A screaming shattered the voices
that had just come together to speak you,
to make of you a bridge
over the chasm of everything.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours (translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)
At the moment that it happens, Mac doesn’t know what he’s seeing.
Their team has the day off work, the first in quite some time not hampered by some injury or other, and it’s gotten off to something of a lazy start in the MacGyver-Bozer household. Mac slept in late, or what counts as late by his standards, waking in a warm, sunlit haze. He’s spent most of the morning, now approaching eleven thirty, puttering about the house taking care of a dozen or so little projects he’s been meaning to get to for varying lengths of ‘far too long’.
The lightbulb in the fridge has been replaced, the wobbly-legged chair patched with a small block of wood from Mac’s ever-fluctuating collection of scrap materials, and the loose screw on the door handle has been tightened, among other things. It’s a collection of small, simple victories, but they make Mac proud to reflect on. It’s a good house and it’s taken good care of him and his odd little family over the years - it deserves to be taken care of in return.
When Mac leaves the house, walking up to the road to bring the recycling bin back to its usual place by the garage, his thoughts are drifting. He doesn’t pay much attention to what he’s doing as he grabs the big blue rolling bin’s handle, pausing before pulling it back down the gently sloping pavement when he thinks of something that might just be the answer to the issue he’s been having getting a part of his motorcycle’s engine to run smooth. Latching onto the thought before it can escape him, Mac stops where he stands and leans over the recycling bin and braces his forearms on the lid. He squints off down the street, mouth moving in silent, in-wardly directed speech as he thinks, and that’s when he sees it.
Across the street and a few houses down, there’s a man leaving one of his neighbors’ porch. It’s the porch Florence house, home to Kelly and Scott Florence, a software engineer and a tax accountant, both of whom are lovely people and neither of whom look anything like that. Mac frowns, watching the strange figure rapidly descend the three steps to the sidewalk and begin walking very fast. Before Mac can get anything more than a fleeting glimpse at his face, the man is gone around the corner, out of sight.
Leaving the recycling bin abandoned where he’d found it, Mac turns and quickly goes back inside. Bozer’s bedroom window faces the Florences’ house, and if the odd thing Mac has just caught the tail end of was something like a burglary, then he’s more likely to have seen what happened. The closer he gets to Bozer’s room the more he wishes he’d just gone over there to see for himself rather than wasting time coming inside to get a second opinion. Though, to be fair, what had he seen, really? A man leave his neighbor’s house and walk away?
Just as Mac is hurriedly explaining what he saw to Bozer, who apparently hadn’t had his curtains open, the sirens start. They’re distant at first but draw closer and closer until they’re caterwauling, loud and demanding, seemingly right outside the house. Exchanging a wordless look, they bolt outside, Mac just a pace ahead of Bozer, making it up to the sidewalk a moment before him.
First there’s one squad car, and then there are three, and then an ambulance joins the fray from the other direction, and it’s clear that whatever just happened, it wasn’t a simple burglary. Every instinct in Mac is surging, saying to go towards the chaos, but he knows he can’t. He reminds himself that right now, he isn’t an agent of anything, and he has no jurisdiction or authority to act. In this moment in time, he’s just a bystander in his front yard with his roommate, observing the nightmare unfolding just a few houses away.
When the paramedics are cleared to enter, they don’t spend longer than a few minutes in the house. The lack of urgency in their pace when they leave with the empty gurney, and the blood glinting off the front of their dark uniforms, are enough of an explanation as to why.
Just like that, the calm, beautiful day is gone. And so is Mac’s neighbor Scott Florence.
The fact that the precinct they take him to is the same one he was brought to when he was arrested not all that long ago is a fact Mac notes with no small amount of unease. They don’t bring him back to talk to him for a long time, leaving him to sit in the lobby with Bozer for over an hour, while increasingly higher ranking members of the department stuck their heads around the corner, always on the phone. At least, when Mac finally is brought back to be interviewed, this time he’s taken to a different section of the building than his arresting officer had taken him to that harrowing Christmas, and left in a room with a far less hostile atmosphere.
Just as Mac is really starting to wish they hadn’t separated him from Bozer, missing his friend’s familiar, steadying presence in this place that held nothing but bad memories, two people enter the room. The woman smiles at him, taking a seat across from him at the table, while the man who follows her in and sits at her left remains stone-faced. It reminds Mac of Matty when she’s in a mood, though the comparison does little to settle his nerves.
