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Will looked at his phone. No, he won’t do it. He absolutely will not call Mackenzie. If he calls her, she wins, and she will not win. She’s got a few months because Charlie sent out that fucking press release, and God damn why the fuck did he do that? Will rolled his eyes as he answered the question with, “because he didn’t want Will to fucking fire her ass again”.

Charlie was right; they did the news tonight. They did the news the way they should do the news. They dug into a story, the got facts and sources and stayed away from the sensationalistic shit that has been part of his life since he started anchoring his own shows. Well, except when she was… nope, he’s not going to relive that. He won’t do it. He’s stuck with her for a few months. He’s going to make her life a living hell during that time. That’s what he’s going to do. He’s going to make sure that she hates him as much as he hates her. And it starts tonight. It’s 2 in the morning. He’s going to call her and wake her the fuck up. He’s going to not so subtly let her know that she may “own him from 8-9PM”, but the rest of the day, she’s his.

Wait, no, that’s not what he wants. At least not the way it sounds. She’s going to know that every other hour life with him… nope, they do not share a life, they do not share anything except a newsroom. And that’s only temporary. He’s going to fucking pick up the phone and let her know that he will define the parameters of this… arrangement. He will expect that she will answer his call whenever he decides to call her. It’s part of the job description. And he’s going to tell her. Right now.

Before he could pick up his phone to call Mackenzie, his phone started ringing. What the fuck was she doing calling him at 2AM? Doesn’t this woman ever fucking sleep? She never slept well, and when she didn’t sleep well, he didn’t, not that he ever complained… Fuck. That’s a question he really needs to stay away from.

“What the fuck are you calling for?”

“I wanted to make sure I had the right number, I expected it to go to voicemail.”

Will took a deep breath. “Well, you have the right fucking number. Since you’re on the phone, I wanted to get a few things straight before we go too much further. That little stunt this evening will not be repeated. You do not own me any hour of the day or night. I’m the boss, I fucking own your ass 24/7 for the next 6 months.”

“As long as we’re getting things clear, let me make my position clear. I run the newsroom and that newsroom will be a place where we will start to put journalistic integrity into everything we do. I’m going to start teaching our staff about how to do the news properly and because you can’t fire me for 6 months, you’re going to fucking agree with every word I say until that blessed day comes. If you have any fucking questions about my approach, then you will ask me in my office. Now, do you want to begin a strategy session or do you intend to get some sleep tonight?”

Will took a breath. He wasn’t going to get any sleep tonight whether they got off the phone or not.

“Do you still have staff coming?”

“There’s a few more coming out in the next week or so.”

Will clenched and unclenched his jaw a few times. “We’re going to have to fill in a few holes. You can handle the interview process, but I want to meet anyone we bring in.”

“Deal. I’ll wait until everyone is in place before we start reformatting the show.”

“We’re not reformatting the show, we’re just going to make sure that we’re doing things right.”

Mac rolled her eyes. She didn’t want to take this one on with him right now. “I’ll have Jim work closely with the show as it is right now for the next couple weeks and you’ll have Don and anyone you didn’t send on vacation. In the meantime I’ll work some contacts and fill in the rest of the pieces. Can I set up Skype meetings for them to meet you?”

“You know how to Skype?” Will felt his face quirk into a smile and got serious again.

“I’m sure I can find someone in Atlanta who knows.” Mac felt herself smile. It felt good to talk to him like this again. She decided to take a chance. “You put on a good show tonight Will.”

“You did too.”

Will swallowed hard and hung up. Damn he wished he found time to get a date for tonight. But then again, he’s not sure that he needs one.

 

Chapter Text

April 21, 2010 4:47AM

Will woke up with a start. He didn’t remember his dream, but he had an insatiable need to call Mac and tell her not to go to Atlanta. His sleep-deprived mind didn’t think about why he would have such a need nor did he think about why he should care, after all, if she was putting his staff together that meant she wouldn’t be around him. As he reached for his phone his brain started to wake up and wanted to form those questions, but his hand moved too fast.

“Mac, it’s me. You’re not going to Atlanta today.”

“Will? What the fuck?”

“You came here to be my fucking EP. I don’t have a staff anymore because of you, so I need you here.”

Mac rolled her eyes and let out a breath. “You can’t be serious right now. You don’t have a staff because you gave them a week’s vacation.”

“Because you were standing there and agreed to take over. If you’re not up for this, then I don’t need to wait until Friday to fire your ass.”

Mac shook her head, glad that Will couldn’t see her. She’d laugh if this wasn’t so fucking ridiculous. “You can’t fire me, Will, for one thing, it’s not Friday. For another, I haven’t had a chance to sign my fucking contract yet. It still starts in 2 weeks. Weren’t you the one with the 94% conviction rate? Counselor?”

“You’re not going to run away to Atlanta again. I need my EP here running my show. I don’t know the guy you brought with you. I don’t trust Don anymore. You’re my EP, I expect you to run my show.”

Mac wanted to ask him what the fuck was going on, but she had a feeling that poking that monkey was going to end in disaster. She took a second to weigh her options. She could push the issue and let him know that she wasn’t going to take orders from him. She could ask what the fuck was going on and take the chance of going into dangerous territory. Or she could let him have this one and try for a not so confrontational relationship. She was going to have to work with him. “How about this? Charlie arranged an office for me in Atlanta for this week. I can use that office to talk to my people and the people who are staying. Someone from IT can set up a way to do that. I’ll also call into rundown meetings and then use the studio to run your show remotely. I’ll just talk to my people there tomorrow and Thursday, Friday I’ll be back in your studio bright and early.”

Will zoned out during her speech. He was trying to figure out why this was so important to him. He had absolutely no idea what the fuck she just said. He tried to put together everything that he did pick up. “So you’ll be back here on Friday? Okay. I can live with that.”

“Good. But I should warn you that when I get back, we’re going to start reformatting the show immediately. I’m not going to give you a chance to chicken out of what you should have been doing all along.”

Will’s mind was at war. He knew that he needed to be doing the show that he could do with her, but it was a risk. He could lose his audience and for what? Her respect? That wasn’t the prize that it used to be. A voice in his head told him maybe he’d get some of his own respect back. “Understood.”

“Good. I’ll call you tomorrow after the show and after you’ve had some time to have a drink and unwind a little and we can figure out how to proceed.”

“Fine.” Will felt like he was biting down something. Finally through gritted teeth he said, “Goodnight, Mac.”

“Goodnight, Will.”

Mac smiled as she lay in bed. He doesn’t want her to go. She remembered the last time she went to Atlanta to put a crew together for Will, she and that crew went to the Middle East without him and she didn’t come back for two years. “I’m coming back this time, Will.”

Chapter Text

April 21, 2010 10:03PM

Mac was exhausted. She stayed up late last night deciding whether to call Will or not to tell him that she did hold up the pads at Northwestern, but something in his voice wouldn’t let her cop to that. Then he called her and even… 20 hours later, she doesn’t know if he meant he didn’t want her to leave him again by going to Atlanta or if he really did have the expectation that his EP run his show from his studio. After his call, she couldn’t sleep. Then she had to get on a plane and get into an office in enough time to meet her staff.

Mac dialed into the 10AM meeting to introduce her and Jim. From what she put together, Don had a meeting with the producers at 10AM to give story assignments and at 6:30PM he had another meeting with production to make sure everything was in and set. Will didn’t usually attend either meeting, leaving Don to run interference between Will and the staff.  She preferred brainstorming with the staff, but gave Jim a list of stories to chase and had Jim make the assignments based on interest. She then ended the meeting by telling them to expect a one-on-one meeting invite with her today so she could get to know them.

She spent the rest of her day on the phone in meetings with staff in New York and face to face meetings with staff who would follow her until the 6:30 production meeting. During the one on ones, she explained what she wanted to do and found that many of her staff wanted to do that as well.

The show ran smoothly, though Will had very little to say to her during it. She used commercial breaks to build a rapport with her control room staff. Since she was remoting in, she couldn’t see his face during breaks, though she kind of wondered if that was a blessing. He had ignored her messages throughout the day. Jim told her that he spent a lot of his day out of his office. She’s only calling him now because she promised him that she would call tonight after the show to talk about their new direction.

Mac took a deep breath and hit send on her Blackberry. She listened to the phone ring a couple times before his voice finally answered. “What do you want?”

“Well I thought the show went rather well.”

Will was quiet for a second, allowing Mac to hear that he’s listening to music and he just took a drag off his cigarette. At least she hoped it was a cigarette, she remembered his fondness for marijuana.

“What do you want me to say, Mac? It was a show.”

“It was, and a very good show considering we’re working with a skeleton crew.” Mac tried to infuse her voice with enthusiasm she didn’t feel.

“And my fucking EP is out who knows where.”

Mac took a breath, trying to even out her voice. “I’m in Atlanta, putting the rest of your crew together.”

“And when do I get to meet this new crew?”

“Well, if you would have answered any of my calls, I would have given you contact information. Though I don’t know what the fuck you want to do with it since you don’t even know the names of your current producers.”

Will gave a humorless laugh. “What the fuck do you want me to do? Go to HR and get their pictures and resumes? I don’t have time to get to know them.”

“It would be a good start. I don’t know what the fuck you think, but I expect you at all our meetings. You’re going to be a fucking leader to this group if I have to grab you by the short hairs and force you.”

Mac didn’t realize what she said until Will’s end of the phone went silent. Before she could backpedal, Will growled, “You will not EVER be anywhere near any of my fucking hairs.”

She deserved that. But she needed to get them back on track before this got out of hand. “Learning their names is a good start. And as your EP, I expect you to begin participating in the planning of your show. You’re the fucking face of Newsnight, I want you invested.”

“Get their pictures and resumes and waste time at meetings. Copy that. Anything else?”

“I wanted to go over the principles of news that we will start to implement on Friday when I get back. There are 4 things to cover.”

“I remember, Mac. I read your God damned dissertation, I know what the fuck it says. I even know how to do good news.”

“Really, I wouldn’t have guessed that from watching your show.” Mac heard the edge to her voice and regretted it instantly. This was not going the way she intended. This time she said sorry, but at the same time that Will answered.

“You want to do the fucking news, we’re going to do the fucking news. Is that all you wanted?”

“I want your buy-in, Billy. I want to know that you want to do this.”

“Don’t call me that.” Will put his head back on his chair and took another drag. He imagined Mac sitting in a hotel room, one that looked like the one he visited her in when she lived half her life in DC, flinching at his words. This won’t work. “I’m sorry.”

“No, I get it. You’re not my Billy anymore, I’m not family.”

“Do you really think we can do this? I mean, you and me?”

Mac took a breath. “Yes, I do because no matter what else we were or are, we are professionals who believe in the work that we want to do. And we both know that no one can get out of you what I can. So I will put up with your moods and tones and overall bullshit, because good news is worth that to me.” Mac felt her teeth bore into her bottom lip as she waited for Will to answer. To her ear it sounded like he had taken another long drag.

“You’re going to put up with whatever shit I give you? And you’re going to keep whatever residual feelings you have for me out of our working relationship? You really think you can do that?”

Mac had a big smile on her face, “You know me, Will. I’ll give you back whatever shit you give me.”

Will smiled. “I would expect no less.” Will caught himself smiling and got serious again. “That wasn’t the only question.”

“I loved you and I regret what I did everyday. If the only way to work with you is to pretend I don’t have those feelings… I can do that.”

Will didn’t know the answer he wanted, but he’s pretty sure that wasn’t it. He felt hollowness in his stomach as he nodded his head, understanding this is how it had to be. She was right, he needed her to bring out the best in him. He needed her to do things the right way. He didn’t like it, and she probably didn’t either. But this is how it had to be. “Okay. Then what do we need to do?”

Mac ran through her plans for Newsnight, starting with the meetings they would have with the staff everyday and moving into the content changes. Will wondered more than once what this would do to his audience, but each time he seemed to get cold feet, she would convince him that they were doing a better thing and that there would be a short term dip in ratings, but his numbers would rebound. After an hour of going through the changes and a final pep talk from Mac, she asked, “Do you trust me?”

She didn’t mean to make herself that vulnerable, but it was out there.

“Mac…” His voice drew out her name.

“I mean as an EP.   Do you trust my skills and my experience?”

It took him a little while to answer. “I do. I trust that you are the best EP in the business.”

“Then trust that, Will. I will make you the best you can be. It may not be the most popular or the most liked, but I will make you better.”

“I know you will.”

The two sat on the phone, in silence, neither wanting to hang up. It felt familiar. It felt good. Talking, pushing each other. It felt right, while at the same time, they both knew they couldn’t have this. At least not right now.

Mac heard Will clear his throat, like he was going to say something. Before he could, she asked, “I’ve been meaning to ask you, what are you listening to?”

“Leonard Cohen.” He wondered if she was thinking about their second date. Earlier that week he saw her in the studio, doing what she loved. He fell in love with her that night, so he took her to see something he loved. Cohen was in town, so they saw him and he got to play with the band. Then he sang to her, a promise that he would fight for her because she meant that much to him. For a moment he wondered if he would have just told her then… He shook off the thought. It was their second date; he would have scared her away. And he couldn’t. He couldn’t admit it to himself yet, let alone her.

“I remember how much you loved his music.” She didn’t want to break the moment by telling him how much she loved watching him play with the band. If she could have that night back… There are so many nights that she wishes she could do different. That night was the night of their first kiss. If she would have dragged him into her apartment… Maybe nothing would have been different. Maybe she still would have… “Would you mind putting the phone close to your speakers and letting me listen, for a little while?”

Will nodded his head to no one and swallowed, trying to keep all his feelings for this woman in check. “Yeah, I think I can do that.”

Mac lay down on her bed, listening as Will did as he said he would. The third song she heard she recognized as “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” and heard Will sing along. She didn’t know if he realized she was still on the line and awake, when his voice began to crack. At the end of the song, he stopped his iPod and, Mac couldn’t be sure, but she thought he realized the phone was still there and disconnected.

Chapter Text

April 22, 2010 3:46AM

“YouTube Today.”

“Will? Do you know what time it is?”

“We have to keep YouTube Today and Pop Watch. They’re our most popular segments.”

Mac looked over at the clock on the nightstand next to her. 3:47AM. She wanted to hang up on him, but he sounded panicked. Whatever the fuck he was talking about was pretty important to him.

“Will, it’s 3:47AM. Is this something that we can talk about after I get a couple more hours of sleep?”

Will scrubbed his face with his hand. A part of him understood that she was right. He shouldn’t be calling her now. And probably not ever. At least in the middle of the night. But he woke up with his heart pounding and he realized that doing the show she wanted meant that he wasn’t going to keep the parts of the show his audience liked most. His fan mail talked about it. His minutes to minutes showed that they were watched. Focus group data proved their popularity. Okay, so he hated talking about Justin Barbarino or whatever the fuck his name was. But it worked. It kept people tuned in. He had to keep it, and if she got her way, if she did what she wanted to do, those would be gone. And then who would watch?

“This can’t wait. If you’re coming back at the end of this week and you take those segments away… Mackenzie, we need to keep viewers. I’m not saying we need to keep the segments indefinitely, but I think we need to ease into the changes you want to make. Those can go last.”

While Will spoke, Mac opened her laptop and started looking up what segments he was talking about. She watched the show before she came to the ACN studio, but after watching the first couple blocks, a lot of times she walked away frustrated with him and the show. She wasn’t entirely sure that she ever made it through an entire episode, having seen what she needed in the first 15 minutes.

Will could hear her typing on her computer. “What are you doing?”

“I’m looking up what you’re asking me to keep. I think I know the answer, but I want to make an informed decision. Which I’m sure means I put in more thought than you did when you allowed these to become a regular part of your broadcast.”

“You know what your problem is, Mac. And it’s been your problem for a long time, I just tried to looked past it because you were, you were…”

“You girlfriend?” Mac finished for him, hoping that he’d skip over whatever insult he had in his head.

Will considered what to say. He wanted to complete the thought with, “a good fuck,” but he recognized that might cross the line. And it wasn’t true. Maybe that’s the line it would cross. She was, and he’d have to forget that someday, but she was more than that. And that’s…. IT doesn’t matter. He was a good guy, he was a good guy and he would remain that even when she was hurting him. He took a steadying breath and said, “Yeah that. You’re always so sure you’re right and that you know all the people around you so much better than you do. You’re not as smart as you think you are, Mac.”

Mac didn’t say anything, forcing Will to listen to her breathe and wonder what she’s thinking. Maybe she’s playing some game with him. She’s trying to get him to speak first, say more than he should. Well, two can play at this game. He waited, wanting to ask what she was thinking, but determined not to because he can outlast her.

“First, the name of the segment is Today in YouTube.” Will wasn’t sure what surprised him, that she spoke first or what he knew she was about to say. “Second, I want to be absolutely clear about this, we are not going to continue to put fucking CAT VIDEOS on our broadcast. GOD! What the fuck happened to you, Will? You’re a fucking brilliant man and this is what you do with your God damned talent?”

“The audience –“

“I don’t give a fuck about the audience. You’ll have a god damned audience, but you’ll have a smarter one, one that wants to actually be informed about real issues, not whatever the fuck the least common denominator wants. God damn it Will, you’re so much better than this shit you allowed your show to be. I thought I was coming in for a course correction, but this shit is below fucking Page 6. What the hell happened? You know better than this!”

Will felt himself getting angry. At the beginning of the call he felt panicked, she was going to cost him his audience, his friends. But now she was attacking him and his integrity. “What the hell happened? You’re asking me what the fuck happened? You fucking happened Mackenzie. When I learned that my girlfriend had been fucking her ex-boyfriend, I realized the only people I can truly count on are the ones –“

“Who what? Who adore you? You tune in for an hour hypnotized by your face and your voice? That’s not love Will. That’s not worth a damned thing. That’s one-way communication and it ends now. I’m talking to Charlie tomorrow. You’re not going to have access to ratings or any other stats. You’re going to focus on your show and making it something worth watching. I didn’t realize it until now, Will, but I’m here to save your soul, not your show. You can put on a fucking cat video tomorrow, but when I’m back on Friday, no more. I’m not putting my name on anything that is less than what you can be. And neither are you.”

With that, Mac hung up.

April 22, 2010 3:57AM

Will heard the click and immediately called her back, but she didn’t answer.

April 22, 2010 3:58AM

Will got a glass of water and remembered that he heard someone say that people should count to ten when they’re upset, so he did. And he tried calling her back. She still didn’t answer.

April 22, 2010 4:05AM

Will was on his way back to his bedroom figuring he should probably try to get some more sleep. He didn’t know what he wanted to say to Mac anyway. Before he made it to his room, his phone rang. He knew who it was without looking. He wondered if maybe she called to say she was sorry. She crossed a line and she knew it.

“Mac.”

“If we’re doing this, we’re doing this. You’re like an addict. The audience is your drug. You can hate me… more… if you need to, but I’m not going to be your enabler. We’re going to do the news and you’re going to start being a person you can stand to look at in the mirror again.”

“I have no issues looking at myself in the mirror.”

Mac had to wonder, was she wrong about him? This can’t possibly be the man that she loves, loved. Maybe she saw him through rose-colored glasses before. Maybe he just went along with her because he felt like he had to, because he loved her. Maybe he was never the Billy she remembered.

She considered it, and then she remembered walking him through the bullpen and seeing him invested in his show and what they were doing. It was before they were really dating, before he had his first show at CNN. She remembered watching him really engage. The fight he put up when the network brought in Brian’s friend to dumb down his show. No, the Billy she loved was in there somewhere, it wasn’t a figment of her imagination. “Can you really? Where are you, Will?”

“What?”

“Are you in your living room or kitchen? Where are you?”

Will shut his eyes tight. He didn’t want to do this. He wanted her apology. He wanted her to admit that she was wrong and to say that he could keep his audience and then hang up. Anything else is unacceptable.

Mac could sense his struggle through the phone. She had to keep putting pressure on him. He was going to lash out, but he needed her to keep pushing. He still needed her. It wasn’t a lot to live on, but it would be enough. She had to give him a couple successes. He needed to see what it feels like to do the right thing again. He needs her to make sure that his show does what it’s supposed to do. If he can see and remember what a good show is like, what it means to put on a good show, she can save him from himself.

When Charlie approached her about coming to his show, she had fantasies about reconciling with him. But all of a sudden she realizes that the more important thing is to save him. That’s what she has to do, she has to save him. She has to push him and make sure that he is who he should be.

“You went back to bed didn’t you? You tried to yell at me twice and then gave up. I’ve known you a long time, Billy and I know you’re not a quitter.”

“I told you not to call me that.”

Mac steeled herself. She knew that voice, it was a growl. She heard that voice when he kicked her out of his apartment and when he told a whole newsroom that she would not have a job when she got back from the Middle East. He’s serious. She’s affecting him. She has to be careful. If she overplays her hand, he’s not going to listen. If she gives up, she may not get another chance. “Why are you fighting, Will? Are you actually proud of the show you’ve been doing?”

“Of course not. You know that. But I need the audience. If my ratings go down –“

“I don’t give a fuck about ratings, Billy. I care about you. I want to make sure that you do a show full of the integrity that I know you have. I want you to do a show worthy of you. If we can do that show, then informing the electorate is just icing.” Mac paused, giving her words a chance to sink into Will’s head. “I believe in you Will, I always have. But you have to make the decision to do the show that you can do.”

Will wasn’t comfortable with how long it took him to answer. Part of him wanted to tell her that he wanted to keep his format and that if she didn’t want to do that show, he would accept her resignation. But something kept stopping him. “I have a brand Mac.   And it’s not just my show, Elliot is coming on after me. He deserves a chance and without a strong lead in.”

The defeat in Will’s voice broke Mac’s heart. If they were in the same room, she would put her arms around him and she’s sure that he’d put his head on her shoulder. She had to get that image out of her mind. She had to save him. It’s the only way that she can prove her feelings. “You’re going to deliver him and the network a better audience. You’re going to set the stage for everyone to up their games. Including Jane Barrow.”

“Who the fuck is Jane Barrow.”

“Someone from DC, she doesn’t matter. What matters is, you’re going to make things better for everyone. Just trust yourself. Engage. Be the anchor you always wanted to be. Be the leader our team deserves.”

“I don’t know if I can, Mac.”

“You can, because I’ll be with you every step of the way.”

Will felt his eyes misting up, but kept his voice under control. “You know that’s not the comfort it used to be.”

“I know. But when I deliver a few good shows, it will be. Until then, trust that I’m the best in the business.”

“Show me what you can do and we’ll go from there.”

Mac silently nodded her head. “I can do that.”

“Goodnight Mac.”

“Will, will you do me a favor?”

“What?”

Mac smiled. “See a doctor and get some sleeping pills?”

Will felt himself laughing. “Goodnight, Mac.”

Mac hung up the phone smiling. Her Billy is in there somewhere. He’ll show up when she puts some good shows together. Friday’s show will be important.

Chapter Text

April 22, 2010 9:34AM

“You told HR to bring me files of the staff?”

“I did.” Mac put a little lilt in her voice at the end of the statement, hoping it would help diffuse vein that she imagined Will had throbbing in his neck. “We talked about it last night and you said you would try to at least learn their names.”

Will tried to remember what the fuck he agreed to in their total 3 hours of discussions after the show. Fuck, he didn’t think he talked to her this much when they were dating. They usually went home, got something to eat, and… He has to stop thinking about the… those days. They weren’t that good, he has to remember that. They weren’t that good. He heard a little voice in his head call her a liar and another reminded him to focus on what he said last night. But instead of doing any of that, he went into prosecutor mode, “If I said I would learn their names –“

“And go down to HR to get their files.”

Will took a breath to center himself and hopefully keep the edge out of his voice, “If I said I would go to HR to get their files and learn their names, then it was my responsibility to do it or not do it.”

“I thought I would help you. I know how busy you are.”

He hates when she does that, it’s almost a patronizing voice. God damn it, she knows he wasn’t going to go. Hell, she may ever know that he forgot about that part of their conversation. Wait, was she making that up? He wouldn’t have had that fucking idea. But she did go on about being a leader to their team and this would help that along. “I also said I would go to my doctor, did you set up that appointment too?”

“I don’t know who you’re seeing these days or I may have.” Mac took a breath. She had a meeting coming up in a couple minutes. “Will, I have to go. I’m talking to Jan Brewer about doing our show tomorrow. I want to start our new show on the right foot. Learn their names. Come into the rundown tomorrow ready to be their leader. I’ll call you tonight about the Brewer interview.”

“We’re covering SB 1070?”

“Good, you’re aware of it.”

“Of course… Yeah I’m… Brewer’s not talking to anyone. The rest of the ACN lineup has been trying to get her to talk all week. Anderson Cooper even called me to ask if I had any contacts in her office. You don’t have this.”

“I have an audience with the Governor herself.”

“How?”

Mac smiled. He didn’t believe it, but he’s getting excited by the possibility of doing real news again. She can hear it in his voice. It’s the first time she actually believes that maybe this can work, that he wants this to work, he wants to do a good show. “A girl’s gotta have some secrets.” Mac’s smile grew as she imagined the impressed look on Will’s face. “I gotta go. I’ll call you after the show with more details about tomorrow.”

“Wait! Mac! Mac!” She’d disconnected, leaving Will to do the same. He sat back in his desk looking at the stack of files HR walked up to his office. He opened the top one and glanced at it before closing it and leaning back in his chair. Maybe one day he’d have to acknowledge that she’s right and this is how to do the news. He can change his show, not for her, but because of her. But he won’t change himself for her. She’s not going to make him be anything other than who he is.

Chapter Text

April 22, 2010 10:08 PM

“So how did it go?” Will tried to keep his voice even. He didn’t want Mac to know that he was excited at the prospect of being the only anchor to interview Governor Brewer.

“We got her for 9 minutes tomorrow night.”

Will allowed a smile to cross his face and he ignored how proud he was of her. “Seriously? She agreed to come on the show? How did you get that to happen?” Screw it, he didn’t care if she knew he was excited. After all, it wasn’t necessarily pride, he’s got an exclusive, why wouldn’t he be excited?

“I gave her the vision of what we want our show to be. She wondered if you were really up for that type of show, but I told her that you are every bit the prosecutor that you were when you had the 94% conviction rate. So she made sure that I was going to sic you on the spokesperson from La Raza as well.”

“Who do we have from there?”

Mac smiled, feeling proud because she knew he was excited about this. Maybe this would be all it would take to turn this around. One good show, one good story. “We’ll find out tomorrow, but they know Brewer will be on for the other side, so they’ll send their A game, don’t worry.”

Will got quiet. He knew what he should say. He should tell her she did a good job or thank her for her work or say he was proud of her. But he couldn’t. He knew she deserved every accolade he could throw at her, and he knew that keeping that from her was petty, but he didn’t want her to think that they were patching anything up. He still hated her for what she did, he was still going to fire her the first chance he got and he didn’t want to give her reason to fight him in court over it. “You know, Brewer and I have a history, I wonder if that played into her decision at all.”

Mac laughed, he was just trying to get a rise out of her. “What history was that? Did you meet one day when you were a cub reporter and she flirted with you? Do you just assume that every woman in the world has a crush on you?”

Will kept his voice matter of fact. He didn’t have a plan, he wanted to see her reaction. “I assume that about the straight ones. But in this case, well, it was more than just a crush. When I was in the Bush White House –“

“I don’t think I need to hear about your dalliances with a married woman.”

“A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell –“

“That’s enough, Will.”

“But let’s just say that I have some pull in the governor’s office. I didn’t want to use the favor I’m owed, so I hope that you got this on your own.”

“I assure you I did. And you won’t have to worry about the governor coming onto you, she will be half a continent away in Arizona.”

Will could hear the hurt in her voice and wasn’t sure what to feel. On one hand, he knew he should stop, this was a victory for Mac and the show and he’d reap the benefits from it. But, now he knows that she’s hurt at the idea of him with someone else. It seems like a good piece of information to know. She can’t possibly hurt as much as he did when she told him about… she can’t hurt that much, but it’s good to know that he can affect her. “That’s too bad actually.”

Mac stopped herself from hanging up the phone. She knew that he was screwing with her, trying to get a reaction out of her and she wasn’t going to give him one. She took a breath and silently counted to ten. “Have you started looking through the staff files yet? It would be nice if you knew a couple of their names tomorrow at the first rundown meeting.”

“I brought them home with me, they’re on my desk.”

Mac scoffed. “They’re on your desk where you can continue to ignore them.”

“I brought them home, Mac. Obviously I intend to –“

“To make excuses that you got too wrapped up in whatever fucking game is in season right now to look at them.”

“I brought them home. I was going to look through them. I had every intention of –“ God, even he could tell he was lying and usually he could at least half convince himself.

“You had every intention of what? Flipping through them once and then using your prosecutorial gifts for mind reading to learn that Kendra and Gary don’t get along because Kendra thinks Gary is cocky because he’ll speak out against Obama and Kendra’s double 800s on her ACT drives Gary nuts.”

“Who’s Kendra and Gary? And how young are they if they’re still talking about SAT scores? I didn’t even talk about mine in law school.”

Mac sighed. “Oh God! You graduated high school early, did you even have to take an SAT?”

Will’s head was racing. He had to take the ACT, but it was mostly for show. When he went into business taking entrance exams for other people, it was harder getting a reasonable score for them. “You want me to learn a couple of their names, I’ll learn all their fucking names.”

“Learn their names, don’t learn their names. I don’t give a fuck. You want to be part of what we’re trying to do, that’s great, you’re welcome to be as involved as you want. You want to go and fuck every female governor in the states, knock yourself out. But when you’re ready to be a serious journalist, don’t be surprised that the team won’t rally around your anymore. You have a fucking opportunity and you’re intent on pissing it away.”

Will listened to the silence for a couple seconds. “Oh! You haven’t hung up yet? I thought that’s what you do now. You give me a tongue lashing like I’m a little kid and then hang up, only to call back when it suits you.”

“Passive-aggressive is your playbook these days, Billy. I just call it like I see it.”

“I told you not to call me that.”

“I’m calling you an infantile name because you’re acting like a fucking child who got a toy taken away by a kid down the street.”

“You know you’re talking about yourself now? And the way I understand it, he didn’t take you as much as you whored yourself between us.”

Mac felt like she had been smacked. She didn’t want this conversation, not now. Not before she gives him a win. But if he was bruising for it, she’s not going to stop it. It’s only a 24-hour difference. “Do we need to do this now?”

“Do what?” He wondered how they go to this point. He wondered if she knew. Of course she did, and if he asked, she’d probably be able to point to a moment that he caused it. He didn’t remember, but he’s sure he did it. The conversation started with a triumph, how the fuck did they get here? Why were they fighting? Why was she so hurt? And why the fuck did he care so much that she was hurt and he probably caused it? “You fucking flit from one thought to another without rhyme or reason. How the fuck am I supposed to keep up or know what the fuck you’re thinking?”

Mac focused on keeping her voice even, though she was sure she was more clipped than she wanted to be. “Do we need to talk about us? Obviously you haven’t gotten over what we were. And you still want to punish me. Can I tell you my side? Will you finally listen to it?”

“What the fuck side could you possibly have? You slept with your ex-boyfriend for four months, a year after we started dating.”

“We weren’t serious yet.”

“What the fuck does that mean? I was there Mac. You were fucking him while I was telling you I loved you. How much more serious do you think we could have been? You’d get him off and then call me for one of our nightly chats.” He hated this. She was near tears and so was he. They were both raw. This can’t be good for either of them. God damn it, why was she here? Why was she putting herself and him through this? She could leave and it all stops. The pain stops. Why is she doing this?

“It started be--. You know what? It doesn’t matter. I didn’t know I loved you until after. And I’m sorry that you got hurt.”

“So that’s it? That’s all you have to say on the subject. And now… What? Are we supposed to just talk about the staff or the show like nothing happened?”

“You mean work together and pretend that you aren’t the love of my life? Yeah, until you can forgive me or move on, I guess we have to.” Mac took a breath, hoping to reset the conversation. She’ll figure out later how to best deal with this when it happens again. “Have you looked at the files at all today or did they just sit at the end of your desk forcing you to choose between being the man you want to be or the sorry excuse for a man that you currently are?”

“I can’t possibly be the fucking love of your life if you were able to go off with him for four months.”

She had an answer for him, but he wouldn’t be able to hear it right now. She has to focus on this win. If there is any chance of him listening to her, she has to give him this win. She just has to stay focused. “Jan Brewer and La Raza will go in the A block obviously. I want to send a strong message that we’re not going to keep pandering to non-news and put BP in the D block, nothing’s happening there.”

She was like a fucking whirlwind. Wasn’t she the one that brought up their past? He tried to run through the beats of their conversation because he really didn’t remember. He didn’t get very far before he realized that he needed to come up with a response to her last statement about the line up, wherever the fuck that came from. “We’re not going to cover Deepwater Horizon tomorrow?”

“Repeat after me, Will. It’s going in the fucking D block. There’s no new news.”

“Did that idea come from one of the damned teenagers?”

“They’re not teens, they all graduated from college. Except Neal, but he just works with social media. And he’s 25.”

“I don’t know about this Mac, they don’t have any experience. And please spare me one of your fortune cookie profundities. They don’t have experience. They don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. And if your staff isn’t able to keep you in check –”

“So we’ll train them and we’ll teach them how to do news the way we want it done.   There may be some rough edges we’ll need to smooth out, but they’re eager and we can teach them.”

Will’s head was still spinning, but he had to smile. There it was, her passion for what she does. Will had never met anybody in any profession who loved what she did as much as Mackenzie McHale loved everything about live news. Her passion for the news and for influencing… people… was absolutely infectious. She literally made people better. That was one of the things he loved most about her. He swallowed hard at that realization. It was dangerous. It was dangerous to watch it again. When Mac believed in something, how could anyone not sell his soul in pursuit of it? He thought once that she had that passion for him, and when he was wrong he spun out of control and… this is where he’s at. “Mac, news is your one love. Lead them, grow them, do whatever the fuck you want with them. I won’t stand in your way. I’ll come to the meetings, I’ll back you as your boss and I’ll deliver what you need.”

“Is that what you really believe?” Mac waited for a reply that she didn’t get. “Will, I love the news and I intend to air the best damn show on the television. But we’re going to do that. And we’re going to do that because I can’t do it without you and the talent and integrity you bring to the show. You phoning it in isn’t enough. I got Jan Brewer because of you and for you. Not because she wanted to fuck you, but because she saw the potential you have to do the news well. And when that group that we’re leading sees it too, they’re going to be inspired by it and they’re going to rise up to it.”

Will swallowed as he thought through what she said. “You got her for me?”

“Will, I’m going to remind you what the two of us can do. I’m going to earn your trust back in this and show you who you can be. Just watch, Will. Trust me. This is going to be the best show you’ve ever done.”

Will didn’t know what to say. He believed her. How could anyone not believe her when she got like that? Or at least not want to believe her? But part of him wondered when it would happen, when would she run from him again, when would she betray him, how would it happen this time? But he also believed that she wanted this and that she wanted this with him. And he knew that he wanted it. He wanted to do the news the way she wanted to do it, because she inspires something in him that no one else ever has. But the idea of it, of her, hurt. It hurt.

“What are you thinking Will?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s possible.”

“Tomorrow is probably the most important day of my professional life because I’m going to show you that it is. Just watch, Will, it is and you’re going to be part of it.”

“You really want this for me?”

Mac smiled, hoping that he could hear it in her voice. “I told you before that I’m here to save your soul as well as your show. I’ve done a lot to hurt you, so I want to give you this more than anything.”

“Okay, you got your episode. Show me what you can do.” He could swear he heard her smile into the phone. Will pressed end on his phone and double checked to be sure it disconnected, then put his phone in his pocket for good measure. He felt his eyes watering a little as he felt regret. He knew it was silly, but with no one around, he said, “And, Mac, good job getting Brewer. I don’t know anyone else who could have.”

Will sat down at his table and picked up the first staff file. She wants this win for him. She believes in him. Even if she runs away in a few months, maybe what she sees in him does exist. Maybe if he can tap into that, then when she leaves and he gets a new EP, he’ll end up with a better show. Maybe.

Will finally went to bed at 1AM and at 3 woke up to a dream of everyone at work laughing at him or feeling sorry for him. He reached for his phone, ready to call Mac to ask her not to tell anyone why they broke up. He couldn’t take the chance that he would have to face that humiliation, that anyone else would ever know that he was her second choice, that there was another man who for a time was important enough to her that she put what they had in jeopardy. He has to face that every time he sees her. More people knowing, and talking and asking well-meaning questions. He couldn’t deal with that idea. Her phone went straight to voicemail, so he hung up and tried to go back to sleep.

Chapter Text

April 23, 2010 11:12PM

Will felt like shit. The whole ride home, he replayed the day in his mind. The conversation with Reese, the push and pull between what Mackenzie wanted to do and what Reese wanted. It felt like a tug of war between good and evil, God and Satan, if he believed in such shit. His mother did when he was growing up, that’s close enough. Damn it, he wants it to succeed. He wants the show that she says she can produce. And despite the fucking mess she put on, he knows that if anyone can do it, it’s Mackenzie McHale.

But it comes with a price. A high price. It’s not just the audience and the ratings. That’s part of it; of course that’s part of it. That’s why Reese is able to hold out that carrot to him, because he needs the fucking audience like Charlie needs bourbon. He needs them. His audience loves him and he can’t find that anywhere else. And he can’t let himself fall under her spell, because if there’s one thing he’s sure of, it’s that she doesn’t love him. But if he lets her in, if he lets her run his show, run the only part of his life that matters, he’s going to forget. He’s going to fall in love with her again and he can’t let that happen.

She ruined his life. For all her bravado about how she’s there to “save his soul as well as his show,” she ruined his life. She ruined his life and let the entire company know about it. Pilots – Charlie literally said Pilots – know that he wasn’t man enough for her; that she had to go to someone else. She embarrassed him in front of his colleagues, and then she embarrassed him on the air, in front of his audience. And it doesn’t matter that they were mistakes, she made people pity him. Charlie pitied him. The blonde girl… Maggie pitied him. What did she mean that someone cheated right on top of her?

Before Will could imagine what that meant, he greeted his doorman. When Manny mentioned the show, Will was going to say that’s not the show they were supposed to do, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t the show they should have done. And she was right. They made a mistake. It must have been Maggie, the blonde one, that offered to go to 10:00 that did something that cost them the interview. It cost them the interview that Mac counted on as the centerpiece of the most important show she ever produced. That’s what she said. Mac wanted it to work. For him. Mac wanted to put together a good show for his benefit.

Before he could let that thought sink in and wonder if she felt like shit too, his elevator dinged and the door opened. He was home. Alone. She was right about that too. Last night during their fight she said that when he was ready to join them in the fight for journalistic integrity, no one would be there. They wouldn’t care, they wouldn’t rally around him. And tonight, after he suffered through her fucking indignation, he turned around, looking for backup. And they were gone. There was no one there. He was just as alone then as he is now.

“Be the leader, Will. Be the integrity. Be the moral center of this show. Be the integrity.” Fuck. She believed in him. And fuck if he didn’t like the feeling of that. Charlie believed in him too, that’s why he was loyal to Charlie. He used to be loyal to Mac… for as long as he thought she was loyal to him. He looked around his apartment. That’s it. That’s the list of everyone who believes in Will McAvoy. Charlie and Mac.

“Be the integrity. Be the leader, Will.” It ran like a mantra through his head. Charlie told him to get it the fuck together. Charlie brought her in because he knows that she will bring out the best in Will. He has to lead. He has to show Charlie that he deserves the faith that has been put in him.

Having made a decision, he found the office directory, delivered with the staff files. No doubt Mac thought he should put the staff’s numbers in his phone. Neal Amani Sampat was passionate about helping a man get to work. He can start there. He can be a leader starting there. Neal’s name and phone number went into his phone and he called.

“Neal, it’s Will. I hope you don’t mind me calling so late. I got your number from – you know, there’s a booklet.”

“The office directory.”

“Yeah.”

This is the easy part. Even if he believes that immigrants… no, he has to stay on track. This is the easy part. “That guy you found in Spokane. I want you to get in touch with him and tell him you’re gonna pay for a cab to take him to and from work. He should send you the receipts, then give them to me.”

Will took a breath as Neal gushed. He wanted to put this on the blog, whatever the fuck that is. Will made it clear that he doesn’t want credit. Less clear is Will’s desire to be the man that Charlie thinks he can be. The man that Mackenzie thinks he can be. He’s not doing this for her and he’s not doing this for Charlie. He wants to be that man. He wants to do something in this pitiful life that means something. He wants to be the leader. He wants to be the integrity. Just the way she said.

Now the hard part. He didn’t really have a plan, but he knew before calling that he would have to talk to her. He would have to say something to her. He wanted to do something first to show that he was going to be the integrity and the leader. He had to make that gesture before he could expect her to believe it. But he felt his heart pounding. It was the right thing to do and he knew it, but he didn’t want to do it.

“Is Mackenzie around there?”

“Yeah.”

“Can you put her on the phone?” To his own ear, he could tell that he was losing patience. The longer it took to get her on the phone, the more opportunity he had to hang up. He couldn’t do that. This was too important. She needed to know that he made a decision. She asked him, “Are you in or are you out?” He couldn’t bare the thought that she might not know that he made the decision. He as going to be the person she thought he could be. He was going to be the leader. He was going to be the integrity. He had to let her know that she doesn’t have to save his soul, he was choosing to save himself.

“Sure.”

Mac felt like shit. Jim invited her over after the show and she went even though she wanted to be alone. So she sat at the back of the bar, away from the staff. She knew that Will felt the same way she did and she knew it was her fault. She was going to reclaim him for journalism. She was going to save his show and teach everyone else how to do the news. She was going to make him the man she always dreamed he was. And she couldn’t even pull it off once. She had to be the leader, to go out with the staff and make those connections. She had to show them that they were fighting the good fight. But she couldn’t put her heart into it. She was fighting for Will’s soul, but they weren’t. At some point they would have to ask themselves what they’re fighting for and they won’t have an answer. Hell, she wasn’t even sure if the Will she remembered was still there under all that hurt and anger he harbored for her.

He wants this. She knows that, even if he doesn’t know it yet, he does. He wants this as much as she does. And she’s the only person who can bring it out of him because she knows that it’s there. No one knows him the way she does. She fucked it all up. But Goddamn if she’s not going to figure out a way to fix it. He’s got a weekend. She’s not going to push. He’s got a weekend to make up his mind. He wants this; he just has to realize it. And he will. Eventually. But she shouldn’t have pushed. She shouldn’t have fought with him last night. She has to keep things professional.

She didn’t notice Neal coming towards her until he extended his arm with his phone in his hand. He told her it was Will, so before taking the phone, she made the decision to take it all back. They have so much potential, this show has so much potential. She needs him to see it. She needs time. She has to walk back her ultimatum.

“I’m sorry… about everything. I’m just so sorry. There’s no way I can even--” It felt so shallow compared to the list of sins she was thinking of. It wasn’t enough to make up for the broadcast, let alone the three ring circus that was today. Or her declarations to him about saving him. She couldn’t even save herself, how the fuck was she going to save him?

The tone of her voice broke his heart. He’d never seen her cry except when she told him about… He’d never seen her cry except the day that she left him. He kicked her out. She apologized that day too.

He had to focus. Now more than ever, she needed to know what he called to tell her. He will lead this group of people that she wants to develop. He will be the integrity. “I’m in.” There, he said it. And she has to know that he doesn’t say anything that he doesn’t mean.

“What?”

“I’m in. I’ll see you on Monday.”

Mac didn’t know what the fuck was happening. But if he’s coming around, then she needed to see how much she could get. “Are you still gonna worry about the ratings?”

“Yes.”

“Still going to worry about being popular?”

“Yeah.”

“About being loved by strangers?”

Will was getting irritated. He was in. He was going to be the leader. He was going to be the integrity. What the fuck else did she want from him? “Are you gonna keep asking me questions that all mean the same thing?”

Mac smiled. He was in. He said the words and he doesn’t say anything that he doesn’t mean. He’s in. “Til I get the right answer.”

“I’m in.”

“There it is.” She would have liked to get more, but it was a start. It would be enough.

Chapter Text

April 24, 2010 10:07 AM

Mac lay in her tub, relaxing. She usually doesn’t do this, but after the horrible week she had, she felt like she deserved it. She needed to get some new furniture, but this was important now. Maybe accepting Charlie’s offer to work with Will again was a bad idea. She always knew it was, she knew that he didn’t really want to work with her again, she assumed Charlie strong-armed him into it. Which he kinda did, he just didn’t face Will head on. She thought that she’d be able to help him recapture his love for the news and with enough time, he’d realize he still loved her and they would reunite. Her sister called her naïve. Mac couldn’t disagree anymore. Will has made it absolutely clear that he wants nothing to do with her and, well, she doesn’t know what to make of his “I’m in” call. She’s not going to believe him until he shows her, and what’s the chance that he will show her anything? No one knows when big news will come up. And if something did come up, she can’t guess anymore what Will will do.

