out of that costume--" The minute the words left my mouth I could feel myself get red. She looked at me and laughed; it was the first time I'd ever seen her blush as well.

"Now there's an offer I don't hear everyday--" She was on her way to getting the giggles. I tried not to look down her cleavage as I hauled her into the building, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't peek. Penny saw us come in and pointed at the sandwiches on the table. She ha slipped out of her costume and was in a grass skirt, sipping at a diet Coke, a knowing smile on her lips.

"You two look so cute together--what are you, Rose, a Scorpio?"

"Yes--"

 I set her on the sofa and started to rummage through the janitor's closet to find some WD40, but I heard Penny's excited chirp behind me.

"Well then you're perfect for MacGyver! He's a Capricorn, and your signs are like, totally compatible! Both of you are strong independent types with great respect for nature. Of course if you're a third house Scorpio then your sex drive might be a bit much for him--"

"Penny, what the heck are you talking about?" Rose voiced exactly what I'd been thinking, but wisely I was opting to keep quiet.

"Astrological compatibility of course--now I'm a Gemini, and we get along with Libras and Leos mostly, but should only love Pisces. My perfect mate will definitely be a Pisces."

"Right--" I heard Rose sigh. I found the can and turned around to see Penny eyeing me.

"What?"

 "Capricorn males are devoted and often romantic," she announced happily. I rolled my eyes and was relieved to see Rose smirk. We were on the same 'Penny-is-a-flake' vibe and it felt good.

"And Geminis have mustard on their chins--" I replied, walking over to Rose and winking.  But Penny was sweetly undeterred as usual.

"Just remember MacGyver, that Scorpio females have a smoldering sensuality that often intimidates other signs," she continued, wiping her face with a napkin.

"Oh sure--here I am, a regular barbeque pit of unbridled passions--" Rose muttered as I sprayed the zipper for her. She tugged. Nothing. I tugged, and the zipper went down with a deep growl, but I used a little more force than I needed to, and ended up not only unzipping the tail, but also literally yanking it off of her. The long tube of glittery fabric skittered across the lounge floor and Rose slid off the sofa to land on her rump on the ground.

"MacGyver!"

I didn't need the rebuke, believe me-- I felt bad enough to have skinned her. Rose flopped back on the floor, laughing her head off, giving me a nice view of her legs, and I thought what a waste it was to cover them up. In fact, Rose Clowderbock in a bikini was one of the best sights I'd seen in a long time, but before I could get caught staring I spun around and dove for the costume. Penny as still spluttering and Rose was still laughing as I recovered it.

"Look, Mac's chasing tail!" Rose called out, and Penny was heartless enough to laugh as well this time. I didn't need a mirror to see I was blushing again, and I certainly didn't need the abuse, so I tossed the costume to Rose and headed out, determined to find slightly more mature company for lunch.

I ended up eating a tofu burger with Pete, who still looked as if he had escaped from an Oompah band. He asked me about the booth and I told him it was probably going to make a profit--at least break even by the end of the afternoon.

"Girls holding out okay?"

"Yeah--"

Something in my tone made him grin; Pete's pretty quick on the uptake at times, more so than I needed right now.

"Oh come on, MacGyver--you've got the dream job right now--Playing Black Mac the Pirate, working with two gorgeous women in the shade no less--the rest of us would be more than happy to trade places with you."

"Naw--I don't think I could do those lederhosen justice the way you do, Pete."

He gave me his 'I'm-going-to-ignore-that' look and sighed. I looked out over the rest of the Carnival. We had a car wash, a blood drive, and lots of food stands, a kid crafts center, some assorted concert areas and lots of community-sponsored activities going on. The heat wasn't too bad, and I felt better with food in me, so I headed back to the lounge.

"Anybody up for giving blood?" I asked them. Rose nodded, but Penny started to fuss.

"Oooohhh! I hate needles, Mac, I'm such a baby! I'll go, but you have to promise to hold my hand, okay?"

The three of us walked in and filled out the paperwork, both of them in their grass skirts and me still in pirate gear. That's when Rosa Torres, the photographer thought it would be cute to take our picture, and of course Penny agreed before either Rose or I could make our feelings known on the matter. So they set us up, three tables in a row with me in the middle all of us holding hands isn't that cute--- Arggh. Penny had a death grip on my right hand that was seriously cutting off the circulation in my fingers, so I was having trouble relaxing. The nurses managed to get us tubed, and it was only after the first twenty seconds that I realized Roses' hand was ice cold. I looked over, and she was completely unconscious. Out for the count, totally gone. The nurse was tut-tutting.

"She always does this--"

"What do you mean?" I was a little slow on the uptake, what with the human clamp on my right hand and the corpse fingers in my left hand. The nurse pointed with her chin at Rose.

"This one comes in every eight weeks to give, and passes out every time. I think she takes the name Briar Rose seriously."

"Briar Rose?"

"It's the name of the princess in Sleeping Beauty," the nurse told me with a grin. Well what do you know? I looked at Penny, who was chatting with the photographer and managed to work myself free of her clutch. Gently I squeezed Rose's hand, and had to admit I was a little more impressed with her than I had been before.

Later over the orange juice and cookies both Penny and I teased her, but she shrugged it off.

"So I pass out--at least I give, right?"

Couldn't argue with that. To change the subject, I asked her about her name and she winced. Boy could I empathize with that.

"Briar Rose Althea Thais Clowderbock, Okay? I was gonna be named Anastasia, but I slept a lot as a baby so my folks thought Briar Rose was a better name," she told us. Penny sipped her juice thoughtfully.