“Mr. MacGyver,” the woman says, “my name is Teresa Lisbon and I’m with the California Bureau of Investigation. This is my partner, Agent Cho.” The man, Cho, lifts one hand in a brief wave, and Mac nods at him. “We just need to ask you a few questions about your neighbor, Scott Florence, and what you may have seen today.”
Something doesn’t feel quite right about this. The California Bureau of Investigation shouldn’t be involved in something like this, not unless Scott was a much different person than he’d made himself out to be, and the odds of having more than one household on the block operating under a cover are… slim. This is Los Angeles, not a small town without the resources or experience to handle a murder investigation. There’s no reason for the CBI to be here. Combined with the odd way he and Bozer had been forced to wait, and the looks people shot at them while they sat in the lobby and it forms a very strange picture indeed.
Despite this, Mac forces himself not to frown in confusion and reminds himself that, reasonably speaking, he shouldn’t know this much about CBI jurisdiction and caseload. The person the world is supposed to believe he is isn’t supposed to be familiar with things like that, at least not enough to make an immediate evaluation on the likelihood of them being called in on a given case. So instead of asking any of the hundred things he suddenly very much wants to know, Mac nods again at the pair of CBI agents, and lets them get on with the interview.
They’re run of the mill questions. Lisbon walks him through his morning, focusing on the part he’d spent outside, from the moment he’d stepped out the front door to when he’d gone back into it looking for Bozer.
“And what made you suspect that something bad was happening at your neighbor’s house?” The interjection is Cho’s, and despite the fact that it’s a perfectly reasonable, inconspicuous question, Mac has trouble answering it.
Because it’s very hard to turn off the part of my brain that’s been trained to hear hoofbeats and think machine gun fire, he thinks, and in my line of work, a man walking away from a house is never just a man walking away from a house.
“I don’t know,” Mac finally manages to get out, pairing it with a helpless shrug. “I guess I just had a bad feeling about it. I can’t really explain why.”
Cho seems thankfully satisfied with that answer. Lisbon seems like she’s about to continue the interview, only to be interrupted by a sudden noise. Three sharp knocks sound on the door, stilling her to silence before she can do more than open her mouth in preparation to speak. She looks over her shoulder at the door, then to Cho, their morphing expressions conducting the kind of wordless conversation Mac has had with members of his own team a hundred times over.
They both stand, but Cho is the one to approach the door. He opens it and speaks briefly to whoever had knocked, too low for Mac to make out anything he’s saying. Then he steps out completely, and another man enters the room in his place and whatever Mac had been thinking before lurches sideways at the sight of him.
“Hi,” the newcomer says. He’s looking at Mac with an odd intensity, piercing blue eyes giving the impression that he’s looking straight through whatever facade Mac is putting up for this interview and seeing everything he’s not supposed to see there. “I’m Patrick Jane.”
Upon hearing the name, Mac’s chest gives a stuttered kick. There’s something intensely, unnervingly familiar about this man’s face, and his name has just caused the feeling to spike. In Mac’s line of work, it pays to remember people, and as he wracks his brain, he can’t seem to locate any memory of meeting this one before. Still, it’s impossible to shake, the sense that they’ve met, or that Mac somehow knows him, in a deeply ingrained way.
“Ah,” the man - Patrick - says lightly, face twisted into a small, wry smile. There’s something verging on familiar about his voice, too, though that’s even harder to place. It’s what happens next that completely throws Mac’s world out of balance, though, as the man continues with, “Judging by the look on your face, I’m guessing James didn’t tell you about me any more than he told me about you.”
The voice snaps into place. He sounds like Mac's faded memories of early childhood, before his mother died, when he used to listen at the top of the staircase after he was supposed to go to bed, trying to hear what his parents were talking about in the living room. This man sounds like an early echo of his father and he has those blond curls, the shape of his eyes and his mouth like a reflection of James MacGyver in a pond, distorted and off but still unmistakable.
Mac knows before he says anything more, knows the truth in the sharp twist of his gut before Patrick Jane tells him, “Your father is my brother. Which I guess makes me your uncle.”
