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This Is The Way I Dreamed It
(Season 1, episode 1)

The elevator doors had closed; Mac's attempt to tell Will that she hadn't been a figment of his imagination at Northwestern had come too late, he was gone. She hesitated for a moment but then closed her notebook, and with a snorted smile she went back to her office.

I had been a good day. Despite the gruff reception and argument in Will's office earlier he had accepted her as his EP, consented to the fact that she was in charge during the show, and they had made a damn good job covering the BP spill tonight. And just now she and Will had been able to have a civilized talk about an event in their past - That was something and more than she had expected when she accepted Charlie's job offer, at least at this early stage.

On her way she stopped in the bullpen for a moment, looked around and took a deep breath. This was her newsroom now, at least for a week, as Will had been kind enough to point out. Still, she felt like coming home.

Back in her office Mac sat down at her desk and started sorting through the pile of papers that was waiting for her. It would take her a few days to get up to speed and the first priority had to be to build a new team around the people she brought with her to replace the staff Don was taking with him to 10 o'clock.

Soon she was so absorbed in her work that she almost missed the light knock on her door.

„Will...?" She looked up with surprise. „What are you doing back here? You just went home."

Will seemed a little uneasy. „I heard you calling after me when the elevator doors closed, so I came back... I thought it might be important. Can I come in?"

„Sure." Mac tensed up a little, but tried to appear calm on the outside. She leaned back in her chair, while Will took a seat on the opposite side of her desk. „That was a great show tonight, Will... How do you feel?"

He looked down at his hands. „It was... It felt good. I honestly haven't felt like this in a long time..." He raised his head and showed her a hint of a smile.
„You know, when I thought I saw you in the audience at Northwestern..." Mac tried to say something but he didn't let her interrupt. „ When I thought I saw you, I had to think back to our old show, what we did back then, and sitting on that stage with these... whatever you wanna call them... I sudddenly felt so empty and useless and... well, kind of like a fraud. I'm here to deliver the news to the people and what did they get from me these last years?

„It wasn't just you, Will." Mac tried to offer him an excuse. „You had your whole team behind you, especially your EP."

He snorted almost contemptuously. „Do you really think anyone of the God knows how many EPs I've had in the past three years ever stood up to me? No one's had the guts to criticize me or push me, and I think most of them didn't even want to make a better, more ambitious show." Will sighed. „But I should be honest, I wasn't the easiest guy to work with after you left, Mac... Don has worked for me for 13 weeks and I think that was longer than any of his predecessors have lasted."

Mac didn't know what to say. In no way had she prepared herself for a conversation like this yet. Especially not after how the day had started out in his office.

„Will..."

„I... I missed you, Mac..." Mac's eyes grew wide and her heart missed a beat. She felt her mouth open, but didn't manage to speak.
„Professionally, I missed you professionally!" Will added quickly. „Today felt really, really good..."

Of course, he had missed their working relationship, she mustn't get her hopes up in regard of anything else, as much as she wished for it.
„So why did you renegotiate your contract to be able to fire me at the end of each week?" she finally asked.

He shrugged and looked slightly embarrassed. „Because... Because I've spent the last three years trying to convince myself that I hate you." Mac flinched.
„I didn't want you here... The thought of seeing you again every day was just too much. But when we were in my office this morning... I lied to you... You made a pretty compelling argument and I think we should go for it; try to do the news again. I'm sorry for the..." Will waved his hand to the side. „The paperwork isn't through yet, I will call my agent and have him cancel the contract changes. If you want to keep doing the job, that is..."

„You bet your arse I do! And I knew you ate it up with a soup ladle!" Mac grinned at him, but then she sighed. „But you have to know... What would you say if I told you, that you weren't hallucinating at Northwestern?"

Will looked at her increduously. „Are you saying...?"

Mac opened her notebook and showed him: It's not and But it can be.

„So it was you?" Will shook his head in disbelief.

„Yep... That's what I tried to tell you before."

„That is... Wow..." He leaned back in his chair and didn't say anything for a while. Mac couldn't tell what her admission made him feel and she nervously started pushing some papers around on her desk.

Suddenly Will looked up. „Let's go out for dinner. To talk about the new show."
Mac was stunned; she absolutely hadn't expected that, but she quickly recovered and gave him a genuine smile. „That's a great idea."

She quickly shut down her laptop, got up and put on her blazer. When she reached the door he was right behind her, startling her by putting his hand in the small of her back and leading her through the bullpen, which was almost empty by now.

Mac couldn't help but feel confused. The signals Will had sent throughout the day had been clear:
I don't want you here, how dare you come into my newsroom and I cant' wait to get rid off you.

But during the course of the broadcast they had reached that almost blind understanding they'd had in the past. It had felt as if their last show had aired yesterday and not three years ago. A few minutes earlier in her office he really had seemed to make an effort to be nice and civil, almost as if he liked having her around... And now his hand on her back...?

When they arrived at the restaurant near the AWM building they were seated in a private booth in the back. Mac ordered a salad and pasta linguini with shrimps while Will chose a rump steak with barbecued potatoes and ordered the wine. When the waiter had left he leaned back and looked at Mac.

„So, was you producing me at Northwestern a test to see if I still have it in me?"

„You know me better than that, Bi... Will." Mac snorted. „It just hurt to see you trying to please everybody and doing everything to avoid giving a straight and meaningful answer. What happened to you, Goddammit?"

Will stared into her eyes. „You happened, MacKenzie..."

Mac's face seemed to crumble and swallowing hard she looked down. „Walked right into that one, didn't I?"

„Yeah, you did..." They both remained silent for a moment until the waiter came with the wine. When he had filled their glasses Will cleared his throat.

„So... Don Quixote, eh? What are your plans, Mac?"

„I already told you earlier today: Do the news again. Inform the electorate. Frame the debate.
I have watched your last shows and there were hardly any important issues you've covered... Jennifer Aniston in a new relationship, the new Toyota hybrid at the Detroit autoshow, a wannabe-starlet having a face lift that left her with monster lips... Do you want me to go on?"

„I admit it could have been better, but it wasn't that bad, Mac!" he protested weakly.

„Then tell me you wouldn't have reported on the new iphone prototype tonight if it hadn't been for the BP spill?"

„The audience likes this stuff..." Will almost pouted a little.

„For God's sake, you are a prosecutor, Will!" Mac leaned forward, throwing her hands in the air. „You can literally take people apart by pointing out their mistakes and attitudes and that in a smart, determined, sophisticated way, not condescending. Yet if you do happen to have a guest or interview partner of statue you let them get away with anything. You don't even rebut when they contradict themselves within a couple of sentences live on air!" She finally took a breath but went right on.
Jesus Will, just don't give anybody a reason not to like you, right? Well, here's a little secret: The people who want to know the truth, who want to know what's going on in this country and the world – They don't like you, because you don't deliver. Oh right, they probably don't watch you anyway..."

Mac had almost worked herself up into a frenzied state but when she saw the hint of a smile on Will's face she stopped with a confused look on her face. „What are you smiling about?"

Will just shrugged his shoulders.

„What, Will?"

„I... I just missed your passion... for the news... You really do still know how to get to me..."

„Professionally, I know, you said so."

„Not just that..." he mumbled under his breath.

Mac could barely understand him. „What?"

He sighed and looked a little defeated. „You're still getting to me, not just professionally..." Mac just gaped at him.

„Don't look at me like that! I don't want to feel this way! I want to hate you for what you did to me, for what you did to us... I've been trying to hate you for the past three years!"

Mac's thoughts were swirling around in her mind and she slowly turned them into words. „You already said before, that you were trying to convince yourself that you hate me... And now this... So...You don't actually hate me?" She couldn't help the glimmer of hope shimmering through her voice.

This time Will looked straight into her eyes. „I could never hate you, MacKenzie."

Right this moment their food arrived and they both were thankful for the distraction.

Will silently cursed himself for steering the conversation in this direction, but then he realized that he didn't mind it as much as he would have expected. Strangely enough he felt comfortable, something he wouldn't have believed if anybody had told him this morning.

Mac on the other hand could only think about Will's admission that he didn't hate her. It surely was a long stretch, but could that mean he still had feelings for her? She knew, that she still loved him, but she had no clue how he felt about her. He hadn't forgiven her, that at least seemed to be certain. But maybe they still had a chance?

They finished there meal in an awkward silence, only interrupted by an occasional comment on the food or the wine. When they were done they stepped outside and while looking for a cab Mac started to thank Will for the dinner.

„I really enjoyed it, Will. It is really good to see that you..."

„Would you like to walk a little?" he interrupted her.

„I..." Mac was stunned at first but then she smiled. „Actually, I would love that. My apartment is down that way."

They started strolling in a now more comfortable atmosphere and suddenly, without even thinking about it, Will reached for Mac's hand. She gasped and looked up at him with disbelief on her face, but didn't move her hand away, she was enjoying the sensation of his touch too much.

After a while Will coughed slightly. „I told you another lie this morning, MacKenzie... I did read the e-mails you sent me..."

Mac was surprised, but, seeing what he had already admitted to this evening, probably not as much as she normally would have been.

„So you know everything..." She said slowly, but didn't elaborate.

„About the stabbing? Yeah... How are you?"

„I'm doing okay. Sometimes it hurts a little, but the doctors say it will get better over time." She took a deep breath. „But I meant... about Brian..." She felt his hand clench around her fingers. „I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up."

„Yeah... No... No, I started it when I mentioned the e-mails..." Will suddenly stopped and turned towards her, loosening his grip on her hand, but not letting go off it. „You know... This morning... I... When I... Fuck..." He sighed. „I cannot do this out here on the street. Could we take a cab and go somewhere we can talk?"

Mac looked into his eyes and saw that he was dead serious. She didn't know what to make of all this, but she was certain that she mustn't pass this opportunity up. „We can go to my place, it's not far from here. It's mostly still packed up in boxes, but I do have a couch."

„Sounds good." Will said with a relieved smile and hailed a cab.

The short ride to Mac's building they spent in silence. While Will tried not to lose his nerves she had actually problems thinking straight, her thoughts basically just jumping from one scenario to another. What was he up to?

When they finally entered her apartment she locked the door, led him into the living room and then nervously turned around to him.
„Now say what you have to say, Will."

He took a deep breath.
„Okay...What... what I wanted to say was, that this morning... when Charlie told me you were coming back, I basically just went into shock... I have spent years trying to forget you and when that didn't work I at least wanted to hate you... I didn't want you here and bring everything back up to the surface... That's why I went to see my agent. And then, when I came back and saw you, it was just..." He shook his head and his expression softened.
Gosh, you looked so beautiful and I knew then and there that I had fooled myself all this time... But I didn't want to admit it, not even to myself, so I played that little scene in my office... And then the show tonight... It just came back to me, everything, MacKenzie... I remember everything, especially how good we were together. Not only professionally. And... I want that again..."

Again Mac could just stare at him and finally settled to focus on one of the less disturbing things he had said for now. „I was pretty surprised earlier today that you recalled meeting my father in such detail."

„Like I said... I remember everything..."

„But..." Mac nervously bit her lower lip, but she knew she had to ask. „What about Brian?"

„Brian... yeah..." Will ran his hand through his hair. „Don't get me wrong, Mac. We would still have to work through a lot, I still have to get my shit together, but... I know that I don't want the past to matter anymore... And I know that I love you... That I have never stopped loving you..."

Mac closed her eyes. Did she just hear right? „Say that again..." she whispered.

Will relaxed a little and took a step towards her, carefully placing his hands on her upper arms.
„I love you, MacKenzie. I have never stopped loving you... I know I behaved like an idiot, but you came back, so I hope you're not feeling completey indifferent towards me..." He let his hands glide down to hold hers. „I promise you, I will go and see Abe again to help me get completely over everything. I really want this to work, I really, really want to be with you again... I missed you so much..." He whispered now. „Do you think we could still have a chance?"

A beautiful smile appeared on her face and she now looked directly at him, while a tear made its way down her cheek.
„You really are an idiot, Billy... Of course I love you, why do you think I came back?"

Mac raised her hand to lightly touch his cheek when he sighed with relief and closed his eyes for a second, but then he looked at her again. „I need you to promise me something though, MacKenzie."

„Anything, Billy. Just name it."

„You'd know what you'd get with me this time..." Will said quietly. „Promise me you will never do that again?"

„That's an easy promise to give, Will." She genuinely looked into his eyes. „I do know what I would get and believe me, I do know what I have missed for the last three years... I know I fucked up big time and I would never do anything to jeopardize that again. And I won't need to, because this time I know from the start how much I love you."

With a sigh of relief he took her hand and pressed it to his lips, sending a shiver down her spine. Then he leaned in for a kiss, and as soon as their lips touched Will knew that nothing else mattered anymore.

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Title: "This is the way I dreamed it" by Doris Day

Chapter Text

A Matter of Trust
(Season 1, episode 2)

Will stood on his terrace and let his gaze wander over the city to the Statue of Liberty.

I'm in. That's what he had just told MacKenzie.

He was in, he had committed himself.

Despite of his stupid and childish behaviour on tonight's show he really wanted to do better. And he was certain that Mac probably was the only EP he could do it with, which meant he had not only bound himself to a new concept for the show but to her as well.

Even if this only applied to their professional relationship, he knew that for it to work there had to be an incredible amount of trust between an anchor and the EP – him and Mac.
He was therefore surprised that it had not taken him longer to make his decision, especially after tonight's show and his clear desire to punish her. Not for losing Governeur Brewer's office for an interview but for sending this fucking mass e-mail to the staff this morning, humiliating him by outing the reason for their breakup three years ago.

He would never understand, how somebody as brilliant as Mac, who as part of her job also had to be able to run the complex technical equipment used in the control room, simply couldn't figure out how to use most of the normal everyday appliances like an espresso machine or write a fucking e-mail!

But he was in. In spite of their past and that incident this morning, apparently somewhere inside him his trust in Mac was unabatedly there. Deep down, hidden underneath all his anger, but still there.

And this was an interesting and at the same disturbing thought. How could that be?
After all, Mac betraying his faith in her had been the reason for their breakup, and on her first day back at ACN he had as much as told her that she wasn't to be trusted by anybody.

He had told Charlie that time hasn't helped, which was true. But if he was honest with himself, maybe one of the reasons for that was, that he had never really processed everything that had happened between Mac and him. Had she stuck around he might have been forced to confront his anger and work through it. Instead he just sulkily bathed in his pain and had felt justified in doing so. But her return now forced him to face their past.

She had guts, he had to give her that. Not only for returning to work with him or chewing him out after tonight's show, but also this morning. She didn't just crumble in front of him after her mistake but she managed... okay, at least tried to place part of the blame on him instead. '98%'... He snorted.

God, why the fuck did she have to tell him?

She had been right, he had fallen in love with her right from the start. There had never been a doubt in his mind that she was the woman he was going to marry.
They could have even had kids by now, and as much as he hated to even think it, he wanted exactly that. With Mac. Only with her. No one else would ever stand a chance to replace her in his heart, and he had tried in the last years.

And then it hit him:
If his trust in her was still there, then maybe they could still have a chance?

He had never stopped loving her; he'd had to admit that to himself the day she returned to ACN. He had just been fooling himself and covering his feelings with anger.
And although he had tried to convince himself since the day Mac had told him about her betrayal that she had never loved him, he knew, that she did love him back then and was at least fairly certain she still did today.
He could tell from the way she had acted on the day of her return, not to speak of the fact that she had returned at all. Also this morning, her not being able to bear that the staff might think badly about him. And then trying to make him understand that she hadn't really been cheating on him.

How had she phrased it? 'Changing minds all over the place.' And later in his office, didn't she actually say she had been 'falling in love with the man I LOVE' - present tense...? If he hadn't been so angry he probably would have admired her determination to convince him.

For the first time he now allowed himself to deliberately indulge in the good times they'd had together and he couldn't help but feel a warm sensation spreading out from the pit of his stomach.

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On Monday morning Will entered the newsroom, but instead of going into his own office he went straight to Mac's. When he saw her sitting at her desk through the glass he knocked and opened the door simultaneously, not waiting for an invitation to step in.

She looked up, smiling gratefully when she realized that he had brought her a cup of coffee from the corner cafe, and pointed for him to take a seat.

„So, are you still in?" she asked, arching her eyebrow while grabbing the coffee.

„I am..." he confirmed sincerely. „And Mac? I want to apologize for Friday's show. That was... out of line."

„It was..." She looked at him over the edge of the cup. „Just don't do it again. Talk to me when you're pissed about something, okay?"

Will nodded. „So, what are your plans for tonight's show?"

Mac started talking about it being a slow news days so far and some early pitches that might make it into the show, but he found that he didn't really listen. Instead he recalled his line of thinking from the weekend and realized, that his feelings hadn't changed since then, even though he was in her presence now. His longing for her all of a sudden apparently prevailed the negative thoughts about their past.

Today he didn't see Mac together with Brian while looking at her, like almost everytime in the past three years when he pondered over her. Instead, today memories of himself and Mac walking hand in hand through the park filled his head, watching TV while teasing her for her taste in movies, enjoying breakfast in bed and then this time him on top of her, making her moan and telling him she lov... Fuck, he had to stop this right now or he wouldn't be able to get up any time soon.

