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The Next Chapter Part 2: Making Marriage Work

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September 2nd 2013

Monday

 

“You wanted to see me?” Comes from Mackenzie’s open office door and she looks up to see Kendra standing there, not hesitant in the slightest, and it makes Mackenzie smile. She likes Kendra. Kendra is confident.

“Yes, come in.”

The other woman does so, standing opposite Mackenzie’s desk, looking a little put out and defensive. Mackenzie knows she hasn’t been happy since she was passed up for senior producer for News Night, and Mackenzie can’t really blame her at all. She’d feel the same. Not that she also doesn’t think Jim might have done the right thing. It’s tough. But she thinks she might have a good alternative.

“I appreciate you’re busy,” Mackenzie starts. “Sit,” she directs, gesturing. Kendra sits. “Do you remember I asked you to come to me if you were thinking about moving on from News Night?”

“Yes,” Kendra says carefully; her gaze a little shifty.

“You never did,” Mackenzie points out lightly.

Kendra gives a little shrug, a pout of her mouth, her eyes flicker away, then back. “I haven’t decided what I want to do yet.”

“You haven’t gotten a better offer?”

Mackenzie’s not sure, but she thinks the other woman might be blushing a little. She shakes her head. So Mackenzie goes on, “So here’s what I’ve been thinking. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m wanting to change up ACN’s website.”

Kendra’s face falls.

“It will be a senior producer role,” Mackenzie goes on quickly. “But you will still need to report to Jim.”

Kendra’s face goes to slightly surprised.

“Is that something you would be interested in?”

“I’d need to know more about it.”

Mackenzie gives a slight smile. “Neal is building up the website to have a much higher content of actual news; instead of just blogs and columns. He’s got license to research and produce his own news stories, independent of News Night, while also supporting our broadcast news with additional content, and having the broadcasts support the website.” Mackenzie makes a back and forth gesture with her hands.

Kendra narrows her eyes a little, but she nods along.

“But while Neal is enthusiastic, he does lack experience as a producer, and given how big I think this thing could get,” Mackenzie waves a hand vaguely in the air, meaning she hasn’t really quite worked it all out yet. “Potentially, he’ll need strong supervision.” She pauses as she sees Pruit approaching her office. He comes in and sees Kendra and looks surprised. “Is now a bad time?” He asks.

“I’m in a meeting,” Mackenzie points out the obvious.

“I need to talk to you.”

“After my meeting,” Mackenzie says firmly.

“Come and find me,” Pruit demands and leaves again.

She wonders what he wants now. Then tells herself to not bother with speculating. She can’t even guess close enough half the time. She focuses back on Kendra. “So, the website and broadcast news teams are going to need a very competent liaison.”

“So it’s an administration role?”

“No, it’s a senior producer role. Produce the news, supervise the associate producers, build relationships with other teams.”

Kendra nods slowly. “It sounds interesting but I don’t understand how you’re going to –”

“Let me –” Mackenzie gets to her feet. “Let’s go talk to everyone. I want to explain this to everyone at the same time, so I don’t forget who I’ve told what to.” She goes to her office door and Kendra hurries to catch up to her as she powers down the hall. They share the elevator down with Grady. Mackenzie introduces him and Kendra and they shake hands politely. Mackenzie and Kendra get off first and head into the bullpen. Mackenzie sees Jim standing by Tess’s desk, talking to her, and he catches Mackenzie’s eye immediately.

“Conference room,” Mackenzie says. “Neal! Conference room.” She looks around as she walks across the wide open space. “Kelli, conference room. Gary, Martin, Tamara and Tess, you can all sit in on this.” She gets closer to Will’s office. “Mag – never mind. She doesn’t work here anymore. Where’s Carl?” She asks Jim.

“He called in sick.”

“Oh,” Mackenzie says. “Intern!” She calls out and sees the young man’s head appear over a desk. “You may as well sit in too.” She pushes open Will’s office door. He’s sitting at his desk, reading off his computer screen. “Conference room. Now.” He looks surprised, but he stands. “And, hi,” she says with a smile, since this is the first time she’s seen him today with his eyes open.

“Hi,” Will says back.

“Franklin,” Mackenzie says to the room, or herself, as she starts walking to the conference room, but he hears her and looks over. “Sorry, your name is Franklin. I knew that.” He gives an embarrassed smile and avoids her eyes. Mackenzie reaches the conference room where her ensemble has assembled and walks to the head of the table, all eyes on her. Will comes into the room a second later. “Actually, Franklin, can you go and find Don? He should hear this too.”

Franklin nods, and goes to leave. Will takes his seat at the opposite end of the table and Jim leans against the wall near the white board that is covered in that day’s first pitch meeting ideas. “And Sloan!” Mackenzie calls to the departing intern. “If you can find her.” Franklin nods and hurries off.

“Now,” Mackenzie addresses the room. “As you may or may not be aware, we have a new ACN website! Thanks to Neal.”

They applaud him good naturedly. Tess cheers a little. Neal grins.

“And now that it’s finally back online, Neal’s next move is going to be to move the website up to the next level!” Mackenzie goes on. “With a little help from,” she looks at Kendra, who gives a nod. “You guys,” Mackenzie finishes, a wide arm gesture to the room. People around the table share quizzical expressions. Will stares at Mackenzie. “What is going to happen, at some point in the near future, but I don’t have a date just yet, because I don’t know how long it’s going to take to work this all out, is that the News Night web page is going to start taking on additional news content.”

“What does that mean?” Tess asks immediately.

“That means,” Mackenzie goes on. “Extended interviews, documents and other research from the shows we broadcast each night.”

She watches the faces around her morph into pleasant and interested surprise. Will sits at the head of the table, with his chin in his hand.

“Potentially, the website might produce stories of its own, that News Night –”

Don comes into the room.

“And Right Now may broadcast on.”

Sloan follows him in, and behind her, Franklin squeezes past to slide into a seat at the back of the room.

“What are we talking about here?” Don asks quietly.

“The News Night website,” Jim answers softly.

“Uh,” Don raises his hand. “You’re telling me the website is going to produce our news stories now?”

“No Don,” Mackenzie says evenly. “What I’m saying is that – remember how Charlie asked us to do more cross network stories? Linking News Night and Right Now?”

“Yeah, we’re your more informative follow up.”

“We’re your hefty lead-in,” Will remarks. Don gives him a smirk.

“What I want,” Mackenzie cuts in. “Is to have cross network and cross media stories. I want content that doesn’t air to go up on the website, along with – ok, we all know that with a big story, we get thousands of documents –”

“And you want them all online?” Don asks.

“Not all of them,” Mackenzie frowns. Actually, she doesn’t know what she wants. Maybe this was a bad idea, coming to talk to everyone about this now, when she hasn’t worked out the details. “Remember when we launched the new News Night two point oh? Will went on air with an apology –”

She gets cut off as most of the room searches out the speech and starts reading it back to her. Will starts reciting it without looking.

“Yes!” She raises her voice to cut in again. “I remember it too. Will said that we were the media elite, and that our viewers should take our word for it, based on our experience and qualifications.”

The room starts to read that section of the speech to her again and she cuts them off once more.

“What I’m saying is, instead of just saying we read the report and here’s what you need to know, we put the report online for people to read.”

“The whole thing?” Gary frowns.

“Not the whole thing. Just the sections – we flash them on the screen for a few seconds at night, but what if some discerning citizens would like to read more, read it again, maybe they missed broadcast and they want to check in with what they missed. Not the whole report,” she hurriedly adds. “The sections that we show, and the sections that are relevant. And we’re going to say why it’s relevant –”

“Like an editorial?” Tess asks.

“No, not an editorial,” Mackenzie counters. “More like –”

“A blog?” Neal pipes up.

“Not a blog,” Mackenzie disagrees. “We’re not getting into opinion pieces.”

“Isn’t that what we already do?” Will asks.

“No,” Mackenzie says patiently. “I don’t think I’m explaining this very well.”

“Kind of like writing an essay,” Kelli jumps in. “You present the evidence, sort of arguing one point of view, while also showing you’re impartial, and at the end, you list all your references and show your research so your lecturer knows you haven’t just made it up.”

“Yes!” Mackenzie enthuses, with a slight fist pump. “She gets it.”

“We have to write essays now?” Gary frowns.

“Not literally an essay,” Mackenzie clarifies.

“We’re going to broadsheet format, but online?” Tess asks.

“Not broadsheets. Articles. Not unlike how we put together our stories now, and Will writes the copy.”

“Do I need to be doing this too?” Sloan finally speaks up.

“Yes,” Mackenzie turns to her.

“I can’t write.”

“You have, like, two doctorates, of course you can write,” Mackenzie frowns at her.

“It’s true,” Don says innocently. “She can’t write.”

“Hey,” Sloan protests, and slaps his arm.

“You just said!” Don complains.

“Who writes your copy?” Mackenzie asks.

“I do.”

“Well there you go.”

“It’s heavily edited,” Sloan adds.

Mackenzie gives a slight sigh. “Write it like you’re trying to explain economics to me.”

“Oh, ok, dumb it down.”

“Not dumb it –” Mackenzie starts to protest. “Yes dumb it down a little.”

“So the website is going to be an extension of the news broadcasts to just offer more to the story?” Kelli asks.

“Yes, exactly that. We sometimes spend thirty seconds merely mentioning something is happening in the world or the country, and every year we get to December and go back to cover stories we didn’t pay enough attention to because some other disaster struck at the same time. But now we can direct people to the website where there’ll be more about the story that we don’t have time to cover on the air.”

The room goes quiet, and everyone looks around at everyone else.

“Any other questions, thoughts?” Mackenzie asks. “Now’s the time to – we’re in development stage.”

“Yeah, I have one?” Will raises his hand slightly.

 

Chapter Text

“Lay it on me,” Mackenzie encourages.

“What about Twitter?”

“What about Twitter?” Mackenzie asks loftily.

“What are you going to do about Twitter?” Will asks, sticking to the script. Not that they particularly arranged this meeting so that Mackenzie could lay out her ideas for the staff, which is clearly apparent, because she has no examples, not templates for the others to see to help them understand, and she doesn’t have the details clearly formed in her head. But she’s talked about her ideas with Will and he’s asked this question before. This is just his way of reminding her to allay the staff’s fears about Pruit. Or at least, clarify the role of citizen journalism in their work. Especially for those hearing these new ideas for their web content for the first time. Not that the internet automatically equates to social media.

“Social media is becoming a bigger and bigger force and I don’t think it’s something we can ignore entirely,” Mackenzie says.

“So the scrolls are going back up?” Tamara asks.

“Not in the slightest,” Mackenzie denies. “Twitter might have its place, but it’s not on our news broadcasts.”

“Then how come we have to have it?” Don complains.

“Because you’re not the networks flagship, prime time, news broadcast,” Mackenzie counters glibly. “Besides, you’re being heavily selective about what goes up, aren’t you?”

“We are,” Don confirms.

“Well that,” Mackenzie points to him. “Is half of my argument. Twitter is a resource we can exploit to our own means. We decide what goes up, instead of just re-twitting any old –”

“Retweeting,” Neal helpfully supplies.

“Right, we don’t have to retweet everything that comes through the feed, just like we don’t repeat anything that comes down the wire.”

“We’re going to vet tweets?” Tess asks.

“Sort of. Do you remember during the Genoa investigation we got a series of tweets from Hamni 8?”

“He was half the world away,” Will points out.

“Yes exactly. But we didn’t just take his word for what he was tweeting, we did our best to track him down –”

“Would have been easier if he were in Manhattan,” Will adds.

“It would have,” Mackenzie agrees. “But again. We verified his eye witness account.”

“You want us to vet Twitter?” Don asks with an almightily surprised expression.

“No. Again, remember the Boston bombing? There were a lot of tweets and Facebook posts from people who were there, who were posting about what they were seeing?”

“We didn’t post those tweets either,” Jim points out.

“Or how social media solved the riddle of who the bombers were?” Don asks snidely.

“Well that too, is something that we need to take into consideration. My point is,” Mackenzie goes on, unperturbed. “Twitter can be a potential resource that needs careful consideration. We don’t just take what people are tweeting about at face value, just like we would never do that with any of our other sources, especially if they’re unknown. We need to trust what our sources are telling us, by investigating who are sources are.”

There are nods around the table, (except Will, who has gone back to sitting with his chin in his hand, watching her) but expressions aren’t confident.

One person tweets there’s an explosion in Time’s square, we go to reliable sources to confirm it. A hundred people tweet there’s an explosion in Time’s square, I’m inclined to believe it. Or they’re all enjoying a mass hallucination.”

She gets a polite chuckle.

“Twitter still has to live up to the Rules.” She’s suddenly concerned with the blank looks she receives. “News Night’s rules?” She queries. “Jesus, Jim, you’re still following the Rules right?” She turns to him.

“Yeah,” he nods.

“Come on, people! What are the three I’s of News Night?” Mackenzie tries to pump the crowd.

There’s a flurry of searching on phones and then most of them, with the exception of Franklin (and Sloan), start reading out ‘information we need in the voting booth’, ‘best possible form of the argument’, ‘historical context’ and ‘are there really two sides to the story’ at the same time.

“I’m glad to hear you include the A,” Mackenzie says loftily. “Ok, now, Neal is running our website, Kendra is going to senior produce our web news division, I’m going to hire a hundred more people to help staff them, and Jim is going to oversee them, but this is still a team effort,” Mackenzie explains, and she sees the surprise on just about everyone’s faces, except for Will, Neal and Jim (and Kelli, because Jim probably gave her a heads up about it), who she’s already talked to about the promotion.

“Is this to appease Pruit?” Don asks insightfully.

Mackenzie looks over at him. “This is to appease no one but me. I’m the news director. Though, he is right. The internet and social media are going to be a force to be reckoned with and we’re playing a little catch up here. We catch up, or we get left behind. We can’t just ignore it anymore.”

And she’ll be damned if she lets Charlie Skinner down.

She catches Will’s eye and she’s reminded of the heavy discussions they’ve had in the last few weeks about numbers, about advertising, about social media, about the internet. Don is right though. It is to appease Pruit. Well, at least some of it is, but she’s still going to do it on her terms. She’s not putting Twitter scrolls on News Night, but that doesn’t mean she can ignore the phenomenon entirely. It has to be a compromise.

And it’s going to be a hell of a negotiation.

Mackenzie looks back to the room. “This is a new era of journalism and I want ACN to be part of it. While we are a cable news network, we cannot ignore the fact that the internet is a predominant force in many people’s lives. I want us to reach the biggest audience we can, and we can do that with television and the internet. We can start a revolution in the way good, reporting news is accessed. Kendra and Neal are with me. Jim, Don and Sloan have no choice. Will, this has nothing to do with you, seeing as you’re the managing editor of our news broadcast. Who else is with me on this?”

“I’m totally with you,” Kelli says first. The others echo her loudly and enthusiastically and Mackenzie grins happily with the support she’s hearing, even though these guys might not really understand what it is they’re agreeing to. She catches Will’s eye again and he’s giving her a soft, proud smile that makes her ears feel hot.

“Ok, ok,” Mackenzie shushes them. “Any other relevant questions?”

“This isn’t relevant,” Gary speaks up. “But when are you leaving?”

The room goes very quiet and Mackenzie stares at him for a moment. “What do you mean ‘when am I leaving?’” She asks dully.

“I think he means, when are you taking maternity leave?” Will speaks up.

Mackenzie blinks for a moment. “That’s a very good question and I don’t… really have an answer yet,” her eyes flicker to her husband, who has also asked that question.

“It is going to be maternity leave?” Gary asks next.

There’s another second of worried silence. Will raises his eyebrows at Mackenzie.

“Of course,” she says, but she doesn’t sound confident. “Guys, it’s months away. Let’s not worry about it just yet. If you have any ideas or more questions about the website… Jim’s door is open.” She gestures to him and he gives an almost embarrassed smile. “We’re going to launch this thing soon, but for now –” She pauses for dramatic effect. “Go and do some work. We’re going to have a million more meetings on this, but for now, go and do the news.” She turns to Neal and Kendra, who helpfully sat next to each other for this meeting. “Except you, I want to talk to you two for just a second.”

They nod.

Mackenzie looks up to see Don flash her a thumbs up and she gives him a slight nod too. She didn’t really plan on talking to the staff about this now, or this way, but it’s worked out ok, and they can all go away and think about it now. And it feels good to not be so alone.

 

**********

 

It’s not until Mackenzie gets back to her office that she remembers Pruit wanted to see her about something. She backtracks out of her office door and heads down the corridors to find him, half-hoping he’s not going to be at his desk. She wonders if it’s his intention to stay in this building. He has other businesses. Is he going to run them from this office for the rest of forever? Or can she hope that eventually he’ll move on to another project and stop breathing down her neck?

He’s at his desk and he waves her in, acting as though he’s annoyed she’s interrupted him.

“You wanted to see me?” Mackenzie reminds him but it doesn’t change his demeanour and she suppresses a sigh as she crosses his office to take a seat opposite his desk. She prepares for an argument as she puts her folder on the edge of his work station and looks over at him expectantly. Her buoyancy from her meeting with the News Night team starts to trickle out of a tiny hole in her resilience.

“I want to know what’s happening with the website,” Pruit turns to his computer screen and clicks to bring up the News Night webpage. “I can’t see anything on here from Twitter or Instagram or Tumblr.”

“That’s right,” Mackenzie says simply.

“When’s that going to be fixed?” Pruit gives her a steady expression.

Bloody never, if I had my way.’

“I’m working with Neal and his team to get something up soon,” she responds diplomatically.

“Who the fuck is Neal?”

“Neal is the senior editor of ACN digital and he and I have been having conversations about how we’re going to use Twitter in –”

“Get a fucking timeline up.” Pruit gives her an open expression. “Simple.”

“Ok, first of all, this is not simple in the slightest,” Mackenzie frowns. “We can’t just go ahead and put up an entire stream of conversation that hasn’t been moderated under ACN’s banner.”

“So you’re editing the news?”

Twitter, is not, news,” Mackenzie says sharply.

“I’ve told you, I want ACN to develop citizen journalism!”

“Ugh!” Mackenzie cries out in frustration.

“What I don’t understand is what’s taking so fucking long,” Pruit goes on, ignoring her outburst.

“I’ve already told you! we’re not engaging in fucking –!”

“And I fucking told you, this company –!”

“Is not journalism!” Mackenzie stresses. “Journalism is a professional –”

“Oh get down off your goddamn –”

“Everyone down there in that newsroom has at least –”

“The definition of journalism is change –”

“An undergraduate degree in journalism!” Mackenzie just about explodes. She feels her cheeks flame and the baby gives a sharp somersault.

Pruit slams his hand down on his desk, “Lady, you gotta get with the times.”

“I am getting with the times! But I’m not in the business of repeating gossip. Journalism has a process.

“A fucking glacial –”

Not glacial,” Mackenzie cuts in. “Jesus fucking Christ, if you gave me half a minute to explain to you what Neal and I have been talking about –”

“Well go ahead,” Pruit spreads his hands in an open gesture, but he glares at her. “I’m listening.”

The first thing Mackenzie thinks, is that she needs the bathroom. But she highly doubts he’ll give her a five minute recess. And while she’s wondering if she can get through another half hour of debate with her boss without peeing her pants, she also wonders where she’s going to start with her website ideas. If he doesn’t have the same definition of journalistic integrity as she does, how is he going to see her thoughts as careful compromise, and not complete defiance?

She wonders if Pruit is ever going to trust her.

Chapter Text

September 5th 2013

Thursday

 

Mackenzie sits, jigging her leg, and it draws Will’s attention for two reasons. The first, is that it’s movement, and movement always draws the eye. It’s why emergency lights and signals flash. The second, is that Mackenzie isn’t prone to nervous fidgeting. She doesn’t tend to twist her wedding band, pick at a fingernail, bite her lip, tap or jig or twitch. Sometimes, she gets very talkative, which is more related to a nervous excitement. But today she’s quiet, and her heel is tattooing the carpet.

Will’s tempted to reach out and still her with a hand on her knee, but, even though they’re coming to therapy to figure each other out, he does already know that sometimes it’s best to not poke a sleeping bear. And he doesn’t want to go into their first session with the marriage counsellor having upset his wife further. Not that he’s upset her in particular. It’s just that he knows she’s uneasy about being here and he doesn’t know how to make that better for her. And sometimes his attempts at comfort get taken the wrong way and she ends up more annoyed with him than usual. Which is exactly why they’re here, in marriage counselling.

Will arrived before Mackenzie, who came from work. She was on the phone when she came in, and she shot him a quick glance of ‘hello’ before taking a seat next to him, and finishing her conversation. There’s music playing in the reception area, but it wasn’t loud enough to drown out her conversation. Whoever she was talking to was getting a very impassioned discussion about election coverage, and while Will wasn’t trying to listen in, he wonders where in the world there’s an election taking place. Sometimes, when it comes to Mackenzie, he feels so out of the loop.

After that, they sat in silence.

They still are, waiting on Dr Johnson to finish with his clients (or whatever he’s doing) in the next room. The young man sitting at the reception desk politely recorded their arrival and then has gone on with his own work, ignoring them completely, but not in a hostile way. Will tries to think of something to say to his wife to break the slight tension. He can’t ask about work though, not with someone else in the room, even if that someone is pretending they’re not really there. And of course he can’t ask her if she’s nervous, or about how she’s feeling, for the same reason. There’s someone else in the room. Finally, he just reaches for her hand, and she gives him a slight smile as their fingers interlock.

The door opposite them opens and a blond-haired woman comes out in a black pencil skirt and dark blue, short-sleeved, button down shirt. She’s kind of pretty (not that Will’s looking for that kind of thing). She gives them a smile too. “Will and Mackenzie?”

Will is surprised. He thought Dr Johnson was a man. He erroneously assumed. He gets to his feet and Mackenzie does the same and they walk into the next office, still hand in hand. Until Dr Johnson introduces herself, and then they disentangle to each shake her hand, giving their first names quietly, as if they need to identify who is who. Will doesn’t feel as nervous as Mackenzie must. Seeing a therapist is not new for him. But he doesn’t quite know what to expect. He hasn’t had counselling with someone else before. And Dr Johnson is a woman. So he’s thrown a little. Not that he has a problem with a woman being their marriage counsellor. He was just prepared for one thing and now here’s another.

Never mind.

It doesn’t matter. He’s here and he’s willing and he just hopes Mackenzie feels the same way. She says she does, when they talk about it, but then there’s the leg jigging, and maybe he shouldn’t read so much into it. Dr Johnson suggests they take a seat and Will waits for Mackenzie to choose where she wants to sit, closest to the door, or in the other armchair, closer to the window. She chooses the left, by the door, even though his armchair has a cushion on it. He reaches for it and gives it to his wife, who gives him a wan smile and tucks it into her back. She folds her hands over the bump of the baby (protective) and Will takes his seat next to her. Dr Johnson is waiting for them, an open expression on her face, notepad on her lap and pen resting on top. When Will is settled she starts. “What can I do for you today?”

Will looks over to Mackenzie, whose dark eyes meet his and even though she doesn’t say it, he knows she’s thinking ‘well you brought us here, so you go’. He looks back to the doctor. “We –” He hesitates. It shouldn’t be so hard but he doesn’t want to say ‘we fight a lot’ which is what has brought them here, in the end. Instead he says, “We recently got married and we… We want to make sure we get it right. Marriage,” he adds hurriedly, to make sure there’s no confusion about their decision to get married. If that’s what it sounded like.

Dr Johnson gives a slight nod, a slight smile, looking between them, saying she understands. Will can feel Mackenzie looking at her lap and he wonders again if he’s made the wrong move, pushing her to do this. She has a lot going on at work, and the fights with Pruit seem to have started again over the website (or never really ceased). And then he reminds himself that she warmly agreed (as opposed to coldly agreed) and has affirmed it over and over the last few weeks: she wants to do this and he has got to stop obsessing about it and second guessing his wife.

“That’s a great decision,” Dr Johnson speaks when neither of them do. “Plenty of couples come to a marriage counsellor to make their relationship stronger. It doesn’t always have to be about a crisis.”

Will glances over at his wife, and she looks up at him, a flicker of her lips telling him she’s trying to smile in a reassuring way (but just can’t quite get there).

“Are there any areas you’d like to work on in particular?” Johnson asks.

Mackenzie looks down to her lap again, her signal that Will should continue to answer these questions. He wonders if she can’t, or that she doesn’t want to. He looks back to the therapist, who raises her eyebrows at him in a friendly way, inviting him to speak. “Well, we’d like to –” He hesitates again. He doesn’t want to say ‘we fight a lot and we want it to stop but don’t seem to know how’ and he’s conscious of his wife sitting next to him, already tense, and he doesn’t want to upset her… There’s honesty and then there’s brutal truth and he wants to protect her, in all ways, and this is a lot harder than he thought it was going to be. He should have known. Habib makes him articulate his feelings too.

“We’d like to be able to communicate with each other without…” He feels Mackenzie glance at him and he finally just releases the breath he’s been holding and looks to his wife and blurts: “Without fighting.”

Mackenzie doesn’t correct him.

Will looks over at the therapist again. “Ok,” she nods.

“And we just don’t –” Will looks over at his wife, who half glances at him. “We don’t know how to do that.”

Dr Johnson nods again. “Mackenzie?” She prompts. “Is that something you agree with?”

Mackenzie finally looks over at the other woman and nods, even while she glances at Will again. “Yes,” she says to the therapist, and then suddenly she’s crying. She gives her sob/laugh (which Will sometimes thinks is because she’s surprised at herself for the tears) and shakes her head. “Sorry, it’s just – hormones.”

Will reaches for the tissues on the table in front of them, the barrier between them and the therapist and offers her one. She gives him a more grateful smile as she takes a leaf and dabs at her cheeks delicately, then her nose, trying to be inconspicuous.

“When are you due?” Dr Johnson asks kindly.

“The end of January,” Mackenzie answers confidently. “I’m nearly nineteen weeks – eighteen and a half weeks.”

Dr Johnson gives her a smile. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” Mackenzie says.

“Is the baby something you fight about?”

Mackenzie’s expression quickly turns to horrified and she looks over at Will. “No,” she says, her eyes wide. “We don’t really fight about the baby.”

Which Will supposes is true. But they still have a lot to figure out and so far most of their conversations about the baby have been about furniture (although, they did get through the amnio discussion very, very carefully – not about having one, but what they would do with the information once they got it). And the other reason they don’t fight about the baby is because they’ve avoided any other major conversations about him for fear of fighting, instead of having a discussion. But still, it’s nice that they haven’t fought about their kid. That that one thing is safe.

“Ok,” Dr Johnson says neutrally. “We can come back to it. I know this can seem like a scary position to find yourself in, but you’ve taken the first step, which is coming through that door.” She gestures to it. “So let me explain what kind of therapy I do here, and we’ll get to know each other a bit and see if you feel comfortable working with me.” She raises her eyebrows in question, asking if they agree to that and Will and Mackenzie nod in unison. Mackenzie sniffles and Will reaches out to rub her arm. She takes his hand and he’s sitting close enough to her that he doesn’t have to stretch, even when she puts his hand in her lap.

“You may be aware of attachment theories?” Dr Johnson starts. They stare at her blankly. “The original research was in children, and secure attachments to their parents.” Still blank stares. Will gets a prickly feeling that he really has no clue about children at all. “And that a secure attachment results in a confident and well-adjusted adult?”

Mackenzie’s eyes flicker over to Will and he looks back at her, a silent ‘no, I have no idea either’.

“Ok, quickly, a child that has a secure attachment with a parent is able to step away from the family home and explore their world independently, but know they are able to rely on their parents when they need to. The idea is that they are deeply supported, nurtured and protected, and therefore grow up confident, and emotionally secure. They’re able to form healthy relationships with other people, while knowing they always have their familial base to fall back on. And for that to result, the parent bond with the child has to be attentive and responsive to all emotional needs.”

Mackenzie turns her head to Will, and murmurs, “I want to look into that.”

He nods in response, because he totally agrees. It’s a million miles from the way his parents raised him, if they even did that at all. He didn’t feel he was supported by his parents. He didn’t feel like he could rely on them. He didn’t feel like they were there for him at all. They fed him, clothed him, and put a roof over his head, but that was about it. Most of the time he didn’t feel loved or supported or nurtured, and when his father hit him, he definitely felt like an unworthy person; an unwanted burden. If he can give his child the absolute opposite of that, then he will. He squeezes his wife’s hand.

“Newer research is looking into the attachment bond in adult connections, typically romantic relationships,” Dr Johnson goes on. “Ultimately, most couples want to know that their partner is there for them; emotionally and physically, and is nurturing, soothing, and will protect them. In much the same way as a parent does with their child; unconditionally. Essentially, what we’re talking about here is creating a secure attachment to your partner. Being dependent on your partner isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as that dependency is healthy and new evidence is showing that secure, close connections to our partners is actually a source of strength.”

Will feels his heart beating a little harder.

“We can most definitely talk about effective and respectful communication, because that is important, especially for you, with a baby on the way.” She makes a note on the clean sheet of notepad in her lap. “But I’m not going to teach you how to win an argument.” She looks at each of them in turn. “I’m going to give you the skills to be emotionally available, and responsive to each other’s deep emotional needs. Which can include learning to articulate your feelings and have constructive discussions that can lead to solutions you’re both happy with.”

Will glances at Mackenzie, who is not quite looking at the therapist, but is nodding slightly.

“I’m going to help you to understand each other’s coping styles and communication styles, so you can resolve conflict while still supporting each other.” Doctor Johnson pauses. “Because, ultimately, at the end of the day, you want to know that you’re there for each other, that you matter to each other, and that you will respond to each other’s needs. Does that sound like something you’re interested in?”

“Yes,” Will says immediately.

“Yes,” Mackenzie agrees a second later.

“Our emotions are our signals for what we’re feeling and thinking. Here, we’re not going to mask them or try to rationalise them away, we’re going to acknowledge them, and listen to them, and shape them into safer expressions and connections. If you’re able to listen to your emotions, and speak your needs in a way that helps your partner tune in and respond, then your chances of moving out of distress are very high. Research is showing seven out of ten couples are able to do this in emotionally focused therapy, which is what I practice here.” She pauses. “So, are you both willing and committed to doing the work over the next six weeks?”

“Yes,” Will says almost straight away again.

“Yes,” Mackenzie confirms, almost a second later. 

“Ok,” the therapist says with a slight smile. “So why don’t you tell me about yourselves? How long have you been married?”

 

Chapter Text

Will proudly answers ‘five months’ but it’s Mackenzie who takes over and tells the story of how they met, how they ended up dating, how they broke up, and eventually got back together. It makes for a good story, a fiction that seems more befitting a movie or a novel, but it’s theirs and she shoots Will warm smiles and cups his hand in her lap as she talks about the happier times, and quickly glosses over the years they were apart. There’s no need to rehash the Brian bullshit in any detail, and it seems less important why they broke up compared to the fact that they eventually got back together. The politest way to put it is: Will ended it because he didn’t think Mackenzie was as committed to their relationship as he was. Which is not a lie, even if colourfully described.

They explain their work dynamic a little but the hour goes by quickly. Dr Johnson, to their surprise, explains the next two sessions will be done individually and asks who would like to go first. Mackenzie quickly volunteers, which startles Will and immediately begins him on wondering on why. Habib has him working on being less paranoid about other people’s intentions (as in, assuming automatically that it’s something bad), but when it comes to Mackenzie, it’s so much harder to do.

As they head out, Mackenzie checks her phone. She hangs onto Will’s arm while she types out a message as they go down the stairs to the street, and he makes sure they go slowly so she doesn’t slip and fall. He guides her to stand by a shop front while he waits for her to finish typing and when she does she looks up, shaking her hair from her eyes. It’s gotten even longer; he’s sure now she hasn’t found the time to go for a haircut.

“What did you think?” Mackenzie asks first, taking the words from his mouth.

“I thought it was – well it’s only the first session.”

“But did you like her?”

“Yeah she seems –”

“I liked her.”

“That’s good,” Will enthuses gently. He feels relieved at her positive post-event analysis.

“Young though.”

“Does that matter?”

“No,” she squints at him. “I don’t know. What do you want to do now?”

“Don’t you have to go back to work?” Will asks, shaking his watch free of his sleeve to see the time.

“Yeah probably, but I’m hungry. Want to get lunch?”

“Sure,” Will agrees. He’s meant to be back at work too, but if he’s out with the boss he can’t possibly get in trouble for being tardy.

“What’s near here?” Mackenzie muses as she slips her phone into her purse, and then takes his arm as they step out into the pedestrian traffic.

 

**********

 

“Thank you for feeding me,” Mackenzie says, as they finish their dinner. The newsroom is loud behind Will’s closed office door and they’ve been interrupted once by Jenna who needed to check a word in Will’s copy that was apparently illegible.

“My pleasure,” Will answers, stacking up their take-out containers to put in the trash.

Mackenzie swallows the last mouthful of water and gives him the empty bottle. “You know what I was thinking about today?”

“No,” Will says absently, as he fills the receptacle under his desk.

“Sex,” Mackenzie says bluntly and laughs as Will’s head jerks up to look at her, his face full of surprise. “Want to have sex tonight? I know it’s outside of our schedule but do you think you’d be up for it?” Her eyes flicker to his groin and he gets her point immediately.

“I’m not that old,” he frowns at her, his voice almost a growl. Yes, he needs more recovery time, but five days of it should be quite enough. Mackenzie laughs as he goes to the rack to get his suit for broadcast. “And yes,” he adds, before going to the bathroom to change. “I would.”

Mackenzie gets to her feet, having to steady herself with a hand to the back of her chair before following after him. “I think I’m going to have to give up wearing my shoes,” she pouts as she goes into the other room. Will has his shirt off, and he gives her another surprised expression as she hops to sit on the vanity.

“What’s wrong with your shoes?” He asks, looking at them while he slips into the clean, crisp, white shirt.

“I feel wobbly in them,” Mackenzie sighs, watching him button the shirt carefully, checking to see he’s lined up the right buttons into the right holes.

“Is that because of the baby?” Will asks, slipping out of his pants.

“Hm,” Mackenzie agrees, checking him out. He turns his back on her to get his suit pants, and slips them on. She has a sudden thought of screwing him in the suit, right now, here, on the vanity, but he’d never go for that. He does look very handsome in a suit though.

“That’s a big step, giving up on your shoes,” Will says, turning back to her as he tucks the shirt into his pants.

“I’m not giving up on them,” Mackenzie counters. “Just temporarily retiring.”

“You’d have to switch them out anyway, when it starts to snow,” he zips the fly on his pants and does up the button.

“I could still wear them inside,” Mackenzie says wistfully. Will finishes with his trousers and reaches for his tie. Mackenzie gestures to him to come closer, and he does. She takes the tie from his hands and puts it around his neck, adjusting each side for the perfect length. Then she starts tying the tie slowly and carefully, because she’s doing it in reverse.

“That one under,” Will directs gently, resting his hands on her waist. The heat from his skin absorbs through her thin shirt quickly. He lifts his chin when she needs to tuck one length through the knot she’s made. “Are you really ok with today?” Will asks, his voice strained because of the angle of his throat.

“Yes,” Mackenzie says evenly. He’s asked and asked and asked and she hopes one day he’ll take her word for it the first time she gives it. She knows, she knows, he has issues, but he’s got to start trusting her implicitly at some point. Things get better all the time, but there are no miracle cures. It’s not possible to undo a lifetime of abusive parenting in a few months. They’re just off track, she tells herself again, to explain the strangeness she sometimes feels (even though she tries hard to overcome it), when she’s with him, and he doubts her.

“It’s going to be great, Will,” she adds, tugging the length of material down to finish the knot. She adjusts it up and then leaves him to tighten it against his throat. She drops her hands to his waist, lightly gripping his freshly pressed shirt. Will shrugs the knot up higher and turns down his collar and then stands for inspection. Mackenzie straightens the knot. “Not bad, if I do say so myself,” she says lightly.

Will leans around her to see in the mirror and gives a nod of approval. Mackenzie grips the tie and tugs his mouth to hers, giving him a soft kiss. “I love you, Will,” she says simply. And one day, that will be enough for him, to just know that she loves him. That will be enough.

“I love you too,” Will murmurs against her mouth. He presses his lips against hers for another second before stepping back for his suit jacket.

Mackenzie wiggles to the edge of the vanity and lets herself down gently. “I’m going to go shopping for shoes,” she announces.

“Right now?” Will asks, tugging his own shoes back on.

“Yes right now. I’ve done enough work for today,” Mackenzie says, checking her reflection in the large mirror. She combs her fingers through her hair, smoothing out a few stray strands.

“So long as you don’t drag me to the store on the weekend,” Will says, coming to stand next to her, adjusting his tie again and checking his sleeves.

“I have to try them on, Billy.”

Will gives her a pained expression in the mirror but Mackenzie just grins at him. “I’ll make it up to you in advance,” she teases and gooses his ass before walking out of the bathroom.

 

**********

 

While Will broadcasts the news, Mackenzie uses his computer to look at shoes. And then she looks into attachment theory. The research is thorough but ongoing, and seems to back what Dr Johnson was talking about earlier that day. She’s absolutely intrigued by the idea that she can consciously take actions and do behaviours that would give her child the best, backed by scientific research, emotionally and psychologically healthy start in the world. It’s not so much that she felt her childhood was horrible, but she does recall long stretches of growing up where she felt confused and isolated and alone (busy parents and a lot of siblings), and she knows if she were raised differently, there would have been a really good chance she would have felt no need to go crawling back to Brian’s bed when he beckoned (she doesn’t care if Habib says it’s ‘normal’). And while it’s shameful for her to think about how idiotic and insecure she was at that time (she has her share of issues too, it seems), mostly, she thinks about how much heartache she could have saved Will (and herself, but mostly Will), if she were just a stronger, more emotionally adjusted person (and she thinks she must not be that well-adjusted, because, look at the Brian thing, but also, look what’s happening with her and Will).

Before now, before all of that happened, before she actually got pregnant herself, she hadn’t put much thought into parenting, about how she would want to raise her children. Like her parents, and probably Will’s too, she thought being a parent was something to figure out as she went along (and there will be aspects of it that she absolutely will figure out as she goes along). She thought she’d be a good mother because she loves, and wouldn’t that be enough? And yes it is, but doesn’t love motivate her to do all these things for Will, to make sure he’s happy (well, getting there) and knows explicitly that she loves him and that she’s there for him? Isn’t that why they’re going to a marriage counsellor? And isn’t that exactly what the marriage counsellor also told them? Why wouldn’t she do that for her son? He’s just as much a person as Will is, or she is, and she has a huge responsibility to take care of her baby, who will become a child and a teenager and an adult, and if she could do everything in her power to make sure that kid knew they were loved, and supported, (really knew it, not just assumed he was because he has parents) then wouldn’t she?

Information is power, and isn’t she all about a well informed electorate?

They don’t have to follow any of this attachment parenting verbatim, but does it not hurt to look? To be informed and to make conscious decisions? Because children don’t get to choose their parents, and Christ Almighty this is freaking her out right now. It feels so enormous. She needs to put this all away and sleep on it (and inevitably, talk to her husband about it).

“You’re a million miles away,” Will says and Mackenzie looks up, surprised to see him standing before her, loosening his tie.

“Yeah, I uh…”

“You ok?” He asks, walking around his desk.

“Yeah,” she gives him a bland smile. “Just thinking.”

Will studies her a second and then gives a nod, undoing the button at this throat. And when she says nothing more, he goes into the other room to change. Mackenzie closes out all the pages she was reading on his internet browser and then shuts the computer down. When her husband comes back, Mackenzie asks him why there was an overly large pause before the start of the B block.

“Nothing gets by you,” Will says as he puts his suit on the table opposite his desk for the intern to pick up later.

“Nope,” Mackenzie agrees loftily, approaching where he’s standing.

“Technical something,” Will answers and leans in to give her a kiss. “Home?”

“Yes home,” Mackenzie confirms, feeling suddenly wary.

 

**********

 

“We don’t have sex on a schedule, do we?” Will murmurs low against her ear before pressing his mouth to the side of her neck. He’s craning right over to do it, as their building’s elevator goes up. He feathers kisses against her skin, making her feel hot. Mackenzie feels his hand brush against hers. She grabs his fingers, thinks of all the things they can do to her, and lets out a happy sigh.

“Saturday morning and sometime on Sunday?” She queries lightly. Will gives a grunt. “I’m happy we’re having sex,” Mackenzie states. The elevator car stops and the doors ping open. Will straightens up quickly, but at this time of night, who’s going to be around to catch them?

Mackenzie steps out into the hallway, leading her husband by the hand behind her. She unlocks their apartment door and goes in, having to let go of his hand, but after she dumps her bag she can feel him close behind her, his hand on the side of her hip. She turns within his arms and wraps hers around his neck, drawing his head down so she can kiss him again. Soft, sweet kisses that make her smile and feel warm. Will kisses her neck again and she slides her hands beneath his tee, scratching her nails lightly against the edges of his ribs.

“Where do you want to do this?” He asks, almost a whisper.

“Bedroom,” Mackenzie answers.

 

**********

 

Will shifts to curl at Mackenzie’s back and she gives a happy hum. His arm crosses her waist, his hand resting on the mattress beside her, to frame her. She takes his hand and moves it to her stomach, placing his palm over the swell of the baby. Will kisses her shoulder and Mackenzie gives another pleased hum. “Sleepy,” she says.

“Well it’s late,” Will points out. “You’re on my side of the bed.”

“You made a mess on mine.”

She imagines that he grins. It takes him a second to come up with a comeback, and it’s a good one when he does. “If you get up,” he cajoles softly. “I’ll change the sheets.”

“A whole day early?”

“Uh huh,” he nudges her shoulder with his nose.

“Oh, you sure know how to treat a girl.”

She hears him chuckle this time.

“Come on,” he withdraws his hand. She feels him prop himself up on an elbow behind her. “Shower and then sleep.”

“Hmmmm,” Mackenzie half whines, but she stretches out and turns over to hook an arm around his neck and plants an open mouthed kiss on his lips. And then she turns back and rolls off the mattress. She saunters around the bed, not checking to see if he’s watching, but knowing that he probably is, and heads into the shower. He joins her just as she’s ready to get out, so they swap places and when she gets back to the bedroom, she can see he has indeed changed the sheets. She slips on underwear and grabs clean pyjamas (her pyjama pants, but one of Will’s old tees) and gets into bed. She settles and waits for her husband to come back. She hears the pop of the light switch before he carefully opens the bedroom door, but she still has the bedside lights on and he quickly gives up on being quiet when he sees that she’s actually still awake.

“You’re a wonderful man,” Mackenzie says from her pillow, her eyes following him around the room as he dresses as well.

“Thank you,” Will says, looking surprised for a second, but then pleased. He disappears into the wardrobe for a moment to put pants on. “You’re easy to please.”

Mackenzie turns over to her side and buries her face in her pillow. She can’t think of a pithy remark about pleasing her in bed, and changing the bed sheets. She’s too satiated, really. Can’t be bothered. She feels the slight dip of the mattress next to her as her husband gets into bed (more sensing that he’s there, than any actual movement. Will does have, after all, the best no roll-between mattress money can buy). She shifts her head to see him reaching to put out the light on his side, and then he leans over her carefully to put out hers. She waits until he’s shifted to lie down, then unfurls to snuggle against him. “Today was a good day,” she says.

“Yeah,” Will agrees, repositioning her hand over his heart. “It was.”

“I’m glad,” Mackenzie says. “Goodnight.”

“Night, honey.”

 

Chapter Text

September 9th 2013

Monday

 

Will wakes slowly, forcing himself, feeling like he needs more sleep, but worrying about what time it is, instinctually fearing he’s overslept. He rolls to look at his phone and it’s nearly ten. Jesus. He throws back the cover and gets up to make sure he doesn’t fall back asleep. And also, he has to hurry up and get ready for work, otherwise he’s going to be late. He knows Mackenzie had trouble sleeping last night, and he did too, but he was reluctant to speak to her, in case they talked too long into the night and stopped themselves from sleeping at all. It’s happened before. 

He rushes through his shower, and dresses quickly, opts for a quick piece of toast before leaving the apartment. He picks up coffee on his way to the office and makes it there in a respectable amount of time. He doesn’t like the way his heart pounds though and isn’t sure if it’s the caffeine, adrenaline, or his faulty valve (and the accompanying dread that immediately follows when he reminds himself that he’s got to tell his wife about it, and every day he doesn’t, he compounds the hurt she’s eventually going to feel).

As he walks into the bullpen of the newsroom, he sees Mackenzie in the conference room, along with most of the rest of the News Night staff. He checks his watch, but no, he’s on time, so what’s she doing sitting in on the first pitch meeting? Has something broken? He simultaneously checks his phone and walks towards the conference room, but he doesn’t have enough time to get to the news alerts before he reaches the door. He fumbles with trying to open it while also holding his phone and his coffee. His blackberry clunks loudly into the glass and falls out of his hand. He successfully disrupts the meeting, and everyone stares at him. He stoops to pick the device up, slides it into his pocket, pulls open the door and goes in, to silence.

“Good morning,” Mackenzie offers after a beat, from across the table, looking amused (and adorable).

“Carry on,” Will says and goes to take his place at the opposite end of the table, trying not to show that he’s embarrassed.

Kelli picks up where Will interrupted, finishing reading a short blurb updating the room on the current situation in Syria (John Kerry suggesting a military strike against the country could be averted if Assad agrees to hand over all chemical weapons). Will tries to catch Mackenzie’s eye, but she’s more focussed on her phone, replying to a message. He knows she’s listening though and it’s funny to see Jim apparently nervous that she’s there in his pitch meeting (the lip licking, the furtive glances, the tapping of a dry erase marker on the table top). Will sips his coffee and sits back and listens, waiting for the situation to unfold.

“And of course, we’ve got the nine-eleven anniversary coming up this week,” Jim moves the meeting along, once Kelli is done reading her blurb.

‘Ah,’ Will thinks. This will be why Mackenzie is here.

“Can we really bring anything new to it?” Kendra asks from halfway down the table.

“No,” Mackenzie leans forward to make eye contact with the other woman. “And we’re not going to try.”

“Are we going to tie it to Syria?” Martin asks.

“How do you make that link?” Kendra challenges.

“Aren’t some of the rebel groups terrorist cells?” Martin responds.

“What does that have to do with nine-eleven?” Tamara asks innocently.

“If you can get sources to confirm that, we can have a conversation,” Jim says to Martin, preventing him from explaining his logic.

“We’re not going to spend the anniversary discussing Syria,” Will says.

Mackenzie shoots him a hapless expression down the table that he doesn’t understand. “Of course not,” she says. “We’re going to acknowledge the anniversary with respect but we’re not going to use it as a platform for launching into global political debates,” she says with finality. “What we are going to use nine-eleven for, is to launch the news-hub.”

“The what?” Will asks.

“The news-hub,” Mackenzie repeats airily. “We’re going to use nine-eleven to bridge our news broadcasts and the website.”

Around the table are interested and excited smiles and Will wants to feel the same way but he can’t quite get there. It’s partly his depression, which supresses his ability to feel much more than neutral most of the time, and partly that he doesn’t quite understand how it’s going to work. But luckily for him, Neal has his prototype ready, and he’s going to show them all. The young man is eagerly out of his seat to switch on the screen linked to his laptop that has the template website loaded. He walks them through it, shows them the tabs for News Night and Right Now. Takes them through the menus where they can find documents, extended interviews (pre-tapes, or pre-interviews, clips of interviews from the live broadcasts), and extended footage. Will can’t imagine anyone being interested enough to sit through twenty painful minutes of coaxed pre-interview, when they could get the edited thirty second sound bite at the end of it, but this is not his project to condemn.