“I’ve seen you before.” Mac hadn’t planned to say it before it came blurting out. He didn’t even know it was true until after the words left his mouth, the memory following behind the announcement of it. “There was a picture, in this box of stuff in my grandfather’s house. The back just said ‘James and Patrick’, it didn’t have a date or anything on it, and I assumed it was some old friend of his from high school or college. But that was you.”
It was a little uncanny at the time and it’s worse now, thinking back on it, the similarity between the faces of the boys, the young men in the photograph. But, since no one had ever mentioned his father having a brother, least of all James himself, Mac had put it out of his mind. Until the stranger in it had walked in that door and introduced himself.
Patrick makes a bemused ‘huh’ sound in the back of his throat and takes a seat at the spot vacated by Cho. After a moment of hesitation, Lisbon joins him, though she stays quiet, watching the interaction closely but letting it play out uninterrupted.
“I’m surprised Harry would’ve kept any of me,” Patrick says, folding his hands loosely and resting them on the surface of the table. “Your dad and me, we’re half brothers. Your grandmother was my mother, but Harry wasn’t my father. Part of what made things… difficult between us.”
It sounds like he’s trying to put it gently, but Mac isn’t in the mood for gentle. He’s confused, and reeling, and unsettled by the way the small twisting corner of Patrick's smile is the spitting image of one James wears when they play chess and Mac manages to outmaneuver him. It’s this spinning turmoil of feeling that has him speaking for the second time without meaning to, without realizing he was going to until the words came out.
“Difficult seems like a mild way of putting it, since I didn’t even know you existed until about two minutes ago.” As soon as he says it, Mac cringes, though he doesn’t take it back. Just because he could have said that better doesn’t make it any less true, and he’s had enough of huge family secrets. To have proof of yet another sitting in front of him in such a shocking way is overwhelming, to say the least.
“You’re right about that, yes,” Patrick agrees easily, seemingly unbothered by the rather blunt way Mac had characterized his relationship with his brother. “Difficult is a massive understatement. James and I haven't seen each other in close to thirty years, actually, and things between us were bad before that, too. Though I hope you won’t hold that against me. I’m just here to help Agent Lisbon with your interview.”
It would be hard to justify holding a bad relationship with James against Patrick, given the state of Mac’s own relationship with the man, but he’s definitely not about to get into that right now, so he just gives a short, sharp nod and asks instead, “You’re an agent with the CBI?” Given what his father, and now he, does for a living, Mac supposes he shouldn’t be all that surprised. Maybe this sort of thing runs in the family.
Whatever reaction he’d been expecting to get to the question, the twin laughs from both Patrick and Agent Lisbon didn’t make the cut. Lisbon looks away, covering her mouth and coughing to disguise the remnants of her amusement. Patrick doesn’t bother, shaking his head and chuckling.
“Agent, no, with the CBI, yes. They’re the experts on crime,” he says, gesturing towards Lisbon, then waving a hand back at himself. “I'm their expert on people. Which is why I’m here now. If that’s alright with you, of course.”
“Okay,” is all Mac can think of to say in response. He doesn’t have a good reason to ask Patrick to leave and besides, he can’t help the curiosity that pushes him to find out everything he can while he has the opportunity.
“So then, Angus,” Lisbon says, seamlessly re-entering the conversation and prompting Mac to wince slightly. He really does dislike it when people call him that, though before he can say anything, Patrick beats him to the punch. His fingers land lightly on Lisbon’s elbow, stopping her from asking whatever she’d been about to ask.
“Not Angus, then. You clearly don’t appreciate being called that. But you don’t really look like a Gus either, so…” Patrick’s eyes are acutely focused on Mac, who feels under both a magnifying glass and a spotlight, nowhere left for anything to hide. “I bet it’s Mac, isn’t it? That’s what people call you.”
Stiffly, not liking that he’s been read so simply and so quickly, Mac says, “Yeah. It is.” Patrick looks pleased at the result, and Lisbon continues her questions.
Things mostly go fine in the interview. Until they get nearer the end of the narrative, that is, the part where Mac has to describe in detail coming back out of his house with Bozer, seeing the emergency vehicles arrive on the scene. He has a harder time keeping calm and simply recounting the events as he talks about the paramedics who’d left without Scott, the empty stretcher between them telling a more complete story than words ever could.