She should call Charlie and tell him she’s done. It’s not worth this. She can still produce fucking Lunch. Shows like that don’t come around everyday, Mac eyerolled. Mac felt herself biting her bottom lip and laughing at the absurdity. She spent 3 years in a warzone, unable to get over this man and a half-week with him and she’s ready to walk away for the worst show idea she’s ever heard. And the worst part is, her therapist would probably say that’s the healthy choice.

Mac’s eyes went heavenward, “Come on God, just give me a sign.” Mac let her head fall back to rest on the water and let out a long breath. Just as she was starting to feel relaxed, she heard her phone ring. She let out a humorless laugh, “Maybe it’s God.” She reached over for the phone and saw Will’s name on the caller id. “No, it’s only a person who thinks he’s fucking God.” She put the phone down, not wanting to deal with whatever bullshit he had prepared for her.

Will listened to her phone ring getting more and more irritated. Why the fuck wasn’t she picking up? What could she possibly be doing on a Saturday that’s more important than this? He hadn’t slept at all the previous night. Every time he tried he heard her voice in his head demanding him to be the leader, be the integrity. Around 2AM he was on his 4th beer and decided on his plan of action. He just finished and now he had to tell her what he did.

When the phone went to voicemail, he hung up and texted, “Call me.”

Mac heard the text come in and looked at the message. Two words. She was going to finish her bath, he would have to wait for her convenience. She laid her head against the bath wall. Unless there’s a big news emergency and they need to go to work. No, it’s not going to be anything like that, she would have gotten a news alert. Mac took a deep breath to relax. After a couple seconds, she realized she could text Jim and see if anything is going on. No there’s no reason to do that, if there’s something important happening, she’ll start getting calls from a lot of people. She put her head back again and took another relaxing breath.

She could check the AP website, they would be the first to run a story. A quick peek and she would know if she needs to go to work or if sometime after this bath, that will relax her, she has to call Will. She looked at her phone, determined that Will will not take away her bath time. If there’s something happening, then her phone would be ringing off the hook. And it’s not. She doesn’t need to check on world events. She doesn’t need to call Will back like she’s some sort of dog responding to her master. And Will isn’t going to ruin her fucking bath time. She put her head back and took a cleansing breath. As she closed her eyes, the phone beeped to tell her another text came in.

She knew it was from Will. Her deep cleansing breaths started coming a little faster. And there was more of a heave in them. It occurred to her that maybe it wasn’t Will. It could be work. For all she knows, North Korea could have a bomb on it’s way to New York. The end of the earth may literally be coming and her end would be coaching Will through the newscast.

Or it could be a message telling her about student loan forgiveness even though she doesn’t have any loans, she’s been getting a lot of those recently. She tilted her head back, and even though she knew she was going through the motions, damn it, she was going to fucking relax. She wondered what time it was in London, maybe her parents were calling. They’re 6 hours ahead, so if it’s 10 here, then two hours to make it noon. Two minus six is 4. Add that to noon and…. Oh who gives a fuck!

She grabbed her phone. “Mac, where are you?”

It was fucking Will. She knew it. And now she knew her bath was ruined, so she called him back.

“What do you want?”

Will smiled at the phone. “I got the interview. Jan Brewer is going to do our show on Monday. I even took care of the pre-interview so there can’t be anymore fuck ups.”

Mac wasn’t sure what she was hearing. “You got the… what the… You didn’t go all the way to Arizona to rekindle whatever you had with her did you?”

Will laughed. “I didn’t go to Arizona. I called her up and told her that unless she came on the show, the only people who our audience would recognize as being in support of her law were the sub humans we had on yesterday. As it turns out, she didn’t want them as her spokespeople.”

“You got Jan Brewer.”

Will nodded his head. “Um-hmm.”

“I, I got to say Will that I’m surprised.”

He had planned for this moment. There were so many things that he could say. He knew that she was disappointed and he wanted to give her the shot she wanted. He wanted to be the man that she wanted him to be, because that is a better man than he’s ever been. She deserved this after the hell he put her through. But instead, he simply said, “I told you yesterday that I’m in. Now I’m showing you.” He took a breath and said, “I’ll see you Monday, Mac.”

Chapter Text

April 24, 2010 4:47 PM

“I want to do an apology.”

“You want to apologize? To me?”

Will was prepared for a fight, but he didn’t know what Mac was talking about. “Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. To the audience. If we’re doing this, then we need to be clear about our mission. Let the audience and the media at large hold us accountable for what we’re doing. Make a statement to the other networks that they aren’t living up to the news any better than we were. We start our new show with an apology, our mission statement.”

Mac tried to digest this. In the last 16 hours, 18 hours… she couldn’t be completely sure, he went from having the worst show of either of their careers, to completely buying into this new paradigm and now he wants to throw himself a coming out party. As his EP, she wanted him to slow down and really consider what he wanted. As the person who loves him more than anyone in the world, she wanted to let him ride this enthusiasm as long as she could because obviously it made him happy and she missed him having passion for something.

“When you say that you want to make this apology, do you mean –“

“I already wrote it. I started last night, but the words didn’t flow as well as I thought. But I jotted down some ideas and I think I have something.”

Mac waited for Will to say something. When he didn’t she prompted, “Well, let’s hear it.”

“It’s just a rough draft.” Will took his hand written copy, feeling a little unsure all of a sudden and he didn’t know why. “Good evening, I’m Will McAvoy and this is News Night on April 26, 2010. Adults should hold themselves responsible for their errors. So tonight, I am opening this show with an apology to your our viewers, my viewers, for my failure in my tenure as the managing editor of News Night to successfully inform and educate the American electorate.”

“Whoa, stop. Just a second. I think we need something there.”

“You mean frame it? I was thinking about that, but I thought that if we started with something it would set up a production when I want to say that we’re stripping back to the basics of journalism.”

Mac considered what he said. “No, no, I think it’s okay this time. A frame is going to give you a jumping off point instead of running in like a football player who has to get through the group… of other… football players.”

Will couldn’t help laughing a little. She really was the most brilliant person he ever met, but when it came to analogies, her brain always works faster than her mouth and she completely loses what she wants to say. “So what do you suggest?” He learned a long time ago that he could either redirect her or laugh at her and this time he wanted to focus.

“Something to set it up. In the modern era, do we have any examples of real people who have owned up to their mistakes?”

Both journalists stopped to think. Mac started. “Dan Rather. He gave an apology for the Burkett evidence.”

Will shook his head. “Different kind of apology. We didn’t give wrong facts, we covered wrong stories. What about sports? Mark McGwire apologized for steroid usage a few months ago, that would be in people’s minds.”

“Who?” Mac heard Will grunt on the other side end of the phone. “It’s got to be something more universal than that. Something that when they hear it everyone can understand who it is and the context without starting a fight.”

They both paused again and then Mac heard Will snap his fingers and with a real smile on his face, he said, “Richard Clark. Former Counter Terrorism Chief to George W Bush. It was around 2004 when he –“

“Addressed Congress and took personal responsibility for not keeping America safe on 9/11. Yes! That’s it! That’s the moment!”

“I always loved that moment. Honestly, I did. How can you not respect a man who will publicly acknowledge his errors?”

Mac went to her desk and started tapping on her computer. “Let’s see if it’s on YouTube. I want to hear it.” Mac pulled it up and played it, making sure that Will could hear it through the phone.

When they heard Richard Clark say with emphasis “I failed you,” they both yelled out. “End it there.”

Will immediately picked up with what he wanted to say. “Good evening. I’m Will McAvoy. This is News Night. That was a clip of Richard Clark give his credentials, who he was—“

“Blah, blah, blah. Right, keep going.”

Will thought for a second. “Americans like that moment. I like moment. Adults should hold themselves accountable for failure. So tonight, I’m beginning this newscast by apologizing for our failure.”

Mac stopped pacing and interrupted, “to our viewers for our failure.”

Will stopped pacing when he heard her voice. “To all Americans, for our failure. Should we be writing this down?”

Mac looked around her. “Yeah. I’ve got my computer right here.” She noticed the clock. “It’s coming up on 5, do you have plans this evening?”

Will looked at his watch and thought. “Nothing that’s more important than this. You?”

“Just a night with Netflix. Do you want to meet somewhere? Maybe get some dinner and pound through this? If we’re doing this Monday we should try to get a script out to the senior staff tonight. Let them have a shot as defining our mission statement too.”

Will didn’t hear anything past “get some dinner”. He felt his heart pound in his chest and he tried to mask his breath getting heavier. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Why don’t I write up something and you can look it over, send it back and then we can go through your markups. Then we can send to Charlie, get his approval before we go to the senior staff.”

When Mac extended the invitation, she didn’t think of it as a date, but his reaction reminded her that they weren’t in the relationship that she wanted. He couldn’t even bring himself to share a meal with her. She tried to hide her disappointment as she said, “Yeah, that sounds like a good plan. You write it out and let me know when you send it here and then I’ll go through it and give you call.”

Will heard the hurt in her voice and immediately felt it. He did it again. The last time was just two days ago when she called about her coup of getting Gov. Brewer and they ended up screaming at each other. Now he’s heard her go from excited to disappointed in the span of a single sentence. He can’t imagine Mackenzie without that fire, that passion she always has. And somehow he’s managed to snuff it out twice in 3 days. And he can’t apologize. Even a business dinner… he can’t do it. He can’t do that to himself. It’s only been a week and… being near her stirs something in him and he can’t go down that road. Not again.

“Okay. Go get something to eat and I’ll have a draft of this in your email within an hour.”

Mac wanted to call him out on telling her to eat, he knows better. But she didn’t have the fight in her. “I’ll wait for your email.” Mac took the phone from her ear and hung up before Will could say anything else. She thought he might hear her disappointment if she had to stay on the phone with him much longer and not only didn’t she want him to hear that, she knew he didn’t deserve to know that he hurt her. This time he didn’t intend it. She didn’t want to put a damper on his excitement. He needed to feel this, she needed something else that would continue to be just beyond her reach.

Will searched for something to say until he heard the call disconnect. “Fuck!” She’s the woman that cheated on him and broke his heart. But he loved her, a long time ago he loved her and it still hurts when he knows that he’s hurt her. It’s not what he wants. He looked at his phone that had a reminder about a date he had arranged for tonight. He then looked at the paper with his scratched out script on the table. He picked up his phone and dialed. “Hey, Tina? It’s Will. I’m sorry for the short notice, but I’m going to have to cancel tonight. A work thing came up.”

Chapter Text

April 24, 2010 6:11PM

“I thought you were going to call me.”

Mac walked into the News Night studio 4 days ago and since then she’s learned that when Will’s name appears on her phone she should brace herself to be yelled at but be ready for anything. Despite knowing all that, she didn’t know how to react to a pouting Will.

Mac had to admit that she told him that she would call after editing his apology statement and then they could send it to Charlie and ultimately the senior staff. However, after he made it clear that he didn’t want to spend time with her, she decided to skip a step and send directly to Charlie. She knew she chose the cowardly approach, but decided she didn’t want the fight. Instead she opted for a quiet night. Or so she thought.

“I liked what you wrote and wanted to get it out to everyone for their thoughts before Monday. I think the team will have a lot of good insights.”

Will couldn’t help feeling rejected. He was looking forward to working with her on the statement. From a purely professional perspective, Mackenzie brought out the best in Will. And he has to nail this. His last statement about the country went viral, this will too and he has to make sure it says exactly what he wants. If the audience judges him, he wants this to define him. He needs to be at his best and… she’ll make sure he is. That last thought made him pause, but he eventually decided that she has proven herself professionally to him. As long as they can keep the professional and personal separate, he should appreciate what she brings to the show.

“I wanted to go through it one more time with my… executive producer. I set the direction of the show and you make sure it happens. I want to make sure we’re on the same page.”

“We are Will. Look at what I sent, I didn’t have many changes, and mostly I just worded around your accent.”

“I don’t have an accent. That’s one reason I got this job.”

“You are very distinctly Midwestern. I had to write around that so you sound a little more sophisticated.”

Will couldn’t believe what she said. No one had ever talked to him about his “accent”. “I was a fucking prosecutor in New York City and no one ever thought I was less than sophisticated. I even worked in Bush 41’s White House. I don’t have to be more sophisticated.”

Mac had to bite her lip to not laugh. This genuinely bothers Will. She wondered for a second if she should feel bad for saying it, but the idea that this bothered him this much was completely ridiculous. “I’m not saying you’re a simpleton, I just wanted to get you away from a couple vowels. If you referred to soft drinks I would have made sure you called them sodas and not pops.”

Will heard what she said, but took a second to process it. “Why the fuck would I talk about soft drinks? When was the last time either of us had one? I have a God damned basket of good wine from Bernie and Betsy Shapiro here.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Mac couldn’t help laughing now while she imagined Will in what she assumed was his baron, dark apartment pacing around completely excited and having no idea why.

“How the fuck should I know. Apparently I have some Midwestern speech impediment that no one ever told me about and that I never noticed myself. And… I don’t even know what the fuck you mean by talking about soft drinks, which I always called soda. And why the fuck are you laughing at me?”

“I’m not laughing at you Will. It’s just this whole thing is ridiculous.” Mac noticed that Will wasn’t laughing, he seemed… something. Not the confident, assured man she was used to. “This really bothers you , doesn’t it?”

"No.  It really doesn't."  

Mac could always tell when he was lying.  She watched him lie to other people and they didn't know, but she always did.  This was a ridiculous thing to even discuss, but she knew how much of his self esteem was wrapped up in his audience.  She sobered up at the noise and said, “Okay Will. Listen to me. Your apology is exactly what we need. It was good when you sent it, I just made a few minor tweeks to make it flow better on the air. You do have a Midwestern accent, but Midwestern is the easiest accent to listen to throughout the country. And I don’t see any reason to talk about soft drinks unless a Coca Cola plant blows up or something.”

Will had to take a second to digest everything she said. He’s read the focus group data enough to almost have it memorized. No one has ever called him out for being too Midwestern. In fact as much as he loathes his past, people seem to connect with him because of it. And after their last conversation, he felt good about the apology he wrote. And she didn’t give him a lot of notes and she would have no matter how she felt when she was going through it. News was always her first love. Everything else took a second place. Part of him felt stung over that, but a more rational thought reminded him that he can take advantage of that. He wanted to dwell on those thoughts, but then his mind also agreed that there’s no reason to settle the soda/pop wars.

“Okay.”

When Will didn’t continue, Mac asked, “Why did the Shapiros send you wine?”

“What? Oh. New upstairs neighbors. They’re doing some remodeling and a piece of my ceiling came down yesterday morning. Little did I know that it would set the tone for the entire day.” Will finally settled at his table and looked at the wine bottles.

“Good came out of it. We’re talking and have an outstanding way to begin our new show.”

“Yeah.” Will rolled his eyes and looked at the bottle in his hand. “It’s good wine.” He had to cut himself off. The next words out of his mouth should be that it’s a fine wine that you want to share, but that conversational left turn can’t lead anywhere good. Unless good included her coming over and them getting drunk and… no, it can’t lead anywhere good.

Mac wanted to believe that he stopped because he was thinking about what she hoped, but she had another thought. “You should bring it to the studio on Monday. We can celebrate 2.0 as a team.”

“You mean with the staff? Are they old enough to drink?”

Mac rolled her eyes. “Yes, and you can save them from that poison they get down the street after the broadcasts. They apparently send an intern down to order watered down drinks and something called tuna jerky and listen to bad music.”

“What the fuck is tuna jerky?”

“I don’t know, the name was revolting enough that I didn’t even look at it.”

Will flinched at that last statement. “You go out with them?”

Mac laughed a little again. “I did last night. How did you think Neal got me on the phone?”

Will thought for a second. “I don’t know. I guess I assumed he was still at the studio.”

“Your powers of perception are slipping counselor. You had to hear the karaoke in the background and he left before you got off the air.”

There was a time that he would have picked up on all of that. He really was out of touch. “Okay. So if I bring the good boos to share with the team, are you bringing anything to the party?”

“I can get a platter of appetizers. Good ones or else I might as well just get them greasy pizza.”

Will chuckled at the idea. “Which they would probably prefer. Maybe we need to have food for the adults and food for the kids.”

“I wouldn’t turn my nose up at greasy pizza. It just wouldn’t go well with the wine.”

“Mackenzie McHale eating greasy pizza. That’s something I would pay to see. Your aristocratic sensibilities would make you get sick at the idea.”

Now it was time for Mac to feel ill at ease while Will innocently teased. “A lot’s happened in the last few years, Will. Greasy pizza was a treat for all of us.”

Something shot through Will as he heard these words. He remembered Charlie’s report on Mac, he seemed to say that she wasn’t doing well. Her change in tone seemed to confirm that. Will thought he should ask her something, but didn’t know how. Things seemed to be going well, he didn’t want to ruin that. “So you’ve sent the apology to Charlie who is probably going to be passed out here any minute. Are you sure that we need to send it to the rest of the staff?”

Mac nodded her head, “We really should. I want them to feel like they’re part of deciding the direction of the show. They have energy and ideas, we need to explore that. And it’ll bring us all together.”

“Just what I want, to be together with a bunch of teenagers.”

“Says the old man.”

“You’re no spring chicken there either compared to them.”

“I may not be jailbait, but I’m still 12 years younger than you.” Mac heard what she said and shut her eyes tight waiting for Will to react.

Will heard it and bit back his initial thought, instead saying, “part of the year it’s only 11.”

When Mac heard Will laugh, she laughed too. She wasn’t sure when they drew up a truce, but apparently they did. At least temporarily.

Will realized that for the first time since she’s been back he feels comfortable. And then he realized that at any moment one of them could say something wrong and it end in disaster. Again. He has to work with her. He needs her to help him be the best he can be professionally. “So I was thinking, if you really want the kids to have a say in this, why don’t you send it out to them tonight and then call them into a meeting tomorrow with us? I want this pretty much set before Monday’s rundown.”

“I think that’s a great idea. I’ll get this right out to them.” Mac smiled for a moment and then added, “And maybe we can order greasy pizza for the meeting and you can see me throw it down.”

Will smiled into the phone, “Will not believe it until I see it. Will we also be treated to a burp?”

“Only if there’s beer involved.”

“I’ll spring for a 12 pack. Go ahead and send it out to them. I’m free all day tomorrow.”

Will got off the phone and looked at the bottles of wine his neighbors sent him. They were too fine to drink alone. He could keep them for a special occasion in his bar, but this seemed better. He wouldn’t want to waste them on a cheap date, so sharing it with Mac… and the rest of the staff seemed like a good alternative.

A few minutes his phone beeped with a new email from Mac. Tomorrow. They’d show a united front to the kids she hired and reinvent their show. The idea scared the hell out of him, but at the same time seemed the most natural thing in the world.

Chapter Text

April 25, 2010 9:24PM

Mac sat at her desk, grease from the pizza the team just consumed churning in her stomach. She enjoyed watching Will interact with the team, even if some of that interaction included seeking out the greasiest pizza he could find to challenge her. Seriously, he looked impressed with their ideas. And not that she wants to read too much into it, but he didn’t flinch when she was forced to sit next him. Will insisted that the only way to take notes is with paper and pens so when she went to get them, she came back and the only seat left was next to Will. He simply looked around to make sure everyone was ready and then started reading his script.

Jim of course was the studious one. He read the script a few times before the meeting and had some ideas lined up. That made it easier for the rest of the group to make suggestions. Mac took the majority of the notes. Will has a damn near eidetic memory, so he only writes things down for show and the rest of the group were to excited to contribute to write anything. After they made it through the script and Will read through her marked up script including a list of ideas they generated, they had some pizzas delivered and Will made a big deal about Mac eating her first greasy pizza and beer, insisting she usually gets the expensive kind. Jim had seen her eat in the Middle East, and there you ate whatever they had, but Mac signaled him not to say anything. She wanted this moment. She wanted to see Will excited and teasing her, he’s spent too much time hating her and miserable. She doubts there was ever a time he wasn’t miserable, hating her is only new in the last three years. The difference between the pizza that she will be regretting long into the night and what she ate with the soldiers in Afghanistan was that this was fun and she didn’t want that ruined by something like the truth.

Seeing Will excited, seeing young, enthusiastic minds working so hard. It was worth any stomachache and everything Will has dished out to her. They’re making progress. They’re becoming friends. She wondered if they had ever actually been friends before. They met in the newsroom. She needed someone to do a real interview with FEMA during Hurricane Katrina because her anchor was a dud, so she dragged Will from his office with the other morning people to her conference room and declared to her EP and news manager that Will would do their interview. Will didn’t know what the fuck was happening, but for a week she produced his coverage of Hurricane Katrina in primetime and it was magic. Then they started dating. She became an EP, he became an anchor and they were inseparable. Even when she spent half her week in DC, they were inseparable.

He used to say he fell in love with her passion for the news. She fell in love with this side of him, the side that gets excited at ideas that ultimately make him better. That must be why he didn’t kick her out that first day, she pushed to be better. He’s always yearned for that. Maybe it comes from no one ever caring enough to push him. His intellect intimidated his parents and it wasn’t until law school that he was first challenged by a professor. This team, they will push him and they showed him that today. It was a good day for both of them. All of them.

She had to get her notes into her computer so that when Will reads her his version of the script, she’ll have a version as well to help refine his. It’s how they used to collaborate. They would each take a stab at the script and then over dinner or breakfast or at a park or… anywhere really he would read his and she would suggest an alternate phrasing. Some couples read Robert and Emily Barrett Browning to each other; they read news scripts. It worked for them.

Collaborating with him probably won’t go like she remembers, but she doesn’t know how else to do it.   It didn’t work for them because they were in love, they were in love because it worked for them.

And that’s why she can’t pick up the phone right now. She doesn’t want the spell of the day they had to end now anymore than she wanted it to end when Jim wanted to correct Will. She wants to enjoy these memories just a little longer before Will realizes an old pattern and moves away from it.

But she’s stuck. She has to put in this definition of news that Jim suggested and it doesn’t flow right. And she knows that Will has probably finished his version and she wants to see how he transitioned into it because he was always better at the transitions. She was better at the grammar. That was the division of labor. He could outline the main points and make the argument and she could polish it. She couldn’t figure out how to make the argument. To write this apology, she needed him.

His phone only rang once before she heard his voice. “How’s your stomach?”

She could hear the smile in his voice and it made her smile. It’s been too long since they’ve been able to laugh with each other. “I told you, it doesn’t affect me at all.”

“Liar. I saw you wincing right before you left.”

“You’re right, I don’t eat like a 12 year old boy.”

“People are their healthiest when they’re young.”

It did her heart good to hear him like this. He was enjoying himself. She wondered how long it had been since that was true. She’d never be able to ask him that, but she wondered. “That’s because eating all that shit when you’re young kills you when you’re old, like you.”

“Seriously? You’re going back to the old age tree?”

“It’s not like you’re getting any younger.”

Will chuckled. “No, I guess I’m not. I assume you’re working on the script?”

“You are too I assume. Where are you caught?”

“You called me, I think you should have to admit it first.”

“I’m trying to figure out how to get Jim’s idea to define news into it. I know where he’s going, but I just can’t make it fit.”

“I haven’t gotten that far, I’m not comfortable extending the olive branch and saying not all journalist own an apology. I want to call out Fox, MSNBC, Breitbart, Huffpo and the rest that make real journalists look bad and make the rest have to disprove their stupidity. I honestly cannot think of a single journalist still broadcasting that shouldn’t say something similar to this.”

Mac thought for a second. “No one? I like Diane Sawyer.”

“You two. I’ve never understood what the fuck is between you two. You met at one gala event and now she’s like you’re fourth sister.”

“We hit it off. If you’d just give her a chance…”

“Why should I? She’s daytime, I’m nighttime. I’m sure she’s a lovely woman, but your friendship with her always perplexed me.”

They met Diane at that gala event in 2006 and since then it was always the same fight. More teasing than anything. Maybe he wasn’t as bothered by falling into old habits as she thought. “Will, we have to keep our eye on the ball. If we use this apology to take a swipe at our competition, we won’t be any better than a loud-mouthed reality star. We have to stay above the fray, that’s why we have to add that statement. Let every journalist think they’re the exception to your ire.”

“So you want me to lie.”

“No, I want you to position yourself well. And please don’t compare me to a politician. My father was a diplomat and he told me there’s a difference and I believed him.”

“Your father was a politician too.”

“He didn’t run for anything.”

“He spent a lifetime in politics! Where I come from that makes him a politician.”

“You came from Nebraska, what do they know about politics?” Mac clinched up a little, feeling some fear of getting too personal with him, “Besides, I thought you liked my dad.”

“I have a lot of respect for the ambassador, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a politician.”

“Bottom line, Will, we need to have that in or else the only thing people will talk about is your superiority complex when we want you to come across as contrite”

Will’s voice all of a sudden got serious. “You know you can laugh.”

“What?”

“I don’t know. You called me to talk about the definition of news. I assume you need a transition into that?”

“If you have one.”

Will took a second and went through the conversation in his mind. “So we have the list of broadcasting hall of fame. What about, ‘they understood that news and news anchors has one aim, to educate the electorate.’ You can polish that up however you want, but I think that’s how you get into it.”

“I guess my question is, do we need it at all? Aren’t we already kind of saying what news should be by saying what we’re not going to do anymore?”

Will took a second to think about it. “We’re not really developing that thought are we?”

“In that spot, it just gets in the way between the hall of fame and where we’re at now. And with Neal’s line about Jersey Shore, that’s a stop point. We need to build to that and then let the audience feel it like a punch. Then go again.”

“And when we go again, we pick up where we left off, which means something like “We did good business.”

“I have ‘that business was good to us, but News Night is getting out of that business.’”

Will was a little surprised. “I thought we all like the idea of the going out of business sign. You didn’t like that?”

“I loved the idea, but I think making the audience all of a sudden envision something in their head is going to make them lose focus. You’re putting a lot of information into this three minutes, we have to make sure we use every word well.”

“OK. You always were the wordsmith.” Will felt himself swallow. He has to be careful. He doesn’t want it to feel like it did before. But he doesn’t know how to do this without falling into old habits. It’s a phone call. They’re not in the robes Mac insisted they wear if they were working because she thought they got distracted too easily otherwise. They’re not picking food off each other’s plates. It’s different. This is a professional call. “Can your kid handle not having his idea in?”

“Would it stop you if I said no?” She expected him to chuckle, but he didn’t. “Or would it spur you on?”

Will considered his next words. A few days ago he took an opportunity like this and hurt her and he hated what he heard on the other end of the phone. He didn’t want to do that again. “He’s a sharp kid. They all are. You put a good staff together, Mac.”

Will McAvoy can still surprise her. She still believes she knows him better than anyone, but every once in a while something sneaks out of his mouth that surprises… probably both of them, and those are the moments that she knows he’s being the most honest. “Thank you, Will. And, uh, yeah, he’s gotten ideas cut before, he’ll be okay.”

“Good, good. So, I’ll see you tomorrow and we can go through our drafts with the team again before the rundown?”

With the group. They’re going to read the script together, but with an audience. It felt wrong, even if that’s the most sensible way to do this. Hell, it’s the idea she should have suggested. She just never thought something that has always been so intimate would have an audience. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

“Ok. Good night, Mac.”

Mac struggled with finding the right way to end this call. “You know, it’s nice, to, uh it’s nice to hear you laugh again Will.”

“Yeah. It’s been awhile.”

Will hung up the phone before Mac could say anything else. God damn it he had to be careful. He can’t let himself start feeling anything for her. He can’t trust her, and until he can trust her, he can’t forgive her. He didn’t see it coming last time. She took what should have been the best day of his life and made it the worst. He can’t let that happen again. He just can’t.

Chapter Text

April 26, 2010  11:22PM

When the phone rang, Mac mindlessly swatted in the general direction of the phone sitting next to her laptop on her desk, while never looking away from her computer.  Once she found her target, muscle memory took over and she used her thumb to take the call and put the phone to her ear. 

Rolling her eyes, she answered, “Hello, Will.”

“I think it went really well, don’t you?”

Who would have thought a week ago that she would get annoyed at a phone call from Superficially Chatty Will?  She’d started thinking about Will like a schizophrenic with multiple personalities.  Superficially Chatty Will was the personality that was happy and outgoing when something insignificant gave him a sense of being liked.  This one scared her more than Asshole Will and his louder cousin Angry Will combined.  Superficially Chatty Will wasn’t natural.  Will, the real Will could be happy, she’s seen him truly happy and missed seeing Truly Happy Will, but Chatty Will typically thought he was happy for the wrong reasons.  It’s the personality that put popularity above actual achievement and made him the ring master of a carnival instead of a god damned journalist.  And Superficially Chatty Will was almost always followed by Asshole Will. 

 Mac thought about closing her laptop, knowing it’ll be at least a half hour before she talks him down from whatever he’s excited about and back to focusing on the important things and then getting back to her own work.  She got up to start boiling some water for tea. 

“Since we both left the party 45 minutes ago and we both said on more than one occasion that we thought it went well, I guess I think it went well.  And I assume you do too.”

Will looked at his computer as well, getting more excited as he read.  “It felt good, but then Neal Sampat said that I was tredding on my Tweet account.”

Mac finished filling her kettle with water and started the stove.  “Do you know what any of those words mean?”

“No.  Not at all.  But he seemed excited and he showed me where the apology is posted on YouTube.  Mac, you have to see these comments.  For the most part, people seem interested in how we’re going to bring nobility back to the newsroom.  That’s what one title is, ‘Will McAvoy Brings Nobility to the Newsroom’.”

“A member of the faceless masses stroking your ego.  You must be so proud.”

“If these comments can be believed –“

“They can’t, Will.”

“Then tomorrow the ratings are going through the roof!  We’re going to save journalism and be the most popular show on cable!”

Mac lifted her eyes skyward, hoping for divine intervention.  “Will, close your laptop.”

“What?”

“You got that fucking crazy sound in your voice, which means you probably got an even crazier look in your eye than Michelle Bachman.  Close the damn laptop.  You’re not in this for the ratings.  Nobility is its own reward.”

“Have you ever thought about writing fortune cookies?”  Will sobered up immediately, ready to fight for, whatever the fuck she was fighting against.  Why couldn’t she just let him have this?  He doesn’t get to feel like this very often.  “We need to savor the wins when we get them.  If we’re doing this, we won’t get many.”

“And if all we’re focused on is how popular you are we won’t get any moral victories.”

Will could hear Mac’s passion rising and felt himself tensing up.  Who the fuck was she to tell him about his audience?  She was the one that didn’t want him, they do, and now she can’t stand it.    “And if no one is watching, then we go off the air and none of this matters.”

Mac braced herself.  She could reach Asshole Will by using logic, she just has to take the bluster.  “We won’t.  The audience will change, it will become people who faun over you less and pay attention to issues more.  That’s why we do the news, not to inflate your already overgrown ego.  That’s what your fucking apology was about, doing the fucking news.”

“God damn it, Mac, I want my fucking audience.  I’ve been a fucking laughing stock for weeks.”

“Damage you did to yourself.  I didn’t make you say anything at Northwestern.  That was all you; that was what you thought.  And frankly Will, it was good to see it.  It was the first sign of a serious journalist that anyone has seen from you in years.  Tonight you got to say what you thought again and it got people’s attention in a good way.  I’m not taking away a win, I’m saying put it to some God damned good use.”

Will thought back to that day and his hallucination of her there.  Knowing that she would want him to give that answer, to show that passion.  For a second he wondered if it was her.  “You saw it?”  For a second he felt something he didn’t recognize, but then he realized what she meant.  “You mean on YouTube.  You watched it on YouTube.”

She was caught and had to proceed cautiously.  “You sound disappointed.”  She has to get him focused.  She was producing that day, she has to use that skill again. 

“I’m not disappointed, it’s just….  Look, we did a good show and I want you to know that you were a part of that and…”  Will tried to figure out how to end the sentence.  “How do you propose we put it to some God damned good use?”

And he’s back, Flustered but Honest Will, currently the best incarnation of him that she can see.  Mac stopped from laughing.  “I’d say I was more than a part of it.  If you’re looking for an assignment, I’d start with the Tea Party.”

“The Tea Party?  They’re just a ragtag bunch of right winged nutjobs to counterbalance the left wing nut jobs in the democratic caucus.”

“Our job is to inform the electorate if they’re about to elect any nutjobs, and these nutjobs are a little more than ragtag.  Close your Youtube or Tweets or whatever and start digging into the Tea Party members that have won primaries.”

Will sat at his computer and opened a new browser window.  Before he typed anything, he said, “Mac, I know you don’t care, but the republicans are my bread and butter, I lose them and I seriously don’t have an audience.”

“Think of it this way.  If you lose your entire audience, then you don’t have to put yourself through firing me, Charlie will have to fire both of us.”  Mac allowed her lips to quirk into a smile while Will tried to figure out what to say.

“That’s your silver lining?”

“Come on, Will, we both know you won’t be able to fire me in 6 months.”  It was a risk, and probably one that she didn’t have to take, but she wanted to cut some of the tension, if he was relaxed, they were back on even ground, and she was pretty sure that he started to relax.

“I have the first Friday I can fire you circled on my calendar.”

“Well, when that day comes, you can go back to cat videos and pandering to your right winged morons.”  She heard him chuckle and silently breathed a sigh of relief.  Sounding more sure of herself than she felt, she added, “But you’re not going to fire me, Will.  I’m the best damn thing you have going on in your life and somewhere in that brilliant, stubborn, confusing brain of yours you know that.  By the time midterms come, you won’t want anyone else in your ear.”

“You seem pretty certain there, McHale.  You want to make a wager?”

“Are you seriously asking me what I want from Will McAvoy if I can have anything?”

Will heard her voice get flirty and for a second he couldn’t move.  He remembered what she liked, in the bedroom, out of it, everywhere really.  And he remembered how much he enjoyed giving it to her.  They were so fucking compatible.  He had to get it out of his head.  “Mac.”  He held out her name as a warning.

She winced.  She pushed too far, she can back step a little.  “A drink Will.  If I’m still with you for the midterms, I want you to take the entire crew out to Hang Chews and buy us all drinks.”

Once his thoughts completely sobered up and he processed what she said, he laughed.  “Seriously.  That’s what you want?”

“After you get me good and drunk, we can decide what else to do with the night.”

He could hear the teasing in her voice and he smiled.  He liked this, the back and forth.  The comfort that he got hearing her voice.  The comfort that she was starting to have with him.  It could never go any further than this, this… friendship?  Partnership?  That’s it.  That’s what they were, partners.  It couldn’t ever go beyond that, but he liked having this much with her.  “And if I win, what do you give me?”

“Trust me, Will.  I’ll be there.” 

 She will.  He had no doubt about that fact.  And if she isn’t, she would be far enough away that she couldn’t give him anything he wants anyway.  “Well, drinks are expensive.  You better be worth it.”

“They drink $3 beer.  And Maggie doesn’t finish her first.”

“And you insist you can drink everyone under the table, but need help walking before most of us are buzzed.”

It was an old argument.  She always defended herself by saying she simply wanted him to take her home.  She knew better than to say that, even if the words wanted to tumble off her tongue as easily as they did 3 years ago. 

Will felt a knot in his stomach as the silence grew and he remember the fight he was baiting her back to.  He didn’t know if he hated himself more because he knew she wouldn’t say it to protect him, or because he wanted her to say it and to feel like he did all those years ago.

“The Tea Party, Will.  We have to be sure to follow up tonight’s win with some hard news.”

“I know.  And I have every confidence that we will.”  When he knew she was about to say something, he added, “and I’ll see if I can find anything to talk about with the Tea Party.”

Mac heard her kettle whistle.  “Okay.  Don’t stay up too late, I need you bright eyed and with a fluffy tail.”

“Bright eyed and bushy tailed, Mac.”  Will gave her a chuckle.  When he stopped he took a breath and quietly asked, “Are you making tea?”

“Yeah.”

“Valerian, right?  The superstar of sedatives in tea form.   I remember.”

Mac bit her bottom lip between her teeth.  “You always ruined yours by putting milk in it.”

“It was just a splash to cool it.”

“That’s how you ruin a perfectly good cup of tea.”

“Says you.”

“Says every person who has ever stepped foot in England.  I swear you would have gotten kicked out of Thanksgiving if someone saw you put milk in your tea.”

Will remembered that Thanksgiving.  All the McHale children got together and Mac’s brother Simon proposed to Nora.  Will assumed Nora did the one thing he wanted to do more than anything, marry into Mac’s family.  He talked to Simon about proposing to Mac on that trip and Simon told him to go for it.  Will closed his eyes as he reminded himself that it was probably better that he didn’t.  Still, he wanted to be a big brother to that group and he wondered about them every once in a while.  “You, uh, you were looking forward to Simon’s wedding.  How, uh, how’d that go?”

Simon and Nora got married in October, two months after Mac left for the Middle East.  CNN would have let her attend, but she didn’t want to spend a weekend explaining why she was alone, so she told them that she couldn’t make it.  She won her first Peabody for a story she did the weekend of the wedding.  Some suggested she took a greater risk than necessary to get that story, but she always had the Peabody to use as a defense. 

“It was beautiful, just like you’d expect.”  It wasn’t a lie, she’d seen pictures.

Will expected Mac to gush and got concerned when she didn’t.  “Mac, are you okay?”

Mac squeezed her eyes shut to calm herself.  “Yeah, it’s just been a long day.  I should let you go.  To bed.  I mean, I need to go to bed.”

“You’re sure everything’s okay?”

“Everything’s fine Will.  The tea’s kicking in and I need to catch up on some sleep.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Will remembered Charlie telling him that Mac hadn’t slept well in years.  She never did as long as he’d known her, but there was a warning in Charlie’s words.  He said she was exhausted in a way someone her age shouldn’t be.  He wanted to ask her about that again, but knew better than to push.  “I’ll see you in the morning.”  Will started to take his phone away from his ear, but put it back.  “Uh, Mac.”

Mac couldn’t keep the irritation from her voice.  She just wanted off the phone.  “Yes?”

“Good show tonight, Mac.  Seriously.  Good show.”

Mac could barely stop herself from crying as she said, “you too.”

Chapter Text

April 28, 2010 1:22AM

Will sat at his kitchen table staring at information about another Tea Party candidate. Jim asked earlier in the day how this group of backwater conservatives organized to the point where they could convince regular people to run for national offices. Mac immediately shot that down as a story, saying that they needed to follow the money. She said she would start looking at that angle, but Will kept thinking about the recruitment question. What would make a small town dentist decide to be a congressman? They must be targeting the trusted people in the community. That works for Representatives, but what about Senate? Being a well liked Marketing Consultant in a small town isn’t going to get you elected in a state wide election. Even after hours of research he couldn’t figure out how the Republican Party was getting outvoted by this party. Once they won the Republican primary, the party was stuck with them. But how were they getting that far?

He reached down for his glass and found it empty. When he walked to the bar for a refill, he saw the clock and stopped. He realized that at close to 1:30 AM and he’s sitting at his table working. In fact, over the last week he’s spent a lot of time at home, alone, working, or thinking about work. He tried to remember the last time he worked this much before Mackenzie rematerialized in his life, and couldn’t come up with an answer.

He filled his glass and sat back down. He agreed to this life again because it invigorates him. He enjoys doing this work, figuring out politics.   The fact that it also makes him the man that he should… he has to be careful. She said that, she said that he needed to do the news the right way to fulfill his potential, or words to that effect. He always fucking hated the word “potential”. It felt like a back handed compliment, like anyone knows what he can accomplish. This potential means they hold him to a higher standard than others, and he doesn’t fucking want to have anything to do with it. He wants to be who he is, not who she says he should be.

Especially if she hasn’t called. She’s forcing all these changes on him. She says she cares about him, or… words to that effect. He can’t deal with the word she actually uses. If she did, she wouldn’t have fucked her ex-boyfriend and she wouldn’t fucking expect him to do all the work. She would want to talk to him and find a reason to call. Not that he had created reasons to call her over the last week, every call was important. At least in the beginning. Fuck! He allowed them to cross the line from professional partners to, well, something more friendly than he should have.

And now he’s here. At his apartment. Sitting in front of the computer. Reading about fucking Tea Party candidates. Alone. She fucking forced him to cancel a date so they could work on Saturday. And now she doesn’t even take the time to notice that he hasn’t called her. Shouldn’t she have to do some of the work in this… professional partnership?

Will made a decision. He picked up his phone and started scrolling through, looking for someone he could take out tomorrow night after the show. He doesn’t need Mac. He doesn’t need her permission to have fun. He’s going to meet some blonde with great legs. He’s going to meet her at a restaurant and bring her back here. That’ll show Mac. He’s over her, and this, bringing someone home tomorrow night will prove it.

That’s what he’ll do. First thing in the morning, he’ll call someone blonde and leggy and prove that he doesn’t need Mackenzie McHale.

April 29, 2010 2:05 AM

Mac could barely keep her eyes open. Follow the money. She volunteered for that assignment thinking between she and Will they had all the connections they needed. There was a weird moment yesterday when she said that they shouldn’t chase the recruitment angle and Will seemed disappointed. She half expected that he would follow that strand anyway, but hoped that he would work on the money piece. She expected he would hit a roadblock last night and call her to regroup. But he didn’t. She stayed up late researching and lost track of time so she never called him.

Mostly. She mostly didn’t call because she lost track of time while researching. She thought about calling, but didn’t because she didn’t know if they had the kind of relationship where she could call him in the middle of the night for help on her assignment. They’d become friendly since the weekend, but today he seemed different somehow. Distant. She saw the difference, but didn’t ask because he didn’t seem to want to talk. Not just to her, he didn’t want to talk to anyone.

She noticed the clock on her computer. 2:05AM. She wondered if he was asleep. She hit a dead end and she could use someone to brainstorm ideas with. She laughed. Since coming back into his life this two nights of not hearing from Will is the longest they’ve gone without a phone call. She wondered why he hasn’t called. They seemed to get along, all things considered. But he didn’t call last night, he didn’t want to have anything to do with anyone today, he hasn’t called tonight. She wondered if she did something. She couldn’t think of anything, but who knew what would set off his fragile ego. He used to have a thicker skin, before fame got the better of him. Maybe she should call, clear the air.

She looked back at the clock. He’s called her later than this, but he does have to sleep sometime and she’s probably just overreacting. For God sake, he didn’t call for two nights, two nights that haven’t seen much news. This is her new normal. It’s not nightly phone calls with Will like they used to have. They now have a purely professional relationship. She’ll have to get used to that.

April 30, 2010 3:02 AM

She just went home -- whatever her name was -- and Will lay in bed completely relaxed. He needed that. He couldn’t remember why he cancelled his date with her on Saturday to work with Mac, a work night that ended early enough that he could have gone out with… what’s her name. She wasn’t available last night, so tonight, he met her at the restaurant, showed her a good time and brought her back here. He became accustomed to that over the last few years after he became more famous. He laid back, tapped out a cigarette and relaxed. Yep, he’s completely over Mackenzie and that woman absolutely proves it. It doesn’t matter that Mac hasn’t called him, reciprocated his attempts at friendliness.   If she doesn’t want anything more than business partnership, he doesn’t either.

Yep, he can live the life that he wants without ever thinking about Mackenzie McHale.

April 30, 2010 11:09PM

Mac lay in bed after having drinks with the staff. $3 beers are definitely not worth it. Will once again left right after the show without saying anything to anyone. Mac asked Sloane where she thought he might be and Sloane gave her a look as if asking if Mac was stupid. She finally explained that if Will’s sexual frustration wasn’t being used on Mac herself, then he probably put that pent up energy in someone else. Mac reflexively said no. She knew him and he wouldn’t do that. But she still looked at the phone, willing herself to find a reason to call him. He wouldn’t answer if he was busy and if he wasn’t she could finally ask what the fuck happened this week.

Or maybe he would call. She decided a long time ago that she would follow his lead. Now she had to wait for him.

May 1, 2010, 6:33PM

“I’m listening to the scanner right now. You have any ideas yet how to cover?”

Mac flipped to another channel to see if she could find any new information. “They called it in 5 minutes ago. Give a girl a chance to think. It’s just smoke so it could be nothing.”

“A car smoking in the middle of Times Square is nothing?”

“It wouldn’t be the first car to have issues I’m sure. What makes this one special?”

Will listened to his scanner a little closer. “It was called in as a potential car bomb. You at the office?”

“Yeah, I wanted to get a few things done when it was quiet.”

