Fiddling with his half-drained scotch and soda, Will looked around Hang Chew’s at 11:05, and shook his head. They still looked like kids to him, his staff; kids who had a lot to learn, but they were good kids. Sitting around two end-tables, huddled into their corner of the place, his team went over mock debate questions; over and over. Mac was in the corner with them, looking thoroughly entertained at Jim’s portrayal of Michelle Bachmann, and Will couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“I get it, you know,” Sloan interrupted him, and he hated that about her. Most of them- the good kids who were his staff- he could scare away. Sloan was young, and she was good, but even his prickliest of days didn’t shut her down, and what was up with that?
“You get it?” Will looked doubtful. “Get what?”
“Why you’re in love with Mac but you can’t be with her, at least, yet.” With a shrug, Sloan delivered complexities of human with realities with… you know, the ease she delivered everything with. She saw him, she saw his mouth open, ready to argue but she shook her head, “Just accept the assumption that you’re in love with Mac. The drinks here aren’t good, you and I can afford to go to real restaurants, and you have better scotch in your underwear drawer.” She frowned, “I’m assuming. You come here because she’s here.”
Thinking about it, Will swirled the cheap scotch and soda that he had only sipped, and sighed and nodded, regretfully.
“That doesn’t mean-”
“You’re in love with Mac, it’s just the way things are. You’re wearing a blue shirt, you’re the anchor of News Night, and you’re in love with Mackenzie McHale. I get it.” She repeated, eyeing the team of people she’d easily call coworkers, and probably even friends.
“ I don’t even get it, how could you get it?” Will couldn’t help but laugh. A year ago, he would’ve called Sloan Sabbith ‘pencil skirt #4’ in their building and kept moving. Now? She gets it.
“We’re all waiting, you know; I keep volunteering to make the pool,” She admitted, “for how long it takes you guys to get back together. I have an edge though, because I get it.”
“So you’ve said. Are we gonna get to the it portion of tonight?” Sipping his bad drink again, Will smiled when Mackenzie got in on the action of the mock debate. She couldn’t help herself.
“You love Mac, you’ve always loved her, and she loves you and has loved you, right? But, last time she loved you she hurt you.” Sloan tried to explain it slow, like she was teaching in her class. The way Will’s brow was furrowed, showed promise, she thought.
“You, and I don’t know, roughly a hundred thousand people working for AWM get that , Sloan.” He tried not to tease her, she usually took it as encouragement, and Will generally tried not to be encouraging.
“I don’t think you’re mad about her cheating on you.” Elbows on the bar, Sloan looked at Will; at his sad, old face, and wished there was a way she could just fix it for them. Seeing his argument coming, Sloan held up her hand to stop him. “Look, look, look. When I was eleven, I was ice skating in the Catskills and I fell on the ice and hit my head and had to go the hospital; so I don’t ice skate, anymore. I could wear a helmet, and I could wear shin-guards, and I could get skating lessons, and they might help me not fall on the ice, but the only way I know with one hundred percent certainty I’ll never fall on the ice again, is to stay off the ice.” Sipping her drink, Sloan paid her tab, and waited for Will to catch up.
“So in this scenario… Mackenzie is…”
“The ice; obviously. Or… falling on the ice?" She tried not to doubt herself. "You know what I mean ,” Sloan huffed. “You can forgive Mackenzie for cheating on you, but that doesn’t help you know she won’t do it again. You love her, and you can put on a helmet, and wear all the shin-guards in the world, but getting back on the ice still means you could get hurt again.” Hopping down off the barstool, Sloan clapped her hand to Will’s shoulder.
“Was that actually a true story?” Will stopped her from leaving, not quite sure he agreed with her assessment of his situation, but it sounded plausible. Plus, if the story was true, then Sloan had hit her head hard at least once in her life, and how credible was her advice, then?
“Yes!” Sloan asserted, momentarily wounded. “It happened to my brother, though.” She confessed, with a smile. “And he definitely skated again, his hockey team won the regionals that year. But… he’s kind of an idiot, so, I figured you don’t have to follow his example.” Hands up in a shrug, Sloan figured her advice was still on pretty solid ground.
“You realize… that you getting it, means probably no one else will.” Sighing into his drink, Will hoped that sounded more like a thank you than he thought it did.
“You can borrow my brother’s story, if it helps.” Sloan smiled.
“Yeah, somehow I don’t think it will.”
Paying for his drink, Will lingered at the bar for another half-hour, watching the team laugh and drink and work, until almost fucking midnight. Offering Mac a small, goodnight glance, he left, still wondering if there was a chance he could win regionals this year.