He wonders if there are limits on how much content they can load to the internet. He doesn’t entirely understand it, suspects it’s unlimited, but knows that they have to buy their corner of it, and wonders at what cost. He wonders how on board Pruit is with this. He missed a lot of Pruit while in prison, and has had hardly a thing to do with the man since he got out. Surely Mackenzie ran it by him? She says their relationship is tentatively respectful, which Will figures is a step up from ‘completely fraught’.

Halfway through Neal’s demonstration, Will realises he doesn’t actually have to stay for any of this, seeing as it’s been made clear to him that the website news-hub isn’t going to be his concern (although, he might have a case for saying that it is, because some content that doesn’t make it to broadcast will end up under the News Night banner on the website, and he’s the managing editor of News Night, so he should get a say), but walking out now would be rude, and could be construed as his disapproval. Besides, if it’s Mackenzie’s project (and she looks really proud of it), he’ll support it.

He does have to admit, the new layout does look pretty cool, as far as news websites go, and it’s really straightforward to navigate (he thinks even he could manage it). He just can’t fathom people caring enough to look through it all. They have a tough time trying to engage more than their million and a half viewers (he uses that number tentatively). And he does half agree with making journalism more transparent. If people understand the process, they might respect it a little more?

 

**********

 

11th September 2013

Wednesday

 

“We went to see Dr Johnson last week,” Will says.

“How did that go?” Habib asks genially.

Will notices a new picture frame on the doctor’s desk, but it’s angled away from him, so he cannot see what is in it. “It was fine.”

“Fine,” Habib repeats neutrally. And then he raises his eyebrows and gives Will a ‘look’ – yeah, yeah, he knows. They’ve been doing this dance for too long for Will to think he can get away with that.

“It was good, I think. It was only one session. But I liked Dr Johnson. She’s a woman. Did you know that?” Will elaborates.

“Yeah,” Habib says easily. “I knew that. You didn’t know that?” He almost teases.

“Her name is Harley. I assumed.”

“You assumed wrong.”

“I know.”

“Does it matter?”

“No,” Will says.

“Then why are we talking about it?” Habib challenges lightly.

Will gives a sigh. “So I can delay talking about the thing that’s really bothering me.”

“And what is the thing that’s really bothering you?” Habib prompts.

“Our next two sessions are individual. So we can talk – I don’t know. Mackenzie volunteered to go first.”

Habib sits silently for a moment, giving a slight nod. When Will doesn’t expand on that, he asks why it’s bothering Will.

“She volunteered to go first,” Will repeats, as if that clarifies it entirely. “She volunteered. Practically leapt at the chance.”

Habib narrows his eyes, and tilts his head slightly: still not getting it. Or pretending not to, to make Will explain it.

“She was so opposed to going in the first place, and then all of a sudden she’s highly enthusiastic.”

“She agreed to go with you, didn’t she?”

“Yes.”

“Then she can’t have been entirely opposed.”

Will purses his lips. “She wasn’t really – when I first brought it up, she didn’t exactly – she had her reservations.”

“Did you ask her why she wanted to go first?”

“Of course not.”

“Why not?” Habib asks gently, but he already knows the answer.

Will fixes him with a stare, but his resolve doesn’t hold out long. What is even the point? He sighs again and looks away to the bookshelf, then back, taking that extra second to figure out how he wants to phrase it. “We’re not in that place yet where we can talk about the emotional things.”

“When do you expect to be there?”

“Kind of hoping the marriage counselling will help,” Will says glibly.

Habib considers that. “You told Mackenzie about your depression, right?”

Here we go,’ Will thinks. “Yes,” he says aloud. “I get it, I just don’t want to rock the boat. With the baby –”

“And her job and so on, yes, I’ve heard the excuses.”

Will purses his lips again. Well that was fair. He looks down at his hand, resting on the arm of his chair. His wedding ring is still bright, and now that he thinks about it, he’s gotten used to wearing it very easily. He doesn’t even think about it. “I’m scared to ask her,” Will finally admits.

“Because?”

“I’m scared of what she might say.”

“Can it be any worse that what you’ve already concocted in your mind?”

Will considers that objectively. “Probably not,” he says softly.

“Isn’t half the reason you’re going to a marriage counsellor is to get all of those things out of the way before your son is born?”

“Well…”

“So, wouldn’t you want to know anything that concerns her, even if it’s about you? So you can deal with it?”

Will gives a pout of his mouth.

“How are you ever going to get there, if you never start?”

Well. Shit a brick.

“Yeah,” Will says. “Yeah.”

 

Chapter Text

Mackenzie’s request for dinner was vegetables. Which seems vague, but Will knows what she means instinctively. They eat a lot of take out. If they do get vegetables, they’re usually coated in some sauce, and while he enjoys overdoses of fats and sugars, sometimes he also just feels like something fresh. Like salad. Or vegetables. And so he’s called down to a restaurant he knows will deliver for him if he over-tips the entire establishment (he used to take dates there, when he bothered with doing that, and rack up a rather large bill). He wants the best for his wife, so if she requests vegetables, then he’s going to get the freshest, most perfectly steamed vegetables, with a side of garlic butter, that he can get in New York.

“Hi,” Mackenzie breezes into his office. Will, who was standing by his desk, on the side closest to the door, putting his phone down, turns to catch her hand. “Hey,” she gives him a smile. He tugs her along with him as he closes his office door and then stands with his back to the bustling newsroom and takes her other hand. Mackenzie gives him an open, but curious expression.

“I just wanted to say, I think you’re brilliant.”

Mackenzie gives him an amused smile. “Thank you,” she says, sounding entertained but cautious.

“The website idea,” Will clarifies, trying not to be annoyed that she’s not taking him seriously. Annoyed at himself, because clearly he doesn’t do this enough for her to know that it’s real. And that’s not a license to take his irritation out on her. “I think it’s really impressive.” Now that he’s heard (and seen) all the little pieces together in one entirety.

Mackenzie’s smile becomes a bit more genuine, but her eyes shade worry. “Do you think so?”

“Yeah,” Will nods. Isn’t that exactly what he just said?

“I’m really just trying to find something –” She stops herself and sighs and for a second, she looks vulnerable and Will thinks she must be under an amount of pressure she doesn’t let him privy to. He wants to know, he wants her to unburden herself, but to be fair, he doesn’t do that with her, so how is she ever going to trust him?

She doesn’t finish her sentence and it doesn’t matter. She talked to him about her website idea as she was working it out and so he has to give her credit for having more balls to include him in her life than he has in his. He has got to stop being such a scared shithead and let her in. He guides her to sit and shows her what he scavenged for dinner.

“You’re such a good provider,” Mackenzie quips and reaches out to squeeze his wrist before starting on a piece of steamed broccoli. “This is exactly what I had in mind.”

“Good,” Will nods. He moves a bottle of water closer to her (no more apple juice. She’s over it) and starts on his own food. He chews thoughtfully, watching his wife eat. She goes quickly, clearly hungry. Next week she’ll be halfway through the pregnancy. He waits for the inevitable squeeze of fear at thinking about becoming a father, but it’s not there. No, what he’s been obsessing about for nearly a month is his marriage. He’s not sure he’s done with fearing being a parent, and he’s sure once the baby is actually born there’ll be pangs of it again, but right now, all he can think about is his relationship with his wife.

He swallows his carrot and feels his heart start to pound, but he hears Habib telling him to ‘talk to your wife’, and so clears his throat silently to go through with it. “So, can I ask you something?”

Mackenzie looks over at him with a slight smile, “Sure.”

“Why did you want to go first? With Doctor Johnson?”

“Oh,” she swallows hurriedly and gives him a reassuring expression. “I just wanted to get it over with. I was nervous.”

“Oh,” Will nods, like it’s no big deal, and honestly, of all the scenarios as to why she wanted to go first, it didn’t occur to him that she wanted to get it over with. He stabs a plastic fork at a piece of carrot futilely. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Mackenzie go back to her dinner. He also got some rice, because she seems to really like it at the moment. “What did you talk about?” He looks over at her and she meets his eye. “If I can ask. You don’t have to tell me.”

She laughs lightly. “I don’t mind. It’s not a secret.” She leans towards him. “We talked a little about my childhood, and my parents and siblings, of course. And we talked about you,” she adds softly. “And our history and marriage. The things I felt were… an issue, I guess.” She frowns and shrugs. “She just wanted to hear my point of view. I’m sure she’ll ask you the same tomorrow.”

Will nods, “Probably.”

“It’s very strange to go somewhere and talk about yourself for an hour, with someone you don’t know,” Mackenzie adds.

Will gives her a slight smile. “You get used to it.”

“And I had to fill out some questionnaires. But that was it. That hour goes by really quickly,” her tone becomes conversational again, and she goes back to her meal.

“I really admire you,” Will blurts.

Mackenzie looks up immediately, surprised etched clearly on her face. “What?”

“I really admire you sometimes.”

“Sometimes?”

“Most of the time,” Will admits softly.

Mackenzie gives an amused frown. “What are you talking about?”

“You’re really strong,” he says. And when it looks like she’s going to protest or butt in, he goes on quickly. “Not much perturbs you and you don’t let things get to you, and you always pick yourself up and keep going.”

Mackenzie’s eyebrows raise in the middle, a slight sign of disbelief. “That’s not always true.”

“Well, it is,” Will comes back with. “After we broke up,” he says and she immediately looks down at her meal. “You had the strength to come back here. And even after I was acting like a jerk –”

“A total jerk,” Mackenzie corrects, but there’s a hint of a soft smile in her eyes.

“A total jerk,” Will repeats. “You stayed.”

“Or I was an idiot to put up with you.”

“I’m glad you did,” Will says softly. “I’m glad you didn’t give up on me.”

Mackenzie’s dark eyes soften on his, and they stare at each other a moment, and all the rest of it is there. She didn’t give up on loving him, and he really needed that, even though it looked like he had given up on loving her. She gives a slight nod, and tears start to well in her eyes. She sob/laughs and shakes her head.

“Hormones,” they both say, at the same time.

 

**********

 

Mackenzie watches the broadcast downstairs in the newsroom. Not in the control room, or from the studio, or even from Will’s office, but from the ACN website, streaming live on Neal’s laptop in the conference room. It streams flawlessly without buffering or any other disruption, and on other devices, the head of the web development team, Julian, monitors the hits and – she doesn’t know what. But he tells her roughly how many people are watching the live stream, and how many people are trawling the website. Brad, the numbers guy for the broadcasts, has given her a rough indication of how much traffic the site needs to keep the advertisers happy (otherwise known as: keeping Pruit happy). There have been promos running all day for the news-hub’s launch, so even though site traffic is great right now, Mackenzie knows that it’s novel, and it’s in their audience’s mind. The next week will be the true test, when things settle. Of course, Will will mention the website every night (‘for more, go to our website’) but the promos will reduce significantly, and then they can see how the dust might settle.

Mackenzie feels a nervous pang as Will signs off for the night. The conference room is actually relatively quiet, with everyone working so furiously. Neal’s monitoring the comments section (of course, they couldn’t get rid of that… but it’s buried deep at the bottom of the page) and has two of his subordinates checking social media sites. Don is sitting with her, for moral support, and as the studio goes dark, he gives Mackenzie a pat on the shoulder of support. She looks back at him and he gives her a tight smile. It’ll be his turn next. Well, after The Washington Report (and tomorrow, all their newscasts will stream live, as well as being available on demand for up to a week. Maybe. They’re still working out their storage needs. And ‘they’ means everyone else but Mackenzie who has no idea what they’re talking about. She makes demands and other people make it work. It’s good to be at the top. Sometimes).

The possibilities with the news-hub are endless. She’s decided that, given Sloan apparently can’t write, and that she has a very likeable face, limited time (because she also teaches), and kids these days have small attention spans, short videos would be preferable than any kind of written content on the economy. ‘Sloan explains’ will start sometime in the next few weeks, depending on site traffic, of course. Four minute videos to explain financial terms, historical financial legislation and events; aiming to inform their audiences – ‘is this information in its historical context’.

Will comes straight from the studio to where they’ve camped out in the conference room. He really does look handsome in those suits. He asks how it went.

“Good. I think,” Mackenzie answers and she looks over to Neal, her gives her the smile he gives her when she’s trying to explain technology to someone else and really has no idea what she’s talking about. Amused, and slightly patronising, but also sweet, like she’s a little kid learning to walk.

“Yeah, good,” Neal reiterates and then he rambles on a bit about numbers and bytes and hits and Mackenzie watches Will’s expression glaze over a second before she zones out herself. After Neal’s done Will gives a nod and says ‘good’ like he understood everything said to him. He looks at Mackenzie next, “I’ll get changed, and then we’ll go.”

“Ok,” she smiles at him.

Will takes his time, so that Mackenzie can have her post-broadcast break down with whoever she needs to have it with, but when he comes back to the conference room, she’s still deep in conversation with the guy that Will thinks is the guy who manages the website (the technical aspects of it, not the content, which is Neal’s job), but he doesn’t know his name. She doesn’t seem to have noticed that he’s come back in and so he hovers for a second and then takes a seat. He’ll give her half an hour, at the most, and then he’s dragging her home to bed. To sleep.

 

**********

 

Mackenzie unlocks their apartment door and Will follows her in. She kicks off her shoes and dumps her bag and tosses her keys, while she goes on about the news-hub launch. She’s already been on the phone with Pruit, and she’s made Neal, who’s staying for some over time, text her to let her know the numbers after Right Now airs. Which means she’ll stay awake to receive the message, and Will would rather she go to sleep as soon as possible, but also knows she’s excited and sleep won’t be easy tonight. Can’t really blame her.

“That’s when the real test will be,” she finishes and blinks up at him, seemingly surprised that he’s there, or that he’s listening, or that they’re still standing in the entryway.

“Let’s get ready for bed,” Will says, reaching out for her shoulders, and guiding her, not to the bedroom, but into the kitchen.

“This isn’t bed,” Mackenzie starts and then stops abruptly when she sees the flowers on the bench. A big bouquet of bright colours. She spins on the spot, bumping into him, because he was still walking forward. “Will!” She gushes, her eyes brimming with happiness. “Where –”

“I did think about having them delivered to your office, but I don’t think you spend enough time in there to appreciate them.”

“I don’t spend enough time here to appreciate them either, but they’re gorgeous,” she walks over to the bench and sticks her nose amongst the petals, breathing in. Will doesn’t know if they smell or not. “What are they for?” she asks coyly.

Will comes up behind her. “I need a reason?”

“Not at all,” she smiles at him, her eyes dark in the low lights that are on above the sink only.

“I’m proud of you,” Will says anyway, telling her what she already knows, what she wants to hear, and what is true. “And I love you. What you’re doing, with the news-hub, that’s a big thing, and I –” He hesitates. “I don’t know if it will work, but I hope it does.”

Mackenzie gives him a slight frown, “Thank you. For being honest?”

“No, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to offend you, I just wouldn’t feel right saying it’s going to be amazing when I really know nothing about it. But that you’ve tried, and the concept, that’s – I’m proud of you. I’m going to go back to that,” Will raises his eyebrows at his wife, as if asking her if that’s ok, to go back to his original statement. “And that I love you. That’s always true.”

Mackenzie gives him a wide, warm smile, and gives a little shake of her head, like she’s trying to move hair from her eyes. However, it’s gotten long enough for her to now tie it all back in a ponytail (the ponytail = serious business) if she parts it down the middle, and Will wonders if he’s allowed to have an opinion on her hair, because he liked it better parted on the side. And with the bangs.

Mackenzie pushes up on her tip toes, hooking an arm around his neck, pressing her mouth against his. “I love the flowers, thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I love you too,” she meets his eyes, just inches away. To stop his eyes crossing, Will has to focus intensely and so they stare at each other for a few heavy seconds, and in that moment, he feels like he could bare his soul to her. “Bed?” Mackenzie murmurs meekly.

“Hm,” Will agrees, the spell breaking, stepping back. She grips his thumb (the first thing she blindly grabbed) and he starts to lead her through to their bedroom but she halts, and releases her grip. He doesn’t, and looks back to see what the problem is.

“I need my phone,” she says, looking apologetic.

“Check it in the morning,” Will suggests.

“Don might call,” she squints at him, her tone more contrite.

Will sighs and lets her hand go. “Go and get it,” he says, but he’s not really annoyed. He knows what kind of pressure she’s under, what she’s trying to achieve, and what’s happening tonight. He could consider it a miracle he even got her to come home. He knows, this is what being supportive entails. He makes a start on changing for bed and Mackenzie comes in, eyes down on the screen of her blackberry. “Anything?” He asks, but he knows Right Now hasn’t even started airing yet (he checks his watch, well, it will in a few minutes), and Mackenzie shakes her head ‘no’. Will goes to her and gently takes the device from her hands. “Go do your teeth,” he says softly.

Mackenzie complies and then they swap places, so she changes for bed, and Will does his teeth. But when they’re done, he suggests they sit up and watch Right Now. So they curl up on the couch together. Will hands off the remote but Mackenzie keeps the sound low. She looks over at him. And he gives her an open expression; there’s clearly something else on her mind.

“How was your session with Habib today?”

“Good,” Will answers. Mackenzie nods, trying to look optimistic. Trying not to look too hopeful (and desperate) that he might share something with her. “We talked about seeing the marriage counsellor,” he offers carefully.

“Is that allowed?”

“You don’t want to me to talk about it?” Will asks, alarmed.

“No, I meant, is that considered cheating on Habib? With another therapist.”

 Will gives a slight smile. “No. I don’t know. Can it be helped that I need the assistance from several experts?”

Mackenzie laughs a little. “You’re not so screwed, Will. You’re just trying to do the best that you can do.” She nudges him with her toe so he grabs her foot, and sets to rubbing his thumbs into the pad. Mackenzie gives him a happy expression. “So, you talk about our marriage problems with Habib?”

Will looks up to see the happy expression replaced in an instant with a cautious one. “Yes,” he says.

“Do you talk about me?” Mackenzie asks timidly.

“Yes, sometimes.”

“Oh.”

Will studies her expression but it’s hard to read. “It’s me though, not you. It’s how I feel about things – I’ll tell you all about it one day.”

Mackenzie gives him a tight-lipped smile. But she doesn’t push.

“So, half way this week,” Will notes carefully, changing the subject.

“Half way to what?” Mackenzie’s expression gets serious.

“The baby,” Will nods with his head towards her stomach. “Twenty weeks. Half way.”

“Oh right!” Mackenzie clicks. “Is that this week? Already?”

Will nods solemnly, while in the background Elliot talks about the Freedom Tower.

“It feels like I’ve already been pregnant forever, but that it’s already gone by quickly,” Mackenzie goes on. “And yet another twenty weeks seems like such a long time.”

“Well, you didn’t know you were pregnant for some of that time,” Will points out.

“That’s true,” Mackenzie agrees, musing. Her gaze drifts to the television but then back to him. “We should talk about a name.”

“Yeah,” Will agrees, working his way down to her heel. She shifts to give him more room.

“And get the furniture finished in the baby’s room.”

“Mh hm,” Will agrees, nodding.

“And birth classes,” Mackenzie adds.

“Yeah I had some ideas about that, but they’re in the evenings and that’s no good for us. Or on the weekend.”

“Well the weekend sounds all right.”

“The classes are longer on the weekend.”

“Does that matter?”

“No,” Will says simply. “I don’t think so. I don’t mind either way.”

“Seems like a no-brainer,” Mackenzie muses, her gaze drifting back to the television again. Will switches to her other foot while they half watch Right Now and half talk about the things they need to get done before the baby arrives. That are baby-oriented. After the show ends, Will reaches for the remote to kill the television and Mackenzie studies her phone. Will wonders if she’s logging remotely to the website but she just sits and stares at it and after a few seconds, he suspects she’s waiting for it to ring.

“Let’s go to bed,” Will says.

“Don said he’d contact me.”

“Yeah, sure, but we can get into bed while we wait,” Will says, getting to his feet. “He needs time to get to from the control room to the conference room,” he adds, reaching for his wife’s hands. He pulls her gently to stand before him while she grumbles ‘ok, ok’. He brushes the hair back from her shoulder, and gives her a kiss, and then he leads her out of the living room and to their bedroom. They get into bed and put out the lights, and lay together, almost curled around Mackenzie’s blackberry. Just as they settle, it rings.

Mackenzie answers it quickly. It’s Neal, by the sounds of it, and Will listens to one side of the conversation that includes excited ‘really’s?’ and ‘ok’s’ and ‘good good, oh, that’s good.’

So, apparently it’s good.

Mackenzie says she’ll see Neal tomorrow and thanks him for ringing and then ends the call. She reaches out to put her blackberry on her nightstand and then turns back to face Will. He can’t quite see her in the light from the bathroom, but he can tell she’s smiling and is happy.

“Are you going to be able to go to sleep now?”

“No,” Mackenzie gushes. “I’m entirely wired.”

 

Chapter Text

September 16h 2013

Monday

 

Mackenzie wakes early on Monday, nervous. She had a little trouble getting to sleep last night and now she’s awake and if she’s learnt anything at all this year, it’s that she needs to get enough sleep while she’s pregnant. Because when she doesn’t, she completely unravels. It’s unlike her, to need the sleep, but so much about her is different now that she’s having a baby. Next to her, Will is snoring lightly and she feels that weird sensation of being with a stranger. She reaches out to touch her husband’s t-shirt-clad shoulder, but she doesn’t want to wake him. She just wants to know that he’s there; he’s real. Mackenzie turns to her back and stares across the room to the framed sonogram of their son on the wall. She cups her hands over her stomach, feeling her son wiggling away from the inside, but unable to feel anything against her hands. He’s in there though and she’s twenty-one weeks pregnant; over halfway now.

Her bladder gets her out of bed, so she starts on getting ready for the day while she’s at it. After she showers and comes back to the bedroom, she finds Will has turned to his shoulder to face her side of the bed. He doesn’t look entirely peaceful in his sleep, and she wonders if he’s worrying about today too. It is, technically, their fourth session with Dr Johnson, but, not counting their individual sessions, it’s actually only the second, and this is where it’s all going to begin. They’re going to start working on their marriage for real, the hard labour part of it, the bit where they learn the things that are going to save their relationship (not save it. Help it last). And Mackenzie feels nervous.

What if she doesn’t get it? What if the concepts are just too hard for her? What if she’s too much of a mess to be able to understand, to be able to do the homework, or the tasks, or whatever it is that they’re going to be learning or doing or understanding. She knows she shouldn’t deal in ‘what ifs’ but too late, she is and she feels lonely. She hasn’t said a word to anyone about her and Will going to see a counsellor. She couldn’t bring herself to mention it to her mother, the last time they talked, and it doesn’t feel like something she should blurt out to Sloan when they have their girl-friend time once a week.

And of course, she has no idea what to say to Will about it.

But she’s willing, even if she’s scared, which is all Will needs to know about the subject. And that’s what she tells him: She’s willing. She’ll be there. She’s going to do this. For him and for her and for their unborn baby. She’s going to do this.

Having gotten out of bed early, and gone through her morning routine on autopilot, Mackenzie finds herself arriving at the AWM building half an hour earlier than normal. But that’s ok. She’s going to take time in the afternoon to go see Johnson with Will, so making up a bit of that time in the morning is fine, even if happily unintentional. She’s beaten Millie in so doesn’t have her mail, but she checks her voicemessages herself and her emails, which isn’t really productive if she’s trying to make up for taking that hour in the afternoon, but whatever. It’s early and she’s tired and she can do what she wants. She thinks about coffee but dismisses it, even though she has an allowance granted to her by the baby book experts, she’s not interested enough to go out and get one.

Eventually she gets around to her actual work, having to look over the audience numbers from their 9/11 anniversary coverage last week (and after that, trying to make sense of the site hits for the new news-hub). They’re respectable, in her opinion, but she knows Pruit would want to see them off the charts and she’s sure she’s going to have to explain to him (again) why there was no need to hype the tragedy all over again. She was happy with the coverage, and they were respectful, but America has bigger problems than rehashing the horror of something that happened twelve years ago. They’re still hitting their target demographics, and honestly, right now, she’s happy with steady numbers. Steady numbers means she’s not failing; she’s not letting Charlie down. It means she has a chance to catch her breath between Pruit’s, her baby’s and her husband’s demands. As well as the support she has to give to her staff. She feels stretched thin, but she feels stable. Which is good, because this afternoon, she’s going to up-end her marriage.

 

**********

 

Will knocks on Mackenzie’s open office door. The glass echoes hollowly but she’s not there to be alerted to his presence. He checks the conference table, which is covered in stacks of folders and strewn papers, like she’s in the middle of researching a story, but she’s not there either. Will heads out again, and asks Millie if she knows where Mackenzie is. Perhaps downstairs in the newsroom, is the reply, and Will thanks her and walks away, even though he just came from the newsroom, and he knows Mackenzie is not there. He goes down to the edit bays, checks the control rooms and hair and make-up (just in case) but they do not yield his wife. He goes back to the bullpen and looks into the conference room and finds her there, talking to Neal and Kendra, with her bag on her shoulder and coat draped over her arm.

He heads over and pops open the door. Mackenzie turns and looks at him. “Just a minute?” She asks lightly. Will nods and gestures to his office, indicating that that is where he’ll wait for her. Mackenzie nods and goes back to her conversation. He has no particular reason to meet her in his office, but it’s a good place to wait for her, without having to stand around looking like a goof for all to see. But when he gets there he feels listless, and when he’s listless he wants to smoke (which reconfirms to him that he only did it because, apparently, he was bored).  

He stands in the middle of his office floor, hands on hips, thinking about what he could do to occupy himself for a few minutes while he waits for Mackenzie, when she comes in. He turns and she gives him an amused expression. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” he says quickly, approaching her. “Let’s go.”

“Yes, let’s,” Mackenzie agrees, but something in her tone gives her away. Despite the airiness of the way she walks from his office, she’s not as blasé as she comes across. They walk to the elevators in silence and step onto an empty car. They both reach for the down button, and end up mashing their fingers together. Mackenzie gives a slight laugh. “We’ve been here before.”

Will let’s her push the button and takes her other hand instead. They start to move down. “You snuck past me,” Will says, looking down at her, now that she’s not wearing heels to the office anymore.

“Huh?”

“I went up to get you but you were –”

“I came to find you.”

“Already down.”

“I got waylaid,” Mackenzie explains.

“It’s tough when you’re popular.”

“Too many people want a piece of me,” she sighs, but she affords him a smile that makes her brown eyes warm. She squeezes his hand. “Are you nervous about today?”
“Yes,” Will says simply.

“Hm,” Mackenzie says.

Will feels the elevator start to slow as they approach the ground floor. “No matter what happens today,” he starts, and Mackenzie looks up at him, eyes curious. “Know that I love you.”

She gives him a slight frown. “I love you too, Will,” she says matter-of-factly.

“It’ll be good,” they say at the same time. The elevator doors ping open, and they both step out.

 

**********

 

“Come in,” Dr Johnson greets them warmly. It almost sounds like she’s excited. Mackenzie can’t decide if that’s sinister or not. She feels on edge though, either way, her stomach tight and the baby wiggling. They go in and take their seats. Mackenzie can tell that even though Will’s trying to hide it, he’s worried too; it’s in his resting expression, the set of his jaw. It’s that they don’t know what to expect, and probably, they don’t know how hard it will be. “How have you been since I saw you last?” The therapist asks them both.

For a second, no one says anything, and then Mackenzie says, “We’re good.”

Harley gives her a reassuring smile and Mackenzie glances at Will, who looks over at her for a second. They both look back to Dr Johnson. “Ok, let’s start,” she says; it’s obviously clear they’re not in the mood for small talk. She reaches forward and hands Will a set of papers, stapled together. Then does the same with Mackenzie. “I’m giving you some information here about your own, and each other’s personalities, to help you understand yourselves and each other better,” she explains.

Mackenzie looks down at her sheet. The top one is titled with ‘extrovert’.

“You don’t have to read it now, it’s more for you to go home with and read at your leisure,” Dr Johnson goes on.

Mackenzie’s already sped-read half the page. She’s heard of extrovertism, of course, but hadn’t really thought about it in relation to herself. Or Will. Or thought that that could have any bearing on her marriage.

“So, Will, you’re introverted, and Mackenzie, you’re extroverted, so that’s going to mean that different things are important to each of you, and that you relate to situations in different ways. The idea is that if you understand where the other is coming from, you’re more likely to find middle ground.”

Mackenzie quickly reads to the end of the page and peeks at the next sheet. It’s labelled ‘introvert’.

“What we’re going to do, is reconnect you two, on an emotional level. You both talked in your individual sessions about how you felt distance between you and how you didn’t know how to bridge that gap anymore. Let’s go back to when we met a few weeks ago, we talked about attachment theory?” She looks between both of them.

They both nod.

“We’re going to talk about your attachment styles, so that you can understand where each other are coming from emotionally, because you don’t both react in the same way. Women are often more sensitive to breakdowns in their emotional connections, and tend to pursue their partners to get a response. And men are often taught to suppress their emotions and withdraw from conflict.” Dr Johnson pauses and looks at them both in turn again, “Does that sound a little familiar?”

Mackenzie nods. She sees Will shift in his seat next to her, out of the corner of her eye. He says ‘yes’ gruffly.

Dr Johnson nods. “So it would be fair to say this is pattern in your relationship?”

Mackenzie nods again, feeling embarrassed, letting her gaze drop. Will says ‘yes’ again.

“What we’re going to do is try to overwrite that pattern with new ones. Ones that are going to have you meeting each other’s emotional needs, because at the end of the day, you both want to be able to comfort and support your partner, and be comforted and supported by them, right?”

More nodding.

“Ok, great. Same page,” Harley enthuses with a warm smile. She pauses while she consults her notes. Mackenzie finds herself trying to mirror the smile. So far, this doesn’t seem scary at all. Of course she wants to be able to comfort and support Will. And of course she wants to be comforted and supported by him too. But in a way that she needs. And of course she wants for them to be emotionally connected. This makes total sense so far, now that someone’s explaining it to her. She can see that they’ve been missing each other because they don’t really know what the other needs. And that they’ve gotten afraid to try.

“There are four attachment styles,” Harley goes on, glancing up at them as she reads. “Secure, avoidant, anxious/ambivalent, and disrupted. A secure person finds it easy to get close to others and is comfortable depending on them. They don’t worry about people getting too close or abandoning them. An avoidant style is uncomfortable with being close to others. They find it difficult to trust completely and depend on someone. Getting close to people makes them nervous, and love partners often want them to be more intimate than they’re comfortable with.”

Will feels his heart pound.

Mackenzie frowns slightly. Is she the first one?

“The third type, anxious/ambivalent finds other people are reluctant to get as close as they’d like. They often worry their partner doesn’t really love them or won’t stay with them and the desire to completely merge with someone else tends to scare people away. And the fourth type is completely disrupted, and irrelevant to our conversation here.”

Will shifts in his seat.

Mackenzie’s eyes flicker from the therapist to her husband. Which one was Will? The third one? He worries she doesn’t love him.

“Will has an avoidant attachment style,” the therapist goes on, her tone moving to careful and neutral; no judgement here. She reads from the sheet on her lap again: “That means he typically feels uncomfortable being close to others. He finds it difficult to trust them completely, or depend on them. When he’s close to someone, he gets nervous, and partners often want him to be more intimate than he’s comfortable with.” Dr Johnson looks up from the statement she’s just read. “Intimate, meaning, on an emotional sharing level, not just sex.”

But Mackenzie’s not quite listening to that, because she’s staring at her husband with just shy of abject horror. All she can think about is how they’re married, and he feels uncomfortable with it. That he doesn’t trust her (god, she can’t help but think about Brian. Why should he trust her?). And that she forces them to be closer than he wants.

“Why did we even get married?” Mackenzie asks Will sharply.

 

Chapter Text

“Because I love you,” Will blurts, giving her a bewildered, slightly panicked expression.

“Let me be clear,” Dr Johnson cuts in quickly. “I’m not describing someone who doesn’t want to have relationships. But someone who feels uncomfortable in them. I’m describing someone who wants intimacy, but is also wary of it. You’re aware of Will’s past, how his childhood was, how he’s had few people in his life that he can really rely on.”

“You’re –” Mackenzie starts to accuse (you’re talking about me), but Will cuts her off.

“You’re not included in that list,” he says firmly, his gaze piercing as he stares her down. “You’re not included in that list,” he repeats and reaches for her hand, squeezing the edge of her wrist tightly. “I do trust you.”

“But you’re afraid of me.”

“No,” Will insists roughly. “Not afraid of you. Afraid of not being there for you. Of not –” he struggles with it for a second. “Being good enough for you.”

There’s a heavy silence for a moment.

Mackenzie can honestly think of nothing to say. She would deny him not being good enough for her, or insist that he is there for her but no matter how much she says it, he doesn’t seem to believe her. So why? Why waste her energy on doing that all over again, when there’s a therapist sitting three feet away who will tell her how she can get through to Will. Despite the initial shock of what she heard, Mackenzie actually feels calm. She feels like they can work this out. She’s going to learn.

“Remember we’re talking about your attachment styles so you can understand each other and learn how to help alleviate those anxieties in the other,” Dr Johnson speaks up gently, bringing them back. “It’s not about assigning blame.”

Will raises his eyebrows at Mackenzie, encouraging her to believe that. It’s not about assigning blame. It’s nothing she’s done to Will. It’s just how he is. If anything, it’s what his parents did to him.

“Mackenzie?” Dr Johnson prompts carefully. “Are you ok to go on?”

Mackenzie looks over at her, nodding, “Yes.” But she feels strange inside, unsure, and like she also has a clean slate. She doesn’t know what to feel, which is unsettling. “How do you fix something like that?”

“With a great deal of difficulty,” the therapist answers. “There’s no good evidence that attachment styles can be changed. Most of the research coming out suggests styles are stable over time for around seventy to eighty percent of people. I don’t have the capacity to change either of your styles. What I want to help you to do, is reduce the impact of your attachment styles, without changing them. Think of it like having a faulty hip joint. We can’t replace the joint, but we can strengthen the muscles and ligaments around the joint to support it better and reduce its impact.”

“So it’s always going to be there, between us?” Mackenzie asks helplessly, glancing at her husband, who has not let go of her hand.

“Yes,” Johnson confirms. “Possibly. But at the end of the day, you love each other, don’t you?”

“Yes,” they both confirm, looking over at each other.

“Then I know you’ll do it.”

What ‘it’ is, Dr Johnson doesn’t elaborate on, but Mackenzie supposes it means to love each other, to learn about the other, to learn how to reduce the impact of their attachment styles, and how to emotionally connect.

 

**********

 

By the end of the session Mackenzie feels rather shell-shocked. It’s a lot of information to take in on its own, but it’s more draining knowing that all that information is about her, or Will. It’s personal and there’s more pressure to pay attention and understand it; her mind is tired. They talked about her attachment style too, and their homework is to look for ways their styles manifest. They need to start to recognise them in themselves and in each other. So far, all they have to do with it is notice and become aware and try to show the other instances where they feel like their needs aren’t being met. They have to learn and practice being mindful. Change begins with learning. Next week, they’re going to work on what they can do to minimise the impact.

Mackenzie’s anxious/ambivalent attachment style means things like: finding other people are reluctant to get as close as she would like, worrying her partner doesn’t really love her, or won’t want to stay with her. And that her desire to be closer and closer tends to scare people away. Mackenzie doesn’t think she entirely agrees with all of those statements, but there are some parts, if she does think about it a little bit, that might be somewhat true. She does sometimes wonder if Will will stay with her like he stated in his wedding vows, or if he might wake up one day and find he’s had enough of her. And she always wondered if Brian loved her as much as she thought she loved him (of course, now she knows she didn’t even love him). As well as other boyfriends through the years who, though she wasn’t really any more committed to them than they were to her, made her constantly wonder if they felt the same way about each other, wondered why they were so aloof, wondered why she insisted on behaving the same way, when really, she yearned to settle down the way all her siblings had (although, in her opinion, she’s not sure half her siblings are in love with their partners anymore, so maybe she shouldn’t have yearned for what they had).

Mackenzie is no psychologist by any means, so what would she know about her own attachment style? She hardly even notices the way she behaves most of the time (and now she’s curious about what she’s been doing on auto-pilot). So if someone, a professional, tells her that she has a problem, well, she’d be inclined to believe them. She has to trust Dr Johnson if she wants the therapist to help her, and she does. Will does, and she trusts him, so she trusts the counsellor he’s picked to help them with their relationship.

It’s almost strange to head back out into the city after their session ends. The world is still revolving, even though it feels like it stopped for that hour they were deep in conversation. Will’s pretty quiet as they head out, leave the building, and wait for a cab to pull up. Mackenzie wonders how much of the general conversation she’s been instigating and if they’re quiet now because she hasn’t started saying something. Will holds the door for her and Mackenzie gets into the taxi, sliding over to give him space to get in next to her. He gives their work address and they ride in more silence. At this point, Mackenzie can’t even think of anything to say.

 

**********

 

Will says goodbye to a quiet Mackenzie in the elevator, as he gets off on the twenty-first floor to go to his office. There are notes on his desk about the goddam weather. Colorado’s flooding, Mexico is probably going to get sandwiched between two of the worst storms it’s seen in a hundred years on both coasts, which is going to spell disaster. And the UN has confirmed Syria was dropping chemical weapons on it’s own people. All of which, Will feels the least like dealing with in his life. He feels a bit like he needs to sit alone in a room and think. Maybe with a bourbon and a cigarette.

No, it’s not that bad.

But it is overwhelming. It’s always going to be a bummer to hear he’s abnormal. That there’s something wrong with him. That he’s fucked up. It borders on worst fears confirmed. But the difference between actually seeing a therapist, and fretting about seeing a therapist, is that he’s never encountered a therapist who says ‘you’re fucked up’… There’s always a ‘but’. There’s always a contraction that has things follow like: ‘here’s how to live with it’, ‘it’s not the end of your life’, ‘you can overcome it’.

He wonders how Mackenzie is coping with the information they heard earlier. She was pretty subdued as they made their way to work. Maybe he should have said something. It’s unusual for her to be silent. She’s the expressive, talkative type. He wonders if that means she’s not ok. He could just call her and ask. They’re supposed to be learning how to ask for what they need.

 

You doing ok?

 

He opts to text. That way if she’s busy he’s not disturbing her. Of course it’s difficult to figure out tone in a text message. Maybe he should just call her.

 

I think so. Honestly?

Feeling overwhelmed.

Torn between horrified

and determined. You?

You were awfully quiet

when we left.

 

Will sits for a moment with his phone in hand, thumb poised over the keys to start answering his wife. But the words just don’t come. He doesn’t know where to start. He doesn’t know what to say in a text. Instead, he asks:

 

Are you busy?

Can I come up?

 

It takes a second to get an answer.

 

Yes please

 

**********

 

Millie is at her desk, but Will doesn’t consult with her before he goes into his wife’s office. He has permission. If he even needs it. Mackenzie is staring listlessly at a point near her computer, but seeing as nothing is up on the screen, Will figures she’s not paying much attention to it. As he comes in, she looks over at him, the spell broken, and she starts to stand as he rounds the edge of her desk. She’s raising her arms as he gets closer and he immediately and seamlessly falls into the hug, wrapping his arms tightly around her. It lasts a second before she’s pushing him back a little, murmuring about the baby. Will adjusts his stance so his hips aren’t squashing anyone, but grips his wife’s shoulders tightly, and after a moment, they both pull away, studiously avoiding looking out through the glass of Mackenzie’s office wall, in case anyone is looking at them.

Will goes to sit on the opposite side of the desk, and Mackenzie retakes her seat before him, her hand resting over the swell of the baby. “I really needed that,” she says.

Will looks up as he lowers himself to the chair. “Me too,” he admits.

Mackenzie gives him sorrowful eyes. “You were so quiet after we left, I thought you needed some quiet to process,” she hesitates as she speaks.

“You were quiet,” Will cuts in.

“But I want to talk,” Mackenzie finishes.

“So I didn’t – Me too,” Will blinks at her with wide eyes.

“It’s strange to just have all of that and then not saying thing about it,” Mackenzie adds.

“Yes!” Will agrees.

Mackenzie gives him a tentative smile. “Is what she said true? About you?”

“Most of it, yeah,” Will admits on a breath. “But I meant it when I said I trust you. All of that stuff is about other people and things –”

“Your parents?”

“Yeah,” Will breathes again. They started it, but he’s repeated it over and over again, with all his other relationships.

Mackenzie nods. “The things she said about me, they’re not about you either. Just for the record. I mean, yes, sometimes I get scared that we will end up having a massive fight or something and break off again, which is a harrowing thought, so I get scared, and you don’t talk much, which now I get is this.” She has the information sheets Dr Johnson gave them earlier in front of her on the desk, and she gestures to them now.
“I can talk more,” Will cuts in.

“And I can see now that I’m definitely ‘pursuing’ you to –”

“I know that you need that,” Will offers, still speaking about talking more. “I didn’t understand what it meant to you but –”

“I’d like that.”

“I understand,” Will finishes.

Mackenzie gives him another tentative smile, but it’s more confident than it was before, and she seems generally brighter. Happier. They’re silent a moment and Will feels lighter inside himself, for having a short debrief; for asking for something he needs, and for recognising that his wife needs it too. “This is going to be good Will,” Mackenzie says quietly, but her eyes are so hopeful.

Will gives her a slight smile in return. It is, he thinks. Thank god, it is.

 

Chapter Text

21st September 2013

Saturday

 

“I haven’t heard from you in ages,” is the first thing out of Amy’s mouth, after they say hello.

“I know, I know,” Mackenzie cringes. “I’ve been so busy. This year has been crazy.” She feels the baby jab a foot at her side and she stares at her husband’s sleeping face, while she talks on the phone. He doesn’t stir an inch, despite her not-quite-whispered conversation with her sister. It’s still a bit early for him. She’s already been up for the bathroom.

“So, how are you feeling?” Amy asks and Mackenzie smiles. Amy is a nurse and when she asks how someone is feeling, what she’s asking for are symptoms or discomfort. When Mackenzie had been stabbed and she was asked how she was feeling, she had to report back on how much pain she was in and whether she was yet able to get herself in and out of bed without assistance.

“Good. I’m twenty-one weeks today and I don’t feel tired or ill or anything overly distressing.”

“That’s good. Meredith thinks you’re insane for having a baby now.”

Because you’re so old, is thinly implied. It might also be code for ‘everyone’ thinks you’re insane for having a baby now, when you’re forty. Do you know how hard it is?

“Well, sorry we all couldn’t get married at twenty-two and start cranking them out,” Mackenzie says shortly.

Amy laughs.

“Some of us wanted to wait for love,” Mackenzie adds loftily. Will’s arm twitches.

“I think Meredith loved Paul.”

“She loved that he got down on one knee with a ring,” Mackenzie says dryly, lowering her tone back to an almost whisper. Will doesn’t move again. “And that he did it before she turned twenty-five.”

“Hm,” Amy says, which is not her agreeing. It’s not her disagreeing either.

“I can’t imagine being married at twenty-five and having kids,” Mackenzie goes on. “I barely know what I’m doing now, and I’m so old.

“I’m thirty seven, and I still don’t know what I’m doing,” Amy volunteers.

“Oh please, you’re the most put together of us all,” Mackenzie gripes.

“If I am, which I deny, it’s only because I watched the rest of you make amazing and interesting life decisions.”

What she means is: colossal fuck-ups. Mackenzie chuckles, her bad mood at hearing eldest sister Meredith’s commentary on her life lifting. “Ah, the wisdom of being the youngest?”

“Too right,” Amy says. In the background, Mackenzie can hear a small voice speaking. “Yes,” Amy murmurs to one of her children. “But we’re going in ten minutes.”

“Oh, you’re headed out?” Mackenzie queries lightly.

“I said I’d take the kids to the cinema.”

“What are you going to see?”

“I have no idea, but it’s raining.”

Otherwise known as: cabin fever season.

“I think you’re a little nuts having a baby now too,” Amy says softly. “But I’m also glad.”

“Me too.”

“Is Will excited?”

Mackenzie hesitates. “Yes, of course,” she says, just a little defensively, and doesn’t know why she didn’t say that immediately. Or why she lacked conviction. Of course he’s excited… But. He dived head first into all the books and he’s gone to all the scans, framed pictures of the baby already, is keen to feel when the baby’s kicking. But.

Mackenzie notices the way Will’s eyes start to flutter. He’s awake. “I should let you go then,” she says to her sister quietly.

“I’ll see you soon though. The kids are looking forward to seeing you.”

“I look forward to seeing all of you,” Mackenzie says warmly, realising how much she misses seeing her sister, now that she’s talking to her on the phone.

“Take care Kenzie.”

“You too Aimes.” Mackenzie disconnects the call, and as soon as she does, Will shifts in closer, giving a soft moan. “Good morning,” Mackenzie whispers to her husband, carding her fingers through his hair.

“Who’s that?”

“Amy.”

“The nice one,” Will murmurs and Mackenzie grins at a point on the wall. She can’t see his face now that he has it almost pressed to her chest. “Be there at Thanksgiving?”

“Yes, and her kids.”

Will gives a grunt. “Who else?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe Meredith. I doubt Susannah will come over from France.”

“She still there?”

“Yes, and husband and kids.”

Will gives a ‘hm’.

“Hey, I was reading the book today.”

“Which book?” Will mumbles.

“One of the many baby books we have.”

Will gives another ‘hm’.

“And it was saying the baby can hear things outside the womb now. You can talk to him and he can hear you. Isn’t that exciting?”

“Yeah,” Will breathes.

Mackenzie finds herself holding her breath. She was kind of hoping for more an enthusiastic reaction to that. But then, Will doesn’t tend to react in big gesture kinds of ways; not like she does. Unless he’s losing his shit at her. She hasn’t really seen him excited about anything. She wonders if that’s because of the depression, or whether that’s because that’s just who he is. She’s learning things about him she hasn’t really paid attention to before (and honestly hadn’t thought would be important. Not because she doesn’t care about him, but because she just didn’t think of it).

Will is quiet. Well, she knew he was quiet, but she thought it was a situational kind of thing (perhaps shyness, though that doesn’t entirely make sense either), and it is, situational, but also, it’s an inherent part of who he is. Dr Johnson had them fill out questionnaires at their individual sessions, and one of them was a basic personality test. And from that, she informed Mackenzie that she’s extroverted, and Will is not, and that actually, those things are a big deal. Mackenzie never really knew what that meant until now. It means that Will is quiet. It means that she is not. It means that she needs to be around people to feel energized. And it means that, not only does Will not need people around to feel energized, he actually specifically needs no people around to feel energized (and the funny thing is, him having a few hours alone at night to himself, and again in the morning, is exactly what he needs to decompress and recharge. Whereas Mackenzie finds herself restless at her desk if she spends too long working alone).