Will laughed, “you work in news, it’s never quiet.”

Mac felt herself smile, but still wasn’t sure if she was allowed to laugh. “When did you get a scanner?”

“Couple years ago. Salesman convinced me that every anchor had one.”

“And you wanted to show that you could buy anything.” When Will got his first primetime show on CNN, he went through a period where he bought anything put in front of him. She learned later that he grew up with nothing and she thought he overcompensated when he felt secure in his finances.

“It wasn’t like that. I was looking for an edge against my competition. I had just moved to ACN and they had one, so I thought it made sense to get one of my own in case I wanted to work from the apartment.” The apartment, not home. For the first time ever he noticed his word choice and it bothered him. He didn’t want to think about this, not with her on the phone. “Do you want me to come in, do a newsbreak or extended coverage?”

Mac changed the TV channel to ACN and saw they had a weekend anchor on. “No, we don’t have anyone here to run the studio and it looks like Washington is on it. I can call Charlie, but I don’t think you need to change any plans you have for tonight.”

Will nodded his head and then realized what she just said. “Mac, are you fishing to find out if I have plans?”

“I assume that you do, there’s no reason for a warm blooded American man with more money than God to stay at home on a Saturday night.”

“Is that your way of giving me your blessing?”

What the fuck did she get herself into? Almost a whole week of not talking to him and now that he is talking she sticks her foot in her mouth and gets his ire. “You have the right to date or sleep with anyone you want. I just don’t want to know about it.”

“You know Mac, you’re fucking unbelievable.”

“What the fuck are you talking about? You know how I feel about you, so you must know that I don’t want to know about your social life.”

“Oh, so is that why you didn’t talk to me this week? You thought I was out every night fucking some woman?” Will knew his voice had gotten whiney and petulant, but he didn’t care. He was winning this fight.

“What the fuck are you talking about? You stopped calling me! I assumed it was because we didn’t have anything to talk about.”

“And I suppose you have the web of where Tea Party money comes from figured out.”

Mac finally allowed herself to give an exasperated laugh. “Yes. The Koch Brothers. I put the pieces together last night and have been confirming sources all day.”

“Who the fuck are the Koch brothers?”

Mac exhaled audibly and put her hands over her face. “Oh God. Do you want to do this now or wait until Monday when I explain it to the team?”

What the fuck was he thinking? He was going to a baseball game tonight, box seats with a set of twins. He really doesn’t care about the Koch brothers or, really anything that Mac has to say. He’s over her, he doesn’t need to try and impress her. Even if he could impress her. That’s why he’s going out with the twins. He can throw around a few Franklins and that’s all he needs for them. Mac wants him to change. Well, he’s not doing it.

“Talk to me before you talk to the team. I want to check out your sources before we get them excited.”

“For fuck’s sake, Will. I thought we were past the point where you question my journalistic integrity.”

“Yeah, well I thought… Nevermind.”

“What, you thought what?” Will didn’t say anything so she got angry. “I don’t know what the fuck you want from me. We were becoming friends or… something… and then all of sudden you stop calling me. I decided to be the bigger person and understand your urges to fuck anything that walks and now you’re pissed off at me?”

“I didn’t.” He stopped himself from whatever he was about to say. “You don’t need to be the bigger fucking person. You always have been. I thought. Nevermind. I have plans tonight. I’ll talk to you Monday and we’ll figure out how to cover this car bomb and talk about the Tea Party finances.”

Will hung up the phone and slammed it down. He had a date to get ready for.

Mac heard the phone disconnect and stood gaping at it. What the fuck just happened?

Chapter Text

May 2, 2010 3:01 AM

“M’kenzie”

“What is it Will?”

“Itried tosleepwith them. ButIcouldn’t.”

Mac didn’t know what the fuck was going on and she was tired of trying to figure it out. “You’re fucking drunk, Will. Sleep it off and if you want to talk to me later, you know how to reach me.” Unless I fucking throw my Blackberry off the Manhattan Bridge, which might not be a bad idea. She stopped herself from saying it, but just barely.

“Mac! Mac! List’n. Thisisimportant.” If his words weren’t so slurred, the absolute desperation in his voice would have made her laugh. Instead, she thought about how much he would hate himself in the morning when he remembered this call. And then she’d have to remember it when he called to take it back. “I wantedto. I, I, I broughtthemback here. Andthen, itneverhappenedbefore. Ithoughtofyou and…”

ACN’s eloquent news anchor seemed at a loss for words. Or maybe he had just fallen asleep. If his precious fucking audience could hear him now. Well, some of them would certainly find it sexy as hell. She hated herself for even partly being in that camp. Anyone else hearing this could attempt to bring him down, drunk dialing has never done anyone any favors. No one would ever assume that he’s human and simply having a bad night.

“Will? Are you still with me?”

“M’kenzie?” Will sounded startled. “M’kenzie.” He sounded almost euphoric. “I couldn’t do it because I thought of you. And I felt guilty. So I couldn’t do it.”

“I know Will, I know. Now, go to your medicine cabinet and get some aspirin to put near your bed. You’ll need it when you wake up tomorrow.”

“Why do I need aspirin? I’m not drunk.”

Mac didn’t know if it was the sincerity in his voice or the actual words he said, but it was so endearing. She bit her lower lip to stop from laughing. “Trust me, Will, you will want it when you wake up.”

“Ok. I trust you. You’re My Kenzie.”

“I sure am.” Mac didn’t try to hide from laughing. “Good night Will.”

“Goodnight. My Kenzie!”

 

May 2, 2010 9:14AM

He not only heard the phone ring, but felt it reverberating through his head, like the clapper hitting two bells in a firehouse. He knew immediately that he didn’t want to hear that sound either. He reached for his nightstand and put his hand in a glass of water, which he knocked over along with the bottle of aspirin sitting next to it. What the hell happened last night? He went to the Yankees game with the twins. He never did learn which was which. They said one of them has a birthmark on her thigh they would show him so he can tell them apart. He tried to remember what it looked like, and then all of sudden...

“FFFFFFFFFFFuck!” There was no way in hell Mackenzie was ever going to let him live this down.

And then the phone rang again and he yelled out in pain, thankful for the thick walls in his apartment. Whoever this fuck this is, should know better than to call him this early on a Sunday. They’d have to wait, he’d have to do damage control with Mac. Fuck! She already ruined his night, now he was going to have to face her so she could ruin his day.

On the third ring, after his head stopped vibrating, he picked up his now drenched Blackberry and looked at it until his eyes adjusted enough to see the caller ID. He needs to get something to darken the windows when the fucking sun is this bright. Shit! It’s her. Of course she would call at the ass crack of dawn to laugh at him for his… letdown. Last night, thinking of her stopped him from what should have been a great end to the day and today, the thought of her was having the opposite effect. God damn it.

On the fourth ring he considered just letting it go to voicemail. He’d need some time to figure out what the fuck to say to her. How to convince her that he didn’t mean it and demand that she never bring it up again in such a way that she would follow the instruction.

He had the power in this relationship. He didn’t fear her. He took a deep breath and answered the phone. “Why the fuck are you calling me this early?”

“Will I didn’t want to call, but –“

“I know I called you last night, but I was lying. Everything was fine.”

Mac fought to keep a straight face. “So, little Billy did rise to the occasion? That’s quite the relief. I hoped that I don’t cause spontaneous impotence in men. I too hope to get laid again.”

“Mac!”

“It’s not a proposition, just a fact. Believe it or not there are other men in the world than you.”

“Well, there may be others, but you and I both know that they aren’t me.”

“Yeah,” she said matter of factly. “They can get it up. Now if your done thinking about your sexual prowess, or lack thereof I guess, the reason I called was because rumors are going around that Katie Couric will do tomorrow’s news from Times Square and focus an unnecessary amount of time on the would be bomber. I just wanted you to know that we won’t be doing that.”

This perplexed Will. “You called about Katie Couric?”

“She may be going by Katherine now that she’s anchoring the evening news. But yes. I didn’t think we needed to rehash your drunk dial. Unless of course you’re still insistent that you weren’t drunk, in which case your admission is even more disconcerting.”

“Mac. I didn’t mean… I shouldn’t have… called. I shouldn’t have called. It was a drunken mistake.”

Pointedly she said, “Yeah, I got that.”

“And it wasn’t… you know. Objectively speaking, you are a good looking woman.” Will knew immediately that was the wrong thing to say, he was digging a deeper hole and he thought he’d already hit fucking China with the drunk dial in the first place. “I just want you to know that wasn’t the issue.” He had to stop talking. If he kept talking he’d have to tell her what thinking about her right now was doing to him and that is not where this conversation should go. He’d have to take care of that himself later.

Mac tried to will herself to take the high road. Go back to talking about work. That was her objective and veering from it would not end well. “I seem to remember a time when you thought I was the most beautiful woman you’d seen in real life. Do you remember saying that to me?” He deserves it.

He always told her she was beautiful. For a year he said it instead of saying he loved her. But the first time he told her she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in real life, he meant it more genuinely than he’d ever meant anything before it. It was the first moment of naked honesty from him. She doubted herself before they got together because of what Brian did to her. Someone at work accused her of sleeping with him to get ahead. No part of that was true so he said, louder than he intended and unfortunately in the middle of the newsroom, that he has not and had no intention of sleeping with Mackenzie McHale. After she justifiably slapped him, their news director warned Will not to talk to her. But he went to a bar he knew she’d be at to apologize and told her that she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever met in real life and that if he didn’t respect her he would take her home with him without a second thought. He should have known then that he would never be far from Mackenkie.

“Come to think of it, you also told me that day I was sexy as hell. I would bet, that your current silence is because you are thinking about what it was like. How it felt to go home with me at the end of newscast. The arguments we had about politics that ended up with us wrestling naked –“

“OK Mac. I get it. I was out of line last night and I made things worse today.”

“And you’re too proud to say you’re sorry.”

Will exhaled loudly. “I just said that. I admitted I was wrong. Do you need to hear the fucking word?”

“Yeah, it would be nice to hear the great Will McAvoy actually make a sincere apology for being an ass.”

“I’m an ass, I’m sorry. Now, you said something about how NBC is going to do the news tomorrow?”

“CBS. They’re planning to go outside and do the news from where the car bomb was. It’s a non-story that we will have in the D block but not before because the system worked, things happened the way they should have.”

She was right about getting home still arguing politics. Usually they didn’t talk about coverage, but every once in awhile they did. And it felt like this. He had exactly one goal right now. Ending this fucking call and getting into the shower. “Someone tried to blow up Americans and for some reason you don’t think that we need to put it first thing in our newscast? Did we stop covering news at some point? Forget the optics of being outside where it happened and letting the alphabet network get the best show of caring about American safety. We cover the fucking news.”

“CBS and this isn’t news. Someone tried and then the NYPD did their jobs. You can give the boys in blue all the atta boys you want, but you’re doing it in the fucking D block. I didn’t call you for permission, I called to let you know what we were doing and why.”

She was worked up. He could hear it in her voice. Damn he remembered that voice. If she were here… God! He had to get up. Stand up. If he can. He picked up the now empty glass from his floor and the bottle of aspirin and got to his bathroom. “Oh yeah. I forgot, you’re the only authority in the world on the definition of news.”

He was baiting her and he didn’t care. He didn’t care about her voice clanging in his ears, this is what was missing last night.

She heard him turn on a faucet. “You didn’t put the aspirin by your bed like I told you, did you? And now you have to face the day with a headache. You’re so damned stubborn.”

“My head started pounding when you called and my phone rang.” He paused a second and then admitted. “I knocked my water over when I reached for the phone.” A thought occurred to Will. “You told me to put the medicine next to me?”

Mac’s voice softened. “I knew you would regret that phone call and the alcohol in the morning. I wanted to… you know.”

“Take care of me.”

“Yeah.”

Will swallowed his pills as he let this settle in. “You’ve always tried to take care of me, haven’t you?”

“I’m your EP. That’s what I’m paid to do.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it.”

Mac bit her lip. This was getting a little too honest. “It’s what I’m talking about and all I will talk about.” She knew that Will would have an internal debate about whether to accept that because he knew it was the right choice or fight her because he knew they were getting somewhere. He might fight her just to fight, but that wasn’t likely. She needed to get the last word or she’d say too much. “Go ahead and nurse your hangover. Call me later if you want to discuss the placement of the bomber, but don’t expect that I’m going to budge.”

“I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Will heard her smile before she disconnected, saving him from another conversation he didn’t want to have with her. She always knew how far to push and when she had to pull back. When they were together he wondered if she instinctively knew how to do that with other anchors or if it came from the connection they had. Now there was no question in his mind that it came from their connection. He got in the shower and let his mind wander to her. Again. What he said that day was, “And, Mac, for the record, I think you’re sexy as hell, the most attractive woman I’ve ever seen in real life.  And if I met you before you pulled me into your rundown meeting, I would have taken you to dinner and back to my place without a second thought.  But you deserve better than that.” As he remembered, he knew that it was as true then as it is now. As he allowed his mind to wander, to remember, he wondered if she was doing the same thing he was. Was she worked up in the same way or was she just pissed off at him? He couldn’t blame her if she was. At the end of his shower, he felt gutted that they wouldn’t be able to ever have that again.

Chapter Text

May 2, 2010 11:57 PM

“You’re not out with some girl? Or did you have another problem you thought I should know about?”

Will did not want to hear it from Mac. It took him this long to to call her at all, and hearing her attack… “I thought you didn’t want to know about my personal life.”

“So should I feel special that you decided to spend this precious time with me?”

“Well, I feel special that you’re not sleeping with your ex-boyfriend.” It came off his tongue without thinking and he regretted it. “I’m sorry. That was out of line. I wanted to talk about what you sent. The Tea Party.”

She barely heard the second half of his statement as the comment about Brian hit her like a smack in the face.

“Mac?”

“I haven’t seen him in years.”

She’s not even listening to him. “You know, I don’t want to talk to you either, but at least I’m trying. I listen to you.”

“What the fuck are you even talking about? You ambush me. Almost every fucking night you call me up to complain about whatever the fuck is on your mind. And if you give me a break from that, you complain that I’m not, what? Fucking attentive enough?”

“Well if you don’t think you can handle the job.”

“Oh, don’t you fucking go there. I can handle you a hell of a lot better than any of your girlfriends.”

Will closed his eyes in frustration. He should just tell her that he’s only been out one other time. And then he can tell her that everything worked. She probably doesn’t need to know that last part, but it’ll make him feel better if she does. “And I suppose I should assume that you’ve been at a one-woman show since you’ve been back?”

“If you’re asking about my virtue, then, I’m virtuous. Spending every minute keeping you in line is exhausting work.”

“Well working with you is –“

“A delight?” At least it shut him up. “Okay Will, let’s start over. I doubt you called to find out about my sex life or because you wanted to revisit your disaster last night. Can we agree to stay out of each other’s personal lives and just keep things between us business? At least when you’re not drunk dialing me.”

Will’s first instinct was to say no. How the fuck did she think they would be able to stay out of each other’s personal lives. He deserved to know if she… he realized that wasn’t true. Not anymore. He doesn’t have rights on her and she doesn’t have any on him either. And he hated something about that.  “Yeah. And if I drunk dial you again, you can hang up. In fact, I would probably appreciate it if you did.”

“Yeah, you don’t want your ex-girlfriend to know when little Billy can’t lift off.” Will rolled his eyes, but chose not to say anything. Finally Mac broke the silence, “So, you called.”

“I went through the Tea Party research you sent. Very thorough.” Mac waited for him to say something else. Will tried to form his words around what he called to say. “Look, you do good work; that has never been in question.”

“Until you made it one last night.”

“I know. I don’t know why I said it.”

Mac quickly said, “Because you’re an ass and you want to control everything around you.”

“I do not.” He stopped a second and clarified, “I don’t. It’s my show Mac. My name. I sit in that fucking chair. I need to be sure. That’s not a control issue.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, Mac, I am.”

“You spent a week pissed off at me because I didn’t call you.”

Will rubbed his hand over his face. “I was wrong, okay? I’m sorry. I called to thank you for sending me your notes and to say that we can follow this story. But before we run it, I want to do a little more research myself. Not because I don’t trust your work, but because I have questions about the movement itself.”

“What questions?”

“They’re not questions of fact, but understanding. I just. I want to get my head around it a little more. I don’t know how to talk about them yet.”

“Fine. Take the time that you need.” Mac let her irritation out before taking a breath and saying more clipped than she wanted. “Do we need to talk about the bomber? I have a full show tomorrow that I think is solid.”

Will considered his answer. “Someone tried to blow up people. Can we at least put it at the top of the show and give it a 10 minute slot?”

Mac considered his idea. “It is pretty important, let’s put it top of the show, but for now we’ll give it three minutes and I’ll put a couple staff on this first thing. If there’s anything else to report, I’ll give it more time.”

Will couldn’t help baiting her.

“You want to hand this over to your teenagers.”

“They’re not my teenagers. They’re not even teenagers.”

“What the fuck else would you call them?”

Mac rolled her eyes. How did she let him get to this point where he can tease her like this? “Our 20 and 30 something highly qualified staff.”

“By highly qualified, you mean Ellen?”

Mac knew he knew Maggie’s name. “You know I’m still mad at you.”

“It’ll pass.” At least it always has.

“Just don’t fuck up again, McAvoy.”

Will smirked. “You know I will. It’s part of my charm.”

“Not always, Will.” Before he could say anything else, she said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight Mac.”

 

Chapter Text

May 7, 2010  12:07AM

“You went over my head!”

“What the fuck are you talking about this time, Will?”

“Instead of talking to me, you decided that I didn’t want to alienate my right wing viewers by poking too deep into the Tea Party, so you talked to my boss.  You and your liberal predilections are looking for the news that you want to do.”

Mac wondered how long it would take Charlie to talk to Will and how long it would take Will to come back at her.  She had her 1:1 with Charlie today and then he had meetings until the show started, so she didn’t expect this until tomorrow.  Mac assumed that Charlie took Will out for drinks after the show.  “Is that an official charge or are you still gathering evidence, Mr. Prosecutor?”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“It means if you want to go to 10:00 where the mandate is to bring in viewers, you can work with Don.  My mandate is to get you doing the fucking news.  And since you won’t talk to me about this story --”

“I told you I’m still getting my answers.  I read your research, I worked on this every night last week.  I said I --.”

“You did?”  It was the first thing that Will said today that surprised Mac. 

“I told you, Mac.  I said to you that night, I said I was in.  That’s what I meant.  I’m in.  I’m doing the fucking news.  What did you think I was doing?”

Last week she hoped he worked on the Tea Party.  He said he wanted to figure out where they came from and how they recruited, even though she said she wanted everyone to follow the money.  Then Sloane convinced her that he’d been out every night.  And then Saturday and the drunk dial… well, that would actually be evidence that he probably didn’t go out actually.  She couldn’t help smiling at that realization. 

“Not… that.  Our responsibility as journalists is to inform the electorate before they do something stupid in the voting booth.”

“Yes, I know what you think of as news.”

“Do you now?  Do you also know why, besides my liberal predilections, I would find these people scary?”

“So, Tea Partiers have made the same list as jellyfish?”

“Are you making fun of me?”

Will smiled.  “A little.”

“It’s a real phobia.  And I learned that peeing on someone doesn’t actually stop you from being poisoned.”

“I’m not even going to ask.”

Mac smiled, then sobered up.  He’s teased her a few times during these calls, but she missed it.  She missed this part of their relationship.  She missed laughing with him and she hated knowing that they had to get serious again.  “Are you going to let me cover them?”

“I don’t think they’re dangerous Mac.  There’s no way the establishment republicans will give them any power.  It’s a grassroots movement, it’ll get shut down.”

“And if I can get you evidence to the contrary?”

“There isn’t any.”

“Humor me.  If you’re given evidence, will you pursue it?”

Will didn’t like the way the call turned, though he can’t say he’s not getting use to these conversations.  They move so quickly from anger to teasing to light bickering to… His phone calls with other EPs didn’t go like this.  They didn’t happen very often in fact, just when he had a brainstorm in the middle of the night. 

“Why do you keep taking my calls?”

For the second time in this call Mac found herself completely dumbfounded.  “Excuse me?”

“My other executive producers.  They took my calls, but they didn’t go… like this.”

“Your other executive producers were too afraid of you to call you a dumbass to your face.”

Will knew she gave a kneejerk response, not the carefully considered answers that she typically gave.  That’s how he knew that he got her completely exasperated.  He used to enjoy pushing her to the point of exasperation, where she would scream ridiculous things.  Getting her there still makes him smile.  “You haven’t called me that.”

“It’s been between the lines.  But if you feel like I’m holding back, you’re a dumbass.”

Will gave her a belly laugh in response, a sound that made her happy.  It felt good to hear him enjoying something.  “I would never accuse you of holding back.  It’s just not in your nature.”

“I didn’t think so.”

The two got quiet again, neither sure where to go next, neither wanting to interrupt this moment.  When the moment went longer than Will felt comfortable with, he said, “You don’t laugh anymore.”

“What?”

“I haven’t seen you laugh at work, or even here, on the phone.  You used to laugh all the time.”  Will closed his eyes as he waited for her answer.  He felt vulnerable and scared of how she might respond, though he didn’t know what answer he wanted. 

Mac heard something in his voice that let her know that for whatever reason he really wanted a real answer to his not-quite-there question.  Thoughts went through her head of her time in Afghanistan, her visits with the CNN required therapists, her morning drink binges and dreams of becoming a pro bowler.  “A lot happened since we last worked together, Will.”

Will didn’t know what to say.  Part of him wanted to ask and know.  He sensed that her experience changed her and he wanted to know how, he wanted to know her again.  In a moment, he imagined hearing her tell war stories like he’s heard in history classes and books about war.  People he interviewed who had a haunted look in their eyes from what they’d seen.  When he tried to place her there, he had to close his eyes and he realized the only way he wanted to hear this would be in person when he could hold and comfort her.  Or maybe she would have to comfort him, remind him that she made it back.  She’d have to physically, not necessarily sexually, but physically remind him of her presence.  The idea made his heart pound in his chest.  He tried to remind himself that whatever happened to her happened because she chose to go there.  To stay there.  He wanted to go do something real and then she told him about Brian and he didn’t go, but she decided to stay.  She stayed there.  That wasn’t on him.  He didn’t make her do anything.  She chose to stay. 

He had to end this part of the call, and damn her, she gave him the out.  If she would have said something snarky he would have had to say something equally snarky until he got a truth out of her.  If she said something about the war he’d have to ask about it, he’d have to say something that would show he cared, and God damn it, he didn’t want to care.  He didn’t.  And he didn’t know why he even got them to this point where she fucking made him make a choice.  Does he ask the question?  Does he say something like, “what happened, Mac?  I want to know.” Or does he fucking show that he’s the asshole everyone thinks he is.  That maybe he really is.  God damn it, why couldn’t she make that choice for him? 

“I’m sure it did.”  Damn he’s such an asshole.  “You know, Mac.  If you need to talk… you know.”

Mac felt a tear well up in her eye.  She knew what he offered and why he couldn’t completely make the offer.  For her, he offered enough.  Wanting to make the offer, wanting to support her, even if he couldn’t, she couldn’t ask for more.  “Thanks, Will.”  Will answered with a defeated grunt, a noise she recognized.  She could only imagine what went through his mind, likely other times that he couldn’t protect the people he loved, the times he got blamed for his family getting punished.  “Will –“  She wanted to give him comfort.  She remembered waking up with him when he had nightmares.  He feared losing someone else he loved so he convinced himself that he didn’t love her.  He punished himself, he punished them because he feared hurting her.  She didn’t want him to go through that again.  She didn’t want him to blame himself for her choices. 

But she didn’t want him to hate her for overstepping and she didn’t want to tell him about it. She just didn’t see an upside.  He would blame himself, even though she didn’t blame him, and she would have to relive it.  She worked so hard to forget it all, going there with him…

“Hmmmm?”

She wondered if telling him later would give him hope or if it’s something he actually wanted.  If he did want it, want to talk to her about it, she would.  Eventually. 

“We need to cover the Tea Party.  Give your information another look and we can talk tomorrow.”

“Talk?” For a second he felt excited and scared at the same time.  Then he realized what she meant.  “You mean about the Tea Party.  Yeah, yeah, we can talk about that.”

“Good night Will.”

“Good night, Mac.”

Will hung up his phone and poured a drink, hearing his father’s voice in his head.  “You aren’t making anything better for them, you know.  You’re weak, you’ve always been weak.  If you were a real man, you could knock me the fuck out and protect them, but you can’t.  You can’t protect anyone...  You want to run away to college?  Go ahead.  Leave them.  Leave your family.  Show us all the asshole that you really are.  Prove that you never cared about them.”

Will took his drink and drank it in one gulp, then poured another.  He is that asshole.  He’s always been that asshole or else he would have been able to say he loved her when he knew it was true.  And then maybe.  Maybe.  NO, she hurt him.  It wasn’t his fault.  “You like to think you’re helping them, but you’re making it worse.  You never cared about anyone but yourself.”  He did care.  He did care about her.  He wanted to protect her, but he didn’t.  A real man wouldn’t let his woman step out on him like that.  He had to cut himself off from her.  He had to.  He didn’t know that she would end up there.  He didn’t think she would get hurt.  “You want to run away.  You’re going to be the big fucking college man.  You think you’re going to be better than us?  Get your ass out of this house.  No one wants you anyway.  Run away like the mother fucker you are.”  It’s true.  It’s always been easier to run.  To just walk away from his problems.  He thought it was noble.  Hiding his brother and sisters should have kept them safe, but it didn’t.  Going to college would give all of them a way out, but they didn’t want it.  They didn’t want him to come charging in like some sort of hero.  Cutting Mac out of his life… and now she’s back and he can’t.  He can’t ask her anything of significance, all he can do is be the weak asshole he’s always been. 

He looked at his phone.  He could call her back.  He could tell her he’s serious and he wants to hear and understand.  It wouldn’t be hard, just pick up the fucking phone and hit send.  He could let her know that she doesn’t have to face it alone, that he’ll…  But he can’t.  Because he’s weak and maybe he didn’t love her the way he thought, because if he did, he’d be able to do something so simple.  So he slammed the new drink down his throat and poured another.  He is an asshole, just like his father said.  He’s left every person he’s ever cared about.  He doesn’t know anything but running away.  Never calling.  Just ending those relationships, pretending they didn’t exist.  He called his mother twice a year when she was alive.  He talks to his sisters about as often.  He wrote off Mackenzie without a thought.  Because he never cared.  He doesn’t know what love is.  Why the fuck would she even want him?

He put his phone down and found his laptop.  She wants to cover the Tea Party.  He can’t give her what she needs most.  He can’t listen, he can’t hear her stories, can’t handle what he did to her.  But he can give her this.  He can be the perfect news man, a journalist that will make her proud.  He has to play to his strengths.  He may not be able to give her what she needs, but he can do this.  He will do this.  And maybe it will be enough.  Maybe if he works hard enough he can… something.  Earn something.  He doesn’t know how to fill in that blank, but he needs to.  He needs her to know that… that… that…  he’s not the asshole he’s always been.  Maybe that’s the best he can ever be. 

May 6, 2010 2:47 AM

Will heard his fax machine come to life.  He finally looked at the clock for the first time since getting off the phone with Mac.  He walked over to the machine and found a breakdown of Nevada’s polling data. 

“What the fuck?”

Will first thought this was the evidence that Mac said she could get, but then he remembered that she didn’t have or know how to use a fax machine.  He couldn’t think of anyone else that may have sent the information to him, but he started going through it hoping that it might turn into something.  It might just be the thing that gets him there, gets him the story that she wants.   

May 6, 2010 2:49 AM

Mac picked up her ringing phone.  Obviously Will couldn’t sleep any better than she could.  “What is it, Will?”

“Sorry to call so late, Mac.”

Mac took her phone from her ear and squinted at it.  “Charlie?”

“Can you come to my office tomorrow around 11:15?  Just come in the door, don’t knock.  I’ll tell Millie to let you though.”

“Um, uh, sure.  See you tomorrow.”

“See ya.”

Chapter Text

May 8, 2010 2:03AM

Mac’s phone rang waking her.  When she rolled over to look at the time, she swore at whoever decided to call her.  After tossing and turning for hours, literally hours, the fucking phone rings to wake her up.  Of course it has to be Will because who the fuck else would call at 2 fucking o’clock in the morning? 

She knew this would happen.  She waited.  She fucking stayed awake expecting his exuberant “the country loves me again” phone call.  She planned to feel him out before deciding whether to talk him down from his high or let him have a win.  She looked back at the clock while her phone rang a second time.  She knew exactly how she was going to deal with him. 

She started reaching for the phone and realized that they got off the air 5 hours ago.  She wondered what the fuck has he been doing?  It didn’t take long for her mind to conjure of pictures of what he likely did.  Some blonde she would assume.  He was proud of today’s show, so he found someone to cap the night off with.  She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she begrudgingly took the call. 

“THAT is how you do the news!”

“THAT is how you beat down a woman with a quarter of your IQ.”

She could hear the smug in Will’s voice as he said, “You’re being generous.”  He listened for the gleeful noise that would indicate she enjoyed the joke despite not wanting him to know.  When it didn’t come, he said, more frustrated than he intended, “What’s your fucking problem, Mac?  I thought you would be excited.  This is what you wanted, right?  To take down the Tea Party?”

“You covered the news, Will.  That should be your standard , not something worthy of spending all night with God knows who pouring Gatorade all over yourself and then calling me to gloat over your exploits.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?  And why the fuck aren’t you happy that I took on the Tea Party, just like you wanted?”  He stopped himself short of saying he did it for her.  Even he couldn’t pretend that wasn’t the reason and he fucking wanted her to appreciate it.

“I am fucking happy that you took them on.  And I’m happy because it’s the fucking news!  But I don’t need you to call me up at 2 in the morning after finding some other woman to celebrate with.  I told you before that I don’t want to know about your sex life.”

Will knew that he could diffuse this conversation by telling her that Charlie took him out for drinks and that when he got home he rewatched the broadcast.  He told himself that he would tell her the truth... eventually... but first,  “I am a single adult who has the right to go and do whatever I want with whoever I want.  So if I want to –”

“You’re such an ass.  Are you just trying to hurt me?”

That was it.  She wanted to talk about hurt?  She wanted to compare wounds?  He could win this fight without even trying.  Just like that interview with Gloria Hansen.  “I’m not the one who fucking came uninvited back into your life, Mackenzie.  Do you know what’s it’s like to have to work with you every day and only see the back of his head?  So, yeah, maybe I want to put that image in yours.  Let you know what that’s like.”

“So is that what this is going to be?  Three years of getting woken up in the middle of the night so you can gloat over your sexual conquests?”

Will heard the hurt in her voice and he felt ashamed.  In his head he knew that she deserved everything he gave her.  In his heart, he felt the pain he put her through.  “Any day you want it to end, Mac.”  He didn’t know where that came from, but he hated himself just a little for saying it. 

“You know I’m not going to quit.  And you also know that I’m not going to fawn all over you and your news anchor slash prosecutor prowess.  So why the fuck did you call me?  After a night of whatever the hell you do, you decided that you needed just one more person to tell you how great you are?  I’m not doing it Will.  No matter how much you fucking think you need validation.”

Will had a small voice inside his head telling him to talk to her, find out what’s going on.  It’s not like her to lash out at him like this.  But he couldn’t see past his own anger.  Who the fuck was she to unload on him?  She was the one who cheated.  Even if he had been with someone, it was none of her God damned business.  “Validation?  That’s why you think I called, because I needed fucking validation from you?”

“I honestly don’t know, why did you call?”

Will had to take a second to figure out an answer to the question.  He really didn’t know.  Maybe he’d fallen into a habit again.  He used to call her every night after broadcasts.  When she wasn’t his EP, she was careful not to give him notes, but he’d call and on those few occasions that he did cover the news, he would hear the smile and the pride in her voice.  He loved hearing that, knowing that he had done something that she found to be spectacular.  Did he need to hear that tone again?  He didn’t need it, but he thought he’d hear some of it.  “Well, you’re, you know.”

“There’s my articulate newsman.”

Okay.  He wanted to hear it.  He didn’t need to.  He didn’t need her approval or her pride.  He didn’t need to imagine her smiling at his good job.  That sexy smile that she used to shoot him.  The way she looked at him after they did start working together and they did an amazing broadcast.  He really didn’t need that, that image in his head. 

But he missed it.  He missed seeing how excited she got when he did news well.  He wished, just for a second, he wished that she could materialize in his apartment.  That he could reach out and touch her and ask her what’s wrong.  But he knew he couldn’t, because if he did touch her, if he did feel her skin, he wouldn’t want to stop and he’d hate himself in the morning.  But he still wanted her.  He wanted her companionship.  Her friendship.  And of course everything else.  With her, it was never an either/or, it was all of the above and he missed it. 

And for just a moment, he missed her.  And in a moment that later he thought was weakness, he had to know.  He had to ask.  He couldn’t stop himself. 

“Mac, what’s going on?  This isn’t like you.  Did something happen?”

She heard the sound of his voice.  He tried to extend an olive branch.  He called her to gloat or to make sure she was his biggest fan.  But something happened, something changed and now he’s trying.  He wants to reach out.  But between her anger and her shame and the image of him with some random woman… If she answers his question, how long will it be before he takes it back, stays true to form and lashes out.  Feels like he’s getting too close to the fire and pulls back.  She wants to trust him, but she can’t and she knows it. 

But he’s trying.  And maybe… maybe for trust to work one of them has to take a step.  Maybe… maybe he’s already taken the first one. 

“It’s not a big deal, Will.  Camille is in town.  Has been for a week and we’re getting together for the first time tomorrow.”

Will sat in his couch stunned.  He had no idea what this meant, why it would cause Mac any discomfort?  All the McHale children were close.  Camille was Mac’s oldest sister and fiercely protective of her.  When Mac announced that she would continue her work in the Middle East, Camille called Will repeatedly, cussing him out, trying to get him to talk Mac out of it. 

“I don’t understand.  You and Camille are so close.”

Mac heard the tentativeness in his voice.  He didn’t understand, and she couldn’t expect him to.  He had an idealized image of the McHale family.  They accepted him as their much older brother immediately.  They loved him, almost as much as she did.  “We were.  But, uh, I haven’t seen her since I left for the Middle East.”

“She didn’t want you to go.  Or to stay, I guess.”

“I know.  She wanted to keep me safe.  That’s what big sisters are supposed to do.”

Will thought about his own family, “Big brothers are charged with that as well.”

Mac put her head down in shame.  He probably didn’t think she heard him, but she did.  “She knew, Will.  She was the only one that did. Mom may have figured it out, but I had breakfast with her the day after it started and I couldn’t keep it from her.  She was so disappointed in me.  She told me I should tell you, right then, before things got out of hand.  But I didn’t listen.”

Weekends are Mac’s escape.  It’s the one time that she doesn’t have to look in Will’s beautiful blue eyes and be reminded of her regrets.  Of her mistakes. 

Will squeezed his eyes shut. “Is that what you’re afraid of?  That after not seeing you for three years the first thing she’s going to say is ‘I told you so’?”  Will gave a little huff of exasperation.  “Even I know her better than that.”

“Will, she took your side!”

Will shifted on his couch, trying to understand what she meant.  “What?”

“When a couple breaks up all the friends and family feel like they have to take one side or the other.  When we broke up, she took your side.  And I don’t blame her.”

Will laughed a little.  “Is that what happens?”

“Of course you wouldn’t know.  Everyone took your side, and they should have.”

Will couldn’t stop laughing if he wanted to.  “I think you’re wrong.  I fired most of our friends and my family didn’t figure out we weren’t together until the Erin Andrews pictures came out.  Peg called me immediately and asked what the fuck I did to you.”

Mac could feel tears welling in her eyes, but still she had to smile.  “Peg!  She always said she would take my side.”

“And she did.”  When Will’s sister Peg called to yell at him for cheating on Mac, Will heard their father in the background, cheering him on.  He felt sick.  Will took a breath to clear those memories.  “And even if Camille was Team Will, she was on the phone calling me every name in the book when you announced you were going to stay in Afghanistan.  I had to eventually block her number.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”  Will thought for a second.  “Mac, I don’t know what images your mind is conjuring up about your visit tomorrow, but I can guarantee you that’s not what’s going to happen.”

“And how do you think it will go?”

Will stretched his legs out in front of himself and put them on his coffee table.  “Well, it’s the two of you, so, when you see each other there will be a lot of squealing and running.  And I half expect you to trip and blame it on something that isn’t there.” He heard her breathing change, like she was smiling.  And then you’ll go to a coffeehouse where you both will insist on paying, but she’ll win because she will just physically move you out of the way.  Once you get back to your table, she’ll show you pictures from wherever she’s been.  And –,”  Will had to stop.  The next part of the story would be Mac telling Camille about what she’s been up to, but somehow Will just knew that she won’t.  She doesn’t want to talk about her time away.  “And then, you’ll suggest going shopping.  And by lunch, everything will feel natural to you.”

Mac bit her lip as she smiled.  This felt right.  It felt like it used to.  Will supporting her, letting her know it’ll be okay.  But part of her knows that they can’t keep this up.  She wants to believe in the hope that this moment gives her, but she knows better. 

Will started feeling uncomfortable with the silence, so he filled it.  “Take it from a big brother, she’s not going to tell you if she’s disappointed in you.  She wants the connection with you.  That’s all she wants.”

Mac could hear him choking back some of his own thoughts.  “You’re probably right.  Thanks, Will.”  They both let the silence linger a little longer than was comfortable.  Mac finally added, “When was the last time you talked to Peg?”

“Mac…”

Mac smiled, “Take it from a little sister, she wants to hear from you.  Neither of you know how to do it, but one of you needs to take a step.”

Will felt his head slowly bob up and down.  “I know.  I know.”

When the silence lingered again, Mac said, “I should try to get some more rest before Camille and I start squealing at each other.”

“You’re coming close to laughing, I can hear it.”

“Thanks, Will.”

“You’re welcome.”  Will was about to hang up his phone, but he needed to say one more thing.  “Uh, Mac.”

“Yes.”

“After the show, I went out for drinks with Charlie and then I came back here to rewatch the show.”  When she didn’t say anything, he added, “Alone.  I came home and watched it alone.”

He didn’t have to say that, but he chose to give her that gift.  She felt a tear run down her cheek.  “Thanks, Will.”

She heard him disconnect the call and she felt a flood of emotions.  Once she collected herself, she picked her phone back up and texted him, “I was proud of you and our show.  Call your sister in the morning.”

It didn’t take long for her to get a response, “Thanks.  I will.”

Mac smiled as she turned off her phone.  She didn’t need much from him.  She hurt him and it would take a long time before she had completely paid her penance for that.  But moments like that, just little moments where she can remember the real Will, the one she fell in love with.  As long as she has a one of those every once in a while, she can stick through anything he puts her through. 

Chapter Text

May 8, 11:07 PM

Mac got home and dropped the bags of things she bought with Camille’s help in her living room, then fell into her chair and smiled.  She missed her sister.  After she went to Brian’s place the first time while dating Will, Mac told Camille immediately because she knew she made a mistake and she wanted her sister’s advice.  Camille tried not to judge her, but from that moment on, Mac always felt her sister’s disappointment in her.  She couldn’t bear the idea of someone being disappointed.  Angry goes away with time.  Hurt, she always felt like she could make up for it.  Disappointed?  There’s no remedy for it.  It’s been just over 4 years since that May morning that she talked to Camille and finally, finally she felt like her sister didn’t look at her with that same scorn that she’d felt until now. 

Mac wanted to tell Will all about it.  He was right and he would want to know that.  And, well, they shared a moment last night.  Despite everything, they found a way to be friends.  She hurt him, she knew that and she couldn’t take it back, but maybe… maybe she did enough to broker a friendship between them.  That’s why he probed and… she trusted him and he didn’t turn on her.  He’d want to know and frankly she wanted to tell him.  It wouldn’t be just like it used to, but it would be close enough.

She pulled out her phone and found Will’s number quickly.  She pressed his voice sounded off but she didn’t pay much attention to it. 

“You were right Will.  Camille saw me and we, well, I wouldn’t say we squealed, but we were so happy to see each other and we talked all day and went shopping and it was a great day.”

Mac heard confusion in his voice as he said, “Mac?”

Suddenly the world around her went silent and she felt like someone just sucker punched her in the stomach.  She couldn’t breathe for a moment.  When she got her wits about her again, she tried to keep her voice calm and said, “Are you, uh?  Are you getting ready for a shower?”

She willed the tears to stay in her eyes as she waited for Will to answer.  To come up with some explanation for the shower that was going in the background.  When Sloane suggested that Will had been screwing every woman in the tristate area a couple weeks ago, it was just an idea.  And he said it wasn’t true.  When he drunk dialed her, he let her know that he couldn’t go through with it.  Even last night, he ended the call by telling her that he didn’t sleep with some random stranger.  Or worse someone he’s been getting to know.  But really, this had to happen sometime.  She always knew that at some point the fact that he was finding companionship with someone while she lived just a few subway stops away from him would happen.  And she always knew that it would feel almost exactly like this. 

“Yeah, um, the water’s been doing something funny, it takes a few minutes, to heat up.”

Mac tried to laugh to cover her cry, “You’re such a horrible liar.  But thanks for trying.  I shouldn’t have called.  I’ll, uh… You go and I’ll see at work on Monday.”

“Mac, don’t –”

It was too late.  He didn’t want to hurt her.  Not this time.  A voice in his head told him that it served her right.  Now she knows what it feels like.  But he didn’t pay any attention to that voice.  He wanted to call her back, to… to say… something.  He didn’t know what he could say.  He wasn’t sorry that he did it, the best he could come up with was being sorry that she found out.  And that didn’t seem good enough. Fuck!

May 9, 12:56AM

“I’m sorry, Mac.”

“For what?  You have every right to…”  Mac couldn’t get the words unstuck from her throat.  She tried again.  “It’s Saturday night, Will.  I should have known that you wouldn’t want to spend a Saturday night alone.”

“I don’t want to hurt you, Mac.  I never did.”

Mac choked back her immediate reaction.  “Never?  You scream at me in the middle of the newsroom.  You kept going –”

“Okay, okay.  I’ve wanted to see you hurt.  I’ve wanted to see you hurt at my hands.  But it’s never been premeditated.  It’s just a natural reaction to…” seeing her.  Remembering her.  Remembering that he can’t be with her like that anymore. 

“I know, Will.”  And she does.  She can read him better than anyone.  She knows that most of the time if he wasn’t screaming at her, he’d take her in his arms and he doesn’t know what to do with that.

“I just want you to know, it wasn’t a punishment.  I wasn’t…”

“Then why did you pick up the phone?”  It wasn’t an accusation, she genuinely wanted to know.  She believed him when he said that he didn’t intend to hurt her.  At least this time.  But he could have avoided this by just not answering the phone. 

“I don’t know.  I wasn’t thinking.  It was just a natural reaction.  The phone rings, I answer.  But I wish I didn’t.”

Mac nodded her head, still feeling numb.  “I know.  I believe you.  It just surprised me.  I wasn’t expecting…”

“Yeah.”  Will took a breath.  “So, are we okay?”

“I think so.  We just need to be more careful.  I told you before that I don’t want to know about your sex life, so don’t answer the phone if you’re, uh, not alone.”

“And if I drunk dial you, hang up on me immediately.”

“Right.  And uh, afterwards, after she’s gone.  Don’t do any work that you think you need input on.  Just take the rest of the night off.”

“Should we be writing these down?”  Will smiled.  He knew that she wasn’t but he desperately wanted to make this awkwardness end.  “I mean, when you have a date, I expect the same consideration.”

Mac wanted to protest.  She couldn’t imagine wanting anyone with Will around her every day, but he was right.  She doesn’t need to stay home alone every night trying to make him better.  She tried to smile as she said in a teasing voice, “Who says I haven’t already?”

For a second, Will’s heart hurt.  He couldn’t tell if she told the truth or not, but he knew that he didn’t want her dating anyone.  For a moment he imagined having to see her serious with someone else, going to wedding where he wasn’t the groom.  He dismissed the thought.  “Are you?”  He hoped that he sounded casual, like he didn’t care.  Because he shouldn’t, especially after what he just did.

“Do you really want to know?”  It came out quickly, but as Mac thought about her answer, she decided it was the best one that she could give.  She didn’t want her ex-boyfriend who was creating a ladies man image, to know that she hadn’t, it made her feel pathetic. 

Will knew that tone of voice.  She hasn’t, and he could let her keep her pride intact, by not calling her out.  Will took another second.  “Well then, I guess we have a set of rules.  I’ll keep the rules as long as you do.”