“I should’ve done something,” Mac finds himself saying. Confessing. “If I had just run over there as soon as I saw the man leave, then maybe…”
“There’s nothing you could have done,” Lisbon tells him, her voice kind and sincere. “He was hurt too badly to be saved, we know that already, and you could’ve been seriously hurt too, maybe even killed, if you’d tried to confront his attacker. It’s a good thing you didn’t try to intervene.”
Mac frowns at her, the assertion striking an odd chord in him. You have no idea what I could’ve done, he thinks, if I had trusted my instincts rather than writing it off as the hypervigilance the psychologist at Phoenix told me about. You don’t have any clue who you’re saying that to. His thoughts have gone sharp and acidic, twisting his forehead down and knitting his eyebrows together, mouth pursing in a hard line, before it occurs to him that no, she really doesn’t. Agent Lisbon doesn’t know who he is at all.
“Was there?” The question takes Mac completely by surprise.
“Jane,” hisses Lisbon at Patrick, sounding as horrified as she looks.
Patrick ignores her and, judging by the look on her face - which is the same kind of look Mac sees Matty wear sometimes when they’re updating her on how they failed their way into success this go around - this is not unusual. Leaning closer over the table, still looking at Mac with those shrewd, intense blue eyes, Patrick asks again, elaborating, “Was there something you could have done?”
Forcing his face into a neutral expression of general upset, Mac says, hoping he sounds like any other random civilian whose exposure to violent crime is generally relegated to the eleven o’clock news, “I don’t know. I just wish I could've helped him at all. I didn’t know him very well, but Scott was a nice guy.”
“Mac,” Patrick says, taking on a tone of exaggerated, pointed patience, “I know you’re lying to us. If you know something about what happened to your neighbor, now is the time to say so.” He sounds almost paternal now and it seems deliberate, like the ‘listen here young man,’ ‘I’m not mad I’m just disappointed’ voice is supposed to provoke some kind of specific reaction. Which it does - just not the reaction Patrick likely had in mind.
That tone, coming out of that face, the one that’s half James no matter the angle, is enough to send Mac’s hackles right up. He glares at Patrick fiercely, wondering where the hell this stranger got off talking to him like that, and snaps, “No. I’m not. And no, I don’t.” Catching Patrick’s line of sight and holding it, Mac says, as clearly and as strongly as possible, “I have no idea what happened to Scott or why. All I know is what I saw today.”
The long moment they spend staring at each other is tense and uncomfortable. Eventually, though, Patrick leans back and breaks it. He looks thoughtful, eyebrows raised and head tilting from one side to the other like he’s weighing something. Mac fights down the urge to get up and leave, to escape the calculating look he’s growing familiar with seeing on his father.
What Patrick says next, he’s not expecting.
“I apologize.” It’s direct and simple, unadorned and unqualified, without a ‘but’ or an ‘although’ tacked onto the end, and just like that, Mac is out of familiar territory. No experience with James prepared him for this one. “That, now, that was the truth. I got it wrong, and I’m sorry that came out like an accusation. That wasn’t fair of me.”
“Well.” Mac feels his anger disappearing, the instant affront at those words ‘ you’re lying’ melting into something else, something he’s not quite sure what to do with. “Good, then. Because it is the truth. I really don’t know what happened.”
“We believe you,” is the quick reassurance that comes from Lisbon, who also shoots a withering look to her left.
It isn’t her response Mac is watching for, though. Patrick, ignoring her nonverbal chastisement, nods his agreement. Something in Mac’s chest loosens upon seeing it. He’s not sure why, but he gets the distinct feeling that his relief isn’t all to do with his secrets about his work and everything it entails escaping without scrutiny.
After both of their interviews are finished, Jack comes to pick them up from the station. While waiting for him, sitting on a low ledge down the street from the building Mac couldn’t get away from fast enough, he tells Bozer about what’s happened. To Bozer’s eternal credit, he takes this latest development in stride.
“I didn’t know James had a brother,” he says, looking back towards the precinct like this might be the moment Patrick walks out, allowing him to get a glimpse at this mysterious man.
“Me either,” Mac mutters, scuffing at the ground with his shoe. He thought about not saying anything at all, rather than having to tell this story multiple times over, but instead had gone the opposite direction.
