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He's just trying to get his copy finished well ahead of the rundown and he knows he's ignored her texts but for the love of Christ and all those fat little angels, she's gotta stop just -

“Know how you said that you'd do anything for me if I didn't make you go tonight?” she asks, less of a demand than he'd expected when she'd swung open his door, sans permission.

“To the Gala?” he responds, a freshly dry-cleaned tuxedo hanging in his peripheral vision as reminder while he slants his entire body back in the office chair. “Yeah, I remember.”

The Met Gala, yeah, the one that she wants to go to after he wraps the night's episode. The very reason they're paying their day-time care-taker an exorbitant over-time bonus (well, that and she trusts Joanna's judgment about ten times more than she trusts the agency's younger night-time girl – and he trusts her judgment more than anyone's, especially in regards to their daughter). The Met Gala that she perennially adores attending while he spends the long hours considering jamming something sharp into his ear drum at an excruciatingly slow rate of speed. Because one would likely be more fun for him than the other and even after years he's still on the fence – it could actually be the sharp object thing. Especially if he's gotta sit through another modernist version of La Traviata.

Sure, Anna Netrebko's hot, but has anyone actually seen his wife??

The woman's got legs that won't fucking quit.

MacKenzie moves entirely into his office, backing the door closed and removing any chance at all he has to check out her ass as she leans up against it and chews into her cheek before shrugging. “Well - ”

“I also remember that you threatened to cut off parts of my anatomy with the vegetable peeler you were wielding if I didn't shut up about it,” he interrupts, letting his pen drop harshly onto the notes he'd been scribbling on. “I still haven't entirely figured out how you would accomplish - ”

“Your daughter has a fever.”

He locks the chair back near instantly, his whole body going shock still as he studies her face and realizes that the reason she wasn't all that dramatic and blustery about breaking into his office is that she was probably purposely down-playing her entrance. It's exactly like Mac to calm-before-the-storm herself when she's gotta tell him something that causes concern. It's habit. She likes to think she can control everything, like the weather itself and his emotional responses to, well, anything. She likes to think that if she's calm that it won't trigger his need to put himself between her, their daughter, and anything that could possibly harm either of the two of them.

He realizes that when it comes to the three of them, he's fiercely over-protective of two outta three.

He realizes that she completely and utterly understands why, that she's excellently patient at accepting it all as fact, as life, as their daily existence while living with a man who was abused as a child.

But he also realizes that MacKenzie down-playing anything to do with Charlotte makes his blood pressure immediately spike through the goddamn roof, regardless of her attempt to just 'Joe Cool' the thing.

“How high?” his hands curl onto the edge of the desk while he pulls himself back up and his shoulders go straight back.

“It's high, Billy.” She says it with that pious tone of voice she uses when she's trying to sound calmly educated and confident, the tone of voice that makes him think she should just stop it with the high stress shit and start teaching at NYU already (not that teaching isn't without its own stress). She'd be a first-class professor of journalism, though.

Students would absolutely love her, male or female. “Joanna was concerned enough to call us.”

“Us? That was her and you calling?”

She smiles small in response, quiet at first as she gives him a look of sheer doting. “Don't get me wrong, I like that you're so focused.”

Will just nods, waving off her teasing as he pulls himself back closer to the desk. “You heading home? Or am I?”

“Neither, Jo's bringing her here to me. Us.” The correction is rapid and has her near blushing in apology, blinking at him as she sighs and waves a hand between them. It's not like he hasn't noticed how possessive she is of their daughter. How possessive they both are, really. Guarded and watchful and probably far more over-protective than they should be. Likely it'll backfire on them by the time she hits puberty. “We're closer to the pediatrician this way.”

“Sloan can - ”

“Just - ” She even interrupts herself with a shake of her head, a quick negation and brusque. Her entire body shifts in direction, moving nearly entirely away from him as she seemingly heads toward the tux that's hanging on his open bathroom door. “We're not going anywhere yet, Will. You still have a show to do tonight. Jim's got at least another rundown before and - ”

“How high a fever is it, Mac?” His glance follows her intently while he stretches his spine, using the toe of his shoe to leverage against his desk and shift his chair sidelong.

“We'll see when they get here, all right?”

That's a bullshit answer and he knows it.