Mac noticed, that Will was distracted. „Will? Are you listening to me?"

Will startled. „I... I'm sorry. I completely forgot, I have a meeting with Charlie." He jumped up and walked to the door. „I'll see you at the pitch meeting."

Following him with her eyes Mac shook her head, but then concentrated on her work again. Will however stood in the bullpen for a moment and realized, that now he better really should go upstairs to see Charlie, or Mac would get curious if she stepped out here and saw him in his office. So he went to the elevators and rode up to the 44th floor.

Charlie was in, motioned him to sit down and offered him a drink.
„A little too early for me, but thanks. Listen Charlie, I just wanted to apologize for Friday's show again. Mac... Mac and I talked and we're going to do the news from now on."

„Well, about fucking time!" Charlie grinned satisfied. „What else?"

„What do you mean, what else?" Will was confused.

„I've seen the look on your face and heard you voice just now when you said her name, going all soft. What the fuck happened?"

„What look?" he retorted defensivly. „Nothing happened!"

„William Duncan McAvoy..." Charlie looked daggers at him.

Will looked down at his hands and then shrugged. „I don't know... I'm confused... Maybe... time did help and I just didn't realize it before..."

A wide smile spread across Charlie's face. „Well, then go figure it out!"

:::::::::::::::::::::::::

„Figure it out... Easy for him to say." Will grumbled on his way back down, but he knew, Charlie was right. He couldn't work so closely with Mac every day and afford to not figure it out.

So he decided to fish or cut bait and stuck his head through Mac's door when he was back on the 25th floor. „I think we should seal our deal – Drinks after the show tonight?"

Mac looked up and smiled. „Sure. Should we go to Hang Chew's?"

„That would be an option. Or I have a bottle of real nice Glenlivet in my office?"

She thought for a moment, then nodded. „Okay, meet you there."

:::::::::::::::::::::::::

The rest of the day went smoothly. Like Mac had said, it was a slow news day, but they managed to put together an interesting show, and their young team did a good job. It would take a while for the philosophy of Newsnight 2.0 to be implemented firmly into everybody's heads, his own included, but they could do it.

After the show Will went straight to his office to change into his own clothes. When he came out of the bathroom Mac had just entered, standing in the doorway almost shyly. „Is it okay for me to come in?"

„I invited you, didn't I?" He gestured for her to take a seat and went over to the little array of bottles he had stashed in a corner. „Whisky?"

„Please." She sat down and crossed her legs. After Will handed her a glass he only took a small step back, leaned against his desk and raised his drink.

„To Newsnight 2.0."

„To Newsnight 2.0." Mac repeated and took a sip. „Mmmh... That really is good."

„Told you so." he replied with a wink.

„So, about tonight's show... I think we should have..."

Gathering up all his courage Will interrupted her. „Mac, I would rather not talk about the show right now."

She seemed confused. „But you said..."

„I know what I said... And we will talk about it, but right now..." he took a deep breath. „I would like to talk about us."

„What?" Mac looked at him increduously.

„If we're going to work this close together again, I can't have this... thing... hovering over us like a dark cloud. Despite of what I said on your first day back here, I realized that I do still trust you, otherwise we wouldn't be able to do... this." He gestured towards the bullpen. „So I need to know... Why did you do it?"

„Brian?" Will could barely understand her quiet, shaky voice, but just hearing her say this name made him clench his teeth. Then he forced himself to relax and nodded affirmatively, waiting for her to speak again.

Mac looked down and didn't say anything for a moment, then she swallowed hard.
„I've told you everything in my e-mails... You really didn't read them?"

„I just couldn't..." He shook his head. „Wasn't I enough for you? Did I do something to drive you away?"

„No!" Her head shot up and she almost shouted. „No, Will. You were perfect! I told you, you had these ways... You were so gentle and caring, always considerate of my feelings... You made me feel so special... Believe me, Billy, you didn't do anything wrong!"

„Then why?" He put his glass down on his desk with much more force than necessary, trying to ignore that she had just used his nickname he hadn't heard for the past three years.

„Because I was messed up." Mac whispered. „You knew that before you I was with Brian, but we have never talked about my time with him..." She wrapped her arms around her chest at the memories being brought up so unexpectedly.
„He was the complete opposite of you. He... he demeaned and belittled me in every possible way. My opinion wasn't worth a nickel, he insulted me, made fun of me in front of his friends, he never took my career seriously... And he did it so well that I was convinced I deserved to be treated like that..." She tried to swallow back her tears, not looking at Will.
„And then I met you and everything was different. But Brian had brainwashed me so successfully that I couldn't believe it was for real... I thought any day you would wake up and see me like he did and it would all be over..."

„MacKenzie..." Will didn't know what to say. He couldn't see Mac in the woman she had just described, but right now she appeared so small and frightened like he had never seen her before. „I loved you. What other way would there have been for me to treat you?"

„I know that now. And being with Brian again I realized that I had fallen in love with you, too. And that I did deserve to be treated better. Today I wouldn't let any man do to me what he did, but back then I was insecure and...stupid." She sighed. „I just wish that I hadn't met you when I did..."

„What do you mean?" Will looked hurt.

„I met you right after Brian had broken up with me and we started dating almost immediately after that. I didn't have the time to process anything, to realize what he had done to me... And so when he called a few weeks later I was still hung up on him... I know, it sounds crazy, but back then I didn't feel I had the choice to not go back to him. I wanted him to take me back, despite of everything..."

Her tears started to flow now and she looked like a lost child not knowing where to go. Will just wanted to hold and comfort her, but he couldn't move. He never had imagined anything close to what Mac had just told him.
He cast a glance into the bullpen and was relieved to see that it had emptied out by now. He didn't want anyone to come in here and see Mac like this.

„What happened then?"

Mac brushed the tears from her cheek and continued with a hoarse voice.
„I woke up... Brian hadn't changed at all. And with the side by side comparison I finally saw what a sick bastard he was. And what a truly wonderful man you are.
I had fallen in love with you, I only realized it too late... But once I knew I never saw him again... I told him it was over for good and to never call me again. He did anyway, two or three times, but I told him to go to hell. From then on it was just you..."

Finally Will managed to move. He took a step towards Mac, pulled her out of the chair and took her into his arms. She hesitated for a moment, but then she put her arms tightly around his waist and leaned her head against his chest.

„I wish you had told me about Brian."

„Me, too..." She whispered. „I'm so sorry..."

„So am I... I should have talked to you or read your e-mails."

Holding Mac in his arms felt so good, so right. What she had told him didn't make him forgive her right away, but at least now he could understand everything better, which surely was the first step in the right direction.

After a few minutes he forced himself to pull back a little.
„Mac? On Friday you said, you fell in love with the man you love. Did you mean that? Present tense?"

He held his breath when he heard her gasp, then he felt her nod into his chest.
„Yes" she simply said in a quiet voice he almost didn't hear.

Will's heart jumped. He held her even tighter and whispered „I have never stopped loving you."
Mac froze in his arms, but then she let out a desperate sob and the tears started to flow again. She clung to him and he rocked her gently, breathing soothing words into her ear and stroking her hair. When she finally calmed down he let go off her and took her hands in his.

„I... I need to work through all this... With everything you said tonight... I understand it better now and... Will you give me a little time?

Mac unbelievingly raised her eyes to him and although they were swollen and red-rimmed from crying he thought she had never looked more beautiful to him then right now.

Then a smile spread over her face. „I'm right here, I'm not going anywhere."

He returned her smile and caressed her cheek with his hand. „Dinner tomorrow night?"

:::::::::::::::::::::::::

They deliberately took it slow for the next weeks.
After that first date they went out for an occasional drink or dinner or caught a broadway play, but most importantly they talked. They talked during their lunch breaks, they talked after the show and they talked for hours on the phone at night. Talked about the past and the present, about their time together and their time apart.

They became friends again, and one night at dinner it dawned on Will, that he was ready.
Looking at Mac, animatedly telling him about a friend she had made during the time she was embedded, he realized that he wanted to be with her for good. He didn't want to be driven by the past anymore, he wanted to start all over, be with her. He wanted to start their future.

He was quieter than usual during the rest of the evening and he noticed her giving him questioning looks, but she didn't say anything.

Like after every date he accompanied her home and in the cab he took her hand, entangling his fingers with hers while looking out of the window, watching the streets go by.
When they arrived at her place he got out and led her to the building door, but when she wanted to say goodnight he stopped her by taking both of her hands in his, turning her to face him.

„MacKenzie... I really enjoyed these past weeks and I... I love you and I'm in all the way, if you still want me."

She looked into his eyes and when he recognized the gleaming sparkle he allowed himself to relax a little bit. Then her face turned into a huge smile.
„Took you long enough..."

„Seriously?" He voiced with a hint of indignation, before realizing that he was just making a fool of himself. „So you...?

Still beaming at him she raised herself on her toes and pressed her soft lips onto his. He immediately put his arms around her waist and pulled her tighter, enjoying this sensation before he let his tongue slide across her bottom lip requesting entrance. Mac moaned and gladly opened her mouth while her hand slid into his hair to pull him even closer. Soon they were both panting for air and with a smile she broke off the kiss and whispered hoarsly:

„Go pay the cab driver, Billy."

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Title: "Matter of Trust" by Billy Joel

Chapter Text

Hurt
(Season 1, episode 3)

Will had returned from the bar where he'd had a drink with Sloan, Charlie, Jim and Neal to unwind from the rush an election night coverage always brought with it. He had half expected Mac to be there, too, but apparantly she had other things to do.

Wade.
Will snorted while lighting a cigarette and looked over the city from his balcony.

It had been a shock for him to see that MacKenzie was actually in a relationship with another man. He didn't really know why, for she was a beautiful, intelligent woman who had always attracted her fair share of members of the male species. But still, despite of what he had managed to say when being so unexpectedly confronted with Wade, that was not what was supposed to happen.

Yes, he had been parading around plenty of women in the newsroom and he admitted to himself that he was only having them meet him there to hurt MacKenzie.

Things had been so good between them professionally during the last months, starting with his apology to their viewers, turning the show around and especially telling the people about the danger the Tea Party created for this country and its political system. He enjoyed working with Mac again, but he had not forgiven her yet, and he still felt this overwhelming need to punish her.
So, if he couldn't do it workwise, what better way then having her notice that he was on the market, and beautiful women couldn't wait to go out with him, to which he was happy to oblige?

What he did not expect was that she would go and find another man for herself. Dammit, she was supposed to be jealous and hurt and not to move on!

He knew this desire was wrong and pathetic, and this little voice inside him kept telling him that, but still, he could not do anything about the way he felt.
He had been suffering for 3 years while she was gone and also during the last months, being close to her every day but not being able to be with her. So now it was her turn to feel the fucking pain, no matter how much a jackass this made him!

Will just wanted to go inside to get a last drink for the night when his phone rang.

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After Will had met Wade in the control room Mac had been torturing herself all night.

Why, oh why did she allow Wade to come to the newsroom?

Although she had told him to stay out of Will's sight, she knew there was a risk of them meeting, and she really had not wanted that to happen.

Things had been good between them professionally during the past months, really good. They worked well together, respected each other's opinions and had turned Newsnight into a show to be proud of. And proud she was, especially of Will, who really had come around and was the serious news anchor again she always knew he could be.

There had never been any indication that Will wanted more than this. As much as it hurt her, he seemed to be happy with the array of bimbos he dated, but nevertheless she knew that a new man in her life would hurt him. And she had lacerated his feelings enough for a lifetime already.

Also, if she was completely honest with herself, she didn't want Will to think she was in another relationship in case he'd ever be interested in her again, as unlikely as this possibility was.

In the end it came down to the fact that she was lonely, and when she had met Wade at a formal evening function she had to attend three months ago, she was ready to at least try to move on.

She had been nervous before the first date, but it had turned out to be... well, nice. Nothing earth-shattering, no butterflies in her stomach, no goosebumps, but Wade was charming, good looking and a smooth conversationist.

Being with him was comfortable, althought the big feelings were missing, at least for her. It was nice to be held, not to be alone every night, and even if the sex wasn't anywhere near as good as it had been with Will – not that she had had many opportunities, but no one had ever come close – it occasionally helped her unwind a little after a hard day.
She and Wade weren't together every night, but every once in a while she needed the distraction, needed to get away from the thoughts about Will and his girls that consumed her at night. She knew it wasn't fair towards Wade, but she told herself it wasn't like he didn't get anything out of it. And they had never talked about being exclusive, so maybe he didn't feel that serious about their relationship either...

Mac sighed. She should apologize to Will again.
It had been awkward in the control room and also later, when she was in his ear for the rest of the show. Afterwards Wade had wanted to spend the evening together, but she had excused herself, insisting that she was too tired after this long day.

She hesitated for a second, but then grabbed her phone and dialed.

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Will looked at his Blackberry. Speaking of the devil...

„Mac."

„Hello, Will."

Neither of them said a word for a moment, then Will broke the silence.

„What do you want, Mac?"

„I... I wanted to apologize for bringing Wade in tonight..."

Will didn't reply for a second. „I told you, it's okay."

„No, it's not. I shouldn't have blindsided you like that in the middle of a broadcast. I told him to stay out of your way, but..." Mac paused. „Come to think of it: Why did you come into the control room? You never do that..."

Will didn't reply, but then she remembered. „Wait... You said something along the line that you wanted to apologize. What for?"

He sighed... Damn, it was okay to say he's sorry while he had the upper hand, but now she had a boyfriend...

What for, Will?"

„For... for having my dates meet me in the office." he grumbled.

Mac was stunned; she hadn't expected that. „That doesn't sound like you really mean it..."

„I did when I came into the control room."

„And now you don't?" Mac was confused. „What changed?"

„You have a boyfriend..." he growled.

„Yes, you have met him tonight... Wait, is that it? You're jealous?"

„I'm not jealous!" he snapped at her. „It... it just... That was not what was supposed to happen. You weren't supposed to move on..." He knew he sounded petty and involuntarily squirmed.

„Excuse me?" Mac became rattled. „What the fuck? I'm not supposed to see anybody while you parade dozens of your flings around the newsroom?"

„Exactly." Mac didn't respond so he went on, however this time a little more defensively.
„For three years... Everytime I thought about you I could only picture you together with Brian... I still do and it hurts, Mac! It still fucking hurts and I wanted you to also feel some pain..."
Will got quieter with every word, feeling ashamed, now that he had said it out loud.

Mac gasped. „Are you fucking kidding me? Feel the pain? What do you think I did for the past three and a half years? What do you think it feels like to work so closely with you and know that I'm the one who fucked everything up? Why do you think I went to a fucking war zone and almost died over there? Do you have any...

„Wait..." Will interrupted her with clear shock in his voice. „What do you mean, you almost died?"

Mac fell silent and didn't say anything.
„Mac, what did you mean by that? Tell me!"

She sighed. „I thought you knew... Didn't Charlie tell you?"

„Tell me what? For fuck's sake, tell me! Tell me right now!" Will was almost yelling through the phone.

„I was stabbed in the abdomen during a riot in Islamabad and for a while it looked pretty bad."

Will paled and took a deep breath. „What happened?"

„I... I don't want to talk about that now, I'm fine, Billy... I know I hurt you immeasurably, but you..." Mac paused, not willing to let him know how much his earlier words had stung her. „Well, I wanted to apologize and I did, so... good night, Will."

Will was standing on the terrace, his fingers still pressing the phone to his ear minutes after she had hung up. He felt sick thinking about MacKenzie being stabbed and close to dying. Naturally he knew that being in a war zone was risky, but he had always tried not to think about the danger for her, and as he had never heard anything to the contrary he had just assumed she was safe.

She had almost died because he had sent her away and told her that he never wanted to see her again. And here he was sulking and playing his shabby revenge game to get back at her. He truly was a stupid douchebag.

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After a sleepless night during which Will had thought about what he had done – and not done – and what could have been if he had gotten his head out of his ass sooner, he went to the office early. He knew that Mac always came in hours before she had to and he was hoping for the opportunity to talk to her before the rest of the staff arrived.

She was already at her desk when he entered the newsroom and he immediately went over to her. Standing in the office door he looked at her for a moment and again his stomach tensed up at the thought that he had almost lost her forever. Finally he knocked.
„May I come in?"

Mac turned her head and looked at him for a moment, before she sighed and nodded. Will entered the room and sat down in front of her desk.

He noticed the shadows under her eyes, as if she hadn't slept all night. „You look tired."

„So do you" she gave back. „What do you want? I have work to do."

„I'm sorry... About last night and... about the last months. I'm sorry that I hurt you." He made eye contact and Mac could see that he was serious.

„Where's this change of heart coming from?" she asked lightly, but Will could see the pain in her eyes that he had put there, and again he felt the guilt that had held him up all night.

„You could have died..." he whispered, looking down again.

While her heart cried out for him she could not let him know how much his concern touched her. „Jesus Will, I went to a fucking war zone. Did it only occur to you now that it's dangerous out there?"