Mackenzie has an information sheet she’s supposed to be studying in her bid to understand and relate to her husband better, and there are other things on there about introverted personalities that she now knows doesn’t mean that person is shy, or hates people, or is even depressed, because they withdraw from social interaction. It’s being around people that is draining for them. She knows that introverted people tend to think deeply, and therefore feel more deeply, and that sounds entirely like Will, again, depressed or not. And she also knows that these things, they’re not bad things, they’re not personality problems, they are what they are. There’s no need for Will to change, but there is a need for her to be more understanding (for both of them to be), and to accommodate his needs a lot more in their relationship than she has been doing. Just because he’d offer her the world, doesn’t mean she should take it.

So while she lies in bed, wanting her husband to be more excited about her baby news, she starts to rationalise. She thinks about the fact that he’s still sleepy and might not be processing what she’s said very deeply. She also thinks about him being more of a quiet enthuser. And she thinks that she has to trust him when he says he’s excited to be a father, even though they’re having a son and that brings up scary feelings for him. She has to talk herself down from the ledge and her own set of irrational and paranoid thoughts, that were based on past events, and are not a reflection of how her relationship with her husband is now (or how she wants it to be). Or something like that. She didn’t exactly memorise what Dr Johnson said, just the general gist of it.

“Honey?” Mackenzie asks softly.

“Hm?”

“I can’t lie on my back like this anymore. I need to move.”

Will shifts away immediately, but stays close by her, and Mackenzie transfers to her side, her internal organs feeling relieved that the baby isn’t crushing them anymore. “Thank you,” Mackenzie says softly.

Will reaches out to press his hand (awkwardly) over their baby. “Is he kicking?”

“He’s moving around in there,” Mackenzie says. See? See? He is interested. He doesn’t have to react on her schedule. He needs a bit more time than her speedy, and loud, and sometimes not well thought out, extroverted reactions.

“I can’t feel him,” Will notes.

“I think you’d have to be a kidney.”

Will gives a slight chuckle. “Did you have to get up in the night?”

“No, but early this morning. I came back and had a bit more sleep.”

“That’s good,” Will says sincerely. He enthuses. Quietly.

Mackenzie gives him a smile. “Do you feel like some breakfast?”

“Absolutely,” Will says. “But first, I need the bathroom.”

Chapter Text

They walk.

Mackenzie likes to walk. It lulls the baby to sleep, which gives respite to her organs, and it allows her to get some exercise, seeing as she can’t indulge in her old routine at the gym anymore. Yoga is becoming more difficult with a burgeoning baby bump to offset her balance. And, now that she thinks about it, it’s a nice way to spend ‘quiet’ but ‘quality’ time with her husband. They stroll together, hand in hand, but they don’t have to speak. Foot traffic can be too heavy for conversation. Mackenzie can think of half a dozen ways to break the silence, but she’s learning that she doesn’t have to. She can hold her tongue for twenty minutes.

It’s nearly autumn, but it’s not consistently cold everyday yet. When they arrive at the City Birth Centre though, Mackenzie feels hot. She takes off the jersey she threw on over her tank top before she left, and now she’s thinking she should have worn something different. Too bad. Everyone can see down the front of her top for all she cares. She turns to Will, who is half folding her jersey to lay over his arm. “Do you want something to drink?” She indicates a table to the side of the room.

“No,” Will says. “I can get you some water?”

“I’ve got it,” Mackenzie says, giving his arm a squeeze as she goes by him. She approaches the table as another woman does. They give each other a smile.

“I walked two blocks,” the woman says. “And I’m winded and thirsty like I did ten minutes of a spin class.”

Mackenzie smiles wider as she reaches for the water, “Me too. Well, not a spin class, but I’m so easily winded these days.”

“Strange isn’t it?”

“There are a lot of strange things about pregnancy I had no idea about until I got pregnant,” Mackenzie offers, pouring a glass of cucumber water. She offers to pour one for the other woman too. 

“Thanks. Like the LBL,” the woman volunteers, with an exaggerated ‘uncomfortable’ expression. “I mean, the slightest sneeze!” She laughs, and takes her glass of water.

Oh,’ Mackenzie thinks, putting the water jug down. She sips her water. That might be too much sharing. She looks over to see Will studying a chart on the wall, talking to absolutely no one. She does a few Kegels. “How many weeks are you?”

“Twenty,” the woman says proudly, dropping a hand to her belly. Mackenzie quickly judges that she’s carrying bigger than this woman, even though they’re roughly at the same stage of gestation. “You?”

“Twenty-one,” Mackenzie replies, realising she’s subconsciously dropped her hand to her baby bump too. “I’m Mackenzie, by the way,” she introduces herself.

“Dana.”

They shake hands.

“Who are you here with?” Dana asks, in a polite, but entirely prying kind of way.

Mackenzie looks over the room. “My husband, Will,” she gestures.

“Is that Will McAvoy?” Dana gushes a little too loudly. Mackenzie winces a little, but Will doesn’t seem to have heard them. Not that this kind of thing really bothers him… “I’ve never been in the same room as a celebrity.”

Mackenzie forces a tight-lipped smile. She’s never really known what to make of Will’s quasi-celebrity status. He’s a news anchor. Surely that doesn’t warrant hero status? He hasn’t brought down a president or anything. Genoa really isn’t something to ever mention again, let alone be proud of exposing. “I’ll introduce you,” Mackenzie decides.

“Great,” Dana enthuses. “There’s my husband, Anthony,” she says as they start to move away from the refreshment table. “Honey, come and say hello to the McAvoy’s.”

Will must have heard her this time, because he turns at the sound of his name and Mackenzie approaches his side. He’s attentive to her, his hand resting in the small of her back, which is more about comforting himself than it is her (because another thing Mackenzie learnt from their marriage counsellor is that touch is important for Will to feel connected. And she has absolutely no problem with letting him touch her a lot. Not that she needed a marriage counsellor to tell her that she doesn’t mind her husband touching her).

Dana introduces her husband to Mackenzie, who then introduces Will to both Dana and Anthony, and they say hellos and shake hands. Dana manages to keep her fan-girling down this time. Dana mentions to Will that she and Mackenzie have almost the same due date, and he’s about to answer (and say what? What should he say to that? Cool? Hey, you guys could give birth together! It’s obvious, seeing as all the women in this room are roughly at the same gestational stage…) but any new conversation is interrupted by Tamara, their instructor, who asks them to gather around, and they’ll begin.

There are three other couples in their class, and they all take seats in pairs, on plush two-seater sofas with overly large cushions (that Will promptly moves out of his way, but which Mackenzie helps herself to). Tamara looks like she could pass for twenty-one, but Mackenzie, in Will’s bid to find the best birthing classes in the city, knows she has more than ten years’ experience running these classes (and is a certified Lamaze instructor, as well as practiced doula, and a mother of two). All the reviews rave about her. CBS New York lists City Birth classes as one of the best in the city. They’re signed up for the ‘childbirth preparation’ classes (two, four hour sessions, this weekend and the next, instead of hour classes for several weeks, seeing as their schedules are just impossible), the ‘birth and beyond’ discussion group, a class on holistic childbirth, one on breastfeeding and infant care, a class on infant CPR, daddy bootcamp for Will, and a new mom group for Mackenzie.

Between the classes and discussion groups, the books and the internet, Mackenzie figures she’s going to be well prepared for birth and looking after an infant. Or, at least, she hopes to be, because it feels daunting. Bringing life into the world? It’s a holy cow kind of thing.

As they listen to Tamara introducing herself and what they’re going to cover in the classes, Mackenzie reaches for Will’s hand. He grips her fingers tightly. 

 

**********

 

Will doesn’t know how Mackenzie’s managed it, but she’s made friends with another couple already. He turns his back for five minutes, and she’s made small talk at the refreshment table, and when he comes back from the bathroom, they’re swapping numbers to meet up for coffee. Not that they’re drinking coffee right now, ha ha ha. Dana’s husband, whose name he’s forgotten already (damn it) is hovering by the two women looking like he’s only half listening to the conversation and Will thinks he should have taken just a moment longer in the bathroom to forestall the inevitable awkward conversation he’s now going to have to make ‘with the husband’. He hopes this guy is into football, otherwise Will has no idea what he’s going to talk about. The weather? Did you hear about the earthquake in Pakistan? Killed 327. Awful.

He approaches the little group and Mackenzie absently reaches out for his arm, giving it a squeeze. He places his hand at the small of her back and stands close and starts to think of who was playing this week so he can ask Anthony (he thinks it’s Anthony) if he saw any of any game, or something, when Mackenzie says, “We’ll catch up,” shoots Dana and husband a smile, and draws Will with her as she starts to walk away.

Well, he totally got out of that one.

They head out onto the street, and Mackenzie reaches for his hand. He has to say, she’s really making an effort with the hand holding. He mentioned it in their last marriage counselling session (because they had to talk about one small thing the other didn’t do that they would like them to. Will liked it when Mackenzie held his hand while they walked. And Mackenzie said she liked it when Will told her that he loved her. Apparently he doesn’t do that enough. Which reminds him…) and she’s made a big effort to do it.

“I love you,” Will says, leaning down to say it in his wife’s ear, as they start to walk home.

She looks up at him and smiles so beautifully. “I love you too.”

“Have I mentioned you’re my hero?”

Mackenzie’s smile goes to amused. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Will says. “Having a baby. Giving birth. That’s a big thing.”

“I haven’t done it yet.”

“But you’re considering it,” Will says generously.

“You might want to hold off on the hero worship, my vagina is crying out for a caesarean at this point.”

That earns a strange expression from an older woman walking the opposite way.

Will smiles to himself. “Hang on, are you serious about a caesarean?”

“No,” Mackenzie says. “I do very much like the idea of all the holistic stuff though. Less pain. Less tearing. Less stress. That sounds wonderful.”

“Is that what we saw in the video today?”

“Well, we didn’t really see the labour, just the birth, but it was a natural birth,” Mackenzie looks up at him, squinting.

“It was very quiet,” Will notes.

“I know!” Mackenzie exclaims. “TV has not done any justice in preparing me for giving birth. Where was the cussing? And screaming in pain?” She steps closer to him suddenly to avoid a young woman coming towards them. It causes a ripple effect as Will also steps to the side to give his wife space, and the young man trying to pass Will has to side-step quickly to avoid being trod on.

“I believe you’re also supposed to call me a bastard for impregnating you,” Will adds.

“That too,” Mackenzie agrees. “I might actually do that one anyway. Just so it feels more familiar.”

“So are you thinking you want to go for a natural birth?” Will asks conversationally.

“You know, it doesn’t really sound as scarily horrific as we were all lead to believe.”

They both fall silent as they cross the street.
“What do you think?” Mackenzie asks, glancing up at him as they walk.

“It’s really up to you,” Will says, looking down at her.

“He’s our son.”

“Yes, but I’m not the one who has to squeeze him out of my vagina.”

Chapter Text

September 27th 2013

Friday

 

Mackenzie is running late, but she has text to say she’s on her way, and the young man at the reception desk is pleasantly ignoring Will. He checks his phone again, but Mackenzie hasn’t responded to his query about just how far away she is. He figures he can always just start the session with Johnson by himself. He likes her. As a therapist. And Mackenzie has been very positive about the doctor and their previous handful of sessions. He does feel anxious though. He’s not sure why. Maybe it’s just that Mackenzie is running late.

The door opens and Harley Johnson comes out. She gives Will a smile. “Are you on your own today?”

Will stands. “Mackenzie’s running late,” he explains. “But she’s on her way.”

“Ok,” Johnson says. “Do you want to come through?”

No.

“Sure,” Will says, even though it’s going to be weird. He follows the younger woman into her office and takes his seat, telling himself to relax; it’s not a big deal. The anxiety, it’s attached to his depression. The two conditions tend to go together. So he reminds himself that he’s in a safe place, and nothing bad is going to happen to him. He’s used to talking to therapists on his own. This is not a new setting. This is not their first session.

Mackenzie arrives two seconds after he sits down. Will stands when she comes in, and while she’s apologizing to him and Dr Johnson for her tardiness, she’s walking towards Will. He stoops a little (now that she’s given up wearing heels) so she can plant a kiss on his cheek, and she finds his hand and squeezes it before stepping away again.

“Everything ok?” He asks his wife quietly.

“Yes, you’ll never believe what’s happened,” Mackenzie says as she takes her seat. “Obama and Rowhani spoke on the phone.”

“Seriously?” Will asks, eyebrows raised high.

“For fifteen minutes. About Iran’s nuclear programme.”

“Do you need to go?” Will offers.

“No,” Mackenzie almost scoffs, her gaze moving between Will’s and Dr Johnson’s. “I’m here,” she says firmly. “Jim’s got it.”

Will’s not sure why, but he feels immeasurably better that his wife is here. And that she’s choosing him over work. Ok, he does know why he feels immeasurably better. She chooses him. That’s a very nice thing.

Mackenzie looks to Dr Johnson. “Sorry.”

“Why is that significant?” Johnson asks.

“The leaders of America and Iran haven’t spoken to each other in over thirty years,” Will supplies.

“Thirty-four years,” Mackenzie adds.

“Wow,” Dr Johnson says, suitably impressed. “I heard it here first.” They all share pleasant smiles. “So shall we begin?”

“Yes, sorry,” Mackenzie apologises again. She reaches out to give Will’s arm a brief squeeze. It’s her way of telling him that she’s with him.

“So, how has your week been?” Johnson starts.

Mackenzie looks at Will. “Good,” she says tentatively. Then she looks to the doctor and says it again, more firmly.

Will nods. “Good,” he agrees. It has been good. Nothing much has changed, in that they still have their routine, but it does feel like things are changing, on a more cerebral level. It just feels like things are lifting.

“How have you been going with the materials we discussed last week?” Dr Johnson’s gaze moves between both of them.

“Good,” Mackenzie answers first again. She looks over at Will. “I’d have to say, I’ve found it – I just never quite understood why you do things the way you do.”

Will blinks at her.

“I mean,” Mackenzie hurries on, her deep brown eyes a little worried. “I knew that you didn’t like to socialise much, but now I really understand that it’s draining for you. That makes me feel entirely different about dragging you to social events.” She gives a slight laugh and a very cute smile and Will feels his heart soar. To be understood, is all he asks. Well, that, and that she love him. And she does. Look what she does for him. He gives her a slight grin.

“That’s really great to hear,” Johnson says, her tone impressed. “Will?” She prompts him gently.

“I feel like there’s a lot less tension between us,” Will says to Mackenzie, and although her expression falters a little, she still looks hopeful. She nods a little to encourage him to go on, to show that she’s hearing the positive part, and not the pain of their past. “I feel like a lot of assumptions are being over written,” Will adds. “That, instead of just thinking the other person is… I don’t know – being difficult on purpose, or is trying to win and get their way, that there are actually other reasons for the way we behave or think.”

“Yes,” Mackenzie says. “I totally agree. I feel that too. It just feels… fresher.”

“Like something’s lifted,” Will says.

Mackenzie rewards him with a beautifully happy smile. “Yes,” she agrees, but then she does look a little sad, a second later.

“Mackenzie, do you wholeheartedly agree?” Johnson asks.

“Yes,” Mackenzie says, turning to the doctor, but glancing at Will as well. “It just makes me sad to think that we ever got to a horrible place to start with. I wish it felt like this from the moment we got married.”

Will feels his heart sink. “Me too.”

“Why didn’t we?” Mackenzie asks the therapist. “I mean, when we dated the first time, years ago, we weren’t like this. So why is all this attachment theory coming up now?”

“Well,” Dr Johnson shifts in her seat, and crosses one leg over the other knee. “Your lives are very different now from how they were five years ago. It may be that there was little conflict that caused ruptures in your lives back then. You were like this,” she raises her hands with the fingers linked tightly together. “And now you’re in places where the ruptures are happening, and they’re big ones.” She gestures to Will. “Your close friend just died. Mackenzie, you’ve just had a massive promotion and an unexpected pregnancy. So you’re more like this,” she links her hands again, but pulls the fingers apart slightly and then moves them around to show they’re loose and there are gaps.

“Does that mean we’re not really together anymore?” Mackenzie asks, but she’s not upset or angry or emotional. She’s curious.

“It means that you’re having ruptures that you don’t know how to put back together again anymore.”

“And our attachment styles…?”

“They’re about how you view the rupture and how you cope with the rupture,” Dr Johnson explains. “So, for Will, when there’s a rupture, he withdraws emotionally, because he’s not good at expressing or feeling his emotions in relationships. Instead of getting closer, he wants to pull away, because being close to people makes him feel uncomfortable. When things are good, and there are no ruptures, there is no need to talk about feelings. And for you, when there’s a rupture in your life, and remember, this isn’t necessarily something that’s ruptured for you and Will in your relationship, I’m talking about any kind of emotional rupture, you cope by wanting to get closer to people around you, particularly your partner. You express your emotions in big outbursts, that have little coherence for Will to understand, and you might sound like you’re blaming him, which makes him feel defensive, and want to withdraw. When you see him withdrawing, you push harder to be close to him in a way that you can get comfort from, and when he pulls away even further, that increases your anxiety and makes you feel like he doesn’t love you as much as you love him. Which isn’t true.”

“So we’re really the opposite of each other,” Mackenzie adds, a little glum.

“Yes,” Dr Johnson smiles.

“Extrovert,” she gestures to herself. “Introvert,” she gestures to Will. “Outbursts,” she gestures to herself again. “Withdraws,” she gestures to her husband.

“Yes,” Dr Johnson says again. “And the point here, is to understand each other, and meet on the middle ground, despite being opposites. It’s just about learning each other’s language, so you can communicate and meet each other’s emotional needs, while recognising your own.”

“So, back then,” Mackenzie says, a slight frown. “We met each other’s emotional needs?”

“Yes, that’s quite likely.”

“But we can’t anymore.”

“Your lives have got much more challenging. The issues are much bigger than what you were probably facing back then; I speculate.”

Mackenzie looks over at Will. “That was probably true.”

Will gives a shrug of his mouth, indicating it seems a fair assessment.

“So as things got complicated,” Mackenzie says slowly, turning back to the therapist. “We might have had problems?”

“Well,” Dr Johnson says slowly. “You had a very large conflict that caused a massive rupture.”

Will sees Mackenzie’s eyes widen as she realises what the doctor is talking about and it makes him feel so uncomfortable that he has to physically fight the urge to get up and pace the room. He shifts his bum in his seat. Sensing that his wife might look at him, he shifts his gaze to the carpet with shame. Now there’s a thought. If they had been better at this, they might not have split up. He might have been able to hear Mackenzie properly. And he might not have ended it.

Should have gone to therapy years ago.

“But no good dwelling on the past right?” Mackenzie adds with false cheer. Funnily enough, that was something Will said to her after they got engaged, after they rehashed the Brian fiasco again. Eventually, he just got to the point where he felt it didn’t matter anymore. It’s in the past. What good is it to keep dwelling on it?

“Right,” Will says firmly and he moves to take his wife’s hand. She smiles at him and it looks so genuine, his heart feels light again. His broken heart. He can only hope she’ll forgive him when he confesses.

“Does that answer your question?” Dr Johnson speaks up, gently interrupting their moment.

“Yes,” Mackenzie gushes. “Sorry to interrupt things, I was just – I don’t think I understood.”

“That’s totally ok,” the therapist says warmly. “Jump in with questions anytime.”

“Ok,” Mackenzie says with a nod and slight smile. “So our attachment styles were always there, they just weren’t working against us yet?’
“That’s one way to look at it,” Dr Johnson says.

“Ok,” Mackenzie nods again.

“Will, do you have any questions about what we were talking about?” Dr Johnson asks him.

“No,” he says lightly.

“Are we ready to move on?” She asks them both. They nod. “Ok, so today I want us to brainstorm instances where you need the other to meet your emotional needs. Specific instances, where that’s currently not happening, and are really important to each of you. Not the everyday things, because those should go without saying. And you both indicated on your surveys that you were ok with levels of affection and attentiveness.” Dr Johnson looks down at her notes, “In adult attachment theory, anxieties are triggered by conditions of the environment, conditions involving personal well-being, and conditions relating to your partner. Those feelings of anxiousness motivate us to engage in behaviours where we seek comfort from our significant other, so we want to make sure our partner is able to comfort us in the ways we need.” Dr Johnson pauses and looks up at them. “Right?”

Will and Mackenzie nod attentively.

“Now, like I was saying earlier, it won’t always be the case that conflict is created between you,” Dr Johnson reads from her notes. “It may be that something happens at work that is particularly stressful. Or, there may be something to do with money, or where you live. But the end result is still the same. You want to be able to go to your partner, and be comforted by them. Right?” The therapist looks up at them, eyebrows raised, hopeful and questioning.

They nod again.

“It can be a scary thing to talk about our innermost fears and desires and needs. You might not be entirely sure of what they are exactly, but that’s something we’re going to figure out together. Because risking that vulnerability is the way to break the old cycle of attacking and defending.”

Mackenzie swallows on a dry throat. That sounds a bit like them. Attack and defend. Or: talk, defend, start attacking. Her heart rate goes up, and as a result, the baby starts somersaults. Shhh, she silently soothes him, or herself. It’s ok.

“We’re going to be really careful from here though. We’re not going to accuse or criticise. And equally, if we feel we are being criticised or accused, we’re not going to defend and attack. Ok?” Dr Johnson looks at each of them in turn, Mackenzie first (she hopes that wasn’t an implication… oh wait, not supposed to feel accused), who nods, then Will, who does the same.

“Ok,” the therapist says with some finality. “So we’re going to learn what we want and need on an emotional level from our partner. We’re going to learn to express those wants and needs respectfully, and we’re going to recognise any defensiveness within ourselves. So let’s talk about a specific incident where you felt there was some conflict.” Dr Johnson says gently, giving them an open expression. Neither of them says anything. Mackenzie’s mind goes immediately blank. She can’t think of an instance of conflict between them.

“Who wants to go first?” Dr Johnson asks tentatively.

Chapter Text

Will holds the door for Mackenzie and she steps out onto the empty street feeling the strange surreal numbness she feels whenever she leaves Dr Johnson’s office. And it’s a little weird to find the street devoid of other people. She checks her blackberry, mostly for the time, but there is an email there waiting for her; she ignores it (if it’s super urgent, she suspects there would be missed calls too). Will steps up next to her, looking shell-shocked. She feels about the same.

“Want to get a coffee?” She asks. “Well not a coffee for me,” she says to his surprised expression. “I’ll probably have tea, or a cocoa or something. My point is, do you want to go somewhere?”

“You don’t have to get back?” He asks quietly.

“I probably do,” Mackenzie says, matching his tone, and stepping closer. “I have to check an email, but we could go somewhere.”

Will steps a little closer too, so that his stomach is brushing against the swell of the baby. “And debrief?” He suggests.

“Yes,” Mackenzie gives him a slight smile. “A debrief.”

Will nods, looking relieved. Mackenzie takes his hand (because he likes it) and they walk up the block, in silence, but a comfortable silence, and cross the road. On the next corner is a coffee place. Mackenzie catches the scent of warm caffeine in the air as they start to get closer. When they’re within reach of the door, Will hurries to open it for her and she smiles her thanks to him as she goes by him. He follows her in closely, an intimidating presence at her back. She loosens the jacket she’s wearing; it’s warm inside.

“What would you like?” Mackenzie asks, digging her credit card from her purse.

“I’ll get it,” Will says, automatically reaching for his wallet.

“No, I’ll get it,” Mackenzie corrects him. Her bangs have grown out enough for her to be able to pull them back into her ponytail, but sometimes she still has the urge to shake the hair from her eyes. She covers the movement with a jut of her hip, and a narrowing of her eye, willing her husband to give up on insisting he pay, and just tell her what he wants to drink. He orders cappuccino. “Go grab a table,” Mackenzie directs him before she saunters away to the counter to order. She gets a cocoa. With whipped cream. Because.

She turns to find Will has found a table in the back, next to a bookcase holding different packets of coffee, and she thinks, why does he have to sit all the way in the back, where they can’t people watch? And as she walks towards him, she remembers that he likes to be not around people so much, so she thinks that it’s fine if he wants to sit in the back. She’s not here to see other people anyway. She’s here to talk to her husband. When she’s two feet from him, and sees his pensive expression, she remembers that they’re going to debrief their marriage counselling session. So that makes total sense to sit in the back where they have more privacy.

Mackenzie puts her bag on the table and shrugs out of her jacket. Will watches her and she takes a seat, her back to the café. She puts her bag at her feet and then reaches over to take her husband’s hands. They’re cold. He seems to be really struggling with today’s session (and it wasn’t really even about him in particular, it was about both of them). Mackenzie opens with that.

Will purses his lips and his eyes seem distant for a second, and then they focus on her and his grip on her fingers tightens a little. “I do find it hard to ask for the things I need.” He pauses. “Mostly because I don’t really know what I need.”

Mackenzie gives a hint of a smile, because it’s funny, but it’s also not. How sad to not know himself what he needs (and she doesn’t know any better). “I thought it was a good session though,” she says, sounding hopeful, and giving him an open expression, encouraging, to cover the smile. She’s not laughing at him.

“Yeah,” Will agrees. “It will take getting used to, if we have to talk like that from now on.”

Mackenzie’s tempted to smile again. “I think, well, we don’t have to. It’s not a rule and no one’s going to check up on us. But it could be helpful, to at least use that kind of template for future discussions. The hard ones.”

Will nods again. “Yeah, if you think so.”

“I do,” Mackenzie says carefully. “Do you think so?” She asks lightly, but she holds her breath as she waits for his answer.

“I do,” Will says after a second. His eyes are steady on hers and he doesn’t even blink, so she figures that’s a good strong kind of confirmation. “It just feels uncomfortable because I’m not used to having a conversation that way.”

Mackenzie smiles this time. “Neither am I.” They both hear her blackberry buzz. “But we’ll get there. And I think it’s going to be great. I’m already finding it helpful.”

Will’s eyes flicker away to the floor. “Do you need to get that?”

“I’m talking with you,” she counters.

“You said you needed to check an email.”

“I do,” she winces. “I’ll be really quick.”

“Take your time,” Will offers. Mackenzie dips to retrieve her phone and a staff member arrives with their drinks. While she taps out a quick response, Will stares into his coffee. “Anything important?” He asks, without looking up.

“No,” Mackenzie answers, she puts her phone back in her bag. “I mean, yeah, but, the world’s not ending, if that’s what you were asking.”

Will gives a grimace of a smile. “It wasn’t.”

Mackenzie draws her hot chocolate closer and cups her fingers around the mug. She looks over at Will. He’s sitting the same way. And his wedding ring seems so shiny. She supposes hers are too. She reaches out to tuck her fingers between his and his cup. He meets her eye. “I love you Will.”

His eyes soften, “I love you too. Sorry I’m being quiet.”

“It’s ok to be quiet. I’ve learnt that from you.”

Will’s lips turn up in a very slight smile and he squeezes her fingers.

“In fact, we don’t even have to say anything while we’re sitting here,” Mackenzie offers, even though she can sense him withdrawing into himself, and the very first thing she wants to do, is pull him out of it. This is her trying. She’s a pursuer, but she can’t pursue him into speaking with her. He has to come to her with it and she has to let him have those chances to process. It goes against what she instinctively wants, but she has to set those feelings aside. They might not be the best way to deal with situations like these. And all of that seems easy now, when she’s just heard it in a therapist’s office, but she hopes it stays with her, when something big happens in the real world.

Will’s mouth quirks into even more of a smile. “Remember last session, Johnson got us to tell each other about one thing we wanted more of from each other?”

“The handholding?” Mackenzie leans forward a little to hear him. The café isn’t crowded or loud, he’s lowered his tone; intimate.

“Yeah,” he says.

“I remember,” Mackenzie confirms. She’s been trying so hard to meet his request.

“Do you think that was a prelude to this week’s session? To get us used to asking for something?”

Mackenzie considers what he’s said for a moment. “I wouldn’t know, because I’m not a professional, but maybe?”

Will nods.

“But also, it makes sense if you think about it, because you don’t talk much about feelings, but hand holding, that’s a nice way for you to connect with me anyway. But for me, I do like the words, so saying you love me reassures my deep seated anxiousness that you maybe don’t,” Mackenzie says insightfully.

Will watches her from across the table. “Good point,” he manages, because wow. She put that together well. “It didn’t seem so bad last week.”

“Is it bad?” Mackenzie immediately asks, and then regrets the sharpness of her tone. “Sorry, you just surprised – I picked out the ‘bad’ part. Is that what you meant?”

“No,” Will says, his expression only slightly bewildered, but falling easily to relaxed again. “I meant, hard, or – no, it’s… The emotional stuff is more difficult to think about and explain. Deciding I like it when you reach for my hand is much easier than the truly emotional requests.”

“Yes,” Mackenzie relaxes. “It is.”

They sit for a moment. She deliberately picks up her drink and sips at it, leaving her left hand to hold onto Will’s right, opposite her across the small wooden table. Her beverage is not hot anymore, so she busies herself with taking a few mouthfuls, extending her tongue to swipe at the pile of whipped cream. Will follows suit with his coffee (but without licking his non-existent cream). It’s funny, because she wants to talk. She doesn’t want to get caught up in her own thoughts. And yet, she doesn’t know what she wants to talk about. She needs to let today’s session settle in her mind too.

They’re silent for a moment, and then Mackenzie changes the subject.

She’s good with small talk.

 

**********

 

Mackenzie pecks a kiss on her husband’s cheek outside of his office and she doesn’t care who sees or what professional law she’s broken with the public display of affection. She does catch the surprise in her husband’s eyes, but also the hint of smile that makes her feel it’s all worth it. If HR comes down on her for an innocent kiss on the cheek… well, she doesn’t care. She loves him. They need these moments where they show each other that they care – yeah ok, she could have done it in his office.

“I’ll see you for dinner,” she says in parting and walks across the bullpen towards the stairs to the mezzanine level. If any of the staff noticed (which they probably did) they don’t say anything to her as she goes by. She says ‘hi’ but she doesn’t stop. She catches Jim’s eye but they just share a mutual nod. She’s on her way to see Don.

The stairs wind her slightly, which is somewhat shameful, given that she carried a pack weighing as much as she did halfway up the Himalayas, while breaking little more than a very mild sweat. So she walks slowly along the mezzanine level for Don’s office so she can catch her breath again. She strolls right by Sloan’s, and comes back to stick her head in. “Hey Sloan,” she greets casually.

“Hey Kenzie!” The other woman answers, lifting her head from two computer screens with colourful wiggly lines worming their way from left to right. “What’s up?”

“I just need to catch my breath,” Mackenzie says, standing with her hands on her hips.

“Did you run?” Sloan asks.

“I’m breathing for two,” Mackenzie counters.

Sloan’s eyes dart to the baby and back up to Makenzie. “Oh. Well sit.”

“Are you busy?”

“I’m absolutely doing my job,” Sloan answers, while Mackenzie sits.

“What are we looking at?”

“Well, this is a real time representation of the current stock market,” Sloan starts, turning back to her computer terminal. She stops herself and looks back to Mackenzie, “Do you actually want me to explain?”

“No,” Mackenzie admits. “You lost me at real time.”

“So did you just get back?” Sloan asks.

Mackenzie blinks. “From where?”

“Your marriage counsellor?”

Mackenzie’s eyes go wide, “How do you know?!”

“Will told me.”

“He did?” Mackenzie says with surprised exasperation. “When?!”

They literally just got back. When did he have time?

“Earlier,” Sloan says just as innocently. “I saw he was going out and I asked him where he was going and he said that you guys were seeing a marriage counsellor.”

Mackenzie stares at Sloan for a moment, trying to figure it out. “Why would he tell you that?”

“Because I asked? Sometimes we talk – is that ok? He’s kind of my friend too. Although, sometimes he’s more like an older brother to – d”

“Of course you’re allowed to be friends with him,” Mackenzie answers, trying to laugh it off, trying to hide her…. Surprise? Hurt? “I just – he just told you?”

“Yeah.”

“You can’t tell anyone.”

“Oh, it’s a secret?”

“We’re not in trouble,” Mackenzie says instead. “We’re just trying to figure a few things out. But we’re not in trouble. Far from it. We’re great.”

“Ok,” Sloan says, sounding unsure.

“I’m serious,” Mackenzie insists.

“I believe you.”

“Please don’t tell anyone.”

“I wouldn’t,” Sloan swears.

“It’s just because, last time, you –”

“That was you,” Sloan cuts in.

“Right.”

There’s silence as they watch each other.

“You and Will are really ok?” Sloan asks quietly.

“Yeah,” Mackenzie says sincerely. But she wonders why her husband told a friend that they’re seeing a marriage counsellor. And who else has he told?

And why didn’t he mention it to her?

Chapter Text

28th September 2013

Saturday

 

Will climbs one of the dining room chairs with the frieze in one hand. His other hand is to steady himself against the back of the chair, and he thinks again that he should have just gone out and bought a step ladder so he could do this without falling down and breaking his neck. Why don’t they have one anyway? Isn’t it kind of a household staple?

“I honestly don’t know where to start,” Mackenzie says from the plush chair across the room of the nursery, that she bought for feeding in. When the baby comes. Feeding the baby in. Not her.

“Well,” Will says to the wall. It smells like fresh paint. He got professionals to come in and repaint the wall the happy, sky blue colour of the walls from their honeymoon room at Rehoboth beach. They also stencilled on happy, fluffy white clouds. “Why don’t you start with the drugs? Do you want an epidural?” He reaches up to the corner of the room and presses the frieze against the wall, just below the architrave. It’s of happy, fluffy, brown teddy bears, with red bowties. “Here?”

“Yes,” Mackenzie answers.

Will takes the frieze in hand again and removes the sticky tabs at the back on one edge. This would be easier if two people were on chairs, or step ladders, but there’s no way he’s going to let Mackenzie climb more than a foot off the ground right now. Not at twenty-two weeks pregnant (not at any time she’s pregnant).

“Do I want drugs?” Mackenzie muses from behind him. “Can you imagine me with an epidural, stuck in bed?”

Will turns to look at her; she’s grinning at him. “No,” he says. “I can imagine that you’d want to walk and move around as much as possible.”

“I think you’re so right.”

Will turns back to the wall and hovers the frieze over the corner of the room, making sure it lines up with the architrave and where the sheet rock meets the other wall and then takes the plunge and presses it against the paint. It’s going to ruin the new paint. Whatever. They can get someone in to redecorate again, when they move.

“Does that mean you’re going to go drug free?” Will turns to look at Mackenzie again.

“I’m not sure,” she almost winces. “I mean, as much as possible, but – it would be nice for the baby but –”

“But if you need it,” Will finishes. He likes the way she sits, with her hand resting over the baby; already protective of him.

“Yeah,” Mackenzie says.

“That could mean an epidural.”

“It could,” Mackenzie says lightly. “And, there are epidurals that don’t completely paralyse you anymore. I could still walk around.”

“That would mean you’d have to be in the hospital.”

“I was definitely thinking we’d go to the hospital to have the baby.”

Will nods. That’s good. That’s totally what he was thinking. What if something goes wrong? He’d rather have the world’s best medical team right there to save his son and/or his wife.

“Definitely not wanting to have a home birth,” Mackenzie adds.

Even better.

“Thoughts?” She prompts from behind him.

“Totally agree.”

“Hospital birth it is!” Mackenzie enthuses. “How would you feel about having a doula?” She goes on.

“Is that the labour coach person?”

“Yeah.”

“Isn’t that what I’m there for?”

“Well, yes but, a doula would be there for me.”

Will looks to the wall and lets the frieze go. It stays in place, stuck to the sheet rock, so, so far, so good. “Isn’t that what I’m there for?” He asks again, picking the tabs off the next section of frieze. There’s silence behind him but he focuses on decorating the wall, sticking down the next section carefully, making sure it’s straight and that there are no bubbles.

There’s quite a silence and then Mackenzie says, “I get the impression you’re upset.”

It feels like he’s being baited. Her tone isn’t quite neutral or caring, and his first reaction is to get petulant, to match her tone and tell her she’s being ridiculous. Of course he’s not upset, over something so? But he kind of is. She wants to bring in someone to help her labour, then what is he there for? To wait out in the waiting room, pacing for news?

Will waits until that feeling has abated, takes a deep breath and turns back to his wife. “Not upset, but I don’t understand.” He doesn’t quite manage a neutral, caring tone either. But his heart is in the right place.

“Ok,” Mackenzie says in a measured way. “A doula is someone who helps with labour –”

“I got that part,” Will says, and steps down from his chair. “I – you don’t want me in there with you?” He picks up the chair to move it over a foot, careful of the length of teddy bear frieze hanging from the ceiling to the floor.

“Of course I want you in there with me!” Mackenzie says strongly, eyes wide. “I just thought it might be nice to have more support.”

Will looks over at his wife. “You know what? If that’s what you want,” he gives a slight shrug to indicate it’s not a big deal. He still might not have managed the right tone of voice, but he really does mean it. There’s enough time in the next silence for him to climb back up on his chair and stick the next section of teddy bear to the wall, before Mackenzie speaks again (he waits her out, giving her the chance to think before she speaks).

This is their first challenging conversation since they started marriage counselling (that hasn’t involved their marriage counsellor sitting within three feet acting as mediator and cheer squad), which has probably been rather lucky. And it’s probably even more fortunate that it’s also come along after they had the session where they learnt about each other’s emotional needs, and how to negotiate their way through them. In other words, they’re starting to put into practice what they learnt (started to learn) yesterday.

Mackenzie gives a nervous laugh. “I don’t know what to say Will. I can tell you’re not happy but I don’t understand why, and I’m really wanting to respect your thoughts and needs too, but I just don’t get it.”

Will turns to her surprised. “Me either,” he admits. “I mean, the part where we have the rational conversation.”

Mackenzie gives another small laugh. “Just – just tell me what it is, if you can,” she says, because Will sometimes (most of the time) has difficulty explaining what he’s feeling. “I won’t be offended. We’re talking.”

Will crosses his arms over his chest and thinks for a second. “I guess I don’t want someone else in there who I don’t know, which is entirely selfish. But, I guess I envisioned you and me, and Katherine, and probably some nurses,” he concedes. “But, just us. Not a million other people.” He pauses and Mackenzie opens her mouth to speak but he raises a hand to stop her. “But, I’m also not going to have to squeeze another person out of my body, so really, if you want a doula there, then, honey, you should have a doula there. Anything you need or want, I’m ok with.”

Mackenzie waits a split second to make sure he’s done and then she says: “You know what? Yes, I’m going to push the baby out, but he’s our son and the birth is about both of us. Mainly me, but also you, and I should take into consideration what you want. I am. Taking into consider – that’s why I’m asking you. I’m not telling you. I wasn’t telling you we were going to have a doula. I was saying I was thinking about it.”

Will unfolds his arms.

“If you’re not comfortable with someone else being there,” Mackenzie goes on, her eyes wide in their sincerity. “You’re right, it’s offensive to suggest that you can’t support me in every way I need. You do! You already, totally do! That’s not what I meant to imply.”

“You didn’t –”

“I’ve just never done this before. Having someone there who has, felt comforting. But we’ll learn everything and I trust you and Katherine.”

“Honey if you want –”

“I don’t. I want you to be my doula.”

They stare at each other for a moment.

“Is that wholehearted?” Will asks.

(As per negotiating guidelines.)

“Yes,” Mackenzie nods. “It really is.”

They stare at each other again.

“And I know you’ll be amazing because you would never let me down.”

“That is true,” Will says, honestly.

Mackenzie gives a slight nod. “Now, come down here off the chair because it’s like conversing with a giant,” she reaches out with her hand, and Will concedes, hopping down to seal their deal with a kiss.

 

**********

 

“This is really hard,” Mackenzie complains.

“It’s not that hard,” Will counters.

“It really is.”

“There’s a template right there to help you.”

“Where?”

“There, in the pack the clinic gave us today.”

Mackenzie goes quiet and Will figures she’s looking for the birth plan template the birthing centre gave them earlier this morning, when they went for their second child birth preparation class. He finishes drying his hands and goes into the bedroom. Mackenzie is sitting up against the head of the bed, pillows piled in against her back (his too), glasses perched on the end of her nose (so cute), papers strewn around her and a couple of the baby books. She’s reading, so Will figures she found it. He comes around the bed and lays down on the mattress next to her. He feels wary after his morning’s work. He’s getting old.

“Good lord, it mentions here that we need to let the hospital know if we’re going to have a photographer or a videographer in there, and I can tell you right now, Billy, no one is getting anywhere near my vagina with a camera of any kind. Not even you.”

“Except for that one time.”

Mackenzie’s neck whips around so fast Will thinks she could have given herself an injury. She glares at him. “Those photos better be burnt Billy. And any negatives or digital copies, and the camera you took them on better also have been destroyed.”

Will chuckles, “I promise. They’re gone.”

“They better be.”

“I keep one copy secure on my private Facebook page, that only friends and family can see, but otherwise, they’re gone.”

Mackenzie glares harder at him. “You better be fucking joking Will. If those photos get out –”

“They won’t get out!” Will interrupts, looking up at her, laughing. “I swear to you, I destroyed them. No one is going to see them.”

“Good.”

“But they are permanently burned into my memory.”

Mackenzie stares at him a moment longer. “Well that’s ok,” she says lightly, turning back to her papers. Will grins to himself, and sees his wife trying not to smile herself. “So I’m just going to go ahead and cross this out,” Mackenzie says, and Will assumes she means the part where they let the hospital know if someone else is going to come in to record the birth. A part of him thinks it might be nice to have for all time, but another, which has to agree with Mackenzie, thinks it would be totally invasive and weird. Mackenzie will probably spend the rest of her life trying to forget it, in the nicest way possible.

“I’d like to move around freely during labour,” Mackenzie reads. “Yes,” she answers herself and ticks the box on the template. She ticks a few more things, about IV lines and foetal monitoring and letting her water break naturally. She selects the options with the least amount of medical intervention as possible and those that give her the most control over what happens in the delivery room (such as when she pushes, and what position she’s in for delivery), following the guideline of having as natural a birth as possible, relying on Will for her support (with pain), and the fact that she’s not been a big fan of hospitals after she was stabbed.

“I’d like to view my baby’s birth using a mirror,” Mackenzie reads. “Ugh, no,” she groans. “I’d like to touch my baby’s head as it crowns,” Mackenzie reads on with a frown. “No,” she says firmly, and strikes out the line on the sheet.

“Can I?” Will speaks up.

She looks at him. “Touch the baby’s head as it crowns?”

“Yeah.”

She peers at him over the edge of her glasses. “If you want to.”

“I’d like to.”

“I’ll put it on here,” Mackenzie says. “Though I’m sure you’re going to be more with it when we’re actually in there and not need this.” She picks up the piece of paper and looks over at him. She puts the paper down again and taps her pen against it, “so then, do you want to cut the baby’s cord?”

“Sure,” Will agrees.

“All right,” Mackenzie ticks that box. “And we’re still going to store the baby’s cord blood?”

Will nods. Mackenzie selects the option they want, and crosses out the others. The rest of the questions must be for Mackenzie because she reads them to herself and ticks a few options, but then she comes back to Will with a few things, like whether they’ll have their son circumcised.

“Absolutely not,” Will says, taking the pen from her hand and crossing that line out. “No one’s going anywhere near his penis with a knife without his express verbal permission.”

Chapter Text

29th September 2013

Sunday

 

“Sex on Sunday, I called it,” Mackenzie says, lying flat on her back, totally naked, looking over at the wall opposite their bed. Will’s lying on her foot, but he too is on his back, totally naked.

He turns his head towards her. “Does that matter?”

Mackenzie turns her head towards him. She smiles, “no.” She pauses. “I don’t think so.” She shifts, awkwardly, until she frees her foot and turns over, balancing her weight and the swell of the baby so she doesn’t fall. Will lifts a hand as if to help steady her, but she doesn’t need it; if she moves carefully, she’s ok. She settles against his side, places a kiss just above his nipple and then rests her chin there, gazing into his eyes adoringly. She feels the brush of his fingers against the back of her shoulder, tickling her hair against her scapula. “I’m glad we’re having sex.”

“Me too,” Will agrees, his tone soft and his gaze reverent.

“You’re amazing,” Mackenzie adds.

“That’s because I got you twice,” Will raises his other hand, two fingers extended.

Mackenzie laughs lightly and swats his hand away. “It’s not a record,” she teases and he chuckles.

“I got old,” he complains.

“Then you do well to keep up with your much younger wife,” Mackenzie shoots back.

Will gives her an amused smile, but there’s no comeback.

“And sadly, Will’s mind was also deteriorating,” Mackenzie adds.

“That’s it,” he moves quickly, pushing her back against the bed, tickling her ribs, making her shriek so that her usually husky voice cracks as she laughs.

“Stop! Stop!” She cries out after a second and Will eases up, leaning over her. She’s still laughing and grinning but she does frown. “I’m seriously going to pee all over the bed. No tickling,” she warns with a serious expression and a pointed finger.

“Ok, ok,” Will relents.

“Hanging on by a thread,” Mackenzie goes on.

“Go!” Will orders, letting her up. “Geeze.”

“Hey, when you have a baby sitting on your bladder all day and night, you’ll feel the threat of needing to pee when you laugh as well,” Mackenzie gripes as she moves off their bed.

Will disentangles his foot from the sheet and moves to make the bed. Or at least pick up the pillows and blanket that made their way to the floor. He straightens it all out, makes their bed somewhat respectable, and then heads to the walk-in robe to put clothes on. He selects a tee off the top of the pile and starts to put it on when Mackenzie comes in. He reaches to put the shirt on over her head instead. When her head pops through the hole, she’s giving him a grin. She feeds her arms through and puts on her own yoga pants. Will slips into boxers and a different tee; FCUK (a shirt Mackenzie bought him from a visit home many, many years ago). She eyes the shirt up, but doesn’t say anything.

“Lunch?” Will suggests, as they head out.

“Definitely,” Mackenzie agrees.

 

 

**********

 

“I think, the crib here,” Mackenzie gestures to the wall. “The change table here, by the window,” she gestures there too. “Dresser here, chair here, and, is there anything else?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Will says, pushing the chair into the corner. It will get partial sun there, sometime in the afternoon, for maybe an hour or so; longer in the summer. Although, when summer comes around next year, their son will be five months old.

“Where’d you go?” Mackenzie asks gently, coming to stand in front of her husband.

He straightens up from where he was half bent, moving the chair into place. “Thinking about our son.”

“Yeah?” Mackenzie asks sweetly, shaking the hair from her eyes as she looks up at him. He reaches out to put his hand on her belly and she covers his with both of hers. Her engagement ring catches the late autumn sun and casts a small rainbow beneath the window sill. “Good things?” She asks after a moment’s silence.

“Yeah,” Will says tentatively. “I was just thinking, in summer, he’ll be five months old. Five.”

Mackenzie smiles up at him. “For his first Christmas, he’ll be nearly a year.”

“I hadn’t thought that far.”

“Does that – is that something that scares you?” Mackenzie asks tentatively.

“Sure,” Will answers. “Because having a baby is a big thing, not because I’m flipping out at the idea of being a father.”

Mackenzie gives a wry turn of her mouth. “I just thought I’d check in. We haven’t really talked about the baby in a while.”

“We’ve been focussing on our marriage,” Will supplies.

“Yeah,” Mackenzie agrees. “We’re almost done with that.”

Will nods. She means the counselling, not that they’re done with working on their marriage (it’s always going to be an ongoing process). Their last session is next week. Then they’re on their own. Set free. And he surprisingly doesn’t feel scared about that either. Things have changed a lot and all that therapy must be working for him.