She's got that lofty voice and she's avoiding meeting his glance entirely.

“Yeah, all right,” Will agrees softly, barely sounding the words into the room as he shrugs back. “I'm saying – I'm still gonna tag Sloan in, so to speak. Let her know I may need her to cover tonight.”

“I've already asked her.”

A frown tightens his lips down, flares his nostrils as he blinks at her. An annoyed shrug claims his shoulders as he shakes his head at her. “You told Sloan that my daughter has a high grade fever before you told me about it?”

“She was with me when I got the call. Joanna was trying to be blasé about it but...”

“Yeah, okay.” And he can still hear the pout in his own voice. He can't help it.

“I mean, she gets that fluttery nervous tone of voice and - ”

“How high a fever, Mac?”

Because now he's getting downright fucking concerned.

Because she still won't look at him and while he usually enjoys the view of her spine, her hips, her ass and down the back of those spectacular legs...

“High enough to scare me a bit.” Mac admits finally, her fingers caught against a tuxedo hemline as her head turns to the side. She still won't necessarily meet his glance but her profile is tight, more worried than anything and it plucks against his pride. The sudden swaying urge to tug her into his lap and tell her that everything is gonna be all right beats out the annoyance he was feeling.

“A British 'bit' or an American one?”

“We'll see when she gets here,” she says as she fusses her fingers down the front of the tux, swiping it down smooth. “And they're exactly the same amount. Are you mocking my phraseology? Now? Really?”

Will disregards her feigned annoyance as he watches her body, all her muscles tightened up in a nervousness that he can relate to pretty easily. “Call me.”

“I'll find you.” Her answer is bright and agreeable, more so than he expects as she strokes one more time down the lapel before turning back toward him. Will kicks the chair back slightly again, relaxing into it so that his head is banked back and he can lead an open hand in her direction. The movement is a silent urging, drawing her closer.

“Even better. MacKenzie?”

“Hmmm?” She's so warmly held just by the motion of his hand, by the repetition of his fingertips tracing the inside of one palm.

“You know that this whole Zen Mode mentality you've got when it comes to Charlie usually freaks my shit even more in the long run?”

“I didn't, no. You think I'm Zen in regards to Charlotte? Are you insane?” Both her hands tug his one up and curled, her grasp tight and unrelenting. She leans over their combined hands, pressing their fists into her abdomen as she holds his glance. “You mean because I'm calm?”

“Yeah.”

“I am calm, Will.” She laughs freely and he's reminded how much he loves the look of amusement in her eyes, despite worry. “I mean, at least until she's here and I know exactly what's going on.”

Slowly he manages to work his fingers free enough to mischievously pluck at the fabric of her shirt. “Then you'll freak too?”

“Usually the way it works.” Mac's admission is gentle as she lets him twist the control and take her hand into his instead. “Daddy's the strong one in the moment, remember? When she cut her arm at the - ”

“Yeah, okay.” He kisses her knuckles before letting her loose, already trying to brush off her commentary. “Right.”

“I was an absolute nutter and you were the Shaolin Monk of Playground Fathers. You had half your shirt tail ripped off and tied around her arm before I could dial 911.” There's a brightness in her eyes as she speaks that makes his chest loosen up from where it's been trapped tight and he just watches her face, enthralled by how bemused she seems. He can feel the near flush of embarrassment go hot under his collar. “Just whisked her out of the park and - ”

“There was absolutely no reason to call an ambulance when we were literally ten blocks from - ”

“You taught your three old the meaning of 'tourniquet' by altering the lyrics to a Disney song in the back seat of a taxi,” she says affectionately, telling the story they both already know like it was some great and courageous feat, to get his daughter to the emergency room for stitches before she'd bled out.

Twenty three stitches up the inside of her tiny little arm from an errant piece of metal fencing, just a spiked piece of wiring sticking up and tearing at her skin. A scar she still carried. But it wasn't like Will & Company: Storming the Beaches of Normandy or anything.

And he'd also never told Mac that he'd puked his guts up in the ambulance bay while Charlie was being discharged. Hurled like a hero 'cause his baby got stitches – and like a champ, really. She'd been too interested in watching it happen to be grossed out or scared by it.