„I... I guess I just didn't want to think about it. That there was a possibility that you would never come back to me... And here I am pouting and playing my little games... We have lost so much time already..."

'Come back to me'? This was getting interesting.
„I didn't know that you wanted me to come back..."

Will ignored that remark. „Are you really alright?"

Mac could tell that he urgently needed her assurance and wasn't about to deny it to him; it gave her a warm feeling that he cared. „I'm really fine, Billy. I have a nice scar that will remind me of it for the rest of my life, but that's all."

She watched Will thinking about this before he quietly asked „Can I see it?"

Her eyes opened wide, but after a moment she got up, stepped around the desk to stand in front of him and with a glance over the still empty newsroom she pulled her blouse out of her skirt and lifted it up.

Will's eyes immediately wandered to the ragged line on the right side of her stomach, about 2.5 inches long. He carefully put his hands on both of her hips to hold her in place and studied it intently, before softly stroking over its entire length with the index finger of his left hand.
Mac held her breath. This was the first time in three and a half years that Will touched her, and it was such an intimate gesture that it made her heart beat faster.

„I'm sorry, MacKenzie. I'm just so very, very sorry" he said with a hoarse voice and Mac could tell that he was trying to hold back tears. Then he leaned forward to press his lips to the scar, lingering in place, and apart from the heat that fanned out over her whole body she simply melted away.

She let her fingers run through his hair and whispered „I'm fine, Billy. I promise you. I'm okay. It's just a scar."

After a couple of minutes he looked up at her and she gave him a tender, reassuring smile, still stroking his hair. Will didn't let go of her but slowly stood up and her heart missed a beat when she realized that he was about to kiss her.

A millisecond before his lips met hers she whimpered in anticipation and then his touch was all she could feel. The moment she had waited for all this time was even more wonderful than she had imagined in her wildest dreams. Her heart beat rapidly, a tingling sensation went through her body from head to toe and her hands slid around to his back without her doing.

After a moment of tenderly caressing her lips one of Will's hands moved up into her hair while the other one glided around her waist to the small of her back. When his tongue requested entrance Mac opened her mouth and immediately he pushed inside and started to explore this long lost paradise, causing her to deeply moan with desire which was followed by a desperate groan of his.

Breathlessly he pulled back and leaned his forehead against hers. „I love you, MacKenzie. I love you so much."

She sighed with a relieved smile, put her hands on his cheeks and breathed „I love you, too, Billy. I've never stopped..."

"What about Wade?" he murmured.

"Don't worry about him... It's not really fair but basically he just kept me from thinking too much about you..."
With this she covered his lips again.

This time the kiss was a sweet promise for the future, and when they parted the next time Will whispered against her lips:

That's what was supposed to happen..."

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...

Title: „Hurt" by Johnny Cash

Thanks for reading, your comments are very much appreciated! :-)

Chapter Text

What If?

(Season 1, episode 4)

„Hey, Mac!“ Sloan slid into the booth Mac had chosen in the back of Hang Chew's earlier this evening. „Great show tonight! What are you having?“

„A 'Purple Rain'. Want one?“ Mac didn't even wait for an answer but signaled the waitress to bring two more.

„I'd rather... Never mind...“ Sloan conceded and leaned back. „Oh, I would have loved to see Reese's face when you all stood up to him! How come you're drinking alone instead of celebrating with the gang?“

Mac shrugged, but didn't look up from her drink. „Just because...“

„Kenzie...?“ Sloan said, waiting for a real answer which didn't come. So she nodded a thank you to the waitress who brought the drinks right at that moment and held her glass out to Mac. „Here's to...?“

„Past mistakes? Being incredibly stupid? Not knowing what's good for me? Take your pick...“ Mac seemed to slouch even more.

Sloan looked at her for a moment and then made her own suggestion. „How about new beginnings?“

The answer was a bitter snort. „Doesn't look like it, does it?“

„Well, you have Wade, Will is dating...“ Sloan knew she was baiting Mac, but she wanted to get her to talk and wasn't disappointed.

„Yeah, because you're setting him up! A jealous, weed smoking gun lover, a gossip columnist... Could you do better even if you tried?“

„Probably not...“ Sloan answered honestly. „But let's cut to the chase: Not even ten days ago, on New Year's Eve, you called Will your boyfriend. With Wade almost standing right behind you, I might add...“

„That was just an accidental slip.“ Mac drained her glass and took the other one the waitress had brought into her hand.

„No, it wasn't and you know it! It might have been an accident that you said it out loud, but that's what you're thinking, isn't it?“

„No, it's not.“ Mac retorted stubbornly, but she refused to meet her friend's eye.

„Kenzie?“ Sloan just looked at her.

„I'm not thinking he's my boyfriend. I'm not delusional, you know?“ Mac swayed her glass and apparently found nothing more interesting than the liquid moving in circles inside of it.

„But you want him to be.“ Sloan didn't let go and finally Mac sighed.

„It doesn't matter what I want... He doesn't want me...“

Sloan hated to see the sad look on her friend's face and stilled her hand moving the glass with her own.
„I wouldn't be so sure about that, Mac. I've watched him on New Year's Eve when he thought nobody was looking... You should have seen his face when you were dancing with Wade...“

The only response to that was a sorry smile and Mac emptying her glass again. When she wanted to order another round Sloan held on to her arm. „I think you've had enough for tonight, Mac, you've had a pretty good head start... You know, you should really talk to Will.“

„What?“ Mac's head turned to her in utter surprise.

„That man loves you, Kenzie. It was written in his face so clearly that even I couldn't help but notice. You need to tell him how you feel.“

Sloan saw a faint trace of hope in Mac's face while she was speaking but it was immediately followed by a look of despair.
„Even if he does still love me he hasn't forgiven me...“ she whispered with her eyes closed.

Sloan grabbed her hand. „Mac, this is eating you up, you can't go on like this... If you're with Wade because you like him and see it going somewhere – fine. But if you're just looking for a distraction then it clearly isn't working, is it?“ Mac only hummed quietly, so she went on.
„You need to speak to Will. Either way, you have to clear the air between you. Maybe he'll surprise you, but even if not, then at least you can end that chapter of your life and move on.“

Mac huffed. „I tried that by going to the Middle East and it didn't work.“

„That's because you were still hung up on Will and hoping he'd forgive you sooner or later.“ Sloan was a little surprised at her own insight, seeing that normally she really wasn't all that good at these kinds of talks. „I know you still are, but only if you talk to him you'll be able to figure out if it makes sense to keep on waiting for him.

„Do you really think so?“ The hope was back in Mac's eyes and Sloan gave her a measured smile. „If I were you, I would do it... What have you got to lose?“

Mac didn't answer that question, but suddenly she straightened herself up. „You're right. There are some things... I need to talk to him, and I'm going to do it right now.“ With this she picked up her purse and coat and got up.

„Wait. What... really? Now?“ Sloan quickly followed her, not without pulling a fifty dollar bill out of her pocket and leaving it on the table, hoping it would be enough to cover the drinks Mac has had before her arrival plus the tip. „Are you sure this is the right time? Don't you want to think about it first?“

„No, I've had just enough drinks to say what I've always wanted to say to him.“ Mac answered determinedly, starting to wave for a cab as soon as they stepped outside. As luck would have it she didn't have to wait long and when an empty car pulled up she went straight for the back seat. „Thanks, Sloan. Wish me luck!“
With this she closed the door and the driver took off.

Sloan just stood there and looked after her. „Good luck, Kenzie... Your're gonna need it...“ she mumbled, then she shook her head. „Oh God, oh God, oh God, what have I done? Who knew that she would actually listen to me?“
She considered going back into the bar for a moment, but then decided to rather go home. Maybe if it didn't work out Mac would come by at her place to cry her heart out.

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In the meantime Mac was thinking about the whole situation on her way over to Will's apartment.

Sloan was right. She needed to talk to Will. She was going crazy being so close to Will every day, always thinking 'What if?'
What if he did still love her? What if she was fucking everything up again by dating Wade now? What if that was keeping him from making a move? Or... what if she was just dreaming and wasting her time?
She needed to know. Everything else would not only be unfair towards Wade but also herself.

When the cab pulled up at Will's place she got out and tried to gather her nerves. Taking a deep breath she went inside, asked the doorman to announce her and rode the elevator up to Will's penthouse. When its doors opened Will was already standing in the living room, drink in his hand, and waiting for her.

„Hello, Will.“ Mac said nervously while stepping out of the car. She knew what she had come for, but that didn't mean this situation didn't scare the shit out of her.

„MacKenzie McHale... What an unexpected pleasure...“ His tone of voice turned the sentence into a question, implying the unspoken words what the hell she was doing at his apartment at this hour. Or maybe in general, but right now she didn't care.

„We need to talk, Will.“ Stepping closer she dropped her purse on a table near the elevator.

„About today's show?“ Will raised his eyebrows. „I told you, we did a great job. We must have been the only ones not immediately jumping on the rumour of Gifford's death.“

„Not about the show. We never finished the conversation we had before that...“ Mac took a deep breath. „And we need to talk about what happened during the last week.“

„What has happened during the last week?“ Will decided to play dumb, although he was pretty sure what she was talking about.

„New Year's Eve, Will... You said I looked nice. You said I shouldn't call Wade 'Honey“, it would make you crazy. And the following days you could hardly look me in the eye. Why do you think that is?“

Will just stood there and didn't answer, so gathering all her courage Mac pushed on.
„Could that mean you maybe still have feelings for me?“

„Dammit, of course I still have feelings for you!“ Will burst out and slammed his hand against the nearby wall.

„Okay, good.“ Mac swallowed hard but took another step towards him and didn't avert her eyes. „Just this morning you've said that you don't hate me. If that is true, what feelings would that be then...?“

Again Will didn't say anything, but he was breathing hard. Despite seeing the desperation in his eyes, pleading to her to not go further, Mac couldn't stop. Not now, when she finally had the guts to actively do something about this confusing and frustrating relationship they had.

„Do you really think I owe it to myself to let me out of jail? Does that also mean I don't have to punish myself anymore for what I did to you?“ Will made a non-committal noise and gazed down at his feet.

„I take that as a 'yes'... Then why didn't it feel like you meant it when you said it on New Year's Eve? Why did it feel like I had given you another blow with an axe and hurt you all over by bringing Wade to the party?“
Still Will didn't find any words to reply and Mac sighed, visibly deflating a little.

„Will, I don't want to hurt you anymore and I don't want to get hurt anymore either. I just can't do this anymore... I was serious this morning: You can do the same show with another producer. You just need to tell me if you want me to leave...“

Her words hung in the air, both of them listening to their echo inside their heads. Finally Will slowly raised his eyes and whispered „I don't want you to go.“

A wave of relief flushed over Mac and she gave him a small, tentative smile. „So... what do you want?“

Will shrugged. „I don't know...“

„Please, Will, talk to me... We can't go on like this...“ Mac hated the desperate sound of her voice, but she couldn't help it. And this conversation was far too important to let herself be distracted by something like this anyway.

He looked at her for another moment, then turned around and walked to the bar to refill his glass. „Would you like a drink?“

„No, thank you.“ Mac shook her head, but took another step towards him. „I've been at Hang Chew's before and I think I've had enough.“

Will nodded and slowly turned back to face her again.
„New Year's Eve... When you left my office at the party, I was... Hearing you call Wade your boyfriend just made it so... final.. In a way that's what got everything started with Nina Howard that evening...

„So now that's my fault, too?“ He didn't immediately answer, and Mac went on. „Yes, I want a partner, that's what I said. I feel lonely. Especially with you parading your dates in front of me...“ At this Will at least had the decency to look ashamed, so she drew a deep breath and continued with a suddenly much quieter voice.

„You know, I think the blonde one broke me...“ His expression changed to confusion.
„One of your dates, a young blonde. You didn't even look around or say goodbye to anybody, you just went straight over to her and led her out with your hand on her back... At that moment I knew I couldn't just go on like that, being so close to you every day, seeing you with all these women... I was lonely and hurt, so when Wade asked me out it felt... good. I felt good about myself again which I hadn't for a long time... But I'm sorry if I hurt you.“

„I'm sorry, too.“ MacKenzie looked up at Will, slightly surprised. She hadn't actually expected him to contribute to this conversation voluntarily, she had just wanted to let him know what was on her mind.
„You know, I talked to Charlie earlier and he said that all these women I was dating have one thing in common: In a million years I wouldn't spend any daylight hours with them... He was right.“

„So... you just met them to hurt me?“ Mac tried not to let the pain she felt at that thought show.

„Yeah... I'm sorry... But also...“

„What?“ She could see that Will was struggling with what he wanted to say next and closed the distance between them. She hesitated for a second but then put her hand on his arm and was relieved when he didn't shake it off.

„Talk to me, Billy.“ His head shot up when she used her nickname for him and he saw her giving him a sad smile.
„If we at least want to keep our professional relationship we cannot pretend nothing has happened... I know I fucked everything up and I don't blame you for wanting to punish me, but...“ Mac paused for a second. „but I just need to know if there's at least a chance we can be friends again... sometime in the future.“

Will frowned. „I thought we are friends?“

„Are we?“ He nodded. „So that's what you feel towards me? Friendship?“

„That's... a part of it...“ he confirmed warily. Damn, he wished he could just tell her!

Mac didn't answer but raised her eyebrows expectantly, which made him sigh. He should have known that she wouldn't be satisfied with bits and pieces and struggled to find the right words, but then he decided to not hold back. She was right, they probably did need to talk about it.

„Do you really think... I could just stop loving you?“ Will was speaking so quietly that Mac could hardly understand him. And although she could make out the words she had difficulties comprehending them, so the only thing she was able to do was to stare at him with wide eyes and an open mouth.

„I was still so angry with you when you came back last year.“ He went on. „But now, after spending all that time with you again, I think the anger has mellowed out and I'm mostly disappointed... and scared...“

„Scared of what, Billy?“ She asked softly, squeezing her fingers into his arm she was still holding on to.

Looking into her eyes he whispered „Of getting hurt again...“

„Oh, Billy...“ Mac tried to show him all the love she felt for him with her eyes and cursed herself inside once more for what her actions had done to this man she loved so much. He had opened his heart to her and all she had done was stomp on it and throw this precious gift away.

She let go of his arm and reached for the glass in his hand, putting it down on the bar next to them. Then she took both of his hands in hers.
„You know how sorry I am for what I did, I've told you over and over. And if it helped I would apologize at least ten times a day for the rest of my life... Billy, I love you. You're the love of my life and I will always love you, I am just so sorry that it took me so long to realize it...“
Mac wasn't sure but she thought she had seen a flicker of hope in Will's eyes, so she went on. „I didn't know that I was in love with you until I cheated on you, but when I did I never saw him again. From that point on it has always been you, Billy. And it will always be you.“

She put his hands together and brought them to her lips to place a gentle kiss on his knuckles.
„I don't know how to make you believe me, but I would never hurt you again. I know what I have lost and... and... if you would ever give me another chance, there is no way in hell I would ever risk losing you again...“ She looked up at him with a sad smile.
„I know it's impossible to convince you of this, so I guess it comes down to trust. If you'll ever be able to trust me enough again. Just... take your time and think about it, I'll be waiting. I didn't come here to put any pressure on you, I just couldn't go on like this anymore...“

With this Mac lifted herself up on her toes and gave Will a soft kiss on his cheek. Then she let go of his hands and turned around. Picking up her purse she went to the elevator, but just when she wanted to push the button she heard Will's voice.

„Mac!“

Slowly she turned around and saw that he had taken a few steps towards her. With a helpless gesture of his hands and a hesitant smile he looked into her eyes and after a couple of tries he managed to say
„I do trust you, MacKenzie...“

Suddenly her heart started pounding in her chest and she unbelievingly looked at him, her eyes showing an array of hope and joy.
„Do you mean...?“

With just another step Will was standing right in front of Mac and cupped her cheeks with his hands. Slowly he placed a tender kiss on her lips that made her go weak at the knees and she had to hold on to his shirt to keep herself up.

When he ended the kiss he wrapped her in his arms and pulled her to his chest.
„Why don't we just take it from here and see where it'll get us?“

Mac couldn't help but let out a sob while nodding and sliding her arms around his waist. „That sounds like a plan.“

Holding her even tighter Will whispered into her ear:

„Happy New Year, MacKenzie.“

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And a Happy New Year to all of you!

Title: "What If" by Kate Winslet (Who knew she can sing like that? ;-) )

Chapter Text

My Valentine

(Season 1, episode 5)

The last of the staff were walking into Will's office to deposit their cheques on his desk, while he was still holding MacKenzie to his chest, his arm wrapped around her shoulder. She didn't seem to want to move, and he actually had no intention of letting her go; it just felt so good to hold her, so right, and he had missed this closeness so much.

He deliberately had to remind himself that he still hadn't forgiven her, but seeing what she had brought to the newsroom over the last months, to the show, to the staff and especially to him, what she had done for him today, it was getting harder and harder to convince himself of it.
Dammit, not even a year ago most of his staff hadn't been able to leave him and his show fast enough and now? His team respected him, maybe even liked him, and he knew that the only reason for this was in his arm right now.