“All right,” Mackenzie notes, stepping back. The only furniture in the room so far is the chair. There are a few bags of clothes though; cousins of Will’s sending a few things, and her mother, sending over clothes she hoarded from her various other grandbabies (never mind that they’re going to be in London in a month). The onesie Will bought is on the pile too, but the wooden teething ring Mackenzie got in the market when they were on their honeymoon is still on her dresser. Her things are long gone to goodwill, and even though the room is painted and decorated (there are even new curtains up – fluffy, yellow puppies), the room feels like it’s in a weird limbo without the rest of the furniture there.

“When did you say the crib is supposed to be here?” Will asks.

“I think a bookcase maybe, there,” Mackenzie gestures to the wall by the wardrobe. “I can’t remember. The email said it had been delayed.” She checks her bra (while Will stares on, fascinated), but her phone isn’t there. She must have left it somewhere else. “So long as it’s here before the baby actually arrives,” she adds.

“What was happening there,” Will approaches where she’s standing (where the crib will go against the wall).

“When?” Mackenzie feigns ignorance.

“Just then. Seemed to be something going on in your underwear.”

Mackenzie laughs. “I was looking for my phone.”

Will slides his hands around her waist. “Is that where you keep it?”

“Sometimes,” Mackenzie links her hands behind his neck, forcing him to lean down slightly. She shakes the hair from her face as she looks up at him. “I’m excited.”

Will quirks an eyebrow. “Because you were digging in your bra?”

“About the baby,” she swats at his shoulder, but he doesn’t let her go and so she’s forced to stay with him. She puts her arms around his waist instead, and he straightens up, but spreads his legs further apart, so that he doesn’t gain too many inches on her.

“Me too,” he says. And Mackenzie kisses him.

  

**********

 

1st October 2013

Tuesday

 

“I’ll go first,” Mackenzie tentatively raises her hand. Her heart rate goes up, and she can tell that it’s happened mostly because the baby gets suddenly squirmy inside her. It also happens when she works out. And when she’s having sex. She half glances at her husband, sitting next to her in the therapist’s office, but can’t quite make his eye. They talked on the weekend. Not about anything major, but they were talking and things were going well, and this is something that she could have brought up then, but she didn’t. She chickened out a little. She’s not convinced their chat about the doula went well, and she didn’t want to start accusing or getting Will defensive, or have him placate her; she wants the truth of things. It felt safer to wait and bring it up here, in therapy, with a mediator, someone who will moderate both of their reactions.

“Go ahead,” Dr Johnson invites warmly.

“I was talking to Sloan last week and she mentioned to me that you mentioned to her that we were here, seeing a marriage counsellor, I mean. Not here right now. I’m sure you didn’t tell her our exact appointment times,” Mackenzie speaks nervously, the words rushing out quickly.

“Ask Will your question,” Harley quietly suggests when she falls silent.

Mackenzie looks over at Will, who turns his head to meet her eye at the same time. He looks cautious and Mackenzie suddenly feels ill. She takes a steadying breath, knowing she’s holding it, and that’s what’s making her feel nauseated. Why is this so hard? It’s her husband. It shouldn’t be hard. Their discussion about the doula went fine. Mackenzie checks how she’s feeling inside. She can tell she’s a little buzzed, which could be anxiety or anger; her heart rate is higher and she practices her question, so it doesn’t come out sounding like an accusation. “I was just wondering why you told her something like that?” Tone nice and neutral; curious, not demanding.

Will blinks, and his eyes slide away for a second as he thinks, and Mackenzie wonders how he could have forgotten that he had done that. He focuses back on her and asks softly, “Was it not ok that I did?”

“You’re not answering my question,” Mackenzie points out gently. Instead of saying: ‘don’t avoid the question!’.

Will gives a very slight sigh, and when he responds, his tone isn’t quite as careful as hers was. “She came in and I was getting ready to leave and she asked where I was going and I just said it. Because I didn’t think that it was something to hide and she’s my friend, and your friend, and I didn’t really think it was a big deal.” And then he gives her a slightly hopeful expression, that she’ll accept that as his answer. “I didn’t particularly want her to know, I just didn’t want to lie.”

Mackenzie watches him a moment while she thinks. It’s not an unreasonable train of thought. And Sloan hasn’t said a word to anyone about the counselling (she thinks, though, to be fair, Sloan doesn’t always have a great track record for these sorts of things). And Will’s right, there’s no need to lie to a friend. And on top of all of that, there’s nothing to be ashamed about, going to see a counsellor. Now that they’ve gotten through it, Mackenzie would highly recommend it to anyone. Nothing to be ashamed of at all.

“Ok,” she says out loud. “But, she blindsided me with it an –” She stops herself abruptly, because she thinks she’s accusing now.

“Go on,” Dr Johnson prompts softly. “You’re doing really well.”

Mackenzie forgot for a second that the therapist was there. She takes another fortifying breath. “She blindsided it with me and I didn’t like that,” she finishes.

“I’m sorry,” Will says automatically.

“It doesn’t matter,” Mackenzie shakes her head.

“It does matter,” Dr Johnson speaks up again. “If it’s important to you Mackenzie, then it matters.”

Mackenzie glances at the therapist and nods, trying not to feel chagrined, just informed, and encouraged.

“Will, what do you hear Mackenzie saying to you?” The doctor prompts him.

“That Mackenzie isn’t happy that I shared personal information with someone who isn’t in our relationship.”

“Mackenzie,” Harley turns to her. “Is that correct?”

“Not quite,” Mackenzie says quietly. She meets the eyes of her husband again. He gives her a blank neutral look, which kind of irritates her, or unsettles her, because it’s like having a conversation with him when he hated her and was trying not to show it. But instead of contempt and blind hatred leaking out, what she sees flickering beneath his stony expression, is fear and anxiety. He hates to hurt her, and he finds these conversations difficult. “Of course I know that you wouldn’t share that kind of information to upset me. And I don’t even care that it was Sloan. It’s just that when she mentioned it, she caught me off guard.”

“Did that clarify it for you Will?”

“No,” he breathes out. “You don’t mind that I shared the information with a mutual friend?”

“No,” Mackenzie answers.

Will inclines his head a little. “Then?”

“She – I didn’t know that you had told her!” Mackenzie raises her voice. “Sorry,” she quickly cuts in, feeling her face get hot. She avoids all eyes in the room. “I’m not mad. I’m – I don’t know how to explain it to you. That’s what’s frustrating.”

The room goes silent. Will can’t fill in the void for her and Dr Johnson is obviously waiting for her to get there herself. Mackenzie takes another breath and tries to still herself again. It’s hard, but she can see now that she doesn’t always communicate in the best way, and whoever said the best communication is one that gets the message across clearly is an idiot. It doesn’t matter how clear she thinks she’s being, if she’s not presenting the words for Will in a way he understands, then she may as well not bother.

“I guess I don’t like the idea of people knowing things about you and me that I don’t know,” Mackenzie tries again. She looks up at her husband as she speaks, and sees his eyebrows go up with surprise. “It feels like I’m not part of it. Like it’s a secret –”

“You want us to be on the same side?” Will cuts in.

“Yes!” Mackenzie exclaims excitedly.

“You and me against the world.”

“Yes!” Mackenzie enthuses again.

Will gives her a softer expression, “But we – hang on.” He stands slightly and turns his armchair so that he’s mostly facing her. He reaches over and takes her hand, and leans in, blue eyes imploring. “It is you and me against the world.”

“I don’t want people to think we have problems, Will.”

“We don’t,” he immediately agrees with her.

“Just, if you’re going to tell people private things, can you let me know you have?”

“Ok,” Will says after a beat. “But really, I shouldn’t tell people private things?”

Yes,’ Mackenzie thinks, but she takes a second longer before vocalising anything. This isn’t her telling her husband off, it’s just a request for keeping her in the loop. “Or make sure you’re telling them to people who will never get it back to me – that came out awkward. I just don’t want people to think the wrong thing about us seeing a counsellor.”

Will’s silent a moment.

“I’m not trying to imply I think there’s something wrong with being here,” Mackenzie risks a side glance at their therapist, who just gives her a curious expression. She looks down at her hands, gripped by her husband’s.

“I don’t know what to say,” Will says.

“Me either,” Mackenzie lets out a nervous laugh. She’s not very good at this. She doesn’t know what she thinks or feels about her… feelings. She’s not in tune with her emotions. It took her forever to figure out she was in love with Will, and look at all the damage she did in the meantime.

“It sounds to me,” Dr Johnson finally cuts in. They both look over at her. “That Mackenzie is saying that she wants to know that you two are united. In the sense that you, Will, aren’t telling other people about any problems you feel you two have,” she gestures to him, and then switches her hand to gesture at Mackenzie. “When what she really wants is for you to be able to talk to her about them, first, or exclusively.”

Will turns to Mackenzie and raises his eyebrows in question. Mackenzie nods. “Yeah.”

“That wasn’t what that was about.”

“I know, but –”

Will grips her hands tighter. “I will, talk to you. If I feel like we have a problem.”

Mackenzie tightens her lips and forces a nod. “Of course, me too.”

And it sounds good on paper, but Mackenzie’s expression is still not happy and they can all sense that even though she’s giving affirmations, she’s not entirely satisfied.

“I can only give you my word,” Will says gently.

“I know,” Mackenzie matches his tone.

“I’m going to interject here to remind you that this office isn’t the course of your everyday lives. We’re just trying to learn the skills so that you can negotiate your everyday lives. And even though maybe all you can give is your word right now, the idea is to be able to act on it when you have an opportunity to. When you stood and gave your vows, you didn’t already have twenty years of marriage behind you as ‘proof’ of your intentions. Remember that trust.”

“Yeah,” Mackenzie lifts her chin, a slight shake of her head, like she’s brushing hair from her eyes, even though all strands are safely bound in a hair band. She does feel something lift from her shoulders.

“Keeping your love alive is a process,” Harley goes on. “And there will be times when that bond will rupture. The point is to come back to each other and be deliberate and mindful in maintaining a connection. It’s ok that you don’t have the perfect words, Mackenzie. Will’s still here listening to you. He might not know what the underlying problem is, and you don’t either, but he’s hearing you when you say you’re not happy about something.”

Will gives his wife a very steady gaze, and a nod. That’s true.

“Yeah,” Mackenzie says again and she manages a tentative smile. She squeezes her husband’s hands.

“Mackenzie, would you say you feel emotionally connected to Will?”

“Right now?” Mackenzie looks at the therapist, who nods. “Yes,” she admits, and it surprises her a little. She can see the love on her husband’s face, feel it kind of emanating from him towards her. His hands are warm and tight on hers and she feels grounded. She feels like she’s really been listened to, even if the words are a little garbled. At the very most, she feels like he’s paying attention to her as she tries to say something.

“Will, what would you like to do next?”

He glances away from his wife for a second while he thinks. “I’d like to hug you,” and he stands, without needing permission or encouragement and pulls his wife to her feet too, so he can put his arms around her. They keep their abdomens apart, to give room to the baby, but his arms are tight around her shoulders and she turns her head so that her ear is pressed to his shoulder as he holds her. She has to admit, it feels good. To be held by him, and to feel like she’s important to him, and in those few seconds that she stands there, embracing her husband, she realises that really, it doesn’t matter what she said, or didn’t manage to say, what matters is that she feels connected to him.

Somewhere in the back of her mind she remembers the information sheets containing a phrase about attuned interactions rupturing… but that the hallmark of a sensitive caregiver is managing and repairing the ruptures. So Will told Sloan they were seeing a marriage counsellor and that made Mackenzie feel insecure and anxious (her attachment style) that they weren’t connected anymore. But now she feels safe again.

Will steps back and dips his head to meet her eyes, asking silently if she’s ok, and if they’re ok, and she gives him a smile this time that meets her eyes and makes her feel warm. He still holds her hand, but they take their seats again, Mackenzie pushing back her chair with her leg so that it’s angled more towards her husband. She doesn’t see, but Dr Johnson notices the small gesture, and smiles to herself. These two are going to be just fine.   

 

Chapter Text

23rd November 2013

Saturday

 

Mackenzie wakes suddenly, wondering what’s happening (when sleep is sooo good) and then realises she needs to pee. Badly. She throws back the cover and pushes herself to sit with her elbow leveraging against the mattress. In the process, she tosses her body pillow to the floor. When she stands she takes a moment to make sure she’s balanced, before stepping off to the bathroom. She pushes the door open and the nightlight is on. It’s dark in the bedroom at this hour, now that it’s winter, so the light has come back into its own (and Will never fails to put it on before he goes to bed).

After Mackenzie uses the bathroom she quickly brushes her teeth before heading back to the bedroom. Will is still asleep, so Mackenzie gets back into bed, lying on her right side this time, facing her husband. She tries not to mess around with her body pillow too much while she’s settling, because she knows it wakes Will when she shifts it from side to side, but she’s half asleep and hasn’t thought this through, and she wakes him anyway because she has it caught up in the bedcover.

“Everything ok?” He murmurs, cracking his eyes open at her.

“Yes. I needed to pee. Sorry,” Mackenzie whispers back. She goes still, hugging the pillow while it supports her swollen belly (to stop the extra weight of the baby from tearing her muscles from her ribs), and curves between her knees (to keep her hips aligned properly while she’s full of a hormone that keeps her pelvis loose for when she gives birth). Will makes a kind of humming sound and reaches out a hand to her stomach, pressing his palm against her bellybutton. The baby is far too big for him to cup with one hand now, not even with two. He turns over under Will’s palm but Mackenzie suspects her husband has gone back to sleep because he doesn’t say anything or get in closer to feel more, like he usually does. Mackenzie closes her eyes herself, hoping she might drift off again.

She does.

And when she wakes again an hour later (because the baby is kicking up a storm) Will is sitting up in bed next to her, the curtains open, reading one of his many pregnancy books (he’s on a second reading now. Third), waiting on her. “Hey,” she greets sleepily, stretching out her legs, turning a little more to press her baby bump into the body pillow she sleeps against.

“Hey,” he echoes softly. “Did you sleep ok?”

“Yes. Did you?”

“Yeah.”

“Did I wake you?”

“Only once I think.”

“Hm,” Mackenzie answers. That’s good. He doesn’t complain, but no one likes to be woken in the night; broken sleep is hard on everyone. She closes her eyes again. The baby pushes a foot out against her skin. “The baby’s kicking.”

Will moves quickly, practically dropping his book to press his hand against her, pushing the blanket out of the way. “Where?” He asks and she takes his hand and moves it to the spot where a toe is digging into her flesh. He makes a happy noise as he feels the kicks under his palm, then rubs the spot with his fingers. “Be kind to your Mommy,” he says to her belly. Mackenzie doesn’t even need to open her eyes to see he probably has his face really close to her stomach.

“He’s not listening to you,” she murmurs.

Will drops a kiss to the other side of her uterus and shifts higher up to drop a kiss to her cheek. “Can I get anything for you?”

“No,” Mackenzie says, smiling. She opens her eyes and finds him leaning close to her, on his elbows, looking happy, his hair sleep mussed and his blue eyes bright, but he’s also brushed his teeth, and she has a sudden idea. “But I can think of something you can do for me,” she grins.

Will raises his eyebrows, but he’s smiling too, and he comes in closer to kiss her softly. It gets a little awkward when they get down to it. Mackenzie is not as agile as she was pre-pregnancy, and it’s more difficult for them to fit their bodies together now too, but they’ve had fun finding the ways. The bathroom vanity, for example, is the perfect height if she sits on it, or faces the other way and leans on it, and Will quite enjoys laying back while she sits in his lap (for the view). Of course, getting to the bathroom vanity takes a bit of deliberate thought. And getting to his lap takes a bit of obvious help.

But at least they’re having sex.

  

**********

 

Mackenzie finally exits the bathroom and finds the bedroom empty (but Will’s made the bed). She walks, completely naked (but with her wet hair wrapped in a towel), to the closet and dresses casually, opting for comfy yoga pants (that she can sling low under the baby, but that won’t cause them to fall down) and a loose tee, which actually might be getting too small now (it stretches tight over her stomach). Then she takes her hair towel back to the bathroom and slots it onto the rail, and goes to find her husband. He’s on the couch, dutifully looking at the internet pages she left for him on her tablet.

“Baby’s need a lot of stuff,” Will muses, scrolling the tablet’s screen with the index finger of his right hand. Mackenzie drops awkwardly to the couch cushion at the other end, then wiggles further down the couch so her head is resting on the arm and her heels are digging into her husband’s leg. He reaches to move them, so there’s less concentrated pressure pinpointed on the soft flesh of his thigh. Mackenzie shifts her bum so she’s slightly on her side, so the baby doesn’t crush into an artery and cut off her and his blood supply (he’s gone still in there).

“We don’t have to pick out a car seat,” Mackenzie murmurs.

Will looks over at her. She has her eyes closed. Will goes still, thinking she’s going to go to sleep (or already is) and returns his attention to the tablet (should she be doing personal stuff on a work device?). They’re trying to decide on a change table and a dresser, trying to find something that will match the crib they already went ahead and ordered months ago (which arrived yesterday, finally), thinking that surely, finding other furniture to match wouldn’t be much of a big deal (Mackenzie wanted to wait and see the crib before they went ahead and ordered the rest). Will really doesn’t have much of an opinion. Who is going to notice if the shades of white aren’t exactly the same? 

Mackenzie probably will. And it will annoy her until the end of time (or until their kid/s outgrow the baby furniture). So that’s fine, Will takes a look at the furniture that’s the same shade of white as the crib, and is of a similar – has a similar curve on the wood or some shit, and it’s fine. “What do you think?” Mackenzie asks.

“I thought you’d gone back to sleep,” Will almost whispers.

“It’s ten o’clock,” Mackenzie says haughtily. “Of course I’m not going back to sleep.”

“Well, had a busy morning,” Will says lightly, flicking to the next tab which is trying to sell him a breast pump (perhaps this page is not for him). He glances over at Mackenzie, who’s grinning at him, her eyes dark but bright; he knows exactly what she’s thinking about. Will gives her the tablet back, “Those are fine.”

“Fine, fine? Or fine?”

“Fine, as in, yes, get those, I think they’re great,” Will elaborates, clearly and concisely.

“Ok,” Mackenzie focuses on the tablet again, tapping away, as, he assumes, she makes the purchases. Will drops his hand to her feet, rubs his thumb into the little dip of her heel below her ankle. She squirms slightly but he’s not trying to tease her again. Not that he wouldn’t do things for her if she wanted him too. However, he also knows she’s sensitive at the moment and there is such a thing as too much stimulation.

“Done,” Mackenzie announces. “Change table, dresser; crib’s already here,” she ticks off her mental list (and will tick off their physical list later).

“Do you want to put it together today?” Will asks, giving in to the way her foot twitches against his hand, and just starts giving her a proper foot rub. Her knee flexes up and he eases up on the pressure a little.

“Maybe. We need to pack, cos Lord knows I won’t have any time to do it during the week. And we’ve only got four days until we go.”

“Yeah,” Will agrees, deciding to not nit-pick whether its four days or five days, depending on whether they count today, and/or Wednesday (because they’re both self-monitoring the nit-picking and the last month, since they have been sans marriage counsellor, has been great).

Mackenzie doesn’t ask him again if he wants to bail on their Thanksgiving plans, and he doesn’t say anything else about it either. They’ve talked about it. They talked about it with their marriage counsellor too. Mackenzie knows Will doesn’t like to socialise. Will will even concede now that he doesn’t like to socialise. And they both agree to be better at negotiating the socialising. Because it’s important to Mackenzie, while it isn’t to Will. Enough said.

(Not just the socialising. There are other things there too. But still, no need to go over it again.)

“You want something to eat?” Will says instead.

“I think you’re just trying to fatten me up,” Mackenzie muses.

Will ignores that.

“I’m not hungry right now,” Mackenzie adds. “You’ve already had sex with me, showered me and fed me this morning. I want for nothing right now. Except for maybe the elbow in my kidney to move,” she pokes her stomach, as if to indicate that that last one was directed at their son.

“Is he kicking?” Will asks, abandoning her foot.

“No, just lying awkwardly.”

Will starts on her other foot.

“I think I need to get up,” Mackenzie gives a wince and starts pushing herself upright, using her elbow for leverage. She swings her feet to the floor and Will quickly gets to his feet as well, to help pull her to stand. Mackenzie walks to the other side of the room slowly, jigging a little as she goes, trying to encourage the baby to turn over or move. Will stands awkwardly for a moment, then perches on the edge of the couch, attentive to what his wife may need or request. She heads for the other side of the room, gives a huff and looks over at him. “Want to go for a walk?”

Will looks to the living room window. The sky is cloudy but this high up he’d have no idea if it’s windy or not; if it’s cold outside or not (sometimes, if there’s no water on the window, they can’t even tell if it’s raining). “Sure,” he says and stands again. They both go to the bedroom to get shoes (slip-ons for Mackenzie; Will puts socks on her feet) and then they both stand at the door to their apartment, putting on coats and jackets, tucking hats and scarves into overlarge pockets, just in case. Will buttons Mackenzie’s coat for her, and it’s tight across her belly. “I think I’m going to have to start wearing one of your jackets,” she murmurs with a smile. Will gives her a kiss.

They head out. It’s cold. Mackenzie reaches for Will’s hand as they start a slow stroll down the sidewalk, and he tucks both their hands into his coat pocket. Foot traffic is not heavy, but every so often some idiot, who must also be blind to not see that Mackenzie is pregnant, refuses to move around them, and either Will or Mackenzie is forced to move out of the way. Which pisses Will off. But Mackenzie is more philosophical about it. She takes a half step into him at one point, bumping him off balance so they’re both jostled, but she looks up at him and announces triumphantly that the baby has finally moved and her kidney has been saved, and he can’t help but smile at her good mood. They continue to walk around the park anyway, Will guiding them more to the side, so they only have to negotiate their way around the occasional trash can or tree.

“I’ve been thinking about the name Ethan,” Mackenzie says as they start on the third side of their usual loop.

“What about it?” Will asks, scanning ahead for anything dangerous (just anything that could bump into his wife, or cause her to fall, or could fall on her, or that she could slip on).

“I just don’t think I like it that name much after all.”

“Ok,” Will says.

“Is that ok?”

“Honey, if you don’t like the name, you don’t like the name.”

“You liked it though.”

“I liked it because you liked it.”

Mackenzie gives a slight laugh, but she says nothing more.

“So you want to take it off the list?” Will asks, slowing his pace so they can walk over a section of wet pathway carefully. He’s pretty sure Mackenzie chuckles about that too, but, whatever. She knows he’s protective, and he tries to not be over-protective, and they seem to have struck a happy balance. It was one of the first conversations they had in therapy, in their quest to figure each other out. That’s their biggest problem: trying to understand the other. It’s not selfishness or resentment or lack of interest in the other (certainly not money worries); they just never really got a chance to be together to figure out all the nuances, before there were rings on fingers and a baby on the way.

“Yes, I think so,” she says.

“Ok,” Will agrees.

They round the next corner.

“What were you reading about this morning?” Mackenzie asks, always willing to make conversation.

“How big the baby is.”

“And how big is the baby? Because he feels pretty big to me.”

“Around three pounds,” Will says.

“Ugh,” Mackenzie gripes. “And he’s just going to get bigger.”

Will doesn’t answer that. “The book suggested we talk about day care.”

“Really?” Mackenzie looks up at him. She does a lot more looking up, now that she can’t wear heels. “Already?”

Will doesn’t argue against that, because they already have. There really is no optimal time to have conversations about baby furniture, birth plans, names etc, because, as they’ve figured out, they both tend to go back and forth and change their minds and Will needs time to think about things before making a decision, while Mackenzie operates more on her instinctive gut feeling. What they do agree on, is letting the books guide them, so if the book is suggesting they talk about day care options…

“Ok,” Mackenzie goes on. “At this stage I’d like to say that I’d like to go back to work. Not right away –”

“You don’t need to.”

He means financially.

“No,” Mackenzie agrees. “But eventually –”

“How much leave is Pruit willing to give you?”

“That’s a good question,” Mackenzie muses. “I guess I need to sit with him.”

“But either way,” Will pushes as they round the last corner; almost home again.

“Well, yes, either way.” She pauses briefly. “Either way what?”

“Will we put the baby in day care? Or should I quit and be a stay at home dad? Or we could talk about hiring a nanny.”

“Oh,” Mackenzie says, and smiles at one of their neighbours heading down the street towards them.

“How are you doing?” The older woman who lives above them asks, gushing as she reaches out her hands to cup Mackenzie’s belly.

“We’re fine,” Mackenzie answers, smiling. Will has no idea what this woman’s name is, but he sees the way Mackenzie ducks out of her touch, so he steps closer to her. She untangles her fingers from his and puts her arm around his waist instead.

“Not long to go?” Nameless neighbour asks.

Will feels Mackenzie balk next to him (pull up! Don’t mention how big she’s gotten!). “A few months,” he jumps in with, and neighbour-sans-name turns her attention to give him a smile. He starts to shuffle to the side, to get around the other woman, hinting that they’re not staying for a chat, pulling Mackenzie with him. She doesn’t take much convincing. “Nice to see you,” Will says politely as they cross a hundred and eighty degrees. Mackenzie and the neighbour say goodbye and they each walk away.

Will and Mackenzie head into their building and pick up the mail, then into the elevator. Will pushes the button to go up to their floor. Mackenzie undoes the buttons on her jacket, “Well that warmed me up.”

Will reaches to tuck a strand of her hair out of her collar. “Is your kidney still safe?”

“Yes. And you rescued me from a woman who implied – do I look like I’m about to give birth?!” She looks up at him, cheeks pink and indignant.

“You look beautiful,” Will tells her softly. 

Chapter Text

“Do you know what I don’t get about American Football?” Mackenzie starts from the couch.

“The stoppages,” Will answers dutifully.

“The stoppages,” Mackenzie starts a second after him. She peers around the edge of the arm of the couch to see him, but he’s not looking at her, or the television; he’s reading the instructions for assembling the crib. He’s sitting in the middle of their living room with all the pieces laid out around him. Mackenzie skips Thursday night’s game, between the Saints and the Falcons, forward.

“Don’t skip it too far,” Will looks up at the screen.

“I didn’t,” Mackenzie counters lightly, letting the game play again. Just all the boring crap where the refs discuss some infringement for ten minutes. Or someone manages a twenty-minute nap before the next play. She looks around the edge of the couch again, but Will has gone back to reading. She’s not sure why he’s watching (listening) to the game, when he already knows the final score.

“I could run off to the loo in the time it takes them to start play sometimes.”

Will ignores her. Or he’s trying to concentrate.

“Some guys come out to the field for less than a minute, then run off again.”

Still no response from Will.

“You know what a real sport is?”

“Rugby?” Will guesses.

“Yes. How did you know?”

Will gives a grunt and puts the instructions down. He reaches for a screw, the screwdriver, a runner and the first bed end. He slots them together and twists the screw into place. He knows because she’s railed against American Football before. Every year (that they’ve been together, at least), she ends up watching parts of the season and the Superbowl with him, and has to complain about it. The baby wakes and starts shifting around again, but at least Mackenzie’s kidneys are safe. She thinks, this time next year, he’ll be here, and she’ll be thankful for him (and Will of course). They both ignore the TV while Will puts the bed together. That is, until the next touchdown, which he stops to watch.

Mackenzie closes her eyes and drifts in and out of consciousness for a while and when she comes to again, she finds Will snapping a photo of the assembled crib with his phone. Mackenzie pushes herself to sit up. “Looks great.”

Will turns to her. “Only took an hour.”

“Geeze an hour?” Mackenzie looks to the clock above the mantle.

“Well, I had to re-do a –”

“Was I asleep that whole time?”

The end of the game is paused on the TV (the remote has been confiscated) and the crib is assembled, so it seems so. Will doesn’t answer her though, because one of the things he’s learnt about her in their couple’s therapy, is that she often says thoughts aloud, that don’t require an answer. He doesn’t have to respond to every little thing she says.

“Who are you sending that to?” Mackenzie asks of the photo Will just took.

“Sloan. She didn’t think I could assemble it.”

Mackenzie smiles wryly to herself and then stands to inspect the furniture closer. She’s not particularly looking for a loose screw, or a gap in the joins, she just wants a closer look at her son’s little bed. The small mattress is in the bottom (with teddy bears in overalls playing in the grass printed on its material) and it all seems sturdy enough. “Do you know what we need?”

“Hm?” Will asks, checking something on his phone.

Mackenzie goes to stand next to him, putting her arm around his waist. “Bed clothes. For the baby’s bed. Blankets and sheets. And a pillow? Do babies have pillows? I don’t think they do.”

“We need a checklist,” Will murmurs and puts his phone in his pocket. “For these things we don’t know to think about.” He drops a kiss to her head and steps away. With him gone, Mackenzie leans her weight on the edge of the cot. It doesn’t groan or collapse under her. She moves to drop the side, and it slides easily downwards, about halfway. She pretends to lean in and pick up an imaginary baby (it doesn’t strain her back, though, it’s not entirely easy, with her bump in the way). Will comes back in with their container of white flour (seriously, where do these things come from?) and a bag of potatoes.

“What are you doing?” Mackenzie asks, surprised.

Will puts the food down on the bed. “Sloan doesn’t think it’ll hold the weight of a baby.” He takes another picture.

 

**********

 

Mackenzie sits on the couch with her legs crossed. She’s also sitting on a pillow, has another at her back, and has one in her lap, which she’s resting the tablet on (Will went and bought extra pillows for her. He has all the best ideas, though she suspects Mr Google is also very helpful). She’s sitting that way to keep her pelvis open, and the baby in a good position, which is more important as she gets ready to give birth, but is also good to practice now, even though she’s thirty-one weeks. “I found a list!” Mackenzie calls to her husband in the kitchen.

“Yeah?” He calls back, but he’s closer than Mackenzie thought. He comes into the living room a second later and hands her a bowl of grapes (washed and dried; seedless; red skin variety only).

“Thanks,” Mackenzie rests it on the arm of the couch next to her. She takes one and pops it into her mouth. Will sits next to her, but swivels himself so his legs are draped over the other end of the couch and his head rests up against her side. He takes out his phone. “Oh, this one is for the first trimester.”

“Oh yeah? What should we have done in the first trimester?” Will asks.

“Make sure I really am pregnant.”

“Should get right on that,” Will says.

Mackenzie looks down and sees him smiling. “Grape?”

“Please.”

Mackenzie takes one from the bowl and slips it into his mouth.

“What else?” Will prompts. “Did we miss anything?”

Mackenzie quickly scrolls the list, but to be fair, they’ve covered most of it, either intentionally or accidentally. It’s mostly about keeping herself healthy and sorting out her healthcare and making sure the baby gets its best start at life. She can safely ignore the advice about starting a budget, because money is never going to be an issue (she just about fell off her chair when Will showed her what he was worth), but the list does suggest talking about baby names, and parenting, with her partner, and even though neither of those things are currently resolved, they have at least started having those conversations (they’ve just been side-tracked with working on their marriage and Will’s depression and life).

Mackenzie reaches for more grapes, takes one for herself and slips another to her husband as they both read on their devices. The second semester list talks about birth classes, learning what’s happening during the pregnancy and making decisions that align with doctor’s appointments, such as finding out the sex of the baby, and whether they’ll do prenatal testing. Mackenzie does stop to check her wedding ring though. She hasn’t noticed her fingers swelling, but the website does suggest taking them off now, before she can’t.

“What’s happening?” Will asks softly, as she’s stopped reading the list aloud. He tips his head back to look at her. “You ok?”

“Yeah, just trying to decide if my fingers have swollen.”

Will reaches up for her hand and inspects her fingers. “They look ok to me.”

Mackenzie gives him her other hand, with her engagement and wedding rings on the third finger. “What about this one?” She explains the swelling issue.

“Take them off, if you want,” Will says lightly.

“I’ll do it next week, after we get back,” Mackenzie counters. “I want to show off my engagement ring to my sisters.”

Will lets her hand go, and says nothing, but Mackenzie can see him smirking again (so nice to see him smiling frequently), and he might look a little proud with it too. So he should. Quarter of a million dollars, thank you very much.

“Ok,” Mackenzie focuses back on her list. “Childbirth classes –”

“Check.”

“Breastfeeding classes.”

“You did those at your Mommy classes, right?”

“Uhm, sort of.” Mackenzie keeps reading. She’ll get more help on that subject when the baby actually arrives.

Mackenzie’s stomach jumps. Will shifts to sit up. “What was that? Was it a kick?” He reaches out to touch the baby.

“It’s a hiccup,” Mackenzie counters. She peers at her husband over her reading glasses. For a second, he looks like he’s not sure what to do, then he comes in to cup the baby around the pillow. He presses a kiss to her stomach and then reaches for the legal pad on the coffee table. It’s the baby name list, which has become a mess of crossed out lines again. He folds back the top sheet for a clean page and takes up the pen. “So what do we need to make a list of?”

“Crib already done,” Mackenzie notes, scrolling up the screen of her tablet. “Change table – ok, furniture, we’re all set with. But we do need a stroller.”

Will writes that down.

“Uhm, it mentions finding a paediatrician.”

Will writes that down too. Mackenzie reaches for a grape, then offers the bowl to her husband. He takes a few.

“What about banking the baby’s cord blood?”

Will looks over at her. “What would we do that for?”

Mackenzie looks up at him slightly. “Well, I’m not entirely sure, but I think it’s for if the baby needs medical something or something. Something to do – stem cells?” She reaches to open a new internet tab on her tablet to google it. Yes, it’s stem cells. “Is that something you want to do?” Mackenzie asks her husband, who is reading over her shoulder.

“Well,” Will pauses to think. Mackenzie waits. “It sounds like a really good idea. Just in case.”

Mackenzie nods. “It’s something we can ask about.”

“Yeah.”

“Write it down.”

He does. They also add laundering the baby’s clothes and bedding (when they get some – which is something Mackenzie wouldn’t have thought to do. Wash the clothes that is, she’s definitely thought about getting clothes for the baby, though they’re kind of waiting to see how big he’ll get inside her before they go ahead and buy), packing the hospital bag, and getting some books that talk more about the baby’s first year of life.

And of course: sorting out the baby’s name.

Chapter Text

The bar stools in the kitchen are too high for Mackenzie to get up to and down from safely, now that the baby has gotten bigger, and she finds them uncomfortable anyway; too hard on her butt, and a pillow is impracticable. As much as Will would like to wait on her hand and foot, cook all her meals and deliver them to her on the couch, she stands in the kitchen with him and helps prepare their evening meal. As much as he’d like to wait on her hand and foot, it’s nice to do these things with her. She slices green beans to the side of the bench, while he fries beef in a pan. Rice cooks in a pot on the stove.

They’re back to beef. Beef, beef, beef. It’s ok though, because it means patty melts, burgers, spaghetti bolognaise, beef Iskandar, beef stir fry, lasagne, burritos, nachos, all the things Will is quite happy to eat. Over and over. Too bad he can’t get her interested in bacon.

“It just feels like such a holy cow big thing,” Mackenzie says from her end of the bench. She’s cute with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, barefooted and red-cheeked, but she’s stressed, and Will recognises that a mile off. “We’ve spent months thinking about the baby growing and now he’s going to come out.”

Will listens patiently, without interrupting. It’s probably that they’re moving forward with their baby plans, and that moving forward is now starting to involve planning for when the baby is actually here, not just pregnancy stuff. So Will suspects Mackenzie is just having a bout of the jitters, now that it’s starting to feel real. He has them too. But he doesn’t always share. He’s definitely not going to share when she’s freaking out (a little).

“What else?” Mackenzie asks, and Will has to look up to see she’s done with the beans. He nudges the carrot closer to her. He’s already peeled it. “Thin?”

“Really thin,” he agrees. “We didn’t finish talking about day care,” he prompts when his wife keeps quiet.

“Oh right,” she says, over the rhythmic tapping of the knife blade against the wooden board. She looks up at him. “Do you think I should stay at home?”

“I think you should do whatever you want to do.”

“But what does that mean? Do you want me to stay at home with the baby?”

Will turns down the gas on his pan and goes to stand near her. He waits until she puts the knife down, and then he takes her hands and holds onto them, while looking her in the eye. So she will hear him. “I want you to do what feels right for you. If that means you stay at home with the baby, then that’s fine. And if you don’t, which is also fine, then we need to make an alternate plan. To have up our sleeves in case we need it. That’s all. Nothing has to be set in stone.”

Mackenzie sighs. “You’re right. Of course. I don’t – sometimes I feel…”

“Overwhelmed,” Will finishes softly. He steps closer and places a kiss on her forehead, but when he goes to step away she gives him an amused frown and drags his neck down to kiss him on the mouth. He steps back, smiling and can see Mackenzie grinning the same. He goes back to his beef, starts adding sauces; sweet chilli and soy and oyster.

“So, a nanny or day care? Those are our options?”

Will looks over at his wife, who has gone back to slicing the carrot. “Well, neither of us have family here,” he points out. “And we don’t know anyone else with kids.” Which rules out family care or babysitting.

Mackenzie finishes the carrot and looks up at him. “That’s true,” she says, sounding surprised, as if it never occurred to her before. “Everyone I know with kids all have older kids.”

“I don’t know anyone with kids.”

“Kelli?”

“Oh. But her kids are five?”

“I guess we can ask the couples from our childbirth classes, but we’ll have to return the favour,” Mackenzie muses. “I’m impressed you know how old Kelli’s kids are.”

“I googled it.”

“You did not,” Mackenzie laughs.

“I asked,” Will corrects. He takes the carrot from her and adds it to the pan, along with the sliced beans, cauliflower, cabbage and peas. No tomatoes or capsicum; too acidic.

“You asked?” Mackenzie says softly. They share a look (where Mackenzie is all hopeful and proud and Will tries to hide his embarrassment that she’s proud of something small, such as asking a work colleague about their kids). And then Will goes back to concentrating on cooking and Mackenzie moves to wash the knife and chopping board she was using.

“We can afford a nanny,” Will says, checking on the rice.

“Just the idea of someone else spending that much time with my baby,” Mackenzie says, giving him a frown. Will nods, waiting for the rest of it, before he objects (they’d get the most qualified person around, no matter the cost, someone who would take great care of their son. And by the way, if the kid is in day care, he’s going to be spending a lot of time with someone else anyway). “Although, I mean, I guess the nanny could just come in when we’re both at work, which is not that long and I will actually go home earlier after he’s born.” She rubs her stomach. Will sees the bump twitch and figures the baby still has the hiccups. Poor guy. Or should he say, poor Mackenzie?

“You could,” Will says, in response to her going home earlier. He wishes she would do that now, but since the pre-honeymoon melt down, and since they had counselling, they haven’t had one fight. Hardly a disagreement. And certainly not one that raged until midnight. So he’s a little cautious about heavy conversations. They’re doing ok so far, but what happens when they disagree? He’s glad to hear her announcing she will be going home earlier after the baby’s born (and she assumedly goes back to work).

“I’m thinking,” Mackenzie says and goes to get plates from the cupboard. Will nods, even though she doesn’t see it. She sets the plates out on the bench and gets cutlery. Then she stands, leaning slightly against the bench with her hands (stretching out her back). “If the baby’s in – there’s day care in the AWM building.”

“There is?” Will raises his eyebrows. If he had known that, he might have suggested it first.

“Yes,” Mackenzie smiles softly. “If he was there, we could see him whenever we wanted.”

“That sounds great,” Will says, matching the softness of her tone. He feels his stomach tighten slightly with the idea of his son, and then being able to see his son during the day, even when he has to go back to work.

“You wouldn’t be mad at me if I entirely changed my mind and quit my job to stay at home would you?” Mackenzie asks coyly, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye.

“Of course not,” Will answers, grinding pepper into their dinner.

 

**********

 

“Ok, let’s do this,” Mackenzie announces. She reaches out the pad of paper she wrote her list on.

“You’re ready?” Will asks needlessly. At the opposite end of the couch, he leans forward to give her his list. They swap and read each other’s top five preferences for boy’s names for their son.

Mackenzie’s list reads: Damien, Daniel, Scott, Lester and William.

Will’s list reads: Nathan, Zachary, Edward, Benjamin and Mackenzie.

“You can’t put Mackenzie on this list,” Mackenzie complains.

“Why not? You put William on yours.”

Mackenzie narrows her eyes at him. “That’s not the same –”

“It’s exactly the same thing.”

“It is not.”

“It’s just more convenient, because your name isn’t sex specific,” Will finishes.

Mackenzie sighs and drops the pad to her stomach.

“I did it to wind you up.”

“Congratulations,” Mackenzie responds dryly. She curls her fingers around his ankle at her thigh, his legs stretched out to frame either side of her. Her legs stretch out straight, and even though she’s tall, her feet barely clear his knees. “We didn’t manage any of the same names.”

“You’ve got names on here we haven’t even talked about.”

“So have you.”

“I couldn’t remember the names we talked about.”

Mackenzie laughs and Will grins at her. “I think we’re going to have to face it. He’s going to be ‘No Name, Charlie, McAvoy’ for the rest of his life.”

“Or until he’s eighteen and can change his name through the courts.”

“Now, that’s an idea,” Mackenzie enthuses softly. “We just let him pick when he’s eighteen.”

“Sure, what’s eighteen years of being called ‘hey’, ‘you’ and ‘boy’.”

Mackenzie picks up the paper again. “I like, out of these, Zach and Ben.”

“From your list I like Damien, Daniel and Scott,” Will comes back with.

“I really wish you’d also say William,” Mackenzie muses, but she writes those three names to the side and adds the two she liked from Will’s list to the bottom. He doesn’t answer her about the use of his name and she doesn’t push. “So, we picked five,” Mackenzie looks over at her husband.

“We did,” he agrees sagely.

“Are we happy with those five?” Mackenzie frowns a little.

“Damien, Daniel, Scott, Zach and Ben?”

“Yeah?”

Will purses his lips a second and then shakes his head. “Me either,” Mackenzie laughs a little.

“We don’t have to like all five of them together. We only have to like one of them,” Will opines.

“This is true,” Mackenzie points her pen at him. “Damien Charlie –” She immediately winces.

“No,” they say at the same time.

“We don’t have to keep Charlie though,” Will offers.

“No, I really want to keep Charlie,” Mackenzie says firmly. Will nods. “Daniel Charlie,” she says aloud, frowning at herself. “No,” she crosses it off the list. “Scott Charlie. No. Zachary Charlie, nope and Benjamin Charlie, actually that one’s ok.”

“You just decimated the list.”

“Sorry,” Mackenzie huffs. She tosses her pad at him and the pen. The pen bounces off his chest and he gives her a slightly surprised expression. “Take them away from me. I can’t be trusted.”

“I’m going to write them out again,” Will says, as he does just that. “And then we’re going to just leave it,” he looks over at her, warning in his eyes. “We don’t have to decide tonight, but if we keep crossing things out, we’ll never remember any names.”

Mackenzie gives him a smile. “That’s probably true.”

“Just don’t touch it,” Will warns again. He reaches out to put the list on the coffee table. He puts the other pad of paper there as well, and tosses both pens to land on top. His pen skitters across the surface, and drops to the floor. “We’re just going to let those ideas sink in.”

Chapter Text

27th November 2013

Wednesday

 

“You’ve met Mackenzie’s parents before?” Habib asks.

“Yeah, one time, they were – they came to DC, when we were still in DC,” Will explains. “And still together. The first time.”

“How did that go?”

“Fine.”

Habib nods and waits to see if Will will elaborate.

“I took her father to an Orioles game, and then we met Mackenzie and her mother for dinner later.”

“And you got along fine?”

“Yeah,” Will says. “Typical meeting the in-laws stuff.”

“Tension?”

“Well,” Will hedges. “Scrutiny.”

“Do you think Mackenzie’s parents don’t like you?”

“I don’t know anymore,” Will admits with a dismissive hand gesture.

“What does that mean?”

“Well, we broke up – I haven’t talked to them since – I don’t know if – well, we’ve said ‘hello’ on Skype.”

“Are you worried that they might blame you for the way you and Mackenzie broke up?”

“Yeah, sure, that,” Will agrees.

“What do you think Mackenzie’s told them?”

“I’m sure she told them the ‘I cheated on Will’ story.”

Habib nods, thoughtful. “Doesn’t that story absolve you?”

“I broke up with her.”

“Sure, but she cheated on you.”

“She didn’t cheat –”

“Yeah, I know, but if she told her parents she cheated on you, and that you then broke up with her, then…”

“They’re probably wondering what we’re doing married,” Will supplies.

Habib gives a hint of a smile. “I meant, they probably think you forgave Mackenzie. So you’re not at fault.”

“I did forgive her.”

“I know,” Habib says gently. Maybe even a little proud. “But, you see my point.”

“Yeah,” Will says.

They’re silent a moment.

“So, you’re ok with seeing them again?” Habib asks.

“Sure,” Will shrugs.

“Maybe I should be asking if you like her parents?”

“Yeah, they’re good people and they care about her a lot.”

“You find it difficult to say that, when you think about how your parents were?”

Will gives a little sigh. “Yes,” he admits. “I do find it strange that – I mean, I don’t find it strange. It’s totally logical that she’s close with her family – closer than I am with mine. We didn’t have the same childhood. But I do still find it strange that she’s – she likes to spend the holidays with them. She goes home at least once a year to see them.” He shrugs.

“When was the last time you saw your brother and sisters?”

“My Dads funeral.”

“Ah,” Habib says. “You didn’t exactly part on good terms.”

“No,” Will agrees. “Well they were supposed to be coming to New York for the wedding –”

“Which didn’t happen.”

“We didn’t get married the way we planned,” Will adds.

“No.”

“So they didn’t end up coming.”

“Right.”

Will gives another shrug.

“So, you find it concerning Mackenzie has a good relationship with her family?”

“Not concerning,” Will corrects, shifting to cross his leg over his knee. “It’s just – I don’t get it, on a personal level. I can’t relate and I don’t understand how she can...”

“Do you have a problem with how Mackenzie’s family treats her?” Habib asks after a second.

“You should see her sisters. I mean, wow. Especially the older two. And her brother is so –” He stops abruptly and waves his hand to dismiss his comment. “Never mind. It’s fine.”

“What’s wrong with her brother?”

“Nothing, he’s fine – Family are people you wouldn’t choose to spend time with. I wouldn’t choose to spend time with my family at all,” Will swipes a firm hand.

“I don’t mind my family,” Habib says conversationally.

“Ok, well, you’re probably secretly medicating them.”

Habib chuckles.

“I can see why I’m wrong about this,” Will corrects himself. “I mean, I can see why this weekend is important to Mackenzie and I’m on board. But yeah, I would rather not go. I don’t mind going, for her. Plus, she’s going to definitely need someone to carry her bags and remember to pack the pillow and make sure she can get off the couch.”

Habib grins. “How is she doing?”

“With the pregnancy?” Will clarifies what he knows the therapist is asking. “Good. Things are going good. She’s big.”

“She’s got… Two months to go?”

“Yeah, two. She’s due at the end of January.” Will extends his fingers to count. “November to December, then December to January. That’s two months.”

Habib gives a wry smile. “That’s two months,” he agrees.

“Anyway, we’re going to London for Thanksgiving.”

“Sounds nice,” Habib says genially.

 

**********

 

Will taps on his wife’s open office door. The glass echoes hollowly and he goes in. Mackenzie turns towards him from her computer, glasses perched on the end of her nose, hair pulled back in a ponytail. She looks so beautiful and Will has an urge to go and kiss her. If he thinks about it, going to London could be just like any other weekend away. Except with her family around, and he’ll have to be on his best social behaviour, and share his wife.