Not that Mac hadn't figured it out, regardless, he's sure.

His wife is whip-crack smart and, God, he loves that.

“It didn't stick. It's not like she remembered.”

“She's three, babe.” Mac is leaned forward from her perch on the edge of his desk, an inherent smile on her lips as he slowly stands to meet her doting. “And I remembered. It was really very sexy, McAvoy.”

Will shrugs at her with a cocky half smirk, his hands catching her waist and palming up her rib cage as she lets all her weight off her feet and into the desk and him instead. “'Whole New World', by the way. It's from Aladdin. You should really pay attention on movie nights instead of reading.”

She's letting him step between her knees as she shakes her head at him and his swagger, her hands still gripped on the edge of the desk as he kisses her lightly once, twice. “As long as I'm with you two it doesn't matter.”

“It's gonna matter someday, when we're doing our family's version of Aladdin at the Met Gala and you don't know the lyrics.” He nearly hums between them, his voice kept low and murmuring to keep the calm they've tethered up between them. “Charlie's gonna be very disappointed in you.”

“Billy? It's just a fever.”

He realizes that. In the back of his head.

That, likely, it's nothing much. It's gonna be fine.

Just a fever, Billy. “I know.”

She takes the pause and the griping admittance as leave, her palms gently rebuffing him back as she moves to stand. Will moves with her but only so far as to allow her off the desk, his hands taking possession of her hips even as she tries to disengage the way he's knotted them up together. Mac sighs, stilling her movements as he just grins at her, blocking her smaller frame into his desk before he kisses her, keeping the lead in slow and soft enough that she could give him a swift punch in the gut if she really wanted to deter him. He's inclined to think she's actually fine with it, considering the way she leans into him and stretches her hands up on face as he teases his tongue against her bottom lip.

Generally, he's inclined to think that Mac moaning onto his tongue is one of the greatest blessings he's ever received on earth.

And also that it's that one particular blessing that's led to the second blessing.

“Daddy is the strong one, you know?” The way she says it, the way she's staring intently at him as she says it? Genuine and assured. He gamely just winks at her in response to the sincerity and watches the way the affectionate gesture never fails to make her flush up pleased, her fingers thwapping against his chest as she moves off the desk and aims to leave his office. “Finish your copy.”

Will watches her go, enjoys the view from behind her as much as he can when all his nerves are fired up and tight, banded up and locked. “Sure, Boss.”

 


 

 

He sees them coming halfway through the rundown meeting and he's lost all track of anything Jim may have been saying as they cross the bullpen and move toward the conference room. Primarily he's distracted by the sheened look of determination on her face, the look that pales her like a still and solid statue. She's fucking solid when she's got that particular look on her face, solid and fierce, unforgiving. And she had to have dismissed Jo already because she's got the diaper bag strung up on one shoulder while Charlotte leans onto the other, the girl's arms wound so tightly around her mother's neck that he can't necessarily see his daughter's head from how closely curled they are.

He swings the door to the conference room open for her, feeling the sudden stilled attention from everyone else in the meeting while he palms against the back of his daughter's head and hears Mac's hard exhalation. Her voice goes low and husky in the way he usually likes but now, well, it's freaking him out a little. “I called the after hours number at the pediatrician's office. They're saying to take her to the clinic.”

“Where's Joanna? Did you send her - ”

“She's getting us a taxi. Take her, please?” her voice softens a little, the whole of her body and their daughter both pressing up into the front of him so that he's unconsciously taking Charlotte up from her without questioning the shift. “She wants you.”

“Hey there, Pip.” The weight of her is nothing. That's not to say that she's small – because she's growing like an obstinate goddamn weed. Kid's gonna be long and lanky, he figures, just by the length of her feet. She's not small, but she is completely pliant, lethargic. There's no fight or tussle or fidget to her as she just lets him lift her into his chest and rub his jaw against her temple. “Jesus, you're burnin' up.”

It's unnatural for Charlotte to cling to him this particular way.

Usually she's playing the part of a very obstinate and energetic monkey, climbing all over him.

“Wanna g'home.” Charlie slurs back at him, her voice more grump and annoyance than anything.