Of all of the people in his life, Bozer has always been the easiest to tell things to, especially once the secret about his job was out in the open. If anybody is the perfect choice to be the first one Mac tells about this, the first of his friends before whom he lays out this newest piece of the complicated mess that composes his family, it’s Bozer.
“Wow. What’s he like?”
Shrugging, Mac kicks at the ground again. There really isn’t a good way to describe Patrick, the way he’d seemed so familiar and so alien all at once, the gnawing sense that he could look at you and see straight through you without hardly trying. Instead of attempting to get it out into words before he’s had much time to think on it himself, Mac settles for saying, “Weird,” and Bozer snorts.
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.”
Jack picks them up not much later, and Mac doesn’t wait long after settling into the passenger’s seat to tell him. It’s like ripping off a bandaid, he figures, hands twisted nervously in his lap as the explanation comes out. The longer you take, the longer it’ll hurt for.
“Your uncle?” Jack asks, like his brain is buffering, attempting to catch up to the idea. “As in, as in your paternal uncle? As in your father’s brother?”
“Yeah.” The answer is short and clipped while Mac stares out the window, wondering for the hundredth time why James had never said anything. Never told him about, never mind introduced him to, Patrick.
Jack whistles, low and long. “You’d think there’d be a quota on the number of times relatives are allowed to pop up at you out of nowhere.”
Biting down a near-hysterical giggle that bubbles up in his lungs at the inanity of it, Mac instead holds up his hands from where they’d rested on his thighs in a small, exasperated shrug. “You’d think.”
“Got you playing whack-a-mole with MacGyvers this year,” Jack continues, and Bozer makes an amused sound from the back seat, “between the Director and now this guy.”
“He’s not a MacGyver.”
“What do you mean?”
“His name, it’s not Macgyver.” For the life of him, Mac doesn’t know why he’s telling Jack this, doesn’t know how any of it is relevant or important. Maybe he just needs to repeat some of it out loud to start processing it, to wrap his mind around this development. "Guess they’re half-brothers, different last names. His is Jane.” Mac swallows around his suddenly dry throat, tries to sound normal, tries to get used to saying it. “His name is Patrick Jane.”
Displaying more tact than most people would dream of accusing him of having, Jack seems to pick up on how off Mac is feeling right now so he doesn’t ask any more questions. Despite this, Mac catches both Jack and Bozer watching him at various points along the drive, when they think he’s not paying attention. He bristles at first, but this instinct ebbs quickly. It doesn’t feel so much, he realizes, after about the fourth time he’s accidentally made eye contact with Bozer in the rearview mirror, like being watched as it feels like being watched over, which is a distinction just important enough to make a difference.
Riley is already waiting for them at home when they get there. Bypassing anything but a brief greeting to her, Mac goes straight to the garage and climbs up a rickety old stepladder. A few minutes of poking around on high up shelves yields a shoebox, and Mac pulls it down and takes it inside. He doesn’t explain what he’s doing, just sits down on the couch and starts rifling through it. It’s been a long time since he’s looked at this box, since he found the nerve to go through some of his grandfather’s old stuff, months after the man died.
There it is, about halfway down the stack of old photos and papers. Mac takes it out and studies it, turning it towards the light. The picture is obviously old, going by the faded colors and the clothing on the people in it, the youth in his father’s unlined face. With hands that feel somehow distanced from the rest of his body, Mac turns it over and the writing on the back is exactly as he’d remembered it.
James & Patrick
Turning it back over again, revealing the pair of faces on the front, the boys standing next to each other but not quite touching, he hands the picture to Riley, who’s come to sit next to him on the couch. Bozer is on his other side and Mac knows without looking that the hand that’s come to clasp the back of his neck, warm and solid but not at all threatening, is Jack’s, the man leaning against the back of the couch behind him.
“Is this him?” Riley asks, squinting down at the faces. Someone clearly filled her in while he was out in the garage, because there is no addendum attached to ‘him’, everybody fully aware who she’s referring to.
“Yeah,” Mac says quietly, suddenly feeling almost shy. “That’s my uncle.” He doesn’t know why he says it anyway, confirming what she’d already known. Maybe it’s just to test how the word feels in his mouth, like if Mac says it enough times he’ll understand the man it’s attached to, or figure out how he feels about him.
