Under Jordan's over-confident influence (rather, actually, just drunken instigation) MacKenzie is a whole new creature, one he's not sure he's entirely equipped to handle on the fly. She's seemingly five, maybe seven, years younger suddenly and laughing as he catches her against him, draws her up flush by her wrist and stops her on the sidewalk just so that he can study unbridled happiness and the exact curvature of her grinning. There's an unearthed miracle in the natural mathematics, the precise schematics, of her smile.
He's got so much to learn about her still and this exuberance, this particular liveliness... it's so sensual and heady and... fucking sexy. Winsome and wanton and she's gonna kill him one of these nights. She's brazen, bright and wild, and she's yet to otherwise kiss him half as suggestively as she does on a street corner in Atlanta, when the night is sweat-hot muggy and she already tastes like bottom shelf whiskey and pilfered nicotine. Both her hands are buried deep in his back pockets and she's pulling his groin closer into her as she wiggles up his front, her mouth warm and damp as it kisses up the side of his neck.
“What the fuck has gotten into you?”
“Well, not you tonight,” she sounds pouty, intentionally a little petulant but somehow also hopeful and he laughs despite himself. “Yet.”
“MacKenzie,” he warns, keeping his voice as balanced as possible when she's purposely rubbing against his cock and doing every damn thing she can with her hips to get him hard(er than he already is). It's still damn early for him to be spending the rest of the evening walking around half-mast and unable to swallow.
“Mmm,” she hums against his cheek before her hand catches his jaw and she turns her lips to the corner of his mouth. “I fucking love it when you say my name that way. It's really very sexy.”
She kisses him slowly and he imagines it's because she knows she slays him dead with slow kisses, most especially when she starts twining her long fingers in his hair and tugging through it. Which is exactly why he cuts the kiss shorter than she'd meant, nipping on her bottom lip to soothe the pause and playfully catch her glance. Her fingers soothe down his temple and follow the ridge of his orbital bone, right below his left eye and... fuck. He's lost to her, really. She's likely getting anything she wants by the end of the night.
Will squints at her with supposed accusation, “What is it about Jordan that gets you like this? You've been a lunatic since we stepped off the plane.”
“You've loved every minute.” Her lips brush his with one last pass and then she kisses him chastely, the hand on his cheek lifting to teasingly ruffle into his hair in a way that she well knows annoys the shit out of him... and makes him swoon. “Jordan always just reminds me that being the token girl is more than just acceptable – it's often preferable.”
“Is that code for something Sapphic?”
She gives him a shrewd look as she steps away, lashes dipping and lips pressing pert as she side-eyes him and snorts. “Nice try, darling.”
“Can't blame a guy,” he shrugs hard as she moves farther away, voice low and nearly lost under the sudden run of traffic going by them. After a moment he steps into following her, looping against her waist because she seems perfectly fine with public affection and has since they got to Georgia. Apparently being away from headquarters gives them more than just a little leniency because she's pulled him closer more often than pushed them apart.
He tugs her back a bit, loops her up closer to slow her gait and lays his lips gently against her temple without censure. And instead of just continuing on up the sidewalk, away from the hotel and conference, she swings back up him again with the lightest breath of laughter before she kisses him again. And, damn it, the woman is going to get the both of them nailed by the nearest passing vehicle and/or end up dumping them into a sweaty pile on the less than even sidewalk.
“Mac,” he groans onto her tongue, feeling his stomach go hot and tight and coiled.
“Come to my room tonight, McAvoy. Stay with me,” she murmurs lazily against his mouth, ending the kiss and stretching her shoulders back slowly. She's testing his hold around her waist, testing her own trust in him as she shakes her ponytail back and laughs. He hugs against her hips and tucks her closer, bracing his feet flat to balance his weight as she digs her hands into shirt sleeves and lets her head drop back too.
“Don't you have an assigned roommate?” Will leans his shoulders a bit farther away from hers as ballast, grinning as she blatantly lifts one foot against his calf and her boot heel digs against denim.
He's fucking mad for this woman in his arms, if he's honest with himself.
He can't help enjoying just touching her, being touched by her, being the man she's clasped onto in the evening streetlights and nightlife and swampy heat.
It makes him feel younger, more alive than he has in years.
Actually... Mac makes him feel alive in a way he just plain hasn't, in ever.
“It's not summer camp, Will. I requested a single when I registered.” She's laughing through the words, pulling herself back flush up the length of him as Jordan catches up to them, her newly minted husband in tow behind her and obviously enjoying it because he's laughing. Will just barely catches sight of them passing by before Mac plonks another kiss on him that's brisk but beautiful in how spontaneous it is. “But come to dinner first? We're off to Maxie's.”