He doesn't answer so much as just make a subtle sound of agreement up his throat. And Charlotte lifts her head long enough to stare her father over with the same accusatory intensity her mother often uses, glaring at him in the hopes that maybe he'll be on her side, just maybe he'll save her from the doctor and the fuss and the clinic itself. He knows her well enough to know that she gets nervous and shy in busy populated places, places with a lot of strangers and all of them seeming at ease with just striking up a conversation with her father. And, generally, they do it regardless of her presence or expected social decorum. The public, as an entity, is tactless and the poor kid doesn't like being famous by association. He absolutely abhors putting her in situations wherein it'll be a possible issue but, because it's inevitable, he's been getting incrementally better and better at long range death glares and short range dismissals. Still... she's currently got a ridiculous fever and that's a no-brainer.

So he shrugs apologetically at her, shakes his head against becoming her co-conspirator.

It's not often he gets a glaring so inherently disappointed from his child but it's almost always when he's deserted Camp Fun-For-Charlie for the high peaks of Camp Just-Do-What-Mum-Says.

“Jim? You and Don handle it, all right? I don't want a phone call unless there's a legitimate disaster, all right? Just - ”

“We've got it, Mac. Go.” There's a repetitive and resilient calm in always/ever knowing what Jim's going to say before it even comes out his mouth and Will appreciates it.

“Sloan? If you need us - ”

“We've got this,” Sloan murmurs with a slowness that is deliberate and more than appreciated, it's a necessary retardant to his astronomically high heart rate. And her voice is quieted as she kisses against the girl's head, lifts her glance back to his and nods toward the glass door. “Get gone, Daddy-o.”

“Thank you.”

 


 

 

It's moments like these when she legitimately misses Charlie Skinner so much that it aches in her lungs and her bones feel more brittle than they should. It becomes a physical manifestation of missing him, that raw and wrecked way she feels when she realizes that Will McAvoy makes exactly the sort of father that Charlie always seemed to know that he would have. Because Charlotte hasn't calmed down since she started crying halfway to the clinic and Mac hasn't been able to completely tune out the high pitched fussing, but Will McAvoy is a picture of patience incarnate. He's near saintly in tone and movement and she finds that she's focusing on the comforting hum of his voice as he sing-songs something that's just faintly familiar to her, the sound of it a low and an underlying sort of drone in comparison to their daughter's whining.

“You've gotta relax, hon.”

“She's scared,” she tells him curtly as she turns back toward the both of them, defensive of her daughter. Charlotte is leaned on her side, back to her mother and facing the way Will's crossed both arms onto the side of the examination table-type bed. The fingers of one of his hands outstretched because Charlie's got two of them curled in one of her palms while she sniffles pathetically at him.

His glance lifts while his body stays utterly still and her ovaries always give a little niggle when he so boyishly grins at her from under his lashes, most especially when he's also just being a doting dad. “I meant you, Mommy Dearest.”

Oh...

“Sorry.” An embarrassed laugh bubbles off her lips and she steps forward into the side of Charlotte's temporary bed. Her fingers loop against dark blonde and she fiddles a particularly sweaty strand of hair around two fingers. “It's my turn to crazy.”

“Guess it is,” Will agrees gently, dropping a kiss to the back of Charlie's hand before lifting his head entirely. “You're allowed, y'know?”

“To slowly torture myself with worry?”

“Nice of you to join me, darling,” he says into quiet laughter, chuckling at her as Charlotte stretches slowly onto her back. “Been missing you.”

“Mama?” There's a couple lazy blinks of hazy blue eyes and she can't help but lean down, she can't help but brush her daughter's hair back and kiss that small forehead.
Without a second thought her hands take her daughter's shifting and she lifts into Charlie's stretching, kissing against the girl's ear and whispering comfort while little legs wrap around her hips. “Hello, my love.”

 


 

 

He'd thought, for about five minutes while she was pregnant (and sexy as fuck), that he couldn't possibly ever fall any more in love with her. Then she'd actually given birth and the entire process had forced him to re-evaluate how much he loved her because... goddamn... for the woman to have gone through such a tortured and hectic childbirth and still wanna be with him, she had to love him a hell of a lot. He'd realized that his idea of 'love' was weak child's play in comparison, that he obviously had to step up his game to play at MacKenzie's level of loving.