Mac felt herself biting down on her bottom lip.  She tried to inject humor in her voice as she said, “You know, we won’t get to talk as much after work if we both have active social lives and live with these rules.”

Will’s heart sank.  He didn’t mean to get used to these calls again, but he has.  But she’s right.  They probably should cut back on them.  He should show her that amount of respect.  “That’s probably for the best.”

“Yeah.”

“I mean.  Mac, I want you to know that I respect you enough that I won’t throw this in your face.  Okay.”

Mac felt tears welling up in her eyes.  “Thank you Will.”

 Will felt his head shake.  “Okay. Well, uh, I’ll see you on Monday.  And Mac, really, I am sorry.”

“Don’t be.  I’ll talk to you later.”

Will hung up and slumped down in his chair feeling a burning sensation in his chest.  He didn’t want to hurt her.  This time he didn’t.  And now he felt like he just lost his best friend. 

Mac hung up the phone and put it on her nightstand.  She didn’t want anyone else.  That’s the part that hurt the most.  She felt a tear roll down her cheek.  The first time she slept with Brian while she was with Will, she woke up at Brian’s place when Will texted her.  She remembered allowing herself to fall asleep because she couldn’t face the hotel bed that Will was in just a week before.  From that moment until the day she told him the truth she imagined what a breakup with him would feel like.  She hoped during that year and three months that it would look like this.  This was her best-case scenario.  And while it didn’t hurt like it did three years ago, this still felt like a breakup.  Her second break up with the perfect guy. 

Chapter Text

May 9, 2010 2:43AM

“Hey Mac, sorry to wake you, but I wanted to know.  I mean, I’ve been laying here.”

Mac looked at her clock and sighed.  “Will, do you know what time it is?”

“It’s 2:43.”

“Didn’t we just say you wouldn’t call the night after you, you know.”

“I know.  But I thought since I’m not working and you already know, we could… make an exception.”

“Why would we do that?”

It was a good question.  Will didn’t know anymore why he called.  It felt silly.  He couldn’t sleep and he kept replaying that conversation over in his mind.  He didn’t want it to end like that.  He felt like he lost something and he wanted to see if he could fix it.  “Because you called… and you were excited about your sister… and… I don’t know, I couldn’t sleep and I wanted to know how it went.  It sounded like it went well?”

What the fuck was he doing?  It’s 2:30AM.  It’s even later than that.  Mac squinted her eyes and sat up in her bed.  “It did.  It went well.  Just like you said it would.  I mean no squealing and I didn’t trip over anything.”

“Real or imagined?”  He couldn’t help teasing her.  He regretted so much about their earlier conversation, things that didn’t sit right with him, even if the rules were for the best.  But this, he realized that not having this conversation… he missed that most of all.

“I didn’t trip.  And we didn’t squeal.”  She felt herself smiling.  “It was just nice.  It was nice to see her again.  She had just finished an assignment near the equator taking pictures of the Galápagos penguin.  You should see some of them.”

Will sat up against the headboard of his bed and smiled, listening to the sound of her voice.  “I remember.  She was talented.”  There was a picture she took at a cliff that he used to bring Mac to when they dated the first time.  She got a picture of the back of a couple, the man playing guitar with the woman’s head on his shoulder.  Mac had commissioned the picture for his birthday.  She said it reminded her of their first date.  He proudly put it over the fireplace.  After she left, he took it down.  He wondered what he did with it.  He didn’t think he threw it away.  He threw a lot of things away, but… he remembered looking at it and thinking… something.  He should look for it.  If he finds it, maybe he can give it back to Mac.  She was the one who put up pictures.  He imagined she had the walls of her apartment cluttered with pictures. 

“She really is.”  Mac got quiet for a second and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I suggested she come to ACN and talk to someone at the morning show about covering a camera.  Maybe do some location work, something like that.”

Will scoffed.  “Why would I mind?  She would be great at that!”

“Well, you said that she called you and… I just don’t want there to be any awkwardness if you see each other in the hall or anything.”

Will shook her head.  “None from me.  Besides, you said she took my side, right?”

Mac could tell he was okay with it.  She’d have to tell Camille.  She wanted to suggest the three of them going to lunch sometime, but thought better of it.  “She did.  But I think she likes me better now.”

“I can win her over again.”

Mac smiled.  “You probably can.”  She thought for a second.  “So, did you call Peg?”

Will took a deep breath.  “She’s an old woman.  A call from her brother may give her a heart attack.”

“She’s two years younger than you!  And the only way a call from her brother would give her heart attack is if it came from the one that died a few years ago!”

Will couldn’t argue that point.  “Well, maybe.  But, it’s not as easy for me.  Besides, this call is about you.  I wanted to make sure your visit went well. Family’s more important to you than to me.”

“Will, family’s pretty damned important to you too, or else you wouldn’t be so interested in mine.  The difference is I’m as close to mine as you want to be to yours.”

Will laughed, even though his heart wasn’t in it.  “Is that what you think?”

“You haven’t figured that out yet?  Or had some highly paid professional tell you that?”

Will took a turn thinking.  He hadn’t thought about that, and Abe never said it to him, but he couldn’t find a flaw in her logic.  “No, you’re the first.  But I called to find out how your sister was and I’m glad, Mac.  I’m glad you reconnected with her.  I should let you go.  I’m sorry I woke you up.”

She’s losing him, she can tell.  “Will, I’m not going to be able to go to sleep now.”

“Then I guess I’m even more sorry.”

“Are you too tired to get your guitar out?”

Will laughed.  “You want me to try to sing you to sleep?”

“It always worked before.”

Will laughed at her teasing tone.  “No, it didn’t! It usually ended with you riding me.”

“And then we’d cuddle and fall asleep.”

Will didn’t know how they got to this point, but he was pretty sure they needed to stop.  “Good night, Mac.”

Mac didn’t know what she thought she would get from going there, it came out of her mouth without thinking, but she can’t say she’s sorry she said it.  “Good night Will.  And Will?”

Will knew what to expect from her next statement, but he also knew he couldn’t stop her from saying it.  “Yes?” He said with gritted teeth.

“Call your sister when you wake up or I’ll call her for you.”

Will couldn’t help laughing.  “Sure, Mac.  First thing in the morning.”

Both of them hung up, knowing he had no intention of calling.  Mac put it in her planner to call Peg in the afternoon and hope she would take Mac’s call. 

Chapter Text

May 9, 2010 4:47PM

Will hung up the phone and smiled to himself.  He thought anger should pour from every molecule in his body, but he couldn’t help laughing.  She did it.  Mac actually called his sister and told her that he is a “stubborn ass who won’t admit that he needs people”.  Poor Peg didn’t know what to say.  Peg wanted to say “fuck you” to Mac for having the audacity to call her after what Mac did to her brother.  But, Peg couldn’t disagree with Mac’s assessment.  And Will thought that Mac won his sister over more than Peg wanted to admit.  He would have said that to Peg, but didn’t want to be accused of projecting. 

Will forced himself to get serious before calling Mac.  He wanted to see how far he could get telling her she was out of line to call his sister, then thank her for it.  Play the asshole and then be sincere.  Because he appreciated it, he appreciated that time with Peg and he wouldn’t have had it without Mac’s interference.  He had to admit that she still knew the best thing for him and what he wants, usually better than he did.  He appreciated that about her, she somehow always just knew.  Whether choosing the right story or clothes for him or… recreational activities, as long as he’s known Mackenzie McHale, she has always known the exact right thing to do.  It was one of the things that made him fall in love with her the first…

Will stopped and shook his head, scrubbing his hand over his face.  He can’t go down this road.  He can’t do this again.  Where does appreciating her stop and… maybe that’s it.  Maybe all he can do is appreciate her.  Because he can’t let this get out of hand.  He can’t let her have that power over him and break his heart again.  He just can’t. 

He looked at his phone, at her number waiting for the command to dial.  She was out of line.  She was.  Even if her intentions were good, she shouldn’t have called his sister.  His family is none of her business.  His relationships, period, are none of her business.  The ends don’t justify the means.  What she did was out of line, it wasn’t cute. 

And if he could just convince himself of that, then maybe all of this will get easier.  He wants nothing more than to believe that she was wrong.  He wants to get angry at her interference.  But convincing himself would take more time.  He looked at his phone again, locked it and put it back in his pocket.  He can’t trust himself to call her. 

May 9, 2010 9:34PM

Mac could barely sit still wanting to know what happened.  She just knew that Peg called Will, probably as soon as she got off the phone with Mac.  She imaged Will rolled his eyes the second Peg said Mac called, but then they had a good conversation.  They had to.  Will and Peg were always the McAvoy siblings who were closest.  That wasn’t saying much, but they were.  There was a 2-year age gap between Will and Peg.  Will was 10 years older than their brother Les and 12 years older than Nancy.  Will started college before Nancy started kindergarten.  Mac got to see Will with his sisters after Les passed away.  Losing his brother affected Will more than he wanted to admit.  It reminded him that he couldn’t protect his siblings, or anyone else.  It just so happened that she figured out that she loved Will just before Les passed away, so she got to really be there for Will at his brother’s funeral. 

Mac decided that if Will wouldn’t call her, she’d call him and ask how it went.  Certainly, he expects her call.  Actually, she expected him to call after talking with Peg.  She started wondering why he hasn’t called.  She remembered the sound of his shower going the last time she called and tried to dismiss the idea.  It’s Sunday.  He wouldn’t… would he?  Two nights in a row?  Would he be with the same… 

She has to stop this.  She can’t assume that every time she thinks about calling he’s going to be busy.  She decided to call.  And listened to the phone ring. 

Will heard his phone ring and looked at the caller ID.  He put it away.  He told himself he did it because Charlie and Elliot came by to watch a game.  He almost convinced himself of that.  As it turns out, lying, even to oneself, gets easier with practice. 

May 10, 2010 12:12AM

“Hey Mac, sorry I missed your call.  I had some of the guys over to watch a game and I couldn’t get away.  In case you were wondering, I did talk to my sister.  She still likes me better.  I’ll see you tomorrow, Mac.”  Will hung up the phone, a little relieved that Mac didn’t answer.  Maybe she was in the shower.  Doesn’t matter where she was, not talking to her right now is probably safer than talking to her. 

Mac heard her phone ding indicating a voicemail message.  She picked up the phone and listened to Will’s voice.  He said it was a night with the guys.  She didn’t know if she can believe him. 

 

Chapter Text

May 13, 2010 10:23PM

“What the fuck happened today?”

“Well good evening, Will.  How nice to hear from you.  I was afraid you had completely stopped talking to me, but you sound in good voice this evening.”

“Nice.  Did you practice that?  Because your delivery could use a little work.”

“Then I guess your job is in no danger from me.  I guess we should go back to you doing your job and I'll do mine.”

Will refused to get dissuaded.  Just a few days ago he thought, he actually thought… Fuck, it didn’t matter what he thought.  She’s playing games with him and his show and her flip attitude now shows it.  “Well, that would be a hell of a lot easier to do if you actually did your fucking job!”

“I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  Mac readied herself for battle.  She knew he didn’t like the rundown today.  Not that she blamed him, she hated it too.  A month ago she said that they would cover the BP oil spill in the D block, tonight a report about it led off the show.  No one wanted that.  But they can’t tear down the Tea Party in every show.  There has to be some strategy to it.  If they burn their Tea Party contacts, or burn out their audience on the Tea Party too soon, they won’t be effective closer to the election.

“The hell you don’t!  BP, Mac?  Fucking BP?  Where’s the politics?  Where the fuck are our guests from the Tea Party?  I thought I was clear that I wanted to start the show every night with them!”

“Well, if you want to spend your day inviting every Tea Party nominee to a 10-minute cross examination, then it’ll free up half our staff!”

“Then where the fuck are the stories?  Don’t we have people researching, finding something for me to report on to bury them?  This was your fucking crusade!”

“That you jumped on.  Why did you jump on that do you think?”

Will rolled his eyes and shook his head, “I can’t wait to hear your fucking hypothesis.”

“And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“What does it sound it like?  You spend all day every day trying to figure me out like I’m a lab rat that you can teach to run a maze.”

“I do not –” Mac tried to correct him, but he kept going.

“Give Will just a little of what he wants and he’ll perform, then fucking take it away with the promise that it will come back if he acts good enough.”

Mac had to stop to process what he just said.  “What the fuck are you talking about?  You’re a news anchor, I bring you the best stories my staff and I can find.”

“My staff, Mac.  They’re my staff!  You just –”  When Will couldn’t fill in that blank, he knew he lost that point to her.

“I just what, Will?  I just lead them?  I nurture and support and bring out the best in them?  And what exactly do you do besides bitch and moan and tell them they aren’t doing enough?  And if you EVER yell at a member of the staff again –”

“I’ll fucking yell at anyone the hell I want.  If they can’t give me what I want, then I’ll find a staff that will.  They’re not doing enough!  Not when we’re covering a report on BP and we haven’t said the word Tea Party!”

“That’s two words.  And if you want to find a way to sneak it into your script tomorrow, I’ll approve it.  But the team –”

“Oh, God damn it Mac.  It’s not about the team!  The fucking team is fine, it’s their EP who isn’t –”

“Yes?  What exactly is it that their EP isn’t doing?”  Mac couldn’t wait to hear his answer. 

“You tell me!  You have all these fucking resources and you approve a story on BP.  What isn’t happening that should be?”

“Oh, fuck you.  In fact, why don’t you go out to wherever the fuck you go and find someone who will put up with your shit for a night.  I’m over it.”

Mac hung up the phone and stormed to her bathroom, still seething mad.  He’s been like this all week.  On Monday, Will avoided her.  He did everything he could to stay out of her sight line the entire day, even skipping a rundown so he didn’t have to look at her.  She needed to talk to him about his script, and could only corner him in hair and makeup.  She doesn’t like to make a change then, but she didn’t have any other time.  When she showed him what she wanted to change, he told her to do what she wanted and dismissed her.  She made the changes, got them to the prompter and he followed the old script.  She had to chase him to his office where he said he forgot to look at the change and had his script memorized.  She told him to get his head into the game. 

Tuesday, they didn’t get a Tea Party guest until late.  Tess got someone just before the final rundown, after Will loudly asked the team where the fuck his Tea Party member was.  He seemed appeased when she said she got one for Tuesday and one for Wednesday, if they wanted it.  Mac began to say that they needed to pace themselves, but he cut her off and said, “Tea Party, every night.  No exceptions.”  Mac chased him into his office and asked if he heard her say no.  He said he did, but as managing editor, he will make that decision.  This turned into a huge fight that everyone on staff heard.  It took Charlie coming into the room to get them to stop arguing.  Charlie made the decision that they would run the guest on Wednesday, and then he wanted to see Mac’s strategy for the Tea Party.  Mac spent Tuesday night writing it out, and even tried to call Will for advice, but he didn’t answer his phone.  She wanted to believe that he was pouting at home, but she didn’t know if she drove him to someone else. 

When Will didn’t contribute a single word to either of Wednesday’s first two rundown meetings, she went to his office and asked what the fuck was going on.  It didn’t take long for her storm out of his office, slamming both his door and hers when she got there.  Jim carefully knocked on her door a few minutes later and took her to lunch. 

Today, Charlie made spontaneous visits to their rundown meetings, saying he had a break in his schedule and wanted to see what his flagship show was up to.  No one believed him.  This of course kept Will in line, but he’s been waiting, just biting at the nip to go another few rounds with her, like she’s his own personal punching bag.  But she doesn’t get it.  What changed?  They seemed to have had a good conversation on Saturday night.  He called her to find out about her visit with her sister.  And then… nothing.  He didn’t call at all this week.  He didn’t call after Peg must have called him.  Maybe that didn’t go as well as it should have and he blames her.  Whatever the fuck happened, she doesn’t have the energy to deal with it right now.  Tomorrow is Friday, they usually take it easy on Friday unless there’s a big story.  If she can just make it through 24 more hours, then she’ll have the weekend to recharge and then go another few rounds with him next week. 

This is her life now. 

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Will hung up the phone, no calmer than he was when he called.  His first instinct was to call her back, but instead he threw his phone down, seething at the audacity of that woman.  How dare she?  What the fuck was she doing back here?  In his life?  Uninvited.  Confusing the hell out of him.  He’s fucking over her.  He is.  But there she is, everywhere he looks.  He can’t get rid of her.  On Sunday, after the call with Peg, he almost thought it.  And it scared the shit out of him.  He cannot fall in love with her again.  Not after what she did to him.  Why the fuck did she come back?  Why the fuck won't she take the hint and just leave?  That's what she does, isn't it?

Will sat on his couch and turned on the TV, mindlessly watching the end of a game.  It’s been fucking like this all week.  On Monday, he thought she was picking fights with him, barging into his hair and makeup time, like she fucking belonged there.  She should know better than to talk to him while he got the last details of the show straight in his head.  And then she fucking attacked him after the show for, what?  Not knowing that she made an insignificant change to the script?  Tuesday when he didn’t see a Tea Party member on the rundown, he reminded her that she wanted to pursue this.  She wanted to do the fucking news.  That was her objective.  He’s gone along with her and now when he’s really excited about something, she fucking takes it away.  He thought everything was okay when Tess said she had a guest for both Tuesday and Wednesday.  And he didn’t hear her start to turn down Wednesday’s guest.  Okay, he did, but it he gets to make that call.  He sits in the fucking chair.  He is the Managing Editor.  And that means something.  Wednesday, well… he could admit that on Wednesday he probably did fly off the handle a little, but she gave it right back to him.  And Charlie making unscheduled visits yesterday and today just proved that she had been unreasonable as fuck all week. 

He really should call her back and they can finish this.  It’s 10:27 on Thursday night.  He can’t do it for another hour and a half, but he can do it.  He has that power.  And it will get her away from him for good.  And then he’ll never have to think about her again.  Just an hour and a half.  He just has to wait until the stroke of midnight, and then he can send her an email, subject line, You’re Fired!  And then of course she’ll call him back and beg for her job. 

Will stopped and cocked his head.  No, she won’t.  She’ll go to her office before anyone gets there collect her things.  She’ll call Jim and give him some instructions for tomorrow’s show and then… then he’ll never hear from her again.  At least until Charlie hunts her down and brokers some deal between them.  Will nodded his head as he imagined the scenario playing out.  Charlie believed in her and in them as anchor and EP.  He would find a way to overrule Will’s decision.  Will still doesn’t have EP approval.  He couldn’t get that in the renegotiation.  His mind went back to the idea of her cleaning out her office and walking out before anyone could see her, before he could say goodbye.  He would have to explain to the staff that things didn’t work out.  But that’s not entirely true, is it?  They aren’t doing the show they should be doing, but… and they don’t get along.  Sometimes they get along, but not always.  He would have to go into the office and see hers empty.  Once again, she would leave his life.  And who knows where the fuck she’d end up this time. 

Not that he cares. 

Will looked at his watch again.  10:28, he can’t do it.  He turned firing EPs into an art form, and now he can’t. 

Fuck!

Chapter Text

May 18, 10:17 PM

Mac sat at the News Night booth at Hang Chews listening to Neal tell a story that made Jim laugh hysterically.  Mac laughed along having no idea what the two men were talking about.  When she heard her phone ring she put it to her ear without looking at the caller ID, stepping away from their table, a little relieved by the break. 

“This is Mac.”

“Hey, it’s me.”

Mac didn’t know who she expected, but she didn’t expect Will’s voice on the other end of the phone.  “Will?  Is everything alright?” Will hadn't called since last week when he seemed to need someone to verbally beat up.

Will looked around his office trying to figure out the answer to her question.  Why the fuck is he calling her?  Things have been tense.  She has been tense for a week.  Charlie thought that maybe if they got together and had a drink or something, maybe things would settle down.  "You can reconnect," Charlie said with a twinkle in his eye.  Will ran out of ways to argue with his boss about that idea, so he begrudgingly agreed and now he felt obligated to extend the fucking invitation and get it over with.  

“Everything’s fine.  Charlie thought we should go out for drinks and talk.”

Mac couldn’t help the image in her head of Will as sullen kid whose mother forced him to apologize to another kid who didn’t do anything deserving of his ire.  Mac smiled as she said, “Charlie thought that.  What does Will think?”

“Will’s on the fucking phone with you, isn’t he?”

“Since when does Will talk about himself in the third person?”

Will gritted his teeth and took a breath.  “Charlie’s right.  Okay, Charlie’s right, it’s a good idea.  Do you want to get a drink somewhere with me?”   He didn’t give a fuck if his tone didn’t match his words, he wanted her to know he offered this under protest.  He hoped she would turn him down flat.  Then he can go back to Charlie with more evidence of how unreasonable she has been.

“I’m at Hang Chews now with the staff.  If you want to come down here, we can get a booth and show them that their bosses don’t completely hate each other.”

“I wouldn’t push it.”  Will said under his breath.  Louder he asked, “What the fuck’s a Hang Chew?”

Mac rolled her eyes.  “It’s the bar across the street from the studio.  I guess you still haven’t visited with the staff.”

“Like they’d want to see me at their hangout.”

Mac took a few steps back towards the News Night table, “Hey guys, Will wants to know if you want to see him here!”  While most of the table shot her looks like she was crazy, Jim made a lot of noise to encourage his presence.

“Is that Jim?”

“Well, not just Jim.  They all want to see you, don’t they?”  The rest of the crew half-heartedly cheered at Mac’s encouragement. 

“Is, uh, is that what you want?  You want to talk with the staff around?”

Mac walked away from the table again.  “Well, it might be good for morale and it’s not like it’s a date or anything.”  When Will didn’t immediately say anything, Mac added, “Is it?”

“No, of course not.  Just a drink, a way to make peace.”  The two stopped talking for several seconds.  “You know, maybe this isn’t a good night for that.  You’re with the crew and I should get home.”

Mac moved away from the staff’s table.  “Will, you can come down here and spend 5 minutes with them.  And if you want to talk to me, we can.”

Will felt defeated and he didn’t know why.  “No, uh, on second thought, I should probably get home.  I’ll see you tomorrow, Mac.”

“See you then.”

Will hung up the phone.  He didn’t understand why he couldn’t go through with it.  She actually made it easy for him.  Seeing her with the staff around would fucking make it even more of a business drink than a social one.  That’s what he wants, strictly business.  Nothing personal.  But for some reason it didn’t feel right.  He didn’t plan how a drink with Mac would go, but his expectation didn’t include having her teenagers hanging around them.  He could just imagine a drunken Tess making kissing noises and Maggie walking past them acting like she needed to get somewhere and oooohing and ahhhhhing at them.  They weren’t in fucking high school, if he wanted to have some time alone with Ma… his executive producer, he was fucking going to have time alone with his executive producer.  For a business drink.  

He didn’t want to go out with her anyway.  Try to make small talk with a woman who he obviously knows pretty well.  What was he going to say?  “So, how’s work?  I hear you’re in a studio again.”  Will tries to follow Charlie’s advice most of the time, but this time he got it wrong.  He and Mac see each other enough, no, more than enough, at work.  They don’t need to find ways to artificially socialize to make that relationship work better.  Or... work at all.  They shouldn't work together at all.  And that's the major problem.  But Charlie will never let him fire her.  And that's the only reason he didn't fire her last week, because Charlie would have found a way to circumvent his decision.  

Will walked to his bathroom and splashed a little water on his face.  As he looked at himself in the mirror, he nodded his head.  He made the right decision.  They don’t need to go out for drinks.    

Chapter Text

May 20, 2010  10:02 PM

Mac got home and took her laptop to her office.  Another day of working in spite of Will done.  When she took the job, she expected this.  Then they got off to a strong start and she allowed herself to feel a little optimistic, and then something happened.  That bothers her more than anything.  She knows how to deal with Will’s assholic ways.  She can just give it back to him.  But she felt like they made some progress and then he withdrew and became the asshole she expected again.  It didn’t make sense. 

As she began to heat up some water for tea, she heard her phone ring and looked at her watch.  She couldn’t think of anyone that would call her this late.  Will hasn’t called in the last couple weeks, except the one night that he just had to scream at her.  And a couple nights ago when Charlie forced him.  Since nothing earth shattering has happened at work, she didn’t expect to hear from him tonight.  That would leave Jim or Charlie.  Maybe Sloane, but she thought Sloane was making an appearance on Right Now which would be starting, well, right now.  As she picked up her phone, she realized she needed to get more friends.

“This is Mac.”

“You didn’t go to Chang Yu.”

Mac took a second to focus on this call.  She hoped for a calm night and an early bedtime, but obviously once again she under estimated Will’s ability to read her mind and his desire to make her pay for her list of sins.  “No, I came straight home.”

“You have a date or something?”

Mac opened her mouth to answer, but closed it, reconsidering.  “What’s going on Will?  Why did you call me?”

Will steeled himself to give an answer.  “I went to the bar you mentioned the other night and I asked for you.  I thought maybe we could get that drink Charlie suggested.”

“You went to Hang Chew’s?”

“Is that what it’s called?”  Will felt bewildered.  He didn’t know why he called her, but thought he should. 

“Yes that’s what it’s called.”  Mac found herself having trouble putting together this conversation, so she took a breath to think through what he just said.  “You want to go out for drinks?”

“No, Charlie wants us to go out for drinks.  I want to go home and watch a game.”

“So go home and watch a game, I’m comfortable at my place and don’t want to go out again.  If it’s that important to you, we can tell Charlie we talked and everything will be fine until the next time you start to feel insecure.”  Mac bit her lip.  She meant to end on fine, but the rest of it just came out.  “But we don’t have to say that last part.  It’s inferred.” 

“Insecure?  Is that what you think of me?  I am the most… You can ask anyone who... they will tell you that I am THE MOST secure person they know.”

“Then obviously they don’t know you well.”  Mac knew she should just say goodnight and hang up, but, the damage has been done and hearing him get riled up is fun. 

“Charlie!  Charlie will tell you… And Reese.”

“Reese?  Really, Will, you want me to talk to Reese about you?  He’ll tell you the sky is orange if he thinks he’ll get what he wants from you.  And I’d like to see you ask Charlie about his perception of your massive ego and what it would take to burst it.”

“My ego?  We’re talking about my ego, now?”

“I don’t know that we’ve had a conversation since I’ve been back that we haven’t.”  Mac thought about that answer and winced.  There’ve been a few, but if she’s not wrong, he’s spinning and he won’t be able to counter her, at least not without her parrying by poking fun at his inability to string 3 words together.  

“Oh, I’m sure that I can come up with many examples.”

“Yes, do go on.” 

If there’s one thing Will can’t stand, it’s Mac playing cool and breezy.  Why the fuck isn’t she as wound up as he is?  In these verbal chess matches, he’s supposed to be the master strategist.  “The other night.  I said I wanted to get a drink with you.”  He gave a self-satisfied smile, certain she wouldn’t have a comeback. 

“And you promptly backed out when you found out you’d have to do it in front of our team, thereby showing them that you are human and not the godlike-being you want them to see.”  Well, that was the biggest bunch of bullshit she’s heard come out of her own mouth this month.

Is she right?  They don’t think of him as Godlike?  He had to come up with an answer.  He couldn’t let her win this round.  The second he thought it, he recognized the irony, but it didn’t stop his need to win this one.  “What about when I asked about your sister.  No ego there.”  He tried to replay that night in his mind to make sure she couldn’t turn it to her advantage. He didn’t realize that her answer didn’t come quickly, if he had, he would have realized that he won the point.  However, a part of him hoped that she wouldn’t use that conversation against him.  That she wouldn’t negate that night by saying, in essence that she laughed it off like she does so many other things he does.  Not that he’s heard her laugh.  He’s still bothered by the fact that she doesn’t laugh anymore. 

Mac thought about that night.  The hurt she felt when she heard the shower running behind him.  Then he called and woke her up to find out how her visit with Camille went.  And after that… after that… That’s when things changed, wasn’t it?  They had that nice moment, and then Peg must have called him, and then… And then he couldn’t look at her.  He started picking fights.  “Oh my God!”

Will had braced himself for whatever she could say, but he didn’t expect that.  “Mac?  Are you okay?”

“You got scared, didn’t you?”

“What they fuck?”

Mac found herself pacing as she put the pieces together.  “You felt guilty because you honestly didn’t want me to know about whoever you had just banged.  You didn’t intend to put that image in my head.  So you called back and we set those rules, which I have to admit were a little short-sided even if they were well intentioned.  And then later, you called because you knew, or you thought you knew that… No, you were genuine even then, weren’t you?”

“I’m sure I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.”

“You really did want to know what happened with my sister because despite what I did to you, you still care about them…”  Mac stopped.  She didn’t want to say the next thing she thought because she knew it would scare him.  “And so you’ve been running around the studio acting like a scared little boy because you don’t know how to act any different.”

When Mac stopped talking Will took a breath.  “Yeah, maybe you need more sleep than I thought.  That is the most –”

“It’s not ridiculous, it’s, it’s –”

“ridiculous bit of armchair psychology –”

“The truth.”  Mac stopped again, excited at her discovery.  “And of course you wouldn’t recognize it.”

“I’ve ever heard.”  Will didn’t have a lot of time to process anything she said, so he immediately said, “Recognize what?  That you’re a raving lunatic?  I recognized that a long time ago.”

“It all makes perfect sense.  You were scared and you didn’t know what to do, so you became Asshole Will.”

“You’ve given me a new nickname?”

“No, you have like 20 different personalities and I have to keep them straight.”

Will rolled his eyes.  “Of course.  And who am I now?”

“Confused Will.  But don’t worry, you’ll think about this conversation all night –”

“Oh God, I hope not.”

“And by tomorrow morning you’ll –”

“Call the guys in white coats and have you taken away.”

Mac smiled.  She didn’t know which Will would meet her in the morning, but this back and forth felt right.  She finally felt like she understood.  She can live with Asshole Will as long as Confused and Scared Will is just under the surface. 

“Okay, well this has been… fun… I guess, but I’m going to hang up now and leave you to your delusions.  I think this fulfills my directive to talk to you.  I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell Charlie whatever the fuck is going through your mind right now.”

Mac couldn’t help smiling.  “Goodnight, Will.”

Will hung up the phone and shook his head, laughing.  How could he do anything else?  He didn’t think about what he would call that ridiculous assertion, but he took some time and enjoyed the conversation.  He didn’t think about how much he enjoyed hearing her get excited or the way he imagined her pacing in her kitchen as her grandiose ideas kept multiplying.  He just smiled and laughed at the conversation itself, willing himself not to think too hard about the familiar feeling of her and what they used to be.  This felt a hell of a lot better than anything these last few weeks did. 

But the idea of him being scared was utterly ridiculous.    

Chapter Text

May 24, 2010 11:53

The day after Mac realized that Will acted like a scared little boy, Will made it a point to go into her office, apparently to prove her wrong.  He would typically come in at 10:45 and sit in his office until the 11:00 pitch meeting.  That day, he came in at 10:30 and camped out in her office, looking around until she asked if he needed something.  He told her that he wanted to prove her declaration had no truth.  “So you’re visiting the lion’s den.” She said exasperatedly.  “How longis this going to go on?”

“For as long as it needs to.”

“Oh God,” she exhaled.  Satisfied, Will sat in a chair across from her and jotted down notes or doodled or something, Mac couldn’t tell and had to work at not laughing at him.  She found him in her office several times during the day.  She would ask him questions like, “still her?” which he answered with a nod.  Mac tried to continue with her work, which she usually didn’t do in her office anyway.  One time, Jim came in with her and looked between his bosses.  Mac shook her head and rolled her eyes and told him, “Don’t ask,” before moving them to a conference room.  When he followed her into his office after the final rundown of the day, she finally said, “Okay Will, you made your point.  Will you please go back to where you belong?”  Looking satisfied he left. 

She thought for sure she’d hear from him over the weekend while he tried to continue proving that he didn’t fear her.  He had a perfect excuse to call, Jim would have to run meetings for her Tuesday through Thursday while she sat through budget planning with Charlie and the other EPs.  But he didn’t, leaving her to draw her conclusions on how he occupied his time.  On Monday night she picked up the phone and called him. 

The phone rang 3 times before she heard his voice, “Mac?”

“Hi Will I just wanted to –”

“Do you know what time it is?”

“It’s just before midnight.  I wouldn’t have called so late, but I knew things like time and manners have never stopped you and I wanted to talk about Jim running meetings this week.”

Will took a puff on his cigarette.  Most of a week without Mac, the thought made him smile.  “Right, Jim is going to take over for a few days while you get lost in number crunching with a bunch of bean counters.”

“That’s mostly right.  I’ll be in constant contact with him and I’ll run you during the shows, but I want you to go easy on Jim.  He’s a good guy and he hasn’t done anything to warrant you… being you.”

“Yeah, and who else would you like me to be?”

Mac thought for a second, “a nicer version of you.  Maybe whoever that prick is that you tried to be when the camera was on before I came back.”

“You want me to be a prick.”

Mac felt exasperated.  “I don’t want you to be anything. I’d prefer if you didn’t say anything, just let Jim run meetings so that everything goes smoothly.  It’s three days.  Let him have a good experience.  You never know when we’ll need him.”

“Need him for what?”

“I assume there will come a time when I take a day or a week off and my senior producer will have to take over.  Let’s call this a trial run for that.”

Will only heard a few words of what she said and felt anxiety rise first in his chest and then spread.  “You’re going on vacation?”

Mac stopped and spoke slowly.  “This week I am going to work on budgets.  But someday I will want to take some time off.  I don’t have it planned, but when it happens, Jim needs to know what to expect.”

“OK.”  Will felt better with that clarification.  She wasn’t leaving, she wasn’t going anywhere without him.  At least not yet.  He didn’t linger on that thought long before something else hit him.  “Wait, did you say you were going to run me this week?”

“Yes I did.  Meetings will be over at about 5, I’ll get a final debrief from Jim while you’re in hair and makeup and I’ll be ready for you at 8.  Although I may let him run some stories so he gets that experience.”

“Mac, you can go home those days.  I’ll be on my best behavior.  You’re going to be exhausted after a full day of counting on your fingers.”

Mac rolled her eyes, unable to keep the smile from her face.  “I’ll have a calculator.”

“You could have a whole Apple plant with you.  You’re going to leave those meetings exhausted every day and, you’ll thank me for the chance to nap.”

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you actually… care.”

Will heard the teasing tone she tried to use.  It would have fooled most people, but Will knew better.  He didn’t like the amount of truth that he sensed.  “I, uh… I’m your boss and having… someone rested run me is best for the show.”

“You know you’re a horrible liar, Will.”

“Actually I’m not.”  Something struck him.  She just knows him as well as he knows her, and they know each other that well because they were….  All of sudden, he didn’t like the direction this conversation went.  He felt a slight pain in his chest.  He needed to get out of this conversation. 

“You know I’m coming down after the meetings.”

Will swallowed, which seemed ridiculous to him since he’s seen her almost everyday for 6 weeks.  “I know.”

“And seeing the news being done, it’ll give me a second wind.”

“It always has.”  Will heard it as a whisper.  He wanted to flee from this dangerous territory, but the more they taked the more he got sucked in further.  Fuck!  Why did she have to show up in his newsroom?  He didn’t have to think about her or remember her before she did.  He always loved that passion she had for the news.  It got her up in the morning, it gave her life.  He always wished he had something that did that for him.  He wished that until the day he realized she did that for him.  He pulled himself together enough to say, “I’m just saying you don’t have to.”

“Well, I will.  But, if I see everything is going well, I’ll consider going home.  How’s that?”

“I don’t think I actually have a choice, do I?”

Mac didn’t feel like she had to put on a hard sell, but thought she should at least make one more attempt to keep her newsroom peaceful.  “If you’re being an asshole, then I’ll probably need to stick around.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.  Is there anything else?”

“Nope.  I think that covers it.”

“I’m sure I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Will.”

 

Chapter Text

May 28, 2010  11:53PM

Will finished making the bacon for his midnight snack.  Some might say he invented a McMuffin, but he knew better.  McDonalds stole the recipe from him.  He should sue, but he specialized in criminal law.  As he moved his sandwich to the table, he heard his phone ring.  Who the fuck would call him this late?  Charlie.  Charlie had even more erratic sleeping habits than Will did. 

“Hello.”

“Will, it’s me.”  Will recognized not only Mac’s voice but that she sounded upset. 

“Mac?  What’s wrong?”

“I have to take tomorrow off.  I’ve talked to Jim, he’s going to run you, most of the show is set unless something unforeseen happens, and if it does, he’s capable.”

Will took a second to think about his response.  He knew that Jim was capable, he showed that all week.  In fact, Will had thought about calling Mac to tell her that very thing and tell her that she did a good job training him.  He could see her fingerprints all over him.  But he couldn’t think too hard about that, he wanted to know what happened, what made her so upset.  He knew he should, but part of him fought it.  “You know this isn’t a good time to take a long weekend.  Is this an emergency of some sort?”

“Why?  Are you going to check my time sheet?  Boss.  It’s a fucking Friday broadcast, you wouldn’t even watch it if you didn’t have to sit in the damn chair.”  Mac took a breath and silently counted to ten.  “Jim will be fine and if he needs to contact me, he knows how.”

“And if I need to contact you?”

“Then you can tell Jim and he’ll get in touch with me.  I didn’t call to get your permission, I called to let you know I won’t be there.”

“Is that it?  The only reason you called?”

“And I was hoping you would be nice to Jim, he’s a good man and doesn’t deserve your bullshit.  But obviously your humanity doesn’t extent far enough to be a decent person for even a moment.”

Will flinched at that.  He knew he acted like an asshole and didn’t know why.  He wanted to apologize, try to go back and start over by asking her about what happened and let her know that he cared where she had to go.  She wouldn’t abandon a broadcast without a good reason, and he knew it.  But he couldn’t go back.  It was true about this conversation and about their relationship.  It all feels so familiar, but they can’t go back.  Being human, as she said, would mean taking a step towards that again, and he can’t do it.

“I’m sorry, Will.  You didn’t deserve that.  Jim said you were on your best behavior all week.”

“You asked me to be, so I was.”

Mac didn’t know what to do with that.  He sounded sincere… or maybe smug, the two sounded so familiar these days.  If it was any other day, she would know what to do or say, but, right now, she had too much on her mind to comprehend anything other than needing to get to DC. 

Part of Will tried to focus on his hatred of Mackenzie, but he couldn’t, not when she sounded so desperate.  Finally, he asked, “Is it your dad?  Is your dad okay?  Do you need to go back to England?  To see him?”

Mac heard the words fall out of Will’s mouth in such rapid succession that she had to take a second to decipher them.  She didn’t think, she simply reacted.  “Yes, Will, I’m going to travel a day and a half each direction so I can spend 2 hours with my father!”

“Oh.  I guess not.”

“And it’s also not my mother!”

“Okay, Mac.  I get it.  Your parents are fine, but you need to miss tomorrow and Jim will run me.”  Will winced at the edge in his voice that he didn’t intend to use. 

Mac waited to see if he would say anything else.  When she realized he wouldn’t, she said, “Alright then.  I’ll see you Monday.”

Resigned, Will hung up the phone.  If she’s already talked to Jim, he’ll know what happened and he’ll tell the staff during the first rundown meeting.  He’ll find out then what happened.  He doesn’t need to call him and ask. 

May 28, 2010 11:55PM

Will looked at the phone.  Fuck it.  He’s going to find out right now. 

He held the phone to his ear hearing his breath heavy.  The phone rang three times before getting answered.  “Hi, Jim.  It’s Will.”

“Will?  Do you know what time it is?”

“Of course I do, I have a clock.  Mackenzie won’t be in tomorrow.”

Jim just got off the phone with Mac and had almost fallen back to sleep when Will called.  After watching his bosses fight throughout the newsroom for the last month and a half, he thought he understood how difficult Will made Mac’s job.  However, after getting two phone calls in the middle of the night within 10 minutes, he had a new appreciation for what she goes through. 

“I know, she called me a couple minutes ago.  She’s sending me everything she’s put together for her rundown so we should be set for tomorrow.”

Will’s patience, while never in abundance, began to quickly deteriorate.  “I expect a smooth show.  What I want to know is why she won’t be in.”

Jim squinted, hoping that when he opened his eyes he’d find a dancing bear in a tutu or something else to indicate that he never actually woke up.  “Didn’t she tell you?”

“No, she sounded like she was in a hurry.  I know she’s not going to England.”

“Well, Will, if she didn’t tell you, I don’t think it’s my place to.”

“So she did tell you?  What are you going to tell the staff?”

“What?”

“In the morning.  When you run the morning meeting, where are you going to tell the staff she is?”

Mac always worked hard to make sure she didn’t say anything bad about Will.  Jim started to understand how hard she worked.  “It’s a family emergency.  She’s going to DC with her sister in the morning and she’ll be back on Monday.”

“DC.”  Will started thinking through her siblings and where they each lived three years ago to see if he could figure out who she had to see.  Unfortunately, most of the McHale siblings didn’t want to lay roots when he knew them.  For Thanksgiving they mapped everyone’s location and tried to find a center point.  “What the fuck is happening in DC?”

“She didn’t tell me.”

“What?  Why are you still on the phone?”  Will took his phone from his ear and hung up.  Maybe he can call Neal to find out if any of the McHale siblings are in DC.  Then he can… then he can call her and tell her he knows where she’s going and for who and then she’ll tell him what happened.  It occurred to him that maybe he didn’t need to know, but he dismissed that idea because, well, because of course he needs to know. 

May 28, 2010  11:57PM

Mac answered her phone at the end of her patience, “What do you want, Will?”

“Jim wouldn’t tell me what happened and I didn’t think it would be appropriate to call Neal.”

Mac had always prided herself on her ability to anticipate Will’s moves and understand his thoughts.  This time, she had no fucking idea what he was talking about.  “What?  Why would you call Neal?”

Will wanted to know what made Mac feel like she had to leave, he didn’t have time to explain his thought process.  Besides, there was an outside chance that if he explained it, he might sound stupid.  “I didn’t call Neal.  I just… I just wanted to know why you have to leave, what’s the fucking emergency?”

“Are you just fucking around with me right now?”

Will didn’t hear every word of her question, and he certainly didn’t think about how to answer it.  “God, I wish…”  He caught himself and quickly said, “No.  I want to know Mac.  Is everyone I know okay?”

What the fuck is happening right now?  Mac needed to finish packing, her plane leaves early in the morning, but Will sounded so genuine that she took a breath and said, “My niece is in the hospital.  They don’t know what’s wrong yet.”

Her niece.  Will ran through her siblings.  “Mary?  Katherine’s daughter?  What happened?”

“It’s not Mary.  Simon’s daughter and we don’t know.  She was having some trouble breathing and now she’s connected to tubes and Nora’s in tears and… None of it makes sense to me.”

“Simon’s daughter?  Why didn’t I know that Simon and Nora had a kid?” 

“Well, I guess Simon’s sister’s ex-boyfriend didn’t make the list of people to share the news with.  But if you must know, and apparently you must, she’s pregnant again and due in September.”  It slipped out of Mac’s mouth before she knew what she said and she regretted it immediately.  Will loved her whole family, he wanted so much to call them his family.  He told her that he enjoyed the role of their big brother.  And he was.  He was a perfect fit at their family gatherings.  Teasing her sisters, threatening their boyfriends, protecting everyone.  He was so perfect in so many ways until she took that from him too.  “I’m sorry Will.  I know how much they mean to you.”

Will didn’t realize he said the last part until he heard Mac’s response.  Then he realized, maybe again, maybe in a different way than before, that her life has changed.  She moved on.  She and her family weren’t frozen in time the way he thought.  Not that he thought they were, but he never thought about it.  “Well, they did.”

“Will, it’s okay for you to still care about them.  You had relationships with them outside of me.”

“I wanted to know what happened and now I do.  You need to pack.”

Mac nodded her head wondering how he can just turn a switch like that.  “Okay.  I’ll see you on Monday.  And I’ll let Simon and Nora know you’re thinking about them.”

“Don’t bother.”  Will hung up the phone and put his head down.  Why did he have to end that by being an asshole?  Would it have been so fucking hard to just say “thanks”?  Simon and Nora didn’t do anything to him.  It was all Mackenzie, she took it away from him when she… When she what, fucked her ex-boyfriend or when she told him about it?  He didn’t have to know, he didn’t.  He wouldn’t have believed Brian if he did tell Will.  He wouldn’t have imagined that Mac did that.  Except that she told him.  If she didn’t tell him, he would be packing with her and going with her to see their brother and sister-in-law.  He would have a baby niece to spoil.  He would be a shoulder for the rest of the siblings to cry on and he’d learn everything he could about anything the doctors said and would make sure that she had the best care possible.  He wanted to take care of them, of her.  When a thought came that he shouldn’t think about her like that, he beat it down.  Of course he wanted to take care of her.  Of course he did.  He couldn’t imagine making a trip to DC without her.  Not just because she anchors him to them, but because in his fantasy she is there.  And he can’t erase that, he can’t erase her from that image in his head.  God damn it, he wishes he could. 