“Have the two of you attended the conference at all?”
She flutters him a genuinely confused (and supposedly innocent) look even as he steps forward, his palms rising and bracing around her waist so that he can guide her blind back-stepping. “The two of us? You mean Jordan and I?”
“Kenzie! Come on! I've only got the reservation til eight fifteen!”
Right... he could do without Jordan's intercessions from afar, actually.
Because every one of them scrapes on him at the most inopportune moments.
Because she tends to get right in the way of him getting anywhere with MacKenzie, at least when it comes to really talking to her or really getting serious. The woman's a formidable cock-block in expensive heels and near haute couture. Jordan makes him feel like Nebraska is four planets away and McKenzie's the sun and, in all actuality, he shouldn't even be making an attempt at sustained orbit.
But then... he thinks that's probably exactly how every woman's friends should make a new guy feel, right at the beginning, just to shake out the weak-willed or poor-intentioned.
They're not necessarily at the beginning, though.
It's just that Jordan's got some catch-up to do.
“Please come?” She asks it quietly as she turns in his arms, waving off Jordan's harassment so that she can tuck into his side and settle the nervy speeding of his heart. His annoyance with McDeere's interruption dies quickly as Mac's hand goes back into his left back pocket, just tucked there as she leans her head into him and they walk slowly, suddenly separate from the world. “Live a little tonight, Nebraska. I think you'll like it.”
She doesn't use that nickname all that often but this time it's especially warm and loving. Maybe she wasn't all that happily comfortable with her friend's interruption either.
Because she leans closer and tucks them together against any further possible interruption. She makes a near full circle against him, left hand in his back pocket and right hand catching the fabric of his shirt in a way that proclaims him utterly hers for at least the near future and he's surprised by how strongly he appreciates that movement from her. It's something he hadn't even realized he'd been missing.
And, so, right... time to stop pretending they aren't dating.
Time to stop hiding this from co-workers and colleagues and all.
Because he's not entirely sure he can go back to not having her hold him just because of who might see them.
He nuzzles into her hair and cuddles her up closer into his side, ignoring how hot-sweated the both of them are just so that he can grit his voice up and gravel it down for her at once. “I could happily go down on you right here, right now, McHale.”
“You couldn't really,” she accuses, head lifting sharply.
“No,” he chuckles as he shakes his head, his hand lifting to give just a light and teasing tug on her pony tail because, fuck, her giddy energy is infectious. “Not right out here on the sidewalk, no.”
“I didn't think so.” Right, she's perfected the McHale pout while walking and, admittedly, it's adorable. “But any old alleyway could do.”
He laughs easily and wonders at how often she makes him laugh so abruptly, how often she makes him chuckle at his desk, over the IFB, or just... while making their morning coffee, even. “Goddamn it, MacKenzie.”
“I think...” she answers near dreamily, quiet under the wind rush of a passing car, “Maybe it's okay to sort of fall for a man when you're on vacation together? Make sense?”
He hadn't once considered this a vacation for the two of them but he thinks on it a moment and she did spend a whole slew of time planning things out and babbling in his ear about it. For weeks, actually.
She did forward him her flight schedule and hotel confirmation and he'd just gamely nodded when she'd suggested things, events and places (in fact, the name Maxie's did sound fairly familiar).
She had registered him herself, actually - because he'd put it off and delayed and been lazy to the brink of her frustration. Rather, she'd been the one to have one of the interns register him, telling her to just make sure that the 'hulking moron' ended up in Atlanta.
“Not in the least.” He grabs her face up as he pauses, thumb and forefinger lifting at her chin so that he can catch the multi-hued look she's giving him, one that's bemused and damningly charming. “What are you implying?”
Because 'sort of' falling for a man can mean so much more than one thing, possibly not positive things... and he's not at all sure how to take it, really. Especially when coming from MacKenzie McHale, a woman he finds inscrutable and unreadable sometimes when it comes to emotions. She just goes blank-paper and pale on him and he has absolutely no fucking clue what's going on in that magnificent brain of hers. Confrontation, with Mac and in regards to them together, usually leads to her calling him something especially British in origin and then moving them backwards on the relationship map rather than forwards. He's stalled up on pushing at her, just for his own mental preservation.
Mac just shrugs on a sigh, lets him hold her face up toward his while she fidgets and fingers the fabric of his shirt. “Why aren't we just sharing a room, Will?”