Then he'd watched her cry in sheer frustration when Charlotte fussed and refused at feeding time.

He'd soft-touch played every hit single the Beatles had ever made well into the early mornings as she'd hummed along, both of them trying to stay awake past utter exhaustion because Charlie's eyes just wouldn't close. An obstinate daughter born from two stubborn jackass parents – let that be their lesson.

Then he'd let the both of them fall asleep on him near every day of Mac's maternity leave, when he'd go home for a long lunch and do what he could to give her a break that always turned into a tandem nap.

And he finds now that every 'first' MacKenzie has as 'mother' gives him another case of love-sick swooning.

Because it's the first time he's ever really caught her using the backs of her fingers against their daughter's forehead to test a fever and he could swear to Christ, while her lips press Charlie's cheek, that he's never found her more stunning.

“Whatever they gave her is helping, at least.”

Right... so every moment of Mac being a mother was what would someday culminate in killing him dead, happily-heart-stopped.

Will lets off a long sigh, banking his head back as he intentionally slacks lower in the plastic ergonomic chair, his legs bent and knees stretched apart as he lags a glance her way. “Let's be a statistic, huh?”

“What?” Mac asks, entirely distracted. Her head half turns in his direction even as she watches Charlotte lift a little hand to tug at one of her ears and try to roll away. MacKenzie just makes a stalling noise, tongue against her teeth before she lifts her daughter entirely.

“I gotta go first, hon,” he murmurs, enthralled by how smoothly she lifts the child up against her shoulder and wraps her up, curling them into an inextricable mother-daughter-knot once again. “I simply cannot live without you.”

Jesus, Billy. Really?”

He smirks at how aghast she is by his comment, by the very idea that he'd have that sort of discussion at all, let alone in a hospital room, and while she's cuddling their daughter up? “I mean it.”

“Will you lay down?” The request is soft and intentionally disregards his teasing. One hand lifts from the back of their daughter's head and waves over the bed, her eyes on him.

“She sleeping?”

Mac just nods as he gets up, a sidelong kiss pressed into Charlie's hair. “Almost.”

They'd been given a private room once the staff had put his name and face together and while he'd usually be tweaked uncomfortable over it... most everything but his family had sort of faded into the background. At least while his kid was running a fever higher than anything he himself had faced in decades. So instead of feeling guilty about taking up more space than needed he just leans back onto the thin mattress of the hospital bed, shifting his hips higher as she steps closer and nods at him. Will draws both feet up and crosses them at the ankles, letting his back stretch out as she sits gingerly beside him.

“C'mere,” he murmurs, plucking lightly at her shirt and pulling on the fabric, insistent as he studies how deeply Charlie has buried her face into her mother's loose hair. “Like when she'd just come home.”

Mac just nods quietly, turning her upper body first and leaning into him as he drops the other hand down. She shifts Charlotte onto his chest, lets him hum a small sound of comforting into the girl's waved hair as she grouses at him. He simply ignores it, draws her up higher so that she can grumpily cuddle her face and fists into the unbuttoned bit of his Henley collar. Her small body takes up the expanse of his chest, bare feet hooking at his sides while her hair tickles at his jaw. Mac follows, leaning into his side and drawing one leg up over his hip as her head settles heavily against his shoulder. He curls the both of them up reflexively, smiling when MacKenzie lifts her left hand just the way she used to and presses her palm flat against Charlie's back. Her fingers spread out and he feels the grin widen out as she hooks a light brown curl up into her fingertips. Charlie's foot shifts until she can press the pad of it onto her mother's thigh and leverage herself higher under his chin and closer to the both of them. Mac's head lays onto his shoulder and he realizes that he's missed this moment far more than he'd realized. Because he could happily stay weighed down by the two of them for years and not mind.

“Which song, Pip?” The nickname has the weight of nothing off his tongue, light and breathy and a comfort in his daughter's hair. “Huh, sweetheart?”

“Don' Mess,” she grumps at him, her chin digging in with a certain level of stubbornness that he hadn't actually expected from her so soon. She was always a stubborn little bundle of trouble but she obviously wasn't well. But maybe, well... maybe she was feeling better.

“My baby girl has a serious viral infection and her first musical request is Jim Croce?”