Touching her reminded him of how good they had been together. As long as every single day without her had felt, he could hardly believe that it was almost four years ago already that she had confessed to her cheating, which resulted in their break-up. But as soon as she had stepped back into his life almost a year ago, he had known that he wanted to be the man again she believed he could be.

Yes, of course deep down he had wanted to be that guy all along, but without her he'd seen no reason to strive for it. It had been so much easier to give the audience what it wanted to hear instead of what it should have heard. Anything, as long as they loved him. But with MacKenzie it wasn't a question; he didn't even think about it, he just did it.

Will took a deep breath and the scent of MacKenzie, who hadn't been this close to him in years, filled his head with memories of their past he had tried so hard to forget.

The first time they had met in Charlie's office, him not being able to take his eyes of her. Her passion for the news and their heated discussions during the rundown meetings; the depths of her beliefs, her enthusiasm and her intelligence, amazing and challenging him every single day – Luckily at least that he had again today. Their first date after she had finally agreed to go out with him. Their first kiss, the first time they had made love...

Instinctively he pulled Mac closer and for a moment he felt her snuggling into his chest even more, but then, as if she was afraid of her own courage, she softened her grip and slowly started to untangle herself from him.

Will didn't want to let her go, but he certainly couldn't force her to stay in his arms. It would just be awkward if he resisted her attempt to move away, so he slowly let his arm fall down and took a small step back.
Looking down he caught her eyes fixed on him, her lower lip caught between her teeth. Didn't she know that this absolutely adorable trademark of hers almost killed him every single time he saw it?

However, today he let his gaze wander to her eyes, showing a tender expression that made his heart leap, although it was mixed with a hint of sadness and regret. Instinctively his arm wanted to move up to her shoulder again, but before he could react to this notion she turned around with a small, sorry smile and slowly walked to her office.

His eyes followed her and suddenly he felt an overwhelming surge of loneliness washing over him. When her door closed he sighed and turned back to the room, and with a genuine smile as well a firm „Thank you... All of you.“ he walked back to his desk.

When he sat down he took the pile of cheques and slowly browsed through it, only looking at the drawer's names.
Neal and Maggie, who had shown their loyalty to him right from the beginning. Don, who had quite rightly left a sinking ship only to come back to become a trusted partner, maybe even friend by now, pitching in wherever help was needed. Elliot, Gary and Kendra. Joey, Herb and the others from the control room, who before Mac's return he had only ever noticed when something had gone wrong with the show, and he'd needed to yell at them to blow off steam. Heidi from Hair & Make-up, Tonia, his wardrobe supervisor, Tom, Annie, Michael, John, Michelle,... All staffers who had gone with Don to ten o'clock, even they had taken part in this...

With a sigh he let the cheques fall into his desk drawer. He knew, if he didn't cash them in he would insult this wonderful group of people, so he would do it. But he was determined to make it up to them, maybe throw a small office party on a Friday night oder invite the whole gang over to Hang Chew's. Yeah, that's what he would do.

For now he'd better get started on writing his script for tonight's show, but he knew that he would have to talk to Mac later. Nobody had ever done anything like this for him before, and he needed to thank her properly.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::


The show that night went fine, but Will noticed that Mac was unusually quiet in his ear. She did give him all information he needed but nothing more, and there was none of the usual teasing, bantering or even bickering during the breaks he had gotten used to again over the past months.

After the broadcast he quickly went to change clothes before going over to Mac's office, only to find it completely dark. She was gone.
This was strange, as she normally was the last one to go, always working late.

Will slowly trailed back to his office and sat down in his chair, deep in thought. It almost seemed as if Mac was avoiding him, but why would she after what she had done for him today? He shook his head. They'd had a great day, and he would bet anything that she'd enjoyed the hug. So why?

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::


Mac had felt the overwhelming need to go home and just went back to her office to get her coat and purse.

After the hug she had tried to avoid Will as much as possible for the rest of the day. She just hadn't been able to face him because his embrace had brought up so many memories of their past, especially of the two Valentine Days they had spent together. They had been happy, carefree and so much in love, and she wasn't sure if she could keep herself from completely falling apart in his company right now.

Finally being so near to him, her face buried in his shoulder, she'd never wanted to let go off him again. She had missed being so close to him for so long; his strong arms, holding and protecting her. His fingers on her back, his scent and the feeling of comfort and security only he had ever been able to provide for her.

When the initial hug had ended they'd remained close, his arm wrapped around her shoulder. One moment she had even thought he had tightened his grip, and for a second all she wanted was to crawl right into him, but then she realized that he was probably just being polite, thankful for the Rudy re-enactment she had staged for him. So she had rather put some distance between them before he could see how the hug had affected her and had gone to her office.

Luckily the last rundown meeting had already been over, so that she only had to make it through the show after which she quickly left. But once at home, settled on the couch in her pyjamas, she could no longer hold back the memories of their past, and her mind drifted off.

Their first Valentine's Day as a couple they had spent in New York, and Will had gone out of his way to make it special, meticuously planning the entire evening. He had picked her up with a rented limousine and presented her with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers she had ever been given, before taking her to a small restaurant. She couldn't remember what they had eaten, but she did know that they had been sharing theirs meals throughout the evening, hardly ever taking their eyes off each other's faces.
Afterwards he had the limo driver drop them off for a romantic horse carriage ride in the snow through central park, at the end of which the car was waiting again to take them home.
The rest of the night they had spent making love and even today the whole evening still felt like a dream to her. Mac sighed. Will had been right, he was a great date...

The second year they had gone to Europe, spending a few days with her parents, who had just adored Will, before travelling to the continent for a romantic Valentine's weekend in Paris. So cliché, but simply wonderful.

Will had booked them into the most intimate boutique hotel close to the Arc de Triomphe, a perfect base for visiting the most popular sights of the City of Love. Luckily they had both been to Paris before though, as they had spent most of the time in their hotel room, hardly ever leaving the bed. They did however go to the Pont des Arts to leave their own little love lock on the bridge's handrail, a tradition that had been started years earlier and become a must for every couple in love visiting the french capital.

Sitting on the couch with a glass of wine Mac let her thoughts go back to their hotel room. Will had ordered champagne and strawberries to be in their room on arrival and after taking off their coats the first order of business had been to fill their glasses...

To us, Sweetheart. Happy Valentine's Day.“ Will lifted his glass to drink to her, his eyes never leaving her face while taking a small sip. She was captivated by his stare and didn't resist when he took the glass out of her hand to put both of them on the small table in the middle of the room.

Taking a step closer Will gently moved his right hand to her hair, pushing a loose strand behind her ear before leaning in for a slow, tender kiss she longingly returned. Finally leaning back he started to unbutton her blouse, and she quickly followed suit doing the same with his button-down, but when her hands moved on to the button of his pants he stopped her with a teasing smile. „Nuh-uh, not yet...“

Mac pouted a little, but she knew, when he was in this mood it would just work out well for both of them in the end, so she obediently let go and pushed his shirt from his shoulders instead, placing a row of kisses on his collarbone in the process.

Once Will had rid her of her top he stopped for a moment to savour the view of her perfect breasts, still covered in an enticing lilac lace bra. Finally he grazed the side of them with his fingers, before teasingly circling her already hardened nipples which clearly showed through the thin fabric, eliciting a deep moan from Mac's throat.

With a knowing smile he shortly cupped both breasts, flicking his thumb over their peaks for a last time before moving his hands down over her stomach to unzip her skirt. Slowly easing it down he uncovered the matching panties; a wet spot unmistakeably proving her arousal.

Conjuring up these memories Mac felt her cheeks flush and warmths pooling between her legs. Like so often, even during the last months when she had been with Wade, the thought of Will making love to her aroused her to no end, and she couldn't help but lift one hand to her breast while the other one trailed down her stomach to her pants, where she slowly moved her fingers against herself.

Kneeling down in front of her Will carefully lifted her feet so she could step out of the skirt, but didn't remove her high heels which made her legs look seemingly endless. Finished with the task he slowly let his hands move upwards, following them with his lips placing hot, wet kisses on her calves, her knees and on the soft skin of her inner thighs. Inhaling sharply Mac placed her hands on his head, trying to move it to her center where the heat was getting unbearable and she so desperately wanted to feel him, but he had plans of his own.

His hands cupped her ass, stroking and kneading the cheeks, while he moved his mouth to where her legs met her hips, licking and sucking the sensitive skin and holding her in place when she tried to sway, so his lips would meet her core.
„Fuck, Billy, please...“ she panted, her fingers clenching in his hair.

He smirked against her skin. „A little impatient, aren't we?“
Changing to her other hip the fingers of his right hand slid under the hem of her panties, teasingly dragging one of them through her wet folds. „So wet, so hot... All for me?“ Mac involuntarily groaned and her hips bucked into his face, begging for more.

Placing an almost chaste kiss onto the lace, his hot breath hitting her clit through the thin fabric and making her moan even louder, Will got up and pulled her in for a deep kiss. His tongue slowly moved along her bottom lip before slipping in and feverishly sliding against hers. Pressed up against him she could feel his hardened length lined up against her hip, causing her to grind herself into him.

Will, please, I need...“ she begged, desperately trying to get her hand in between them to touch him, but he stopped her once more.

Still my turn...“ he whispered hoarsly, guiding her backwards until her legs hit the bed and she had to sit down. „Scoot up.“

Mac hastily obeyed and Will took a moment to just let his eyes roam over her, taking in her hooded eyes that were revelling in the sight of his bare, muscular chest, her swollen lips, the mussed hair and her long, splayed legs; her whole body impatiently waiting for his attention.

Mac breath had quickened while reliving her memory, her fingers circling her nipples and moving faster underneath her panties, but not yet going all the way.
She almost felt Will's eyes on her now, the expression on his face showing all his love and assuring her that he would never ever get enough of her. Nobody had ever looked at her that way, cherished and adored her like he had, and just the memory of the depths of the feelings he had once had for her caused her whole body to tremble.

After a minute Will joined her on the bed, caressing her abdomen while covering her lips again. His hand travelled up to cover her breast, teasing her hightened nipple in the same rhythm his tongue moved in her mouth. Gasping into him she relocated her hands to his shoulders and further up to tangle them in his hair, while placing her leg over his to get the much needed friction by pressing her core to his thigh.

After thoroughly exploring her mouth Will moved his head down along the jawline to her neck, where he quickly found the sensitive spot behind her ear that never failed to make her squirm when assaulted by his lips, this time accompanied by a desperate mewl.
Finding his way further down he traced his tongue along her sternum before turning to her left breast, quickly alternating between circling the bud and sucking sharply.

Arching her back Mac tried to push her torso further into Will, helplessly whimpering and clenching her fingers in his hair by now, which only encouraged him more. Switching between her mounds his hands slid to her back to unclasp the bra, admiring the sheer beauty laid out bare in front of him.
„You're so gorgeous, MacKenzie...“ A deep groan escaped his throat and he quickly dove in again to pamper Mac's chest some more, before finally moving further down, placing hot kisses along the way to where the heat unbearably flared in her center.

Fuck, yesss, Billy, please...“ Mac panted breathlessly and tried to push his head further down so it would reach its destination sooner.
His hands still cupping her breasts he placed a lingering kiss in the middle of her by now soaking wet panties before trailing his fingers down to slowly pull them off.

Kneeling between her he first lifted her left leg, bending it to strip them off completely while letting his fingers dance on her smooth skin. Repeating his ministrations with the right leg he then placed both on his shoulders and bend down to finally concentrate on the warm heat between them.

Trembling with anticipation she tried to encourage him further, but before she could form a word his mouth was on her, his tongue licking through her slit, and getting out any coherent sentence became impossible. She writhed beneath him, bucked her hips into his face and closed her legs around his head to push him even closer.

Oh my God, right there...“ she screamed. „Don't stop, Billy, don't stop...“ Almost chanting the words over and over the stream of words quickly changed to a rambling of unintelligible sounds when his mouth closed over her erect clit and relentlessy started to suck, only interrupted by an occasional flick of his tongue.

When Will felt her nearing her release he removed one of his hands that was holding her hips down and slid a finger through her wet folds before pushing it inside, her walls already fluttering around it. With an experienced twist and a curl against her most sensitive spot she came crumbling down, screaming and clenching hard around his finger.

Splayed out in front of him, panting and moaning, Will didn't give her a chance to recover but quickly opened his pants and shoved them down together with his boxers before entering her with one deep thrust. Driving into her at a steady pace he leaned forward to take one of her nipples into her mouth which made Mac close her eyes. Whimperingly she grabbed the sheets beneath her for purchase when she felt her second orgasm approach. With each thrust she came closer to her breaking point and when Will...

Mac was riding her own fingers now, eyes closed, moaning loudly and circling her clit with her other hand. She was almost about to fall apart, close, so close, when her clouded mind registered a pounding noise.
Shit! What idiot was knocking at her door at this hour of the night?

Tempted to finish what she had started, even in her dazed state of mind she knew that she had to open the door before her neighbours called the police.

Cursing she reluctantly pulled her hands out of her shorts, cleaned her fingers on a blanket that was spread out on the couch and took a couple of deep breaths to at least try to calm herself down. Aching for release she rather wobbled than walked to the front door on shaky legs and tore it open. However, any words she possibly wanted to hurl against this most unwelcome intruder were immediately forgotten when she saw who it was.

The moment the door started to open Will spoke. „Finally, Mac, what took you so...“ His words stopped when he got the first look at her: completely dissheveld hair, rumpled clothes, hooded eyes and cheeks and neck feverishly coloured. His annoyance immediately changed to concern and he took a step towards her. „Are you alright, Mac? You look... you look...“ Then it dawned on him. „Are... are you alone?“
He hadn't even thought about the possibility that Wade could be with her, that she would invite him to her home after what he had done to her, but she did look like he had disturbed a very intimate situation and he mentally scolded himself. When she didn't answer he took a step towards her. „Mac? Are you alright?“

Mac's mind was in a complete turmoil. Here she was fantasizing about Will, almost painfully aroused by the thought of what they had done so many years ago, and now he was right here. Standing so closely to her that she would only have to move her hand a few inches to be able to touch him. Fuck!

Like from a distance she heard him talking to her, asking what was wrong, if she was feeling alright. She almost laughed. How could she be alright when she wanted him so much, and here he was standing right in front of her, yet so unreachable at the same time.
She swallowed hard, the heat still coiling in her stomach, her whole body trembling inside. That was his fault, and she wanted, needed the release so badly.

Fuck it! Without even thinking about any consequences she threw herself forward, flung her arms around Will's neck and covered his lips with a fervent kiss. So desperate to be close to him, to feel him, she didn't even notice that he completely stiffened, not having any idea what was happening right now.

After the initial shock Will put his hands on her waist to push her back, moving his head to break the kiss. But when he opened his mouth to ask her what the fuck was going on, her lips were right back on him, and she used the opportunity he had provided to push her tongue inside.

This was all Will could take. He didn't have the slightest idea what the hell had gotten into her, but this was Mac. Mac was kissing him and feeling her tongue slide along his, her fingers buried in his hair and her body clinging to his, all he could think about was how much he missed that, how much he had missed her.

With a guttural groan he pulled her even closer and let his hands roam down her back to cup her ass, grinding his already hard length into her crotch. Kissing her back he felt her moving them away from the door she slammed shut in the process. When they reached the couch Mac turned them, so that his legs hit the edge.

Without any hesitation she quickly unbuckled his pants, opened the button and zipper and pulled them down to his knees before pushing him onto the cushions. While shedding her own pants and panties she looked into his eyes, his dilated pupils glazed over with desire and hunger while conveying his confusion at the same time.

But right now Mac didn't care, she was in a frenzy. She had worked herself up so well that all she could think about was to end this, to find the release she was craving, her body was screaming for. Will wanted her, that much was clear, so without any further ado she straddled him, guided him to her entrance and sank down on his throbbing shaft in one swift move, kissing him roughly at the same time.

There was nothing gentle about the whole situation, it was a desperate fuck, their hands roaming under the shirts they were both still wearing while their tongues battled for dominance.
Riding him Mac set a fierce pace, meeting his every thrust, already so close that it took only a few strokes for her to get right to the edge. The angle allowed her to rub her clit on his pubic bone on every downward path, spreading sensations through her body she hadn't felt in years.

„Fuck, yesyesyes, just... Jesus fucking Christ...“ Throwing her head back a string of further profanities left her mouth. She had always been vocal during sex, one thing Will had always loved about her, and just like in the past it only aroused him more. The moment she shattered around him, seeing a kaleidoscope of colours behind her eyes, he violently drove into her a couple more times. Biting her neck in a way that would surely leave a mark he emptied himself inside her with a feral groan.

Panting for breath his head fell against the back of the couch while he stroked her back underneath the top to gently bring her down from her high, the aftershocks still rippling through her.
Mac had sunk forward, resting her head on his shoulder and trying to catch her breath. She was completely satisfied, her want had been fulfilled and her mind was blank. However, after a few minutes of pure bliss the reality about what had just happened caught up with her. Still feeling Will semi-hard inside her she froze and was suddenly terrified. What had she done?