Well, obviously because he's a great hulking moron and he can't decipher a woman's unspoken intentions any better at forty something than he did at twenty two, or thirty two, or... well, ever. He's always been pretty bad at that, actually. Well, when it comes to the emotional stuff. Sexual cues he's got. They don't usually fail him.
“I didn't wanna make presumptions and I wasn't sure how you'd feel about full-on gristing the Rumor Mill, so to speak. Not that I give a fuck about it, mind you.” He schools his voice to totally serious, feels it fall square into the mid-zone of 'Professional Television News Anchor' and he can swear, she near grins as it happens. “You also had an intern make the reservation and for as bright as she is... well, she may not be entirely aware that you and I have no problem sharing a shower.”
“But you didn't ask to - ”
“I cannot read your mind, MacKenzie.” He's stopped and jerked still on the sidewalk and there's a look of surprised confusion on her face that he both hates and appreciates. It's not like he wants to stall them up for this sort of bullshit but the woman infuriates him sometimes and this very thing, this... It's starting to pile up on him, like car after car hitting the next in line on the highway. All that force is just getting blocked up in his chest and reverberating over and over again. Thump and smash and thud and he's getting to the point where it's impossible to breathe deeply. “And I won't push you. You've made some things pretty damn clear. If you want - ”
“I do,” she tells him, nodding sharply as she reaches toward him and tugs at his shirt with the closest to pleading he thinks he'll probably see on her. She sincerely draws him forward again with a slow nodding promise and leans them into walking again as she curls against his arm. “I want you with me, Billy. Switch rooms.”
He exhales hard as her fingers rub the inside of his elbow, both her hands still wrapped on his arm and her shoulder pushing his with the rhythm of their steps. Another sigh comes off him as she lets her head tip closer and he's got her hair under his nose and can't even fucking pay attention to where he's walking, let alone any of the crap that just falls out of his mouth around her. “I hate hiding this at home.”
“So we won't anymore,” she whispers as she looks up at him, her left hand dropping down his arm to catch onto his right he catches her fingers, laces them in his.
“Jordan's gonna tell you that you're not thinking clearly. Especially when it comes to work.” He knows that it's also a legitimate concern for her, though. Jordan should tell her than he's a mistake. Hell, she's already told him that he's her worst mistake. She's got a lot at stake if she starts walking around wearing a proverbial 'I Fucked Will McAvoy' shirt. There's no way she salvages the seriousness of her career in journalism if they aren't very, very, careful about making sure people understand that they're serious about each other. He intends to make sure the world knows how serious he is about her. If that's what it takes.
Because he can afford to look like the Hot Shot that nailed the pretty Executive Producer.
(Hell, it'd probably help him out in some demographics – males between 18-25? Pssssh.)
She can't afford to look like she'll fuck her way where she needs to go, though.
(They'll make meat out of her and a gloried and gory lion's den of themselves.)
“Jordan doesn't know you as well as I do.” Mac shrugs one shoulder but her face is clouded when he looks down and probably because she's thinking that same thoughts he is. “She's just protecting me.”
That dings his pride, whips at him sharper than expected and he feels his own shoulders stack higher in defensive reflex. He feels his entire chest fire up with heat, with desire and anger at once. Because if anyone should feel the need to protect her... “Well, I'd like to take over that job, if you'll let me.”
He thinks she's probably a little taken with his words because she sucks in a breath and he can hear it, even over the passing traffic. And it's a gulping moment before that I'm-An-Independent-Woman response gets (pretty lazily) kicked back at him. “I'm not just some - ”
“They're gonna be fucking cruel, Mac. They're in television. It's pretty much a given,” he tells her bluntly, no softness and all reality. “Will you let me handle the petty stuff? I want you thinking all the bigger, better things. You be the brains and motivation. I'll be the charming and affable 'Fuck You'.”
He gets the laugh he expected but he also gets a look from her as she stops that is closer to MacKenzie-In-Love than he knows MacKenzie-In-Lust looks like and he feels his smile go sheepish, feels himself nearly flush as she stares at him.
“How do you always know how to say exactly the right things?” she asks as he disentangles them, pressing her to stay as he steps up to the large mahogany door and gives the giant brassy and discolored handle a heaving tug. It gives easier than he expected and he just waves the other hand at her, implying she should go first.
A shrug takes control of his shoulders and he huffs a sigh through his nose, “Honey, I really think it's just that the things I say are now being said to exactly the right person.”
“What the...?!” She literally stomps her foot and he can't help but chuckle, still holding the door open as she lifts her open hands at him as though he's an example of something. “See?”
God, she makes him laugh.
There's just not another woman in the world as sexy at being silly as MacKenzie McHale.
“Mac, get in there before your friend's head explodes because we're late.”