May 29, 2010 12:03AM

“What do you want Will?”

“Tell them.  For me, please?”

“Will, I don’t have the time or the patience to decipher whatever the fuck you’re trying to say.”

“Tell Simon and Nora that I’m thinking of them.  And tell them that if they need anything, specialists, medicine, hospital bills.  Whatever they need, I’ll get it for them.  Mary or… the other kid, the one that’s coming.”

Mac still wasn’t entirely sure she understood what was happening, but she sat down and caught her breath.  She felt a tear roll down her cheek.  She hadn’t seen her Will in a long time.  She hadn’t seen the Will with the heart the size of a Range Rover who wanted to fix everything for everyone around him.  The man she could count on to take care of anything that ever went wrong.  “I will.  And I promise that if I see something you can do that I don’t think they’ll ask for, I’ll contact you directly and let you take care of it.”

“Thank you.”

Mac took a chance, but she thought he needed to hear this.  “They loved you like a brother too.  They all hated me for taking you away.  They loved you, Will.”

Will decided he wouldn’t cry.  He cried enough after she left, he wasn’t going to do it now.  Not with her on the phone.  “Thank you.”  He hung up and laid on his bed, thinking about everything he lost.  It wasn’t just her.  It was the dream that he had.  He wanted that family.  He wanted a family with her.  Only her.  There was never anyone else he wanted that with.  Just her.  He used to look at her and he knew what their son and two daughters would look like.  The house he wanted, the dog she’d fight against but the kids would win her over.  How he’d glare at anyone who wasn’t good enough for his daughters or sisters.  He lost all that when he lost her.  Why did she tell him?  He should be there with her.  He shouldn’t have to wait for her to give him information. 

Chapter Text

May 28, 2010  9:07 PM

Mac still had the TV at the hotel turned on ACN when her phone rang, but that was mostly because she didn’t have the energy to reach for the remote control to turn it off.  As she lay in bed, near sleep, she knew the ringing phone would keep her from her goal.  She sighed, five rings and it goes to voicemail.  But then knowing that there’s a message will keep her awake until she listens to it.  If it’s Will, he will keep her awake, and not in a good way.  Not that he would call now.  It can’t be 10 after yet, so he hasn’t had time to tear out his IFB, storm to his office with a scour and take off his jacket at a minimum.  But usually he doesn’t do anything until he’s in jeans and a sweater.  It can’t be him. 

Although, a small part of her… and maybe not that small, hoped that he called.  She shouldn’t, but she wanted to believe that he cares, that somewhere in that overly complicated head of his, he still cares about her.  Last night he showed that he cares about her family, the other people who meant something to him.  But he didn’t say anything about her.   She deserves that, she knows, but it still hurts. 

She shook her head.  This train of thought won’t stop until she answers the damn phone will it?  On the third ring, she finally rolled over and looked at the phone.  Will had managed to call this quickly and she felt her heart flutter a little. 

“Will?”

“Jim told me that the kid… your niece is going to be okay.”

Mac heard anger in his voice, but still smiled.  Will always went to anger before whatever he actually felt.  She’d find out soon enough if he was angry or if something else was going on.  But he called, he wants to know about her and her family.  Beatrice received a positive prognosis and Will cared enough to check in with her.  That’s good enough.  That’s progress.  It didn’t matter who he called about, he reached out to her.  “Yes.  The doctors want to keep her for a few days but she’s going to be okay.”

“That’s good.”  Will felt a wave of relief he didn’t expect.  But still, he needed to know something else.  “Mac?  Why did I hear it from Jim?  Why didn’t you call me?”

She had to pause for a second to figure out what he was asking.  “I’m sorry, Will.  I should have called you directly.  We just found out when Jim called and since it was right before the show, I assumed you were in hair and makeup getting focused.  I was exhausted and thought that once Simon and Nora settled in at the hospital overnight and visiting hours ended, I would go straight to bed.”

“I would have taken the call, Mac.”  He hated himself a little for saying it, but he know it to be true.  He wanted to hear from her all day.  He didn’t call because he didn’t know when she could talk… and he didn’t want to have the phone passed around her family.  Talking to her is hard enough.  But all day he kept waiting for something from her, a call, a text.  He wanted to know if Mac’s niece would be okay. 

“I know, Will.  I’m sorry.”

Will let that sink in.  The sound of her voice let him know she meant it.  She didn’t try to avoid him, she’s just exhausted.  Charlie told him that when she came back, that’s she’s exhausted.  That came from her time away.  This is from a family emergency.  He knows about one, but nothing about the other.  And once again he felt an emptiness he didn’t expect as he realized that things had changed, she has moved on.  She doesn’t call him to tell him about all the things that happen in her life.  He knew in his head that she shouldn’t.  They broke up, she cheated on him and he dumped her.  But it also felt wrong that she didn’t call him first, that he didn’t go with her, that he couldn’t hold her hand at the hospital while they waited for news.  News about a niece who would be the cousin closest in age to the kids they would have by now. Will felt himself holding back tears that he didn’t understand.  “So, um, what happens now?”

“The doctors want to keep Bea here for a couple more nights.  Camille will stay here until my parents get to town on Wednesday, then they’ll help out.”

“And Katherine will be Katherine and breeze in sometime.”  Will smiled at the memory of Mac’s sister Katherine who held the title of flightiest of the McHale siblings, a difficult title to take, but no one even came close. 

Mac smiled while biting her bottom lip.  He remembered.  “Katherine will be Katherine.  We’re hoping that someone will be able to head her off before she brings her brand of chaos into their lives.”

“Well, if Camille has another good for nothing boyfriend, he can stand guard at the door.”

“Unfortunately, she’s between boyfriends right now.”  The two sat in comfortable silence.  This felt familiar.  Sitting on the phone after Will’s show, Mac in DC, Will in New York.  Talking about the day’s events, about family.  They both knew they didn’t have a right to feel like this again, they can’t go back to that time, but it felt good.  It felt right.  Quietly and unsure of herself, Mac asked, “Is it okay if I tell you I wish you were here?”

“Mac.”  Why did she have to ruin this?  Why couldn’t she keep her mouth shut and just let them have this moment?  Let him pretend just a little while longer…

“I know you moved on, we both have, and that’s the way it should be.  But, you love them and they love you too.”

Will replayed what she said in his head a few times.  They both moved on?  Her family loved him?  Something felt out of place. “What about you?”  It came out of his mouth before he could stop it, but he wanted to know, he needed to know.  She’s told him that she regretted what she did.  She told him she came back to save his soul, whatever the fuck that meant.  She puts up with his bullshit because she seems to think she has to pay a penance that he never asked for.  She told him that she used to love him, sometime after she fucked her ex-boyfriend.  But she’s never said the words, not about herself, not in the present. 

“What?”

“You said that I love your family and that they love me.  What about you?  Did you want me there because of them, or was there more to it?”

Mac didn’t know what prompted this question.  She wondered for a second if he set a trap for her, make her admit her feelings and then stomp on them, but she dismissed it because he sounded desperate.  He wanted the truth.  He sounded like he was trying to put a puzzle together, one where he couldn’t find all the pieces he needed.  She could tell him that she never stopped loving him and it would give him a piece of the puzzle, but he might not know where to put it. 

“Part of me will always love you Will.”

“But, your life has changed, you’ve moved on without me.”

Mac had to stop and think, guess what he was asking.  Most people talk about moving on in terms of moving to the next relationship, but he knows better.  He must mean that life moved on and took her with it.  He found a few pieces that go together.  He’s stopped looking for the ones he needs.  “You’ve moved on too.”

 “Yeah, I guess I did.”  Will didn’t like the conclusion he’s drawn, it felt like something ended in a way it hadn’t 3 years ago.  She’s moved on, that’s all he could think. 

“Will, if you want to come out here and say hi…”

“No.”  It came out more quickly than he intended.  “This is how it should be.  Tell them if they need anything at all.  And if you need a couple more days.”

“No, too many of us trying to help…”

“Right.”  Will took a breath.  “Well, then, I guess I’ll see you Monday.”

Mac started to agree, but instead said, “Are, are we alright, Will?”  Something felt off, and Mac knew Will well enough that if it didn’t get nipped in the bud right now it wouldn’t take long for it to blow up into something else entirely. 

“What?  Yeah, of course we are.”

“Okay.  Good night, Will.”

“Good night, Mac.”

In their previous relationship, Mac used to say they were friends before they were anything else.  Now, she could only hope for friendship. 

Will put down his phone and felt empty.  They’ve both moved on.  Actually, she moved on, he regressed.  He turned back into a person he didn’t like very much.  How did he miss that her life changed so much?  How did he miss that she doesn’t need him anymore? Before he could think anymore, Jim knocked on his office door and poked his head in.  “Hey, do you want to come down to Hang Chews with us?  Mac usually comes on Fridays to help celebrate a successful week.”

“Huh?”  Will thought for a second.  “I wouldn’t make a good stand in for Mac.  But, uh, here.  First round’s on me.”

Jim looked at the bill that Will handed him and did a double take.  “This will cover more than one night’s bill.”

“Then use the rest for next week.”  Jim looked at him as if to ask if he was sure and Will nodded.  The younger man left the office with a thank you.

She doesn’t need him, because she has them.  Her finger prints are all over Jim because of their time away.  He doesn’t want to think about what they experienced.  He likes to think of it as a long vacation.  With this thought planted firmly in his head, Will left the office to celebrate the end of the week on his own. 

Chapter Text

June 2, 2010  10:22

Will felt the phone in his pocket vibrating, so he gave his date a practiced sheepish smile, while explaining that the news doesn’t stop just because a national anchor has more important things to do.  He glanced at the caller ID and said this would just take a second.  He felt a little smarmy, with the fake smile and exaggeration of the importance of his job, but outside of himself, Matt Lauer and a few others, no one can use that line, and it has always proved effective. 

“McAvoy.”

“Oh, good, you’re still at dinner.  You’re a horse’s ass, you know that?”

“What’s happening Sloane, do I need to come back to cover a big story?”  Will put his hand over the phone’s microphone and mouthed words to Danielle that she didn’t seem able to understand, so he smiled at the empty headed twit. 

“The big story is how the managing editor of News Night is a selfish manwhore who doesn’t deserve Mackenzie or any other woman.”

Will looked back at his date and updated her, saying there wasn’t a story, but he just needed a second.  “I understand it may look that way, but it’s under control.”  And then he hung up.  Putting his phone back in his pocket, he turned his attention back to the cheerleader sitting across from him.  “It’s not an emergency.  Just some stuff in the office.”

“So you don’t have to go back?”

Will exaggeratingly shook his head.  “Oh, no.  Nothing like that.  I’m yours for the rest of the night.”

She smiled at him, “good.  I thought that might be a convenient excuse for you to leave if you didn’t like me.”

“I would never set something like that up, and if I did, I would tell them that I was happy with my date for the evening.  Now, where were we?”

June 2, 2010  10:31PM

Will felt the familiar vibration of his phone on his chest while his date bored him with a story about what Eli Manning is really like, emphasizing that a Jets cheerleader should never be seen with a Giants quarterback.  He asked her to excuse him again and he put the phone to his ear. 

“Will?  Hi, this is Maggie.”

“Hi Maggie.”  He smiled as he said that and told his date that she worked for him.  This should only take a second. 

“Sloane said I should call you.”

“Of course she did.  Did she have a message for me?”

“Yes, but I don’t think I should repeat it.”

Will nodded his head, and remembering the cheerleader sitting across from him, he smiled.  “Okay, well, tell Sloane that I’ll talk to her and Mac in the morning.”

Before Will could hang up, Maggie got his attention.  “She said that if I talk to you, I should tell you that Mac has nothing to do with this.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t.  Goodnight Maggie.”  Will turned his attention back to his date and begrudgingly asked about Eli Manning’s chicken fetish. 

June 2, 2010 10:43PM

When the phone vibrated this time, Will excused himself and walked from the table.  He told Neal to let Sloane know that he intended to finish his date, at his place, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. 

June 2, 2010 11:05PM

The main course had finally arrived when Will received the fourth call of the evening.  The look on his date’s face let him know that she no longer found these calls impressive.  He tried to ignore the call, but as soon as the phone stopped ringing, it rang again.  Will apologized and looking at his phone, said that another of the executive producers must need him for something as he stood up and stepped away from the table. 

“Will you tell Sloane and Mac they made their point and my date is about to leave?”

Don thought about it for a second.  “Sloane didn’t have to tell me to call.”

“She didn’t?  Is there a breaking story?”

“No, I just remember how many dates of mine you ruined when I worked for you.  Payback’s a bitch.”

Don hung up before Will could say anything. 

June 2, 2010  11:47PM

Will sat at his apartment watching TV and drinking a beer, thinking of all the ways he could get back at Sloane in the morning.  When his phone again, he didn’t even look at who it was as he put it up to his face.  “She’s at home, or on her way home.  I put her in a fucking cab.  Is that all you wanted?”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.  But Sloane said I should call you as some sort of team building exercise.  It sounded like fun, so I am.”

“So you’re taking orders from Sloane now?  Is that it Charlie?  You’re not going to support me, but you’ll do whatever fucking Sloane says?”

Charlie sat back in his office chair and smiled, putting a glass of bourbon to his lips.  “I’m not taking sides against you, she just said that everyone is taking a turn calling you tonight and thought I should too.  What have you fucked up this time, Will?”

“Nothing.  It’s not me.  I didn’t do… If Sloane knew, or maybe she does…  No, no, if she knew, she wouldn’t be so quick to take Mac’s side.”

“When I was dating Nancy –“

“I’m sorry, Charlie, you don’t understand what she did to me.”

“I thought that she was seeing another guy.  I found the guy one day and I punched him square in the jaw.  Turns out it was her boss, she was a secretary and there wasn’t anything going on.  But it made me feel good and no one ever knew who did it.”

Will found himself dumbfounded.  “Well, Mac hasn’t moved on with just anybody.  And I can’t punch him anonymously, he’ll know who it is.”

“So she’s dating too!”

“Of course, she is.  Have you seen her?  What man in their right mind wouldn’t want her?”

“Well, I can think of a few gay guys.  And of course you.” Charlie said in an undertone.

“And it doesn’t fucking matter because this isn’t the first time.  She’s done this before.  Except she had the decency to not do it with someone in my fucking newsroom.”

“Will.  She cheated on you three years ago.  You need to let this go.”

“It’s not something that you just fucking let go, Charlie.”  The phone went silent.  “I’m sorry.  I just can’t.”

“What did you do, Will?  Why is Sloane telling everyone to call you?”

“Why is it what did I do?  Doesn’t anyone care what she did?”

Charlie answered very directly, “No we don’t, because we find her delightful.  She’s always going to have our support.  You’re a curmudgeon.    Now what did you do?”

“She hired her boyfriend.”  When Charlie didn’t say anything, he added quietly, “I had a date meet me at the end of the show.”

Will’s take on the events of the night surprised Charlie.  He completely believed that Will would bring his date to the newsroom, but the idea that Mac would date one of her employees?  Will had to be mistaken.  “You rubbed Mackenzie’s face in some blonde girl half your age!?”

“She was brunette.”

“I don’t care if she dyed her hair green!  You don’t do that to a person!”

Will felt like everyone he knew took turns taking shots at him.  He raised his voice again, determined not to feel sorry about it, “What about what she did to me?”

“I’m sorry.  Are you 5 years old?  Do I need to talk to you like one of my grandsons?”  When Will didn’t say anything, Charlie said, “That’s what I thought.  Now you call Mackenzie and undo what you did.”

“You don’t really expect me to apologize to her, do you?”

“If that’s what it takes, yes.”

Will dug in his heels.  “Look Charlie, I would do anything you told me to, I trust you and your judgement that much, but I won’t do this.  I won’t call her.  This isn’t about what I did, it’s about what she did and is doing.  And now I’m going to get off this phone and get really drunk.  I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Charlie sighed after hearing the phone go dead. 

June 3, 2010 12:02AM

Mac heard her phone ring and finished the scotch she poured herself when she got home.  As she walked across the kitchen and into the living room to get her phone, she amended that thought.  The scotch she had when she got home was finished an hour, or maybe hours, ago.  This had to be her 3rd or maybe 4th.  She looked at the clock, still unsure of the time, with the digits moving around and everything, but she knew only one person would call her this late, and she was going to give him a piece of her mind.  The piece that isn’t drunk right now.  She works with pens.  That comeback deserves a drink of its own. 

“William Duncan McAvoy.  Methink'st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.”

Hearing Mac slur Shakespeare, Charlie smiled.  “All’s Well that Ends Well, right?”

“Charlie?”

“Hey kid, I wanted to see how you’re doing.”

“I’m doing good, fine.  I’m fine.  How are you.  I don’t think anyone should beat you.”

“I appreciate that.  Now Mac, I want you to put the bottle down.  You don’t need any more of that.”

Mac wasn’t as sure about needing to be sober as Charlie, which struck her as odd somehow.  “Are you sure?”

“I just talked to Will and nothing happened on his date.”

“What?”

Charlie couldn’t help laughing.  “Sloane rallied the troops and everyone took a turn calling him.  They didn’t make it past dinner.”

Mac laughed too.  “She didn’t.  Oh my God!  Little Billy didn’t get up again.  That’s too bad.”

The two enjoyed a laugh at Will’s expense for a long moment before Charlie said, “Mac, I don’t know what all is going on, but I think you need to call him.  He’s got some outlandish idea in his head that only you can set straight.”

“Charlie, I don’t want to.  I want to get drunk enough that I have to call in sick tomorrow.”

Charlie laughed again, more kindly this time.  “You’re not calling in sick tomorrow.  You’re going to face him because putting it off is only going to make it worse.  Now get a cup of coffee and give him your best Shakespeare.”

“You know coffee doesn’t really sober you up.”

“Maybe that’s why I haven’t been completely sober since the mid 60s.”

Mac smiled and hung up the phone to make a cup of coffee. 

Chapter Text

June 3, 2010 1:37AM

Mac would not describe herself as sober, but she felt in control enough to have this conversation. She wanted to know why.  Things seemed to be getting better.  Everything with Will ebbs and flows, but when he found out about Beatrice in the hospital, they seemed to really connect.  She used the word love.  He always had an aversion to the word, so much so that he wouldn’t say it their first year together and it confused the hell out of her.  He expected her to just know how he felt without him having to say it.  Maybe saying it over the weekend scared him.  Maybe she pushed too hard, when she thought she held back. 

But what he did tonight, having some random woman meet him at the newsroom, their newsroom.  What the fuck is wrong with him?  That’s what she wants to know, what the fuck is wrong with him?  They had an understanding, they wouldn’t let each other know about their social lives.  He promised he wouldn’t answer the phone if he had someone over.  She promised she wouldn’t take another drunk dial from him.  She thought they had agreed to respect each other. 

They have a strange relationship now.  But they can navigate it by showing each other respect.  And tonight, he crossed the line.  She had to see who he intended to do, he punished her with that knowledge.  He took a page out of his breakup playbook.  She shouldn’t be surprised, he did a similar thing when they broke up.  That time she didn’t have to see the woman, she simply heard the gossip at work that got back to her.  She remembered the humiliation like it was yesterday.  That time she deserved it, this time though… This time she didn’t do a fucking thing to deserve this again.

She looked at her phone.  Charlie told her to call, and at the time it sounded like a good idea.  They can get this part over with.  It won’t stop the staff whispering in the morning or the image in her head, but at least she won’t have to figure out how to work with him all day.   Maybe Charlie was right, she needs to call him because he sure as hell won’t call her.  He’ll play innocent in the morning, “I thought I wasn’t supposed to call after getting my brains fucked out by a cheerleader in grad school.”

She picked up her phone and scrolled to his name, hitting the send button with as much force as she could.  He answered on the first ring, as if he expected this.  “You’ll be happy to know that your little plan worked.  But you know what I can’t quite understand?  Why the fuck do you care?  You have your little boyfriend, why do you care that I’m fucking someone else?”

Mac heard him take a gulp of whatever had him 40 proofed.  “I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.”

“You ran around behind my back for four fucking months and I had no idea.  This time?  This time I thought I would know if you did it again.  I wouldn’t let myself fall for you and if I did get too close, I would know this time.  I would know if you were with someone else.”

“I still have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Will took another drink, seething, angrier than she had ever heard him.  “What I want to know is why did you hire him?  You brought him here and you hired him so that I had to see him every fucking day of my life.  Was it revenge?  You said… on the phone that night.  It was your rule, you didn’t even want to talk to me on nights I went out with someone else, but it was okay for you to put his desk right in front of your office?”

Will’s gone insane.  Mac couldn’t think of another rational explanation for whatever he accused her.  “Are you talking about Jim?”

“Of course I am!  You went out to the middle of the desert with him for years, and then you came back and he was here the first day you were.  Why didn’t I see it before?”

Mac stood in her dining area with her mouth open, unable to form words.  She might have to figure out a way around HIPPA laws to see what the fuck he was taking.  “You really think I’m… Jim?  He’s like my brother!”

“I saw you, Mac!  Don’t try to deny it.  I saw you.”

“Please, enlighten me.  What did you see?”

“When you were in those budget meetings, you had a direct link to him, one you wouldn’t give me, and when you came to the studio, the two of you cuddled up in a conference room.”

“TO TALK ABOUT THE FUCKING SHOW!  He had to let me know where things were.  I had to run you and control.”

Will didn’t listen, he simply ticked off the next piece of evidence he had.  “And when your niece got sick, you called Jim first.”

“Because he would have to run the show without me.  I had to make sure he could do it or I would have to call Don.  I was being responsible.”

“And then you told him that she would be okay, you didn’t even think about me until I called.”

Mac couldn’t believe he believed any of this and she wanted to put an end to it.  “Of for fuck’s sake, Will.  I explained this already.  He called me and I know your pre-show rituals.  I’m sorry if you’re hurt, but there’s nothing there.”

“Yeah, well then how do you explain lunch today?  Today, Mac.  Your parents came to town.  I, I overheard you talking to him.  I watched the two of you leave.  They came to town and you invited Jim to lunch with them.  Why the fuck would you invite him to lunch to meet your parents if you weren’t serious about him?”

Mac tried to put herself in his shoes and see this from his perspective, but in the end, she did the only thing she could in the moment, laugh hysterically. 

Will listened to the sound of her laughter.  For weeks he wanted her to laugh.  He missed the sound of her laughter, it was something he loved about her.  She had a dry sense of humor that always kept him on his toes.  A few weeks ago, and this sound would have made his heart soar.  However, today, the laughter only pissed Will off more.  He thought she laughed at him, which she probably did, but for a very different reason than he thought.  But Will couldn’t tell what she thought, he only knew that once again she laughed at him.  And he hung up. 

June 3, 2010  1:43AM

After hearing the line go dead it didn’t take Mac long to compose herself, though the idea of her and Jim did still cause the occasional giggle.  However, now that she knew what prompted Will’s inappropriate reaction, she knew she had to get in front of this, if for no other reason than she didn’t want Will to take this… whatever the fuck this is, out on her supposed lover.  Though, even thinking that term in conjunction with Jim still made her laugh. 

“You called back to laugh at me some more?”

“No, Will, I called back for exactly the opposite reason.  I want to set the record straight.”

“You think I’m going to believe anything you say right now?”

“I can’t control what you believe, I can only tell you the truth and you can do whatever the fuck you want with that.”  Mac heard Will huff a few times and rolled her eyes.  “Will, put down whatever the fuck is swirling around your brain and making you believe this, because I need you to hear this clearly.”

“And I’m still waiting for you to say something worth hearing.”  He took another drink just to spite her.

“Jim is just a friend.  We went to the middle east, he was my assistant and when I came back here, he was the obvious person to bring with me because he was a good assistant.  You saw how competent and capable he was last week.  I wanted him to take more responsibility in the studio so I tried to coached him last week and he exceeded my expectations.”

“So you took him to meet your parents because he’s such a good assistant.”

Mac gave a frustrated sigh.  She did not understand a single part of this conversation and she wanted nothing more than for it to end.  But she had to make sure that Jim’s honor was left intact.  “He met my parents when we were overseas, Will.”

“Yeah.  The ambassador would take his wife to a fucking warzone for a vacation, right?  Or did you take Jim to England?”

Mac instinctively ran her fingers over her scar and got deadly serious with the man on the phone.  “It wasn’t a fucking vacation.  If you must know, I got stabbed while I was there.  Jim and some of the guys in the platoon we embedded with were at the hospital when they arrived.  The guys rotated in and out as they could, but Jim was constant and got to know my parents.  So, when they said they had a few hours layover today on their way to see Simon, Nora and Bea, I had the choice between asking my ex-boyfriend to go with or the guy they still think saved my life.”  Mac heard Will’s end of the conversation go silent.  After several seconds, she added, “I can text you a picture of the damned scar if you want it.”

Will felt numb.  He believed her.  Actually, he couldn’t find a reason not to believe her.  So many thoughts ran through his head and he didn’t know exactly what he felt.  He thought he might get sick or worse, cry, and he didn’t know exactly why.  Mackenzie, his Mackenzie, who isn’t his anymore, got stabbed while she covered a story he should have covered himself.  He accused her of… even when he thought she did it, he felt like she couldn’t have, she wouldn’t have.  And what he did… it amounted to punishing her.  Her life went on, and he could have lost…  No.  No.  She’s here and she’s yelling at him and he deserves it, even if… She’s here, she’s… where?  Probably her old apartment.  He doesn’t know.  He’s never asked.  If he wanted to go over and… he can’t.  He doesn’t know where she is and he isn’t supposed to because she’s not his.  Except, all he wants in the world right now is to see her and touch her, make sure she’s real and whole and healthy and… and… fuck, she could have died. 

“Will?”

“I believe you.  I don’t need the picture of the scar.”  Will hung up the phone and put it on his table next to his drink.  He filled the glass again.  When his phone rang for the final time that night, he silenced it and pressed ignore. 

Mac only called him back once and then smiled.  She looked up a different number and called. 

“Hi Sloane, it’s Mac.  Thanks!”

Sloane smiled into her phone.  “What are friends for?”

Chapter Text

June 3, 2010  10:46PM

“Are you calling just to let me know that you and Jim took separate cars home and that you are both alone and not having phone sex?”

“Jim takes the subway.  Neither of us are rich enough to live in your neighborhood or hire a cheerleader for the night.”

Will was incensed.  He planned to go into the office and immediately own up to his mistake from the previous night.  Despite what she believes, he can admit a mistake.  In the light of day, he doesn’t know why he ever thought she would replace him with someone like Jim. 

But he never got a chance to talk to her.  She set him up all day.  When he came in, she stood at Jim’s desk talking to him.  Will got her attention and signaled for her to come to his office.  When she deigned to come in, she immediately told him that no matter what it looked like, she and Jim had a simple conversation about the rundown tonight and at no time did the idea of him ravishing her on his desk come up.  And then she asked if he had any other questions for her.  At that point, he dismissed her because obviously she wouldn’t listen to anything he had to say.  And the rest of the day, she kept entering his office just to let him know what she and Jim weren’t doing.  When Jim passed Mac in the hall, Mac immediately told Will that Jim said “excuse me,” they didn’t plan an elicit rendezvous in a janitor’s closet.  At another point in the day, she came in to tell him that she did have to read something over Jim’s shoulder, but made sure not to let her chest come in contact with the associate producer to make him think about sucking on her tits.  In two years of dating Mackenzie, he’d never heard her use the word tits. 

At the end of that conversation, he saw Sloane at his door and asked her to come in, which Mac correctly interpreted as her cue to leave.  Sloane said she forgot what she wanted Will for and apparently chased Mac, because when he went back to Mac’s office – again intending to admit his error and put an end to this – he heard the two women laughing.  Probably at his expense.  After that, Sloane openly started flirting with Jim, apparently confusing the young man.  Although Will did feel sorry for him when Sloane seductively bent over and whispered something in Jim’s ear and Will thought Jim would need to go to the bathroom to clean himself up.  Sloane then came into Will’s office and told him that Mac swore her to secrecy because she’s kind and decent or some shit.  Will spent the rest of night knowing that he was the butt of their jokes. 

“I didn’t hire a hooker, Mac.”

“No, you just found a cheerleader on short notice who had nothing better to do than spend a night was an old man who wanted to make his ex-girlfriend jealous.”

“She left after dinner.”

“Was that before or after you took out your little blue pill?”

Will didn’t know why he picked up the phone.  He knew that any conversation they had would go like this.  He didn’t know the words, but he knew she would be unreasonable.  She wouldn’t listen to a word he said.  “Is there a reason you called?”

“Yeah.  You didn’t answer when I called you back last night, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to say anything at work.”

“So you called me to tell me off now?  Well go for it, Mac.  Get whatever you want to say out of your fucking system.”

Mac took a breath and steeled herself for this.  She’d spent the last 24 hours rehearsing what she would say.  This time last night, she wanted to hurt him as bad as he hurt her.  That hurt turned into humiliation as she realized what everyone on their staff would think in the morning.  And then when he said he thought she was dating Jim… Jim!  That’s when the blinders came off.  That’s the moment that she realized she lost him.  How could he ever believe that she would hire a boyfriend.  Or even have one when with him so fucking present everywhere?  Toying with him all day today made the day bearable.  It gave her something to laugh at when she saw the looks of pity on the faces of their team.  Actually, her team.  He made it clear he didn’t want to claim them.  Every so often he might notice one of them, but he goes out of his way to make sure that rarely happens. 

“How could you believe it?  What the fuck is wrong with your head that you would think, for even a moment, that I would set out to hurt you like that?”

“Well, gee, Mac I don’t know.  Maybe it has something to do with the way that you slept with your ex-boyfriend for 4 months while we were together!”

“Yes, Will, I did that.  4 years ago, when you made it a fucking issue to be absolutely clear that you didn’t love me and didn’t want a girlfriend, I fucked my ex-boyfriend, who by the way wasn’t ashamed of me.”

“I was never ashamed!”

Mac didn’t stop to hear what he said.  “And then one day when I thought you needed to know all the facts before you made life decisions, I told you the truth.  I was fucking honest with you.”

“Except for the 4 months you were fucking him or the year that you didn’t think I needed to know.”

Mac knew she didn’t want to go down this road, so she took a breath and tried to redirect the conversation.  “Let me make this absolutely clear to you.  I would never, in a million years, never do to you what you did to me.  I would never humiliate you in front of your friends, or whatever the fuck you call those people who pretend to like you because you’re rich.”

“Except when you have an email to send out to the entire company.”

“That was an accident and you know it.  I wanted to set the record straight.  Make sure everyone knew you weren’t the ass they thought you were.  Turns out I was wrong.  You’re an even bigger ass than anyone thought.”

Mac’s declaration made Will flinch.  After he let what she said sink in, he asked coldly, “Are you finished?”

Mac didn’t know what she expected.  She hoped that he would apologize or something.  Make her remember the man that she fell in love with all those years ago.  Hearing the tone of his voice, she realized that the man she loved no longer existed.  “Your problem has always been that you think you can control everyone and everything around you.  You can’t stand to have something happen that’s outside your control.  You do piss-poor news because you want to control the ratings.  You call me or any other EP at all hours of the night with the expectation that they will drop everything and listen to whatever the fuck the great Will McAvoy deigns to give them.  You expect that when you want to get a drink, I’ll come running.  It doesn’t work like that Will.  No one lives for that moment when Will McAvoy decides to throw them a little crumb.  Maybe your escort for the evening, but no one that will ever matter to you.”

“Are you going to come to a point soon?”

“If you would have asked me about Jim, I would have told you.  And if you wanted to go to lunch with my parents, I would have taken you.  Instead you expected the worst from me and embarrassed us both as a result.  It’s not going to happen again.”

She hit close to home.  Part of him knew she was right, but the greater part of him knew he had to fight.  “Yeah, what’s going to stop me?”

Mac stopped for a second.  She thought he would, that knowing he would have to look himself in the mirror afterward would stop him.  But she realized that it wouldn’t.  All it would take is a bad day or a miscue and he will go into this same self-destructive mode again and again.  “I guess nothing.  But, when you hit bottom, that’s what you’re going to find there.  Nothing.  No one.  And the worst part is, it wouldn’t take much to have someone to help you up.”

Mac hung up the phone before Will have a chance to make a retort.  As she laid her phone on her end table, she felt a tear run down her cheek. 

Will put his phone down and took a drink and a cigarette out to his patio.  He looked at the traffic below him.  Usually he drew strength from the energy of the city, but this time he realized that all those people down there, driving in cars and walking the streets had lives and people who love them.  If Mac was right, and God damn it she usually is, he will never have what they have. 

Chapter Text

June 4, 2010 2:07AM

Will couldn’t sleep.  He tried.  Several times.  Every time he lays down, he hears Mac’s voice in his head.  He’s never heard her as angry as she sounded on the phone.  He truly fucked up this time and he doesn’t know what to do about it.  Obviously he should call her, talk to her, but what would he say.  “Hey Mac, I know you’re upset and I know I well and truly fucked up.  I shouldn’t have accused you of sleeping with Jim.  Can we be friends again?”  He didn’t know for sure that either of them would have called themselves friends before this.  When they dated, she used to say “before we’re anything, we’re friends”.  That went away when things started feeling serious.  And she fucking knew that.  She fucking knew when they got serious.  He didn’t say it, but, they both knew.  He didn’t have to say it.  He loved her.  And she knew it.  People use the word love all the time when it doesn’t mean anything.  Him not saying the word shouldn’t have meant anything, it certainly didn’t negate the fact that he loved her.  He desperately loved her. 

Of course, he thought she felt the same way, and apparently she didn’t.  The way he felt, he wouldn’t have been able to sleep with someone else.  But for 4 months she did. 

But none of that matters.  He doesn’t have the words to say that will fix this.  He sat up in his bed and picked up his phone to call her.  He saw the time on the clock and remembered her yelling at him about calling at all times of the night.  But if she wants an apology and she won’t listen to him at work, then he has to do this now. 

Her phone went directly to voicemail.  She must be asleep. 

June 4, 2010  11:35 PM

Mac looked at her phone as it rang.  She and Will spent the day avoiding each other, so much so that staff members started to notice and drew conclusions themselves.  They had several theories that came from being told to interrupt one of Will’s dates and the new attention that Sloane still gave poor Jim.  Mac had to talk Jim down from filing a sexual harassment charge against the economist.  Unfortunately, that resulted in Sloane telling Jim about Will’s fallacious assumption and Maggie somehow heard it and by the final rundown meeting, the group teased Jim and by extension Mac and even Will so much that Will walked out before the meeting started. 

Mac hated the whole situation.  She laughed with them because that’s what a good leader should do.  She had to take it, knowing that they didn’t mean anything by it.  But they didn’t know that it served as a reminder of that night.  They didn’t know the anger she still harbored for their anchor.  They also didn’t know that having her job meant having to find a way to work with him despite how she personally felt.  And that meant picking up the phone and calling him out on his childish behavior. 

The phone rang three times before he picked up.  “Will.”

“Mac.”

“Well, now that we have each other’s names straight.  You know why I’m calling, right?”

“I left the meeting and now you have to treat me like a little kid who disobeyed.”

Mac didn’t have the energy for this and it seemed he didn’t either.  “I don’t want to deal with their bullshit either, but they didn’t think anything of it, they don’t know what’s happening here and we have to be the adults and keep it that way.”

“What the fuck do you think is happening here?”

Mac exhaled hard.  She’d give anything to go home and just relax, instead she has to come home and guard every word because he might question her ill thought through syntax.  “Nothing Will.  Not a damn thing.”

Mac stopped talking and the silence seemed to go on for a long time.  Will knew he needed to fill it and he knew he should fill it with an apology.  He has to say something and he has wanted a chance like this, just the two of them, when he could say… something.  “Look Mac –”

“Will, don’t.  Just, let them have their fun.  It’ll blow over and no one will think about it by Monday.  Okay?”

Will wanted to agree.  She once again gave him the easy out.  But he knew he couldn’t take it.  He had to try again, something inside him made him want to take another shot.  “Mac –”

“What, Will?  What are you so desperate to tell me?”

“I knew.”  Mac put her head against the back of the couch not sure what he meant or what he wanted her to say.  She was about to fill the silence when he said, “the stabbing.  I was still at CNN when it happened and no one wanted to tell me, but I heard and I, I kept clippings, anything I could find.  I, I was relieved… glad, when they said you would be okay.”

Mac nodded her head.  “Well, that’s great Will.  Is that all?”

“Mac, listen to me, please.”

“Fine.”

It wasn’t the enthusiasm that he hoped for, but, it was something.  “You left and I thought I didn’t care.  I thought I didn’t want to know where you were or what happened to you.  Then I heard that you could have died, and I wanted to know.  I wanted to reach out to your parents and see how you were, but I didn’t.  And I don’t know why I didn’t.  And then this Jim thing.  I shouldn’t have assumed that you would do that.  I don’t know why I did.”

Mac shook her head.  “Then maybe you should go see a therapist and figure it out.”

“Mac, please.  I’m trying.”

“What are you trying, Will?  Do you even know?  You fell in love with me the day you met me, but it took a year before you actually said it.  And then you punished me for not knowing that you were serious.  You saw a story about this person you say you loved being stabbed in the abdomen, and you can’t get over yourself enough to call my parents, let alone me to find out if I was going to live or die.  You do everything in your power to punish me for the horrible sin of trying to make you fucking better, and when you… apologize or whatever the fuck you’re trying to do, you think the worst thing you did was accuse me of sleeping with Jim?”

“I’m sorry for not calling you?”  Will didn’t want that to come out as a question, but he didn’t know what she was looking for.

“Are you really?”

Will took a second to decide what he thought she wanted to hear and gave a very confident, “Yes.”

“Fuck you.”  Mac hung up the phone. 

June 8, 2010  11:01PM

Will got home after a drink with Charlie.  Things at work have settled a little.  Mac was right, as she usually is, no one talked about his great misstep.  And Mac hasn’t talked to him anymore than necessary.  She heard him set up a date for tomorrow when she went to his office to suggest an edit to his copy.  She asked him if the woman would meet him at the studio and he said yes because she works evenings too and the studio is close to her job.  Mac nodded her head in understanding and then handed him her edits.  Before she left, she turned around and said, “I have a date tonight too, but mine’s an actual adult with a day job who can afford to meet me at the restaurant.”

Will thought she tried to tell him something, but the message missed the mark.  He simply nodded and wished her luck.  He saw her leave the building, dressed for her date.  He hadn’t seen her look like that in a long time.  He couldn’t help thinking about how much he loved seeing her dress up for him, to go out with him. 

Will played with the phone in his hand, knowing that she probably isn’t back from her date yet, but wanting to find a reason to call her and then probe to find out how it went, if she’ll see him again.  But he knows he shouldn’t. 

June 13, 2010  1:45AM

Will’s date left a half hour ago and Will looked at his clock.  It’s Sunday morning.  There was a time when that meant something, these days it simply means that he finished another Saturday night date.  He didn’t have a bad time.  He went out with a brain surgeon, not because of the shots Mac took at the combined IQ of his other dates, but because she could talk about something other than work and school.  He can’t remember the last time he went out with someone who he could actually converse with.  He thought about it and he hated the answer his mind settled on.  In three years, every woman he’s taken out… that has to be a mistake.  He spent a whole week with Erin Andrews and they had sports in common.  He tried to convince himself that every woman he’s been with in the last 3 years hasn’t been meaningless, but he had a hard time. 

His mind kept going back to Mac.  She’s still not talking to him.  For three years she covered stories half a world away and he didn’t feel like this, like he didn’t have something in his life that he needed.  He didn’t just want her, he needed her.  She does something to him.  She yells at him or barges into his office and it’s irritating, but, she’s always spured him on to doing something good, becoming something better.  He wants that back and he doesn’t know how to get it. 

He looked at the table on his patio and saw his phone.  Without thinking, he picked it up and called.  Five rings and it went to voicemail.  “Hey Mac, it’s me.  It’s been over a week now.  I fucked up and I know it.”  He didn’t know what else to say.  “Call me back.”

He didn’t get it.  He made a fucking mistake and he tried to apologize.  He thought that she was sleeping with her senior producer right under his nose.  He thought she had a serious relationship with him, someone he had to work with as well.  That’s different from bringing his dates into the newsroom.  They don’t all go home with him and a lot of times it’s just convenient.  The first time he did it as retaliation.  But after that, he always had a reason to have them meet him.  And it’s not like it happens every night.  She’s dating too, in fact that’s probably where she is.  She’s with some guy… he doesn’t want that image in his head.  It’s enough to know that she’s dating.    He wondered if she knows that she can invite her dates to meet her at the newsroom.  He’d actually like to see them, see how he compares… because he never stopped finding her attractive and he’d like to know to whom someone like her, but definitely not her, is attracted. 

He picked up his phone again and waited for it to go to voicemail.  “Hey, Mac, it’s me again.  I thought that, you know it’s okay if you have your dates come to the studio at the end of the show.  I’d like to see who you go for these days.” 

He smiled at the end of the message, hoping it would be a step in the direction of easing tensions.  He hung up the phone and hoped he solved the problem.  If he knew Mac, she probably had her phone to her ear now, listening to his message.  She should call him back any minute now.  When she didn’t, he wondered again if she was out with someone.  He started imagining what he looked like and what they did all night. 

He knew he fucked up.  For the first time since Danielle arrived in the newsroom he wondered if he fucked up before he thought that Mac was dating Jim. 

Chapter Text

June 16, 2010  9:53PM

“Is this important, Will?”

“I thought we should talk about Jim DeMint.  But if you’re getting ready to go out.”

Mac shook her head.  She didn’t have a date, and she didn’t know why he thought she did.  She wasn’t him.  She didn’t go out every night after work.  Maybe she was being too hard on him, he doesn’t have some woman there every night, but close enough.  What he thought didn’t matter, she didn’t want to be on the phone with him.  “I thought that was you.”

“No, of course not.  I wouldn’t call you if I was going out.”

“I should have known.  There wasn’t a girl young enough to be your daughter in the newsroom tonight.”

For an instant, Will thought about the daughter he thought they should have.  The day Mac told him about Brian, he expected her to announce her pregnancy.  They should have a 2 year old kid right now.  “Sorry, I’m not into 2 year olds.”

Mac knew exactly where that came from and winced from the thought.  “Really?  Seeing your taste recently I wasn’t sure.”  It came off her tongue so quickly she didn’t have a chance to stop it, though she’s not sure that she would have. 

Will rolled his eyes.  “Can we just pretend to be professionals for a couple minutes?  I want to talk about the DeMint interview.”

“You wanted daily meat from the Tea Party, I’m giving it to you.  Do you really not know how to go after the guy?  He was against NCLB, for privatizing Social Security, and wanted to normalize trade with China.  If none of that works for you, he voted against Clinton as Secretary of State and formed the Senate Conservatives Fund.  You can find all this on Wikipedia.  What do you want from me?”

“I want to do social issues with him.  I want to go after him for his stand on same sex marriages.  Pin them to the wall on that.”

Mac took a second to think.  “It wouldn’t be the first time we’re asking about social issues.”

“Mac, listen.  In his book –“

“You mean you have time to read with your other social obligations?”

Will didn’t hear her last comment.  “He says, “We just cannot have, particularly the federal government, redefining marriage or telling us what is right or wrong. And if we help America understand that, folks, we're not trying to get the government to do it our way or your way; what we're asking for is the freedom to allow people to live out their faith and values and their lives the way they want. And we believe that our side will win because I'm convinced that most Americans want to have decent moral lives and share our same values. But if the government continues to press in the wrong direction, it begins to change our culture.”  Do you hear that?  He’s saying that most Americans want to have decent moral lives.  Who the fuck is he to tell us what a decent, moral life is?”

Mac wanted to disagree, simply because Will said it.  She had that statement highlighted when she read his book too and had started writing out the line of questioning.  “Will, why are you calling me?”

“Because you’re my fucking EP.  And, you know…”  Will nearly choked on the words he knew he had to say.  He hadn’t planned to say them, he didn’t call her because of this.  At least he hadn’t consciously thought it before calling her, he just knew this would be a different interview than he had done yet.  “Les, Mac.  You knew Les and I need to know that if I do this, you’ll pull me back if you need to.”

Mac rolled her eyes.  If Will had brought up his brother to get her to talk to him, she would have… she probably would have talked to him and then thought he was a bastard for it later.  But did he really think that she would completely ignore her job because he’s acting like an ass?  “That’s my job, Will.  I stop you before you can show the entire county how much of an ass you are.”