Riley passes the picture on after a few more moments, leaning over Mac to hand it to Bozer, who takes it and looks at it with the same curious intensity.
“He really looks like you in this, Mac,” is what Bozer tells him, tapping the image of Patrick for emphasis.
“Damn, look at that. He really does.” Mac can feel it when Jack leans over the couch behind them to get a better look, the grip on his neck shifting but not releasing. They all ponder this, the undeniable truth of it, and Mac doesn’t know how he feels. “I’ve figured it out,” Jack adds after a bit. “It’s the hair.” The hand lets Mac go now, only to return a moment later, ruffling his hair, pushing it forward over his forehead and into his eyes.
“Jack!” Mac yelps indignantly, batting at him with one flailing arm while simultaneously trying to get his hair back into something resembling tidiness. Jack laughs and messes his hair up all over again the moment it’s marginally sorted, and Mac can’t help but laugh back. The impromptu attack lands him half in Bozer’s lap, laughing breathlessly.
The picture, that old memory of James MacGyver and Patrick Jane, is set over on the coffee table, discarded for now.
When the activity at the crime scene that’s been made of the Florences’ house picks up the next day, Riley is the first one to notice it. When she’d shown up that morning it had been under the flimsy excuse of having brought a small toaster oven that wasn’t working correctly on the right side, hoping Mac could tinker around until it was fixed. Nobody had called her on it, her arched eyebrow daring them to, and it’s been a rather nice day, all things considering. Until now, when Riley alerts Mac and Bozer that she thinks the CBI people are back.
“Do you think your uncle is with them?” Bozer asks, peeking out the window next to her.
Mac, feeling suddenly tense and weird, doesn’t join them. “I don’t know.”
“Do you think he’s gonna come over here?”
“I don’t know,” Mac says again. The back of his neck prickles and he gets up, pacing a short ways across the floor then coming to a stop, restlessness itching in his fingertips.
“Do you want him to?” It’s Riley’s turn to ask, this time, the third question being the one that finally tips Mac over the edge, his answer coming out much louder and much more frustrated than he’d meant it to.
“I don’t know!” Silence reigns as Mac breathes in short, sharp bursts, shoulders hitching unevenly. Both Riley and Bozer have turned away from the window to look at him, waiting for him to regain his composure before risking saying anything further. After a while, Mac looks down, saying with cheeks that burn with embarrassment, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you, I just… I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
And he genuinely doesn’t. Mac has no idea whether or not he wants to see Patrick again, if he wants his uncle to take the time out of whatever it is he’s doing over there to come and say hello to him. He can’t decide which of those options is worse - the idea of seeing him again, or the idea that the man wouldn’t want to see him. It would also mean that Bozer and Riley would meet him, and that’s an odd thought in itself.
Neither of them bring it up again after that. Mac takes up the vacated position at the window and looks out, studying the empty street. It looks just like it had yesterday, when that easy, gentle morning had been so soundly shattered by a crime whose violence was matched only by its senselessness. The way the cheerful sunlight pirouettes down through the tree branches and across the ground seems far too upbeat for the circumstances. It would seem the sun didn’t get the memo that the day after someone on your street dies terribly, it’s not supposed to be a gorgeous day.
Mac is still watching when he catches sight of him, blond curls ruffled by the light wind, wearing a charcoal grey three-piece suit and meandering down the sidewalk. Patrick is walking away from the scene towards Mac’s house, looking around him slowly and thoughtfully, like he’s in some kind of a museum.
When Mac slips out of the house, he doesn’t say anything about it to Bozer or Riley. He just goes, closing the door softly behind him and walking up the driveway to the sidewalk, reaching it while Patrick is still maybe twenty feet away. It’s an odd, breathless time between when Mac stops and Patrick arrives in front of the house, turning to look down at it.
“I lived here, for a while.” It’s a non sequitur, the kind Mac is getting the feeling, even after this short amount of exposure, is kind of typical for Patrick.
“You did?” Mac asks half because he’s curious and half because he just needs something to say, and the window has been opened for him.
Humming in confirmation, Patrick doesn’t take his eyes off the house. “On and off, when I was younger. I’d come and live with Harry and James for a couple of months before my dad would come and take me, and we’d be gone again. Until he brought me back, and it’d be the same cycle.”