MacKenzie just snorts amusement into his shoulder, her body stretching farther and longer against him as she sighs. He hums the first couple bars of the song and she laughs into his shirt. “She's certainly your daughter when it comes to musical taste.”

“Uncle Jim isn't even here.” He tells his daughter and, damn it, he wouldn't be so easily manipulated if she didn't have the cutest nose he'd ever fucking seen on a toddler. Nor would he indulge the monumental crush she's got on Uncle Jim Harper if she wasn't so fucking adorable. “Charlie.”

“P'ease?”

 


 

 

“I want another one,” she murmurs as Charlie's head drives harder up under her jaw, forcing her to lift her head higher against his shoulder as she continues. “I want a little boy with his father's eyes. Or a little sister for her?”

Will groans, those blue eyes shut and his forehead crinkling up as his features go tightened. “I knew this was coming. As soon as she got clingy I knew you were gonna get that swoony - ”

“I'm not saying it's logical, Billy. It's just...well...”

It's just that, God, she's not the only one.

He'd just been waiting for her to say it first.

“The reality exists,” he exhales into her hair, drawing the scent of her shampoo back into his lungs as he breathes. Her fingers dig into his shirt and tug lightly, carefully pulling on both fabric and his attention even as Charlotte sleeps between them.

“It does,” she agrees, shifting slightly to give their daughter more space. Charlie's slid down farther between them, wedging herself in against Mac's front and her head is tucked up under her mother's chin. He turns farther onto his side slowly, keeping MacKenzie's head cuddled up on his bicep and shoulder while the other hand brushes Charlotte's hair from her face. He keeps his touch light as he stretches his spine out and a crackling sound runs down the length of him.

She's a damn fidgety sleeper sometimes, fussy as hell, and don't they both know it.

No way is he gonna be the one that harasses her into waking up when she's not feeling well.

He just barely shrugs, makes a noise of agreement up his throat before whispering, “Same here.”

And it's sort of adorable how quickly Mac's head lifts and how hard she winces when she realizes that Charlie fusses slightly in her sleep in response. She's still for a moment before whispering a hissed, “Really?”

“Definitely.” Will just swallows the laugh that wants to find its way past his lips, kissing lightly against her forehead instead. Really? He thinks... Yes, definitely. “Absolutely, hon.”

“You're just... agreeing?”

He laughs, tries to stall what he can as their daughter fidgets closer to her mother. “Would it do any good to argue?”

Mac blinks so sweetly at him that he's fairly sure he's losing teeth just to the way her lashes so slowly drop and rise again. “Do you want to? Argue it, I mean?”

“Not in the least.”

 


 

 

She's got bets placed on Charlie's fever now being infinitesimal, if she even still has one at all. Because the girl is very happily manipulating her father into a cuddle down movie time, popcorn included, and MacKenzie can see honest giddiness on the child's face. She's rarely so happy as when she has Will's undivided attention and Mac can't necessarily blame her a bit for that one. She's a pretty big fan of being the subject of his focus herself, and most especially when Ms Charlotte McAvoy has already been tidied off to bed and the apartment's gone hushed and he laughs onto her tongue to keep their kissing quiet.

“Close! Close it!” Charlotte's laughing voice near fills the room up as she pushes her father's hand down into the popcorn bowl. Effortlessly she owns the air and space of their living room without question, her voice starting to gain energy and veer closer to its normal volume, its normal strength.

She's always had Will wrapped around the tiniest of fingers and it's not as though Mac didn't know that was an inevitable result of a teasing hospital technician saying “Well, Mr McAvoy, it looks like you're gonna be outnumbered.”.

Still, she rolls her eyes as she leans into the door frame, crossing her arms over her chest and bunching up the fabric of the button up shirt she's stolen from his side of the closet. “What are you two watching?”

“Oliver!” the girl tells her without lifting her head, far too focused on her manipulation of Will's broad hand.

She's slowly using his forearm as a crane (and he's gamely letting her), a handful of popcorn gripped into his fingers like an excavator and Thank Christ, he's a fairly hygienic man... because his daughter literally tips her head up under his hand and waits for him to drop the popcorn, her mouth open and little noises of impatience sounding up the back of her throat. Mac just laughs at the image they make and lifts her glance from Charlie's bouncing hair to his face, suddenly swayed and taken in by the massive grin he's sending her way. There's nothing but absolute delight on his face, undiluted mirth brightening the color of his eyes and flushing his cheeks. God, he looks so young and just... happy when he's got his daughter tucked back into his chest, leisurely and playfully stuffing her face full of popcorn.