"It's really pretty--"

 I couldn't resist. "I like the acronym myself--much more in character for you--"

Rose flinched, but Penny looked puzzled until I actually whispered it in as menacing a tone as I could.

"B-R-A-T, isn't it? Ms Brat Clowderbock--has a certain ring to it, actually."

"MacGyver! Don't be mean!"

"It's okay, Penny--" Rose shrugged, but there was a gleam in her eye I didn't like. When Penny got up to go to the bathroom, Rose leaned closer to me and said the one thing I didn't want to hear.

 "I know your first name, MacGyver, so unless you want to be the first pirate named for a steakhouse, you'll cool it on the nickname, okay?"

"You really are a brat," I told her, and we ended up grinning at each other.

The rest of the afternoon was a blast. About four o'clock we ran out of beads, but Pete rounded up some little plastic boats, so we had something to hand out. The older kids started coming around--quite a few were more interested in the mermaids than the toy boats. Penny was very sweet about it, and managed to charm most of them, but Rose's taunts got a little bit meaner.

"You call that a pitch! A one-armed starfish could do better!"

We started making money hand over fist, since everyone wanted to knock Rose in the drink after that, and the pace kept up for another hour or so. Eventually we all needed a break, and Penny was fussing about her makeup so I guess the accident was inevitable, really but I still feel guilty about it. I was helping Penny off her throne as the last kid was pitching at Rose. The ball was a solid strong curveball, and had a good bit of power behind it--too bad it was nowhere near the target.

It flew up and caught Rose full force right on the side of her throat, knocking her off the platform backwards. Penny screamed right in my ear and I didn't want to just drop her, so I dumped her into the arms of a tall man with dreadlocks who was right in front of me. I ran to the tank.

The sight was enough to unnerve me for a second--Rose was sinking to the bottom, blue eyes wide, air leaking out of her lips in tiny bubbles. I jumped in and fished her out, pulling her face to the surface, checking to see if she could breathe. There was a huge red blotch on the side of her neck where the softball had hit her and her eyes were open. I dropped my ear close to her mouth.

"Rose! Come on, breathe, Brat!"

"Don't call-- me--" she gurgled in a whisper.

 I knew then that she was all right despite the hit. In a less than graceful move I managed to haul her out of the water and over the side of the tank into the hands of the First Aid folks who were waiting there. I climbed out myself, costume completely soaked and probably ruined. Penny was still in the arms of the tall stranger, but by the way they were chatting it was obvious they were getting along very well--she barely spared me a glance.

"Oh MacGyver! Is Rose okay?" she stared at the two men who were fussing over Rose.

"Yeah I think so--" I took off the wig and sodden red coat regretfully--soaked, the thing weighed a ton. Penny sighed.

"Looks like you'll be taking her place in the booth, huh?"

"What! What about you Penny--after all, you're the other mermaid!"" 

Then Penny batted those big brown eyes at me, and I knew I was going to lose the battle. Didn't matter that I was making perfect sense--and she knew it, too. So did the man holding her, who was grinning with a

"You're already wet, Sir Pirate, and the booth is going to close in an hour anyway, isn't it?" he pointed out unhelpfully.

And that's how I ended up splashing my way through the next sixty minutes. I don't know how Rose managed it all day--the water was cold, the platform slippery, and I didn't like some of the looks the patrons were giving me. It was bad enough to get taunted by kids, but when the secretaries came by--you'd think they'd never seen a man in a tight wet shirt before.

"MacGyver! Hubba hubba!"

I don't blush easily, but when Helen and Sandra stepped up to the booth I radiated enough heat to glow.

"MacGorgeous!"

"Enough already! Just throw the ball!" I was desperate to get it over with. They looked at each other, then at me--

And took a photo. I've never contemplated revenge before, since I was raised to respect women, but for one moment, it was in the forefront of my thoughts.

Secretaries--you have to watch out for them.

            ***                              ***                              ***

There was a free concert out on the lawn of the Foundation, but to be honest, by the time the booths had closed I was ready to head home and call it a night. I was tired, and still slightly damp, and ready for some dinner. My jeep was the last vehicle to come away from the charity carwash, and as I started to climb in, I heard a hoarse voice behind me.

"Hey Black Mac--Give a fish a ride?"

It was Rose, complete with bandage around her throat. She looked pale, but still managed a grin, and I had to smile back.

"Sure, just for the halibut--" it was a terrible joke, but she was kind enough to laugh as she climbed into the passenger seat. I leaned over for a better look at her neck, and she rolled her eyes.

"I'm the lone casualty of the fair-- A beaned esophagus."

"Sounds like a Mexican side dish--" I told her. She laughed again, and we headed off down the road. It was a comfortable ride, both of us talking about everything and nothing, and I wished the drive had lasted longer. Sometimes Rose is pretty terrific in her own way; smart and funny with a little more on the ball than Penny. As I slowed down near her place, I decided that maybe it wasn't such a bad thing to know a Brat.

"Want some dinner?" I heard myself ask.

"You buying?" she asked, somewhat cynically. I nodded--after all; it wasn't really a date or anything. She looked down at her hands and it dawned on me that under it all, she was actually shy.

 "Okay sure---just---"

"Just what?"

"Don't tell Penny. After all that stuff about compatible signs this afternoon, I don't think I could take the teasing--" She whispered. I looked her right in the eyes. They were blue, and pretty, and I knew exactly what she meant.

"What? You mean I can't tell everyone that I gave you that fabulous hickey?"

She laughed all the way to the restaurant.

 

            END