She knew she couldn't face him; there was no way how to explain what had just happened, so without looking at him she slowly got up. Turning away she started to walk towards her bedroom. „You need to leave, Will. Get out.“

Before these words made it to Will's besotted brain she had alread closed the door behind her and only the sound of it being locked finally got him to snap to attention. What the fuck was that all about?

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::


Mac went straight through to the bathroom, discarded the rest of her clothes and stepped into the shower. For a long time she just braced herself against the wall, and let the water hit her back, as if it could not only wash away the sweat and musky scent of sex but also the memory of everything that had just happened.

What the fuck had she been thinking? How could she ever face Will again?

Even if he had been a willing participant she had used him for her own pleasure, not thinking about any ramifications; what it would mean for their future relationship.
She had no idea how she should handle tomorrow's rundown meeting, how to look him into the eyes and discuss the different segments, maybe even argue with him, without thinking about what had just happened. Thinking about the feeling of him inside her, the sounds he had been making, his hands on her naked skin. Oh God, the heat was starting to pool inside her once more just reminiscing about it...

No, she couldn't go there again, she needed to focus!

What options did she have?
Go to work and pretend nothing had happened? Take a sick day or a vacation? Tempting, but that would only delay the inevitable... She was not prepared to resign, for that she loved the show, her team... and Will... too much , so it had to be going to work and pretend... or talk to Will... Shit...!

Mac slowly turned around and held her face into the stream of hot water. She could do it. She was a grown woman and capable of living with the consequences of her own actions. In the end that was exactly what she had done for the past four years.

What was the worst that could happen? Will not being able to look at her anymore, hating her even more than before and firing her?
She would survive, just like she had before.

Finding a new job shouldn't be a problem, now that she had redeemed herself for the failed psych evaluation after the stabbing by turning Newsnight around. She would keep on longing for Will, but taking into account that rather hell would freeze over than that he'd give her another chance, she would accept this as the price she had to pay.

She could do it.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::


Shortly after the door had closed behind Mac Will heard the shower running. He sighed. He wasn't only at a loss of words but almost at a loss of thoughts. In a million years he would have never expected what had just happened and he was simply blown away.

He didn't know what had come over Mac, but he was honest enough to admit that he hadn't put up very much resistance. He had wanted her for so long, since that day she had returned to his newsroom and even before. No matter how angry he had been at her, the physical attraction had always been there. But he knew tonight had been about more, at least for him. Although rough and fast it had been more than just a carnal release.

Yes, they hadn't made love. For that the tension that had been building up over the last months had just been too strong; there would have been no way for him to hold on much longer than he had even if he had tried. But they had reconnected, and strangely enough he felt that it had not been only on a physical level.

Fuck, this encounter just now made all attempts to put Mac out of his mind by sleeping with other women seem stale and petty. No other woman had ever given him the satisfaction and happiness he felt with Mac, no matter if they were indulging in slow love making or going for a quick, hot fuck like they had a few minutes ago. He knew he was right, and he also new the reason:
What he felt for MacKenzie McHale he had never felt for any other woman – adoration, amazement... and love.

Yes, he loved Mac, and he needed to tell her. He wouldn't leave until he had talked to her.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::


After about fifteen minutes Mac got out of the shower, dried herself off and put on clean shorts and a tank top. She just wanted to settle down in bed when she heard a knock at the door.

„Mac... MacKenzie!“

Damn, she should have known that he wouldn't just go away... „I asked you to go, Will.“ she responded brusquely, not moving.

„Well, I'm not leaving. I think you owe me as much as to at least talk to me.“

Mac sighed. He was right, she had just hoped she would have a little more time to mentally prepare herself. But maybe it would be better to do it now instead of in the newsroom tomorrow morning.
She slowly walked over to the door and leaned her forehead against the wooden frame, breathing deeply and trying to calm herself.

„Mac?“

Taking a last breath she straightened herself up, opened the door and walked past him into the living room. She heard him following her and placed herself in front of the window, looking down at the bustle of Times Square. Finally she quietly murmered „I'm sorry, Will, I'm really, really sorry.“

He stepped up behind her, carefully keeping a safe distance between them. „It's okay, I guess... It's... it's not like I put up much of a fight... But what the hell was that all about, Mac?“

The only answer was a shrug and when he repeated the question a little more urgently she just shook her head. „I can't, Will, I'm sorry...“

He sighed and only after a minute of uncomfortable silence he spoke again. „I actually came here because I wanted to thank you for what you did this afternoon.“

Mac blushed thinking about how she had acted when he'd arrived, hardly giving him the chance to say anything before deliberately jumping him.
„You're a good man, Will, and you deserve that people know that. And you deserve to know that people love and respect you.“

„You actually made me believe that today, Mac... Thank you.“ She heard the sincerity in his voice and sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Lord above that he apparently did not resent her for what had happened.

„Look at me, Mac. Please.“

She swallowed hard but knew she couldn't avoid this moment any longer, so she slowly turned around, keeping her gaze on her clasped hands.

„We need to talk, MacKenzie, but before that I need to... I... Are you still with Wade?“

At this Mac abruptly looked up and vehemently shook her head. „No! No, Will, I would have never... I told him to go to hell after Charlie informed us about the newspaper article.“

„Good.. that's good...“ Will gave her an encouraging smile and stepped a little closer. „Mac... Did you know that Neal was on that train on 7/7?“ She shook her head, confused by this sudden change of topic. „I didn't either, but it reminded me that life is short and any day something can happen that changes everything... I don't want to lose more time, MacKenzie...“

Now she openly showed her confusion. „What do you mean? What do you want to do?“

Taking a deep breath Will gathered all his courage. „I want to tell you that I love you.“

Mac's eyes went wide and all she could do was stare at him. She was frozen in place and if Will hadn't been sure he had seen a tiny flicker of hope in her eyes when he had spoken he'd probably have started running to hide his embarrassment right there and then. Instead he waved his hand in front of her eyes. „Mac? Hey, you still with me?“

When she finally managed to blink several times in quick succession he lifted his left hand to caress her cheek with his index finger.

What did you say?“

At this the corners of Will's mouth curled slightly upwards. „I love you, Mac, and I don't want to wake up one morning and realize it's too late, for whatever reason. I just love you and I want to be with you.“

„You love me?“ The disbelief in her voice made him cringe. „But I thought you hated me...“

„Mac, look at me... Look at me! I don't hate you. I've never hated you. Yes, I was hurt and angry and stupid, but I never hated you. Never! You must know that...“ Will desperately tried to convince her of this and when he saw her relax a little and tears started to pool in her eyes he felt a wave of relief wash over him. „I love you. Only you.“

Finally Mac seemed to find out of her state of shock and a hesitant smile showed on her face. „You love me?“ she repeated, this time with a voice full of hope and wonder. „I was convinced you would never be able to love me again...“

„I've never stopped, MacKenzie.“ With this Will closed the remaining distance between them and cupping her cheeks he carefully placed a tender kiss on her lips before releasing them again.

With this Mac's disbelief finally vanished and with a happy squeal she threw herself at him. Taking a step backwards to steady himself he closed his arms around her waist and buried his face in the crook of her neck. „Don't leave me again, Mac, I couldn't take it.“

„Never.“ she whispered into his chest. „Although... technically I didn't leave you... You told me to go.“ She felt Will tense up and tighten his grip.

„I know, Mac, and I'm so sorry. I should have given you a chance and listen to you.“ He pulled away from her but still held on to her hips.
„Listen... Last year, the first day you were back, I didn't tell you the truth. I did read the e-mails you sent me... I'd be lying if I said I can completely comprehend what happened, but I know that I don't want it to matter anymore. I don't care about that part of our past as long as you can promise me that it won't happen again...“

„I promise, Billy. I love you so much, and I know that now. It's not like back then when I was still hung up on him...“ She pulled his head down and pressed a soft kiss to his lips before moving back. „But can you promise me that it won't come up out of the blue, and you won't throw it back in my face when we have a fight?“

Will locked his eyes with hers. „I can promise that I'll try. And maybe I could take a few sessions with Abe so that he can help me with that.“

Mac smiled relieved; he really wanted to make this work. „I think that would be a good idea. I could go with you, if you'd like?“

„We'll see... But for now...“ Will let his hands slide up to her face again and reeled her in for a searing kiss which she only too willingly returned. Moaning into his mouth she let her hands slide under his shirt but then she thought better about it and broke the kiss. Before he could protest though Mac took his hand and led him to her bedroom.

This time they indulged in the slow love making she had fantasized about before, pampering each other with hundreds of kisses and touches before falling over the edge together.

„Wow...“ Will finally panted, still lying on top of her where she'd insisted he'd stay. „That was...“

„Yeah... amazing...“ Mac smiled lazily and lifted her head up to catch his lips for a short kiss. When his breath had evened out he finally rolled off her to lie on his back and pulled her to his side.

After a while Mac lifted herself up onto her ellbow and entangled the fingers of her free hand with his. „May I ask you something?“

„Anything.“

„I was wondering... How come you didn't get mad when dayside told the whole country about my fucking e-mail?“

Will shrugged. „I guess I wasn't surprised. Actually I had thought it would show up in the media way earlier than that. I mean, it's been more than half a year that it happened and according to Charlie more than a hundred thousand people got it... What were the odds that nothing would be leaked to the tabloids during all that time?“

Mac smiled. „I guess we were lucky. I don't think we would have made it if it had come out earlier...“ She tucked herself into his side again and snuggled her head into his chest.

„Mac? Do I also get to ask a question?“

„Hmmm?“

„Will you be my Valentine next year?“

She smirked. „Only if you promise to show me what a great date you are.“

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

-
My Valentine – Martina McBride

Chapter Text

This Ring

(Season 1, Episode 6)

 

'The ring was meant for me. He bought it for me, he wanted to marry me. We would be married by now if I hadn't been so stupid...God, what a beautiful ring...'

These thoughts and more kept repeating themselves inside Mac's head since Will had shown her this gorgeous piece of jewelry earlier and had made it hard for her to concentrate on her work all day. But the show had gone fine; she had managed to stay professional enough to not let her personal life come in the way of it, and she didn't think anybody had noticed that the back and forth between Will and her during the commercial breaks may have been a little strained.

Now she was home though and her mind kept replaying the scene that had taken place in Will's office.

She had always known that their relationship had been getting more and more serious, and that down the road they had been heading towards the altar, but actually seeing proof of this future that could have been hers had almost put her in a state of shock. She was just grateful that she had been capable to retreat from Will's office without breaking down completely, at least keeping some of her dignity after having burst into his office and triumphantly trying to level the playing field between them.

Once more she now scolded herself for what happened at the beginning of her relationship with Will. Why oh why did she have to be so stupid to go back to Brian? It had been an on-and-off relationship with him from the start, and she clearly remembered how relieved she had felt when they had broken up that last time before she had met Will. She had known that Brian was bad for her and had wanted to move forward, so why the fuck had she agreed to see him again although she had felt so comfortable when being with Will?

Mac sighed. 'It' had happened almost six years ago but seemed to be the gift that kept on giving. The one thing that Will would never be able to forgive her, she just had to finally come to terms with it.

Suddenly a thought occured to her and a confused frown showed on her face. With only the slightest hesitation she grabbed her phone and speed dialed Will's number.

„Hello, Mac...?“

Mac didn't bother to reply but started right into the conversation. „Just tell me, Will: Why did you keep that ring all this time?“

All that followed this question was silence, but Mac insisted. „Will? Why didn't you return that ring all those years ago?“

Finally Will sighed. „I'm sorry, Mac, I didn't want to tell you, but... The ring was a prank....“

This time he was hit with silence in return. Mac was completely flabbergasted and tried to say something several times, before she finally managed to at least repeat some of his own words. „It was a...“

„I bought it when you decided to do opposition research on me and I returned it afterwards. I'm sorry, I guess it wasn't really funny...“

Mac didn't know what to say. She felt like she had received a blow to her stomach and was struggling for breath as much as for words. She just knew that she could not continue this conversation, so she just stammered „Okay... okay, I've got to go.“

Before Will could say anything else she hung up and let the phone glide out of her hand onto the couch she was sitting on. How could he? How could he?

She couldn't believe that he was so utterly inconsiderate of her feelings, no matter how much he hated her, but maybe she should have known that it couldn't have been true.
That ring he had shown her must be worth a fortune. Back when they had been together he was making good money, yes, but nothing that could be compared to the millions he was raking in nowadays. So many that he could easily spare three of them for the privilege to get rid off her any time he wanted.

Tears were now running freely down her cheeks and she unsuccessfully tried to suppress her sobs. So that was it... How naive had she been to hope that they might be able to work everything out, hope for another chance for the two of them?

Will had clearly shown that he had not an ounce of love for her left in him, she finally had to face it.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::


The next day Will came in to work later than usual after having spent a rough night with hardly any sleep. The moment he had said the word 'prank' out loud on the phone last night he knew he had made a mistake.

He had been uncomfortable with his decision to buy and then actually use the ring since the moment he had seen Mac's unbelieving, devastated and slightly horrified expression at the sight of the ring, trying to hold back her tears, and even more so after talking to Dr. 'Doogie Houser' Habib about it.

He had never had the intention to let Mac know about the story behind it, but at the same time he hadn't expected her to dig deeper and had been caught off guard when she'd called. And now he was afraid he had gone too far.

His angst got even stronger when he headed towards the conference room and saw Jim standing at the white board, obviously in charge of the first pitch meeting. When he opened the door he didn't bother to greet his staff but immediately addressed his senior producer who had stopped talking when he'd entered the room.

„Where's Mac?“

„She called in sick today and asked me to take over.“

„Is it serious?“ The moment Will asked he knew the answer. She probably just didn't want to see him after the conversation they'd had last night. And rightly so Jim replied that she just wasn't feeling well and would be back later in the week.

Will nodded and mumbled an apology for being late while taking his seat at the other end of the table. The rest of the meeting was a blur to him, and he only occasionally agreed to a pitch when asked directly but didn't add anything to the meeting proactively. In the end he wasn't even sure if he had agreed to lead the next show with a follow up on the avoided government shutdown a few days earlier or maybe the Reed Dance ceremony in Swaziland.

Back in his office he sat down to start working on an early copy of his script but his thoughts kept on going back to Mac. Finally he took his phone and sent her a text, asking how she was doing.

Not expecting an immediate answer he started researching the reactions to the successful budget negotiations between the government and Congress, but when even after an hour he hadn't heard back from her he started to feel uneasy and his concentration failed him again. In the end it was more than four hours later when her answer came in, a simple „I'm okay.“

Do you need anything?“

No.“

Will looked at this short reply and swallowed. Mac was never so curt with him, he really, really must have hurt her...

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::


Thursday, two days later, Mac still wasn't back in the office and Will's anxiety grew with every passing moment. He hadn't found the courage to contact her again after her texts which clearly showed him that she wanted to be left alone. Nevertheless he missed her, not only in his ear during the show but in all kinds of situations throughout the day.

Around lunchtime he was called into Charlie's office, so he saved the document he was editing on his computer and quickly rode the elevator upstairs to the 44th floor. When he walked through the door his boss didn't even give him a chance to say anything. „What the hell is going on? What happened between you and MacKenzie?“

Taken aback Will stopped close to the door. „What do you mean?“

Charlie gave him a sharp look. „I know that Mac hasn't been in for work the last couple days. And now I get a call from a friend at CNN that she's putting out her feelers if they have an opening for her? What the fuck did you do?“

Will felt like he had been hit by a truck and paled. Mac wanted to leave ACN? Leave their show? Leave him?
„W... Why do you think I did something?“

„Because I know that the only reason for Mac to leave Newsnight would be if you had done something unforgivably fucking stupid, so spill it!“

„Charlie, I...“ Will ran his hand through his hair and sighed. „Yeah, I fucked up, but I would have never thought... You're not letting her go, are you?“ Not being able to keep his fear out of his voice he stared at his friend.

„She still has two years left on her contract. But if she'll come to me and says she's not capable of working with you anymore I might be forced to accept her resignation. So tell me: What. Did. You. Do?“

Charlie's look made his anchor squirm. Will walked over to the window, hoping that turning his back to the room would make it easier to confess, but naturally it didn't. Finally he took a deep breath.
„I... hurt her... badly... I... I showed her a ring and told her that I had intended to propose with it before we broke up...“ Charlie inhaled sharply, but Will now had to get it off his chest. „And then later I unintentionally told her that the ring had been a prank...“

„You did what?“ Will heard the disbelief in Charlie's voice and slumped even more. „What in the name of holy fuck were you thinking?“

„I know, I messed up big time. I just... fuck!“ Will slammed his fist against the window frame. „What do I do?“

„You better get your ass moving and talk to her. Can't you see at all what you did to her?“

„I'm starting to get an idea...“ Will replied dryly. „You mean I should go see her?“

„You better!“ Charlie bellowed at him, but then he sighed. „I can guess where all this is still coming from. But Will, you have to fucking try to get over it! I know it's easier said than done, but are you at least working on it?“

„I...“ Will looked down and shuffled his right foot over the carpet.