“Hey,” Mackenzie greets him with a smile that makes her dark eyes gleam and it makes Will’s heart flutter for a moment.

“Hey,” Will takes his seat. Foregoes the kiss.

“You reporting in?”

“Yeah.”

“How’d it go?”

“Good,” Will nods. “And he said, anytime you want to come to a session, you’re more than welcome. You don’t need to call ahead.”

Mackenzie gives him a smile. “It’s up to you Will, if you want me there.”

“I do,” Will says, mostly because he knows she wants to be there and he wants to make her happy. She does look happy though. She’s at the point in her pregnancy where she’s glowing and her hair is shiny and she looks really good. He honestly doesn’t mind if she comes to a session with Habib. It’ll probably be good for both of them.

“I can report back too,” Mackenzie sits up straighter. She looks around for something but either can’t find it, or whatever she was looking for wasn’t really important. She leans forward on her desk, which is an interesting manoeuvre with the baby and her boobs in the way. “I talked to HR,” she says slowly. “And it’s definitely twelve weeks.”

Will nods. “You still want to work right up?”

“I’m really going to need to make that decision closer to the time. I feel fine now.”

“But you’ve still got two months to go,” Will finishes.

“Exactly!” Mackenzie enthuses. “Oh here,” she reaches for a post it on her desk and snatches it up. She reaches over to give it to him. It has ‘twelve weeks’ written on it in her handwriting.

Will acknowledges the sticky note, leaving it attached to his finger. He’s pretty sure he’s going to remember how many weeks maternity leave she’s allowed. Does this count as a love note? “How does that work?”

“Weeks?”

“How much notice do you have to give to say when you’re finishing. What if you decide, with all good intention, that you’ll work up to your due date but then get to the week before and decide you just can’t make it.”

Mackenzie stares at him a moment. “Damn it.” She leans back in her chair and reaches for her desk phone. She dials a number. “Hi, it’s Mackenzie again. Is he free?” She pauses. “Yeah I know, I just have another quick question.” She pauses again. “No, this question isn’t in the handbook, I checked,” she says lightly, her buttering-up tone. Will suppresses a smile. “Ok thank you.” She puts the phone down. “I have to email him, because he’s busy all afternoon.”

“Do you think that’s code for avoiding you?” Will asks lightly.

Mackenzie stares at him again. “Do you think so?” She asks, genuinely concerned.

“I’m sure it’s not,” Will says, getting to his feet. “I should go.”

“See you for dinner?”

“Yeah,” Will agrees. He looks to do the door (the coast is clear) and then back to his wife. “I’d really like to kiss you right now.”

“Go do the news,” Mackenzie dismisses him with a smile.

Chapter Text

“Good show tonight,” Mackenzie says from Will’s desk chair, as he comes into his office.

“Thanks,” he says, with a slight smile, starting to head across the room to change; he’s already loosening his tie.

“Sexy.”

Will walks into one of the chairs opposite his desk and stumbles. “What?” He looks over at her, surprised.

“The suits, they’re sexy,” Mackenzie clarifies with a sultry smile, swivelling the chair with her feet to follow him as he comes around the desk.

Will’s office door opens. He startles and Mackenzie looks over curious. Maggie comes in.

“Maggie’s here!” Mackenzie greets, pushing herself out of Will’s chair.

“Hi,” Maggie grins, walking in. “Oh my god, look how big you are!” She gushes as Mackenzie approaches.

“Don’t tell her she’s fat,” Will warns.

Mackenzie shoots him a glare.

“How far are you?” Maggie asks.

“Thirty-one weeks,” Mackenzie answers. “Go and change,” she says sharply to Will. He goes to obey. Jim comes in. “You didn’t tell me Maggie was coming up.”

“Maggie’s coming up this weekend,” Jim says deadpan, coming to stand next to his girlfriend.

Mackenzie ignores him. “How are you?”

“Good. I’m doing really good. Field reporting is less fun in the winter but it’s great,” Maggie answers, with a wide smile. “How are you doing?”

“I’m fine,” Mackenzie says warmly.

“Did you get a lot shorter?” Maggie frowns.

“I can’t wear heels anymore,” Mackenzie says. “Just while I’m pregnant.”

“That sucks, Maggie notes.

“It does,” Mackenzie agrees loftily. “Want to feel the baby kicking?”

“Sure,” Maggie says bravely. Mackenzie takes her hand and places it over the spot where the baby’s foot is pressing out. “That’s so cool!” She withdraws her hand. “Do you know if it’s a boy or girl?”

“There’s a pool going whether it’s a boy or girl,” Jim says.

“I want in,” Maggie says to him seriously.

“We’re not saying,” Mackenzie answers.

“But you know?” Maggie asks her.

“You can also guess the actual delivery date,” Jim adds. “Three to one she’s going to go over.”

Mackenzie doesn’t answer whether she and Will know the baby’s gender. Instead she says, “What are the odds on it being a girl?”

Jim and Maggie stare at her.

“Or a boy,” Mackenzie adds.

“Ah two to one on it being a boy,” Jim says.

“Figures,” Mackenzie says.

“It could be transgender,” Maggie adds helpfully.

“Now there’s a thought,” Mackenzie muses.

“What’s a thought?” Will asks, coming back into the room. He dumps his suit on the table opposite his desk and comes to stand with them, adjusting the cuff on his long-sleeved shirt.

“Whether our baby will be transgender or not,” Mackenzie informs him. He stares at her. “We need to go,” she says. Will moves to get their bags

“What are you guys doing for Thanksgiving?” Mackenzie asks. Jim and Maggie share a look. “I don’t mean – are you going to see anyone’s family or?”

“No, we’re just going to spend the weekend with each other,” Maggie says with a slightly embarrassed smile.

“Speaking of which,” Will cuts in. “We need to go.”

“Yeah,” Mackenzie agrees. “Get the tickets,” she points to his desk, where their travel portfolio sits. Will leans over the desk to get it and Mackenzie starts to walk out with Maggie and Jim. There are a few stragglers still in the bullpen and she stops to make small talk with Tess and Martin, asking what their Thanksgiving plans are. Don comes down to talk to Maggie and they share a hug. Maggie starts telling him a story about one time she was out at the Washington Monument, which clearly means more to Don than it does the rest of the crowd (he seems very interested in the details). Will tugs on Mackenzie’s sleeve. When she looks up at him, he jerks his head towards the elevators and she nods.

“We got to go guys,” she says loudly, cutting Maggie off mid-word. “Have a good Thanksgiving everyone!” The group echoes ‘happy Thanksgivings’ in return and they say their farewells.

They get halfway across the room and Neal comes in. “Neal, quick, what can I bring you from home?”

“Hoola hoops,” Neal answers immediately. “Prawn cocktail.”

“Done,” Mackenzie says. They wish each other a good Thanksgiving and she and Will keep moving out of the bullpen. Even though Will is carrying both their bags, and the travel portfolio, he still reaches to press the button to call the elevator. Mackenzie laughs at him and reaches to do it herself. “I can take one of those,” she gestures to the bags.

“No way in hell,” Will tells her, with an expression of disbelief (that she offered and thought he would let her).

“Well,” Mackenzie says. “You’ve got the tickets?”

Will raises the bag in his right hand, which also holds the portfolio. Mackenzie reaches to take it from him, and he protests a little until he realises she just wants the folder, not the bag. The elevator arrives and they step in. Mackenzie hits the button for the ground floor, then checks their tickets are there, along with their passports and her medical documents allowing her to travel.

“What do we do if our kid is transgender?” Will asks.

“Let them,” Mackenzie muses.

 

**********

 

The attendant at check-in makes eye contact and gives them a smile and they step forward out of the line and cross to the counter. Mackenzie hands over their tickets and passports and Will puts their bags at his feet. The attendant looks over Mackenzie suspiciously before even reaching for their tickets. “I’m ok to fly,” Mackenzie says, handing over the letters from her doctor that says she’s within the cut-off dates and is in very good health and is not a risk for getting sick, or giving birth, on the plane.

The attendant still looks suspicious but she reads over the letters and checks their tickets and passports. She asks about their bags and Will answers that they’re carry-on. The attendant eyes them up too, and sits there for a moment, and then announces she needs to go and talk to her supervisor. She slides from her stool and strides away. Mackenzie looks up at Will and he looks back at her. “They can’t refuse to let me fly?” She asks. Will’s about to answer that he doesn’t know but Mackenzie goes on. “You noted it when you booked the tickets right?”

“Yeah,” Will says. “And I requested vegetarian meals so we get fed first.”

Mackenzie stares at him a moment. “That’s clever.”

“I figured you’d be hungry.”

“I am.”

“Now?” He raises his eyebrows. “You want to eat before we get on the plane?”

“If we get on the plane,” Mackenzie notes dryly.

The attendant comes back with another woman, who must be the supervisor. She looks Mackenzie up and down too, and asks her about when her last check-up was (Monday) and how far along she is (thirty-one weeks).

“This is all in the letter from her doctor,” Will says.

“We just need to check, sir,” the assumed supervisor gives him a blank smile. She seems to consider them a moment longer, then says it’s all fine and the attendant prints their boarding passes. Will hefts Mackenzie’s bag to his shoulder, and carries the other in his hand, while Mackenzie takes all their documents back.

“I honestly thought for a second they weren’t going to let me on the plane,” Mackenzie notes as they walk off.

“We’re not on it yet,” Will says.

“Pessimist,” Mackenzie accuses as they join the line for security. They face less scrutiny there than they did at check-in and move out into the airport. They head down to their gate (stopping to buy a muffin so Mackenzie doesn’t starve) and wait just fifteen minutes before first class is invited to board. Mackenzie gets another long look as she hands over her boarding pass, but she’s not challenged about getting on the plane. Will offers her the window seat and stows their bags in the overhead compartment. “You look wary,” he notes, as he does up his seatbelt.

“You know, I’m starting to feel that way,” Mackenzie says sharply as she sits back. She sighs and is immediately apologetic. “Sorry, it’s just – I think I was wrong to suggest we do this.”

Will thinks about correcting her to ‘insisted we do this’ but thinks better of it. The nuance isn’t important. “It’ll be great,” he tells her instead. “Seeing your Mom. You’ve missed her.”

“Yeah,” Mackenzie gives him a soft expression and a faint smile. She reaches over to squeeze his hand. “Thanks for doing this.”

“You’re welcome.”

“And thank you for first class. I’ve never flown first class before.”

“You’ll be ready to marry me when you figure out that your seat goes flat into a bed.”

Mackenzie gives him a grin, an almost chuckle. “I might be ready to have your babies.”

Will’s eyebrows go up in surprise.

“Oh wait,” she adds, resting her other hand over her belly. Will reaches over to do the same.

“So, aside from feeling slightly persecuted,” he says. “Are you feeling ok?”

“Yeah. Tired. Not persecu – yeah, ok, slightly persecuted. I’m only thirty-one weeks. Do I look like I’m about to give birth?”

“No,” Will says automatically, leaning over to give her a quick kiss. But if people keep thinking she is, that this big is full term, how big is she actually going to get when she is full-term? “You look great.”

Mackenzie gives him another faint smile, and turns her head to look out at the terminal lit up against the darkness. It’s nearly 11pm. Other passengers start to file past them to their seats in the back. Will sits back in his seat, keeping his wife’s hand, but having to give up on holding the baby. She doesn’t seem that big to him. What would he know? He digs in his pocket to take out his phone and turn it to aeroplane mode.

“Did you tell your mother what time our flight gets in?” He asks Mackenzie.

“No,” she turns to look at him again, shifting over in her seat so she can cross her right leg over her left.

“Why not?” Will asks curiously.

“Because if I do that, she’ll insist on meeting us at the airport.”

Will nods and assumes that that’s something Mackenzie doesn’t want to happen. Fine by him, if it gives him more time without them. Not that he hates them, or doesn’t want to see them, it’s just that he doesn’t want to see them.

No, really, it’s fine.

“And if she does that,” Mackenzie goes on. “Then we don’t get to hide away in a hotel to sleep.” She gives him a smile. She’s starting to look sleepy. It is past her bed time after all. She’ll probably sleep during most of the flight. The hotel is just a chance to decompress. For both of them. Because she’s pregnant and Will needs to gather his nerve. He hasn’t told her that bit. His suggestion to go straight to the hotel was because she’s pregnant. What if she doesn’t manage to sleep on the seven hour and ten minute flight?

“Hey?” Will starts, because she’s closed her eyes.

“Yeah?” Mackenzie answers.

“Good evening,” a flight attendant greets them over the intercom.

Chapter Text

28th November 2013

Thursday

 

Will is restless during the flight. Mackenzie puts her seat back and goes to sleep (or at least, closes her eyes and pulls the blanket to her chin and stays that way – so he assumes she’s sleeping). Will tries to watch a movie, but can’t concentrate on it, and ends up switching to binge watching Chuck Lorre comedies. That Mom isn’t half bad, though the sometimes flippant remarks about incidences that happened while they were drunk minimise how he feels about parents too drunk to actually be decent parents (good on them all for getting sober though). There aren’t enough Chuck Lorre comedies to get him through eight hours of flight, however. He does put his seat back as well and try to close his eyes, but he feels every bump and dip and rattle of the plane, can hear the conversations going on around him, is aware every time someone goes down the aisle beside him, and at one stage, he thinks Mackenzie is asking something of him. She isn’t, when he checks, but that’s done it for him. He’s awake. There’s two hours to go. And he’s bored out of his mind.

He should have brought a book. He can’t remember the last time he read a book. That wasn’t about pregnancy.

The overhead lights come on and people start to stir. They’re flying into daylight, but by keeping the windows shuttered they can pretend that it’s still night. New York time puts them at 4am, but by London time it’s 9am, and the flight map has them nosing the northern coast of Scotland (that thing has crept forward a centimetre in the half hour Will’s been staring at it, so he’s sure they’re still miles off). Beside him, Mackenzie starts to stretch. “God,” she complains. “I need to pee.”

“They’re probably going to serve breakfast,” Will says, reaching out to offer a hand to steady herself with as she stands.

“Good, I’m hungry too,” she says. There’s no need to squish past him to get out, she just walks around him and down the aisle. Will reaches over to refold her blanket and return her seat to an upright position. When Mackenzie comes back she reaches up to pop open the overhead compartment. She’s kicked her shoes off, so she’s reaching up on her toes, giving Will a nose full of baby belly. He cups his hands around his wife’s stomach and plants a kiss. He doesn’t feel the baby pushing out against him, but doubts that he’s asleep in there. Not with Mackenzie sitting still for so long.

Mackenzie drops to her heels as Will kisses her, ticklish and unprepared for his touch. “Can you get my bag down?” She requests. Will quickly stands and does as she asks. She retrieves her toiletries and takes her seat. Will puts her bag back in the overhead compartment.

“How far along are you?” A woman across the aisle leans over to ask Mackenzie, while Will is standing. He has to hover. It’d be rude to take his seat now.

“Thirty-one weeks,” Mackenzie says with a smile.

“You look grand,” the woman offers and Will picks up on an… Irish? accent.

“Thank you,” Mackenzie says warmly.

“Are you coming home or heading away?”

“A little of both,” Mackenzie answers, completely distracted from her ablutions now. “I’m technically coming home, but I live in New York. You?”

“Coming home. I just spent a week in LA.”

“Oh that’s nice,” Mackenzie says politely. “What were you in LA for?”

Right, that’s it. Will’s going to the bathroom. When he comes back, they’re still talking, but luckily for him, the attendants are starting to serve breakfast and that gives him a great excuse for cutting in. He buckles his seat belt and gets out his tray table. Next to him, Mackenzie uses a cleansing wipe over her face. It washes off her make-up and Will can see the slight pigmentation that’s marred her skin. It’s from the pregnancy and because they fell asleep in the sun at Rehoboth Beach. It’s on her chest too, a slight browning that’s almost patchy, like a cluster of freckles, or a really large birthmark.

Breakfast is frittata. And it’s pretty good.

“You know,” Mackenzie says, peeling back the foil cover on her orange juice. “A girl could get used to first class.”

Will looks over as he chews a piece of pumpkin. Mackenzie’s giving him that soft warm expression and her eyes are full to the brim with happiness. Will knows it’s not because of first class; it’s not about the money, not really. It’s because he’s done this for her; he’s made it happen. It’s him. She means, a girl could get used to him.

‘You had this way of doing things.’

And if that means he can spend his millions on making her comfortable and happy, then, great. He only wants to make his wife happy.

God he loves her.

 

**********

 

By the time they get across the city and check into the hotel and finally get up to their room, it’s after midday and Will’s exhausted. He’s nearly been awake twenty-four hours, though he can’t quite work out the math with the time zones confusing him. All he knows is that he’s been awake a really long time. Mackenzie takes a quick shower and Will draws the curtains closed in their room. He tosses his clothes to a chair and crawls beneath the sheets in his boxers, planting face first into the pillow. It’s not particularly warm in the room but he can’t be bothered finding something to sleep in, and he’s pretty sure Mackenzie’s going to be a furnace next to him.

Will’s trying to decide if he can be bothered getting up to go and brush his teeth (after he realises he forgot to do them) when Mackenzie comes in. “Are you asleep?” She whispers from the en suite doorway.

“Yes,” Will answers. He hears a zipper and the rustle of material against material.

“Hey Will?”

“What?” He asks his pillow.

“You’re on my side.”

“I’m on this – that’s your side,” he pushes himself up on an elbow. She’s standing next to him.

“I can’t sleep on that side.”

Will sits up further and Mackenzie takes that as invitation to get in. She kneels on the mattress and leans against his shoulder. He moves and resettles on his back. “This makes no sense.”

“It makes total sense if you think about it,” Mackenzie answers.

“How?”

“I can’t sleep near the windows.”

Ok, actually, that does make sense. At home, the windows are on the other side, on his side. But here, they’re on her side, which is now his side.

“Why?” Will asks, shifting to his hip. He can feel the press of the baby near his arm and moves his other hand to place it over the bump.

Mackenzie throws an arm out from under the blanket. “I think my shower was too hot,” she huffs.

“Why can’t you sleep near the windows?” Will asks again. He feels the flutter of Mackenzie’s fingers near his throat. “Mac?” He moves out of her way. What’s she doing?

“Glass will fly clear across the room in a pressure wave,” she answers.

He gets it immediately. She spent too long sleeping in a warzone. Sure, it was years and years ago, but he figures if he had developed such strong habits to keep himself safe (hell, look at what he did (does) to protect himself emotionally), it’d take him a long time to undo them as well (he knows for a fact that that’s true).

“Are you wide awake?” Mackenzie asks in the darkness.

“No.”

“I’m really awake.”

“Hm,” Will notes. Mackenzie’s fingers shift to his jaw.

“Did you get any sleep on the plane?”

“Maybe twenty minutes.”

“Aw,” Mackenzie pouts.

“You need to sleep too.”

“Yeah, but right now, I’m wide awake.”

Will feels the pressure of the baby’s something (something round, like his head or his bum) against his hand. He rubs the spot and gets another jab. Mackenzie gives a short laugh, “He’s awake too. Everyone’s awake.”

“Everyone is not awake. I’m asleep.”

Mackenzie shifts closer to him and puts a kiss where her fingers were a moment ago. Her moving forces Will to shift his hand, lest she bend his wrist the wrong way. He settles on her ribs, scratching lightly. “You’re awake a little,” Mackenzie murmurs. She puts a kiss on his mouth this time. “Want to do something?”

“I’m sleeping,” Will responds gruffly.

“You’re not a little in the mood?”

“No.”

“Don’t you ever sometimes just get really horny?”

“Sure,” Will opens his eyes. He can see way too much in the room, with broad daylight just beyond the shades. He should have requested blackout curtains. But now that he’s got his eyes open, he can see his wife, and she’s beautiful and sexy, and is honestly very difficult to say no to. “About thirty years ago.”

Mackenzie laughs and shifts closer, the baby pressing against his abdomen now. “Kiss me,” she demands. And Will complies. Because he’s a total sucker for her.

“I’m too tired,” he murmurs against her lips when she pulls back, seemingly breathless. “I’m sorry.”

“You know, the baby does something for me.”

Will pulls back sharply, frowning. Mackenzie laughs. “Not that. I meant, things are happening down there and it won’t be the same when he’s gone. Know what I mean?” She squirms a little.

“I don’t –”

“I think you should make the most of it,” Mackenzie goes on. She hooks her arm around his neck and draws him closer so she can kiss him again.

“I’ll make the most of it for you,” he counters, sliding the hand from her ribs down to her hip, finding the edge of her yoga pants.

“Is it selfish if you don’t want me to reciprocate?”

“No,” Will answers, finding the edge of her underwear and slipping a finger beneath. He can feel the tension building in his wife with just that simple move; she twitches.

“Kissing though,” Mackenzie says breathlessly.

“Kissing,” Will agrees, pressing his mouth against hers as he slips his hand into her pants.

Chapter Text

Will wakes when Mackenzie’s alarm goes off, jolting him out of sleep with his heart pounding. Jesus Christ, it feels like he closed his eyes a minute ago. The alarm goes silent pretty quickly, and Will can feel his wife moving on the mattress next to him, but he doesn’t shift an inch. He doesn’t even pry open an eye. He wonders if she’ll let him sleep.

“Hey,” Mackenzie whispers.

No, then. No more sleep.

Will gives a grunt.

“Are you awake?”

“No,” he grumbles into the pillow. He feels Mackenzie move much closer against his back, and then her hand is on his shoulder, pulling him back against her. He complies, because he feels boneless, and because he doesn’t want her to hurt herself trying to manhandle him around. She wraps her arm over his chest and presses a kiss behind his ear, then snuggles her nose into his hair.

“You got some sleep?” Mackenzie says.

“Hm,” Will responds. Her shoulder is bony. “You slept ok?”

“I slept doubly well, if you get what I mean.”

A grin splits Wills face. “Oh yeah?”

“Uh huh,” Mackenzie says, her tone warm and light. “Even half asleep you’re wonderful.”

Will just grins.

“But we’re definitely going to have to have sex in this bed. This mattress is amazing.”

“Mattress at home is amazing,” Will mumbles.

“Yeah,” Mackenzie breathes. “Hey, by the way, happy Thanksgiving.”

Will pries an eye open. The room is still light, but it seems darker than before, like maybe the sun is going down. He’s not sure what time it is.

“Want to know what I’m thankful for?” Mackenzie goes on. “You.”

“I thought you were going to say the baby.”

“He’s not here yet, and I am thankful for him, but without you, there’d be no him anyway. Or you and me. I’m thankful for the you and me.”

“Me too,” Will turns his head towards her, but she’s lying too far back for him to be able to see her face. At least her shoulder isn’t digging into him.

“I love you.”

“Love you too,” Will says softly, feeling a warmth in his stomach. He loves hearing it. Loves that he can say it. “What time’s dinner?”

“Six.”

“Six?” Will repeats surprised.

“They eat early. Always have.”

“Ok.”

“Are you going to have a shower?”

Will raises a hand to his cheek, brushes his fingers down his stubble. “Yes.”

“Then you should go do that.”

“Yeah,” Will agrees and moves to sit. Mackenzie moves with him. “What time is it?”

“Four?”

“Jesus,” he grumbles, trying to estimate how much time it will take to get ready, and how long it will take to get out to her parent’s place in Colliers Wood, south London. It’s a half hour drive (Google mapped it before they left), but he figures with traffic, especially if they’re heading out after five, when everyone else will be going home from work, it could take longer. Normal people, who work normal hours. “We eat early.”

Mackenzie gives him a smile. “We’re not normal.” She leans over to give him a quick kiss. “I need the loo,” she says by way of explaining why she’s getting out of bed. Will follows her. Out of bed, that is, not to the bathroom. He steps to the windows to pull back the curtains. Dull winter sunlight washes over the room, but it’s not warm and the sky is grey. They can see the Thames from their room, and it looks sullen and still in the near distance.

Will goes to his bag to take out clothes to wear for that evening. Dark trousers and a button down shirt, one of the medium blue sweaters Mackenzie likes. He wonders if he should wear a tie. He’s not sure what they’re doing for dinner; if they’re going out to a restaurant or staying in. A tie in the house could be too formal; eating out without it could be too casual. He finds clean underwear, and his toiletries kit. Mackenzie emerges from the bathroom.

“Are you going to shower too?” Will asks.

“I showered before,” she responds, going through her bag to change as well. Will waits for a second to see what she’s going to wear, to gage how well he’s decided on his attire but she doesn’t seem to be producing clothing at all and then she says, “Help you with something?”, and he realises he’s been staring too long.

“Yeah,” Will says and her eyes meet his. “About your –”

Mackenzie’s phone ringing interrupts him. She glances over to the table beside her side of the bed, and then her eyes slide back to his. “Hold that thought?”

“Sure,” Will agrees. Mackenzie crosses to get her phone and Will goes to the bathroom, and just as he’s shutting the door he hears Mackenzie say ‘hi Mum’. He wants to talk about her mother too. About what she told both her parents about their break-up.

 

**********

 

Will showers quickly and shaves. Mackenzie teases him when he asks her about a tie so he decides against it. Her mother has cooked. She’s also invited them to stay at the house. “What did you say?” Will asks neutrally, curious, not demanding, as he sits and ties his shoes.

“I said that we already were staying here,” Mackenzie answers awkwardly.

Will looks up from the bed. Mackenzie is ready to go and she stands waiting on him, fingering his scarf that’s waiting for him over the back of a chair. “Do you want to stay with your parents?”

“Honestly?” She says, looking suddenly younger. Will frowns at the illusion. “No. I know you wouldn’t want to –”

“I don’t mi–”

“And I’m ok with having a little distance,” Mackenzie raises her voice slightly to speak over him, and the illusion of youth is broken. It’s not just that she looked younger, it’s that she seemed younger; it looked like she had gone back in time. Will finishes with his other shoe and stands. He reaches for his jacket and Mackenzie hands him his scarf. “We’re not going to spend every waking moment with them,” she adds, taking up her purse. Will doesn’t say anything to that. “Right?” She looks up at him, shakes hair from her face, and seems vulnerable again. No, not vulnerable; unsure.

Will suddenly realises she’s struggling with the urge to see her parents, while also keeping a little space between them, and he sees that while she wants to be here, she’s wary. He doesn’t understand why, she loves her parents, she wanted to come this weekend, but he can see it. “Whatever you want to do,” Will says.

“I want to show you London.”

“The whole city? Do we have time?”

Mackenzie chuckles as they head to the door. “Some of London.”

“We’ll have to make sure we come back to see the rest of it,” Will offers as he reaches for the handle and pulls the door open for his wife to walk through. She shoots him a grateful smile as she goes by, and he wonders if she knows she’s doing it.

As they walk down the hotel corridor, Mackenzie slips her hand into the crook of his elbow, making Will puff up a little with pride. They share the ride in the elevator with two other young women and the hotel lobby is busy. Will keeps to himself and while Mackenzie smiles at strangers, she doesn’t make small talk. He wonders how long it’s been since – it would have been just before she got back to New York. After she was stabbed, but before she got stateside again. She would have gone home, maybe as part of her recovery. That was four years ago.

Out on the street, Will steps forward to get a cab, but Mackenzie hangs back. Her hand slips from his arm and he stops and turns back for her. “Where are you going?” She asks lightly.

“Taxi?” Will jerks a thumb to the street.

“Underground,” Mackenzie points down the street at the neon sign denoting a tube stop. Will blinks at her and she steps forward to him. “You’re in my city now, bucko. Trust me, the train is going to be much faster than trying to get through traffic.”

Will considers her for about two seconds longer and then gestures with his hand. “Lead the way.”

Mackenzie snatches his outstretched hand and starts walking off, dragging him with her for a second until his longer stride falls into line with hers. She keeps his hand. And of course, she’s right. They take the Victoria line to Stockwell and then get the Northern line south, to Colliers Wood. Her parents place is a five-minute walk from the station and they make it in half an hour. The sun has set and they walk the well-lit streets in the dark and cold. Will swears he can feel the occasional drop of rain, but Mackenzie denies feeling anything.

She marches them up to a two story, terraced, brick building, her pace quickening now that they’re close. Will can’t remember the number but Mackenzie knows. Will feels his stomach get tight with nerves. It’s been four years for her, but nearly seven for him. Mackenzie stops in front of a short white fence, and leans over to undo the latch. Still holding Will’s hand, she waits for him to follow her through and close it behind him. They walk up the short path to the white painted front door. Mackenzie raises the crescent knocker to tap and Will yanks on her hand to stop her. Too late.  Mackenzie turns to him with a quizzical expression.

“What did you tell your parents about when we broke up?” Will blurts.

“Huh?” Mackenzie says, as the door opens.

Chapter Text

Mackenzie’s mother pulls open the door and greets them loudly and enthusiastically. Mackenzie frowns at Will, but quickly recovers to step forward and hug her mother, saying hello. “Mm it’s good to see you,” her mother says, giving her a tight squeeze. “Look at you,” she gushes over how pregnant her daughter is, and Mackenzie gives a slightly embarrassed but entirely pleased smile. “What happened to your face?” Comes the first blunt question.

“It’s from the pregnancy,” Mackenzie haltingly gives an answer, clearly taken back by the question. Or the force with which it was delivered. “It’s just pigmentation. It’ll go away.” She half glances back at Will. He told her it wasn’t noticeable. And it isn’t really, when she’s wearing make-up, which she is. And isn’t being scrutinised by her mother.

“Oh,” Anne says and steps back to let them into the house. Mackenzie’s father is just behind her, so Mackenzie hugs and greets him and Will steps up inside. “Will,” the matriarch greets him and he manages a smile, and politely says hello. She hooks an arm around his neck to draw him down to a hug and he awkwardly manages a hand to her back before she’s letting him go again. “You’re too tall,” she says, and it’s meant to be jovial.

“Yeah,” Will agrees. She looks older. Her hair is full of grey and the lines on her face have multiplied. He can see Mackenzie in her.

“And you’re keeping well?”

“I am, thank you,” he says (lies – well, he is well. Sort of). Mackenzie moves further into the house so Will steps up to her father, hand extended.

“McAvoy!” He gets a wide grin, almost devilish. He’s aged too. But so has Will.

“Sir,” Will greets him and they shake hands firmly. It’s Sir John, or Mr McHale, and Will’s not sure of the protocol now that he and Mackenzie have split up and gotten back together again. The first time they met, Will had gone with Mr McHale, which had been corrected to John. But this is like starting over again, and besides, is it more proper to use his surname or his title when greeting? He never did get that figured out.

“Come on in,” Sir John gestures to the hallway, where Mackenzie has already disappeared into the back of the house. Will follows her down to the living room. It’s a bloody furnace in there. The wall heater is cranked on full and they’ve just walked two blocks in winter jackets. Mackenzie immediately crosses to turn the heater down and Will shrugs out of his jacket. Mackenzie does the same a second later, shooting him a ‘phew!’ expression. She dumps her jacket on an armchair. Will puts his with hers.

“How was your flight?” Anne asks as she comes in. John closes the door behind her and she crosses to sit on the couch.

“Good,” Mackenzie says, sitting next to her mother.

“Will? Whiskey?” John asks from the sideboard. He lifts the top on a decanted glass bottle.

“I can imagine you’d be uncomfortable,” Anne goes on.

“Uh,” Will hesitates. “It’s a bit early for me,” he says, and perches on the seat of the armchair where he and Mackenzie dropped their coats.

“It was fine,” Mackenzie answers her mother while John gives a nod to Will and moves to take his seat in the recliner facing the television (which is on, with the sound down very low). “We flew first class, so plenty of room to stretch out. I slept most of the flight.”

Anne and John both stare at Will. Oh yeah, he has a crap ton more money now. He studies his hands a little.

“A beer then?” John says into the silence and gets up again. Will doesn’t turn him down a second time, even though there’s nothing in his stomach.

“Did you manage to sleep?” Anne deliberately asks Will.

“Ah, not so much. Too noisy.”

“Yes I agree. So many people around talking and making noise.”

“Yeah,” Will agrees. Actually, it was the noise of the plane itself that got to him.

“So tell me,” Anne turns to her daughter again. “How’s everything going?”

“Good,” Mackenzie says with a smile.

“That’ll do?” John returns, and hands Will a Budweiser.

“Yes sir,” Will answers. John goes back to sit in his recliner, a beer for himself. Will notices straight away that he hasn’t offered the women anything and wonders if it would be considered rude now if he did so himself. Probably. But he doesn’t like that his wife is sitting there, refreshment-less, while he partakes.

Anne asks Mackenzie how she’s been feeling and they talk about the baby. Mackenzie shows her parents the most current sonogram. Anne gushes over it (about how sharp the detail is) and notes that when she had her babies they didn’t even have scans. John is more dismissive of the image, and goes back to watching TV. Will tries to follow the plot but can’t work it out. He’s having a hard time with the accents as well. He honestly wonders sometimes if the English even speak English anymore. He sips his beer and John changes the channel to sport.

Ah, now this is Will’s wheelhouse.

He gets up and goes to sit on the other end of the couch, next to John and Mackenzie, who is in the middle. She turns to give him a slight smile; she knows. He’s going to make an effort.

 

**********

 

Dinner is cottage pie, made with minced beef. It feels so very English, but it’s beef mince and mashed potatoes, so what the hell would Will complain about? He’s been making small talk about football (his ignorance is not feigned as John explains the players and team politics to him). Anne announces dinner is ready and they go to sit in the kitchen, that doubles as the dining room. The house is small and modern and its decorated in a way that Will can only describe as English. Patterned tea sets and sofa couches comes to mind, or it’s a bit like the house where the aunt and uncle live in Harry Potter. It’s just not like the sleek modern décor of the apartment he shares with his wife. Or the one before that, in Tribeca, with the floor to ceiling glass and wooden floors. He doesn’t know if that’s an American thing…

Anne puts the oven dish down in the middle of the table and John takes his seat at one end. Mackenzie sits by her father, so Will pulls out the chair to sit by her mother, once she actually sits. She fusses over them. She serves John and Mackenzie and Will and then herself and Will hovers.

“Please sit,” Anne directs.

“Can I get anyone something to drink?” Will counters, while she spoons up their meal. John requests another beer. Mackenzie asks for water. Anne declines anything. Will goes to the fridge and retrieves the beers (because if Sir John is having another one, then he better have another too). He doesn’t see any bottled water in there, so tries a cupboard for a glass. He gets lucky, finding one on the first try, and fills it from the tap. Mackenzie gives him a small ‘thank you’ as he sets it down. Will waits for Anne to sit before he does.

Everyone waits on John to reach for his fork before they do. It surprises Will. Even Mackenzie waits for the signal and he’s never seen her do that before. She never waits for him. He’s never seen her wait for anyone before she starts eating (when they’re at a restaurant, she does wait for everyone to be served; she’s not rude). But eat they do. He makes sure to compliment Anne on the food.

“Do you cook at home, Will?” Anne asks in a measured way. A forced, deliberate attempt at conversation way.

“He does,” Mackenzie cuts in. “He makes me a mean beef stir fry.”

“It’s all in the sauces,” Will responds, reaching for his beer. Dinner is bland. He eats it though.

“What sauces do you use?” Anne asks politely.

“Sweet chilli and oyster,” Will answers.

“I don’t know that one,” Anne says to her dinner. Will glances at Mackenzie and she offers him a smile. He lets Mackenzie and her mother make conversation. Anne updates Mackenzie on her siblings and nieces and nephews. Will thinks they were supposed to see Amy tonight, but she’s obviously not here. Anne casually drops that Meredith is coming for dinner tomorrow. Will is concentrating on his food, but he does see how Mackenzie’s shoulders hunch a little.

“Oh are – and Amy and the kids are going to be here too?” Mackenzie says helplessly. She looks at Will, and he looks up to meet her eye. He’s not going to die with a house full of McHales (it’s only half of them), if that’s what she’s worrying about. He gives her a slight shake of his head; ‘it’s not a big deal’. “Will we all fit?” Mackenzie asks.
“We’ll just move the table out,” John speaks up. “And squash in.”

It will be a squash, Will thinks, calculating how many bodies can fit the table, even if it’s pulled from the wall. He thinks he might suggest they go out for a meal (but he’ll submit it to Mackenzie first, when they’re alone). He wonders what the plan is for tomorrow anyway. He’s pretty much at the mercy of his wife and whatever she wants to do. Which he presumes is to spend time with her family. Which is fine with him. He’s mentally prepared for lots of McHale family time. It will be a long weekend, but it will make his wife happy and satisfied, and that’s what he wants too. Plus, he figures it’ll be next year before he has to see them all again.

Anne tries to give Will seconds, but his first helping was pretty large. She puts more on his plate anyway and he feels obligated to eat it. He regrets the second beer. There’s no more room in his stomach. He offers to help with the dishes, but Anne waves him off. She also refuses to let Mackenzie stand there and help (sends her through to watch TV), and John doesn’t offer. Will tries again to volunteer but Anne scolds him more forcefully. She’s not quite as good natured with it the second time. Will acquiesces. He really doesn’t want to piss her off. He’s still not sure where he stands with them. Are they mad at him for breaking their daughter’s heart? Or has he redeemed himself a little by marrying her?

Chapter Text

“We should get going,” Mackenzie finally speaks up just after nine-thirty.

Thank god, Will thinks, but doesn’t leap to his feet. And that’s not just because he doesn’t want to seem too eager to get back to the hotel (which he is), but because he thinks he might be a little drunk. As soon as he sat on the couch after dinner John was up, pouring the whiskey. And how could Will refuse his father-in-law?

They don their jackets and slowly head for the door. Mackenzie and Anne reiterate their plans for tomorrow but Will feels dreamy and can’t really focus on the details. He reaches for the door and opens it, and cool air hits his face, confirming for him that he’s had too much to drink. John asks them how they’re getting back to the hotel, and Will turns to say ‘taxi’ just as Mackenzie says ‘train’. Then she blinks at him and he blinks at her. They frown at the same time and Will says ‘taxi’ again, more firmly, as Mackenzie says ‘train’.

“Train,” Mackenzie repeats.

“I’m sure you’ll work it out,” John says, a little teasingly.

“Just make sure you take care out there,” Anne says as Will steps out into the night.

“It’ll be fine Mum,” Mackenzie says, giving her a hug goodbye. “Will will fight anyone off.”

Will’s not sure he can feel his face right now.

“That’s good,” Anne says, like she doesn’t believe it at all. Will’s about to turn and ask her what that means, when Mackenzie steps out of the house to meet him. She puts a hand to his arm; gentle pressure to get him walking.

“Good night,” Mackenzie calls behind her, nudging Will further down the path. Her parents echo the sentiment from the house. Will waves a hand. He hears the door close and he’s at the gate. He can’t find the latch in the streetlight. Mackenzie helps him out, laughing lightly, as she reaches around him. “Are you ok?”

“Honestly?” Will says as she gets it open. They step through and she leans back to close it behind them. She shakes the hair from her face and looks up at him, and in the orange glow, she looks happy. “I think I’m a little drunk,” Will confesses.

“You had two beers,” Mackenzie points out, with a slight squint.

“And your father pours whiskey like this,” Will raises his hand to gesture with his index finger and pinky finger extended, and the others curled against his palm, indicating how deep the drink was in the glass.

Mackenzie gives a slightly louder laugh. “Are you getting soft old man?”

“I’m not – I haven’t had a drink in a really long time.”

“I’ve noticed you’ve given it up.”

“How pregnant are you? That’s how long since I’ve had a drink,” Will goes on.

“Are you ok?”

“Am I swaying, or is the street?”

Mackenzie laughs. “Do you want to sit a moment?”

“Yeah,” Will looks around. Her parent’s front wall is perch-able. He moves to park is ass, then realises they’re still right outside her parents place. “Not here,” he says. He takes his wife’s arm and walks her down a few houses, then sits on their three foot tall front wall. Mackenzie steps between his legs and he slides his hands beneath her open jacket to her waist. She gives a happy hum and shifts his right hand to where the baby is prodding her.

“Your Mom’s happy about the baby,” Will notes.

“She is,” Mackenzie agrees, like it’s a given.

“Your Dad not so much?”

Mackenzie gives a ‘hm’, “It’s women’s stuff. My mother wants to take me shopping tomorrow. Do you think you’d be ok for a few hours alone with Dad?”

“If we’re talking about shopping and your mother, it won’t be a few hours, but yeah, I can spend a few hours with Sir John.”

Mackenzie’s mouth quirks in amusement. “You don’t have to call him Sir John. Just call him John.”

“He’s a real life knight, Mac. The Queen of England made him one of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George. With a sword and everything. I’ve seen photos.”

Mackenzie laughs at his wide-eyed expression. “Yeah, but he’s –”

“When he tells me to call him John I will drop the sir.”

“He’s just doing it to mess with you.”

“Consider me messed.”

Mackenzie leans forward and gives him a slight kiss. “Are you going to be of any use to me when we get back to the hotel?”

“I’m going to go with not likely.”

Mackenzie gives him a soft smile. “Thank you for this.”

“Being a little drunk?”

“For this,” she gives a vague wave to the neighbourhood.

Will shivers where he sits, but he’s not sure it’s because of the cold. “You’re welcome,” he says on a murmur.

“Do you think you can manage it back to the hotel now?”

“Ok,” Will agrees, moving forward on the wall until he can drop to his feet. Hardly much of a leap. “Maybe we should get a taxi after all.”

“Sure,” Mackenzie agrees, steadying him with a hand on his arm. “But I hope you’ve got your credit card.

Will digs his phone from his pocket and then looks down at her with surprise. “I don’t know any numbers.”

Mackenzie gives another laugh. “There’s a stand right over there,” she points in the direction of the tube station, and starts to walk away.

 

**********

 

Will comes to when it feels like someone is undoing his pants. He opens his eyes and lifts his shoulders from the bed to look, and yeah, there’s Mackenzie, tugging his fly down. “Hey,” he protests, reaching for her fingers. They move to his hips, pulling his pants down. “What are you doing?”
“Taking your trousers off. Help me out,” she directs as she struggles.

“I think I’m too tired to have sex with you,” Will blurts. Though if he were younger, and she weren’t pregnant, he’d try.

Mackenzie huffs a laugh. “That’s fine. I just want you to get into bed.”

Will lifts his hips and shoves down his trousers as Mackenzie tugs them down. He tries to help her slide them off his calves and feet but he feels sleepy. Not drunk so much as he’s sleepy. And warm. “I ate too much,” he complains. Mackenzie takes his trousers to a chair by the window and lays them down. Will pulls his shirt off over his head and tosses it to her, then slowly and awkwardly wiggles his way under the covers. A t-shirt hits the side of his head and he looks over to see Mackenzie disappearing into the bathroom with a smile. Will tugs the shirt on and shifts down the bed to lay his head on his pillow. He closes his eyes and listens to his wife getting ready for bed. “I can’t remember the last time I was drunk,” he says, when he thinks she’s come back into the room.

“I couldn’t say,” Mackenzie answers conversationally. She comes over to put his bedside light on, then the overhead light goes out. Will feels the dip of the mattress next to him as she gets under the covers.

“You are right about this bed,” Will says. “It’s very comfortable. We should have sex in it.”

“Great,” Mackenzie enthuses coming closer.

“Maybe tomorrow.”

“That would be nice.”

Will cracks his eyes open to see her lying right next to him, watching him. “I think the last time I was drunk was that time,” he says.

“That time you were trying to kill yourself?” Mackenzie asks with her eyebrows raised, and her tone is more neutral than accusing.

“I wasn’t trying to kill mysel –”

“You were being careless,” Mackenzie corrects.
“I was being careless,” Will agrees.

“Are you ok to have drunk that much with your pills this time?” She asks cautiously.

“Probably.”

“Will,” Mackenzie starts a warning.

“A few drinks and one pill isn’t going to grow an ulcer,” Will says.

“You’re still taking them?”

Will blinks at her. “Yeah.”

“Are you lying to me right now?” Mackenzie asks seriously.

Will narrows his eyebrows a little. “I take them. You can count the bottle.”

“I don’t need to count the bottle,” she says airily. “I just – it’s good you take them.”

“That’s why I’m the chipper, picture of joviality you see before you,” Will tries to joke, but it falls flat, and he can see the gravity in his wife’s eyes. Oops.

“Are you though?”

“I’m getting there,” Will says, feeling the swirl of too much food and too much booze and too many lies in his system. “I really am,” he insists on an almost whisper. “Don’t you think?”

“I think things are a lot better than they were but –” She stops abruptly.

“But what?” Will prompts.

“But it’s really late and we shouldn’t get into this,” Mackenzie says meekly.

“No serious talk, just finish the sentence.”

“But,” she hesitates. “Not – there’s doubt.”

“Mine or yours?”

Mackenzie doesn’t answer him. She doesn’t need to say it. The doubt is both of theirs. They both have doubts about whether he’ll get better or not. “Do you think you’ll be this way forever?”

“I don’t know,” Will says, thinking he might be falling asleep again. The light’s still on. He doesn’t want to move. His body feels heavy and sleepy. “But you should ask Habib that when you come on Wednesday.”

“This Wednesday?”

“Yeah. If you want.”

“I want,” Mackenzie says softly. “Hey, Will?”

“Yeah?” Will opens eyes he didn’t know he had closed.

“I love you.”

“I love you too,” he says firmly, his eyes threatening to close again.

“Go to sleep,” Mackenzie chuckles lightly.

Will closes his eyes again and feels her move a little further away. He can hear a boat on the Thames. Or at least he can imagine he can. He wonders how different the city would have looked when this room was built way back in the early 1900’s. And so his depression is still on Mackenzie’s mind then, even though they haven’t really talked about it in a while. For some reason that he can’t comprehend, they didn’t talk about it when they were seeing their marriage counsellor. Maybe it isn’t actually a problem in their marriage?

“Do you think Sir John was trying to get me drunk on purpose?”

“Go to sleep.”

“Yeah.”

Chapter Text

November 29th 2013

Friday

 

Will wakes because Mackenzie’s phone chimes. He doesn’t think she moves for it, so he pries open his eyes and sees that the room is light. He slept heavily and now he’s disorientated. One thing’s for sure though, he needs to pee. Badly. He gets out of bed carefully, if Mackenzie is still asleep, and hobbles to the bathroom. The nightlight is on in there (yeah, he didn’t forget it, or the adaptor plug he needed to convert it to an English socket). When he gets back to bed, Mackenzie hasn’t moved, her back still to his side of the room. He climbs back onto the mattress carefully, sidling up behind her. He puts a hand to her upper arm, “Hey, you awake?”

There’s a long pause. Then a ‘hm?’

No, she’s not awake.

Will shifts to his side of the bed and picks up his watch. He manually changed the time on it when they landed, so he knows for sure it’s local time, but he’s not sure, he thinks it says it’s 11am. He reaches up to put his side light on (who turned that off last night?) and checks again. Yes, it’s 11am on the dot.

“Hm?” Mackenzie says, turning over.

“You awake?”

“I guess,” she murmurs sleepily. “I slept so good.”

“That’s good,” Will says, sliding next to her again, leaning on his elbow to look down at her. She shifts a little closer, so her head is against his bicep and she drops her hand beneath the covers. It lands right on his groin (he holds his breath for a second), but he doesn’t think there’s anything sexual in the gesture, because she doesn’t tease or grope (he lets the breath go).

“How are you doing this morning?” Mackenzie asks, a smile on her lips. She must not realise her hand placement.

“I’m fine,” Will says drolly. He reaches to move her hand, taking her fingers to squeeze them.