Will didn’t intend to manipulate her.  He didn’t want to, he didn’t set out to, but when he brought up Les, the brother whose funeral she went to, he thought he’d hear a softening in her voice.  He loved her family, he loved being with them.  And he thought she loved Peg and Les the same way.  Hell, he half expected that she still kept in contact with Bruce, Les’ partner.  She made sure to call him on holidays and at other times just because after Les passed away when they were still together.  Instead she seemed to get angrier.  “Are you sure about that?  I notice you haven’t given a lot of direction and that has nearly gotten me into a couple of jams this week.”

“Nothing that brilliant lawyer mind of yours hasn’t been able to handle.  And I’ve known it.”  Mac thought quickly about the last few days.  Has she let him get away with something?  Has she shown any degree of unprofessionalism?

“As long as we’re clear, because I can still fire you anytime I want.”

“Does that mean I should plan to pack up after the DeMint interview if you let your personal feelings come out?  You better be careful there, Will.  That may be more incentive than just exposing you to your precious audience.  Have you ever wondered what would happen if you really did lose me and the audience all at once?”

A fleeting moment of terror ran through Will before he got serious again.  “Mac, I need to know that I can count on you.”  He hated having to say what he needed to, he hated feeling this vulnerable.  Especially to her, especially when she acts like this.  “I don’t know if I can handle this interview the way I want to do it, will you help me?”

Mac tried to remember the last sincere thing he said to her.  The last time he seemed genuine.  He seemed genuine when Bea went to the hospital.  Even though it only happened a couple weeks ago, it felt like ages.  “Yes, Will.  I’ll be with you every step of the way and I’ll make sure that everyone has your back.”

Everyone.  He didn’t need everyone.  He didn’t want everyone to know about this, about his fear of letting a personal feeling cloud his ability to run a decent interview.  She knew, no one else needed to know.  “Everyone?”

Mac tried to keep the edge from her voice.  He needed her to reassure him, she knew that.  He needed her to not bite his head off.  He needed to hear that his personal life would stay private, a thought that made her laugh given how publicly he broadcasts his dating choices to ensure that she feels every bit of hate he has for her.  She tried to put that last thought away, and said, with somewhat gritted teeth, “I’m not going to tell them why.  I have too much respect for Les and Bruce.  But I will make sure that your team gives you the support you need.”

“My team.”  Will felt disappointed, but he didn’t know why.  The logical part of him knew what she told him and that she said exactly what he wanted to hear.  But still, he felt let down.  He knew just out of reach from him he had a thought that would put all this in perspective, but he couldn’t get to it.  While his mind tried to puzzle that together, he heard himself say, “And what about you?”

Mac sighed.  She didn’t want to spell this out for him, but obviously he had no intention of getting off the phone until she did.  “Well, since the team answers to me and I’ll be prodding them, I guess I’ll give you the support you need as well.”

He wanted a different answer; that much he knew.  He didn’t know what answer he wanted, but he decided this came close enough.  “Thank you.”

Mac didn’t know exactly what to say.  Finally she asked, “Have you talked to Bruce recently?”

Again, Will felt ashamed.  She always did that better than him, she knew how to keep the relationships.  “I got a Christmas card from him.  Looks like he’s found someone, Kyle I think was his name.  Have, uh, have you?”

“No, uh, I lost touch with a lot of people while I was gone.”

Will felt guilt crush down on him over that statement.  She spent all that time away from family and friends.  The people she loved most in the world.  “Yeah.  I’ve, uh, I’ve been meaning to call him myself.”

“Look, Will, I uh, I need to check on something and I have an early meeting tomorrow I need to get up for.”

“Yeah, of course.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See ya.”

Mac hung up the phone.  She hated lying to him, she hated cutting him off when he wanted to talk about his family, but he set up these rules.  He let her know that they have nothing anymore.  She has to cut him out of her life as much as their working relationship will allow, even if it hurts like hell. 

Chapter Text

June 18, 2010 9:35PM

Mac watched Will leave with Darshana.  “A brain surgeon.  Literally a brain surgeon,” he said.  She reminded herself of her own accomplishments, things that relate better to Will’s world.  Multiple Peabody winning producer.  Only producer able to put up with his shit and keep people watching.  She wondered if he knew that their formula of actually informing the electorate seemed to work.  Charlie showed her the numbers.  The answer to who watches started to shift, but the number of people watching started to grow.  Charlie wanted to tell Will, but she said no.  She fears Will looking for a magic bullet and taking that too far so that he comes across as fake.  Smart as Darshana may be, she couldn’t possibly grasp that part of Will.  Of course, later tonight she’ll grasp another part of him… 

Mac started to gather her things when she heard a tap at the door.  She turned and saw Don.  “He has a rule, his phone stays on 24/7 in case –“

“There’s breaking news and he needs to come in.  I know.”  He made himself available to network presidents and others in case of big news while they dated the last time.  She allowed it because she understood the need they both had to cover the news.  Any other woman wouldn’t get it.  No other woman could get him the way Mackenzie McHale can.  How the fuck does he not understand that?

“You can call him and tell him exactly what you think of him.”

“Thanks, Don.”

Don left to prepare his own show in an hour.  She should.  She should let him know exactly what she thinks.  He called her in the middle of the night earlier this week begging her to watch him for the DeMint interview, and after everyone gave an extra effort, he left with his fucking teenager of the night.  She has every right to call him, to ruin his fucking night.  Come up with some story that he should come in for.  That would serve him right.  Yelling at him won’t be enough.  He’ll forge on ahead with his plans.  She needs to find a reason for him to come to the office and she can do this face to face.  God damn it, why isn’t there an insurrection somewhere in the world.  Is it too much to ask for a good old fashioned government overthrow in a country no one’s heard of?

 

Will sat across the table from his date, hearing her talk, but thinking about work and Mac.  This evening didn’t go the way he expected.  At the end of the show, he planned to talk to Mac, tell her that he saw how hard the team worked and he appreciated their efforts.  He didn’t like praising them himself, he thought he should keep a distance from them.  Mac excels in the role of their leader and encourager, so he’s happy to let her pass the message onto the group.  He planned to give her some money to take them out for drinks after he made a quick exit, probably to Charlie’s office.  But, when he came out of the studio, he saw Mac walking towards Darshanna and he remembered he made plans for tonight.  That of course meant that he had plans and he couldn’t get Mac alone when she had already cornered his date.  When she followed him to his office, Mac acted so catty that he couldn’t find a way to say thank you like he wanted. 

Will tried to pay attention while Darshanna dropped the name of another political donor to her med school and he smiled and finally excused himself for a minute.  He needed to call Mac.  If he can get this over with, then maybe he can concentrate on the woman sitting across from him and not his ex. 

When he called, she didn’t answer.  It didn’t bother her apparently.  She must have made plans herself.  And, surprisingly, he can live with that.  He can.  Over the last week or so when she hasn’t answered his calls, he assumed someone took her out.  The idea took some getting used to, but she has decided to move on and that can only mean that he doesn’t have to think about her.  He knows that she wouldn’t choose to spend her time with a person who won’t treat her right.  Well, Brian didn’t exactly treat her right, seduced her into an illicit affair.  But he doesn’t have to think about that anymore either.  He’s moved on, he has an active social life.  And she moved on.  And if she needed him… they’re friends.  And he’d help her like he would any friend.  He would.  No matter how much she ignores him.  He will. 

But she won’t need him.  He has never met a stronger, more independent, capable woman in his life.  He knows that she has never needed him.  She needed someone else to fill in whatever the fuck he couldn’t.  She didn’t need him, while he always needed her. 

As he let this last thought settle in his head, he heard a knock at the door.  Apparently his date started getting concerned at the amount of time it took him.  So he rejoined her at the table.  Still unable to concentrate on her or what she talked about. 

 

Mac sat at her computer in her office when Elliot and Don left the studio at the end of Right Now.  Don insisted that she join their crew at Hang Chews for a drink.  Mac still believed she could find some real news to call Will about, though she didn’t tell them that.  She came up with another excuse.  “Come on Mac, you’re with us.” Elliot said and the group that also included Maggie, Jim, Martin and a few Right Now producers made their voyage to the karaoke bar with her.  They cajoled Martin into getting up and singing. Jim and Mac told stories about their time in the Middle East, inciting laughter from the group.  As Mac got in her cab, she realized that she didn’t come to ACN to reunite with Will, though she really wished she could.  She came back to work in a studio.  Will would act like an ass.  He lives his own self-fulfilled prophesy.  But while he works through his identity crisis – because she knows he is so much better than this – she can live her life without Will McAvoy as a romantic partner in it. 

 

Will hailed a cab and put his date in it, then gave the cabbie a $50 to cover the fare.  He promised that he’d call her next week, but both knew he lied.  He quickly found his car and driver just a couple car lengths away, so he got in and watched New York City whiz by.  When he got back to his apartment, he took off his jacket and tie.  When he got comfortable watching a replay of the Yankees game, he couldn’t stop thinking about Mac.  Without thinking, he pulled out his phone and called her.  She didn’t answer, so he left a voice mail.  “Hey Mac, it’s me.  I just wanted to say, I mean I should have told you today after the show, thank you.  You were outstanding today, and so was the team, but I know you never give yourself enough credit.  And you deserve it.  So, thank you.  And, um, I want to get them some drinks or something one night.  Hope you’re having a good evening with whoever you’re with.”

Will hung up.  Whoever the lucky bastard is, he better not hurt Mac.  She’s too good for either one of them. 

 

Chapter Text

June 22, 2010  11:54PM

“Mac, you answered.”

 “Traditionally people answer their phones when they ring.  It’s one of the pleasantries that expect even you know.”

Will gave a little laugh and before he could think about it, he asked,  “Who’s the guy?”

“What guy?” Mac looked at her phone a little confused. 

“The one that sent the flowers.  It looks, it looks serious.”

Last night, Will had another date meet him at the studio, so as an act of solidarity, Sloane ordered flowers and had them delivered during the morning rundown meeting.  She even left instructions to interrupt Mac’s meeting with the delivery.  She wanted… well, Mac didn’t know exactly what Sloane wanted, besides permission to beat some sense into Will.  Mac refused to give that permission, fearing makeup having to do extra work, so Sloane settled on this plan. 

The team has sweetly supported Mac.  Besides the sympathetic looks that most of the women send her when they see another date leave with Will, and Sloane’s litany of things she wants to do to Will for hurting Mac, Martin has started drawing caricatures of the dates with hilarious captions and leaving them under her door before she arrives in the morning.   She has laughed at them for a couple weeks now, but only discovered Martin's identity this morning when he ran a little late.  She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, and then told him not to tell HR. 

Now Mac had the chance to maybe make Will feel like she has, “I don’t know.  It seems wrong somehow to talk to my ex-boyfriend about who I’m currently dating like you’re my best friend in high school, don’t you think?”

Will thought about it for a second.  He wanted to know.  He wanted to see if he made her happy.  He hoped… he wanted her to be happy.  He knew that.  His brain couldn’t quite finish the thought that he wanted this guy to make her happy, but he knew that he wanted her happy.  He still wanted to hear her laugh, really laugh.  Show some sign that she enjoys life the way she used to. 

“I mean I can tell you about our date last night and when he brought me back here and he kissed me and put his hands on my–”

“Okay, Mac, I get it.  I don’t want to know the details.  I just… I just want to know that you’re happy.  We’re friends after all.”  Will said it, and then wondered if she felt the same.  “I mean, we’re not like best girlfriends… or whatever, but we are friends, right?”

Mac heard the uncertainty in his voice and smiled.  She shouldn’t let him disarm her like this.  She still hates him and even though she made the decision to not let his antics destroy her, seeing him leave with other women still hurt.  And she wanted him to hurt when she got those ridiculous flowers.  “Yes, Will, we’re friends.”

Will felt a wave of relief he didn’t expect.  “Well, good.  Then you know that if he hurts you –”

“Will, he doesn’t exist.  Sloane wanted to cheer me up, so she had the flowers sent.” 

Will looked at the phone surprised.  “What?  Why are --  You know you didn’t have to tell me that.”

Mac took a breath.  “I promised myself that I would never lie to you again, letting you think that I was serious about someone would be a lie.”  When Will didn’t say anything, she added.  “A lie of omission is still a lie.”

She wanted to make up for her mistake, for lying to him for so long in their previous relationship. Will wished once again that should would have had that same resolve 4 years ago.  If she would have told him after the first time or even the second.  Anytime before he said “I love you”.  If she would have told him, then maybe… but maybe not.  She betrayed him.  That’s all he knew.  That’s all that mattered.  He shut his eyes tight before saying, “But, you are, you are dating, right?  I mean you’re not –”

“Waiting for you to come to your senses and realize that you’re still in love with me?  No.  I know that isn’t going to happen.  And I am dating.  Not as often as you, but I have been out a several times.”

“Good.  Good.  Because, we’re friends.  And I, you know.  I want you to be happy.  I do.”

“You too, Will.  And if that parade of 20 somethings that you march into the studio makes you happy…”  She couldn’t finish the thought.  She knew that he wanted a deeper connection than what he had with them.  He wanted and he deserved more.  He may feel good with them for a little while, like he felt when he obsessed over his ratings, but he wanted more.  And she still believed that she could give it to him if he could just forgive her and learn to trust her again. 

“I know.”  Will wanted to ask her something, but knew that he couldn’t.  Not really.  “I should go, Mac.  Good night.”

“Good night, Will.”

July 1, 2010 2:34AM

Mac answered the phone from a dead sleep.  Their conversation last week seemed to cause a slight thaw in their relationship, though she couldn’t always hide her reactions to seeing a new companion in her newsroom.  She hated seeing her team pity her.  They thought they supported her and she accepted it that way, but she also felt like the object of pity and hated that. 

“What is it, Will?”

“Are you listening to the scanner?”

“Do I sound like I’m listening to the scanner?  Tess is on the book tonight, she’s listening to the scanner for us.  Why are you listening to the scanner?” 

“Brooklyn is having a violent night.”

Mac sat up in her bed.  This news didn’t affect her in any significant way, but she wondered why it affected him.  “What’s going on Will?  It’s a night in Brooklyn.”

“5 people shot tonight, Mac.  2 different shootings a mile apart.  One person dead already.”  Will let that sink in.  “That was my territory.  For 20 years I was a prosecutor there.  I always thought that if we made them face the consequences of their actions, it would sink in.  Don’t do the crime, because we’re gonna get ya.  But that’s not the issue, is it?”  Mac didn’t know what to say, but she also believed that Will didn’t want her to say anything.  “You can’t legislate morality.  And you can’t force people to value human life.  The cops, the prosecutors, even those of us who try to tell the stories to the masses, to get people to show compassion to their fellow humans.  None of us can stop this, can we?”

“What’s going on, Will?”

“Nothing.  I was just listening to the scanner –”

“What’s going on Will?  I can’t help you until you tell me what happened.”

“I just told you, two shootings in Brooklyn.”

“You didn’t call me about two shootings in Brooklyn.”

Will didn’t know why he called her.  He listened to the scanner while he sat outside smoking and drinking a beer.  He didn’t remember picking up the phone, he just heard her voice.  And now, now he had to tell her.  “My dad called.  It was a butt dial,” Will chuckled a little.  “He was drunk off his ass.  He won’t remember tomorrow.”

“But you realized that if your number was pulled up on his phone, he must have meant to call you.  And you haven’t heard from anyone in Nebraska, probably since Christmas.”  She didn’t add the obvious that he knows he can’t save them.  He can’t save his family anymore than he could save anyone in his former district.

“Nah.  Peg called me after you called her.”  Will smiled, hoping that she did too.  He stopped smiling and said, “I never told you about that did I?  I meant to.  I don’t remember why I didn’t.”

“It’s okay.”  She didn’t want to probe further, but she knew he needed her, and he didn’t have anyone else he could call.  Maybe Charlie, but probably not.  “As I remember, Peg still hated me when we talked.”

Will laughed.  “Yeah, she did.  But you won her over.  You have that ability.  It doesn’t matter how much someone hates you or how much you deserve it…”  Will stopped himself.  It was too much honesty.  He called her and made himself vulnerable, but finishing that thought, it was too much.  He finally remembered why he didn’t call her that day.  He came too close to falling in love with her again.  He couldn’t allow that.  He just couldn’t.  “Look, Mac, it’s okay.  I’m okay.  I shouldn’t have called.”

“Will, you can always call.  You’re a righteous prick most of the time, but I’ll always make time for you if you need it.”

Will chuckled.  Mac’s ability to tell him exactly what she thought of him never ceased to amaze him.  No one else could, or would.  He always welcomed her bluntness.  He couldn’t let this go too far though.  He couldn’t.  “I’ll see you tomorrow, Mac.”

Chapter Text

July 9, 2010  9:42PM

Will’s voice was lowered when he answered his phone.  “Are you calling about the spies or do you have something important to say?”

Mac didn’t have any reason to keep her voice low, so she didn’t.  “Don’t you ever walk out on me like that again in the middle of a conversation.  I don’t give a fuck if Miss America herself walks in wearing nothing but her crown.  We were not finished talking.”

“I sure as fuck was.  I did the interview.  I’m sorry it didn’t live up to your high standards.”

“It’s my high fucking standards that keep this show going as well as it does.  You didn’t prepare yourself and then you didn’t follow my cues.”

Will wanted to hang up.  He took his phone from his ear and started to, but then put it back.  “You really think… you’ve known me how long and you think I didn’t prepare myself?  You gave me a bogus interview and no support.”

Mac had never felt so angry.  “No fucking support!  We went over what happens in a spy trade in two different run-down meetings.  We had a package set up for you –”

“Secret Agent Man, Mac.  Martin fucking used Secret Agent Man as the music bed.  How fucking immature is that?”

“A hell of a lot less immature than anyone you’ve done in the last couple months.”

Will forgot that he stood at the entrance of a nice restaurant and matched her volume.  “Is that what this is fucking about?  You’re jealous that I’m fucking a different woman every night while you’re—”  Will saw that his date heard what he said and stormed at him.

“And I’m what, Will?  Finish the thought!”

At that moment, Will’s date stood in front of him and slapped him.  Will hung up the phone, handed the Maitre d' a bunch of money and ran after the girl. 

July 11, 2010  4:26PM

“Mac, have you talked to Charlie yet?”

Mac caught her breath as she watched the news.  “He’s making a decision, but I don’t think he’s going to even break in.  The bombings are in Uganda and the people here don’t even care about football.”

It didn’t even occur to Will to correct her vernacular, she sounded shaken up.  “Mac, are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, everything’s fine.”

Will didn’t believe her.  He knew better than to believe her.  He could hear the BBC broadcast behind her.  He couldn’t make out the words, but he knew what the newscast said.  Coordinated attacks at World Cup viewing parties in Uganda.  It looked like a warzone already.  They didn’t have any idea of how many casualties or injuries, just images of chaos. 

“You’re thinking about your time away, aren’t you?”

“I’m fine Will.”

“I’m going to tell Charlie that if he wants me to go on the air, I will, but I don’t want you there.  I’ll tell him to get Don’s ass to the studio.”

Mac couldn’t believe he just said that.  “If you’re going on the air, I’m going to fucking run you.  I know how to do my fucking job and if you don’t like the way I’m doing it, then go ahead and fire me.  We can pretend it’s Friday.”

“Mac, I don’t want… That’s not what I meant.”

“I’ll call Charlie right now—”

“Mac!  Stop!”  Will heard that Mac stopped talking and he talked more quietly.  “Mac, I don’t want to fire you.  And you’re probably right that Charlie won’t want to break in.  But it seems like this story will upset you, and I, I don’t want you to have to go through that.  Tomorrow’s Monday, we’ll have to cover it, so let’s get Kendra on it.  She can run me during that segment.”

“I can fucking do my job, Will.”

“I know you can.  You are the best at what you do.  But I’m pretty good at protecting people from the things that hurt them.  So that’s what I’m going to do.”

Just enough of what he said got through to Mac.  She slowed down and realized that he wanted to protect her.  Will can do so many things so well, but Mac will always see him as the scared little boy who thinks the only thing he can do is protect the people he loves and to hit back.  All of sudden, she understood why he did it, why he had those women come in and she felt a tear roll down her cheek.  Finally with a quiver in her voice, she said a quick, “Thank you.” And hung up the phone.

Her Will still needed to grow up, but he still lived in that brilliant head of his.

 

July 20, 2010  1:47AM

Will couldn’t sleep.  He got out of bed for the third time tonight and decided to look at polling data.  As he stared at the trends, he picked up the phone and called Mac. 

“What are you working on, Will?”

“Polling data.  Do you realize that we have consistently gone after them 4-5 times a week and they’re still going to take over Congress?  What the fuck are we doing wrong, Mac?”

“I’m rewatching our interviews to figure it out.”

“Are the American people so desperate for change that they would elect anyone?  I don’t get it.  Someone at Fox News says we need to see change, there’s no reason for it, but they say it’s so, so it must happen.  I thought I was a trusted name in news.”

“This isn’t about how much they like you or trust you.”

“Yes it is, Mac.  We’re supposed to be making a difference, informing the electorate.  Isn’t that what you always go on about?  We’re not making a fucking dent in the Tea Party’s pursuit of the heart of this country.  I always thought that people want to get to center, but more and more they’re going as far from it as possible.”

Mac thought about it for a second.  “You’re not going to like hearing this, but you’re not God, Will.  All you can do is give them the information, they have to choose what to do with it.”

“They’re not doing the right thing.  So maybe I’m not telling them the right way.  Maybe I’m going at them too hard.  I’ve lost the middle of the country, haven’t I?  I know you watch my numbers.  That’s what you and Charlie talk about at 2:00 on Tuesdays.”

Mac had to think about how to answer him.  She didn’t know how he knew when she and Charlie had their numbers meeting, but he knew.  She couldn’t tell him what they see in the trends, she needs to keep him doing news the right way.  If he knew, he would act like a drug addict at a Hollywood party.  They’re doing the news right, he has to see that.  “This above all, to thine own self be true.  And it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.  That was Shakespeare.  Lord Polonius giving advice to his son before he left.  You’re up there every night being true to who you are.  You’re giving the truth, that’s all we can ask.”

“But it’s not enough, Mac.  It’s not enough when they are going to take control of Congress.”

“Will, we’re doing the news the right way.  And I am damned proud of the show we’re doing.  And you should be too.”

Will let this sink in.  “You’re proud? Of me – er, the show?”

Mac smiled.  “Yes.  And you should be too.  Go to Youtube and watch some of your interviews.  Ignore the comments, just watch how you cover the news.”

Will opened a new tab on his computer and looked himself up.  Will announced to Mac which interview he selected and they both watched, taking notes on his performance.  After each interview, they compared notes.  In the end, Will said, “Yeah, I am proud of what we’re doing.”

 

July 24, 2010 12:45AM

“Hey, I was wondering if we could break down my interviews this week.”

“Seriously?  What the fuck are you doing Will?”

“What?”

“You had her fucking meet you at the newsroom.  What happened, you took her to dinner, had her blow you and now that you’re satisfied that way, you just assume that I’m going to be available?”

Will didn’t know what to say.  Not that that ever stopped him from talking.  “You know that I’m dating, just like you are.  I thought things were okay.  I thought we had an understanding.”

“Well, you thought wrong.  You don’t kiss someone else goodnight and then call me.  If you want to go over your interviews, we can do that in the morning.  I’ll see you at 8.”

Mac hung up the phone.  They’ve made some steps forward, but she still can’t watch him leave with some woman without feeling it.  She always believed that Will did it because he hates her, but she has to wonder if he really doesn’t get it.  Doesn’t consider what it feels like for her.  How can he not see everyone’s reaction to them?  How can he be so indifferent? 

She started shuffling through some papers she had collected throughout the day to give herself something to do.  She picked up a business card that she thought she threw away.  As she looked at it, she decided that one drink wouldn’t hurt.  Who knows what could happen.  She picked up her phone and made the call.  The phone rang 5 times before going to voicemail.

“Hi Wade.  This is Mackenzie McHale, we met at the coffee house and you said if I ever wanted to go out for a drink…  I think I would.”  

Chapter Text

August 3, 2010 12:34AM

“Hi Mac, it’s me.  Who do we have on the Prop 8 decision that should be coming down this week?  Whatever Judge Vaughn says won’t be the final word, so we need to make sure that the person can keep on the story.”

August 5, 2010 11:43PM

“Hey Mac, it’s Will.   Should we cancel whoever we have from the Tea Party tomorrow and spend that time on more discussion about the Justice Kagan confirmation?  I’ve been looking at the polling data and I think maybe you were right before.  If we cut down on attacking the Tea Party, it may be more effective than going after them every night.  And there is an argument against Kagan that we can pursue instead.  It’s a weak one, but I think I can draw it out.”

August 11, 2010 11:15PM

“Hi Mac.  Will.  Where are you?  I hope you’re not avoiding my calls.  Look it was a good show today, but I think tomorrow we should delve a little more into Blagojevich.  The jury will come back any day now and I think we need to delve a little deeper into his misdeeds then the competition.  And please don’t accuse me of wanting to go after a democrat for once.  And don’t read too much into my talking about the competition.  He really was dangerous, and Illinois is better for not having him there.  Can we agree on that?  Please call me back, Mac.”

August 16, 2010 2:34 AM

“Mac!  Where the fuck are you?  Why aren’t you answering your phone at night?”

August 16, 2010 2:36AM

 “I shouldn’t have said it like that.  But, come on, this is you and me. We’ve always worked like this.  We leave work and keep working at home.  Without the team around we get more done at home and can figure out what we want them to do.”  Will thought he covered his last call well.  He could never let her know, but he started to realize that he missed talking to her at night.  In fact, even at work things seemed different.  He couldn’t explain how, but something seemed… out of place. 

August 23, 2010  1:46AM

Will picked up the phone, not wanting to leave another message that won’t get answered until he gets to work in the morning, but even hearing her greeting gave him comfort, though he didn’t want to admit it.  Much to his surprise, after three rings, she picked up. 

“Mac!”

Mac smiled.  “Will, you see me 10 hours a day at work, do you really need to make sure that I’m still taking your calls?”

“I’m not checking up on you.  At least not like that.  I just… I always work late at night with my EPs and didn’t think it would be fair to the others if I didn’t insist on talking to you this late.”

“Since when have you cared about being fair?”

Will laughed lightly, “Since it sounded like a good excuse.  So, what’s happening Mac?  You got a new boyfriend keeping you up at night.”

“If I told you yes, what would you do?”

Will felt an unpleasant sensation, but realized that she didn’t say yes, she simply gave him a hypothetical.  She’s not with anyone.  That conclusion brought him relief.  “I would congratulate you and warn him.  You are a brilliant mind and spitfire in bed, but you do tend to be a little neurotic and have horrible taste in music.”

“I’m a delight and you know it.”

He did.  He does.  And he wishes… It doesn’t matter.  He has to learn to trust her, and that will never happen.  “So, what are you going to tell my girlfriend?”

“You mean when you’re done dating girls half your age who you have no intention of seeing more than the one time you bring them around to see my reaction?”

Will didn’t know if she was still teasing him or not.  He decided to keep things light, he wanted to talk to her, just to talk, he missed that part of their relationship.  “They have their uses.  And for the record, I don’t just bring them here.”

“Yes, always the gentleman, you make sure to feed them first, right?”

“Mac, I finally have you on the phone, I don’t want to spend this call on dangerous ground.  I was thinking about a segment, maybe a weekly segment where we talk about the lesser known bills on a state level.  Things that are getting voted on that week.”

“Don’t you come up with this idea once every few months, and we always shoot it down because it’s not of national importance?”

Will got frustrated.  “Why don’t we try it for a few weeks?  We don’t have to call it anything, we just do a story and see how it goes.”

“I think you’re trying to get us to let you see the ratings.  You want access to the minute-to-minutes.”

“Of course I do, but that’s not why I’m suggesting this.”

“Again.”

Will rolled his eyes.  “Yes, again.  I’m suggesting it again because I think it can drive people to think about what’s happening in their local government as well as on the federal level.”

She would need more time to dispute this argument.  “Why don’t we let the team hear the idea tomorrow and try to poke holes in it?”  Mac listened to the silence for a pregnant moment and finally said, “was that it?”

Will had a million things racing through his mind.  Things he wanted to say, to tell her.  But her business demeanor, even on the phone, made it clear that she didn’t want to socialize.  She wanted this conversation to end.  “Yeah, I guess so.  I, uh.  I should let you go to bed.  We’re going to have an important meeting tomorrow.”

“Good night, Will.”  Mac hung up the phone.  She saw that during that conversation Wade had texted her.  She hadn’t thought about Wade at all during that call.  It only bothered her because when she goes out with Wade, she frequently feels guilty for cheating on Will again.  She reminds herself that Will doesn’t want her, so she should allow herself to have fun with a solid guy who does want her.  Part of her wishes she did feel guilty on Wade’s behalf.  But she can’t seem to find a way to conjure up those feelings.

August 31, 2010  1:54AM

“Mac, it’s me.  You know what, never mind.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”  Will hung up the phone.  He saw her leave work, dressed up.  She looked beautiful.  He wanted to tell her that before she left, but he didn’t catch her.  And he knew he shouldn’t.  He shouldn’t compliment her like that.  She’s his business partner and that’s it.  That’s all she can be.  He knows she hasn’t started dating someone seriously.  If she did, he’d know.  But she will someday and he doesn’t know how to deal with a Mac who looks beautiful every night for some other guy. 

Chapter Text

September 7, 2010  10:31PM

Mac didn’t want to call Will.  She really didn’t.  She could call Wade of course, but, she didn’t want to talk to him either, even if he was an excuse to avoid talking to Will.  She didn’t remember any other relationship she had taking as much work as it does with Wade.  With Brian, it was like paint by numbers.  Every day looked and felt like every other day.  They woke up, went to their respective offices, got home, ate, sometimes he played hockey, sometimes she gave a lecture or wrote a paper, then they went to bed.  Their fights generally consisted of him making vague passive aggressive statements about the relative importance of their work.  Brian had the opinion that because of the review process, magazines produced far superior work to television news.  When Mac began to simply roll her eyes and walk out of the room during his tirades, he started losing interest in even talking to her.  She mostly stayed with him because she didn’t want to take the time to leave him.  As she climbed the ladder, her job took her away from home more and more, so Brian became less of an issue. 

Mac had never met a person like Will.  Everything she and Will did, they did with passion.  They fought each other and they worked together and they went home and it all continued.  They never knew what came next, that made the whole relationship exciting.  She woke up with him always looking forward to the new day.  Both of them had a love for the news which fueled so much of their relationship.  But, they also had a life outside the newsroom.  Will could show her vulnerability that she didn’t think he showed anyone else.  She never felt self-conscious around him.  When they fought it felt like two equals.  They didn’t always fight well, but they could finish the fight and still respect each other after. 

Mac thought that if she gives Wade some more time, maybe they can find a similar rhythm.  Wade kind of reminds her of Will.  He has a high degree of intellect and can argue for days about the most insignificant things.  She hasn’t known Wade long enough to know if he has the same generous spirit as Will, but he has treated her and others with more kindness than she’s seen from Will recently.  She doesn’t have as much fun with him, but that should come as they get to know each other and discover what they enjoy.  Certainly, it took some time to find that with Will.  She can wait for that passion to kick in, because she believes that Wade has a depth to him that makes him worth waiting for.  Good things in life take time, she just has to give it that time. 

However, tonight she needs to call Will.  She and Charlie talked, they want Will to develop Sloane as a backup and this month with a few budget bills going to Obama is a good time to start.  Mac doesn’t know how Charlie convinced her that she had to sell it to Will, but here they are. 

Mac listened to the phone ring 2 times before Will answered.  “Mac?”

“Hello Will.”

“I thought you lost my number.”

“That’s what cell phones that look like they can launch a shuttle are for.”

Will smiled.  “What’s up, Mac?”

“Charlie and I want to start working with Sloane to become a backup for you and Elliot.  We want you to mentor her for us.”

“You and Charlie?  Mac, I get to choose my own backups.”

Mac expected resistance, though she didn’t have any idea why he would fight something so obvious.  “Will, think of it this way.  You get to groom the person who will take over for you if you need it.  You don’t have to trust anyone but your own protégé.”

“You’re full of shit, Mac.”

“Charlie and I are full of shit.”

“Fine, you and Charlie and equally shit filled.  I don’t want this Mac.”

Mac steeled herself for a completely unnecessary fight.  “Then who would you suggest?  Elliot was your backup until he got his own show.  We can get Tony to fill in for you, he’d jump at the chance, but I have concerns about him.”

“That prick from the morning show!???!!!  You want him to fill in if I get sick or take some time off?”

“Actually I just said I don’t.  The only other option really isn’t one.”

Will stood on his terrace with his back to the city, feeling every bit of the indignation that Mac heard on the phone.  “Yeah, well try me.”

“There are the weekend anchors, Jane Barrow in particular is just waiting for a chance.  But I ABSOLUTELY refuse to work with that woman ever!”

“If I say you’re going to fucking work with her –”

Mac finally changed tacks.  “What do you have against Sloane?  She’s smart and capable and with a little help she could be an outstanding anchor.  Are you just fighting this because it wasn’t your idea?  Or do you have an actual reason to be against it?”

Will stopped and thought for a second.  Was it possible that he was arguing only because he didn’t come up with the idea?  While he looked for a way to dismiss the ludicrous charge against him, Mac continued. 

“Here’s how this is going to go.  One day you won’t be able to anchor your show.  Maybe one of your women of the night will give you an infection of some sort and you’ll have to miss a day.  When that happens, I’m going to call Sloane and put her on.  You can either work with her now and make sure she’s ready for that day, or you can ignore her and make all of us look incompetent, including you.”

Will thought through what she said.  “They’re not hookers Mac.  They’re dates.”

“Call them whatever the fuck you want.  Are you going to work with Sloane or not?”

“I’ll meet with her and see if I think she’s good enough, but I’m not making any promises.”

Mac rolled her eyes.  “Great.  See you tomorrow.”  Mac hung up the phone and put it on her charger.  She looked at her clock.  God damn that man.  No one has ever made her lose it like he does.  For a second she thought about how that fight would end if they never broke up.  But it didn’t matter.  She really should call Wade.  She hasn’t actually talked to him in three days, and she does want this to work.  She picked up her phone and texted that she had a long day and will talk to him tomorrow.  Immediately, Will called and she pressed ignore.  She didn’t know what to expect from him.  In all the time that she’s known him, she never has.  It makes her relationship with Will exciting.  Wade also texted a quick “Goodnight”, exactly like she expected. 

September 16, 2010  11:12PM

Will sat at his computer re-watching tonight’s show.  As he watched the interview he did of Sloane over the Small Business Aid bill, he realized that Mac assessed Sloane accurately.  He never understood how Mac just knew things like that.  When Mac went to CNN, she wanted Will to have his own show, because after watching him read headlines on a morning show, she knew he’d excel.  Somehow, she knew that Sloane would excel too. 

He picked up the phone and called Sloane.  “Will?  Did you call the right number?”

Will laughed.  “As long as this is Sloane, I did.  Do you have a minute?”

“Yeah, I have some time.”

“Good.  I assume you heard that Mac wants you to be my backup.”

Sloane smiled assuming that Mac had gotten through to him.  “Yeah, I heard something about that.”

“Well, I think she’s right.  I want to start working with you, have you take a bigger role News Night.  You’ll still work in financial news, but we’ll talk to Mac tomorrow about finding new ways to talk about it, give you a little more time and have you work on more stories, instead of market reports.  How’s that sound?”

“That sounds.  That sounds great!  Thank you, Will.”  Sloane beamed.  She knows that it takes a lot to impress Will, and as she has gotten to know him, she really respects his opinion. Sloane could not help feeling excited that Will McAvoy chose to take her under his wing.  However the pride that she felt didn’t stop her from saying, “Uh, Will, can we talk about Mac for a second?”

“No.”

“Will, if she was right about me and you were wrong, tell her.”

“Good night Sloane.”  Will hung up.  He’s not going to admit his mistake to Mac.  He won’t do it.  She’ll find out tomorrow that he changed his mind when he talks to her about how to help Sloane.  And then she’ll get that smug look on her face.  Nobody does smug like Mackenzie McHale.  And then she won’t say anything to him.  She doesn’t gloat in general, but recently she hasn’t done anything else either. 

He imagined tomorrow’s meeting with Sloane and Mac.  The meeting itself should go smoothly. But after it, she’ll make changes to the rundown and he won’t see her until he sees her back as she walks out of the studio like she has somewhere else to be.  She has done that for the last few weeks, she leaves like she needs to be somewhere else.  And that bothers him.  It bothers the hell out of him.  Years ago, if he had to let her know that he made a mistake and she was right about something, he’d hear it, she wouldn’t stop teasing him about it… until he fucked the smug out of her.  They couldn’t do that again, but he wanted to hear that tone, see that moment when she realized that he told her in his own asshole way that he appreciated her.  But he didn’t know if she’d even recognize it, or care. 

September 16, 2010 11:18PM

Mac heard her phone ring 4 times before she couldn’t ignore it anymore.  The only people who would call her this late both worked as lawyers sometime in their lives and had the first initial W.  And she didn’t want to talk to either.  She wanted things to work with Wade.  He was a good man, solid, dependable.  Kind of like a dog she had when she grew up.  Will just makes her crazy.  Half the time she thinks he’s insane.  The other half she doesn’t have any question about it.  She looked at the caller ID and exhaled before answering with a forced smile on her face.    

“Hello?”

“Oh good, you’re taking my calls tonight.”

“So far.  But I wouldn’t count on keeping that plural.”

“Look, Mac, I just… Sloane was brilliant tonight, just like you said she would be.  I just talked to her and I’m going to work with her.  We’ll be in your office tomorrow to talk about how to use her more.”  When Will didn’t hear her say anything, he added.  “You were right, Mac.”

Mac smiled.  “See how easy that was.  Someday you will realize how brilliant I am and you’ll stop questioning my choices.”

Will loved hearing the teasing in her voice, it wouldn’t end like it used to, but it felt good to hear it.  It felt right.  He didn’t think about the last few months when nothing felt like it should, this felt right.  He took a second to consider a smartass comment that sat at the tip of his tongue, but chose instead to say, “I never question your brilliance.  I’m just hard headed sometimes.”

“You’re an ass all the time.  But, you’re coming around.”

“Maybe I am.”  Will wanted to live in this moment a little longer, but he knew that one of them would have to say something and ruin it, so he said, “Thanks, Mac.”  And hung up the phone.

Chapter Text

September 22, 2010  11:45PM

Mac’s date with Wade ended early after they had a heated discussion about the causes of poverty rates, which News Night reported tonight hit the highest in 15 years.  When Wade started talking about trickledown economics and explained that the root of all evil came from repealing the Bush Era Tax cuts, Mac knew she was out of her depth, but kept going because she wouldn’t back out of a fight.  Wade told her to ask any economist about the effects of tax breaks and Mac called Sloane.  Sloane immediately started talking about the real estate bubble, Glass-Steagal and not-so calmly talked about the recession while Wade tried to explain, a little more condescendingly than Mac thought necessary, that all that happened when people didn’t follow the rules, not because of taxes.  He pointed out that capitalism assumes that people aren’t going to play fair and that the Invisible Hand only works when the government stays the fuck out of the way.  Mac could hear that Sloane was about to give a rebuttal that would have perpetuated a boring conversation into the next millennium if Mac didn’t hang up on her.  So she did.  Wade didn’t take that kindly, stating that he enjoyed having an intelligent conversation.  The look that Mac gave him before leaving made him realize his mistake.  He called after her, saying that he just meant economics.  “There are things you know better than I do.”

Mac stormed out of his apartment and walked until she could find a taxi.  Throughout her walk, she talked to Sloane.  Actually she yelled four letter words about Wade at Sloane, who couldn’t help laughing at her.  When she got into the cab, Mac said, “Can you believe the kind of ass that Will is?  And I bet he thinks I’m going to come crawling back.  Well, guess what buddy, this girl don’t go crawling.”  She paused for a second and said, “even if the sex with Will is that good.  He’ll have to wait until he apologizes.”

Mac expected Sloane to say something similar to “you go girl,” but instead she asked, “the sex with who?”

“Will!”  Mac heard her error at the same time she registered Sloane’s giggles.  “I mean Wade.  Ahhhhhh!”  Mac’s response made Sloane laugh even more.  “Oh be quiet.  Wade’s fine.”

Still laughing, Sloane said, “you don’t sound too convinced of that.  Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it’s… you know.  I mean, I’m not going to give details or anything, but, you know.”

“Oh God, he’s horrible isn’t he?  This weekend, we’re going clubbing.  I’m going to find you a new guy.”

Mac rolled her eyes.  “No, Sloane, it’s not like that.  I don’t need… help.”

Sloane laughed.  “No, it sounds like you need Will.”

“Who is with someone else this evening.  Stacked like a …pile of… boxes at an… Amazon… warehouse.”

“You know that doesn’t make any sense.”

“Yeah, but I made it through.”

“Points for that. You know she has nothing on you, Mac.  And the rumor is, most of the time the dates don’t go past dinner.  Apparently he’s too vein to take a little blue pill and so he’s been having problems.”

Mac laughed.  “You know better than to listen to rumors.”

“I’m just saying, he may be at home, alone, horny and we all know that you do it for him.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?  He can barely stand to look at me most days.”

Sloane laughed, “You’ve obviously never seen how he looks at you.”

Mac shook her head.  “Good night, Sloane.”  Mac hung up the phone before Sloane could say anything else. 

Mac spent the rest of the ride home daydreaming.  What if… no, if Will still had any feelings for her, he wouldn’t make her see who he takes out every other night, and this time he wouldn’t hold back.  He knows better.  Mac paid her fare and her cab driver said, “if neither of your boyfriends wants you, give me a call.”  She smiled as she walked back to her apartment. 

 

September 23, 2010 12:13AM

Mac settled into her office looking at emails that she ignored that day when her phone rang.  She looked at the name of the caller and shook her head.  “Please tell me Sloane didn’t tell you to call me.”

“Okay.  Sloane didn’t tell me to call you.”

“Are you lying to me?”

Will tried to play innocent while a smile crept on his face.  “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say now.”

“Oh God, what did she say?”

Will couldn’t help laughing.  “Well we had a long conversation about economics.”

“Fuck off!”

Will took some time to chuckle, “and then she said something about how I should call you and cheer you up and something about sexy talk.”  Will imagined Mac’s face going red, first from anger at Sloane and then embarrassment that she didn’t actually feel, but thought she should.  He lowered his voice to a gravelly baritone and said, “But I thought that we could keep this conversation HR appropriate.” 

Mac laughed, something that made Will smile like he hasn’t in… he didn’t know how long.  Mac would always do it for him.  He always sensed that, but now he knew.  How could he ever give up hearing her genuinely happy?  And he felt good knowing he had a part in that. 

Mac liked this version of Will.  She didn’t know what she did to conjure him up, but she didn’t want him to leave.  She thought for a second that she should be pissed about something, but it didn’t matter.  It could wait.  “What the fuck is that?”

“That’s my sexy voice, you of all people should recognize it.”

Mac couldn’t help laughing again.  “You are such an ass.  And that’s not… sexy.  Is that why people are talking about your dates not going past dinner.  You’re trying to do, whatever the fuck that is to them?”

Will couldn’t say anything for a moment, stunned by the rumor going around and unsure what to say.  “What?  Who?  Did Sloane tell you that?  Are people really saying --?” 

Mac laughed, feeling better than she has in a long time.  “I don’t listen to rumors, but there was something about a little blue pill and –”

This caused a spit take on Will’s end of the phone.  “I have never!”

“I believe you!  I –” Mac had to stop her thoughts which had moved into flashes of memories of times when Will definitely didn’t need a little blue pill.  She unconsciously picked up a notebook around her and started fanning herself.  “But, then again, it has been a long time.”

Will smirked and considered what to say.  On one hand, he wanted to set the record straight, he has had no problem in that area.  On the other hand, Mac genuinely enjoyed teasing him and he enjoyed hearing her laugh like she used to.  And after some jerk insulted her, he wouldn’t pile on.  Not now.  “It hasn’t been that long.  I still have my stuff.  And I still remember what it did to you.”  And God did he. 

“I always did bring out the best in you.” 

Will heard the laughter in her voice and laughed as well.  God he missed this.  And as much as he wanted to continue it, he couldn’t.  It wouldn’t take long for him to invite her over and not have to remember what it was like.  More than anything that’s what he wanted, but he knew he couldn’t.  It could never be just one night with her.  With Mac, it was all or nothing.  And while he wants to have it all, the last time…  He closed his eyes, hoping to regain control of himself.  He said sincerely, “you always have.”  Finally he took a breath and asked the only thing that could get this back on track.  “So what happened tonight?”