Still unsure where he stands with this virtual stranger, and still too raw himself to talk much about fathers who left their sons and came back when it was convenient, Mac doesn’t ask. Patrick doesn’t elaborate, either, his faraway look matched in his voice when he keeps talking.
“It looks pretty much the same. I don’t know why I thought it would be different. We always expect things to change when we do, don’t we?”
Things are stiff and quiet between them for a moment, Patrick's attention shifting from the house to Mac in that time. Patrick is looking at him again the same way he had in the interview room at the station, right in the beginning, when he’d first come in. Mac doesn’t know this expression. He doesn’t know it on Patrick, which makes sense because he doesn’t know Patrick, but there’s no baseline from James to compare it to. No frame of reference to sort out what it means.
It turns out he doesn’t have to figure out what it means, because before Mac can start unraveling it there’s the sound of a car pulling up, a door slamming, and then Jack is there.
Jack is there, walking quickly over, and that expression Mac knows very, very well. It’s a look he’s seen on his partner’s face time and time again, faced down with their bad guy of the week, or Mac’s childhood bully back in Mission City, or James on the day Jack first met him and yanked his hand back from the initially offered shake so fast it’s like he’d been burned.
Though he doesn’t know what Jack is doing here or how he’d managed to swing this kind of timing, Mac is very, very glad to see him.
“So, you’re Mac's surprise uncle then,” Jack says, not even bothering to hide the hostile distrust in his voice when he reaches the pair of them. “Gotta say, you crawled out of the woodwork a couple decades late.” He looks aside at Mac just briefly, not taking his eyes off Patrick for long, and in the split second he does this Jack’s face softens, forehead wrinkled in worry rather than distrust. “Riley texted me.”
In a move of breathtaking timing, Jack has only just said her name when the door of Mac’s house flings open and the woman in question appears. If possible, Riley is even less subtle about her immediate suspicion of Patrick than Jack had been, striding quickly and purposefully over with Bozer tailing behind her, looking equal parts curious and nervous. She reaches them fast, taking up a position next to but partially in front of Mac, not even bothering to pretend she isn’t directly placing herself between him and Patrick, and then she’s off.
“You got to ask your questions yesterday,” Riley tells him, void of even Jack’s bare civility and straight to the point. “Why are you back here? If the CBI wants another witness statement from Mac, they can call him.”
“Riley,” Mac starts hesitantly. Patrick hasn’t actually given anyone a reason to dislike him yet so it seems a little unfair to be treating him with such animus. Riley’s not having any of it, stubbornly holding her ground, both figuratively and in the literal sense, planted to the sidewalk with her shoulder in front of Mac’s chest.
“It’s okay,” says the last person Mac would have expected to step in. Patrick is watching without looking like he’s taken offense at the frosty reception. Instead his face is interested, and there’s something warm in his eyes that Mac just doesn’t understand. “I’d imagine my brother’s reputation precedes me. And no, while I am here on this street in an official capacity, that’s not why I came over here.” Shifting his focus up and away from Riley, Patrick looks directly at Mac now, saying, “I just wanted to see you again,” before pivoting away from that winding statement to refocus on the others.
“So, who are these folks?” Patrick asks with a bright, friendly tone, looking from Jack to Riley to Bozer and back to Riley ultimately, who to be fair, is cutting the most actively threatening figure.
It’s a long explanation to answer that question fully, and Mac doesn’t know that he wants to stand here unspooling it. Not right now, when he feels so off-center, and not to this man he hardly knows who seems to feel some kind of connection to him, despite the fact that all they share in common is a man they each have a different kind of hard, complicated relationship to.
It’s Bozer that steps in and makes it so that he doesn’t have to either explain or find a way to duck the question, saying easily but firmly, in a way that invites no questioning or skepticism, “We’re his family.”
Mac cringes and braces for Patrick's reaction. He waits for his uncle’s face to twist into sharp disbelief or disapproval, some kind of rebuke or instinctive jealousy to take over upon the characterization that had included this handful of people obviously not related to Mac, but excluded him. He waits for Patrick's expression to turn into one of a dozen he’s seen James wear, both when he was a kid and since the man’s abrupt return. To assert some kind of possessive claim to Mac despite the fact that this is only the second time they’ve ever met, weaponize their shared blood, their same eyes and the mirror image of the way their foreheads crinkle in the same place.