“You sure?” She cracks dark eyes at him.

“A little cotton mouth.”

The smile quirks to a fuller grin.

“There’s a message on your phone,” Will tells her.

“What time is it?” Mackenzie asks, staying perfectly still.

“Eleven,” Will lets her fingers go, and reaches with his left hand to brush hair from her face.

She screws her nose up. “Seriously?” She opens dark eyes on him again.

“Yeah.”

“We slept twelve hours?”

“Jet lag.”

“Holy Christ,” Mackenzie murmurs. She throws back the covers on her side of the bed and shifts to the edge of the mattress. She checks her phone and quickly types out a reply, then gets up and goes to the bathroom herself. Will gets out of bed and grabs a bottle of water from the mini-bar. That should help stave off the headache he can feel threatening to form at the back of his skull. He spots packets of chips in the cubby above the mini-fridge and selects the plain ones. It’s not an awesome breakfast, but it’s better than nothing. They’ve missed breakfast downstairs and they’re supposed to be meeting Mackenzie’s parents for lunch.

“Hey,” Mackenzie starts, as she comes out of the bathroom. She walks to where he’s standing and helps herself to his chips. Or whatever they are. Some circular type of hollow tube, potato chip. “I haven’t had these in so long,” Mackenzie says. “And I promised Neal I’d bring some back.”

“We should head out,” Will says. He can’t remember what Neal requested. A hoola hoop? He checks the packet. Yep, that’s what these are.

“Yeah, I – that was Mum. I told her we’d meet them at the Charles Holden at half twelve.”

“What’s Charles Holden?”

“A pub.”

“Is it like a thing?”

“What do you mean a ‘thing’?”

“Like a chain?”

“It’s not a Denny’s,” Mackenzie laughs.

Will gives her the packet of chips and slugs back more water. “I’m going to shower,” he says, going to the bathroom.

“It’s just a pub,” Mackenzie says to him.

“Ok,” he says from the door. He’s just stepping into the water when Mackenzie follows him into the bathroom.

“Have I started something?” She asks.

Will turns to look at her, one leg in the stall. “No,” he says innocently. He steps under the water, and pulls the door closed behind him.

“I have?” Mackenzie raises her voice. Will thinks about how he can answer that. He’s not sure she has started a thing. He doesn’t know if he’s bothered. The shower door pops open and he turns surprised. Mackenzie gets in (sans clothes; hair pulled into a bun at the top of her head). “Will, if I said something…”

Will reaches for her quickly, bringing her in under the water carefully, so she doesn’t slip, and so she doesn’t get cold. Once he has in her in position, he simply drops his head to kiss her, the water blasting into his ear. He gives a sweep of his tongue and she tastes like potato and salt. He probably does too. He straightens up again and she’s giving him wide eyes. “You didn’t say anything.”

“Then?” She prompts. “Don’t hide. Don’t run and hide,” she almost pleads.

Will stares at her a moment, hearing the words he needs to hear (the words they practiced in counselling. And he might not think he’s pulling away from her particularly, but if she’s calling him out on it, then she feels it, and he probably is), and thinking about what’s really bothering him. “What did you tell your parents about when we broke up?”

“I –” Mackenzie starts, and halts. She blinks at him.

“You told them the cheating story?”

“At the time, that was the leading theory.”

“You need to tell them the truth.”

“The truth is, I broke your heart.”

I broke my heart,” Will corrects. “And yours. You should tell them that truth.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Mackenzie tries.

“It matters to me.”

“Why?”
“Because I don’t want them to think less of you.”

Mackenzie’s lips quirk to a smile a second before she forcefully frowns. “They don’t.”

“I’d really like to be clear on that.”

“That’s what’s bothering you?” Mackenzie asks, her hand at his wrist.

Will looks down just as his son’s elbow tracks across his wife’s belly. He reaches out to put his fingers over that spot, feeling the hardness of his son’s bones. “I don’t want people to think that we’re not…”

Mackenzie’s eyebrows go higher, curious and encouraging.

“I don’t know,” Will says, rubbing his wife’s stomach. He feels his son move away from his touch. “I guess I don’t want people to think that we’re together for the wrong reasons?” He tries, but that doesn’t feel like it either.

Mackenzie steps a little closer and Will’s hands hover near her elbows, ready to steady or catch; paranoid of the wet floor and that there’s less room with two of them in there. She slides her hands around his waist in an embrace and cranes her neck further back to look up at him (keeping her head from getting wet). “People don’t think less of you either.”

He wants to deny that’s the problem but knowing him, and knowing his issues, it probably is. Not quite though. “It’s a whole other world over here and – Everyone we know in New York was there for those two years that you and I worked together –”

“When you were a total jerk to me,” Mackenzie fills in.

“Yes and I’m trying not to be a total jerk anymore –”

“You aren’t!” Mackenzie says in a way the brooks no disagreement.

“But people over here haven’t seen that.”

“You’re the sweetest – They also didn’t see those two years when you were being a total – not a total jerk. Somewhat of a jerk.”

“They saw what happened after we broke up,” Will points out, his gaze sliding to the side, where her abdomen bears a scar, and Mackenzie drops her chin suddenly, like she’s bitten her tongue.

“They don’t blame you for that,” Mackenzie says quietly.

“I do. A little bit.”

Mackenzie’s expression melts. “You’ve never told me that before.”

Will gives a shrug. “You had to know I’d go there.”

Mackenzie’s expression melts further. “No Will,” she says almost pleadingly. “I made the decision to go.”

“Because I never answered any of your calls.”

“Because – let’s not go over this again,” she says matter-of-factly, reminding him that they don’t need to re-assign blame. “Trust me when I say my parents don’t hate you.”

Will’s head jerks his back like he’s bitten his tongue. Yeah, ok, that might have been what was on his mind. They eye each other up for a moment.

“I don’t hate you either,” Mackenzie adds.

“I know,” Will says, softly now. He cups his hands around the baby. “This doesn’t happen if you hate me.”

“Exactly,” Mackenzie says sweetly. She shakes her head a little, her dark eyes crinkling, and she smiles at him, moving her hands up to his cheeks, pulling his head down to kiss him again. “Is this to get out of spending time with my father?”

Will chuckles. “No. That’s – I’m ok with spending time with your father.”

“Talk politics and sport. That will get conversation going,” Mackenzie offers.

“Yeah,” Will agrees.

He lets her steal the water.

Chapter Text

Here we go, Will thinks, as they step off the train.

The Charles Holden is basically across the road from the tube stop (not the subway station) in Colliers Wood. They use the cross walk to transverse the road, the traffic stopping on both sides by lights designated for this crossing only. It’s only then that Will notices Mackenzie is walking significantly slower than he is. It might be because he hurried to get across the road. He hasn’t noticed before if it’s a new thing (but he’ll keep an eye out for it now). He waits for her on the other side of the road, and she’s a little red-cheeked as she steps up to him. She’s walking differently, but he noticed that weeks ago; it’s baby related. So maybe the walking slower thing is baby related too. If it’s a thing.

“Ok?” Will asks her, reaching out his hand for her, as she reaches to take his.

“Yes,” she says on a breathless smile.

Will turns and they start towards the pub. It’s a two story building, dark grey on the top level, wood and windows on the bottom. A sign hangs out the front that looks like it’s from Dickensian London; wrought iron chains, wooden board with the name of the establishment painted on each side. It swings in a hefty breeze that also tousles the leafery in planter boxes under the windows. It’s another grey day, but it’s not supposed to rain. Will feels warm from the short walk, though he does look forward to getting out of the wind.

Mackenzie tugs on his hand just as they move from the sidewalk to the paved area out the front of the bar, and Will takes another half stride before stopping. Mackenzie moves to the side, out of the line of the door, and pulls him with her. “Are we ok?” She asks again.

“We’re already late,” Will gestures to the door.

“Oh fuck them, they can wait,” Mackenzie says. “I need to know that we’re ok.”

“You’re starting to sound like me,” Will accuses lightly, amused at how often she’s asked in the last few hours.

“Yeah, but I thought about what you said, and I get it. I’m all you have here and if you and I aren’t on the same side then it’s you versus the world, and it’s not, Will, it’s not you against the whole world, it’s you and me against the world. I’m on your side. I’m sorry to tease you about being so American, and I promise I will not do it in front of my parents.”

“That’s not –” Will starts and then he realises there’s not much point in denying he was being precious about being teased for being American, when he kind of was. Not about being American, it’s like Mackenzie said, its him and her versus the world. That’s what it is. “I just feel a little out of my comfort zone here,” he says instead. “And I’m trying.”

“I get that,” Mackenzie melts. “I know that you’re trying, so hard. That’s why I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok,” Will says, and he means it.    

“I am on your side, one hundred percent,” she says resolutely. “And I know you’re trying so hard, especially with my Dad, which I really appreciate.”

“Well…” Will gives a pout of his mouth to show it’s not a big deal. He wants a damn medal when this is all over. He hasn’t even gotten to her sisters yet.

“Ok, so we’re good?” Mackenzie asks, and she looks worried.

“We’re good,” Will says lightly.

“Ok, because, you know, when things break, when our emotional needs aren’t met and we’re not being supported,” she gestures between them. “Then we have to make it better again. We have to put it back together.”

Mackenzie falls silent, and she looks apprehensive still. Will gives her a slow, soft smile; she’s quoting Dr Johnson, and he loves it. And he loves it because he intellectually ‘gets it’ but has a harder time with implementing it in his life. But Mackenzie not only ‘gets it’ she can implement it, and understand him, and push when he doesn’t even know that he’s bothered, or how to say that he is. He needs her to.

“We’re ok,” he says, adjusting his hand to squeeze her fingers and she gives him a tentative smile. “Thank you.”

Mackenzie gives him a tentative smile in return.

 

**********

 

It’s nice inside; warm woods, and dark greys. Modern. Not like the stuffy, overcrowded English pubs Will’s seen in movies, with two hundred years’ worth of history (and funny animal related names, like the Duck and the Moose’s Left Nut – as in, the moose left an acorn behind, not…), looking like there’d be stale beer and cigarette smell emanating out of the floral topped bar stools and tall dark booths, and the wrap around bar shaped like a horseshoe, dominating the room. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel like an American bar, and Will has to admit, even though it’s strange to him, he kind of likes it here.

Anne and John already have a table, and a number; they’ve gone ahead and ordered their lunch. Will and Mackenzie go to the bar to get something for themselves. Mackenzie orders the bolognaise; Will a cheeseburger.

“Oh my god Will, they have Ribena!” Mackenzie exclaims as she leans over the bar.

“I don’t know what that is,” Will says, taking out his wallet.

“Two Ribena’s,” Mackenzie orders the bar keep.

“And table forty-eight,” Will says. “Have they paid?”

“Not yet,” the barman answers.

“I’ll pay for theirs too,” Will hands over his Centurion card.

“Blimey,” the older man behind the bar says as he takes it. He hefts it in his hand like the card is heavy (which it technically is, given that it’s made of titanium, and not plastic). “Who’d you kill for this one?”

Will’s not sure the question warrants an answer. Mackenzie doesn’t look to him to actually give a response. While he’s signing the transaction, the bar tender gives Mackenzie two glasses of ice, and two purple cans. “Food won’t be long,” he tells her. She gives him a smile. Will pockets his wallet and follows his wife back to the table where her parents sit.

In silence. They sit in silence. John’s sipping his pint and Anne has a glass of white wine in front of her, but she’s watching the rest of the pub and John’s watching a television screen, that’s showing a football replay. Will hopes, that if this happens with Mackenzie, after they’ve been married for over thirty years, that it’s a comfortable kind of thing. Not a thing where they’ve had enough of each other’s company.

They sit, Mackenzie next to her father, Will next to her mother. Anne gives him a smile and he returns it, and then she looks over at her daughter, who is peeling off the extra layers she put on to face the wind. She’s red-cheeked and Will thinks all that extra sleep this morning has been good for her, because she looks amazing. And she’s amazing anyway, and she’s his wife, and he’s very proud of her, and a part of him might be proud to show her off to her parents, even though they’re her parents.

Which is why he doesn’t want them to think she’s a cheater.

Mackenzie pours their Ribena. It’s a very dark berry colour and it’s carbonated, so when Will tries it, the bubbles make his eyes water a little. Mackenzie laughs lightly, “Do you hate it?”

Will shakes his head. It tastes like… what he figures blackcurrants taste like, seeing as that’s what it’s meant to be. He hasn’t ever had black currents though, so he doesn’t really have a point of reference. He hasn’t tasted anything like it though and it’s not overly sweet, like cola is, so it’s ok. He can’t imagine making it part of his regular routine though. “It’s nice,” he tells his wife.

Mackenzie laughs again. “You’re not sure.”

“Have you not had it before?” Anne asks, venturing into the conversation.

“You can’t get this in the States, remember?” Mackenzie says to her. Anne looks startled for a second. Clearly, she does not remember.

Will spots an opening, and asks her how long they lived in DC for. Sure, it’s information he’s kind of had from Mackenzie over the years, but she was really young, and it gives him a chance to engage her mother in conversation specifically. They talk about the residence for the British Ambassador to the United States, and Will tells her about a function he went to there once, when he was working as speech writer for Bush. Anne’s eyes light up as he describes the interior a little (proof that he’s been inside), and she proudly tells him she organised for one of the gardens in the back to be redone. Will doesn’t know the garden, but Mackenzie says she remembers it (though how much, Will isn’t sure, given how young she was). Anne and Mackenzie both ask John for clarification on some points and he engages, and the four of them talk about Washington and how it’s changed since the seventies, and Will’s glad for a four-way conversation. Better than trying to make small talk with just one of them.

Their food arrives all together. They fall silent while they eat. Will asks Mackenzie how her pasta is and she gives a positive response. She asks him about his cheeseburger. It’s not the best he’s ever had (the cheese is different to back home); he tells her it’s good. Anne chimes in that they do a very nice Yorkshire pud and Mackenzie nods. Will has no idea what that is. He concentrates on his fries. The ketchup tastes pretty different from home and there’s a relish or sauce in his burger that’s pretty tangy, and he’s not sure he likes it, but it’s not inedible.

After they finish eating they sit and talk a bit more and then Anne gives Mackenzie some kind of silent signal and Mackenzie gives a nod. “We should get going,” Anne says aloud.

“I’ll just go to the loo,” Mackenzie pushes back her chair and gets up. Anne starts gathering her things together.

“Where are you headed?” Will asks conversationally.

“There’s a little mall not far from here,” Anne tells him.

Will nods. “Are you looking for anything in particular?” He asks, even though he knows that of course that wouldn’t be true. They’d just be going to have a look. Just to see if there is something interesting.

“We’ll just see what’s there,” Anne says lightly. She glances at John, who is looking up at the screen again. Mackenzie comes back and the two women say goodbye. Mackenzie gives Will a quick kiss on the mouth and an expression that lingers a little longer than normal. He gives her a reassuring quirk of his lips; yes, I’ll be fine spending the afternoon with your father. Go have fun shopping.

They leave, promising to not be long, meeting the guys back there in a few hours (seeing as the pub will be halfway between the mall and home).

A few hours, Will thinks.

Here we go.

Chapter Text

Will gets up and moves to sit closer to Sir John, so he can see what the older man is watching on the television, and so he doesn’t have to shout down the table to make conversation. Sport and politics, Mackenzie told him (though, Will’s not sure about the politics aspect. Aren’t politics and religion two topics to avoid at all costs?). Here’s sport right here. Tennis. What does Will know about tennis? Practically nothing. Seriously, if this guy was into football or baseball, he’d be home free.

“Shall we get another round?” John suggests, sliding his empty pint glass to the table.

Will long ago finished his Ribena and gets to his feet straight away. “Same again?” He asks.

“That will do nicely,” John says with a nod of satisfaction.

Will goes to the bar. A nice breather. The older gentleman behind the bar approaches where he waits. “Two pints of whatever he was drinking,” Will indicates the table where Sir John sits.

“You know Sir John then,” the bartender says, reaching for pint glasses beneath the bar. Or asks. Will’s never sure if these are questions. But the older guy (who, to be fair, is probably not that much more senior than Will), looks over at him, eyebrows raised. Oh, so it was a question.

“Yeah.”

“Not your old man though,” he goes to a tap and pulls it.

“Father-in-law,” Will corrects, getting out his wallet.

“Ah,” the barkeep says with a nod. “You must be married to the daughter in America.”

“I am,” Will confirms, taking out his credit card. The bartender eyes it up as he finishes pulling the first pint.

“She’s done all right for herself,” he notes nonchalantly, starting on the second pint.

“I’d like to think so,” Will says.

The bartender shoots him a smile. “Don’t let the old bugger get to you. He’s pretty harmless. Especially after a couple of pints.”

“Thanks for the tip,” Will responds. But look, he thinks, this guy, who’s a stranger, has made more small talk with him than Sir John has and it would be so easy for him to do. Ask Will about News Night, or the Orioles (they did go to a game together, after all), or he doesn’t even know. Ok, ok, Will’s a grown up. He can do better at this. Maybe it’s not so easy for Sir John either. As far as he knows, his daughter cheated on Will, went to a warzone, got stabbed, went back to New York, worked with Will again for two years, and then within the space of six months, got pregnant, got married, and had her husband go to prison.

Second pint pulled, Will hands over his credit card to pay, and then carries both glasses back to the table. John’s staring at the television screen, but an ad is playing. Will puts down the beers and takes his seat, pulling in the chair closer to the older man so Will doesn’t have to raise his voice so much. “What happened?” He asks, glancing up at the screen, to indicate he’s talking about the game.

“Yellow card two minutes before half time,” John responds.

“Does that mean someone leaves the field?” Will asks, assuming he’s talking about soccer now (someone changed the channel? The tournament they were watching ended?). He knows a card means an infraction, and he knows in rugby that means someone leaves the field, but he knows in soccer, there are different rules.

John sips his beer and shakes his head. “Just goes against a player. Too many of them will result in a red, and they go off.”

Will nods and reaches for his beer as well. “Not bad,” he says.

“It’s not Budweiser,” John notes. Will wonders if that was a dig at America. He knows Mackenzie’s parents aren’t entirely comfortable with how comfortable she is, claiming to be American (she is American. Has the passport to prove it). They wish she would come home and saw her stabbing as an opportunity to get her to come back to the nest. Will wonders if they blame him now, for keeping her in New York. He’s not bringing that up. He doesn’t need to give them another excuse to be – or maybe he can.

“Do you and Anne travel much?” Will asks.

John’s eyes slide to his. “Not so much,” he says lightly.

“Maybe you could come to New York after the baby’s born,” Will says.

John considers him a moment. “Maybe.”

“Mackenzie would really like that,” Will says.

John nods. “I’m sure Anne would like that.”

Will assumes that means that they would both, actually, like that. “I’d like to buy you a ticket,” he says carefully.

“Well,” John starts and leans forward for his beer again. “That would be generous.”

“I’ll get something with open dates. You can come over whenever you want,” Will offers. He reaches for his own beer. It’s late November. The baby’s due in two months. Hopefully they decide to wait until after he’s born (not too soon after).

John gives a nod.

Will’s thinking about suggesting they make it an annual thing, or more if they want, it’s not like money is an issue, but he also doesn’t want to step on Sir John’s ego, and he might not want to go running his mouth off without talking to his wife about it first. The pub is emptying out this late in the afternoon, so it gets quieter, and the football match comes back on. Will kind of wishes it hadn’t, because without it, he was getting somewhere with his father-in-law. The door opens and Will watches three older gentlemen come in. He focuses back on the TV. The three older gentlemen approach where he and John are sitting.

“John,” one of the men calls out. “What are you doing here at two o’clock in the afternoon?”

A wiley expression crosses John’s face, as he stands to greet, who is clearly, a friend. Will feels his heart pound a little; now he’s outnumbered. The four Englishmen say hello to each other, with gentle teasing about escaping their wives for an afternoon pint. Will stands at his full height, making himself known. “This is Will,” John introduces. The three newcomers stare at him. “Mackenzie’s husband.”

“Ah the yank.”

Oh good, John’s told them about me.

“The elusive son-in-law.”

Elusive?

“We might have heard you were in town.”

What a surprise.

So this is it. This is the grilling he’s going to get. It’s definitely not a coincidence that these three friends of Sir John’s have arrived as Mackenzie and Anne have stepped away. This will be the grilling Sir John obviously didn’t want to give Will himself.

Touché, motherfucker.

Will leans over the table to shake hands, starting with the thin man on the left. John makes the introduction, “Sir Edward Napier.”

“Nice to meet you, sir,” Will says. The man’s grip is tight. He extends his hand to the next guy, who looks to be the youngest of them (he still has mostly black hair).

“Stewart Dargaville,” John says.

They shake firmly. Will finally gets to the last guy. He has a massive, bushy moustache, and over-extended beer gut. He gives Will a broad grin as they shake. “And Lord Andrew Napier,” John finishes.

“Sir,” Will says.

“You don’t call me sir,” Lord Napier says.

“Just me,” Sir Edward pipes up.

“What do I call you?” Will asks Napier, putting his hands on his hips (its subconscious, but it makes him look bigger).

“Lord Napier,” he says, a little pompously.

“Right,” Will nods that he understands.

“You can just call me Stewart,” Dargaville says, a teasing glint in his eye, and then they all stand there, including Sir John, waiting for what Will will say or do next.

“Sir John, Sir Edward, Stewart, Lord Napier,” Will recites. “Got it.”

They still stand there, almost laughing at him, but holding it in, clearly amused. “Screw that. I’ll never keep that straight,” Will dismisses lightly with a laugh, taking a punt. The other men start chuckling and pulling out their chairs. Will gets out his wallet, “Can I buy you gentlemen a beer?”

  

**********

 

Mackenzie is on the verge of throwing a full on tantrum. She loves her mother and everything, but the woman can drive her insane. She’s obviously pregnant, so maybe Anne could slow it down when they walk. Maybe she could not drag Mackenzie into every fucking store on the high street. Maybe when Mackenzie said an hour ago that she’d had enough she meant it (she meant, get me the fuck out of here). It’s a relief, needless to say, when they finally make it back to the Charles Holden (and they hardly bought a thing, even though they saw every store). Mackenzie marches in, not quite waiting to make sure her mother got the door behind her, and heads towards the table where she left her father and her husband, nearly three bloody hours ago.

To her almighty surprise, Will is holding court. He’s telling a story that is clearly very amusing to his audience of her father and three of his friends. There is a crap ton of empty pint glasses on the table, and Will has one hand in the air, and the other around his drink, that has about an inch left in the bottom. He’s also red in the face, and her father and his friends are all wearing happy expressions with glinty eyes and supressed laughter.

What the even fuck happened here?

She approaches the table and Will glances at her. He looks away and then does a double take. “Hi,” he greets her, almost mid-sentence. He stands immediately and takes her shopping bags, leaning in to give her a quick kiss. On the mouth. In front of her father. And his friends. And then offers her his seat. Which she gratefully accepts, because aside from being exhausted from three hours with her mother, she’s just about floored by what she’s walked in on. They must be drunk. The lot of them.

All the guys say hello to her and her mother, and while they’re asking after her and the baby, Will asks the table next to theirs if he can have one of their spare chairs. When they consent, he drags it over and offers it to Anne. She gives him a pleased smile as she lowers herself into it. Will catches Mackenzie’s eye over her mother’s head and makes a ‘drink’ gesture. Yes, she pleads silently.

“Does anyone need something to drink?” Will cuts into the conversation.

“No don’t encourage them,” Anne answers firmly, sharing a look with her husband. “We need to get home and get dinner on.”

“Got the girls coming over,” John explains to his friends and they knowingly name Amy and Meredith, given that Susannah is in France.

“But no Everett?” Stewart asks.

“We’re going to have breakfast with him and Sheila on Sunday,” Mackenzie explains, watching Will sidle away to the bar. He comes back with bottled water for her and Anne. Anne thanks him, but also looks confused by the gesture. Mackenzie opens hers happily. Will stands at her shoulder, reaching to pick up his beer, and sliding his fingers beneath Mackenzie’s hair to massage his fingers against her spin. She just about leaps from her chair with how good it feels. Will doesn’t look at her and she doesn’t look at him, but she doesn’t need to, to let him know that it feels freaking orgasmic, and he doesn’t need to look at her to know the effect he’s having.

If she weren’t so tired, she might fantasise about screwing him.

Chapter Text

They head out.

Anne and John walk on quickly, but Mackenzie can’t keep up, and even though Will gets a few steps ahead, he soon slows his pace to stay with her. He gestures up the road to where her parents are, “Should we?”

“Oh never mind,” Mackenzie sighs. She slows her pace further, to where she’s comfortable, to where her hips don’t hurt and the scar on her side doesn’t pull with each step. She takes Will’s arm and leans on him. They fall further and further behind.

“You ok?” Will asks once they’re halfway down the block.

“Yeah. Tired though.”

“Big day today.”

“Big weekend,” Mackenzie corrects.

“Yes,” Will agrees. “Maybe we should go back to the hotel so you can take a load off? And have a nap?”

Mackenzie stops walking, a flare of annoyance. Will gives her a surprised expression as he comes to stand in front of her, and she takes that moment to calm herself a little. “You’re doing that thing where you try to solve my problems.”

“Sorry. What am I meant to say?”

“You could have stopped at ‘big day today’.”

“Ok,” Will says, totally confused as to what he’s done.

Mackenzie gives a pout. “I’m sorry. You haven’t done anything. I’m grumpy,” she relents. “I probably do need a nap, but going all the way back to the hotel is – by the time we get there we’ll have to turn around and come back for dinner.”

Will gives a slight nod; concession. “Big day today,” he says.

Mackenzie blurts a smile. “I’d ask you to carry me, but I genuinely think you would try.”

“I would,” Will agrees.

“And you’d probably put out your back, and screw your knee and your elbow.”

“Come on,” Will puts his arm around her shoulder, turning her to start walking again. There is no sign of her parents ahead of them. “At the risk of totally pushing it, we could get a taxi.”

“It’s a five-minute walk,” Mackenzie grouses and Will goes silent. “Sorry,” she mutters after a moment, her hip bumping her husband’s so that they bounce apart.

Will shifts his arm to take her hand instead, but doesn’t say anything. He’s carrying her shopping in his other hand. His large fingers are cool against hers. She’s making more fractures between them. “So what the hell happened this afternoon? I leave and come back and find you not only have my father in stitches, but three of his closest friends, one of whom is practically his brother.”

Will looks down at her, smiling (maybe a little proudly). “You were right. Sports and politics.”

“And which did it?”

“Politics.”

Mackenzie gives him a soft smile. “If I haven’t said thank you enough for this weekend, let me just say –”

“You have,” Will tells her gently. “Really. I don’t mind.”

“I might owe you one after dinner.”

 

**********

 

When they get in, they find John asleep in his chair, sport on the television, and Anne in the kitchen, starting on dinner. Will pushes up the sleeves on his jersey to get stuck in.

“Oh no, leave that,” Anne says, as Will reaches for a potato in the sink.

“You want them peeled or?”

“Don’t bother,” Mackenzie jumps in, leaning a hip against the bench where Anne is at work prepping a chicken for the oven. “He’s going to help.”

“Peeled,” Anne opens a drawer and takes out a vegetable peeler.

Will gives his wife a side glance, but he’s not sure if that was a dig at him. He’s not going to say anything about it in front of her mother, but he hopes she’s remembered herself, even if she’s grumpy. It’s ok to be grumpy, but it’s not ok to overstep the bounds. He thinks about telling, or suggesting to, Mackenzie that she could take a nap herself, and he doesn’t know if she picks up on that, or whether her being aware of her own grumpy mood motivates her to get there before he does, but she announces she’s going to go lie down for a bit.

“Of course honey, go upstairs,” Anne says.

“Thanks Mum,” Mackenzie says softly. She catches Will’s eye as she goes to leave, and as her mother has her back to them, putting the chicken in the oven, she gives him oblique eyebrows and he gives her a reassuring lift of his lips. And then she goes, leaving Will alone with her mother. Seems fair, he spent the afternoon alone with her father. But small talk is going to be way easier.

He starts with ‘what’s for dinner?’ Roast. And they trade little compliments (‘you’re handy with that peeler’, ‘what did you put on the chicken, it smells amazing’) and off-hand comments as they work together. Anne tells him trade secrets about Mackenzie (she used to screw her eyes up as a kid when she didn’t want anyone to ‘see’ her), and he tells Anne about the little things Mackenzie does that she’s clearly gotten from her mother. He knows it means something to both of them, to have influenced each other’s life. Anne’s pleased to hear how Mackenzie takes care of her skin (‘I drilled it into my girls. If you don’t, you’ll age a lot faster than your years’), and they get talking about the baby, and that really sets them off. Anne wants to know what the nursery looks like and other questions, such as where they’re going to have the baby. She also drops a few disturbing tid bits of information Will thinks he could have happily gone without knowing (implications of implied fertility – he can figure that one out, they have five children), but she does also tell him she was overdue for all her pregnancies, except when she had Everett.

“It seems McHale boys want to come early,” she gives him a slight smile. Will gives a nod to acknowledge her comment, but hopes he didn’t give anything else away about the baby’s gender; Mackenzie doesn’t want everyone to know. He thinks it’s because she doesn’t want the media to find out and he can respect a need for privacy.

“Can you grab that platter down from the shelf?” Anne requests. Will turns from the sink where he’s washing his hands, to see her pointing to the middle shelf of a cupboard. She might be able to reach it herself, on tip toes.

“No problem,” he says, wiping his hands quickly on a towel. It’s hardly a stretch for him and he gets the platter down easily.

“Thank you,” Anne says warmly, giving his arm a squeeze.

“Hello?” Comes from further in the house. “Mum?”

“Oh,” Anne says surprised, turning to look through the living room to the hallway, she moves off through to the other room. Will can hear voices, the call of children, and the deeper tones of John waking from his nap. He can also feel his heart rate go up. Mackenzie is not here to act as his buffer. He hesitates for a second before going in, reminding himself that he’s a grown ass man, and whatever he’s heard about Mackenzie’s sisters, he can handle them.

Anne is at the front door with the girl, helping her remove her jacket. John and the boy are selecting something to watch on the television. And the kids’ mother is standing by her father’s chair, overseeing both groups. She notices Will come in from the kitchen. She looks like her father, a little like Mackenzie; Will can tell they’re siblings, but she looks more like her father, while Mackenzie looks more like her mother.

“Hi,” Will says.

“Oh hi,” Mackenzie’s sister says, turning to him.

“Will,” he introduces himself.

“Hi, Amy,” she introduces herself, a small smile.

Ah, the nice one.

“It’s nice to meet you,” he shakes her hand and he’s not sure, but she might blush a little.

“You too,” she says and introduces her children, Michael and Leeani. Will says hello to them and they say hi back, but shyly (Leeani) and disinterested (Michael). Amy says they can watch TV, and they go to argue over the channel. Will takes that moment to check the time. It’s nearly five. Mackenzie’s probably had about an hour’s sleep. That’s good. And he doesn’t need to wake her just yet.

Amy shakes her hair back from her face, looking very much like her older sister for a second. “So where’s Mackenzie?”

“She’s taking a nap,” Will says, aware that he’s now got to make small talk with her (or stand in awkward silence).

“Right. I heard Mum took her shopping,” Amy says, with a slightly amused smile, that kind of looks like Mackenzie’s as well.

“What does that mean?” Anne asks, moving by them to go back to the kitchen.

“Nothing,” Amy says airily but she shares a look with Will and he tries not to laugh.

“I’m on dinner duty,” he explains as he turns for the kitchen as well. He hopes Amy follows them, because he’d like a chance to talk to her, and she does. Mostly, she and her mother talk, but he listens in on the updates about the kids, about Amy’s job, and Kurt (who Will thinks is her husband, but isn’t sure). He stirs the gravy and is careful to make sure there are no lumps and after he’s done that, he helps Amy set the table for eight. Eight don’t fit at the table, so the kids are on stools on the corners.

The doorbell sounds.

Will straightens up from reaching over to set down a glass and Amy looks at him. “Meredith’s here,” she says, almost eerily.

“I’ll go get Mackenzie,” Will offers.

“Amy can you get the door?” Anne requests.

“I’ll get it!” Leeani yells from the living room.

Will really doesn’t want to be confronted by the eldest McHale sibling at the front door, not without Mackenzie to hide behind a little, so he quickly, but casually (but quickly) heads upstairs to find where his wife as gone to sleep. He passes Leeani as she twists the lock on the door, and takes the stairs two at a time. Once up on the second level he finds three doors, all closed. He guesses the two doors close to each other are more likely to be the bathroom and smaller bedroom, and he’s not wrong. But he almost goes into the bathroom first.

On the second try, he finds his wife in a single bed. Or at least, he figures the dark lump on the bed is his sleeping beauty.

He pads over the room, which is funny, when he’s actually there to wake his wife, and sits on the edge of her bed. He reaches out to shake her upper arm lightly.

“Hm?” Mackenzie stirs.

“Hey,” Will whispers. “You awake?”

“Hm,” Mackenzie makes a noise in her throat.

“Your sisters are here and I’m feeling outnumbered by McHales.”

“Need some McAvoys down there?” Mackenzie asks sleepily, rolling back slightly.

“Yes please.”

Chapter Text

Here we go, Will thinks, following his wife back downstairs. He can hear a loud voice from the bottom of the steps and knows that it’s Meredith. He tries to remember if he’s heard any stories about her in particular, but think it’s more the way people react, and the tone they take, when they’re talking about her. He tries not to pre-judge. But Meredith is intense. It’s immediately obvious. She’s holding court, complaining about someone being inconsiderate on the subway, and Will notices when they come in, that everyone is stopped to look at her. Even Michael and Leeani have turned their attention from the television. The second thing he notices, is that Meredith and Mackenzie look very alike. Same face structure, same eyes, similar height, similar hair. Except that Meredith is clearly a lot older than Mackenzie (Will thinks the age gap is close to ten years – Meredith is Will’s age).

Meredith finishes her story, before stopping to say hello to her sister. “You look good,” she says, giving her a brief perfunctory hug, and then, offhand, “What’s with your skin?”

“It’s from the pregnancy,” Mackenzie almost winces.

“I never got that when I was pregnant,” Meredith announces.

“Will and I spent our honeymoon at the beach,” Mackenzie explains. “And I got too much sun.”

“So it’s like a permanent tan?” Meredith asks, almost with derision.

“No,” Mackenzie says, and looks embarrassed. “It will fade.” Eventually. Although the books warn her it could be up to a year after the baby’s born.

It’s hardly like a tan at all, Will thinks. It’s not even for one, and it’s also not all over her face, just in her T-zone and along her cheeks.

“Hm,” Meredith says, and then looks up at Will. “Hi.”

“This is Will,” Mackenzie introduces, her tone excited.

“Nice to meet you,” Will says, extending his hand.

Meredith shakes it, staring at him, her grip firm and her eyes dark. “Nice to meet you too,” she says, after a moment. Will wonders if he’s missing something. The entire room is looking at him and he feels more out of place in that moment than he has in the last twenty-four hours. Out of the corner of his eye, Will sees the kids and John turn back to the television, but Amy and Anne look on. He shifts his hand to Mackenzie’s shoulder. He gets it. Meredith is alpha. Aside from her father, everyone else is looking to her, and waiting for her reaction. He’s met people like this before (particularly when working as prosecutor). It’s not that they’re a natural leader, it’s that they demand it (and most people are too afraid to challenge them).

“So where are you staying?” Meredith asks, conversationally.

“The Ritz,” Mackenzie answers, lifting her chin a little. She moves her left hand to where Will’s hand is on her shoulder, giving Meredith (and everyone else) a full frontal shot of her engagement ring.

“Nice for some,” Meredith notes. “Nice engagement ring.”

“Thank you,” Mackenzie smiles. “From Tiffany’s.”

Will tries to hide a grin. And people think guys are worried about who has the bigger…

“It’s gorgeous,” Amy steps forward. She reaches out her hand and Mackenzie hands over hers for inspection.

“It’s nice enough,” Meredith says, but inspects it closer herself. “Pretty big.” She looks up at Will. “Did you take Mackenzie shopping?”

“No, he picked it out,” Mackenzie answers. “Surprised me with it.”

Will wonders if she’s told anyone the story. The actual story, or even just the good half of the story. Mackenzie reaches for Amy to hug her hello and Will notices Anne goes back to the kitchen. He starts to pull away himself, to help, but Mackenzie stops him. “Did you meet Amy?”

“I did,” Will gives her a reassuring smile. Amy beams at him and they exchange a smile. “And we already talked about you,” Will adds, dropping a quick kiss against her head. He moves off to the kitchen, glancing back to see Mackenzie narrowing her eyes at him.

 

**********

 

Will helps serve up the food, lifting the roasting dish from the oven, heavy with chicken and vegetables. When he pokes his head into the living room to call everyone else for dinner, he overhears Meredith sounding like she’s implying Mackenzie got pregnant to get a ring on her finger. Will steps his full frame into the doorway, forming a response to that highly offensive comment, when Meredith laughs it off. “I’m kidding of course, but the timing is curious.”

“Hey,” Will calls out, to make his presence known. “Dinner’s ready.” He catches his wife’s eye on the couch, and she gives him a slight smile.

“Yay!” Leeani says from in front of the television, hopping to her feet.

“Michael, let’s go,” Amy says, getting up from the armchair next to the couch. John turns off the television, and that gets the seven year-olds’ attention. They move through to the other room. John and Anne take their places at the heads of the table. Will pulls out a chair for Mackenzie, calling dibs on it, so that she doesn’t have to squeeze around to sit in the back. Michael climbs to his stool next to his mother.

“Gosh it’s a squash behind here,” Meredith notes, making a show of having to sit against the wall.

Will pushes his wife’s chair in and she gives his hand a squeeze.

“Pour the wine Mum,” Meredith directs.

John starts cutting the chicken up. Will takes his seat.

“Leeani, please sit down,” Amy says.

Will’s reaching for the spoon in the peas. Out of the corner of his eye he can see Leeani is half hanging onto her grandmother’s chair, next to where Will is sitting. He puts peas on Mackenzie’s plate, and then his own. Mackenzie helps herself to chicken, as her father takes the bird apart, and then serves Will as well. Amy puts roast potato and carrot on her son’s plate, while Anne opens a bottle of white wine, discussing the label with her eldest daughter.

Will turns to Leeani. “Would you like some peas?”

She stares at him a moment, then nods.

Will puts half a spoon on her plate. He thanks Anne for pouring him a glass of wine and waits for the other vegetables. Each time, he turns to Leeani and asks if she wants some. She nods each time, silent, but responsive. He doesn’t really know how much is appropriate for a five-year-old, so goes with less rather than more. She can get seconds if she wants. Better than wasting it. He also makes sure to serve his wife. It takes some time and negotiation, but they all end up with food on their plates and pass the gravy around, and are ready to begin.

“Leeani honey,” Anne says. “Sit down.”

Leeani shakes her head and tries to hide her face.

“What’s the issue?” Amy asks. 

Will doesn’t see, but Leeani points to him.

“You don’t want to sit next to Will?” Amy asks delicately.

Will half glances at the girl, and she nods. He half glances at his wife, who is watching Leeani. The whole table is, and Will feels a bit like they’re looking at him too.

“You can sit next to Will,” Amy says. “He’s your uncle.”

“Why is he our uncle all of a sudden?” Michael pipes up.

“Because he married me,” Mackenzie answers.

“Oh,” Michael says with a frown. “Is that how that works?”

Meredith laughs.

“That’s how that works,” John says, starting on his dinner.

“Tell you what,” Will speaks up. “I’ll swap with Mackenzie. You can sit next to your aunt.” He gets up.

“You don’t have to move,” Amy says, slightly embarrassed.

“It’s fine,” Will says, pushing back his chair.

“I’d love to sit next to you Leeani,” Mackenzie says as she moves. Will helps her with her chair. Not that she needs it. He just likes to be gentlemanly sometimes. Maybe in front of her sisters and parents. He switches their plates as Leeani scrambles to her stool. Will sits again and reaches over for his wine.

“Is that how that works? You get married and then you’re an uncle,” Michael asks.

The table chuckles.

 

**********

 

“So, Will,” Meredith starts. “You survived your stint on the inside ok?”

Oh good. Two seconds without Mackenzie and it starts.

“Yeah,” Will says, taking a seat in the armchair by the couch. Meredith sits in the armchair by the door to the hallway, the absolute furthest she could get from him. Michael and Leeani have been given license to go upstairs to watch TV in their grandparent’s room, and Anne, Amy and Mackenzie are tidying up the kitchen (Will offered, and was kicked out; he notices Meredith didn’t offer), and John is pouring himself a whisky (Will is hanging on to his half glass of wine to stave off an offer of hard liquor. It’s how he managed to get through lunch with just a pint, instead of three).

“A person of importance gets administrative segregation,” John speaks up. He looks over at Will for confirmation and he nods that that was what happened.

“Solitary?” Meredith asks, as if that’s something to be ashamed of.

“Solitary,” Will confirms lightly. He’s not bothered. Preferred it that way. Was very happy being along (until his father showed up).

“You must have been bored,” Meredith goes on.

Will gives a pout of his mouth. “I read a lot and would get a few hours outside. Very civilised.”

“Whereabouts were you?” Meredith asks.

“Manhattan Correctional,” Will answers. “In Manhattan.”

“Oh, so Mackenzie was able to visit you?”

“Mackenzie visited who?” Mackenzie asks, coming into the room. She moves to sit by her husband, as Meredith explains that Will’s telling them about his time in prison. One glance to Will tells her that that’s not really true.

“Let’s change the subject,” John speaks up.

“Let’s,” Mackenzie says dryly.

“Did they kick you out too?” Will asks quietly.

Mackenzie gives him a slight smile. “Yes.”

“So Kenzie, when are you due again?” Meredith asks, reaching for her handbag.

“January,” Mackenzie answers.

“When in January,” Meredith looks up, as she zips open the main compartment.

“The twenty-fifth.”

“You’ll be overdue,” Meredith says, matter-of-factly.

“Probably,” Mackenzie agrees. Will sips his wine. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see John sip his whiskey.

“I was overdue with my first. Did Mum tell you the story about how she was overdue with all of us except for Everett?” Meredith pulls a packet of cigarettes from within her purse.

“Yes,” Mackenzie says, at the same time Will does. She looks over at him, surprised, but smiling. Meredith just looks surprised.

“So do you think you’ll be overdue?” Meredith presses, dipping her gaze to find a lighter.

“I really couldn’t say,” Mackenzie says lightly.

“If Mum’s theory is true about boys,” Meredith adds, zipping her purse up again.

“Well, when the baby comes, you’ll know,” Mackenzie says.

Meredith stands. “Will, you smoke?”

“No thanks,” he says, a slight shake of his head.

Meredith watches him a moment. “All right. Looks like I’m out in the cold on my own,” she says, walking around her chair to the hallway. She’ll need a coat to go outside at this time of year and Will feels himself relaxing a little now that she’s out of the room. He sits back in his armchair and sips his wine, and reaches for his wife’s hand.

Chapter Text

Christ Almighty, Will thinks as yet another thinly veiled insult comes out of Mackenzie’s sister’s mouth. He’s endured the implications that he and Mackenzie only got married because she’s pregnant (or, perhaps more accurately, got married in a hurry because she got pregnant) and he got through the quasi-derision of his prison experience, and the insinuation that it wasn’t a big deal, or that he soft-cocked it, because he was in segregation – and that what he was doing wasn’t that important – he could have just given up the name of the source. He overlooked the slightly snide comments about money, the cost of the engagement ring, and their choice of hotel (thank god nobody mentioned they flew first class). He didn’t say anything when Meredith bluntly stated that Mackenzie probably only got her job because her predecessor died (and pretended she had forgotten, when it was gently pointed out that Mackenzie actually has two Peabody’s and is widely considered the best executive producer in the business – still, even though she isn’t actually an EP anymore). But what he cannot stand, and will not stand, is any implication that Mackenzie was, or is, a cheating whore.

“Ok,” he says abruptly, cutting the conversation mid-sentence (he doesn’t even know who he’s interrupting). He stands (not because he needs the physical impact, not when simply speaking up gets everyone’s attention, but because he feels agitated). “I’m sorry to butt in here, and you totally have it handled,” he says to Mackenzie (who’s unhappy expression and stressed tone have motivated him more than Meredith’s thoughtless comments). “But I just need to put the record straight,” he announces to the room (mostly Meredith). “Mackenzie did not cheat on me. She dated a little.”

He doesn’t want to imply she’s a slut. Not that there’s anything wrong with sleeping around either, if that’s what she wanted to do.

“We weren’t exclusive,” Will goes. “But when she told me, and I found out because she told me,” he looks at Meredith as he says it. “I ended it. I broke her heart and I broke my heart, but she didn’t cheat on me.”

Mackenzie blinks up at him, Meredith stares, John looks intently into his whiskey, and Anne has found a particular point on the carpet interesting. The room is silent. He hasn’t yelled, hasn’t even raised his voice, but it’s had the same impact.

“Just wanted to make that clear,” Will says, and sits again. He’d probably prefer to leave the room at this point, but if he does that, he’s worried about what the McHales might say about him behind his back.

There’s another long pause, and then Meredith announces she’s going for a smoke. “Will?” She stands, as if he wasn’t the guy who just called her out, and they’re somehow co-conspirators.
“I actually quit,” he says, meeting her eye. But he could probably do with one about now.

Meredith sighs heavily, like he’s a total disappointment (maybe traitorous. She must have been informed by someone that he was a smoker), and stalks to the door.

It’s not exactly tense in the room, but it’s not exactly comfortable. Will’s worried about over stepping the mark, shutting Meredith down like that (but she was so very wrong to bring up private details of his relationship with his wife, whether she’s the sister of said wife or not), when Anne says, “You have to remember she –”

“I have two Peabody’s, and I had two reporters on the ground during the Arab Spring,” Mackenzie says haughtily. “I think I know what I’m talking about.”

There’s a pause where the carpet looks wonderfully interesting again. Even to Will.

“And then there’s what Will said,” Mackenzie adds, glancing at him, and he doesn’t much feel like she’s pissed that he jumped in and announced that to the room. “It’s too much Mum, and you know that.”

Will’s wondering what’s happening now. He feels like a fly on the wall, privy to secret McHale family history.

Mackenzie lets out a breath and she looks at him this time. “I think I’m tired.”

“You want to get going?” Will immediately asks. Whether it’s an excuse or true, he’ll take it as an out.

Mackenzie nods and he stands quickly, offering her his hand as she gets to her feet herself. She’s not struggling with it. He just likes to be gentlemanly. Anne and John don’t protest their leaving. It’s not exactly still early, and it’s not exactly late either. Amy has already taken her kids home to bed (Will even got a hug from Leeani).

They start saying their goodbyes as they head for the door. Will thanks Anne for dinner and she thanks him for his help. John shakes his hand as they say goodnight, and Will reminds them to come for dinner up at the hotel the next night. Mackenzie hugs and kisses her parents while Will puts his jacket on, and then helps her into hers (again, she doesn’t need help, he just likes to), and she thanks them for having them over, reiterating that they should come for dinner. Anne finally agrees that they will. Good, because they gave a vague response when Mackenzie suggested it the first time.

Will pops open the front door and cigarette smoke wafts in. Oh right, Meredith is out here smoking. She’s leaning against the fence and looks surprised to see them all pouring out of the house. “Oh you’re off then?”