For a second, Mac remembered Wade and his insult, it dampened her mood a little, but she decided to move beyond it.  “Someone said that any economist would agree with him…”

“With him?  So you were on a date?”  Will said it flippantly, he didn’t actually care since it obviously didn’t end well.  “I assume you started the debate and he used an 8th grader’s understanding of economics to own your ass in that fight?”

“It wasn’t 8th grade.  He’s a very intelligent man!  And I could hold my own!”

“In economics?  Give yourself a chance, Mac.  You are the most beautiful, intelligent woman I ever met in real life, two things that would be sexy as hell to any man with an above average IQ.  But we both know that you can’t show off that incredible brain by talking about math or econ.”

“I forgot what it’s like to get a compliment from you.” 

Will heard the humor in her voice, but the comment cut close to him.  Their first time together, he couldn’t help complimenting her.  Her brain, passion and body attracted him to her equally.  Pretending that he didn’t still find that combination potent hasn’t become easier over the last few months.  “Well we could just discuss economics if you want.”

Laughing, Mac said, “You’re such an ass.”

“And yet you came back.  You knew what you were getting.  I take no responsibility.”

“You never have.” 

The response flew off her tongue quickly, but caused a sharp change in tone that they both felt over the phone.  Mac started to say something, but Will beat her to it, “I have always been a 12-year-old in a 30-year-old body.  You know that.”

“Yeah, thirty.”  Mac silently thanked him for getting them back on track. 

“I told Neal to put that on my IMDPedia page or whatever the fuck.”

“You know that just because it’s online doesn’t make it true.”

“Yeah, but I can sell it.”

Mac broke into another fit of laughter, “You’re asking a lot of the miracle workers down in the hair and makeup.”  Mac got a little more serious and wistful.  “Besides, all of America loves you because you’re distinguished and trustworthy.  It’s all in your eyes.  You didn’t have that when you were 30.”

 “I did have eyes back then.”

 “And I assume they were that same brilliant blue they are now.” Mac smiled broadly.  Mac knew he no longer felt comfortable with this conversation, and she hated that.  She decided to let him off the hook and let them have a good memory after months of being at each other’s throats.  “Thanks for calling, Will.  I’ll tell Sloane that you cheered me up and to take it easy on you tomorrow.”

“I appreciate that.”  Will thought for a second.  He couldn’t say everything he wanted, but he could at least give her something.  “You are still the most passionate, beautiful and intelligent person I know.  The guy was an idiot.”  Will hung up before she could say anything else. 

Mac smiled.  She caught a glimpse of the Will she loved.  The one who couldn’t bear to let someone he cared about feel bad.  Her heart hurt, but only a little.  Knowing he still existed and that he still cared about her made her smile as she went to bed. 

 

Chapter Text

October 2, 2010  6:31PM

Mac sat at Wade’s favorite restaurant watching him finish his steak and potato while complaining about the case he had to work.  He sounded like one of her staff proposing a story… one where Will would interview him.  Mac kept giving him diplomatic reasons why that wouldn’t work.  They hadn’t talked about her previous relationship with Will, but she assumed he knew all the sordid details because a simple Google search would bring it up. 

Her phone rang and when she reached into her purse to silence it, she saw Will’s name in the caller ID.  Given the early hour on a Saturday, she decided she needed to take the call.  “Wade, can you excuse me a second?  It’s work, I need to check in and see if there’s something going on.”

“Sure.”

Mac walked away from the table and answered.  “Do we need to get to the studio for some reason?”

“Most people say hello when they answer the phone.”

Mac rolled her eyes.  “I thought you could excuse bad manners if I needed to be efficient.”

“You don’t have to be.  I’m waiting for my date and I noticed that you were in the restaurant across the street from me.  You look bored.”  Mac started looking out the window to see if she could see Will.  “Little to your left, Mac.”  When she found him, Will waved.

“Put your hand down, I don’t want him to see you.  And I’m not bored.  Even after Lasik, your eyesight isn’t that good.”

“I’m your dirty little secret?”  Will intentionally ignored the second half of her statement.

“No, he just… He’s been talking to me about wanting you to interview him and if he knows you’re around… both of our dates will be over.”

Will laughed.  “He sounds like another douche.  But I’m touched, you’re concerned that I get touched tonight.”

“You’re a pig.  But I had hopes of getting fucked tonight too and I don’t want you to ruin it.”

Mac saw Will turn his head towards her table and then back at her.  “You sure that thoughts of me aren’t going to help you out?”

“I’m positive of it.  Good night Will.”

Mac ended the call and shook her head.  She only had to listen to Wade for another hour, then they’d be at the theatre.  After that, they’ll go back to his place.  She didn’t know why she all of a sudden felt so down on Wade.  He was pleasant and intelligent.  Things still felt superficial, even two months into this… relationship.  But a deeper connection would come with time.  She knew it.  She just needed to give it some time. 

October 11, 2010  11:31PM

“Look, Mac, I’m sorry.  I forgot that we had made plans to work tonight.”

“I told you at the studio it was fine.  I also remember saying we can talk tomorrow since you obviously had plans.”

“I changed them.  She’s at home, I made my bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin and ate it.”

Mac rolled her eyes.  “Ah, yes, your not-a-McMuffin sandwich.”

“I double the meat and cheese.  Completely different recipe.”

“Maybe I don’t want to work anymore.”

In all the time he’s known Mac, Will has never heard her say that she didn’t want to work.  And they had to talk about election night coverage before tomorrow’s meeting with the other shows that would assist.  “What are you wearing?”

“What the fuck?”

“I mean, are you ready for bed or are you just dressed comfortably enough for a long night at your computer?”

“Is this your new way of asking if I’m wearing a bra?”

Mac regretted asking the question before it finished coming out of her mouth.  For their first year together, Mac split her time between New York and DC.  Her show came on before Will’s so when he got home, he’d call her and ask if she had her bra on or not.  He used that to gage how long they would talk.  But she had to remind herself that she has Wade now and even though there’s no reason he would ever need to know about this or any conversation she has with her ex, she needs to respect him.  He’s given her no reason not to.  She didn’t feel as strongly for him as she did for Will, but he deserved her respect as long as they were together. 

“Mac!”  Will extended the one syllable of her name as he remembered their long dead ritual phone call. 

“I was getting ready to go to the computer.”

“So, you still have time to talk.  Have you made your tea yet?”

Mac didn’t know why, but all of a sudden Mac felt a surge of offense.  “Can you stop knowing so much about me and my habits?”

“Because you’re so damned good at it, Miss Not-a-McMuffin.”  Will tried unsuccessfully to sound light.  “You know, you’re the one who came back.”

“So I brought it on myself?”

“You brought it on both of us.  And I can’t pretend that I don’t know you.  I do.”

“You just wish you didn’t.”  Mac felt completely defeated. 

“I didn’t say that, Mac.  But, look, I’m trying to make the best of the situation.  And obviously I’m not going to fire you.  I think, despite everything.  We’re doing something good here, Mac.  We really are.”

“I know we are.”  She said it just loud enough for him to hear.  She came back into his life because she believed that together they could make great news.  And they have.  But she had Wade and she wanted it to work with him.  He seemed interested in making it work too.  But the constant reminder of Will and what she had with him.  She didn’t want to compare the men or the relationships.  But she spends so much time with Will, usually they keep their exchanges business, but every once in a while, he says something or looks a particular way and she remembers their life together and what she can never have with him again.  She doesn’t want to think about Wade as second choice, but every once in a while, she can’t help remembering life with Will.

“Mac are you okay?”

Mac took a cleansing breath to calm herself.  “Yeah.  I’m fine.  I was thinking that we’ll get the extensions for your desk.  We’re going to want a place for Elliot and Sloane.  Are you comfortable with her hanging out with you on election night?”

Part of Will knew that they should finish what they started, but he liked the relief of getting back to business.  “The economy is going to be a big storyline, so she should be there.  I’ll make sure she’s ready.  Do you think we need to have an analyst as well?”

“That would be 4 people at the desk.  We’ve got the space and we can aim cameras for different segments.  We can make that work.  Do you have a preference of analyst?”

“I was thinking about Peter.”

Mac took a second to run through their regular analysts in her mind.  “Who?”

“Peter.  You know, the bald guy with the weird facial hair?”

Mac shook her head and tried not to laugh.  “You’ve been doing so well with your staff.”

“He’s an analyst, he’s not my staff.  You know, the Poly Sci professor we used last week.”

Mac smiled.  “You mean, Kyle?”

“Sure.”

 “Yeah, I have no problem with him.  Do we want to have Sloane walk around a little with a camera following her?  Make her more of a correspondent?”

“No, let’s get Elliot to do that.  He’s still a little better at being conversational and he doesn’t have a specialty.  Her wheelhouse is the facts and figures, I want to keep her there for election night.  After that we can let her try new things.”

Mac shook her head.  Will knew how to size up a witness and that skill carried over to this.  “You’re right.  After the election can you start working with her on that.  I want her to be able to...”

“Talk like a human and conduct interviews with regular people?”

“I was going to say ‘learn how to get information out of different kinds of people,’ but that’s close enough.”

Will laughed.  “Someday.  She’s comfortable where she’s at, right now.  I don’t want to throw too much at her yet.”

“Understood.”  Mac thought about it.  “You’re doing a good job with her, you know.”

“It was a good idea.  And please don’t tell me it was Charlie’s.  He’s already given you credit for it.”

Mac should have known they’d talk about it and Charlie would say how the conversation went.  “You’re sure you’re not going to fire me before the midterms?”

“Well, I don’t want to give you a big head or anything, but, no, I have no intention.  And I haven’t forgotten about our bet.  Drinks for the team on me after the coverage.”

“And you’re going to be there.”

Will rolled his eyes.  He didn’t remember if he agreed to that or not, but what the fuck?  He could use a watered-down beer at a hole in the wall dive bar.  “Sure, I’ll go with.”

Mac beamed with pride.  She knew how to get the team she wanted to put together the show she wanted.  Will had a little way to go, but he’d get there.  She sometimes hated how well they knew each other, but it also meant she knew how to get what she wanted from him.  She’ll get him there.  It may take some time, but she will. 

Chapter Text

November 3, 2010  4:47AM

Mac looked at the clock and thought about Will.  She didn’t mean for him to find out about Wade last night.  Will notoriously doesn’t leave the studio once he settles in his chair until the floor director yells “Clear” indicating the end of the broadcast.  On election nights, he has someone bring him water or snacks during breaks.  In ’06, she suggested getting him a bucket if coverage went too long.  When Wade begged to see the studio on election night, she envisioned him stopping by and look around for a little while, then he’d go home before the end of the broadcast since he had work the next day.  When he walked into control, she’d forgotten he even came.  She didn’t want him there at all, but he seemed interested and with all the chaos… she should have fought him more than she did. 

Since Wade met Will, every time she closes her eyes, she sees the hurt etched on Will’s face at seeing her with her boyfriend.  She wondered if she has that same look in her eye when she sees him with his girlfriend of the night.  God damn it she never meant to hurt him, but maybe it’s better this way, now she doesn’t have to feel like she’s sneaking around with Wade. 

She got out of bed and looked at Wade, still sleeping soundly.  Why shouldn’t he?  He didn’t just break someone’s heart in a million pieces.  Again.  Mac wanted to pick up the phone and call Will, make him understand, but calling from her boyfriend’s place with him sleeping in the next room seemed hypocritical.  Instead, Mac went into the bathroom to change and then go back to her place.  She usually doesn’t try to make a quick escape like a college student on a walk of shame, but she needed to talk to Will and she couldn’t do it here. 

November 3, 2010 4:52AM

Will woke up feeling empty.  Last night it felt like a punch in the gut seeing her with him.  He told her that’s what should have happened.  She should find someone.  He just couldn’t believe that she did.  In the back of his head he always believed that she still loved him and that when he figured out how to forgive her, she’d be available.  And this asshole – he must be an asshole, it’s kind of her type – won’t necessarily be with her when he’s ready, but now the potential exists.  And even worse, she still doesn’t love him enough to wait for him.  For a second he wondered why he wasn’t good enough to wait for, why it’s so easy for everyone important in his life to move on.  Then, he remembered Maggie telling him to have the women meet him at the restaurant and his epiphany that maybe it did hurt her.  He remembered flashes of her face as she met the women.  He remembered her pointedly telling him that her dates were adults who could meet her at the restaurant.  She told him straight out that she didn’t want to talk to him after one of his liaisons, she didn’t want to know.  Somehow, he just never put it all together. 

But it doesn’t change the fact that she moved on, she didn’t wait for him.  When he went to college, his mom didn’t need him anymore.  After college he could have helped his brother and sisters, but they forgot about him.  Phone calls for Christmas and birthdays.  Quick messages when someone got sick.  That’s all he was worth to them.  And now Mackenzie too.  Of course it would happen with her.  Of course she would move on.  But he didn’t think she would, he really didn’t think she would.  She came back for him, didn’t she?  He must not have been good enough. 

November 3, 2010 5:23AM

Mac arrived at her apartment and slumped down on her couch.  She took out her phone before she could lose her nerve.  She had to let him know she never meant to hurt him.  After everything he did to her, he deserved it, but she didn’t intend to.  The phone rang 3 times before Will answered.  “Hey Will, you have a minute to talk about last night?”

“I thought that the coverage went really well.  Putting Sloane in there was a good idea.”

“Thanks, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Look Will –”

“Mac,”  Will took a breath.  God damn it this hurt more than he thought it could.  “I went into the control room to apologize for making you see me with all those women.  I know I hurt you.  And now I know that I don’t want to know anything about your… relationship, just like you don’t want to know about… you know.”

Mac could hear the devastation in his voice and it gutted her.  Will would always be that little boy who tries so hard to protect everyone he loves, but all he knows is how to hit back.  And right now, she would give anything to protect him.  “Will, I’m sorry.  You weren’t supposed to find out like that.”

“Mac, you moved on.  It’s what was supposed to happen.”  Will could feel himself getting emotional, and he didn’t want her to know.  He quickly added.  “If there’s nothing else, I’ll see you in the office.”

Will hung up the phone before she could answer and he dropped it on his end table, feeling a tear roll down his cheek.  Once again, he didn’t act on what he knew.  Once again. he acted like a jackass and lost what’s really important to him.  Once again, he wasn’t worth enough to wait for, she joined the list of others who didn’t want him or need him enough to wait. 

Mac heard the phone go dead and she bit her lip to stop from crying.  What she wouldn’t give to put her arms around Will and let him know how much… He doesn’t want her.  Not anymore.  She lost him a long time ago because of her mistakes.  She just lost him again and there’s nothing she can do about it. 

Chapter Text

November 18, 2010 11:43PM

Mac had noticed that after introducing Will and Wade, Will didn’t have much to say to her.  The stream of phone calls he made at night, which never got to the level of daily, had completely stopped and their conversations at work never went beyond discussions about the rundown, upcoming stories, or office politics.  She didn’t know how to think about this.  She has Wade, and she likes him.  She didn’t have the passion with him as she did Will, but they got along and unlike Brian, he actually had an interest in what she did.    

She hates feeling this separated from… well anyone, but especially Will.  She took care not to tell him she had a boyfriend because she didn’t want to hurt him.  She still felt bad about how dejected he looked when he found out two weeks ago.  She wished she could turn back time so he wouldn’t find out, at least not like that.  She wanted to make it up to him, to reset back to the friendship they started to have.  And after talking to her family, she thought she found a way.  Wade probably won’t like it, but he also won’t know. 

Mac picked up her phone and called Will, who answered within two rings.  “Mac?  What’s going on?  Do I need to be back at the studio?”

Will also didn’t meet his dates at work in the last two weeks, so she didn’t know if he had plans or not.  She wondered for a second if she called at a bad time.  “No, nothing’s wrong, I just wanted to know if you had plans for Thanksgiving.”

“What?”  Will didn’t know what to expect when he saw her name, other than an emergency since he couldn’t imagine another reason that she would call when… He didn’t know why else she might call. 

“Thanksgiving, that holiday in November that only Americans celebrate with a football game in the morning and a huge meal in the afternoon.”

“Oh, uh, I haven’t given any thought to that.  Are you going to be in town?”

“Yeah, I said I’d cover the show so Jim can see his family and then my siblings said that they could come here since Camille and I are both in town.  If you don’t have plans, we have a place for you at the table.  And Simon said he wants a rematch with you from the annual football game.”

Will smiled at the thought.  A holiday with Mac and her siblings, or at least the ones on the east coast he imagined.  They had the tradition of meeting somewhere that all of them would have to travel and usually they rented a house somewhere rustic.  It seemed strange that they would meet in the middle of New York City.  But he understood, even on a holiday they had to put on the news and Mac would want to give Jim the day off so she can take a week around Christmas and New Years.  In her mind that seemed fair, in his having holidays off seemed like a perk of the job.  But it didn’t matter to him, he could spend a holiday with the McHale family, which seemed like the best possible way to spend a day or a weekend.  He got ready to accept the invitation, but then remembered something.  “You mean you, me, and, uh, what’s his name?”

Mac knew he’d bring up Wade, but she hated it.  Going out with Wade shouldn’t mean not having a friendship with Will.  “Wade, and he won’t be there.  He’s going to see his family in Indiana and I can’t make that trip.”

“So, I’m your second choice.”

“You’re not!  I talked to my family and they all would like to see you.  They miss you as much as you miss them.”

“I’m sure they do.  I’ll be sure to send them a Christmas card.”

Mac shook her head in exasperation and ignored his answer.  “Besides they haven’t met him yet and next you, he’s less of an asshole.  If you come along, it will insure they absolutely love him!”

She had played through how she expected this conversation to go and had planned that joke with hopes that when she told it, Will would just need a little nudge to come over.  When she heard herself say it out loud, she realized how insulting that was. 

“Well, as much as I would like to help your boyfriend win over your family, I think I’ll go to Charlie’s like I do most years.  I’m not second to them.”

“Will, that’s not what I meant.”

Will hung up the phone and Mac didn’t know if he heard her last statement.  She called him back to apologize, but he didn’t answer and she had to say it in a voicemail message.  She extended the invitation again, saying they would have a football game in Central Park, have dinner at her old apartment and then they’d go to Camille’s for dessert.  She reiterated that everyone would love to see him. 

Will didn’t bother to listen, he deleted the message as soon as he saw it came through. 

Chapter Text

December 5, 2010  11:38PM

Mac arrived home after a weekend in the woods with Wade.  She had a genuinely good time, a fact that surprised her a little.  She started dating Wade about 4 months ago and despite several assumptions that Sloane made, Wade was fine.  She kept comparing him to Will, even though she knew it wasn’t fair to either man.  Wade didn’t have the same fire that Will did, he didn’t express himself as emphatically as Will or tease her as mercilessly as Will.  But, this weekend he showed he had a sweetness that Will lacked.  He enjoyed the simple things in a way that she always imagined Will would if he just allowed himself.  Maybe Sloane is right and Wade is a bore, but this weekend, she saw for the first time that maybe she could live with that in a longer term than she thought.  She let her mind linger on that thought.  She didn’t fall in love with him, she knew that much.  Several years ago when she felt like this about Brian she thought it was love, but she knew better now.  This wasn’t love, but it was something that she could live with and see where it went.  And who knows, maybe someday it could turn into love.  It wouldn’t turn into the mad, passionate love she had with Will.  But she could live with that if it meant having something with a more solid foundation.

What she couldn’t live with anymore was Will going out of his way to avoid her.  Since he met Wade that unfortunate Election night, Will has done everything he could to avoid Mac.  Not only has he not called at night since then, but he spends anytime they aren’t in a meeting in Charlie’s office or… she doesn’t know where the fuck he goes really.  She can’t bear another week of Will… handling this badly.  She needs to find a way to fix this before they get back to work tomorrow. 

Will sat outside watching the end of the Steelers/Ravens game.  He didn’t have a dog in this fight, but he wanted to see Pittsburg make a comeback.  And just as Ben Roethlisberger cocked his hand back for what could be a touchdown with just under 3:00 left, his phone rang.  He picked up the phone without looking.  Once Isaac Redman had the ball safely tucked in his arms in the end zone, he put the phone to his ear and pressed the button to accept the call. 

“Will, we need to talk.”

It took Will a second to figure out who called him, but once he got out of the stupor of what he hoped was the winning drive, he recognized the voice and nearly hung up.  Instead he said, “Your timing is impeccable as ever.”

Mac could hear the game in the background and rolled her eyes.  What sport is in season now?  “Will, turn off your… game.   They’ll replay anything important that happens on an endless loop tonight.  We need to talk.”

“No, we don’t.  And I’m not turning off the game.  They’re going into the two minute warning.”

“I have no idea what that means.”

Will rolled his eyes.  He knew he didn’t have to explain this to her, in fact, she probably won’t remember it later since he knows he explained it more than once when they were together, but he couldn’t help himself.  “The two minute warning is an official time out when there’s 2 minutes left in the half, in this case the second half which makes it the more important warning.  It gives the two teams the chance to get another strategy session in before they make their final stands.  The last two minutes of any game is the most exciting.”

“So you’re watching… baseball?”

“It’s football, Mac.  Football.  And they’re getting ready again.”

“I thought you just said they were taking a timeout?  You know in real football, they keep playing without stopping.”

Will didn’t want to, but he couldn’t help smiling, and though he hated it a little, he knew she did it intentionally and it made him smile a little more.  “Well, in soccer they don’t really care about the clock at all.  The last two minutes of a football game is all about clock management.”

Mac knew that she wouldn’t have his attention until the game ended, so she decided to keep up the small talk.   Besides she missed this, the friendship she sometimes has with Will.  Knowing that he still finds her exasperating and cute.  “Is your team winning?”

“My team isn’t playing, but I’ve adopted the Steelers for the night and they just took the lead.  I don’t think Joe Flacco can run the ball down the field in less than 2 minutes.”

“And how long will this 2 minutes take?”

Will knew that she retained some of the information that he imparted on her in their previous life.  “In football, it can take hours.”

“Will, please.  Can we talk?”

Will heard her pleading tone.  He knew what she wanted to talk about, but he didn’t want to.  He hated knowing that she replaced him.  He always knew that she would move on.  She would never admit it, but she wanted the husband and family.  She wanted something that felt permanent, that could anchor her.  She spent so much of her life moving around that she felt comfortable in a constant state of chaos, but deep down what she really wanted was something steady.  To be with her before, he had to face his demons because he wanted to give her that, but he didn’t know if he could.  And then when he knew that he could, her father told him to wait.  And when he was finished waiting, she told him the truth.  She didn’t love him enough then to wait for him, and she still didn’t. 

“Is this about work?”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Then I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Will please.”

Will got angry.  “You told me before that you didn’t want to know when I went out, and yeah, I’ve been an asshole.  I had them meet me at the office and you had to see them.  Now I know why you didn’t want to know.  I don’t either.  You got your fucking payback.”

“I don’t want payback, I want my friend back.”

“Your… what?  We’ve never been friends.  We used to love each other and now we tolerate each other for the good of the show.  But we’re not friends.”

Mac felt like someone just slapped her in the face.  She distinctly remembered he asked her once before if they were friends.  She remembered laughing with him before he found out about Wade.  They had made progress and were more than colleagues.  He pushes away people when they get too close.  He always has, as long as she’s known him.  But maybe this time she won’t push back.  She has something with Wade.  He might be boring, but he’s secure and he does want her.  And he’s not afraid of it.  She’s not in love with him, not yet, but he wants to give her the things she wants and maybe, just maybe she deserves that. 

“You’re right Will.  I just wanted to make going to work easier for both of us, but we seem to work well enough as colleagues.”  Mac took a breath, hoping to hear something from his side.  “See you tomorrow.”

Will hung up the phone.  The Steelers won, not that it mattered to Will, his team had been out of the playoff race for a long time.  Will got another beer and turned on ESPN for a recap of the games today. 

December 20, 2010  10:35PM

“I thought we agreed not to talk when we have plans at night.”

Mac rolled her eyes.  “I’m sorry, are you doing something?  You left in jeans and a sweater, I thought you were free.”  It wasn’t just a sweater, it was his blue sweater that she loved so much on him.  But she’d have to forget about that. 

“I thought you’d be with… you know.”

“We’re dating Will, we’re not married!”

Will winced a little when he heard her say married.  He couldn’t even think about that possibility.  “What do you want Mac?”

“The New Year’s Party.  I wanted to see if you’re coming.”

“Are you asking me on a date?  Did you break up with—?”

Mac could hear the sarcasm in his voice and rolled her eyes.  “No, I’m not asking you out, I just thought it might be nice if you made an appearance for the team.”

“The team.”

“You don’t have to like being there, but they’ll notice if you are.  They look up to you and it would be nice for them to see you there.”

Will considered what she said.  He knew she wanted him to rise to the leadership role with the team that he should have.  As he’s tried to get to know them on a more personal level, he hasn’t hated it as much as he thought he would.  He didn’t want the pseudo-paternal role that Mac seemed to love, but he appreciated the work they did and the way she shaped them to create a show they all could take pride in.  “Will you be there?  Or will you still be in England?”

“I get back on the 30th, so I will be there.”  Mac refused to say if Wade planned to go with her. 

“You didn’t cut your vacation short, did you?”

Mac had to laugh.  “No, of course not.  It just worked out that way.” 

Will still hesitated giving her an answer.  He didn’t want to see her with, whoever the fuck she’s dating.  He should go, he knows that, but seeing her….  “I have to go to the Bloomberg party.  Corporate requires it.”

“Do you have to be there all night?”

“Mac.”  Will didn’t know what he wanted to say.  He didn’t want to see her with him, and if they hadn’t broken up, she would bring him.  Will didn’t want to go, even if, as usual, she was right and he should.  “I’ll see you tomorrow at work.”

“What about you?  Are you going to Nebraska this year?”  Mac asked him quickly because she knew she wouldn’t get another chance.  He makes sure they don’t have any personal conversations at work. 

“Yeah.  I, uh, tried to get everyone to come here, but they wouldn’t come without Dad, so I’ll go there for a few days.”

“That’s good Will.”  She knew him well enough to know that he didn’t want to see his dad, but if he chose to go, then he must want to have some relationship with his sister.  She wanted to encourage that, but didn’t know how anymore.  “They will enjoy having you there.”

Will didn’t feel comfortable at all.  He didn’t know how to talk to Mackenzie anymore.  And he didn’t know what to say about his family.  “Yeah.”

Mac felt like she should say something, but still didn’t know what it was.  Will hated the silence even more than thinking about upcoming holidays.  “Well, I know you have work to do.”

“Yeah.”  Mac couldn’t help it, she had to say what she thought, “I’m proud of you Will.  The show and, just… I know it’s not easy, but you’re going.”

“Is that it?”

Mac wanted to add that she wished she could go with him, but knew she couldn’t.  “I guess so.  In case I don’t get to say it later, Merry Christmas Will.”

Will rolled his eyes and played along.  “Merry Christmas, Mac.”  He hung up the phone

Chapter Text

January 8, 2011  4:43PM

After Will finished the ACN coverage of the shooting near Tucson, Mac shot Will a look and he smiled and nodded his agreement.  Will distracted Neal by listening to some of his Bigfoot information, while Mac herded the rest of the producers and let them leave quickly.  Once Will saw that everyone had left, he promised Neal that he would listen to the rest of the presentation early in the week and then went to Mac’s office.  When he realized she’d left too, he couldn’t help laughing.  She got one over on him, but he decided she deserved that win.  He couldn’t help feeling good about everything that happened once he made the decision to follow her lead.  They worked in perfect sync.  Everything felt exactly the way it used to and he wanted to know if it felt like that for her.

As he looked around for her, he realized that he also needed to address what happened before the broadcast.  He saw the devastation on her face when she realized what he gave up for the option to fire her.  She had to know, if she hadn’t figured it out yet, that everything has changed since then.  Just like she needed to talk to him after he saw her with her boyfriend, he needed to talk to her, make sure she understood.  It seemed fair.  She couldn’t’ have gone far.  She would want a head start on planning follow up coverage.  He asked a few people if they saw her and someone said she went up to Charlie’s office, but when he arrived, no one saw her.  He went back to her office and walked around the newsroom a little and finally decided that she must have gone home.  He knew her well enough to know that if she left either she doesn’t want to talk to him or she has plans with her asshole boyfriend.  Either way, he can afford to give her some time.  They could both use time to refresh a little from the stress of the day, as exhilarating as he knows she found it. 

As he sat in the car to decompress from all the events of the day, he listened to a voicemail message from a person whose name he didn’t recognize.  Whoever he had plans with cancelled.  Probably for the best, he would have accidentally stood her up anyway.  That meant he still had reservations at some restaurant.  He should cancel them, but the effort figuring out which restaurant and calling seemed like too much.  He tips well enough, there will always be a table for him anywhere in town. 

When he got home, he pulled out a beer and looked in his near vacuous refrigerator for something quick and easy to eat.  He can give her some time to decompress.  For now, beer, pizza and a game seemed like the perfect ending to this day.  Except he didn’t have a pizza, the Yankees finished their game earlier, and, well, staring at his beer, he felt unsettled.  It wasn’t the beer.  The beer was fine.  It was Mac.  He wanted to give her some time to recover, but damn it, since he saw her with… the asshole she’s dating… for the first time he had to look at her, really look at her and see how much he hurt her.  He remembered the day she came back.  He went to his agent’s office because he wanted to hurt her.  He wanted to humiliate her, hold her job over her head every minute of the day.  He thought she deserved that.  He would have given anything to make her hurt as much as he did.  But that was nearly 9 months ago.  Everything has changed since then, and he needs her to know that.  He needs her to know that it won’t happen again.  He won’t go out of his way to embarrass her anymore.  He needs her to know that he chose not to say that Congresswoman Giffords died because he trusted her that much.  He didn’t just trust her journalistic integrity, a virtue of hers that he didn’t even question the day of the Deep Water Horizon sinking, he trusted her.  And he doesn’t want to trust anyone else ever.  He knows he should give her some time, she probably went out and can’t talk.  But he has to talk to her.  It’s a need almost like breathing.  “Ah, fuck it” he said as he took out his phone and dialed.  He has to talk to her.  It can’t wait for him to be courteous or whatever the fuck she’s always going on about.

Will listened to the phone ring twice before she answered.  “Hey Will.”

She sounded exhausted.  Just like he felt.  “Hey.  Look, I know you are probably getting ready to go out or something, but, if you have a minute.”

“Actually I do.  After everything that happened today, I asked Wade for a raincheck on our plans.  It was just… a lot.  You know.”

“Yeah, I was there.”  He smiled, feeling something that he hasn’t in a long time.  Something that felt good a pure.  “You were extraordinary, Mac.  I’m always amazed at how you can just… I’m amazed by you Mac, always have been.”

Mac didn’t know where this came from or where he was going, but she knew he meant it and that he didn’t say it lightly.  “You were pretty amazing too.”

“I mean it, Mac.  Mackenzie.”  When he said her full name, something changed.  Will hesitated to figure out how to say what he so desperately wanted while Mac sensed that she needed to stay quiet and let him figure it out.  “When Charlie told me that he brought you here to run my show… I didn’t think I could do it.  I didn’t want to see you.  I didn’t want to face you, be so close to…” everything he ever wanted.  The person who stomped on all the dreams he didn’t know he had.  “I was surprised and I was hurting.  That’s all it was, Mac.  I’m not going to fire you, it doesn’t matter… I don’t care what happens.  You could run a bad story and tank the ratings, I don’t care.  You can beg me to let you out of your contract.  It doesn’t matter.  I trust you Mac.  And not just the work you do.  I trust you, Mackenzie.  And I promise, I swear, I’m done embarrassing you and the show.  No more one-night stands, no more threats of firing you.  It’s done.  You deserve my respect and God damn it, I’m going to give it to you.”

Mac felt a tear run down her cheek.  She didn’t expect that.  She didn’t expect to hear from him at all, but to hear him so raw and emotional.  It almost made everything that’s happened in the last 9 months worth it.  For Mac it felt like he took a weight off her, and she knew he felt the same way.  She could hear it in his voice.  She barely choked out, “Thank you.”

“Mac, you deserve so much more, so much more from me.  I’m sorry.”

“I know, Will.  And I am too.  You deserved –”

“Don’t Mac.  I don’t want to think about before.  Not tonight.  Today we did something extraordinary and it felt like it used to, so if you don’t mind, I don’t want to give that up yet.”

He hadn’t forgiven her.  She knows she can trust his words right now, he feels everything that he says he feels, but she can’t assume he will still feel like this tomorrow or the next time that a story doesn’t go right.  “Okay.”

“Look, Mac, I, uh, I made reservations for tonight and I don’t have anyone to… We can go and plan Monday.  Or… I just want…”  Will didn’t know what he wanted.  That’s not true, he wanted her.   He wanted to spend an evening with her, he wanted to reconnect with this wonderful person that he used to know.  He wanted to see if he could forget, he just has to erase one day from their history from his memory.  He can do that.  He can wipe out one day, can’t he?  He wanted…

Mac put her head down as she realized how much she wanted to say yes.  She knew it was important to Will.  He wants to figure things out and she wants to help him.  She wants to spend an evening with him, like they used to.  Or close to like they used to.  Or figure out how they can spend evenings together now, because it won’t be like before.  “I’m sorry, Will, I can’t.  Besides, we’re both exhausted.”

Will remembered that she had a boyfriend and they both knew this wouldn’t be work.  “Yeah, I guess, it’s probably better that we don’t say anything we’ll regret.”

“Are you sure you won’t regret anything you’ve already said?”

Will shook his head, absolutely certain.  “Not a chance.  You are without a doubt the most amazing person I ever met and I will not use my dates or my position to humiliate you anymore.  And I am sorry that I did for so long.”

Mac wiped her eyes.  “And I promise, I won’t make you regret it.”

“I know you won’t.”

Will hung up the phone and slumped on his couch, picking up his beer and turning on a playlist of all her favorite songs.  He felt a tear well up in his eyes.  4 years ago she chose her ex-boyfriend over him.  Today she chose her current boyfriend over him.  Did she ever love him? He thought she loved him, but she always relegates him to her second choice. 

Mac hung up and thought about calling him back.  Why the fuck can’t she go out with him?  If anyone asked, she could say it was work and they got carried away with the emotion of the day.  If something rekindles… it’s not like she’s married to Wade.    She knows she doesn’t love him.  When she got involved with Brian, she didn’t know she loved Will either.  But that was different.  The first time she was angry at Will, after that she acted on her guilt and shame.  She spent 4 months hating herself.  Even if she didn’t know, she did love Will during the entire affair.  And she knows she doesn’t love Wade.  Not the way she loves Will.  Maybe she needs to simply call Wade and break things off and then call Will back.  Somehow that seems wrong too.  Wade is a good man.  He doesn’t deserve to be runner up to Will.  Besides, who knows what will happen with Will in the light of day. 

January 8, 2011  6:38PM

Will lined up his third empty beer can and looked at the phone for the 47 millionth time he’d guess.  He didn’t know why he hesitated at all.  He wanted answers and damn it, he would get them.  He picked up his phone and called her. 

Mac heard the phone ring and saw Will’s name on the caller ID.  She didn’t know if she expected his call, but she hoped she wouldn’t get it because she didn’t think she could turn him down again.  She accepted the call and put the phone to her ear without saying anything.  In part because she didn’t know what to say, and in part because he just started. 

“I have to understand Mac.  You told me that you loved me, that I was the only one you ever loved.  Was that just a line?  Are you in love with… whoever the fuck he is?  Please, Mac, if you never loved me, I can deal with it, I just need to know that’s what happened.”

Mac spent most of her life trying to hide from showing any emotion, but this?  She couldn’t keep from feeling every bit of pain he showed her.  God, how could she have fucked up this bad?  She wanted to shake him and ask how he could ever ask that, but she knew.  How could he ever come to any other conclusion?  She cheated on him with Brian.  She apparently chose Wade over him.  Those two men together didn’t equal one of him, and somehow she made him feel like she preferred both of them to him.  God, how did she fuck things up this bad?

“I’m not in love with Wade anymore than I was with Brian.”

“Then why?”

“Because… I spent 7 years of my life with Brian.  I thought I loved him.  I thought I wanted a life with him.  Because I was young and stupid.  And after being with you and never knowing where we stood, I got mad at you one night and made the biggest mistake of my life.  And I couldn’t undo it.  And I couldn’t get rid of the guilt and shame that I felt every time I saw you.  He got the woman he deserved because I hated myself and I knew that I could never be the woman that you thought you had.  I longed for the day that you would realize that you could do so much better than me and you’d break up with me.  And then one day, you flew to DC to give me soup and I realized that I loved you.  I decided I would do anything that I could to deserve your love.  And after that, I never saw him again.”

Will tried to wrap his mind around what she said.  He remembered the night she was sick and bringing her egg drop soup from her favorite Chinese restaurant at home.  He remembered the flying back and forth between New York and DC took a toll on her.  Or that’s what he thought.  She hated herself?  She thought he was too good for her?  There was too much to process.  He didn’t understand and he still felt rejected. She didn’t answer his fucking question. 

“Why now?  If you don’t love him, why won’t you go to dinner with me now, Mac?  Maybe I’m an idiot.  Use small words and treat me like an idiot.  Why now?”

Mac spent the last hour trying to figure that out herself.  She said the only thing she could think.  “Because if I went out with you tonight, you wouldn’t have any reason to believe I regretted what I did and I changed.  I want more than one night, Will, and I won’t get that if you believe I’m still a cheater.”

Will let that hang in the air.  He thought many things, he wanted to tell her so many things, but he couldn’t get his mouth to move. Finally, realization hit him.  She spent a year of their previous relationship and the last 9 months trying to prove that she was worthy of him.  And she didn’t have to.  She was always the better person, he never lived up to her.  He loves her.  He never stopped.  He loves her.  She got angry and she cheated.  He got angry and he humiliated her over and over.  She can forgive him, she has.  But he can’t.  Unquestionably she has proven herself the better person.

With a tear in his eye, he finally said, “You never cease to amaze me, Mackenzie.” 

Mac heard the line go dead and finally she let out the sobs she hoped she hid from the person who knows her better than anyone. 

Chapter Text

January 12, 2011  10:54PM

“Oh my God, Kenz!  Are you okay?  What happened?”

Mackenzie quickly ran through what she knew about the Right Now line up to see if her friend should be on News Night's sister show before answering the economist.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Wade!  He was on your show.”

Mac rolled her eyes.  She made it clear she didn't want him on the show, for some reason Will decided to have him on.  And she still resents that.  She resents even more that she's going to have to check in with Will later to make sure he's still okay with that decision. “I am aware of our guests, yes.”

“And then he left before the end of the show.  You didn’t leave with him.  Did that asshole dump you?  I can go over to his place and --”

Mac started to laugh at her friend.  “And yell at him?”

“I will make sure he hurts just as much as he hurt you.”

“It’s okay, Sloane.  I told him that I had some work to do tonight and so he didn’t need to wait for me.  He asked if I was sure and told me I could come over later, but I told him, I just need some uninterrupted time to work on some… work.”

Sloane heard the hesitation in Mac’s voice and said, “I hope you were more convincing when you said that to him.”

“Of course I was!”  It came out of Mac’s mouth before she could think about it.  “It’s not like I was lying.  I do have work that needs to be done.  Hours of it.”

Sloane heard enough.  “Okay Kenzie!  You're such a horrible liar.  What happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“You.  Wade.  Will.  Something’s different.  Will isn’t quite so tense.  You kicked Wade out before the end of the show.”

“I didn’t kick him out!”

Sloane’s eyes got wide as she put the pieces together.  “Oh my God!  Kenzie!  You and Will?  When?  How could you not have told me?  Oh, he’s going to be in so much fucking trouble tomorrow.”

Mac pinched the bridge of her nose and shook her head in exasperation.  “That is not what happened.  Will and I have not slept together.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes I’m sure, I would know if I ended up in Will’s bed one night.”

Sloane took a second to rearrange the pieces in her head.  “But something happened.  You said that’s not what happened, so something did, didn’t it?  And now you can’t stand to be anywhere near Wade and you’re making excuses.”

“I’m not making excuses.”

“And you’re also not denying that something happened.”

Mac reached for a cup of tea that she finished just before Sloane’s call came in.  “You’re like a dog with a bone.”

“And you know that I’ll keep going.  I’ll call Will, I’ll call you back.  I can go all night.”

“God!”  Mac held out the single syllable.  “It was Saturday.”

“Saturday?  That was like 3 days ago.  And you didn’t think you should tell me?”

“No, because it’s none of your business.”

“Oh.”  Sloane thought about that for a second and then brightened up.  “So what happened on Saturday?”

“Nothing.  Will and I talked, we came to an understanding.  That’s it.”

“Did he tell you he loved you and that’s why you don’t want to see Wade?  No, if he would have said that, you would have dumped Wade already.”  Sloane thought for another second.  “Wait, why haven’t you dumped Wade yet?”

Mac gave a little yell.  “It wasn’t that kind of talk.  He did not offer me his heart.  Or his forgiveness.  He just said he’s not going to humiliate me anymore with the dates or the contract and –”

When Mac’s voice trailed off, Sloane couldn’t help herself.  “And what?  Oh my God, Mac, what did you say?”

“I told him I couldn’t sleep with him because I didn’t want him to think I’m still a cheater.”

Sloane stood with her mouth hanging open.  “He wanted you to come over and –”

“No!  It wasn’t like that.  You didn’t see us before the shooting.  During the broadcast, we connected."

"You two have the strangest aphrodisiac."

Mac ignored her.  "We really connected and after, he called because he wanted to apologize and promise that he wasn’t going to embarrass me and then he asked me to dinner.  But we both knew where that would lead.”

“And you chose Wade over Will?”

“Why does everyone keep thinking that?  I decided that I wanted more than one night.”

“You know what I think.”

Mac answered tersely, “I don’t care.”

“You need to break up with Wade.  It’s not going to work with him, not while you love Will and he loves you.  If you break up with Wade, then you’ll be available next time Will wants you for dessert.”

“Sloane!  Will hasn’t forgiven me and he may never.  And Wade isn’t a bad guy.  You don’t know that things won’t work out.  Besides I don’t want to ruin things with Will by making him think I dumped Wade for him.”

Sloane stopped her pacing to ask, “What?”

“You don’t know Will the way I do.  He didn’t say he forgave me or that he wanted anything from me.  And Wade’s not a bad guy.”

Sloane wished Mac would materialize in front of her so she could smack some sense into the executive producer.  “You just won’t ever love him the way you do Will.”  Finally, Sloane hung up the phone. 

 

January 12, 2011  11:34PM

Will smiled as he picked up the phone.  “Have you ever called one of those radio call in shows?”

Mac smiled, “What?”

Will took a drag off his cigarette, wishing it was something stronger.  “You know, one of those shows where people tell their problems to a DJ and request a song.”

“What song would you request?”

“Me?  I’d be answering the calls.  The Nightbird.”  Will quickly changed into a smooth radio voice.  “Good evening Mackenzie, you’ve reached the Nightbird.  What do they want to hear in midtown?”

Mac couldn’t help laughing, “You’re an idiot.”

“Well now that’s no way to get me to play your song.  What is your desire tonight?  I’ll be spending the night spinning these records.”

“You will, will you?  Well, you know… Nightbird… I’ve just had this song stuck in my head all day.”

“Oh, do go on!”

“But I don’t know if you would have it.”  Mac tried to sound like she was pouting, even though she knew that some of her laughter spilled out. 

“Well, for you, I’ll find it if it means that much.”

“Oh, thank you Nightbird.  I just need to hear… Step by Step by New Kids on the Block.”

Will broke character and laughed.  “No.  Boy bands will never be played up here.”  Will reclined with his feet on the coffee table he had outside.  “You didn’t go home with your boyfriend and you’re calling me.  You didn’t break up on my account, did you?”

“What if I said I did?”

“Well, first I would say that it’s probably good for you since you don’t think you love him.  But I’d also say I don’t want to take away something that you want.  I told you, I’m done hurting you, Mac.”

Mac thought hearing something like this would hurt, but it didn’t.  She expected it and they seem to be in a good place.  “I know.  And I didn’t.  I just had some work to do so I told Wade to go home without me.”

It didn’t escape Will’s notice that she called him instead of doing the work that kept her from her… Wade.  “You don’t have to explain, Mac.  You’re with him and I need to get used to it.”  He hated saying it, but he spoke the truth when he said that this is how things should be.  He can’t give her what she wants, not until he finds a way to forgive her.  But he can do this, he can let her have that little piece of stability.  He wants her to be happy.  “I told you before, I’m done hurting you.”