That isn’t what happens.
Patrick’s gaze flits from person to person, taking in Bozer standing so close to Mac now that their shoulders are pressed together, Riley slightly in front of him with her chin jutted up in a challenge, the fold of Jack’s arms over his chest and the suspicious glare still present in his eyes. And he smiles.
“Oh, I see.” He sounds… Almost excited. Maybe happy. “Well, in that case, it’s lovely to meet you.” In a move braver than some international arms dealers Mac has tangled with, Patrick takes a step closer and holds out his hand. “I’m Patrick.” The peace offering is accepted first by Bozer, then by Jack, and finally by Riley, who offer him their names in return.
There’s a beat of strange, evaluating quiet while things seem to shift and slide around each other, no clear indication as to where they’re going to land.
“I should probably get back before they decide to leave me here,” Patrick says eventually. “It really was good to meet you three. Family is important, I'm glad he has you. I hope we’ll see each other again.” His attention turns to Mac himself, asking, “Can I have a word? Just quick before I leave.”
When Mac decides to go, to take a few steps to the side for whatever passes for privacy on a public sidewalk with several people within earshot, they don’t try to stop him. Riley steps out of the way, Bozer nods, and Jack manages to locate enough self-restraint not to follow Mac towards Patrick like some kind of protective shadow. He’s grateful to them for it, and for the fact that they nevertheless stay put there by the street, not trying to stop him but not retreating either.
“Look,” Patrick says when they’re as close to alone as they’re going to get, “I’m sure you have a lot going on, and this is probably very weird for you. I have to admit it’s weird for me too. You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but I’d like to. You don’t have to decide right now, just…” He presses something into Mac's hand, a rectangle of stiff paper. A business card. “Consider it, if you’re willing to. I think I'd be a good uncle. I’d try my best to be one, anyway.”
In the empty space after he’s said his piece, Patrick gives Mac a soft, warm smile and his hand, the one not tucked into the pocket of his grey slacks, twitches a little. It seems for a moment like he’s going to reach out, like he wants to touch Mac, cup a palm over his shoulder or the side of his face, but he doesn’t. Instead, he turns and walks away, back towards the fluttering neon of the crime scene tape cordoning off the Florence house.
Mac watches him go, the business card still held up in his hands. He looks down at it, turning it over to see a second phone number scratched onto the back in ballpoint pen. Probably a personal cell phone. For longer than can necessarily be justified, Mac stands there on the sidewalk, thoughts racing a mile a minute while at the same time barely containing anything of substance.
When they’re back inside, he tells them about it, the card turning over and over in his hands. It feels heavier than it should, for such a little piece of paper. Mac studies the handwriting on the back of it, like maybe that holds some kind of explanation. If it does, he can’t find it.
“Are you going to text him?” Bozer asks, and Mac shrugs, awkward and uncertain.
“I don’t know. What do you guys think I should do?” Nobody answers, and Mac looks up from the scrawled number again in time to see the look Riley and Bozer exchange unreadably between them. “Jack?” he tries, but the man just shakes his head.
“Not making this call for you, buddy, you know better. This one’s yours. Did you give him your number too?”
Wordlessly, Mac shakes his head. The edge of the card pokes into his thumb, small and sharp.
Jack holds out his hands, open and palms up, a gesture of wide open possibility. “Then it’s totally up to you. You don’t wanna hear from him again, throw the card away and that’s it. He shows up here after that, well. You know where to find me, and I’ll see him off before him and his fancy suit’ll know what hit him. You decide you wanna give it a go, that’s good too. Either way, we’ll be here.”
Something like relief unknotting in his chest, breath loosening and coming easier, Mac looks back down at it and nods. He puts the card in his pocket and tries to put the whole situation out of his mind.
The decision is made in the way decisions like that sometimes are, in a small moment of sudden, quiet clarity. Mac doesn’t think about it for hours, setting the whole situation aside and focusing on other things. And then the card is out and in his hand, and he’s entering the numbers on the back into his phone without realizing he’d decided to. The message he sends to Patrick- to his uncle is one word, just six cautiously hopeful letters.