“Yes,” Mackenzie says, a little clipped.

“It was good to see you,” Meredith flings her arms wide to hug her younger sister, cigarette clenched between two fingers. Will catches the look of disgust on his wife’s face, but he thinks that’s about the cigarette, not her sister.

Meredith hugs Will as well, perfunctory and quick. “It was nice to meet you,” she says, as if nothing happened just a moment ago.

“Yeah you too,” Will offers back politely. Mackenzie takes his hand.

“Too bad it wasn’t at the actual wedding,” Meredith adds.

“Bye,” Mackenzie says loudly, turning back to her parents as she nudges Will forward down the path. He handles the gate superbly (helps that he’s totally sober this time), and when they look back, Anne and John are still standing in the doorway, waiting to wave. Will raises a hand and all three of them wave back, the end of Meredith’s cigarette cutting through the light spilling out from the hallway. Mackenzie waves as well and they walk away, picking a pace that’s slightly above casual. When they get to the subway, Will feels warm. He undoes his jacket when they get to the platform and hopes his hand isn’t sweating grotesquely all over his wife’s.

“You didn’t have to jump to my rescue,” Mackenzie says neutrally, as they wait for the train.

Will looks down at her, wondering if she’s mad at him for doing so, or is a little relieved. She’s hanging off his arm, and gives him a tentative smile, “But it was really nice having someone on my side against her for once.”

Will returns the smile and leans down to give her a kiss. “Always on your side and happy to jump in. Whether you need me to or not,” he adds ruefully.

Mackenzie laughs.

“Sorry to abruptly end your evening.”

“No, I was totally over it. Four hours of Meredith is enough until next year. Sometime. Maybe not even then.”

Will hears the train approaching in the distance. He has to admit, it feels pretty good to have his wife happy that he essentially told her sister to shut up. He might not have been surprised if Mackenzie had defended her. They sit on the train and watch the dark tunnel break up intermittently by station stops. When they finally emerge from underground, onto the street, Will is disorientated for a second. But across the road their hotel is lit up and Mackenzie has his hand, guiding the way. The hotel bar is crowded and loud, and they skirt it for the elevators. Their room is dark and cool, and it’s only then that Mackenzie let’s go of Will’s hand. She goes to lie on the bed, while Will goes to close the curtains.

“Come lie with me,” Mackenzie requests.

“I will,” he turns, finished with the curtains. “But I need the bathroom.”

Mackenzie pouts at him.
“Sorry to inconvenience you.”

When he comes back, she’s lying on her side, facing the room, eyes closed, hand over the baby, looking content and not a bit as tired as Will does. He stoops to undo the laces on his shoes, then kicks them off and pads to the bed in his socks. He doesn’t disturb Mackenzie as he climbs onto the mattress, but she opens her eyes anyway and smiles at him, reaching her arm up to encourage him to come closer. He goes right in for a hug, realising in that moment he’s missed the contact with her all day. Not that they particularly hang off each other while they’re at work either, but there are hugs and kisses in there and they haven’t had nearly as much of that today like usual. They’ve hardly had time alone.

“Mmm,” Mackenzie hums happily as he presses his hand against her back, half leaning on her while also trying not to jam the baby into her liver. “You’re my hero.”

“Pardon?”

“Surviving an entire day with the awkward-in-laws.”

“What?” Will laughs.

“And my crazy sisters.”

“Just one of them.”

Mackenzie loosens up her grip on him and he shifts to lie next to her. “Tell me what happened with my dad this afternoon.”

Will gives a shrug, trying to brush it off, and simultaneously reminding himself to freaking open up to her. Let her in. Share with her. Practice with the easy stuff. “About ten minutes after you left, his friends showed up.”

“Oh he so planned that.”

“And I think they pretty much asked me every question he wanted to.”

“Was it an interrogation?” Mackenzie squints sympathetic eyes at him. She squirms on the bed a little.

“Not quite,” Will hedges. “Friendly. Curious, I think.” He pauses. “Are you ok?”

“My legs hurt,” Mackenzie almost whines, but Will spots the flash of tears in her eyes.

He sits a little. “Too much walking today?”

“Yes!” She breathes, a slight whimper.

“Well,” Will moves so he’s sitting properly. He reaches out to rub his hand against her calf. “Does that help?”

“A little. Except it’s my thighs. And my feet,” Mackenzie adds meekly, her dark eyes following him as he moves to sit by her hip, so he’s facing her, and crosses his legs. He rubs his hand up her thigh firmly, and back down again. Mackenzie’s reaction is instantaneous, and just shy of orgasmic. “I take it that feels pretty good?” Will asks, amused.

“God yes!” Mackenzie enthuses. “You have no idea.”

“The expression on your face helps quite a bit,” he does the move again, kneading into her ass.

Mackenzie bucks her hips. “Copping a feel?”

“The gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle,” Will says innocently. He works on her thigh again, just running his hand up and down, easing the tension out of her muscles. Every few strokes he works on her ass again.

“What did they ask?” Mackenzie asks, breathless.

“Your ass?”

Mackenzie strikes him with a hand and he chuckles. “My father’s inquisitors.”

“Why we cancelled the wedding.”

“Oh.”

“Which lead to why I went to prison.”

“Oh.”

“And why I stayed in there for so long.”

Mackenzie gives a wince.

“And if our impromptu wedding had anything to do with you being pregnant.”

“Someone did the maths.”

“And then general questions about how I plan to provide for you and the baby.”

“They didn’t.”

“I think that one was more from his friends.”

“How did you handle that one?”

“Got a notarised copy of my bank account and investment portfolio.”

Mackenzie laughs.

“It was fine. It was just conversation. I bought them a few beers.”

“Strong strategic move, McAvoy.”

Will gives a slight smile. “And then we started talking about the Ukraine.”

“What’s going on with the Ukraine?”

“Trade agreements with the EU? Whether they’re going to sign them or not.”

“Ah yes. We’ll find out in a few days,” Mackenzie muses.

Will stops his ministrations and Mackenzie gives him a curious expression. “Turn over. I’ll rub your back.”

Chapter Text

30th November 2013

Saturday

 

“Have I mentioned I’m sorry about Meredith?”

Will chuckles, trailing his fingers up his wife’s bare arm. His wife. Mackenzie’s his wife. He’s not sure why it’s hitting him now, but it is. “Don’t worry about it.” He’s handled bigger schmucks than Meredith. “You haven’t met my siblings yet.”

Mackenzie makes a noise from her side of the bed. Will looks over at her, but her eyes are still closed. “No one, who should have told her to pull her head in, has ever told her to pull her head in.”

Will wonders what that means. But he doesn’t want to talk about Meredith. He doesn’t care; already moved on. “Hey, yesterday,” he says, trailing his fingers lightly down his wife’s bare arm.

“Hm?” Mackenzie’s dark eyes flutter open at him. She gives him a slight smile, and it makes his heart feel lighter.

“I really appreciate what you said.”

“What did I say?” Mackenzie murmurs sleepily, her eyes hooded.

“About you and me against the world. I needed to hear that.”

Mackenzie gives him a soft smile. “Then it was my pleasure to say it.” She shifts the arm he’s tickling to take his fingers. She squeezes them, “And I meant it. I’m on your side. I’ll keep telling you until you believe me.”

“I do believe you,” Will says, surprised.

“I’ll tell you until you feel it,” Mackenzie amends. “Because I know that sometimes, because of your depression, feelings get lost in there,” she half gestures to his bare chest.

Will blinks at her. “How do you know?” He asks softly.

“I –” Mackenzie hesitates. “I’ve been… reading this forum. It’s for spouses of people who have a depressed significant other in their lives and it’s been so wonderful to hear these people’s stories and to know there’s these things I can do, and maybe you don’t know about them, and I can do them for you, if it just eases your load just a little bit. I’m not sure I if was supposed to tell you about it, and I didn’t not tell you – I think I just forgot,” Mackenzie frowns. She pushes herself to sit. The sheet slides from her naked chest, but her husband’s eyes don’t stray from hers. “I haven’t really looked at it – this was a while ago, but I want to know what I can do to help you. Even if it’s just little things.”

Will stares at her.

“There’s just so much hope there and little hints and things and I don’t mean to interfere with your treatment plan, which I know you and Habib totally have handled, but I honestly don’t know what to do most of the time, so I just leave you to it, or I think maybe you’re ok, because you’re not curled up in the corner crying in the foetal position, but I don’t want you to think that I’m not right here for you, because I am, if you want me to be. And I can also just sit back and wait for you to work through it with Habib. That’s ok too. There’s no pressure either way. Just whatever you need,” her dark eyes implore.

Will’s eyes slowly start going red.

“I know that depression isn’t who you are, because I’ve known you before it. And I know we’ll get through it one way or another. Or maybe it will never go away, because it’s not a guaranteed thing, I read, and other people were saying that sometimes it’s so frustrating because it’s one step forward and one back, but that doesn’t matter because I know you’ll keep fighting and I’ll be fighting right next to you.” Mackenzie takes a breath, because she’s talking a lot, and she might not be making total sense, and she might have also run out of things to say.

Tears form in Will’s eyes. Actual tears. They line his lower lids, forming little lochs, and it takes Mackenzie a moment to realise they’re there. She stops talking and he stares at her, just stares, his jaw locked tightly. The tears don’t fall and after a second he moves his arm to embrace her and she gets as close as she can, with the baby and the blanket and the awkward angle. His skin is warm and his arm is tight around her, squeezing. She doesn’t ever know if the tears fall, but she knows he’s moved and it’s the most emotional she’s ever seen him and she’ll take it. It’s out of the blue (or at least it is to her), but she considers that small crack in his usually stoic resolve the start of a bigger change; a change that might involve letting her in a little bit more. She presses her face against his neck and his pillow, and breathes in the smell of him; the smell of sleep and their love making the night before, and of him.

“Come with me on Wednesday,” Will says gruffly. He clears his throat. “We’ll talk to Habib about it. I shouldn’t have kept you out of it. I didn’t mean to. But I want you to know all these things that you need to know.”

Her husband, who is strong and brave, and who hides, but is simultaneously also vulnerable and scared most of the time, and feels so much.

And she loves him.

She just loves him.

“I will,” she says. “Promise.”

It’s hot against Will like this and Mackenzie quickly runs out of air. She pulls back a little, testing to see if he’s done with the hug, and his arm gives way. He lets her go. She sits back on the bed and looks at him, but his blue eyes aren’t lined with red or tears anymore, and he looks back at her, not quite neutrally.

“I’m glad I said the right thing though,” Mackenzie says.

“You always know the right thing to say,” Will brings her hand to his mouth and lays a kiss there.

Mackenzie laughs lightly, “That’s not always true at all, but I like that it worked this time.”

“Most of the time,” Will says.

“Well, I appreciate the feedback,” Mackenzie say slightly, sliding her fingers over his jaw, the scratch of his overnight beard sharp under her fingertips.

“Yeah and if I haven’t said it enough, I appreciate you.”

“You make it clear you do.”

“Sure, but if I don’t say the words,” Will stresses, holding her gaze heavily.

Mackenzie feels her pulse quicken with the anticipation of what he might say. She knows he tries, but these revelations of his soul are few, and though she may seem desperate for any crumb he throws her way, she knows that it’s not that he doesn’t want to share, but that he’s afraid in some way, or doesn’t know how.

“I know the words are important to you,” he goes on, looking as though he’s trying to figure something out. Mackenzie’s breath shallows. “And I know saying ‘I love you’ is a good start, but it’s more than that to me.”

“I know,” she almost whispers.

Will nods. “You know?”

“I know,” she repeats.

“You really know?” Will asks softly.

“I really know,” Mackenzie echoes. “And I know that you’re having a tough time at the moment, because you’re unwell, but it will get better Will, and you don’t have to worry so much about whether you’re enough, because you are.  You just need to keep taking your meds and going to see Habib.”

And she didn’t mean to offend him, but she thinks that she has, because his expression clouds a little.

Mackenzie tries to keep her tone neutral, instead of bossy. “I just want you to know that I trust you, and I’m here for you through this. No matter what. No matter if it takes you years to get better, or if it’s months or if it never happens, I’m here. If we spend the rest of our lives dealing with it, then we will.”

“I know,” Will says.

“Do you really know?”

“Yes,” he says, solemn and attentive. “Thank you. For not thinking less of me.”

“I definitely don’t think less of you!” Mackenzie enthuses. “Will. I don’t have words to express how much I love you for you. And while I hope that you get better, because I know it’s awful, I will spend the rest of my life loving this incarnation of you, because it’s you and because depression isn’t you, it’s just part of something that’s happening to you. And I know you have trouble with the words, but that’s ok, because I’m listening to all the other ways you share parts of you, and I hear you.”

Will stares at her again, intense, but no more tears. She wonders if the moment for sharing has passed, and even though she stays silent to give him the chance to speak up if he wants to, he doesn’t.

“We should go have breakfast,” Mackenzie says softly. “I’m hungry.”

“What are we doing today?” Will asks, his fingers on her forearm.

“Anything you want.”

“Really?” He asks, eyebrows raised.

“Yeah.”

“We’re not meeting your parents or…?”

“Well, you invited them for dinner, but aside from that, no. The whole day is for us, and we can do whatever you want.”

“Hm,” Will muses, tucking his left arm behind his head so his skull is cradled in the crook of his elbow. She likes the way his bicep bunches, and the curve of his pectoral muscle. After he massaged her practically boneless last night, he topped it off with making love to her so she was too legless to even take a shower. And this morning she woke up in his arms, feeling so entirely relaxed still that she couldn’t resist just lying in bed with him, letting him stroke her skin and kiss her hair and tell her that he loves her. “I guess we should see some of the city, seeing as we came all this way.”

“Sure,” Mackenzie smiles. “Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know. This is your home. You tell me.”

Mackenzie thinks for a moment.

“I guess we’re not going to be able to see much,” Will adds.

“There’s so much,” Mackenzie agrees. “Perhaps we should go see the Queen.”

“Sure,” Will agrees. “Will she be home?”

“She will, which means that we can’t go in.”

“Oh,” Will says.

“But we can go stand outside the gates and see if she wants to come out and play.”

Will gives a wry smile.

“And maybe the Eye. That’s pretty cool,” she says, like she needs to entice him, when the truth is, she could show him a sewer and he’d think it great, because she showed it to him. Plus, something historical is bound to have happened there. It’s London. It’s one of the oldest cities in the world.

“Ok,” Will agrees. “And what about the place where all the famous Englishmen are buried?”

Mackenzie squints her eyes at him. “Westminster?”

“Is that anywhere near around here?”

“It’s near the Eye. Buckingham Palace is near here.”

“If the Queen’s too busy to see me, I’m too busy to see her.”

“So no to Buckingham palace,” Mackenzie announces. “Screw the Queen! This is 1775 all over again.”

Will grins, amused.

“But first things first, breakfast. I’m starving,” Mackenzie whines.

“Room service?”

“Is that going to be quicker than putting clothes on and going down to the buffet?”

“Probably not,” Will concedes as she moves off the bed. He starts throwing clothes on, and because he’s quicker at it than his pregnant wife (thirty-two weeks today. Or for next week, seeing as they never really did agree when the calendar was supposed to tick over), he has time to go to the bathroom before she’s done. He makes sure to pick up their room key before they head out.

They’ve finally clicked with local time, sleeping hard to wake naturally at eight (which isn’t really natural for Will, actually, so they’ve also shifted in to a ‘normal’ sleep pattern as well). Now it’s nine, and the dining hall is busy. There’s a free table for them and Mackenzie doesn’t even sit as the waiter asks them if they’d like the buffet or al a carte. As soon as he leaves she’s off for food. Will starts with getting them water and juice. Given that Mackenzie wasn’t into apple juice a month ago, he gets her orange. He gets himself coffee too. He tracks his eyes over the food and finds his wife getting herself a croissant. And talking to another woman.

Of course.

He starts at the other end, with all the hot food. Bacon and scrambled eggs. Baked beans (he’s not sure about that one, but he’ll try it). Breakfast sausages. There isn’t French toast or pancakes. He toasts his own bread (white) and inspects all the jellies before deciding on strawberry jam. It looks different to back home. But he’ll try it. While he waits for the toast to go through he looks around for Mackenzie again. She’s back at their table, looking for him. He holds his gaze until she finds him. She gives him a little wave, and he raises his plate slightly in response. She points to the cold side of the buffet, where the fruit and cereals and yoghurts are. Will gives her an unimpressed expression.

He retrieves his toast and comes to sit with his wife. She’s got fruit and yoghurt and scrambled eggs for her breakfast. Will starts with buttering his bread, then peels back the foil cover on his PCU of strawberry jam and inspects it. Mackenzie laughs lightly, “Is that not what you were looking for?”

“It’s different,” he says. He puts a little on a corner of his toast, then tears it off and puts it in his mouth. It’s very sweet, but it’s ok.

“You know,” Mackenzie starts. “I really meant it. You really have been a saint the last few days, with my family. Especially Meredith. I want to poke her in the eyes –”

Will laughs.

“So I can only imagine how it looked to an outsider.”

“It looked like –” He stops suddenly and chews.

“It looked like what?” Mackenzie prompts.

“I’m not a professional, and I should definitely not be let anywhere near anyone’s psyche,” Will swallows. “But it looked like she was jealous.”

“Of what?”

“You.”

“She was not!” Mackenzie says indignantly.

Will shrugs his mouth and picks up his fork to scoop eggs on to.

“Do you think?” Mackenzie asks meekly.

“You’re newly married, massive promotion, baby on the way. Things are looking up. And she’s divorced, kids are away at university,” Will gives another shrug, and tries his eggs. They’re good. Really good.

“She’s been a bitch long before now,” Mackenzie says bitterly. “It’s always been a competition with her.”

“Well then maybe she’s always been jealous of you,” Will suggests.

Mackenzie laughs. “That’s silly. She’s the eldest. The favourite.”

“I think you’re Daddy’s little girl though.”

Mackenzie blinks at him. “You think?”

“Sure,” Will says confidently. “No. What would I know?” He counters himself, and shrugs. He picks up a rasher of bacon with his fingers. “She’s clearly insecure.”

Mackenzie considers what he’s said for a moment, watching him eat, popping grapes into her mouth and chewing them one at a time. “What else did you observe about my family?”

Will chews a mouthful of sausage, buying himself time to answer. He shakes his head. “I’m not passing judgement.”

“I didn’t say ‘what judgements have you formed about my family’. It’s just interesting, seeing them from an outsider’s perspective. I’ve never really…”

Will raises his eyebrows at her.

“Brought the boyfriend home,” Mackenzie finishes, looking down at her plate, a little embarrassed.

Will considers that a moment, surprised, but not surprised, because he knows she didn’t have a lot of (any) serious relationships before him. He shrugs again. “I really wouldn’t know. I’m in no position to psycho analyse anyone.”

Mackenzie gives a small laugh and concentrates on her food. Will sips his coffee and watches her a moment.

It’s you and me against the world.

Talk to your wife. Let her in.

How about a test?

Chapter Text

“I did – there is one thing,” Will starts. Mackenzie looks up at him, her eyes a little wide. “It kind of…” Will hesitates. “It’s not a big deal but I have noticed, your Dad drinks a lot.”

“What’s a lot?” Mackenzie asks lightly.

“Two beers with dinner and whiskey after,” he indicates just how big that whiskey was.

Mackenzie gives him a disbelieving expression. But it’s not hostile. She’s listening. Sort of.

“How about three beers at lunch, two wines at dinner, and whiskey after,” Will indicates again just how big her father pours those spirits.

Mackenzie stares at him. Then she frowns. “I guess that is a lot, when you put it like that. Do you think I should talk to him?”

“I don’t know,” Will says.

Mackenzie is silent a moment. “Do you think I should talk to Mum?”

“I really don’t know,” Will repeats.

Mackenzie is thoughtful a moment longer. “And that bothers you because –”

“I didn’t say bother,” Will corrects.

“Your Dad was a drinker.”

Will purses his lips, feeling defensive; feeling the automatic response to run instead of staying to be understood.

“I can see that, but he’s not your Dad.”

“I know,” Will says immediately. “I’m not implying he is, but –”

“You’re attuned to notice that,” Mackenzie fills in. “The drinking. I can see – and his heart.” She stops and looks thoughtful. “I think I might talk to Mum about it.”

Will watches her as she gazes off into the distance, and he’s surprised. He honestly thought she might get mad at him, or at least, a little snippy (seeing as they’re in a public place. It hasn’t stopped her from having a full melt-down in front of strangers before, but he felt his chances of it happening now, in the hotel dining room, would be slim) but she’s done the opposite and he can’t help but feel he completely underestimates her most of the time. And he also thinks she’s different, since the marriage counselling, she tries and she’s good at it and he can only hope he can keep up. He hopes he’s different too.

Mackenzie reaches over the table and curls her fingers around his hand, giving him a squeeze. She also gives him a smile, a reassuring lift of her lips and she doesn’t push with any kind of ‘I told you so’, just a gentle encouragement that he should share more. Some other time.

He honestly feels like he could.

“But does it bother you?” Mackenzie asks, holding his eye, as she reaches for her orange juice.

“Your Dad?”

“Yeah.”

Will gives a shrug.

“I mean, you’re ok with being around him? When he’s – if it’s like that?”

“Sure,” Will says, offhand.

“Because if it makes you feel uncomfortable, then we can –”

“It doesn’t,” Will interrupts. “I was just making an observation.”

“I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”

Will reaches for her hand this time, has to squeeze her wrist more than her fingers (otherwise he’ll dislodge her fork). “It’s really fine. It was just an observation. But, thank you. For putting me first.”

“Always,” Mackenzie smiles at him.

 

 

**********

 

“I’m sorry to cut our sightseeing short,” Mackenzie says softly.

Will uses a little more pressure against her spine and she arches her back appreciatively. “It’s ok,” he says.

They made it to the Eye. But standing in line waiting for their turn, and then standing through most of its thirty-minute rotation (she wanted to point out the landmarks) was too much for Mackenzie (she was just about in tears), so Will suggested they go back to the hotel to rest up before dinner.

“But you didn’t get to see the place where all the famous dead Englishmen are buried,” Mackenzie pouts a little.

Will smiles to himself. Mackenzie is on her side, facing the wall while he rubs her back. Just her back is bothering her today (or maybe it’s just bothering her the most. He’ll work on her feet after this). Too much standing and walking. Will insisted they get a cab back to the hotel. He doesn’t care that it takes more time than the Tube, they didn’t have to deal with other people pressing against them on the train, or standing, and they were really in no hurry to be anywhere.

“I can see the famous dead people another time,” he says, finding the pressure points alongside her spine and digging a fingertip into each one. Mackenzie gives a moan that turns him on a little.

“Do you think we’ll be back?” Mackenzie asks lightly, fishing.

“Of course,” Will says automatically, leaving the pressure points alone again. He moves lower to her tailbone. “We’ll have to bring the baby back to see his grandparents.”

“Hm,” Mackenzie agrees.

“Although, I did also offer to buy them flights to New York. Whenever they wanted.”

Mackenzie turns her head to look at him, her eyes dark beneath her lids. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Whenever they want?”

“Well, I suggested they might like to come after the baby is born.”

“I hope they have the good sense to come several weeks after the baby is born.”

Will gives a slight laugh. “Well, I could put a date on them.”

“That might be wise,” Mackenzie turns her head back to the pillow.

Will works in silence a moment, quite enjoying how much skin he’s getting access too. Mackenzie gives a sigh. “This feels so good.”

“That’s good,” Will responds.

“I think I could go to sleep.”

“I think you should do that.”

“Do you mind?”

“No. Want me to stop?”

“No,” Mackenzie murmurs. “I’m just going to let myself drift.”

And she does. Will slows his movements, eases up on the pressure, lulling her more than trying to work her muscles free of tension. He notices Mackenzie’s eyes go still beneath the lids and he withdraws his hands, pulling her shirt down gently into place. She doesn’t stir, so he moves to his side of the bed, closes his eyes, and goes to sleep himself.

 

 

**********

 

Dinner is pleasant enough but something’s changed within Mackenzie. Will thinks she must be overtired, because she’s relatively quiet at dinner and a few times, depending on the topic, Will thinks he can see tears in her eyes. He picks up the social baton and makes conversation with her parents (John as well, now that the tension between them has broken), though after two days of it, he’s running out of topics. Luckily for him, there is another sister he’s not going to meet, and although he could get all the information from Mackenzie, he asks it of her parents instead. What does she do in France? Do her kids go to school there? Do they like it? Are they picking up French? And he learns that she’s there because of her husband’s work, something to do with a joint business venture (so they might not stay in France for the rest of their lives), and yes, her kids are in school there, they like it well enough, and they’re definitely picking up the French.

Will notes that that would be an interesting experience, being in a country where they don’t speak the language, but Anne tells him that school kids in England learn French compulsory, as part of their lessons, and yes, that includes Mackenzie. She gives a slightly bashful smile, claiming she hardly remembers a thing of it, but Will suspects she’s being self-depreciating. She picked up a decent amount of Arabic while in the Middle East, so she probably still knows her French too. If it comes in handy (and it probably did, amongst the international journalist community or that time she claims to have read Don Quixote in French, which is probably bullshit), she’ll remember it forever.

It’s a somewhat odd position to be in, not knowing these things about his wife, but he supposes with their interrupted time-line, it might not be so strange after all (instead of having to start over, they would have built and built their relationship). He hopes it doesn’t give the impression to her parents that they hardly know each other though (always worrying about what other people think). He might not know that she speaks a little French, but he does know that she needs space to think things through, even if it’s out loud. And that when she’s upset, she’s more vulnerable than normal, but that doesn’t mean he should swoop to her rescue in a way that denies her her dignity; he has to be supportive in a way that helps her have the strength to get through. Support her, not do it for her.

And he knows her loyalty is unwavering.

And that she has to subtract on her fingers.

There are plenty of things she doesn’t know about him either, the details of a lifetime, and Will realises at dinner, that he wants her to know them. So that she doesn’t go to a meal like this and wonder what else she doesn’t know about him – not when she probably spends plenty of time now, wondering what’s going through his mind.

Will declines a second glass of wine. He also opts to skip dessert and he’s glad that her parents do the same, either of their own accord, or following his lead, because he wants to take Mackenzie to bed. Not in that way, just that she looks like she needs a hot shower and maybe another rub down, and he wants to talk to her. He feels a really urgent need to talk to her.

He doesn’t rush her parents from the table though. They sit around and talk a bit longer, until the wine glasses are empty and it’s after eight-thirty (so late! Considering they met at six). It’s John who suggests they get going and Anne agrees. Will waits for them to start to stand before doing so himself; all a calculated move so it doesn’t look like he’s keen to get rid of them. They walk through the lobby to the street, Mackenzie saying her goodbyes. Will shakes John’s hand and thanks him for coming into the city. He gets a nod in response, and is thanked for the meal, but John doesn’t let go of his hand. He looks Will dead in the eye and says, “I’m glad Mackenzie found you.”

Will dead stares him back for a moment. “Thank you, sir,” he says.

John gives another nod and a last pump of his hand, then moves to hug his daughter. Anne gives him a hug and kiss, tells him it was nice to see him again, and it was nice of them to come over. Will’s still a bit stunned by Mr McHale, but he manages to respond politely. He has to admit, it was actually nice to spend the time with them, forge some bonds, try and slot himself into the dynamic. They’re good people.

Mackenzie stays to wave them off until they’re out of sight and then she leans against Will’s side and sighs. “I’m so tired today, I don’t know what’s happening,” she says, sounding teary again.

Will drops his mouth to kiss her hair. “I do. You’re pregnant.” He leaves it at that. He doesn’t want to accuse her of over doing it, even though she might have.

“It’s not a sleepy kind of tired,” Mackenzie says, turning and taking his hand. They start to head towards the elevators. “Just physically tired.”

“We’ve had some big days,” Will says blandly, not wanting to denigrate her.

“Yeah,” Mackenzie agrees.

Will pushes the button to call a car to the ground floor. Mackenzie leans against him again, so he moves his arm to put it around her waist. “But it’s been good though,” Will adds.

“It has,” Mackenzie agrees simply.

Chapter Text

“Teeth and bed,” Mackenzie says, when they enter their hotel room. The curtains are drawn and the bedside lamps on, like they left it, and it feels almost homely. Mackenzie toes her shoes off by her bag and then goes to the bathroom.

“Teeth and bed,” Will agrees, making sure the door closes behind them. He empties his pockets (phone and room key card) next to the television and toes off his shoes as well. He can hear Mackenzie brushing her teeth as he starts taking his clothes off. He’s beginning to feel wary himself and is glad they’re going home tomorrow. He could do without going to meet her brother, but he’s made it this far, may as well hang in there a little longer. Just a little longer and his McHale family obligation will be over for a long time. Actually, until the baby is born but… damn it. He can hardly refuse any of them who want to come to New York, but at least there’s no way he, Mackenzie, and the baby will be travelling back across the Atlantic for a while.

Mackenzie emerges from the bathroom as Will’s taking off his button down shirt. She gives him a smile. “You looked very handsome tonight.”

“Thank you,” he responds. “You looked very beautiful.”

Mackenzie gives him another smile, this time a little wry, and starts to change for bed. Will tugs on the shirt he’s been sleeping in, and goes to brush his teeth. He hears the TV go on and wonders what his wife is wanting to watch. It’s the news.

“Did you know I haven’t even looked at the news alerts once since we’ve been here?” Mackenzie says as he comes in. “The world could have imploded and I wouldn’t know.”

“I think if the world imploded while we were here, someone might have called,” Will says, taking off his watch. He pulls back the covers on his side of the bed to get in. Mackenzie has set herself up in the middle.

“Jim might,” Mackenzie says absently. She gives a slight frown.

“What’s wrong?” Will immediately asks, turning on his hip to look at her.

“My ribs hurt.”

“The baby?” Will reaches out a hand to place it over the blanket and the bump.

“I don’t know.”

Something tickles the back of Will’s mind. “Have you been sleeping with the pillows?”

“I didn’t bring the body pillow. It didn’t fit in my bag.”

“No,” Will moves to get out of bed again. He walks around the mattress to the closet by the door. “I asked for extra pillows to be in the room, so you can have – you’re supposed to be sleeping with pillows,” he turns to her from the closet. He pops it open and stashed in the top, are three extra pillows. He takes down two of them.

“I guess I didn’t think,” Mackenzie says meekly.

Will comes to stand by the bed and she looks up at him for a moment. He puts the pillows on the bed and pulls back the covers. “Sit up,” he directs, putting one of the pillows right at her bum, wedging it down, so when she lays back, he can get it under her tailbone. The other, he puts under her knees. Then he tucks her in again.

“This does feel pretty nice,” Mackenzie says.

Will goes around to his side of the bed and gets in again. In the background, BBC news is updating the audience on the Ukrainian European Union situation. He’ll have something to do on the flight home tomorrow: catch up.

“You watching this?” He asks, once he’s in bed again, on his hip, facing his wife, head resting on his hand.

“Um sort of,” Mackenzie responds absently.

“Or would you rather I tell you a story?”

Mackenzie turns her head to him. “What kind of story?”

“How about what happened at my father’s funeral?”

The choice is: him or the news.

Mackenzie chooses him.

She turns the television off immediately, her dark eyes intensely curious on his. Will holds her gaze, feeling entirely unafraid, even though this isn’t a great story. And he’s putting himself on the spot by deliberately announcing he’ll talk about it, instead of letting it come up naturally in conversation (he’s not sure how it would now. His father died years ago).

“Why are you telling me now?” Mackenzie asks carefully, and Will hears: why are you telling me now when I asked, and asked you about it at the time? But she doesn’t say it, so he shouldn’t react to something that didn’t happen. “I need to move,” she says next, shifting her hips to turn onto her side. It’s not easy for her, with the baby and the extra pillows and the blanket. Will sits up and throws the covers back, helps move the pillows out of the way, and then back in place, under the baby this time, and between her thighs. Then he gathers the blankets back to tuck her in for the second time. The television remote clatters to the floor. Fuck it, he’ll get it later.

Will moves back to how he was before, facing his wife, head on his hand, so they can see each other. Mackenzie’s watching him in an intense way, the lines on her face drawn with the anticipation or anxiety of what he might say.

“My first mistake,” Will says, as if he has rehearsed how this story will go. And he has a little, or at least thought about what he should say; remember all the details. “Was showing up in a ‘flashy rental’.”

Mackenzie blinks at him. “Their words?”

“Their words,” Will confirms. 

“Oh.”

“We fought.”

“You and your siblings?”

“Yeah. Mostly me and Jay Jay. I offered to replace some of the farm equipment, pay down the accounts.”

“Oh,” Mackenzie says, and Will can’t tell whether she thinks that was a good idea or a bad idea. “He didn’t want that?”

“He wants the cash.”

“Oh,” Mackenzie says again.

“Which means they get the latest Escalade, and the roof on the milking shed will still leak. Or they’ll take the kids to Disneyland, and run out of winter feed.”

“Are you sure about that?” Mackenzie asks lightly.

“Pretty sure,” Will says. Mackenzie looks like she might object, but she doesn’t vocalise it. She returns her face to neutral, a hint of encouraging. “Anyway. It probably didn’t help either that I stayed in Lincoln.”

“You didn’t stay with them?” Mackenzie asks, surprised.

Will gives a lopsided shrug that almost dislodges his head from his hand; that nonchalant gesture will have to be retired for this conversation. “Of course, that brought accusations that I was too good to stay at the family farm or that I’d rather stay in a ‘flashy hotel’ than with my own family, and I can tell you right now, Lincoln accommodation is far from flashy.”

Mackenzie gives a slight nod. “But, wouldn’t you rather stay in a hotel than with your family?”

“I knew Dad’s brothers would be coming and cousins and aunts,” Will lists off. “So I thought I was giving them a chance to stay up at the house, when I can afford to pay for other accommodation.”

Mackenzie nods again.

“And I didn’t want to stay with them,” Will adds the truth. “I knew we would fight. I knew it would be over money. And I knew Dad’s funeral wouldn’t do anything to stop them from asking.”

Mackenzie gives him a slightly pitiful expression. “Why not, I mean, I get that you don’t want the farm to fall into disrepair, but why not just give them a trip to Disneyland? And pay off the accounts? I know that it wouldn’t make a difference to your bank account.”

“It’s not the point.”

“You don’t want to be their ATM?”

“No.”

“Because?” Mackenzie asks meekly, and even though Will suspects she doesn’t agree with what he did (which he doesn’t like), she is trying to understand his motivations (which he has to applaud, really).

“Because,” Will answers more sharply than he intends. This is going to make him look worse. “Because they want it all without earning it, and I went an earned it. But they’d just piss it away and not be sensible.” Yeah, it sounds petulant, but he doesn’t know how to explain it. “I’m just not – I don’t want it to be handouts.”

Mackenzie nods.

“Never mind,” Will murmurs. “I don’t know how to explain it. I really wouldn’t miss the money but –”

“It’s the principle,” Mackenzie interrupts. “I do understand. You have a strained relationship with them, but as soon as you show up, they have their hands out wanting something from you.”

Will blinks at her. “Yeah, that’s kind of it.”

Mackenzie gives a slight upturn of her lip, a smile for having got it right, not because she’s happy or amused.

Will sighs. “Anyway. We fought before, during, and after the funeral.”

“Aw,” Mackenzie pouts.

“So,” Will adds. And that is also, by the way, one of the reasons why he can’t bring himself to pick up the phone and have a casual chat with any of his siblings.

“Did you do the eulogy?”

“Yeah.”

“How was it?”

“Tried to be vague about certain things,” Will says.

Mackenzie nods knowingly. Will’s quiet for a moment, so she asks, “You guys came home on the Sunday?”

“Yeah,” Will confirms. “Wait, who?”

“You and,” Mackenzie pauses. “Nina?” She asks carefully.

“Why would Nina be there?”

“She was your girlfriend at the time? I don’t care but –”

“Nina wasn’t my girlfriend.”

“Well, you were dating.”

Will gives a shrug of his mouth to indicate that even that might be a loose description of his relationship with Nina Howard. Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t really want to talk about his previous relationship with Nina, with his wife.

“I don’t care, Will,” Mackenzie reiterates. “We weren’t… you know.”

Oh yeah, he knows.

“Why didn’t she go with you?”

Will pouts his mouth again, trying to be dismissive. “I didn’t tell her about it.” He can tell Mackenzie is just itching to ask him ‘why not’ but it goes without saying, doesn’t it? She doesn’t need him to say it aloud, does she?

“I would have gone with you,” Mackenzie says softly.

“I know,” Will says.

“I wanted to,” Mackenzie tries.

“Yeah,” Will says. “Me too.”

Chapter Text

December 2nd 2013

Monday

 

All hell breaks loose.

Ok, that might be a little dramatic.

Bruch with Everett and Sheila was entirely pleasant. Mackenzie offered to Will to sit it out, to get some alone time at the hotel, seeing as he hadn’t had a moment to himself for four days, but he bravely declined. He hadn’t met her brother before, so may as well have gotten it over with. But they’re both exhausted, for slightly different reasons, and they sleep on the plane, and go to bed when they get home. So they both wake early on Monday, on London time, and it’s lucky in a way that they do, because while they were in a travel bubble, all hell broke loose in the Ukraine.

“It’s their Arab Spring,” Mackenzie murmurs, while she watches footage of the Ukrainian police firing tear gas into a crowd in Kiev.

“I’m not sure they’ll get that far,” Will responds, sipping his coffee.

Mackenzie considers it for a moment. It’s definitely not the same type of historical situation. While the Arab Spring was to overcome tyrannical governing, these protests in the Ukraine are about Russian intimidation. And when Mackenzie thinks about it, in a historical sense, she can see it won’t unfold how the Arab Spring did.

“Have we got people in the Crimea?” Will asks.

“I’m not sure. I think there’s a stringer we’ve used before.”

“Are you going to send someone?”

“Yeah,” Mackenzie answers absently as her phone pings with a message. Who’s awake at this hour?

“Who’s that?” Will asks.

“Elliott,” Mackenzie answers. “He wants to go. Wants to redeem himself for Egypt.” She looks up at her husband, and they share a heavy expression. Mackenzie mentally scrolls through who else she could send in his place, but honestly, there doesn’t seem to be anyone else. She can’t let her executive producer go, she needs Sloan here to front the economic side of this story, and there’s no way in hell she’d even suggest her star anchor go. Maybe Tamara, who has little experience in front of a camera, or Kelli, who has young kids. Then again, so does Elliott.

“What did you tell him?” Will asks.

“I said we’d have a conversation when he got in.”

“Are you going to send him?”

“No.”

Will sips his coffee again. “When are you going in?”

“When I finish my breakfast,” Mackenzie shoots him a smile, and helps herself to another piece of toast from the pile on the plate between them on the bed. He made her tea. And breakfast in bed. Part of her wants to rush to the newsroom, but it’s early and only the overnight team will be there. And, more importantly, that’s not her job anymore. She has to sit back and let the other’s take control. She knows Jim would have kept on top of the situation as much as possible over the long weekend, and will already have a vision on what they’ll be reporting. And not just that, she’s pregnant. She has to slow down and take the time to eat, to sleep, to take care of herself and the baby, and even though she’s just spent four days in her husband’s face, she needs to take the time with him too.

(She thinks those four days in his face were actually really good for them. He shared things with her. He opened up, in ways he’s never done before. Not even when they were dating the first time. But she also respects, as an introvert, he needs time alone to recharge. He looks tired and she knows he wouldn’t complain, but he was so looking forward to coming home.)

Mackenzie drains the last of her tea. “Ok,” she says. “Time to get up.”

It’s somewhere near the time she’d normally wake, so while Will watches the twenty-four-hour news cycle, Mackenzie showers and dresses for work. She feels bloated in a way she didn’t before the weekend, and finds her clothes feel tighter. She definitely notices the puffiness of her feet and she suddenly thinks to check her rings again. They’re noticeably tighter, if not uncomfortable. She hopes it’s from the flight, but doubts that it is. It’s probably the pregnancy. She’ll have to check some books and websites (she’s been slack), and tries to twist the rings off her finger but can’t.

Don’t panic.

“Babe,” Mackenzie comes back into the bedroom, crossing the path of her husband’s view to the TV. He looks over at her from where he’s sitting at the head of the bed. “Can you help me?” She extends her hand. “I can’t get them off.”

Will looks at her hand. “Sure,” he says, giving her his coffee to hold. He places his much larger fingers over hers and pulls gently. Mackenzie sips his coffee. It tastes bitter against her tongue. Will tugs a little harder but they don’t budge. “Hang on,” he says and moves her finger to his mouth. Mackenzie goes very still as he uses his teeth to edge her rings off her finger. He moves her hand away, then produces her rings, on his tongue, and she stares at him. He takes the rings in his hand, and offers them to her, reaching out his other hand to take his coffee back, and she blinks at him. Will looks at her a moment, expectant. “What’s happening?”

“Keep them safe for me,” Mackenzie says, colour dusting the tops of her cheeks. She gives him the coffee back, but walks away without taking her rings. Will watches her go through the bedroom door and wonders what he’s going to do with her engagement and wedding ring. They’re definitely not going to fit his fingers.

 

 

**********

 

“Jesus!” Mackenzie exclaims as she steps off the elevator and slams straight into someone else (it pushes the baby painfully into her liver). “Sorry,” she quickly mumbles, and looks up from her notes to find it’s Pruit. “Hi. Good morning,” she stumbles.

Pruit has stooped to pick up the folder he had been carrying, a few stray papers have slipped loose. Mackenzie squats to help him, but actually, that’s really difficult to do with the baby in the way and while she manages to not promptly fall on her ass, she struggles with reaching for anything. Pruit glances up at her, and they’re eyelevel, on the ground. He takes in how big her belly is and looks surprised. He gathers his papers and grabs her arm and stands her again. “You shouldn’t really,” he starts.

“Thank you,” Mackenzie says with a reassuring smile. “I was actually wondering how I was going to get out of that one.”

Pruit gives her a strange expression, like he really doesn’t know what to say to that at all.

“How was your weekend?” Mackenzie asks next, keeping the polite conversation going.

“My weekend?” Pruit asks, confused.

“Thanksgiving?” Mackenzie says slowly. “Did you spend it with family?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“You’re from, California, right?”

“Yeah,” Pruit says again, eyes a little wide.

“Does your family still live there? Your parents?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s nice,” Mackenzie gives him a warm, genuine smile. “Are you an only child?”

She doesn’t think he is.

“I have a sister,” Pruit answers.

“And was she there with you?”

“Yes.”

“That’s really nice,” Mackenzie says, and she means it. Pruit’s looking at her like she’s grown another head (which, she technically has, or is. She’s growing one, but it’s not hers). “It’s nice to spend the holidays with family,” she adds, and indicates that they should continue walking to the meeting they’re both going to attend. Pruit falls in step with her, holding his folder against his body. “I don’t know if you heard,” Makenzie goes on, because when has she ever been afraid to make small talk? “I was in London for the weekend.”

Pruit gives a hapless expression, which could mean he either did or didn’t hear.

“All my family is there,” Mackenzie explains.

“That makes sense.”

“Except my sister Susannah. She’s in France. So I didn’t see her.”

“Oh,” Pruit says.

Mackenzie gives him a break as they approach the board room and let’s conversation drop. The rest of the heads of departments are gathering for the Monday report meeting. “We should talk about the Ukraine,” Pruit says as they go through the door.

“Yes definitely,” Mackenzie agrees. But first, she needs to talk to Jim. She hasn’t had a chance to see him yet. Her phone pings as she moves to take her seat at the circular table, and she checks the reply.

 

Oh really?

 

She smiles. There’s her first text, above Will’s:

I can’t stop thinking

about your mouth now.

 

She sits and smiles at Brad, the numbers guy, as he takes a seat next to her on the left. Grady is already sitting on her right, her literal right hand man (though a part of her still thinks of Jim as her right hand man). She sends her husband another message:

 

How about we do

something about it?

 

The response comes through just as Pruit brings the meeting to attention.

 

Tonight? Definitely.

Chapter Text

It’s eleven. Will gets to work and goes to his office. The newsroom bullpen is busy, as it usually is, but with a hint of excited buzz. What’s happening in the Ukraine is almost bizarre. Yesterday, there were full on riots, tear gas, police violence, injuries amongst protesters, and today, it’s all gone back to a relatively peaceful gathering. No riots. No one’s throwing canisters. It’s gotten calm again. May the peace prevail, if not the status quo.

His suit is there for broadcast, and there’s a stack of mail in the centre of his desk, including a hefty package. He dumps his satchel and slides letters to the side (including a brochure from Tiffany’s, which must be someone’s idea of a joke – or it’s a subtle hint from his wife. He might take a look at that after all), to get to the official looking courier bag underneath. He says official, because it’s sealed in an extra layer of plastic and has a large sticker on the front announcing it’s from his lawyer’s office. He attempts the plastic with his fingers but finds it practically vacuum sealed. He’s digging through his side drawer for scissors when he hears his office door open. He looks up. It’s Jenna.

“Good morning,” she starts.

“Good morning,” Will echoes.

“Your presence is requested in the pitch meeting,” she says politely.

“Ok,” Will answers.

Jenna gives him a slight smile and leaves again. Official looking package from his lawyer will have to wait then. He tries jamming it into the side drawer but it doesn’t fit. He puts it in his bag instead, and then puts that under his desk. He walks across a half empty bullpen now for the conference room. Not untypically, the junior staff and interns are standing around the edges of the room, so it’s not until he pulls open the door and goes in that he notices that Pruit is there. And Mackenzie. Her dark eyes are on him immediately, even though she’s holding a conversation with Jim (everyone else is talking to each other as well).

Will just about walks into Franklin. The kid is small. Will would flatten him. “Sorry,” Will murmurs, going to take his seat at the head of the table.

The door opens again and Sloan comes in. “Wow, it’s a full house,” she notes. She takes the last free seat at the table and Will hears her whisper to Tess, on her left, ‘what the hell Pruit is doing here’. His thoughts exactly. Tess shrugs. Sloan looks to Will, and is about to ask him the same question when Jim gets everyone’s attention.

“The Ukraine is going to be A and B block tonight,” he looks over at Will for confirmation, and he gives a nod. He’s been out of the country for four days, out of the news cycle, if his executive producer tells him they need half the broadcast to explain what’s going on in the Ukraine, then he trusts him. “So let’s go around the table and update from the weekend.” Behind Jim, on the whiteboard, is already a list.

Kelli jumps in first. “I have to start by saying, I’ve got a friend in Kiev.”

“What kind of friend?” Mackenzie cuts in.

“College friend. He’s English and has been living there for the last ten years. He speaks the language, knows the city and the people and he’s already dropped me half a dozen emails with pictures.”

“Anything from yesterday?” Mackenzie asks.

“He wasn’t among the crowd, but he can see the square from a friend of a friend’s place.”

Mackenzie looks from Kelli to Jim. “Do we have anyone else in the area?” Mackenzie asks him. He shakes his head. “Elliott text me at the crack of dawn to volunteer to go.”

“Like that’s happening,” Don scoffs. Will didn’t even see him there. Was he behind the whiteboard?

“I agree,” Mackenzie says firmly.

“Set up a Skype meeting with your guy,” Jim says to Kelli. “And we’ll talk to him about what we want.”

“You’re going to let a stranger send us news footage?” Pruit asks Mackenzie, leaning over in his chair, as if to make the query private. In a room of people who are paid to be observant and listen for a living? Nice try.