„You can't go on like this, Will. It's killing you and you're taking MacKenzie down with you... Do you know the author Kahlil Gibran? He said: 'An eye for an eye, and the whole world would be blind.' Think about that...“

Will sighed. „I'll go see her tonight after the show.“

Charlie snorted. „That's what you think. You're going right now, be back by six.“

Not saying anything Will turned back towards the window, only seeing Mac's face the moment he showed her the ring in front of him. Finally he nodded, turned and walked towards the door. „Thanks, Charlie.“

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::


On the way down he stopped on the 25th floor to let Jim know he would be out for a while, get his coat and let Lonny know he needed to go out. About half an hour later he was standing in front of Mac's building. Luckily somebody had just slipped out of the door on his arrival, so he didn't depend on Mac buzzing him in.
Knocking at her door he took a deep breath and waited for her to open, but when the shuffling he had heard inside came nearer and finally stopped, he almost felt Mac's eye on him through the fish eye and knew it wouldn't be that easy.

„Go away, Will.“

„No. Let me in, Mac. Please, we need to talk.“ He held his breath waiting for her response and sighed with relief when after a minute he heard her unlock the door and it opened slightly. When he pushed it completely open and entered her apartment she had already gone back into the living room and faced him, her arms crossed in front of her chest.

Will let his eyes roam over her and felt a pang of guilt. Mac was wearing leggings and a t-shirt that looked so wrinkled that she must have slept in it. Her hair was uncombed, her face even paler than usual and the eyes had deep shadows underneath them, bearing witness that she had hardly slept at all during the last days.

„How are you doing, Mac?“

„I told you, I'm okay.“ Her arms held on to herself even tighter and she wouldn't meet his eyes.

„Well, that was two days ago, and honestly? You don't look like you're doing fine. Are you really sick?“

But Mac refused to go there. „What do you want, Will?“

With a shrug he showed her his open hands and bashfully looked at her. „I... I wanted to apologize for what I did and for what I said.“

For the first time since he'd arrived she finally looked him in the eyes, but hers remained cold. „You'll have to elaborate on that. What are you sorry for?“

He cringed at her tone. „I'm sorry that I hurt you, Mac. When you and Charlie decided to vet me I knew you would find out about the Fox offer, and I knew that you'd come to me, waving it in my face, and I just couldn't... I'm really sorry, Mac.“

Mac gazed down and didn't say anything for a while before finally raising her head again.

„I honestly don't know if I can believe you, Will... This wasn't some spontaneous, hurtful remark you just let slip. It wasn't one of your bimbos you parade around the newsroom, I can take all that. But this... You deliberately planned it. From the moment you had that idea you had all the time in the world to think about it; going to the store, choosing the ring and then right up to the moment you showed it to me... But you did it anyway and it was...“ Tears started to show in her eyes, and Will just wanted to undo what he had done to her, pained by the fact that there was just no way to do that.
„It was simply cruel, Will, and I can't tell you how much it hurts...“ She paused for a second before she went on in a much quieter tone. „The man I fell in love with would never have done that...“

Will at least had the decency to slightly blush and uncomfortably move in his spot at this. „I'm not the same man I was before, I've changed, Mac... I... I don't know, I seem to have put a wall up inside me to never get hurt like that again. And for that I had to tell me that all the blame for the end of our relationship was on you, only on you, so I just couldn't stand to admit to you that I had also done something wrong. That is not telling you about the offer; though it is true, I was used as leverage and it was never real. But I needed to keep the upper hand and couldn't let you win.“

At this admission Mac turned around and walked towards the window. Turning her back to him she didn't say anything and Will felt his heart sink at the thought that he had messed everything up again, but then she slowly started to speak again.

„I know it was my fault and I know that you will probably never be able to forgive me. But there is one thing I don't understand: How can you tell Sloan you'll always be standing...“ She air quoted „...'right next to her and in front' when she makes a mistake like this huge fuck-up with Fukushima, but I don't even get the courtesy of a simple conversation? Am not even allowed to explain myself?“

„Mac...“ Will tried to say something but she wasn't finished.

„Remember what you told her? 'We fucked up. Let's just live with that now.'

Will didn't believe his ears. „How can you compare those two things?“

She spun around and took a couple of steps towards him. „Because I also fucked up! On a personal level, okay, but still. Why can you forgive others, but not me?“

„Mac, you don't know...“ She interrupted him, finally not being able to hold her own anger in.

„No, I don't know, that's right. Because you never even tried to explain to me why what I have done was so fucking terrible. For heaven's sake, I saw Brian when the two of us were just starting out, and we had never talked about being exclusive back then. I know it wasn't the right thing to do, and I won't ever try to take the moral highground, but it wasn't so bad as you apparently think, either. For crying out loud, we had been together for more than one and a half years after that and we were happy. Happy, Will!!“

„Mac...“

„Don't Mac me, Will. I... I....“ She took a deep breath to calm herself down. „Right now I just don't know if I can go on like this... Maybe it was a mistake to come back...“

Will took a step towards he. „Are you finished? May I say something now?“

Looking at him undecisively for a moment she finally nodded. „Go ahead.“

Straightening himself up Will thought about how to best start with what he needed to say. He hadn't planned on going there while talking to Mac today, but her outburst had made it unavoidable. Finally he decided to just start talking and hoped his words wouldn't fail him.

„MacKenzie, there is something in my past you don't know about. It's still painful and I've never liked to talk about it, to anybody...“ He saw Mac observing him carefully and suddenly he felt that it would be easier to open up while not facing at her, so he walked past her to look out of the window before going on, trying to keep his emotions at bay.

„You've probably wondered why I've never taken you to Nebraska and only had you meet Mary and Vic here in New York... It... It's because our father is a bastard, Mac. He's a violent, drunk and demeaning son of a bitch who beat us and our mother for the greater part of our childhood.“ Will heard Mac inhale sharply but neither turned around nor stopped.

„I don't know if I ever told you that I also have a brother? Patrick is the youngest, six years younger than me, and although I tried my best to protect him – all of them – it destroyed him. He has always been the most sensitive of us. I could have seen him doing something in the arts, I always thought he was very talented...“
Will's thoughts trailed off and he paused. Suddenly he heard Mac's voice directly behind him, having closed the distance between them without him noticing.

„What happened to him?“

Will sighed. „When he turned seventeen he dropped out of school, left home and went to California where in the end he got into drugs. We've tried to help him but last we heard he was living in some kind of commune, refusing any contact with us... We haven't been in touch with him for almost twenty years now...“

„Oh my God, I'm so sorry, Will...“

At this he turned around, now ready to look at her.
„This is what made me the man I am today, Mac... Well, rather the man I was back when we were together. All of us, we never felt safe at home, we lived in constant fear that our father would come home drunk again, start screaming and beating us. We never knew what would trigger a blow; it could be not finishing all of our chores, spilling something at the dinner table or simply asking Mom for help with our homework...“ Will saw the sympathy and even the glistening of tears in Mac's eyes and quickly went on.
„You see, we were never allowed to feel safe at home as it should have been. Our mother couldn't protect us and although rationally I know that she wouldn't have stood a chance against him it still makes me angry, and as much as I love her I feel that she has let us down...“

He took another deep breath. „So when you told me you cheated on me it felt like my whole world was coming tumbling down. I'd thought I had finally found my family, the one person I could trust completely and who would never hurt me... But then you did...“

„Oh, Billy... I wish I would have known... I'm so sorry...“ Mac carefully placed her hand on his arm and squeezed it, trying to comfort him in the little ways she could. „Will you listen to me now?“

Will just nodded, his eyes by now also showing the first signs of tears, and Mac sighed.

„You know I met with Brian right at the beginning of our relationship when I wasn't even sure how I really feel about you. You had been great, but you were also quite a bit older then me, and I could see that you took us so damn serious right from the beginning. It actually scared me a little, but that wasn't the main reason why I saw Brian again; I just wasn't sure what I wanted at that point... And as crazy as it sounds, being with Brian again helped me to figure it out, and once I knew it was always you, Will. I had fallen in love with you, and when we were getting more serious I felt that I had to tell you about what I did back then... I wanted to have a family with you, and I knew it wouldn't have worked based on a lie...“

Will gave her a sad smile when she stopped. „I'm sorry I'm so fucked up, Mac... I wish I had told you and listened to you back then...“

„Me, too...“ Mac whispered, locking eyes with his. After what seemed like an eternity Will softly moved her hand from his arm and pulled her towards him to close the distance between them, carefully enveloping her with his arms. With a sigh Mac leaned into his chest and let her arms slide around his waist.

This was even more wonderful then the hug they had shared on Valentine's Day a couple months ago. Back then she had just enjoyed being held by him again, feeling his strong, protective arms around her whilst knowing that nothing had really been resolved between them. Now however, for the first time since her return, she felt that they might still have a chance. If they could just keep this up, keep talking and trying to sort out their issues... She sighed again.

„What?“ Will murmered into her neck.

„Nothing.“ she quickly answered. „I'm just... This feels so good, Will...“

„Mmmmh...“ he hummed in agreement before pulling back a little and looking at her. „You know... Charlie said something to me earlier about not living the motto 'An eye for an eye' and he was right. I don't even know by now which one of us would need the other's forgiveness with all the crap I've pulled on you... Probably me... I'm so very sorry, Mac, and I know that you are, too, so... Why don't we just get past that and see where we are then?“

Mac's eyes had gone wide at his words and opened even wider when he pulled a familiar turquoise box out of his pocket, causing Will to softly smile at her.
„It's not for now, I know we still have to work out a lot, but I just want you to see that I didn't return the ring. Because I'm still in love with you...“ At this Mac gasped loudly. „And just because I only bought it a few days ago it doesn't mean that I didn't plan on proposing to you back then... So, unless you say you don't like it and would like to choose another one, what would you say to me safekeeping it until we're ready?“

Biting her lower lip Mac looked up at him, speechless for once, before giving him the most beautiful smile. „I told you this ring would do it if you'd ever propose to someone... And I'm still in love with you, too.“

Will, entranced by her disarming smile, quickly tucked the jewelry box back into his pocket and pulled her into his arms again. His eyes dark with desire he closed in on her face without touching her lips, leaving the decision whether she was ready up to her and sighing when she eagerly pressed her mouth to his.

The kiss started out slow before rapidly turning more passionate, their tongues playing with each other while Mac moaningly lifted her hands into his hair, indulging in these feelings she had missed for so long without knowing if she'd ever get to experience them again.

Will slowly let his hands glide underneath her shirt to stroke her back while thoroughly exploring her mouth, groaning into her and not being able to get enough of her taste.

Finally he broke the kiss, leaning his forehead against hers and panting for air. He knew if he didn't stop now he'd never get back to work in time. „I love you so much, MacKenzie, and I've never stopped.“

Again he saw tears pooling in her eyes and he lifted his hands to her face to wipe them away with his thumbs. „No need to cry anymore, Honey, except for that I'll have to get back to the office. And Lonny is waiting downstairs.“ He gave her another quick kiss. „Will you be alright?“

Mac beamed at him, though still a little whiplashed by everything that had happened just now. „What do you think?“

Smiling back at her he still decided to made sure „So I can tell the team you'll be back tomorrow?“

„You bet.“ Then her gleaming turned into a coy smile. „I'll see you after the show tonight?“

Will's eyes lit up, but he didn't want to pressure her. „Are you sure?"

„Oh yeah...“ she sighed, giving him another searing kiss while squeezing his butt. „And don't forget to bring your go-bag...“

 

Chapter Text

High on Emotion
(Season 1, Episode 7)

„Good morning, Will.“ Mac looked up from where she was standing at Tess' desk, checking on an assignment the young associate producer was working on. He was a little later than usual but that was probably due to last night's broadcast and the fact that he had been... well, yeah, there was no sense in denying it... high.

Will stopped on the way to his office to look at her, but didn't say anything in return. Mac's smile that had accompanied her words faltered and turned into a frown when she noticed the expression in his eyes, kind of hopeful at first but then hardening and nothing like she had expected after the success of the previous evening.

With a tense nod Will finally turned around and continued his way, closing the door to his office behind him. Following him with her eyes Mac contemplated what that had all been about, but then she shrugged it off; he'd probably had a bad night and was suffering from the after-effects of last night.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Will felt miserable.
Not because of the weed-laced cookies he had eaten the night before, but because he had made a fool of himself.

Fuck! He had been so sure that Mac was feeling the same as him, but obviously he had been wrong and she didn't have any feelings for him anymore.

The first hour after he had left his voicemail message for her he had been giddy with excitement, convinced it would only be a matter of time until she listened to it and called him right back. But nothing had happened and with every minute that had passed after that his embarrassment, pain and also anger at her had gotten the better of him.

He had been unable to sleep and never let his phone out of his sight, afraid he would miss any reaction of hers, but... nothing...

He supposed he had to be grateful that she did as he had asked and pretended as if nothing had happened, but what he hadn't expected in his drug-induced haze last night was that it would be him who had problems acting normal... Just seeing her going about her work, casually wishing him a good morning and not even conveying anything – an apology, sympathy or whatever - with her eyes... He was surprised how much it had hurt.

For a second he was thinking that he was maybe only imagining having left that message for her, but no, he definitely wasn't. Yes, he had been high, but already during that fucking great broadcast last night the adrenalin had played a more important role than the weed in his system, and he clearly remembered the dialtone as well as her voice that had told him to leave a message.

Damn, how was he ever going to act normal around her again?

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

When Mac was done with Tess she decided to check on Will, and the same time she knocked at the door she opened it and entered his office, not waiting for an invitation. „You missed the rehash of last nights show and the first pitches that resulted from it for tonight. Would you come over to my office so that I can bring you up to speed?“

Will raised his head when he heard her voice and again there was this hopeful look in his eyes for a moment, but then it changed to a neutral expression while she spoke. Nodding he got up and followed Mac, sitting down in front of her desk.

Taking a seat herself she decided to start slowly in case he really wasn't feeling well. „How are you this morning?“

„Fine.“

„No hangover or headache?“

„No.“

„Okay...“ Still a little confused Mac decided not to dwell on it. „You did an great job last night, congratulations. That was really incredible, given the state you were in... I still can't believe you pulled it off...“

Will nodded again without showing any emotion. „Thank you.“

„Just promise me you'll never do that again? I think I've aged ten years until I was sure you were doing okay behind your desk...“ Mac winked, though she was dead serious. The moment he had told her he was wasted she had been sure the evening would turn out to be a disaster, but unbelievably Will had managed to deliver one of the best shows of his career. Still she had been a nervous wreck once it was over and she didn't think she would be able to go through another broadcast like this.

„So, what did I miss this morning?“ Will only wanted to finish this up and get the hell out of her office. He definitely did not want to talk about what had happened the night before.

„Right...“ Mac sat up straight and quickly looked at the papers in front of her. „Except for some hassle with Jane in Washington everything went smoothly last night and we have been the first to air the news of Bin Laden's death – despite your inability to use your phone properly, I might add...“

Will cringed for a second, knowing quite well that she would never let him live that one down, but he didn't say anything and Mac went on.

„We got more information from the State Department and the Pentagon on how the operation in Abottabad went down, and we will naturally incorporate that into tonight's show. Also Hillary Clinton will be available this afternoon at 3:20 p.m. for a ten minute satellite interview from D.C. which we will pre-tape. I will have Maggie get you all information available on last night in a memo so that you can prepare your questions. You should have them ready... say around 2 p.m.? Then we can go over them before the interview, and graphics can start working on the background. Is that okay with you?“

Just when Mac looked up at Will for confirmation the Blackberry on her desk buzzed repeatedly. After a slight startle Mac reached for the phone and sighed. „Finally!“

Will frowned. „Are you expecting a call? Do you want me to leave?“

„No, but my provider was down since last night. Apparently it's working again and now all messages I got in the meantime are coming in." Mac nodded at the phone in her hand that was still buzzing. „Let me just check if there's anything important.... Hang on...“

Mac quickly scrolled through her inbox, mumbling words like 'spam', 'later' and 'what the fuck?', not noticing that Will's face had paled and he had started to shift around in his chair uncomfortably.
„Okay, there's nothing that can't wait for another few minutes, but there's a couple voicemail messages, let me just quickly check those.“

Will raised his head, his eyes wide. „Mac...“ he rasped. „Don't...“

Mac looked at him, her finger hovering over the button to play the messages, again obviously confused by his behaviour. „Why shouldn't I...?

Not letting her finish the sentence he shook his head. „Please, Mac, don't...“

„What are you talking about? This could be important.“ With this she pushed the button and the first voicemail message started to play. „Mac, this is Tony. I just wanted to congratulate you...“

Nervously Will jumped out of his chair and walked towards the door „I have to go!“

Mac was really baffled and leaned back in her chair, her eyes following him as he left the room. What the hell was wrong with him today?

Shrugging she concentrated on the message from her old colleague again, she would deal with Will later.