“You could join us, y'know?” He offers in a way that's unintentionally sexy to her, a way that sounds like a romantic dinner date when really it's just the three of them watching a movie. “It's the cartoon dogs version.”

“I could,” she murmurs slowly, tipping her head back toward the office and debating the last of her paperwork.

“None of the dogs die in this one, I promise,” he taunts, letting Charlie lift a few pieces of popcorn to his lips. He impishly pretends to chew on the girl's fingers before pushing them back down into the sound of her laughter.

“Hold it long enough for me to call Jim back?”

There's a judicious quality to the look he gives her, something that must be prosecutorial in origin - because he looks entirely at ease giving her a look that says she's being ridiculous. “Is it absolutely necessary? Popcorn's only gonna last so long, Kenz.”

Her left shoulder lifts slowly in acquiescence, a slow shrug of a 'maybe'. “I'll just text him.”

“Good compromise.” He grins at her as he hugs his daughter closer and Charlie matches it instantly, probably without even realizing she's done so. They have the same encompassing smile and Mac can't help but swoon for the both of them together, her hands clenching up into the front of the shirt she's stolen so that she can wring it tighter around her as she steps forward.

“Feet up. I need some Mum cuddles.” Will lifts his daughter's feet simultaneously, making room for her to tuck in warmly beside him.

I needs 'em.” Charlie counters quickly, her voice softer than it had been during the popcorn stunt and obviously Mac's inclusion in this adventure has now made it all the more cuddlier. Because it's now a battle over who gets to snuggle up on her more, her daughter or her husband. Will is chuckling in her ear as he throws an arm up onto the back of the couch, drawing her farther into his side so that Charlie can sprawl across the both of them, her feet pressing on his diaphragm. Charlotte backs into her leg and lets all her little weight rest hard into Mac's lap.

Hell, she likes that her daughter is affectionate. She likes that the girl has no qualms about crawling into her lap and driving her head up so that she can whisper things like “So pretty, Mummy.” into her ear. She appreciates the fact that her daughter is not curtailed or corralled, not quieted or stilled. Charlotte is rambunctious and talkative and charismatic by nature, by McHale nerve and sheer McAvoy will. She wouldn't take that away from the girl. Not ever.

There were so many reasons that she'd realized, one day, that the only man she wanted children from was Will McAvoy.

One of them was his beautiful eyes and another was his sheer unadulterated smartassery.

You needs some manners, young lady,” Will grouses, righting the popcorn bowl before she tips it entirely.

“And both of you an English language lesson,” MacKenzie concludes with warmth humming through her voice.

Charlie laughs despite knowing what either of them are talking about, stuffing her hand into the popcorn bowl that Will's lifted into his lap to replace her. She points the handful in her mother's direction in a kindly offer. “Wants?”

“Thank you, darling, but no. I don't want any.” Mac answers softly, her left hand rising so her fingers thread through her daughter's hair, silking through the dark blonde waves. “Feeling better then?”

Instead of answering her daughter simply fiddles small fingers up into Mac's darker hair in a miming of her mother's touch, the other hand bunched up in a balled fist that she pushes just below her left ear. Mac exhales slowly, lifting the girl's socked feet up and curling the child closer. Without thought to it she reaches back and draws the throw blanket from where it's been strewn across the arm and back of the couch, wrapping them up into it together.

“You didn't answer Jim.” Will offers gently, leaning her (and therefore them) farther against his chest as he reaches for the remote to begin the movie. His feet go up to rest against the coffee table despite how often she's sniped at him for it and it'll continue to be this way, for always she figures.

She doesn't necessarily want it any different.

Mac just smiles her face down against the crown of Charlie's head. “It can wait.”

“Honey?”

“Hmm?” she lets her head fall against his shoulder, resting heavily into him while she keeps plaiting through Charlie's hair.

Will just grins as the movie begins, crossing one ankle over the other and reaching for popcorn. “This is way better than the Met Gala.”