“Thank you, Will.  And you're sure your okay.”

Will smiled.  “I'm okay, Mac.  I told you, this is how it should be.  Is that it, is that the only reason you called?”

Mac smiled.  “Well, that and I wanted to warn you that I told Sloane about our conversation this weekend.  Not everything.”

“Christ, Mackenzie!  You have always been the worst at keeping secrets!”  Will took a breath.  “What did you tell her?”

Mac smiled, “I’m sure she’ll let you know tomorrow.”

Will heard Mac hang up the phone and as mad as he was, he couldn’t help laughing.  It hurt, but it was so typically Mac. 

Chapter Text

February 11, 2011 11:11PM

“Will, I’m sorry to call.  We need to talk.”

Will picked up his sound system’s remote control and turned down the volume.  He knew that Wade had visited the studio earlier in the evening and he also knew that Mac didn’t leave with him or go to Hang Chews.  With everything that happened today, Elliot taking a brick to the ribs, Mac becoming a tabloid story, and finding out that Wade used her… well, Will wanted to beat someone down.  He told Charlie, and he believed, that she wouldn’t put him on the air if she knew Wade met with the DCCC, but he couldn’t help feeling burned too.  Her face would sit next to his and Wade’s in the magazines.  The story would paint him as a fool who keeps going back to her for more.  The rational part of him knows the blame for all this lay at Wade’s feet and Leona took advantage of it.  But part of him, a part that he wanted to bury, believed that Mac let it happen.  He took a steadying breath and reminded himself again that he trusted her.  “I told you before, it’s not your fault.  Any of it.”

Mac played through the events of the day and scoffed at the idea that it wasn’t.  Will’s face will cover Page 6 again and Wade will get the free publicity that he obviously wanted.  Even though she told him he couldn’t be on the air if he ran for office, she made it all possible.  She made it possible to humiliate Will again in the tabloids.  “I knew you’d say that, so I wanted to talk about how we’re going to cover everything going on in the news.”

Hearing Mac’s voice, the guilt so evident, he wouldn’t be a person if he didn’t sympathize with her.  Wade, Leona, they took advantage.  Mac trusted Wade and got them both burned.  “Hmmmm.  A business call.”  She needs a sense of control right now.  He wants to support her and he can best do that by playing along and letting her transition to Wade or not.  He hasn’t had to do this in a long time and he wondered if he still could, or even should. 

“I know what you’re doing.  Don’t patronize me like that.  We need to focus.  Scott Walker sent out the National Guard to bust the teacher’s union and Egypt is falling apart.  Two major stories, we need to make sure we give them both our full attention.  Tonight we should have had you on for a 3 hour block, but when Don came in, I wasn’t –”

“When Don came in Terry was already on, it didn’t make sense to take him off the air.  I covered Right Now, it wasn’t News Night.

Mac felt anger beginning to boil up in her.  “You’re really not going to let me take my part of the blame for any of this?”

“Well, let’s see Mac.  As far as I know, you had nothing to do with the overthrow of Mubarak.  I believe that Don, not you, sent Elliot out to get a story, which Elliot did only because he had permission to do what he’s wanted for days, and I seriously doubt you have any pull with Gov. Walker.  And if he ever did meet you in real life and fell in love with you immediately, I’m positive you would use your influence to have him support the teachers not bust their union.”

“You’re so full of shit, Will.”

Will faked confusion, “You’d be in favor of his actions?  That really does surprise me.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it.”

He did know it.  And he knew that starting down that path would end with a fight.  But he also knew that she needed it.  In the past, he would have goaded her just like he did, and just before she would break down, because his Mackenzie didn’t ever completely break, he’d pull her into his arms and hold her.  He told her that he loved her and that they’d figure out a way through this.  Remembering that image, frozen in his mind, he realized something.  She split her time between New York and DC.  She hated it so much that she took an administrative position that she had to know she’d hate.  Now he knew the truth.  She hated what she did… while she stayed in DC.  She didn’t say it, but it made sense, she took a position that everyone knew she would hate to stop the affair.  He didn’t know exactly how to think through all this, but he believed that those 4 months took a toll on her and on them.  He remembered those 4 months because she sounded like this, she blamed herself and looked and sounded full of regret.  Back then, he thought he could love her through it.  This time?  This time he didn’t know how to help her.  

“So you would cheer on his new law?”

“Fuck off, Will.  Playing dumb is a bad look on you.”

“I’m not trying to be cute, Mackenzie, I’m trying to follow your lead.  You said you wanted to talk about work, so I pointed out that you have no influence over the events of the world.  So, if you want to talk strictly about how we cover all this news, we can have that discussion.  If you want to talk about something else, we can do that too.  But you called me, so I need to know what we’re talking about.”

Mac stopped, unsure how to answer him.  She called him because she wanted to discuss work. But more than that, she wanted to think through how to make up for the gargantuan mistake she made with Wade.  She had to make it up to Will.  She hated that she put his name back in the tabloids.  But then she wanted to unload on him for being a prick.  Him acting like she thinks she can control Egypt or Wisconsin… it’s insulting, that’s what it is.  But now?  She doesn’t know what to say.  If she says anything about Wade or apologizes… it’s embarrassing and he’ll act like it’s nothing.  What can she expect him to say that he didn’t say after Charlie left?  He told her that he knows she didn’t use him to help Wade, that she should give Wade a chance to explain, and that no one in their right mind would… 

“Damn it, why won’t you hate me right now?  I’ve made a fucking mess of everything.  You of all people should… When it was you putting yourself on the tabloid covers with your womanizing--”

“I was dating, Mac.”

Mac heard the sincerity in his voice and started laughing.  The laughter mixed with a few tears, but she definitely laughed more than she cried.  After a few seconds, she asked, “Do you even know the difference?”

Will sat back in his couch.  “Do you?”

“Dating infers that you would see the woman a second or maybe even third time.”

Will smiled a little sheepishly, glad that she couldn’t see him.  “None of them were my type.”

Mac wanted to playfully ask what type that is, but decided that would put them in dangerous territory.  “Uh-huh.”

Will took a breath.  He didn’t know what came next.  They never had this part of the conversation.  Years ago, when she asked why he won’t hate her, he would use that as his cue to reach out for her.  This laughing, it came later.  It came after they sat on the couch and cuddled.  After he whispered in her ear that he loved her.  Not having her with him to touch and hold, it felt foreign and he didn’t know what came next. 

“What are we going to do, Will?  How am I going to talk to the staff tomorrow with any authority?  They try not to notice the gossip rags, but…”

Will took a deep breath.  He can do this.  He can figure out something right to say.  “You’re going into that conference room with your head held high and you’re going to lead that meeting just like you would any other day.  They know you Mac.  They trust you as much as I do.  And if anyone questions your authority, I’ll have your back.”

“You want to go in as a united front with me?”  The thought nearly made Mac weep.

“I told you before that I trust you.  And I told you earlier tonight that I know you didn’t use me to help him.  I haven’t seen a single piece of evidence that would make me think any different.”  Will considered his next words before saying them.  “I will always stand in front and beside you, on this or anything else, Mac.  I promise.”

Mac didn’t know what to say.  She still thought that hearing his ire would make her feel better, but this felt good.  Knowing he placed himself firmly in her corner, she didn’t deserve it, but it felt good. 

“Thank you, Will.”

Will nodded his head and made a decision to change the tone of their conversation.  “Now, do we need to talk about tomorrow’s coverage.  I think you did an admirable job with everything that happened in the studio today.  But if you want to talk strategy –"

“No.  I don’t think so.”

“Good.  It sounds like you need to get some rest and come back fighting tomorrow.”

Mac nodded her head.  God how she wished they were together.  She wished… it didn’t matter.  She still had to deal with Wade and until the door officially closes on that relationship, she can’t see Will.  “I’ll do that.  Thank you Will.”

Mac hung up the phone and put it down.  She squeezed her eyes shut to stop the leaking.  For some reason, Will still believes in her.  But she still has to make it up to him. 

Will hung up the phone, imagining the story that will run tomorrow.  Imagining having to face the staff and everyone else at the network, knowing that they think Mackenzie has made a fool of him twice.  He knows better.  He knows that’s just how it looks.  But still, will anyone take him seriously when they know that the person who runs him on the air has humiliated him twice.  He can never tell Mac, but it does matter.  What people think does matter. 

Chapter Text

February 15 1:32AM

Mac smiled when she saw Will’s name on her caller ID.  She couldn’t remember the last time she felt this giddy, quite a turnaround from the weekend and even day she had.  After she learned that Wade started a dialog with the DCCC, he spent the weekend on some sort of guys only testosterone fest in Atlantic City, during which he turned off his phone.  She tried to call him last night when he should have gotten home, but couldn’t get through.  She spent the evening imaging the conversation he had with the DCCC when he got back.  As bad as it looks for her to put her boyfriend on the air apparently to help bolster his campaign, the New York Democratic Party would not look favorably on him announcing Anthony Weiner seeking the Mayoral post.  He didn’t face the same embarrassment that she did all day for the story, but she enjoyed imagining the DCCC questioning whether they chose the right person and trying to do damage control. 

But none of that mattered.  She spent the day at work, watching Will stand up for the people in his newsroom, her included.  She could never repay him for what she knew, and assumed, he did for her.  He met with Nina Howard to pay so she could keep her good name, without asking what happened.  Something else that made the day an extension of the cluster fuck that was her weekend.  How the fuck did Nina find out anything about her time in Afghanistan?  She would have to tell Will eventually.  He deserves to know what he paid for. 

But then, it ended and her day turned perfect in ways she hadn’t expected.  She broke up with Wade, making him stand outside in the cold until she deigned to see him and let him know they were done.  While most breakups leave her feeling almost like she’s grieving, this one came as a relief.  Then, While Sloane tutored her, Neal came up to her with Maggie and a couple others.  They figured out that Will payed the ransom for Khalid and they wanted to find a way to thank him.  Neal and Maggie took turns drawing the picture of Will coming in to find the crews of both shows standing in line with checks in their hands.  It didn’t take a lot to organize them, it all came together pretty quickly.  She felt so much pride in this group.  And Will still never ceases to amaze her.  She’s known him for 5 years of her life and he can still surprise her, in both good and bad ways.    Finally, the team re-enacted Will’s silly Rudy scene while she tried to hang out in the shadows to let Will have his well-deserved moment, but he sought her out and didn’t hesitate to hug her.  For the rest of the night, Will saying think you and going to Hang Chews, Will didn’t leave her side.  She remembered what it felt like to have him so close, how safe she felt.  She didn’t think she ever felt unsafe, except a few times in the Middle East, but with Will around and… not hating her… she had such a sense of contentment.  Seeing his name on the caller ID, it made her feel silly because she felt so giddy. 

“I didn’t expect to hear from you again tonight!”

“I just got in and I thought I should call and make sure you made it home okay.  It seemed like the gallant thing to do.”

Mac could hear the smile in his voice.  He didn’t want the evening to end any more than she did. It made her think carefully about what to say.  They had reached a détente and she thought this one might take, but she can’t get so comfortable that she assumes they are on the road to something.  He has to let him set the pace.  “You always have been that.  It was good to see you at Hang Chews with the team.”

“It wasn’t my first time you know.  I took everyone I could find there after election night coverage.  I just hung back when… you know.”  He couldn’t bear to see her with Wade and he knew that if Wade met her at the studio after the show they would end up there.  One night, Maggie knocked on his office door after Mac, Wade and a few others left, and told him that the team typically let Wade buy them the first round and then scattered around the bar because they thought he was an ass.  The two of them laughed before Maggie had to meet Don. 

“I know.  But now you don’t have an excuse, you will be expected.”

“And I assume you’ll be there too.”

“I try to go a few nights a week.”

Will smirked a little and finally said what he called to say.  “You’re not with Wade anymore.”

Mac had a niggling feeling where Will wanted to take this, but she didn’t want to let things go too far, she didn’t want him to regret anything later.  “No, we broke up.  I told him to leave, lose the election and go to hell.”  Mac thought for a second.  “I told him to do it in that order, but I think I mixed up 2 and 3.”

“I would have told him to take a flying leap into a moving bus, and then I would have helped him make that trip.” 

“Well, then I’m glad you weren’t because we need you anchoring the show.”

“I worked in the DA’s office, I could have gotten off.”

Mac smiled at the joke.  She didn’t want to let this end, this night when she finally had everything she wanted again.  Sitting with Will’s arm slung over her shoulder.  Laughing with him.  Leaving the bar knowing he had the same X-rated thoughts that she did.  But for the first time since leaving Wade on the balcony, she remembered how they got here.  The tabloid article, Nina’s information, Wade. “What are we doing, Will?”

All weekend Will’s thoughts about Mac were all over the place.  He hated her for dragging him into another Page 6 circus, he waited anxiously for the call he thought he’d get that she dumped Wade.  He talked himself into not trusting her, he wanted her so much.  And today, he likes to believe that he is controlled by his head, but her pull on him was magnetic.  It all felt so right and to hell with anything else.  They went to the bar and anyone who didn’t know better would have thought they were a couple and he didn’t mind.  He and Mac didn’t notice when the team left because they had connected and he didn’t see anyone else in the world.  He walked her out and he started to kiss her goodnight, but at the last second his lips made contact with her cheek.  And he didn’t know why.  She didn’t move her head, he made the decision.  And for the life of him he can’t figure out why.  He wants her, he knows that.  He just…

He wanted to make the joke, say something like, “Well, I may be a little out of practice, but I was trying to flirt.”  But he couldn’t.  He had so many thoughts and feelings running through him, he had to be honest.  “I don’t know, Mac.  I had...”  Will stopped, imagining how telling her he had a good time with her would sound.  It would sound like the fucking set up to a break up, and that’s not what he wants.  “I don’t know.”

Mac exhaled and shut her eyes.  Will has put aside his pride to support her.  Now she had to return the favor.  “You know what I think?”

“No, but I have feeling that I’m about to find out.”

“You spent a long time, Will, being an ass because you thought you were supposed to be.  Finally, something reignited in you.  You remembered that you can be a decent human being and it felt good.  But it’s been so long since you felt like that, that you’re feeling a little discombobulated.”

Will started laughing.  “Do you believe even half the shit you say?”

“Normally, I’m a very honest person.  When it comes to you, half is about right.”

Will laughed a little harder.  Eventually he got quiet and then he finally said, “You already know, don’t you?”

“That you’re not ready?  Yeah, I know.”  She did the damage.  She made him fall out of love with her, made him stop trusting her on a personal level.  Until he comes to terms with that, she can’t do anything. 

“So where does that leave us?”

“We’re friends Will.  And that’s good enough.  You are a treasured friend that I appreciate more than anything.”

Will played with that in his head.  “Friends… yeah.  I guess.”

“I’m too fucked up to be anything else right now.”

Will laughed again.  “You.  Yeah.”

Mac meant it as a warning, not a joke, but Will always saw her as more perfect than she deserved, especially when he was in love with her.  “Are you okay, Will?”

Will had to think about it for a second.  “I think so.  You?”

“You gave me the best night I’ve had in a long time.”  Mac paused to see if he would say anything.  When he didn’t, she said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Will.”

“Yeah.”

Chapter Text

February 15, 2011  3:52 AM

Mac woke up with a start, sweat gathered on her forehead.  She heard herself panting as she looked around and began to recognize her apartment.  In New York.  She made it back to New York.  She forced herself to take a few deep breaths.  She hasn’t left New York, at least not since April.  It took a second, but she remembered her current reality and that she just had a dream.  She’d had flashbacks at night before, but that night, she didn’t lose anyone.  Some may say that she should have.  Sgt.  Matthews who saved them held the crucifix around his neck as he said God had intervened.  He smiled as he told her that God must have some big plans for her and her crew.  After that, her crew left her, all except Jim.  They didn’t trust her judgement anymore.  And she couldn’t blame them.

She should call Jim.  That’s what she does at times like this, she calls Jim.  And when Jim has a dream or… Jim calls her.  When they first got back stateside, Mac went through a promiscuous period.  She wanted to feel alive anyway she could after everything had been taken away.  She didn’t have a job, she didn’t think she could call her family, Will wouldn’t return her calls or emails.  So she drank during the day and went home with whoever paid her bar tab at night.  More than once, Jim got out of bed, sometimes waking his girlfriend to get Mac back home after she freaked some guy the fuck out.  After the third time, Jim told her he couldn’t do that for her anymore and said he will always take a phone call from her.  That talk from Jim helped her decide to cut back, not give up the drinking, but cut back.  After that, she started to apply to jobs and eventually Charlie met her in a bowling alley and offered her a chance to get back everything she ever wanted.  Her job, her reputation, a newscast that would let her direct the national conversation, a chance to win Will back over.  She could get it all back.  She just had to do it the right way.  She had to go in, take charge, and stay focused.  She had to stay focused on what she wanted. 

And spending the evening with Will, she thought she had succeeded.  She succeeded as much as she could have at this point.  They covered Egypt in a way no one else could.  They gave the teachers of Wisconsin a voice in a state that wanted to snuff it out.  Will remembered what it meant to do the news.  He became a leader to the team she loved molding.  He didn’t pull away from simple touch anymore, he held her close and ushered her around like he didn’t notice anyone else.  He protected her from the story that Nina wanted to write, the story of how she lost the respect of her crew in the first place.  The story of her second biggest regret.  She looked at her phone and knew she should call Jim.  He was safe.  He never judged her, never looked down on her.  But she needed to call Will.  She needed to make him understand why she did it.  Certainly by now he knows what she did.  She imagined that he gave Nina a big check and she handed him the story which he tore up in a big gesture, but he would have at least saw the headline.  He couldn’t have avoided seeing it.  She doesn’t know what he knows or what he thinks about it.  Obviously it didn’t bother him too much because he still spent the evening with her.  And then called her after.  But she still needs him to understand.  She needs to tell… she wants to confess, to hear someone who has every reason to hate her tell her whether that she was wrong and if it’s forgivable. 

She picked up the phone and called, not at all surprised that he answered half asleep. 

“Mac?  Is everything alright?”

Mac didn’t know how to start.  She took a deep breath, hopeful that this would go better than the last time she told him about the worst thing she’d ever done.  “I need to tell you about the story you paid to bury.  You should hear it from me.”

Will scrubbed his hand over his face as he adjusted to being awake.  He ran her words over in his mind, certain that he should know what she meant, but he couldn’t place it quite yet.  “You mean… Neal’s guy?  I know all about him.”  He ran his statement in his mind again, certain that she couldn’t be talking about him. 

 “No.  That story that you paid Nina for.  I don’t know how much you paid her, but you should hear why I –”

Waking up a little more, he said, “Oh, Nina.  No, I didn’t pay her.  I mean I was about to.  I’d already sent a quarter of a million dollars to Egypt, what was another fifth of that?”  Will couldn’t help the smug smile that crept on his face.  A word problem with fractions in the middle of the night.  She would never figure out what he almost spent.  “But then Nina called herself a journalist and I couldn’t do it.  For an instant I had to ask myself ‘What Would Mac Do’ and immediately I saw your face threatening to beat my ass if I gave in to a… well the words didn’t match you, but I was sure I would have your backing, so I told her off and threatened her.  She’s not going to publish the article.”

“You’re sure of that?”

“I have the confidence of a tall man and the intelligence to back it up.”  Will smiled at his own joke.  “I did a little demographic research this weekend and learned that no one cared about the Page 6 article.  People who commented in chat… whatever the fucks… thought I was a horse’s ass, but they didn’t care about an EP no one heard of, no offense, and her equally boring would be politician boyfriend.  If she runs the story at all, it’ll be buried.  And without my interest in it or her,  she has no reason to run it.”

“What?”  Mac tried to put all the pieces of what he said together.  “If you knew that the story wouldn’t make the cover of TMI, then why did you almost pay her –” Mac tried to run through what he said about how much, and then gave up, “why did you almost pay her?”

“She was using you to hurt me and I know better.  I didn’t want you to get hurt in the crossfire, so I took care of it.”

This conversation did not go the way that Mac expected, so she tried to reset.  She needed to tell him.  She wanted to unburden herself.  She still had this fantasy of a reunion and she wanted this out in the open before that happened because she didn’t want to look at his disappointed face when she’d have to tell him later in person.  They used to tell each other everything.  She wants that with him again.  “Aren’t you at least a little curious about what story she planned to run?”

Will had to consider the question.  “Nina held out a tidbit of a story to me like a juicy piece of gossip and frankly I want no part of the shit she pedals to everyone else.  Listening to it would make me a hypocrite.”  He could hear the voices in his head calling him a liar.  He can take a stand like that and feel superior to all the mere mortals around him, but he knew that he didn’t want to hear the story because he’d have to acknowledge where she went and how close to death she came.  He made her go, without him.  He fired her during a commercial break while she was there.  What else did he think she would do?  She couldn’t come back, he made sure of it. 

“That’s very big of you Will.”

“Thank you!”

“It’s also a load of shit.”

Will smiled at more evidence that no one knew him like Mackenzie McHale.  He can’t deny it.  “Can we at least fast forward past where you take a guess about what I really think?”

“As long as I can tell you again that I don’t blame you for me staying there.”

“Okay.  We don’t need to have this conversation.”  Will made the decision for them, knowing that she would follow his lead on at least this one point.  “And, honestly Mac, I don’t need someone to tell me who the fuck you are.  I don’t know what happened there, but I know you and I know that you will go after a story you think is important as hard as you can.  You’ll be the first to take the risk and the one to take the responsibility even when it doesn’t belong to you.  So even if you told me what happened, I’m not likely to believe you.”

Mac considered his words for a second.  “I can’t tell if that’s another load of bullshit or not.”

“It’s not a line, Mac.  I don’t want to know what happened to you there.”

Mac let that sink in.  She wanted to make him listen, but maybe the timing wasn’t right.  They weren’t in a place where they can bear their souls.  At least about this.  Maybe this is her penance, not being able to say something so important to him.  “Well, then I guess I’m sorry for calling so late.”

“Mac, you can always call.  I will always make time for you.”

Mac lay back in bed feeling comforted that she had gained back some of what she lost when it came to Will.  Despite his protests, she didn’t know if she would appear somewhere in the pages of TMI, but she had confidence that Will would stand by her if she did. 

Chapter Text

March 3, 2011  9:12PM

“Did you really just run out of the studio to call me and laugh?”

“Yeah.  I mean, I took off my jacket first, but, yeah.  I couldn’t help it.  Besides, I thought I could give the team an update on how you’re doing.”

Mac rolled her eyes.  His pseudo-concern would work much better if he didn’t say everything with a slight (or more) giggle in his voice.  “Jim called during the last break.  I thanked him for keeping you in line during that John Scully interview.”

“I didn’t have anything against Scully.  I’m sure that when someone writes the biopic of Steve Jobs, Scully will come out just fine.  I’m just not sure why we had him on our show.”

“I thought you’d enjoy having another capitalist on to give you some republican cred.”

Will laughed outright at that.  “So is that why you took a dive off the stairs of the 21st floor?  You realized you were letting the republicans run amuck and you couldn’t stand it?”

Mac’s voice went up at least an octave as she yelled, “I didn’t take a dive, stairs are tricky.  I was thinking about… something and then all of a sudden I stopped and knew I landed wrong.”

“Luckily Maggie was right there for you.”

Mac almost winced in pain from the memory of her producer trying to be helpful, but instead got hysterical.  Maggie’s hysterics alerted the staff of the issue and before she knew it, they had her in a rolling chair bumping her swollen ankle against every solid surface in the office.  Maggie of course kept looking for help and found Will, who suggested they call an ambulance. Maggie reached for the phone before Mac stood up and slammed her foot down again to make the point that she didn’t need an ambulance.  She almost convinced everyone she was fine until Jim looked at the now softball sized bump and said he would get her to an urgent care. 

“Don’t think I didn’t notice your concern.”

Will laughed throughout the event, but when Jim got serious and made the decision that Mac needed to go somewhere to have her ankle checked out, Will looked and felt his stomach drop.  He took a step to pick her up and carry her to his car himself, when Mac interrupted and told Tess to get her some ice, Maggie to call a cab and lined up Gary and Jim to help her get to it.  She told the group that under no circumstances was anyone leaving besides her, they have a show to put on.  Will then said that Gary and Jim can start taking her now and he’d have his car meet them.

“Like you said, we had a show to do.”  Even here on the phone, he wished he would have followed his first, well, maybe second instinct to pick her up and carry her to the car.  He could have used his celebrity status to ensure that Urgent Care lived up to its name.  And then he’d have made sure she got whatever meds she needed and got home.  Hell, the show didn’t actually need him, someone could have covered and he could have…  What the fuck is he thinking?  He couldn’t have.  He’s been down this road with her and she…  He let Jim and Gary take her to Urgent Care and they got back in enough time for the rundown.  His driver got her home and then the empty car got back to the studio in time to get him home.  That’s how it should have worked out. 

Even if he wanted to pick her up and have just a little more incidental skin on skin contact.  To feel her soft weight.  Fuck he can’t let his mind go down this road. 

“In fact, for a second there I thought you were going to pick me up and carry me out like you did the day of the marathon.”

Will realized she had been talking this whole time.  The marathon.  He remembered the marathon and he smiled.  It seems like yesterday.  How long ago was that?  “The day you helped me make headlines with my “romantic gesture”.  You never have told me if you twisted your ankle on purpose.”

Mac laughed at the memory.  “And I never will.  That secret will go into the grave with me.”

He loved that memory.  Somewhere he still has the article that listed the winners.  They included a picture of “Will McAvoy saving an anonymous fan”.  He and Mac laughed over that seemingly for hours.  Someone from CNN showed it to them and that night Will asked her what she thought would happen to his reputation if the audience knew what he planned to do to his biggest fan once he got her naked.  She of course answered that his female demographics would go through the roof.

Will came out of that memory and had a question bubble to his mind.  “When, uh, when was the marathon?”

Mac felt the shift in the conversation.  He didn’t give a damn about the day, he wanted to know if it happened when she was cheating on him.  “October, Will.  Well after… he was out of my life by then.”

Will let that sink in.  He tried to tell himself that it’s one memory that wasn’t marred by the affair.  One memory he gets to keep.  But that leaves the question how many memories are there when… and does it matter?  She cheated and she was trying to get away with it even then.  But she hated herself, and he believes that.  That has to count for something, right? 

“Will, what are you thinking?”

“What?  Nothing.  Just, uh, remembering.”

At least he told her part of the truth, that much she knew.  She also knew he struggled and she assumed he fought with himself over whether to believe her or not.  “Will, it took you a long time to be sure that you loved me and to say it.  I held back because I didn’t want to cheapen the word for you.  When you picked me up that day and that camera got a picture of you carrying your biggest fan, he had a picture of me desperately in love with you.”

He believed her, and not just because he wanted more than anything to believe that someone in the world found him loveable.  He believed her because he knew her and believed that she couldn’t lie to him again.  But, back then she did lie, and he didn’t think she could.  She proved his bastard of a father right.  And he can’t get over it.  He doesn’t know how. 

“I know, Mac.  I believe you.”

Mac felt the fight going in Will’s head.  During their previous relationship she saw it play out on his face, in his sleep, times he didn’t think she noticed.  She closed her eyes and imagined him going through that same fight with himself.  “What do you need, Will?  What can I do for you?”

“I don’t know, Mac.  I wish I knew.”  Will imagined the defeat in her face.  He remembered the times, more than one, that she must have thought he was about to do or say something significant.  Something to let her know where they were and then he pulled back.  He saw a little bit of the light in her eyes dull.  He didn’t want to do that to her.  He fell in love with her passion all those years ago and he didn’t want her to lose that on his account again.  “Look, Mac, um, keep your foot elevated and ice it.  And if you need anything…” 

Mac heard his voice trail off.  He didn’t know how to finish the sentence.  If Maggie or Sloane or anyone else in the newsroom would have had this accident, he would have offered to get anything they needed.  Though she assumed he knew none of them would ever call him except as a last resort.  For her… he didn’t know how to finish the sentence.  He doesn’t want to take the chance that she’d take him up on his offer.  He doesn’t want to know if she would.  Or what would happen if she did.  Or what it would feel like if she didn’t.  He can’t finish the sentence and it’s probably better that way. 

“Yeah, thanks.  I should, uh, probably get some rest.  I’ll be on crutches, but I’ll be in tomorrow.”

“You know, it is okay to take a day off, Mac.”

“Not if I want a full crew when I get back.”

Will laughed.  He couldn’t help it.  He didn’t know how she had this affect on him, but she did.  “They like me now!”

Mac hung up the phone, biting her lip.  She wished she could stop hurting him.  They’ve had a lot of nice conversations.  Friendly conversations, with a little flirting.  It’s almost nightly now.  But every once in awhile, one of them will bring up something from the past and Will closes himself off.  This time… she should have realized that the marathon would have an effect on him.  What is she supposed to do, pretend they don’t have shared memories?  Cut herself off every time she remembers something?  It was the best time of her life and she can’t pretend it didn’t happen. 

March 12, 2011  3:38PM

“I hope you didn’t call to talk about football.”

“I wouldn’t talk to you about football.  For one thing you would confuse it with soccer.”

Mac rolled her eyes while imagining the smug look on Will’s face.  “Do you ever get tired of that joke?  I do have dual citizenship you know.”

“I don’t get tired of the joke and I do know.  I just don’t know how you lived this long without enjoying a good American football game.”

“Because they’re boring!  Twenty-two grown men chasing a ball for seconds at a time.”  Mac took a second to silently laugh.  She knew he was teasing and that he knew she was laughing, but they’ve done this so many times that it didn’t matter.  It felt just like it did before.  The arguing over nothing and laughing about it, it felt good.  And she knew that he had to feel the same. 

“I knew you paid attention to my tutelage.”

“Not really.  I lived with a group of Marines who watched American football.  There was no way to ignore it.”  Mac laughed, waiting for his comeback and she had her next line picked out.  But Will went silent.  “Will?  Are you still there?”

Will mentally collected himself and finally said, “yeah.  Still here.”

Something changed on the phone, she could hear it.  “Will, what’s happening?”

“What?  Nothing.  Everything’s fine.”

“No it isn’t.  If it was you would have said something dickish like, ‘What could those teenagers teach me that you couldn’t?’ and I would have reminded you that when you went on about it, I found other activities to occupy us and I wouldn’t have done that with them.”

Will tried to plaster a smile on his face to reply, but he couldn’t.  He wanted to ask her, the words were on the tip of his tongue, just waiting for him to open it far enough to let them out.  But he couldn’t.  He knew why she stayed there.  It was him.  He kicked her out of his life, he sent her to the Middle East without him, and then he fired her in front of as many people as he could.  She stayed because of him and he never let her know that he got any of her letters or phone calls begging for forgiveness.  In fact he told her he didn’t’ listen to them or read them, when the truth was, he had them memorized.  He thought she deserved it, she cheated, she ruined the life they would have had together, she broke his heart and he shouldn’t have cared what the fuck happened to her after. 

And he didn’t.  Or at least he thinks he didn’t.  But he does now.  She told him about the affair and her words still run through his mind.  She hated herself and she continued because she hated herself.  Sometimes that makes sense to him, other times… he doesn’t know what the fuck that’s supposed to mean.  And sometimes it doesn’t matter because… because she still doesn’t know football and they can tease each other like they used to.  And because… because they somehow got back into the habit of daily phone calls and there’s something about it that feels both right and wrong.  And then she brings up where she went… and he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s supposed to think or say or feel because… God damn it, when people break up, they move across town and take the chance of bumping into each other, they don’t go on a fucking suicide mission across the globe. 

“Will, talk to me.  What’s going on in your head right now?”

Will shook himself out of his thoughts.  “Football lockout.”

“That’s not what you were thinking about.”

“It’s why I called.”  Will heard her exasperated exhale.  He knew that sound as well as all her sounds.  All of them.  Every tone of voice, every moan of pleasure, every laugh.  He knew them all.  And it scared him.  He can’t let her break him again the way that she did.  She went on a suicide mission and he, he remembered the days of looking at the pills and calculating exactly how many it would take.  It’s amazing either one of them are still here.  If they did… what happens with the next break up?  Wheredoes she try to go next time?  Will he go through with it?

“Billy!  Talk to me.”

“I can’t Mackenzie.  Okay, I just can’t.”

“You can’t what?”

“I can’t do this.”  Will didn’t know what he would say, he listened to the words as he said it.  “Every night we get on the phone and talk and flirt like nothing happened.  Like we didn’t use to spend every moment together, like we’re dating for the first time.  I can’t pretend that you didn’t cheat.  For four months you cheated on me, and then you told me about it.”

“I wasn’t bragging, Will.  I thought –”

“You thought I needed to know, I get it.  But I didn’t.  And then you got on the plane and you left and if something…”  Will stopped abruptly and clinched his face closed.  “If something would have happened to you there, back then, I don’t think I would have cared.  But now, just the idea scares the hell out of me.  And I can’t do it, Mac.  I can’t…”  He stopped talking again, trying to get the thoughts swirling around his head to settle long enough to get something out.  “I know that you loved me.  And I believe you when you say you regretted it.  But god damn it, Mac, I can’t get the image out of my head.”

Mac put her head down, tears stinging the outside of her eyes.  Her heart broke, more for Will than herself.  Since the Giffords shooting she reminded herself that this could happen, she prepared herself for it.  But Will kept trooping on, he kept trying, he kept hoping that maybe something would change.  At least she thought he hoped that.  She knows he has been more broken than this, but now he needed her strength and she wouldn’t keep it from him.  “So, where does that leave us?”

“I don’t know.”  He said it as a whisper, just barely audible. 

“Are we still friends?”

Will nodded his head as he said, “friends, yes.  Absolutely.”

“Can I still barge into your office whenever I want?”

Will wrinkled his nose and smiled.  “If I said no, would that stop you?”

“Probably not.”  Mac listened to his breath which let her know that he had a ghost of a smile on his face.  “Are you going to start yelling at me in the middle of the newsroom for no reason, again?”

“I always had a reason.”

“If you call me responding to you acting like an ass a reason… you may have a point.”

Will gave himself a moment to smile fully.  He didn’t know how she did it.  Everyday, without fail, she showed him the incredible woman she was.  God damn it why can’t he forgive her.  If he could, falling in love with her again… 

“We’re friends Mac.  I can’t draw a picture of what that looks like.  But we’re friends.”

“You can’t draw a picture period.  Stick figure elude you.”  Mac wiped her eyes and steeled herself to be professional again while she heard Will chuckle.  “So, why did you call?”

“Football lockout.”

“Oh, God.”

“This is going to affect how collective bargaining is done from here on.”

“Do you actually believe the shit that comes out of your mouth?”

Will smiled.  “You were the one a few weeks ago arguing for the rights of the Wisconsin teachers.  This is going to affect them and any other union that wants better pay.”

“A bunch of babies who make more than… you!  Why would anyone in the electorate give a damn about anything they do?”

They continued their discussion, like they have every night for weeks, throwing barbs and discussing newsworthiness.  It was safe, but more than that, it felt familiar.  It felt good.  At the end of the call, they both hung up laughing at the last thing the other said and as they settled into bed, they each thought about the other, wondering if things will ever get better.  If he will ever figure out forgiveness. 

Chapter Text

April 4, 2011  10:02 PM

Will heard his phone ring and nearly threw the fucking thing.  He fucked up and he knows it.  He doesn’t fucking need Mac screaming in his ear about it.  He declined the call.  Actually, he did a whole lot more than that, but the phone doesn’t have the “slam it down and destroy” option. 

Thirty seconds later the phone rang again.  She can call all night if she wants.  He’s at least as stubborn as her.  He got a beer and a cigarette and sat down on his patio wishing he had something stronger.  Or that he could throw a glass down at cement below him without the possibility of causing bodily injury.  How the fuck did he lose control like that.  He’s a professional.  And he doesn’t need Mac’s pseudo-psychoanalysis.  She’s going to give him a fucking break because of his brother.  That’s not what happened.  He didn’t think of Les at all.  It’s Santorum and his fucking bigoted views.  The Tea Party and the direction they want the country to go.  We’re at fucking tipping point and they should not be a voice moving us one way or the other.  Where are the fucking moderates?  On both sides.  The people who understand that the Constitution is set up to force compromise.  It was never intended to tear the country apart. 

Will heard his phone ring again.  It’s after 11:30.  She has called every five minutes for the last hour and a half.  If she fucking knew him at all, she’d know that he knows how unprofessional he was.  She doesn’t have to fucking shove it in his face. 

April 5, 2011  12:10AM

“I know I was unprofessional and it has nothing to do with Les.  I won’t let it happen again.  I’ll listen to your cues, which I did hear.  Is there anything else I can answer for you?”  Will waited a pregnant second to allow her not quite enough time to get out of shock and answer.  “I’ll talk to you in the morning.”

He hung up before she could correct him that it will be later in the morning.  Mac didn’t call back.

April 5, 2011 10:47 PM

“I told you Mac, we don’t need to talk about this anymore.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about since we haven’t talked about this in the first place.”

“You’re right, we didn’t.  And do you know why we didn’t?”

Mac knew the answer, of course she knew the answer.  It’s the same answer he’s given since Reese made her make the concession.  She and Charlie made the decision and in telling him they had to say that the ratings haven’t bounced back as much as they expected.  She knows he’s proud of their show, but the numbers are important too.  Even she had to admit that.  If they can’t produce the revenue they need, then they can’t do the show they want.  Making him take comments is the smallest price she and Charlie could arrange.  “I had no choice.”

“Of course you had a choice, everyone has a fucking choice.  You could have told Reese to take his revenue and fuck himself with it!”

“Kinky as that sounds, that isn’t something that you say to… whatever the hell he is.”  She gave Will a chance to break in with a comeback, but he didn’t give one.  Quieter she said, “You know I don’t want to do this anymore than you do.”

“Right, but you’re not the one reading comments in front of millions, or are there even millions, Mac?”

“Yes, Will, we have over a million viewers.”

“Well, you didn’t make that clear last week when you told me that we were doing this and by the way my ratings tanked.”

Mac was tired of having this argument with him.  He’s like a petulant little kid who… hell, she can’t even come up with a metaphor in her own head anymore he drives her so crazy.  “Your ratings never tanked.  They dipped when we launched 2.0, and then there was a small recovery.  They dipped again when you became a regular on the tabloid covers and a smaller recovery.  Now with not a lot going on in the world, cable news ratings in general have dipped a little.  We’re doing this until we can get an election time bump.  And election season starts a little early every cycle.”

“Is that why you gave me Sutton Wall yesterday and why Neal gave me those fucking comments today?”

“I gave you Wall because Rick Santorum is about to announce.  Neal gave you those comments because he thought you were going to plan something in advance.  Why the hell didn’t you at least look them over and have a plan?  As your EP, that’s what I’m pissed off about.  That was completely avoidable.”

Will knew she was right.  Neal sent him the comments a couple hours before show time and he didn’t look at them.  At all.  The segment is a joke and he thought he was making a statement about how horrible the whole fucking idea was.  “You’re fucking joking, right?  You had to know I won’t take that segment seriously.”

“Then I guess we’ll get to see you make an ass of yourself on national TV a few more times until you do take it seriously.  God damn it, Will.  It’s just you up there!”

“Really?  Because I don’t see anyone else sitting with me.  If I want to look like an idiot –”

“Then you’re going to make everyone around you look like one too!”  Mac took a breath.  “And you won’t have any impact on anything.  And the staff that looks up to you –”

“Yeah, yeah.  I got it.  I’ll look at the fucking comments.”  Will didn’t wait for a response, he just slammed the phone down, longing for the days that he could do more to it than aggressively press ‘End’.  He walked to his refrigerator mimicking Mac while reaching for a beer in his empty beer box.  “Fuck, I shouldn’t have to remind my shopper to make sure I’m stocked up on beer!”

“Are you sure there’s not a pantry somewhere that she keeps it in?”

Will quickly looked around his apartment to find where Mac’s voice came from.  “Mac?”

“You didn’t hang up the phone you idiot.”

Will pulled his phone out of his pocket to confirm that the call was still going.  “There’s no pantry.”

It was against Mac’s better judgement, but she knew Will well enough to know that he needed to talk.  “Do you have a bar near your place we can meet?”

They usually go to Hang Chews a couple times a week, he planned to go tomorrow.  Typically he and Mac end up leaving the newsroom together and arriving there at the same time, usually with a couple others.  He doesn’t want to turn her down, he wouldn’t mind spending some face to face time alone with her.  But he also doesn’t want to go out.  He didn’t sleep well last night and he needs to tonight.  “Not tonight Mac.”

“I understand.”  She didn’t intend for it to be a date, he needed a friend.  But he still must hate the idea of being alone with her. 

“Mac, that’s not it.  I’ve already gotten comfortable and I don’t want to have to get dressed again.”

“You mean you’re walking around your apartment naked?”  She was laughing, but also remembered what that looked like.  He didn’t always have an aversion to clothes, but it wasn’t uncommon for him to not have anything on at home.

“Why?  What are you wearing?”  Will knew they were treading on dangerous territory, but he wanted to see how far she’d take this… whatever the fuck it is. 

“I suppose you could come over and find out.”  She knew he wouldn’t, so there was no reason to back down. 

“Well, I know that you don’t typically run around your apartment naked, though you do like to take off your bra as soon as you get in the door.  It’s still early, so I’m guessing you’re in a t-shirt and shorts, showing off your magnificent legs to no one.  That actually might be a reason to come over.”

“My door’s always open for you, Will.”  She paused for a second.  “And so are my legs.  If you want to put on just enough to be decent and get a –"

Will couldn’t hide the little laugh.  “All right Mac, as far as you’re concerned, I have my boxers and a pair of pants on.  Which reminds me, we need to talk to the tailor about that pair of pants.”

“Not this again!  If you want to put in a requisition, you can do it, but leave me out of it.”

“You have to approve it!”

“If you can write out a rec that doesn’t make you sound like a moron, I’ll sign it.”  Mac shook her head and smiled again and wanting to get back to what they were discussing.  “So, are you in jeans or the slacks you left in?”

“The slacks I left in.”

“You left in jeans, Will.”

Will couldn’t help laughing.  “You keep track of that sort of thing.”

“You in those pants.  You better believe it.  It’s almost too bad you took them off.  But it’s okay, I can imagine you standing in your kitchen naked.  It was a great view before.”

How the hell did they get to talking about this?  Wasn’t he just pissed about something?  He had to change the subject before his only options were getting dressed or taking a shower.  “Why else are you pissed?”

Mac felt like she got a case of whiplash.  “What?”

“You said as my EP you were pissed off because I didn’t look at the comments.  What other role of yours has you pissed off at me and why?”

Mac took a second to shift gears.  She’ll have time for fantasies later, she had to be a responsible adult now.  “You’re better than that Will.  I don’t know if that’s speaking as your EP or your friend or whatever, but I expect more from you because I know you’re better than what you did to him yesterday and how you carried yourself today.”

“You know I’m not proud of it either.”

“I know.”

“I’m going to do my part better.  I’ll look at the comments, but can you promise that we’ll drop the segment –”

“The instant that ratings start to stabilize.”

April 6, 2011  3:29 AM

Will woke up.  He’s not entirely sure he fell asleep.  It looked like the same episode of Sports Center was on as when he closed his eyes.  He walked to his medicine cabinet to see what he had.  No chance tonight of mixing alcohol and sleeping pills.  That has to be a silver lining.  He took some medication and sat back on his couch.  The baseball season was barely a week old, there’s got to be some news that will put him sleep. 

April 7, 2011  12:53 AM

Will knew he shouldn’t have gone to Hang Chews, he needs his sleep.  But Jim made a point to ask him and Mac came out of her office at just the right moment and he finds it harder and harder to say no to her anymore.  Doesn’t matter what she asks for.  So, he went instead of getting the sleep that he really needed.  Tonight though, tonight it will happen.  He’s only gotten a few hours cumulative over the last few days, but he’s tired enough that he can make it happen tonight.  And then everything will be fine. 

April 7, 2011  4:41 AM

At least he woke up.  He had the strangest dream.  Something about a classroom and a naked Mac, Mac shows up naked in a lot of his dreams, that wasn’t a surprise.  But she scolded him like he was a kid.  She said she was disappointed in him and all he wanted to do was make her proud of him.  And then Rick Santorum came in and was about to say something and Will started to shield everyone.  And then he woke up. 

April 11, 2011  2:39 AM

Will woke up and scrubbed his face.  He needs to find a way to sleep for more than 5 minutes at a time before he does something stupid on the air.  He promised Mac, both in person and in his dreams that he would not do anything to embarrass the show.  He didn’t know how to keep his word.  And he really wanted to.  He can’t disappoint her again.  He can’t.