Then the second message started to play and her eyes went wide.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Fuck! Will couldn't believe that Mac had never gotten the voicemail message he had left for her last night. No wonder that she had acted as if nothing had happened, it hadn't!!

What was he supposed to do now?
Yesterday everything had seemed so easy and normal, and he had acted solely on his feelings, but he was in no way prepared to face her sober when she had just listened to his words. He knew it would only be a matter of minutes until she would come into his office and he racked his brains for what he could say to her.

Sooner than expected his door opened and Mac appeared, staying in the doorframe and just looking at him with big eyes. He saw that Jim had followed Mac and tried to talk to her, but she waved him off. Then she entered his office and closed the door behind her before she sat down in front of him, still not averting her eyes. Instead Will let his gaze wander over his desk until it came to rest on his hands he was holding in his lap, fingers clenched and his palms sweaty.

„Will...?“
He could hear the tremble in her voice and he knew that she was not only confused but probably also scared to hell, just like him. He didn't answer and continued to stare down, the silence in the room unbearable.

Finally he noticed her shifting in the seat and putting something on his desk, and after a few seconds he could hear his own voice.

Hey, it's me, Will. Listen, I swear I'm not saying this because I'm high. And if the answer is no then just do me a favor and don't call me back or bring it up or anything. But I have to tell you, I mean after tonight, I really want to tell you that I've never stopped loving you. You were spectacular tonight... Can you believe we got Obama?“

Will didn't dare look up or say anything, too afraid his voice would give him away. In the end the long silence was ended by Mac who spoke softly with a touch of hope in her voice.

„Was this why you were behaving so strangely this morning? Did you think I heard the message last night and chose to ignore it?“

He quickly glanced up at her but immediately looked away again. „Mac...“

He could hear her breath hitch. „Or... Did you just say it because you were high and you didn't mean it?“ Her voice was trembling near the end and he cringed; he'd never meant to hurt her with his words.

„No.“ Finally he did meet her eyes and after a moment he sighed. „No, I didn't... I... Fuck, Mac... I... I just can't... It was so much easier...“ His eyes pleaded with her now and after a moment she slowly nodded, swallowing hard.

„It's okay, I understand...“ She got up, took her phone and approached the door. Before she opened it she turned around, putting her hand on the handle and biting her lower lip for a moment. „Just so you know... I've never stopped either, Billy.“

With this she stepped out of the room and went back to her office, leaving Will at his desk with a look of absolute longing on his face, mixed with hope but also fear.

She loved him! She had just said it, she still loved him!
He had always assumed, because why would she have come back otherwise, but to hear her say it out loud?

After everything that had happened last night – The party at his apartment, the way she had trusted him with the show after she had found out that he was high... Her 'Do it for me, Will.' right before the broadcast...

There hadn't been anything he wouldn't have done for her that moment, and so sitting at home alone later that night it had seemed like the most natural thing in the world to tell her about his feelings. But now that he was sober again?

What should he do now?

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

The rest of the day the atmosphere in the newsroom was tense, although none of the staffers could pinpoint as to why.

Will had attended the first as well as the final rundown meeting but didn't contribute anything, and it was noticable that Mac was going easier on him then she normally would have, not debating on whether a segment should go in the B or the C block or whether a topic would make it into the show at all. But all of the staffers had noticed or had at least been told by their colleagues that Will had been high on the air last night, so they assumed that he was problaby still suffering from the repercussions and Mac didn't badger him out of consideration for the state he was in. Or anger about it, of course, you never knew with these two.

The show started with a recap of last night's successful military operation and the reactions to it, especially from the Middle East, followed by the pre-taped interview with the Secretary of State as well as other experts who all wanted a spot in the limelight of this historic event, but Mac and Jim had done a good job at choosing those that really had something to say.

After the rest of the national and international news, for which there was only room in the later blocks, Will finally ended the show, throwing it to Washington, where yet another panel of experts was to discuss the recent events, and retreated to his office where he sat down in his chair in the almost dark. He didn't feel like going home but also wasn't in the mood to join the team at Hang Chew's, so he just filled a glas with bourbon and stared outside without really seeing anything and only taking an occasional sip from his drink.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::.

Mac had followed his example and gone to her office, but instead of reviewing the show as she normally did she pondered over what had happened.

She had seen how high Will had been the night before, but when he had urged her to let him do the show, when he had touched her and promised that he wouldn't let her down, she had stood no chance.

Gosh, he had touched her, holding her at her shoulders, his gaze so intense and asking for her trust, then his hand on her back... Apart from the Valentine's Day hug she couldn't remember him ever having touched her since her return and she had gone weak at her knees. She would have given him anything in that moment.

And then Will had actually said that he still loved her. Not to her face, but he hadn't retracted the message he had left for her either when she had given him the chance. That was a reason to be positive, even though everything had felt so uncomfortable the whole day...

She still had problems to believe that he actually did say it, so like many times before during the day she got her phone out and listened to his words again. And again. And again. And every time she heard him say that he had never stopped loving her she felt a tingle in her stomach, as if a thousand butterflies were dancing in there.

But what was she to do now? Should she just ignore it and wait for him?
She had told him that she was also still in love with him, and even if he hadn't known before already, now he did. But would he act on it?

The longer Mac thought about this question the surer she was that he wouldn't. But what was she supposed to do? She had been the one to ruin their relationship and she could not expect him to forget everything and pick up where they'd left off.
He loved her, but hadn't it been for him being high he probably never would have said anything, having been hurt so much and not being able to forgive her.

She sighed. She had to respect that. She had told him that she was in love with him, and almost every day since her return she had shown him that he could trust her, but she had no right to push him on the matter of forgiveness, it had to be his own decision in his own time.

Looking at her watch she saw that it was almost midnight already and she slowly started to gather her things. Today was only Tuesday and most of the week lay still ahead of them, so she should really get home now to try to get some sleep.

The bullpen was almost dark, only dimly lit by the emergency exit signs as the staff had already left long ago. She went over to the elevators and when a car arrived she stepped into it. Just when the doors were starting to close she heard footsteps and kept them open with her hand, only to startle when it was Will who stepped into her line of sight from the right.

He froze for a tiny moment, hardly noticable, but then he entered the elevator and stood next to her, only mumbling „Hi...“

„Hi...“, she returned, swallowing hard. Shit, this was weird. They had avoided being alone with each other all day after what had happened in his office, and now he had to go home at the exact same time as she did?

It took a while for the doors to close and Mac was actually fighting with herself to not leave the car. As tempting as that sounded it would be ridiculous, in the end they were both adults. Then suddenly she became very calm, despite the tension that was graspable, especially when the elevator finally started to move. She had always hoped, if not even suspected that Will was still in love with her, so except for the fact that their feelings were out in the open now, what was the difference to last week?
Maybe she should... No, she couldn't... Could she?

Fuck it!“  With these words Mac spun around and looped her arms around Will's neck, pulling him down into a searing kiss. She felt him stiffen in her arms, having been totally unprepared for this to happen, but when she opened her mouth and ran her tongue along the seam of his lips she heard him groan deeply while his arms circled her waist at the same time.

Feeling him opening his mouth she let her tongue dart in, swiping along his and teasing him until she felt one of his hands move up her back while the other one cupped her ass and pulled her into him. For a moment all thought was driven from her mind and the only thing that existed were the two of them, alone in this tiny cabin giving in to their feelings.

She slid her fingers into his hair, and when she felt his hand glide underneath her shirt, touching her bare skin, she shivered in anticipation, but then reality came back and she remembered where they were.

A second before the elevator came to a stop she broke the kiss. Letting her hand rest on his cheek for just a short moment she looked at him, noticing his dazed state and glazed over eyes, before she stepped back and turned around to leave the elevator as soon as the doors opened without saying a word.

Will was left behind in a state of shock, his mind and his heart racing, and all he could do was to follow her with his eyes as she went through security and left the building.

„Do you want to ride back up again?“
Startling Will turned his head to see Lonny standing in front of the elevator, holding the doors open. „You've been working long tonight, you could have let me know, especially after the shit you pulled last night.“

„I'm... I'm sorry, won't happen again. Let's go home.“

Walking towards the exit Will heard Lonny following him. His car was parked in the front of the building and Will took a seat in the back tonight, showing Lonny that he wasn't in the mood to talk.

The ride home was spent in silence. Will was replaying the kiss in his head over and over. He had been shocked at first but then he had let go of all his fears and just indulged into it. Feeling MacKenzie's lips on his, feeling her tongue inside his mouth and her body in his arms, small and pliant and complementing his own perfectly, had been so incredibly arousing.

He had missed this kind of contact so much over the past years and especially since she had been back and he had been so close to her every day at work. It was intoxicating to see that the sparks were still there, that his body apparently didn't care about what she had done to him, to them. Why couldn't his mind just shut out the past and simply enjoy what they could have?

It looked like at least Mac didn't want to drink the Kool-Aid anymore but had decided to up the ante, now that she knew how he felt about her.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

The rest of the week was rather akward.
They didn't talk about the kiss and Mac noticed that Will had started the habit of spending his lunch break out of the office, apparently he wanted to minimize the risk of running into her as much as possible.

She knew that Will had said he still loved her, hell, she held the proof of it right in her hand and had listened to his words far more often then she could count anymore by now, but the more days passed the more the kiss seemed to become a figment of her imagination.

Had it really happened? Had she really been so bold to just bascially jump him in the elevator?
She could still feel his lips on hers and his hands sliding along her body, so it must have been real, but she knew that she would probably never get her courage up to do that again. Especially as Will seemingly did everything to avoid her.

It had been a long week, especially as she had often stayed late after work to catch up with some things, almost afraid to go home. She knew it would take her hours to go to sleep with her thoughts revolving around Will and what had happened, but come Friday she knew that she had to put it behind her and move on.
Not from Will, she was rather sure that would never happen, but from this situation. They at least needed to get back to their professional working relationship, and be it just for the sake of their staff, who had naturally noticed the awkwardness between them all week.

She didn't have any plans for the weekend except for doing grocery shopping and the laundry, so she was rather surprised to hear her door bell ring late Saturday afternoon. Pushing the button for the intercom she asked who was there, but the only answer she got was silence. When asking again she finally heard somebody take a deep breath.

„It's me, Will... Can I come up?“

Mac closed her eyes and didn't reply. What did he want?
After a moment she pressed the button to open the building door and waited until she heard the characteristic sound of it being pushed open. Then she quickly went to the bathroom to check her reflection in the mirror. She knew she didn't have much time, so a quick brush of her hair needed to suffice.

When she heard the knock at her front door she closed her eyes, trying to collect herself, before she opened the door.

Will was standing right in front of her, looking as nervous as she felt.

„Hey...“

„Hi... Can I come in?“

Mac stepped aside and held the door open further before closing it behind him again. „Where's Lonny?“

„I took a cab...“

„Will! You can't do that, the threats...“

Will interrupted her. „I don't care. I didn't want to do this... I didn't want anybody to know...“ His voice trailed off and he didn't finish the sentence, looking slightly uncomfortable. „We need to talk, Mac.“

She sighed, but then she nodded and looked down at her feet. „Yeah, I think we do. I... I'm sorry about kissing you....“

„I'm not.“

These simple words made her head shoot up so she could look at him. „What do you mean?“

Will stepped closer but he stopped in front of her and didn't touch her.

„I liked it. A lot. And I missed holding you.“

„Me, too.“ Whispering these words she could feel her cheeks blush and her heart beat faster. „So... did you mean what you said in your voicemail message?“

Taking a deep breath Will nodded with a smile, his eyes softening. „I did. And I did extra hours with Dr. Habib this week to figure out why I couldn't say it again...“ Taking her hand he continued. „He helped me to figure out that subconsciously I have forgiven you, probably a long time ago already, but as I hadn't realized it I could only admit my feelings while being high...“

„And now?“ Mac held her breath, hoping beyond hope that she didn't interpret this situation wrong.

Entangling their fingers he pulled her closer until their bodies touched and he openly looked into her eyes. „I love you, MacKenzie. I've never stopped.“

Hearing these words a sob escaped her, and then a single tear ran down her cheek while she beamed at him at the same time. „I love you, too, Billy. I've never stopped either.“

Though Will had been fairly sure about her answer after the scene in his office on Tuesday he still sighed with relief, and while wiping the tear away with his thumb he pulled her face closer. „I'd like to kiss you now...“

„What are you waiting for then?“

Not even a second later his lips landed on hers, softly at first, but then Mac put her arms around his neck and pulled him closer. Letting his free hand slide around to her back this time it was Will's tongue that requested entrance which she gladly granted, and for a long while all that could be heard were the tiny moans and gasps from both of them.

Having missed this kind of intimacy for so long both of them couldn't get enough of each other and they only broke apart when breathing became an absolute necessity.

Panting heavily they looked into each others eyes, displaying all the feelings they had denied for so long, before Will finally pulled Mac into his embrace, not planing to let go of her soon.

„I've got to thank Abe one of these days“, Mac dreamily mumbled into his shoulder after a while.

„Not Abe, Habib Jr. He has taken over from his father. I felt like talking to Doogie Howser the first times...“

Mac giggled and let her arms run down his chest, looking up at him. „But he seems to know what he's doing, doesn't he?“

„Oh yeah...“ Leaning in Will captured her lips again. „Definitely... We should invite him to our wedding.“

Gasping Mac's head whipped back and she looked at him with big eyes. „What?“

Grinning he raised one hand to push a strand of hair behind her ear. „I still have that ring in my desk drawer, remember?... And you said it would do it if I should ever propose to somebody... So... I assume you would say yes if I asked?“

Overwhelmed by her emotions again Mac had to fight to hold back her tears, but then she blinked them away and a bright but mischievous smile lit up her face.

„Why spoil the surprise...?“

 

Chapter Text

I thought I could do it
(Season 1, episode 8)

Even after an hour the power still hadn't come back on.
The whole building was dark except for a few dimly lit areas in the bullpen, thanks to small flashlights and candles.

While some of the staffers used this unexpected free time to continue rehearsing for the upcoming mock debate others were trying to accomplish some filing or simply played a game of Angry Birds on their cell phone. There was nothing they could do in regard of the power outage, and they all knew that Newsnight would not go on the air this evening if the power wasn't coming back on soon.

Will was sitting in the almost dark of his office with only a single candle on his desk that was spending a little light. He was looking at the mostly dark silhouette of their block, only a few windows bright, probably thanks to a generator, when his office door was opened and Sloan entered the room.

She placed herself in front of his desk and waited for him to look at her, but when he didn't she started to speak anyway. „You know what, Will?“

After a moment of silence Will sighed. „No, and I'm not sure I'm interested in what you have to say.“

„Tough luck, I'll tell you anyway...“ Purposely ignoring another sigh of his Sloan continued. „You know, before Mac came back we all thought you were an ass. I even told her exactly that and she tried to persuade me that you are not, that you have 'the heart the size of a Range Rover'... I didn't see it back then, but I was actually starting to believe her over these past months. The way you turned the show around? When you helped... What's his name... Khaled? Khalid? You know who I mean, the stringer in Egypt. I was actually starting to think of you like a big brother, but what you've pulled now? Bringing Brian in? That was low, Mister, damn low, even for you... No, especially for you.“

Sloan paused to take a breath and before she could go on Will spoke. „What do you mean, 'especially' for me?“

The look Sloan gave him was almost pitiful. „Because you love her. How can you hurt her over and over when you love her so damn much?“

„Sloan, you have no idea...“ He sounded resigned but didn't refute her assertion, so she didn't let up, though she did soften her voice a little.

„You're right, Will, I don't know in detail what has happened when you broke up, but I do know that she is more than sorry. And seeing what she did for you since her return she definitely did not deserve this. I honestly don't have any idea how she has managed to hold up during the last days..." After a short pause she went on. „Mac is still beating herself up about what has happened, and she's wearing herself down for you. Maybe it's time to show her a little of the Will you show others...“

With these words Sloan moved to the door, but before she left she stopped and gave him a sympathetic look. „You know, Will... You're not only punishing MacKenzie, you're also punishing yourself...“

Walking out of the room Sloan left Will alone with his thoughts.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::


Mac stepped out of her office to brief the team on the contingency plan she had just worked out with Charlie and then went over to Will's office. Before entering she took a deep breath, but then opened the door without a knock.

Will was still sitting just as Sloan had left him, but when he heard her entering he turned his chair. „And? What is the verdict?“

„Washington will take over, Jane 'The Snake' Barrow gets her shot... I've just sent the staff home; you can go, too“

„Mmmh... Maybe it's for the better.“

Mac raised her eyebrows although he wouldn't be able to see it in the dim light. „Yeah, probably... Good night, Will.“
Turning around she was stopped by his voice.

„Wait!“

„What is it, Will?“ She sounded as tired as she was. The last days she had been under constant stress, and right now she didn't want anything more than to go home and take a hot shower before going to bed.

„I hate this, Mac.“

Sighing she agreed with him. „I know, so do I, but we have to save you from Leona... I only wish I could go on vacation for the next two weeks, but that wouldn't be fair to Jim. Then he would be the EP who has sacrificed the quality of the show for ratings....“ Suddenly she smirked. „ But look at the bright side: At least now Jane has to deal with the Weiner girl; they are going to do it via Skype.“

„Mac...“ Will let out long breath, but didn't add anything else and her name hung in the air.

„What, Will?“

It took a moment for him to speak again, but then he took a leap. „I wasn't just talking about the show... I hate... Fuck, I'm sorry that I brought Brian in.“

Not expecting this apology in the least Mac was speechless and looked at him with big eyes, thinking back to the other day when he had called her in the middle of the night to tell her about his plan.

She had already been asleep when her phone rang, but she had gotten used to Will calling her at any hour of the day and only gave him a sleepy „What is it, Will?“ after fumbling for the device on her nightstand.

As usual he started right into the conversation. „I think we need to explain to the public what we are doing; what our intentions are. The audience is confused why we have changed our format so massively over the last year; I had Reese poll on that...“

You did what?“ This information managed to wake her up further and she sat up. „I thougth we had agreed to not look at poll numbers for now!?“

She was making a valid point, but Will ignored her and went on as if she hadn't said anything „I think we need a piece in a newspaper or magazine. We should get a writer in who shadows us for a few weeks and writes about Newsnight 2.0.“

Mac let this idea run through her head before answering. „That could actually work... If we find the right writer it would gi...“

Will interrupted her. „I've already decided on the writer.“

You did? Who do you want?

Suddenly there was silence in the line. „Will?“

Brian Brenner.“

Mac froze in shock and didn't know what to say. How could he even think about bringing him in? She knew that everything that had happened four years ago was on her, but that man had been indirectly responsible for their failed relationship; how could he want to bring him back into their life? Especially as she had thought their partnership had been improving lately – work-wise as well as on a personal level.

She was searching for the right words but everything she came up with seemed to be inane. Finally words did come and she started in a hesitant whisper only for her voice to become louder and more determined towards the end. „I've asked you this before, but Jesus, Will... How much do you hate me?“

And I've told you that I don't hate you. This is a good move.“

At this Mac could only let out a desperate laugh. „Do you have any idea what you are doing? I'm not talking about me, but about yourself. Brian could never stomach that I chose you over him; he will take revenge. Trust me, I know him.“

Will shook his head although she couldn't see him. „He won't. He needs the gig; he needs a front page story.“

Mac unknowingly mirrored his movement and also shook her head. „...And he will get it by tearing us... you down! And if he can exact revenge on me at the same time that will be the icing on the cake for him...“

Mac...“

Not letting him interrupt her she went on, a first tear running down her cheek. „As you already said, the other day you told me that you don't hate me. You can't be surprised that I don't believe it anymore... How can you...? Do you...? Why didn't you at least talk to me before?“

He didn't answer immediately but then he steeled himself. „That was my decision to make as Managing Editor and anchor of the show. After all it is me he will be writing about.“

Mac snorted. „You don't really believe that he won't mention our past, do you? That's the stuff that brings him readers and what will that do for what you want to accomplish with this?“

I will make sure that he won't do that... Go to sleep.“

After these words he hung up and after staring at her phone for a long time Mac buried her face in the pillow and let her tears flow. It was clear that Will was never going to forgive her, so why the fuck couldn't she just accept that fact and move on?

Turning her attention back to the present Mac was determined not to let him see again how much he had hurt her with this action and adopted a light tone. „I'm tempted to say 'I have told you so'... But even if it had to be Brian, you should have brought him in a couple weeks from now, when everything is back to normal.“

Taking a deep breath Will said out loud what he had been thinking about since Sloan had left his office. „I shouldn't have brought him in at all... You know, when you didn't react to my voicemail, I...“

„What voicemail?“ Mac sounded confused. „I always answer you, if not via phone in the middle of the night then in person the next day. You know that.“

„Well, you didn't answer this one.“ He didn't look at her but had turned his chair to look out of the window again.

„When did you send it? And what did it say?“

„You know, forget it, it's not important.“ Will tried to appear casual, but Mac didn't believe him for a second and didn't let up.

„It's important enough for you to remember. So when did you send it?“

With a sigh Will caved. „After the Bin Laden broadcast, after Lonny had dropped me off at home.“

Frowning Mac shook her head. „I didn't get a voicemail that night. Sloan and I went for drinks after the show to wind down, and I remember that I checked my phone afterwards in case I might have missed something important. There was no voicemail from you, I'm sure.“

„That can't be... I did leave it, how is that possible?“ Now Will was puzzled while Mac was getting impatient.

„What does it matter? Why don't you just tell me what it said? I really want to get home... It wasn't easy these last days, you know...?“

Immediately Will's bad conscience was back and for the first time in days he really looked at her, noticing how exhausted she was. He didn't know if Sloan's speech had affected him more than he had thought, but suddenly he heard himself speak. „Now that we're free to leave... Would you like to join me for dinner?“

The incredulous look she gave him made him flinch. Had he really been so rough on her that even a little nicety between colleagues surprised her?

He didn't even have to think about the answer; of course Mac hadn't seen that coming after how he had treated her lately. „We could go to Giulio's or, if you prefer, just get some take-out?“

Biting her lower lip Mac just watched him for a moment. She was tired and not in the mood for any more discussions, but then she realized that Will wasn't in the mood of giving her more hardship tonight and gave him a small smile. „Giulio's it is, I haven't been there for ages. Let me just get my stuff.“

She didn't add that the last time had been when they had still been together. It hadn't been their favourite place to go, otherwise Will certainly wouldn't have suggested it now, but it was a nice Italian restaurant that they had visited once in a while after work.

The bullpen was already empty, and when she came out of her office again Will was already waiting for her. „Lonny is meeting us downstairs.“

„He's not sitting at the neighbouring table, is he?“

„I actually have no idea, I haven't been out lately.“ He ignored Mac's surprised look and walked her to the elevator. Once on the ground floor Lonny was leading them outside and shooed them into the car that was waiting right in front of the building.

Before Will could even ask he already started to brief them on procedures as soon as he sat down in the driver's seat and merged into traffic. „When we arrive I will check out the restaurant while you stay in the car until I come and get you. I will ask for a private table in the back for you and will monitor everything from the bar. Sorry, not very romantic, but necessary.“

Blushing Mac spoke up at the same time as Will.

„Just a meal between friends, Lonny...“

„No problem, this is not a date.“

Looking at them through the rear view mirror Lonny smirked. „Of course...“

Blushing even more Mac looked down after casting a side glance at Will who seemed to be a little annoyed at his bodyguard. The rest of the ride however was spent in silence and when Lonny went to check out the venue she gave him a nervous smile. „This is awkward...“

„Yeah... One reason why I don't go out at the moment.“ Before Mac could follow up the back door was opened and they were guided into the restaurant. As predicted the were seated at a secluded table, shielded from other patrons through large plants, where they couldn't be seen from anybody walking in.

Creating the atmosphere of an Italian tavern the tables were set with red-white checkered table cloths, candles in earthenware sockets and Italian folk melodies was discretely playing in the background. It was just as Mac remembered it and it helped her to feel more at ease.

Once they were seated the waiter brought them the menu, and after Will had checked with Mac whether she would prefer white or red wine, he placed the order. Until the waiter returned they both kept themselves busy with the menu, and while Mac chose Penne al Pollo della Casa, a house specialty, Will decided on a risotto with beef and mushrooms. When they were alone again both leaned back in their seat and remained silent before he finally spoke.

„I'm really glad we didn't have to do that tonight.“

Mac shrugged. „Yeah, well, you can thank me later when all of this is over.“

„Why should I thank you?“ Will was obviously confused.

With a smirk she elaborated. „Right before the pre-taping started I asked God for a sign, and a couple of seconds later the power went out. Looks like He doesn't want us to go down this road either...“

The look on Will's face was doubtful. „Seriously?“

„Cross my heart and hope to die!“

Not taking his eyes off her suddenly the corner of Will's mouth started to twitch. „You should tell Reese and Leona...“

His widening grin was mirrored on Mac's face before they both started laughing at the same time. „I don't think they will be influenced by anything like that. And you know as well as I do that tomorrow it's back to Casey Anthony Weiner...“

Still grinning Will shook his head. „Let's not worry about that for now. Maybe we...“

Interrupted by the waiter who brought their food he didn't continue but handed Mac the cruet stand he knew she would want for her salad that accompanied the main dish. Then both of them concentrated on their plates and enjoyed the first bites, which were as good as they remembered, when suddenly Will looked up from his plate with a curious look on his face. „Why didn't you?“

„Why didn't I what?“ This time it was Mac's turn to look confused.

„Why didn't you just go away for a few weeks, until all this is over and we have the debate? You've certainly built up enough vacation days.“

She lowered her eyes and murmered. „You know I wouldn't do that.“

„Yeah, but why? It's not that I treated you that well during the last weeks. Hell, since you came back...“

„Well, I got you into your ratings trouble, so I'm going to see this through with you.“

For a moment Will didn't say anything, but then he spoke quietly. „No, you didn't... I've told you I'm in and I could have fired you more than fifty times by now... But I didn't, so I have just as much responsibility for the situation we're in than you do... Even though I really do hate it.“

Mac didn't know how to reply. Where was the Will who blamed everything on her? She had been sure that sooner or later he would blame her for the situation they were in, and now he was taking his share in it?

Not that she would disagree. She wanted the debate, just like him, but if it were her decision she would rather focus on further improving the quality of their show and she would fight for it. Now however, with the need to raise the ratings to keep Leona from firing Will, there was no alternative but to support him in this. She was however terribly proud of him and his disgust with the topics they had to deal with; he had come a long way.

She sighed. „Let's just do it; we don't have a choice anyway. 150.000 viewers have come back and we need them... The Weiner story will die down sooner or later and if we're lucky other politicians will keep their pants on...“

„Mmmh... I wouldn't bet on it.“ Will didn't say more but filled their glasses again and then continued eating. Tacitly agreeing they both decided to not dwell on work anymore for the moment and spoke about other things like recent broadway plays they had seen and books they had read. They didn't dare enter into other, more initimate territories like their families and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere that accompanied the rest of their dinner.

Once they had finished their meals and Will had settled the tab, Lonny, who had discretely stayed in the background the whole time, was already waiting for them, giving Will a smirk that changed to a smile and a wink when he turned to Mac. Once outside and in the car though he turned professional again and concentrated on the road.

When they arrived at Mac's place Will walked her to the front door. Just when she entered the key into the lock Mac remembered something and turned around. „You still haven't told me what the voicemail message said that I never got, Will.“

Being caught on the wrong foot Will only stared at her, not knowing what to say and only capable of stuttering. „I... I don't... What...“

However, seeing the look on Mac's face change to disappointment he thought back to what Sloan had told him, and seeing how nice the whole evening had been he decided that Mac deserved a chance; the chance he had thought she had declined earlier. So after taking a deep breath he blurted the words out. „It... It said that I never stopped loving you.“

Without taking even a second to wait for Mac's reaction he turned around and rushed back to the car, already telling Lonny to go as soon as he opened the door. There was no way that he would stay to wait for her reaction, too afraid that she had ignored the voicemail message on purpose, and so he missed that Mac was frozen in place.

Sorely shocked and not able to speak she could only follow him with her eyes instead of calling him back. With her hand still on the key in the lock she kept her gaze on the tail lights of the SUV until she couldn't see them anymore, and even then she wasn't able to move.

Did she just hear what she thought she heard? Did he really just say...?

Shaking her head Mac finally entered her building and rode the elevator up to the seventh floor where her apartment was located. Once in the familiar surroundings she dropped her bag and slowly took off her jacket to haphazardly throw it onto a nearby chair.

She definitely had never gotten that message; there was no way that she would have misunderstood or forgotten it. But why had he never said anything afterwards when she didn't react to it?

Sitting in the almost dark, the apartment only lit by the light from the billboards on Times Square shining through the window, she pondered about what had happened and what she should do now.

Finally she made a decision and after a look at her watch, confirming that Will should be home by now, she picked up her phone and dialed his number. Before it rang though she hung up again and stared at it, her finger hovering over the redial button. Then, a few minutes later, she got up again, grabbed her coat and keys and rode the elevator down.

Once outside she started walking, trying to catch a cab whenever one drove by, but it took about ten minutes until one actually stopped. Another fifteen minutes later she payed the driver and walked into the lobby of Will's building, taking a deep breath. When preparing the Newsnight anniversary party Will had given her the elevator code to directly ride up to his apartment, and with a sigh of relief she found that it was still working.

When the doors opened on his floor she took a step while calling out for him at the same time. After a moment of silence Will slowly stepped out of the kitchen, a glass of Bourbon in his hand and a clearly sheepish look on his face, but didn't say anything.

Mac sighed, not for the first time doubting her decision to come over. „Did you really think you can say that and then just drive off?“

„I... I think I didn't really think...“ Not looking at her he walked over to the couch and sat down, while Mac stayed in place. She was unsure how to proceed but then she took a couple steps towards him. „Couldn't we just pretend I am answering your voicemail?“

„Not really...“ Will mumbled. „Back then I was high, that made it a lot easier...“

„Yeah... Well... Then just tell me: Did you mean it?“

With his eyes quickly flickering over her face he averted them again and looked into his glass. „Yes.“

Suddenly he heard Mac sniff and looked up, surprised to see tears in her eyes.

„I've never got that message, I hope you believe me, Billy. I would have rushed over just as I did tonight.“

„You would have?“ Will couldn't keep the hope out of his voice, especially as she had used her nickname for him, which had only happened a couple of times since her return.

„Of course!“ Mac almost looked offended at his suggestion that she might not have meant it. „Why didn't you ask me about the message the next day?“

Blushing he looked down again. „I... I said... In the message I told you to not ever mention it in case you didn't feel the same... So when you didn't...“

Suddenly everything fell into place. „Brian... You only brought him in to punish me.“

„Yeah...“ Once more Will felt ashamed. „I'm sorry...“

„You... You idiot!“ Taking four large steps towards the couch she grabbed a cushion and literally beat him round the head with it.

Ducking and covering it with his hands Mac's reaction slowly reached Will's brain, and he finally came to the conclusion that he might have judged the whole voicemail thing in a terribly wrong way. „A while ago... Did you mean what you said in my office – You fell in love with me?“

Laughing out in despair she shook her head at the same time. „Do you honestly think I would lie about something like that? Of course I did, Billy.“

„How about now? After what I did...“

Hearing the insecurity in his voice Mac gave him an affectionate smile. „I have never stopped loving you and I don't think I ever will. Believe me, I've tried very hard...“

The moment she said the words she saw Will's eyes light up and immediately a huge weight was lifted off her mind. Stretching out her hand she intended to pull him up, only to let out a surprised squeal when he took it and tugged her down so that she was seated next to him.

Suddenly all uncertainty in his face was gone, replaced by something she hadn't seen for four years, an expression of deep love. „Billy...“

Not able to break eye contact she sighed when Will moved his free hand to cup her face and let his thumb run over her cheek bone. „I love you, MacKenzie. I have never stopped.“

Again tears threatened to fall and she tried to blink them away. „I love you, too, Billy.“

Closing his eyes for a fraction of a second to absorb her words, Will then pulled her closer. „I want to kiss you...“

Smiling against his lips she could only whisper „What are you waiting for?“

Gently pressing his lips against hers he didn't move any further, revelling in the feeling he had missed so much. After a moment though Mac opened her lips to encourage him to deepen the kiss, and with a moan he let his tongue slide inside her mouth to explore this once familiar territory. It was everything he remembered it to be, and when she let go of his hand to put her arms around his neck, burying her fingers in his hair, he groaned and pulled her even closer.

Mac, completely caught in the moment, could hardly believe what turn this day had taken and she was determined to not let anything spoil this moment. However, in the back of her head she knew there was one thing they had to talk about before taking this any further. Reluctantly she ended the kiss and pulled back a little, still running her fingertips through Will's blonde hair.

When he questioningly raised his eyebrows she gave him a nervous smile and spoke after taking a deep breath. „Billy, we need to... I need you to know how sorry I am about what...“

Will interrupted her. „I know... I have seen you with him around the office and know that you don't want to have anything to do with him anymore. I'm sorry that I put you through this. And... I trust you.“

Now, finally, her tears did start to flow and she threw herself into his arms, sobbing against his shoulder. „I love you so much, Will, so much... I never want to be without you again...“

„Dito“ Pulling her into his lap he cradled her head, enjoying the softness of her hair, and let Mac get her feelings out.

Eventually she tightened the hug for a short moment before she straightened herself up and gave him a shy smile, biting her lower lip at the same time. „You are sure? I don't think I could take it if you changed your mind again...“

„I have never been so sure about anything in my life. I love you. I want you. And I need you. Only you.“ The gentle smile on Will's face was wiped off when Mac crashed her lips onto his for a ferocious kiss, completely different than the one they had shared before. Immediately caught up in it he enthusiastically returned the kiss, once again lost in his feelings until she moved her lips along his jaw to his ear.

„I think I have seen most of your apartment during the party... What about showing me your bedroom?“