“Is that any different from you wanting strangers on Twitter telling us what’s news?” Mackenzie asks back and Will notices it’s the tone she uses on him when she is genuinely asking a question, but one that might be misconstrued as a put down.

Pruit blinks at her, and Will notices Tess and Kendra smirking, even though they’re on opposite sides of the table and not looking at each other.

“No,” Mackenzie says. “Hence the Skype meeting. We’ll see what he can offer us, and hire him as a stringer.”

“Is there money in the budget for that?” Pruit challenges in a way that Will notices is defensive, and a little passive aggressive.

“There’s always contingency money in the budget,” Mackenzie explains softly. “It’s not necessarily for stringers but it’s not only cheaper than flying an anchor and/or producer team from here to Ukraine, putting them up in a hotel, probably needing to hire security to ensure their safety, and lugging equipment after them, it’s safer. Plus, a local, even though perhaps not ethnically a local, is going to know more about the situation and the mood of the environment they’re in. They’ll know people who will do them favours and get them information, and who might hide them if things get really rough, plus, they’re going to know all sorts of things about what’s really important and significant culturally than any bumbling American ever will.”

“Hey!” Half the room protests.

“Sorry,” Mackenzie shoots to the room. “And that’s way more valuable to us. Sometimes an event isn’t about putting a face on it. Sometimes the face is the face of the people themselves.”

“This guy isn’t even Ukrainian,” Pruit points out.

“No, but I bet his neighbours are. I bet his employers are. I bet his girlfriend is,” Mackenzie responds. “I bet he walks through Maidan Nezalezhnosti on his way to work every day. This is their story and so they should tell it to us. We don’t know anything about what’s happening there yet.”

“It’s been all over the news all weekend,” Pruit says dryly.

“And while we respect our journalistic brethren, we get to the facts ourselves,” Mackenzie finishes. “Go ahead,” she gives the meeting back to Jim.

Jim opens his mouth but Pruit asks one more question: “Is that why you hate Twitter so much?”

“I don’t hate Twitter,” Mackenzie turns back to her boss, her tone light and honest. “But it’s a resource, not cold hard facts. I don’t know who’s giving me information and so I don’t trust it. And those rules apply to all of our sources here.”

There are nods around the table as every producer and intern and anchor and economist agrees with her.

“All right,” Pruit sighs. He picks up his phone.

“And don’t just play on that, pay attention,” Mackenzie adds, looking back to Jim to once again, getting the meeting back on track.

Will almost laughs.

 

 

**********

 

“Ok,” Jim says. “Let’s start putting the show together.”

People start to pack up their notes.

“Wait, before we all go,” Mackenzie gets to her feet, which is not a quick and nimble process anymore. “I’m sure you all know who Mr Pruit is,” she gestures to him, still sitting beside her. He adopts a slightly goofy expression. “But I’m not sure if you’ve all met him.” There’s no answer. “He’s going to be following us as we put the story together,” Mackenzie goes on, unperturbed in the face of their scepticism. “So he can see how a news room works,” she adds enthusiastically.

“Cool,” Don says dryly and leaves first.

Kind of what Will was thinking.

“Welcome,” Kelli offers Pruit, with a smile.

Mackenzie introduces them and they shake hands. Jim asks Mackenzie if she wants to meet Kelli’s friend Brendon. “I do, give me a call when you’ve set it up,” she says.

Will times it so he’s leaving the conference room just behind his wife and the owner of the network. He overhears Pruit asking her if she’s just going to go back upstairs now and she affirms it. Pruit asks her if she’s serious.

“Of course I’m serious,” she answers. “It’s not actually my job to chase down the news anymore, but if you want to stay here, I’m sure Jim will find something for you to do.”

“I have work of my own,” Pruit says, that passive aggressive tone again. Will’s within reach of clipping him around the ears. Mackenzie notices him there and gives him a smile. Will forces one in return and has to walk away. But he does hear Mackenzie explain that the events in the Ukraine aren’t breaking news. He should see the newsroom when that happens.

Yes, Will thinks. He should. And he gets what Mackenzie’s doing now. She’s trying to get Pruit to understand the news from the ground, from experiencing it himself. He applauds her ceaselessness. But he doesn’t know if it will work.

Chapter Text

“Man. I. Am. Exhausted.” Mackenzie announces her presence to what she discovers is an empty room. “I thought you were in here,” she adds to herself.

“I am,” Will says from the floor behind his desk.

“What are you doing down there?” Mackenzie comes around the furniture.

“I’m sorry you’re tired,” Will offers.

“I said ‘exhausted’, and ‘what are you doing down there’? Which I will definitely not be saying to you later tonight,” she gives him a grin.

“I’m –” Will hesitates, and smirks at her innuendo. “I was putting this away in the safe and then got distracted.”

“With the shiny things?” Mackenzie asks lightly, shifting her weight on her foot so her hip juts out.

“It’s my will.”

“What?” Mackenzie asks, the teasing dropping sharply from her face.

“Remember, several months ago, I talked about changing my will?”

“That was months ago.”

“Well this is it,” he hefts the papers he was flicking through. It’s a lot of legalese, but he gets most of it, even though his expertise in law is not contractual – he really just needs to know that everything has been transferred to his wife and child. “Do you want to read it?”
“Why are you sitting on the floor though?”

“I –”

“You have a desk chair right there,” Mackenzie gestures to it. Will opens his mouth to answer her again, but she cuts him off once more. “Do I want to read Will’s will. Hm,” she laughs. “Will’s will.”

“Ok, you need to eat,” he gets up from the floor painfully, his knee protesting as he forgets, and leans on it.

“You need to not sit on the floor,” Mackenzie notes.

“Your shadow not joining us for dinner?” Will asks instead. He puts his will in the safe and closes it, spins the dial and moves a paper holder back in front.

“He’s gone home,” Mackenzie says loftily.

“Gave him the night off?”

“No. He’s gone to eat and he will be back for broadcast.”

Will looks over at her, checking to see if she’s serious. She is. She also looks really tired. Will wonders if he could convince her to go home and take a nap and come back for broadcast.

“I feel like I could honestly fall asleep,” Mackenzie says.

Will steps forward to put his arms around her and she slips her arms around his waist, leaning on him, until the baby presses into both of them. Will slides his hands up and down her back and she gives a moan. “It’d be ten o’clock in London,” he points out.

“That might be why I want to sleep,” Mackenzie murmurs into his jersey.

“And that we woke up at the crack of dawn,” Will adds.

“That too.”

He starts walking her towards the table where their dinner is waiting. “And, you’re –”

“Pregnant,” they say at the same time.

Will pries his wife from his chest, and turns her, makes her sit. “You know? I actually missed our takeout dinners,” Mackenzie says, bringing forward the cardboard cartons from the Thai place she likes. “Why were you changing your will?”

“We got married?” Will points out, as he sits.

“Did we?” Mackenzie says nonchalantly.

Will ignores her and moves a bottle of water closer to her. “And we’re having a baby,” he adds.

“Ah, my wedding rings,” she looks over at him. “What did you do with them?” She asks curiously.

“Well, for now, they’re in my wallet,” Will says, opening a different cardboard carton. He’s really not sure what to do with them. He can’t wear them and it doesn’t feel right to put them away in a box. It feels like they should be lived with. It feels like they should be with one of them, at least.

“You better not lose them,” Mackenzie says needlessly.

Will ignores that bait. He has the rice. He uses a plastic fork to dish some out onto his wife’s plastic plate. He’s seriously considering investing in proper dinnerware for them. The only thing is, he’d have to do the dishes afterwards, and he much prefers the current situation where he can dump the lot in the trash and someone else gets rid of it for him.

“Do you think I need to update my will?” Mackenzie asks, watching him, still holding on to the beef stir-fry.

“I’m all up to date,” Will quips. “I’d have no idea,” he answers seriously, helping himself to rice. Because he has no idea what’s in her will, or if she even has one (he assumes she must, if she’s talking about updating it, instead of making one). All of that legal stuff about joining their lives together got completely waylaid when he went to prison.

“Hang on,” Mackenzie gets up and goes to his desk. He checks out her ass for a second while she leans slightly over his desk and turns back to his dinner just as she’s straightening up again. She comes back and presses something against his chest, just over his heart. It’s a yellow sticky-note. He peels it off to take a look. It says:

If I, Mackenzie Morgan McHale McAvoy

die, everything I own goes to William

Duncan McHale McAvoy.

She’s signed the bottom and dated it.

“You should get that notarised,” Mackenzie says, taking her seat again.

“I’m McHale McAvoy too?”

“Seems fair,” Mackenzie shrugs.

They haven’t even figured out the name thing either. Though, Will thought she was just going to change hers. Although, now that he thinks about it, maybe he shouldn’t presume that she should or that she will.

“There’s a lot of ‘macs’ in that,” Will says, pressing the sticky-note back to his chest.

“Maybe we should just pick a new last name, for both of us. Something we both agree on.”

“We can’t agree on a name for the baby,” Will points out. He reaches for the beef and starts divvying that up, realising the comment was initially flippant, but that she might take it the wrong way, and start lamenting about how difficult that has apparently been.

“How about Smith? Easy.”

“And generic,” Will points out.

Mackenzie watches him a moment as he works. “I’m not sure if that was a vote in favour.”

“You’d have to change all the advertising,” Will puts the carton of beef down and looks at her.

“Hm,” Mackenzie muses. “You can keep McAvoy as your professional name, and I’ll keep McHale. Keep it simple. But privately, we’ll have new names, like spies.”

“Eat your dinner,” Will says, handing her a fork.

 

**********

 

After they’re done, and Will has cleaned up his office, he takes his seat beside his wife again, at the table opposite his desk.

“Pruit’s on his way back,” Mackenzie announces, putting her phone down.

“Yeah, about that,” Will starts and she gives him her attention. “What’s going on?”

Mackenzie blinks at him for a moment, as if she doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and then she leans forward a little (as far as she can, with the baby in the way), and it explains it to him, because she knows exactly what he’s talking about.

“When we were flying home, I was watching you sleep for a bit, and I was thinking, things have been so good between us, and we’re talking and sharing and I was thinking, I have a relationship with Pruit – I’m not sleeping with him,” she adds hurriedly (which has nothing to do with Brian and everything to do with how it sounds on its own). “I mean, a work relationship. A working relationship with him. I need to have a working relationship with him,” she corrects. “And I thought, these things that we learnt with Dr Johnson, the things about not being defensive all the time – I’m not talking about the attachment stuff because that’s probably way too personal with my boss.”

Will nods.

“And I was thinking ‘I don’t really know him’. As a person. I don’t know what he’s interested in or what he’s trying to achieve with the – ok that I do get that a little but, what’s the big picture kind of thing? Why did he even buy a news station?”

“The bragging rights, I think,” Will interjects.

“Right, but what is it about having a newsroom that makes it important to him? You know? What’s important to him? In his life, or business… Anyway, so I thought about how we’re both so defensive, Pruit and I, I’m talking about.”

Will nods again.

“And how we’re embroiled in this battle to be right or get our way, or at least he is, and I was thinking ‘well I’ve fought to keep News Night safe’ and I’ve also tried appeasing him by adding all this social media to our website, and by building the website in a different way, but what if that’s not really what he was talking about? And I thought to myself, he doesn’t know where I’m coming from with the news, and I’ve already talked to you about how that’s frustrating and I wanted to do something about it. It will always be a fight if we’re trying to achieve different things, because, well, you know, we’ll always be speaking a different language.”

The presentation she put together. He remembers. But he doesn’t remember her saying she showed it to Pruit. So he figures she still hasn’t done that.

“So I went to him this morning and suggested that he might like to see how we put a story together, almost from scratch. I thought ‘include him and show him why the news means so much to me’, and us, and what we do and the process, the decisions we make, and why we make them the way we do. Because, you really can’t understand something until you’ve done it yourself or seen it yourself and really get that understanding, you know?”

“Sure,” Will agrees, but he’s not sure that he does.

“I just mean, you and I really clicked when we started seeing the world from each other’s point of view, and stopped being so annoyed that the other person wasn’t understanding us, and I thought that that might be something that could help me with Pruit. If I could see the world form his point of view, and if he saw the world from mine, maybe we could meet in the middle and it wouldn’t be a total shit fight all the time. Maybe I could be less defensive and really listen to him. And maybe he would think that I’m being less stubborn or controlling and really listen to me.”

Mackenzie stops talking and looks at him a moment, waiting for his reaction, and Will’s not sure what he’s supposed to say there, but he remembers that he doesn’t have to say anything at all. He just has to listen. And see the world from her point of view. And when he does that, then everything that she’s just explained to him, makes total sense.

She’s brilliant.

And he’s proud of her.

So he tells her that and she smiles tentatively and he leans in to seal it with a kiss.

Chapter Text

“So what happens next?” Pruit asks standing before Mackenzie in her office. He looks a little eager, like one of her interns. He’s back from dinner, and Mackenzie’s been back at her desk, working while waiting for him to return.

“Well, Will will be in hair and makeup, but you don’t need to see a grown man get powdered,” Mackenzie says as she stands. “But the rest of them will be getting ready for broadcast, which will mean last minute fact checks, and pulling any last details into place, especially if they’re going down to the wire. The control room will be warming up, grips will be moving the anchor desk into place.”

Pruit nods.

“But we’ll go and have a look,” Mackenzie suggests, walking around her desk for the door. They head downstairs to the newsroom, which is loud as they step off the elevator and for a second Mackenzie sees Pruit hesitate. It does look a bit like running into a stampede, which is entirely counter intuitive. And this isn’t even breaking news. “It can be overwhelming,” she says kindly and keeps walking. She’s stopped by half a dozen people, as she weaves her way through the desks, all with questions about that night’s broadcast or the Ukraine. If they’re technical or ethical questions, she answers them. If they’re specific details about that night’s show, she directs them to their senior producer.

“So the senior producer handles all the questions?” Pruit asks, as they reach the other side of the bullpen, and stand aside, where they can see the studio being prepped, and the staff rushing about.

“No the senior producer runs – do you know much about an army post?”

“The mail?” Pruit frowns.

“No,” Mackenzie laughs a little. “The army calls their bases ‘posts’.”

“Aren’t they forts?”

“They have names like Fort – never mind, this conversation is getting off track. What do you know about how an Army Post works?”

Pruit shrugs at her. “Nothing much.”

“At the top of the post is the commander,” Mackenzie starts to explain, raising her hand sharply to near her nose to indicate the bar.

“He runs the post?”

“No. Sort of. He has duties passed to him by his senior officers and he also has a larger vision for the post, like, say, wanting the best natural disaster response record.” Mackenzie pauses, but Pruit just stares at her, so she goes on. “So he says to his executive officer, that’s his XO, that he wants that, and she then talks to her subordinates about making that happen. She’s the one who thinks ‘how am I going to go about achieving the commander’s vision?’ and then goes about achieving it.”

“You’re talking about a command structure,” Pruit says, a little patronisingly.

“Yes! But it’s not the same as in an office. I don’t dictate to Grady what vision I have for the news division, even though he’s, technically, my executive officer, my number two. This analogy works better with Jim and Kelli. Jim has a vision for the show. He knows what stories he wants and why and it’s Kelli’s job to go about making that happen. So she’s the one who delegates tasks, and who pushes her producers to do their best work, and she’s very hands on in putting together stories, making calls, deciding on sources, checking facts, and making sure people are doing their jobs properly.”

“But you have a larger vision for the news division.”

“Yes, I’m like the top general who has a vision for the whole army.”

“I’m the top general,” Pruit corrects.

“You’re like POTUS. You have a vision for the country.”

Pruit gives her an amused expression.

“So I had a vision for the website, and I kicked it down to Neal, senior editor of our web division, which was rather non-existent before, and Kendra, the senior producer for the web news division, and they make it work. They ask of their subordinates whatever they need to get a story online.”

Pruit looks out at the room for a second. “And what do the interns do?”

“Usually any old shit producers ask of them. Coffee runs, taking Will’s suit to the drycleaners, asking him for his copy when he’s an hour late with it, fielding phone calls, sitting on hold. They learn by observation.”

“Did you start out as an intern?”

“I did,” Mackenzie affirms, surprised and impressed with the question. (Surprised that he asked, impressed that he’s interested.) “I interned for a very small local newspaper in Cambridge while I was in college, one summer. The summer after that I went down to London to hang out in bars – serve liquor, in bars – and ended up getting a phone call from one of my professors who knew I wasn’t interested in print media, who said he had a friend at the BBC who might let me shadow him, while he produced financial news segments, which was dead boring, because I don’t understand economics in the slightest, don’t tell Sloan, but that led to a full time job for three months, and after I graduated he vouched for me with BBCs radio news division and it kind of went from there.”

“So, why come to America?”

“I was born here and it was my home for a while, so I wanted to come back to make my marks as fully fledged adult. But I knew if I wanted to get work here I had to offer someone something they couldn’t find anywhere else.”

“And what was that?”

“Someone really good at their job,” Mackenzie says.

“And you just made it so you were?”

“Yes,” Mackenzie says simply. “Everyone starts at the bottom. That way, you know how it works on the big picture level. You know, that without the interns, we don’t get coffee, and without coffee, it’s much more difficult to focus.” She’s joking, of course, and Pruit smiles. “It’s a big machine. Everyone plays a part,” Mackenzie adds.

“What about Will?” Pruit asks. “How does someone become an anchor?”

“Will took a different road, but I’ve seen him pull all-nighter’s, man a phone like a demon, and marshal the hell out of the interns when we need coffee.”

Pruit’s smile manages itself into a laugh. Mackenzie sees Will head into the studio and she gestures to Pruit that they should go through to the control room. It’s cool and dark and the guys in there are talking in hushed tones. It’s like coming home, every time she steps in. So familiar and intimate, and she misses it. The hushed tones stop when she walks in with Pruit. Jim raises his eyebrows at her, his hand ghosting over the headset, but Mackenzie waves him off. “We’re just here to watch,” she says, standing at the back row, Pruit next to her. He looks excited and she wonders if he’s ever been in a control room.

Mackenzie quickly goes around and introduces everyone, with their job title and brief description of what they do. Herb is in charge of the control room, and liaises with the guys who beam their signal into outer space, central control. Joey does graphics, these guys handle sound and camera. These guys talk to Washington etc.

“Is it weird that you’re looking at Will there,” Pruit gestures to the bank of monitors at the head of the room. Will is at the anchor desk, putting on his mic pack (and he’s in a dark suit, looking sexy as hell. Mackenzie has to repress a shiver). “But he’s actually behind you,” Pruit points over his shoulder.

“It can honestly be disorientating,” Mackenzie answers. “But that’s our focus,” she points to the monitors.

“Can he hear us?”

“Just Jim.”

“And he can’t see you?”

“No, he has three cameras to stare into,” Mackenzie responds.

“That must be weird.”

“Jim, how long?” Mackenzie asks.

“Sixty out,” Herb answers.

“Thank you Herb,” Mackenzie answers sweetly.

The door behind them pops open and Don comes in, “Hey have you got –” He stops when he sees Mackenzie. “Hi. What are you doing here?”

“I can’t watch from the best seat in the house?”

“You could if you were sitting. Should you be standing in your condition?”

“And by my condition you mean the privileged rank of being the head of the news division, and you’re absolutely not implying anything about my pregnancy?”

“Absolutely not,” Don says.  

“You can have my chair,” Joey says lightly.

“No, no,” Mackenzie waves him off graciously. “You keep it.”

“You should take Jim’s chair,” Don points to it. “He’s not even using it.”

Jim turns at the sound of his name. “Hey man,” Don heads towards him. “Have you got the package of Kiev where…”

“Don’s here a lot,” Pruit notes.

“I think Don lives here,” Mackenzie says, knowing he’ll hear her.

“I don’t live here,” Don responds without turning around. Mackenzie smirks at his back.

“Don’s here a lot because Charlie wanted more cross network stories, so he keeps tabs on what News Night is doing so he can work Right Now around it.”

“Fifteen seconds,” Herb warns.

“Fifteen seconds,” Jim says to Will.

“Copy,” Will says.

“Mackenzie’s here,” Jim adds.

“Is that meant to motivate me?” Will shoots back.

Mackenzie frowns and gestures to take a spare headset. “I hope you don’t sass my executive producer like that every night,” she says.

“Jesus,” Will visibly jumps through the monitor. “He’s my executive producer. And I’ll sass him whenever I feel he needs it,” he retorts, looking right down the barrel of the camera.

“Here we go,” Jim shuts them up.

“Good show,” Mackenzie says lightly, and gives the headset back.

The opening sequence starts to roll. Don takes Jim’s chair, and wheels it towards Mackenzie. “Sit,” he tells her. “Will will kill us if we don’t make you sit.”

Mackenzie takes the seat. Don leaves. Pruit shifts his stance to stand for the long haul. Herb counts in the cue and the show begins. The control room door opens again and Mackenzie swivels her chair to see Don wheeling in another office chair for Pruit. Pruit gives him a pleasant thank you and Mackenzie thinks that everything might just come right in the world.

“Protests in Kiev entered their second week,” Will starts.

Ok, not everything is right in the world, Mackenzie amends. But there might be a chance that everything comes right in her world. Or at least, people might be able to play nicely with each other.

Chapter Text

December 4th 2013

Wednesday

 

“Hi,” Mackenzie greets warmly as she walks into the office, Will close behind her. She reaches out to shake the therapists hand, even as Will formally introduces them.

“It’s nice to meet you Mackenzie,” Habib says pleasantly.

“It’s nice to meet you in person,” Mackenzie says. Habib looks to Will.

“Yeah, I know about the phone call,” Will says, closing the office door behind them.

“Let’s sit, shall we?” Habib suggests.

There are three chairs arranged around the glass table in the middle of the room. They’re all leather, obviously from the same suite, but they’re all different. Habib gestures Mackenzie to the high backed desk chair.

“How come Mackenzie gets the fancy chair?” Will asks, taking his usual seat in front of the filled in, marble fireplace.

“She’s pregnant,” Habib answers simply. “And she’s a guest of honour.” He smiles at her, a broad grin and Will rolls his eyes.

“Great, you’re already conspiring against me.”

“How are you, Mackenzie?” Habib ignores him.

There’s a rather large thick green folder on the table in front of him, and Mackenzie wonders if it contains all the innermost workings of Will’s psyche (and she wonders, if given the chance, whether she would read it, or pass). The room is beautifully decorated with wood, but it’s not dark. A bank of windows lets in a weak winter sun, and there are plants around to give the room life. There are also trinkets, little sculptures, and a ton of books. It looks like a study, and not at all like Dr Johnson’s much sparser, but still welcoming, therapy room.

“Good,” Mackenzie answers. She suspects he means generally, health-wise, pregnancy-wise – not ‘are you having a mental breakdown?’.

“You won’t have far to go now,” Habib says next, another pleasant smile, and Mackenzie thinks this guy could probably shrink her head well and good, but doesn’t get the impression that he’s secretly psycho-analysing her (it puts her at ease). So far.

“Two months. Well, seven weeks,” she corrects herself, and glances at Will, who gives her a slight smile. He’s got Daddy Bootcamp on the weekend, which she is very much looking forward to hearing about. And given his recent track record of sharing, she thinks there’s a good chance he will tell her all about it.

“Will,” Habib says in a measured way, turning his attention. “How was your week?”

“Good,” Will says, crossing his right knee over his left and settling in. Mackenzie watches him, interested in how relaxed he seems. Even though he’s at his therapists. And she’s there. At his therapists. “Mackenzie and I went to London for Thanksgiving weekend.”

“That’s right,” Habib says. “How did that go?”

“Good,” Will says and looks over at Mackenzie. She gives him a hopeful smile. “Right?”

“Yeah,” she says, as if it’s obvious. “Will was a saint,” she tells Habib. “My family can be rather… intense and he was a total saint about it. Didn’t complain once.”

Habib gives Will an impressed smile, and Will looks like he might be a little embarrassed, but also a little proud. “Sounds great,” Habib notes.

“Thank you for allowing me to be here today,” Mackenzie finally plunges in.

“It’s not about allowing you,” Habib says in his careful, measured way. “It’s whatever Will, or you, needs.”

“He’s paid to care,” Will quips to Mackenzie.

She shakes her head slightly at him, indicating she thinks she’s an idiot. “But still,” she goes on. “I’m really glad to be –” she hesitates. She wants to say ‘included’ or that she’s ‘glad to see behind the scenes’ but really, it’s that she has questions about the whole process, about what’s been going on, and ‘included’ doesn’t seem to cover it adequately. “Here,” she finishes lamely.

“Mackenzie has questions,” Will says bluntly, but not with a tone that suggests he’s annoyed with that fact, or that he doesn’t want her there. It’s the opposite. He wants for her to get answers to her questions, because he doesn’t know how to answer them for her.

Habib raises his eyebrows at Will first, then turns to Mackenzie, his expression open and curious. Mackenzie feels suddenly nervous, but if there’s any tension in the room, it’s only hers. She flickers a glance at Will but his expression is encouraging too, waiting on her. She feels a little on the spot, even though this was entirely the reason why she came today.

“I guess I’d just like to know if…” She hesitates again. “If Will’s going to get better?” Habib shifts in his seat, preparing to answer, when she goes on. “I mean, I know that it’s not really – there’s no sure thing and I get that but, Will’s doing all the right things. He’s taking his meds and he’s coming here every week and we went to see a marriage counsellor.” She stops and looks to her husband. And he nods, yes, Habib knows about the marriage counsellor (he was the one that gave Will Dr Johnson’s number). “And I just want to know when.”

Habib waits a beat this time before opening his mouth. “The honest truth is, he may never get better.”

Mackenzie feels tears prickle her eyes.

“And at the same time, he might recover next week, or next month or next year and be fine for the rest of his life. Or he may relapse. He might go ten years and be fine, and then have another bout. Or he might be fine just a month before sliding back into it.”

The tears build higher.

“Depression is a very complex illness to treat,” Habib goes on, gently. “It’s not like a broken bone, that we set, cast, rest, and rebuild. It involves complex brain chemistry, personal history and attitude. What I’m working with Will on in here, is not a ‘fix’, but a way for him to essentially manage the illness himself.”

Will looks over as the first tear slips down Mackenzie’s cheek. He gets up and brings the tissues with him, crouching by her chair as he offers them to her.

“I’m sorry to tell you that,” Habib adds gently.

“But how can you be ok with that?” Mackenzie asks Will earnestly. She pulls a tissue leaf from the box and dabs at her eyes.

Will shrugs. “I try not to think about that part of it and focus more on trying to reach a point of being ok.” He takes her hand, rubbing his thumb gently along the back of her empty ring finger. The rings are still in his wallet. He hasn’t decided what to do with them.

“But, do you feel any better?” Mackenzie asks weakly.

“Sometimes,” Will says. “Mostly, I don’t feel much inside.”

Mackenzie looks slightly horrified.

“I know that I love you, I feel that. And I’m excited about meeting this little guy,” he indicates the swell of the baby. “And also a little scared.” He gives her a slight smile and Mackenzie manages to return it. “I have to keep trying, and hoping, otherwise, there’s no point,” he frowns, because it’s a bleak prospect.

“Hope is a very important aspect of depression,” Habib interjects gently. “Having hope for something to live for, for getting to recovery, for being able to cope. It’s very important.”

“And you have hope?” Mackenzie asks Will.

Will nods. “Yes,” he answers immediately. “You give me hope.”

“I do?”

“Yeah. Because I know you love me and you’re rooting for me, and if after everything that we’ve been through, you can still look at me like I’m the only man in the world,” Will’s voice fades on him and he has to stop to regather himself. “Then I have hope that things will get better, even if it’s not a ‘fix’.”

“I just feel like it’s something I’ve done.”

“It’s not something you’ve done,” Will immediately counters.

“But if we hadn’t broken up.”

“Firstly, I did that. And secondly, this was going on before then. Before I met you.”

“It was?”

“Yeah. This is… my father.”

Mackenzie frowns at him a little, concern in her eyes. “But that would mean you’ve been depressed your whole life.”

“That might be true,” Will says softly.

Mackenzie’s eyes fill up with tears again and Will stays where he is, crouched next to her chair, despite his thighs starting to feel like they’re on fire, despite the strain in his lower back, despite the fact that he’s too old to be getting down on the floor.

“We were happy though?” Mackenzie asks meekly.

“We were,” Will confirms.

“I ruined that.” She blinks and the tears fall and she reaches up to dab at her eyes again.

I ruined that,” Will corrects. “That was my own fucked up shit about being betrayed by people I love. Like my father. And an overwhelming inability to forgive. Just like my father. And a stubborn streak that would rival my father’s.” He gives her a flat expression. “That’s what I’ve been working on for the last…” He looks over at Habib. “How long have I been coming here?”

“Nearly ten years,” Habib responds nonchalantly.

Will turns back to his wife, ‘see?’ written on his face.

“I’m sorry for completely shanghaiing this session,” she shoots to Habib, aware again that he’s still there, listening and waiting. “I swear I don’t normally cry this much.” Will stands, his legs on fire, but stays by her, placing his hand on her shoulder instead of holding her hand.

“That’s ok,” Habib says, a spread of his hands. No big deal. “What else would you like to ask about? We can talk about anything you’d like in here.”

“I guess, something else I’d really like to know about is: what I can do to help Will,” Mackenzie says, wiping her eyes again, as Will takes his seat once more (right on the edge, so he’s still orientated towards her). She’s going to need a mirror before she goes back to the office.

“You already do help me,” Will answers.

“I don’t feel like I do anything,” Mackenzie says.

“But you do,” Will starts, thoughtfully. “You don’t try to fix me. And you don’t ever pressure me to... be someone I’m not.”

Mackenzie blinks at him.

“Everyone needs to know they’re accepted for who they are,” Habib adds. “But it’s especially important for Will, because of his history.”

“And you quietly support me and encourage me to do the things I need to do to get better, even if it’s hard for you. And I know it’s hard,” he adds sagely. “Going to the marriage counsellor, and knowing that I come here. I know that’s hard for you because you want to know.”

Mackenzie looks a little bashful. He knows it eats at her that she doesn’t know what’s going on here, and that’s the entire point of her coming today, so she can see and hear and ask her questions and know and be included. Will knows that that anxiousness, the insecurity of it, that’s her attachment style, and he’s only recently put those two things together. She is part of it, but not in the way she thinks. She’s part of his recovery, not his demise.

“And you’re patient,” Habib adds into the silence.  Mackenzie looks over at him, wondering how he could possibly know, but oh yeah, Will’s here, talking to him every week.

“Yes,” Will agrees. “So patient.”

Mackenzie gives him a tentatively hopeful expression.

“I get frustrated too, sometimes, when I feel like I’m going around in a circle,” Will adds. “But, you’re always just there, quietly rooting for me.”

“Always,” Mackenzie says, her eyes bright. “I’m always rooting for you.”

“And I know that, and you remind me of that without me having to ask you to,” Will adds, matching her optimistic expression. “By just being you.”

Mackenzie gives him a full on smile. “Ok,” she nods. “That’s good. I’ll keep doing that.”

Will nods too. “You just keep being you, and we’ll be fine. It’s me we have to worry about.”

Chapter Text

“Maybe you can talk to Will about going to an Al Anon meeting.”

“Don’t go telling her that,” Will protests.

“What’s an Al Anon meeting?” Mackenzie asks.

“It’s a meeting for anyone who is affected by someone who has a problem with alcohol,” Habib tells Mackenzie.

Mackenzie turns to Will. “Why don’t you go to Al Anon meetings?”

“I don’t need to,” Will says convincingly.

“How do you know?” Mackenzie shoots back.

“My Dad isn’t drinking anymore?” Will suggests.

“That doesn’t matter,” Habib interjects.

“I don’t need a bunch of stranger’s telling me I need to accept that I have no control over certain things in my life,” Will retorts.

“So you’ve looked into them?” Habib asks lightly.

“I already know I have no control over certain things in my life,” Will goes on.

“That doesn’t stop you from trying to control them though,” Habib adds genially.

Mackenzie watches her husband. Now that they’re talking about him specifically, he’s gotten a little defensive. She’s trying not to collude with his therapist but… “Is anyone allowed to go?” Mackenzie asks Habib.

“Sure,” Habib says easily. 

“I’ll go with you,” Mackenzie says to Will.

“I don’t need to go,” Will says casually.

“Jacob thinks you do,” Mackenzie points out. She wonders if Will does the things his therapist asks (suggests or asks?), or if he’s just as stubborn with him as he is with her.

“What can they offer me that you can’t?” Will asks him.

“The subjective experience of someone who has been through what you’ve been through.”

Will stares at him for a moment, and Habib gives him the assured smile of someone who is right. Mackenzie watches the both of them. Just as stubborn. Except, Habib has this way of… not ‘winning’ because she’s sure it’s not a competition, but of getting Will to think. Or listen. Or of just being able to stump him into silence.

“Can we change the subject?” Will asks, looking away.

“I want to talk about Charlie,” Mackenzie speaks up. Habib gestures to her, indicating that it’s a valid topic.

“What about Charlie?” Will asks, his tone dry.

“You haven’t grieved for him,” Mackenzie points out.

“What am – there’s no rules that say I have to do anything in a certain time or a certain way,” Will says sharply and Mackenzie figures she’s hit a nerve. But she’s got Habib on her side (or at least able to mediate) and so she doesn’t feel the need to back down because her husband is getting a little agitated.

“But are you doing anything?” Mackenzie pushes.

“I’m processing,” Will says and he stands. He strides over to the windows and looks out. Habib glances at Mackenzie, but she can’t quite figure what he’s silently saying to her. Do you see? Or, go on. Or, don’t give up.

“Right now?” Mackenzie asks lightly.

Will turns to her with a disparaging expression. “Grieving is supposed to be a process,” he gestures to the air.

“And you’re processing,” Mackenzie says bluntly. Will stares at her for a second and she backs off, glancing at Habib. He’s watching Will. Will looks at Habib, and the therapist raises his eyebrows at his client, as if what Mackenzie said were a question, and Will could answer it.

Ok,’ she thinks. ‘We’ll come back to that one.

“Why did you stop drinking?” She asks next.

“Because,” Will shrugs.

“Because what?” Mackenzie asks.

“Because I thought I should give my heart and liver a break,” Will elaborates and she can see he’s trying very hard not to lose his shit, and not to clam up.

“Is there something wrong with your heart and your liver?” Mackenzie asks innocently. Almost immediately, something crosses Will’s face, and he freezes for a moment, hands on hips, standing across the room. She senses a change in Habib too, and looks at him. His genial expression isn’t there and when she looks back to her husband, she sees him glancing away from catching the therapists eye. “What’s wrong with your heart Will?” Mackenzie asks more firmly, feeling a tingling sensation on the back of her neck.

Will moves to take his seat and when he speaks he’s very calm and he looks her right in the eye as he says, “My heart is enlarged slightly, because my aortic valve is failing.”

Mackenzie blinks at him. “What?”

“I’m fine.”

“I don’t understand. There’s something wrong with your heart?” Her pulse rate goes up sharply, and the baby sticks a foot out against her bellybutton. It draws Will’s eyes.

“The valve doesn’t shut properly and blood leaks back into the chamber, so –” he goes on.

“Jesus,” Mackenzie says, alarmed, her heart lodging into the bottom of her throat. How does he know?

“I’m fine for now. My doctor wants to adopt a ‘wait and see’ –”

“Hang on,” Mackenzie interrupts. “When did you find out?”

Will looks decidedly uncomfortably at the floor, and then up at her. “July,” he says.

“Wait, what? July?  That was five months ago!” Mackenzie explodes. Her fear and confusion rapidly turns to anger and she forgets the parts where he said he had something wrong with his heart, or that he’s fine, and only hears the bit where he confessed to having found out five fucking months ago. And is only telling her about it now. “You didn’t think to tell me?!” She asks loudly.

“You were busy,” Will tries quietly.

“So fucking busy that you couldn’t sit me down and tell me your heart has something fucking wrong with it. Jesus Christ Will! What do I have to do to get you to let me in? I show you and show you! I went to the marriage counsellor with you! I came here with you!” She suddenly remembers Habib is there, but she doesn’t dare look at him, and her face gets hot with embarrassment. “I bet you told Habib though,” Mackenzie adds, shifting forward in her chair to get up. “You know what Will? I might have liked to have gone with you to, what I assume were several appointments where they decided that your heart wasn’t so fucked that they could adopt a ‘wait and see’.” She stands and Will looks up at her mournfully. “I have to go,” she shoots to her husband, and then she fronts up with the therapist. “It was very nice to meet you,” she says. Habib has stood and he gives her a sympathetic nod. “Sorry, I have to get back to work,” she lies, finding herself unable to look him in the eye.

Will stands as she starts to move off, and reaches for her elbow. “Wait.”

Mackenzie jerks her arm free. “Please, stay and finish your session. Maybe you can talk about Charlie’s death and everything else you clearly don’t want me to be involved in.”

Will blinks at her and she takes that moment to go to the door, twisting the knob to get out. She’s so furious, she almost slams the door behind her, but she remembers where she is, and she’s already emotionally exploded all over poor Habib enough.

 

 

**********

 

Will hears the outer door close roughly and snaps a little out of his daze. That went very poorly. He had no intention of letting slip about his heart now. He had no plan to use Habib as a buffer, or to bring her into a situation that involved someone else. He’s not even sure how he let it blunder out. He was annoyed that she was using the opportunity to get at him about things he didn’t want to deal with (yeah, confession, he doesn’t want to deal with Charlie’s death) but he wasn’t trying to get back at her. Or change the subject. He just wasn’t thinking right.

Will turns to Habib, who has resumed his seat. He looks up at Will expectantly. “Should I go after her?” Will asks. Habib shrugs his lips at him, but Will gets the impression that that was a ‘yes’. “I’ll be right back,” he says and goes for the door, heart pounding, wondering if he can still catch his wife.

“Take your time!” Habib calls to his retreating back.

Will rushes down the stairs, almost tripping, and spills out onto the street. A few meters down Mackenzie has hailed a cab and she’s reaching for the door to open it (he can never find a bloody cab on this street). “Mackenzie!” He calls out and she hears him. She looks over at him, her eyes dark with anger, and then deliberately looks away. He gets to her before she can get in the cab, but she stands there with the door open, clearly not interested in staying to talk.

“Please don’t go,” Will says anyway. “Come back upstairs.”

“I can’t believe you kept this to yourself for five months,” she starts, ignoring him. “And not only that Will, but you lied to me about it. You flat out lied. You didn’t just keep it to yourself. I asked – the insurance claim crossed my desk and I asked you about it and you looked me right in the eye, and you lied,” she spits.

He forgot about that.

“I can’t believe – go back upstairs and talk to Habib about it.”

“That’s not fair,” Will tries feebly.

“Is it fair to me?” Mackenzie asks loudly, her eyes so dark Will feels a little like he can’t look into them. And the thing is, he can’t really blame her at all. He’s a total jerk.

“Hey lady, you ok?” The cabbie asks, out of his seat and leaning on the roof of the cab.

“I’m fine,” Mackenzie shoots him a smile, her tone friendly and light. “I’ll just be a moment.”

She looks back to Will. “I’m so mad at you right now,” she says vehemently. But she hasn’t raised her voice again and Will feels it like a sucker punch all the same. This is completely self-inflicted, but he still feels remorseful for himself.

“I’m sorry,” Will says.

“Save it,” Mackenzie shoots back with a glare. “Don’t – talk to me for a while.”

“What does that mean?” Will asks, bewildered, and starting to feel a little panicked.

“It means, go back upstairs and finish your session. Don’t come and find me when you’re done. I don’t want to see you for a while. I’ll –” She hesitates. “I’ll come and find you when I’m ready.”

“When will that be?” Will asks dumbly.

He leaves it wide open for: “I don’t know. Maybe five months.”

And with that, Mackenzie gets in the cab and leaves him standing there on the street.

Chapter Text

Will stands in the street and watches the yellow cab drive away with his wife, and wonders what he’s supposed to do next. He almost gets struck by a cyclist, who politely informs him that he’s a fucking idiot!

“I already know!” Will yells after him. A giant, fucking, completely moronic, jerk bag idiot. He’s been so far from being smart about this situation he just – he can’t even… he can’t even form words. He feels as angry as Mackenzie looked, but not at her, at himself. He’s fucked it all up. All the hard work that he put into his relationship, and all the things he’s already put Mackenzie through and boom! It all explodes with a careful decision he made, and stubbornly stuck to, five months ago, and a more careless slip of his tongue fifteen minutes ago.

He goes back up to Habib’s office, his heart pounding, either from the stairs or the stress of what’s just happened, or the untimely (and ironic) failure of his heart valve. Habib is sitting where Will left him, writing in Will’s folder and Will’s tempted to cross the room and tear the folder from the other man’s hands, rip it to shreds and scream that he’s not salvageable, so let’s all just stop trying. Standing there, he feels an overwhelming loathing for this man, who has done absolutely nothing but try to help Will, including warning him that keeping the information about his heart from his wife was not the best idea.

“Did you catch her?” Habib asks gently.

“Yeah,” Will says and thinks he might be shaking.

“So that was you I heard yelling?” Habib asks.

“Yeah,” Will confirms. “Well. Mackenzie. Yelled. She – I deserved it.”

If Habib agrees, he has the good grace not to say so.

“Come and sit,” Habib urges softly.

“I can’t,” Will answers. He looks over to the seat where his wife was a moment ago and feels something inside his chest break open. Tears sting in his eyes and he thinks: what if she never forgives me?

He’s never seen her that angry. He’s never feared losing her so much. He really loves her, and he’s been trying so hard – but maybe not hard enough. She looked at him with such contempt. He lied to her. Over a big thing. Over many things. He betrayed her trust. It’s not just that his heart is enlarged, it’s all the things they learnt in counselling. She was under the assumption they were on the same page, and they are! They are! Except for this one thing he kept from her.

“She’ll come around, Will,” Habib says, his tone quiet and even, gentle.

Will must look as volatile as he feels. “How can you be sure?” He shoots at the therapist, the tears making his throat painful.

“Because, like Mackenzie said, she’s shown you and shown you, that she’s in. She’s angry and hurt, but she’ll calm down.”

“She said she didn’t want to see me.”

“She probably just needs some space to process her anger.”

Will stares at the therapist for a moment. “What if she never forgives me?”

“She will,” Habib repeats.

“But how do you know?”

“She’s a strong and smart woman,” Habib elaborates. “And she loves you very much. She doesn’t stick around this long, to have something insignificant like this, end your relationship.”

“Insignificant?” Will challenges hollowly.

“In five years, she won’t even think about it,” Habib says confidently. “Right now, it feels like the worst thing to happen, but in five years, it will be a blip on your timeline. It’s not great, but it’s not the end.”

“It feels like the end,” Will counters. He’s still standing by the door. He has to glance back to see if he closed it. He has. He doesn’t remember doing that.

“Will, it’s actually the end of our session now. But I’m not comfortable leaving it like this if you’re not ok.”

“I’m fine.”

“I can cancel my next appointment.”

“I’m fine,” Will repeats, taking a few steps towards his chair. His legs feel weird, like they’re not quite attached to his body, even though they’re responding to his commands. How strange is that?

Habib gets to his feet again. “Ok, but I’d like to see you tomorrow.”

“Sure,” Will agrees.

“I have an emergency session at two,” Habib says.

“That’s fine. I’ll have to miss –”

The rundown meeting.

“It’s fine.”

“There’s something else I want you to do for me,” Habib says carefully.

“Ok,” Will says, feeling increasingly numb. His face tingles and his arms feel heavy, and he feels like he’s not sure if he’s standing or sitting.

“I want you to go home, right after we finish here, and take another dose of your medication.”

Will finally looks up. He blinks. “What?”

“I want you to take another dose –”

“Why?”

“Because you’re in a critical and acute situation.”

“I’m fine,” Will repeats.

“And you’re going to need an extra boost right now,” Habib goes on, as if Will hasn’t said a word.

“What if I OD?”

“You won’t OD. Will you?”

“No,” Will says.

“You’re not going to do anything along those lines, right?”

“Right,” Will says hollowly.

Habib moves around his desk to his computer and makes the changes to his schedule. Then he writes the appointment out on a card for Will and goes to give it to him.

“I don’t need that,” Will tries.

“Take the card, Will,” Habib says in a measured way. Will takes the card. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah.”

“What are you going to do after you leave here?”

“Go and take my meds,” Will repeats.

“And Will, respect Mackenzie’s wish to have space. I know it will be torture for you, but it’s important. You need to show her that you respect her, and you can do that right now, by giving her that space.”

“Ok.”

“It will be ok,” Habib says.

Will meets his eye. He hopes so.

“I’ll see you tomorrow Will,” Habib says firmly.

“Ok,” Will agrees.

 

 

**********

 

Will does as he’s asked. He goes back to the apartment and takes another dose of his selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, even though he took them that morning. For a second, standing in the bathroom, with the bottle in his hand, looking into the bedroom he shares with his wife, something seems weird. Different. Something seems off. He goes into the bedroom and looks around but the bed is made and everything is where it usually is, and he can’t figure it out. A sense of surrealism is a symptom of depression, but he doesn’t know that, and Habib is right, he’s falling into an acute cycle. He thinks that something horrible is impending, looming on the horizon like a hurricane.

He tries to shake it off but it doesn’t leave him. He just can’t get past the idea that she’ll probably leave him. What Habib said about it feeling bad now, but being insignificant in five years, doesn’t register. It’s not just his heart; he’s crapped on their entire marriage. All that stuff about opening up and not keeping things from each other, and being able to trust. She’ll doubt him now. For the rest of their lives. She’ll doubt him and she’ll think back to these moments and she’ll remember that he doesn’t care about her enough to share important things in his life with her. She’ll remember that he keeps her separate from him, at a distance, and that it means he doesn’t care. He doesn’t love her the way she loves him. And she’ll remember what happened when she told him about Brian, which turned out to be so nothing, but he didn’t listen to her and he ended it, and he spiralled both of their lives out of control because he can’t trust her and he can’t bring himself to be with her fully. Always at arm’s length. She’ll always be at arm’s length, and she just can’t have a marriage like that. It’s not a marriage.

He goes back to the office, even though he feels like he’s in a fog and probably won’t be able to concentrate on anything until Mackenzie deems ‘space’ time to be over. She doesn’t meet him for lunch. It’s not unusual. Sometimes she’s busy. But she’ll try to text when she can. There are no texts from her. No phone calls. No emails. Not a word. Will sits at his desk, staring at his phone, trying to concentrate on anything other than willing his phone to ring, but just can’t think straight. If the extra meds are meant to make him feel better, he doesn’t think they’re working.

Or maybe he’d feel worse if he hadn’t take them.

There’s a sticky, sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach and he feels listless and puffy. He wonders if he should declare himself sick and go home. But what if Mackenzie comes to talk to him and he’s not here? It feels very important that he stay, but he’s not sure he’s going to be able to get through broadcast, and he lives in fear that someone’s going to come through his office door and tell him it’s time. They need him. He needs Mackenzie. He needs her. He needs her to talk to him and to make this better, and to tell him she doesn’t hate him. He needs to know it’s not over, and that even though he’s a prick, she still loves him, and she’s not leaving. He really needs to know he hasn’t ruined it beyond repair. He can make it up to her. Buy her diamonds bigger than her engagement ring. He’ll suffer through every Thanksgiving for the rest of his life with her family. He’ll fly them to New York though, all of the sisters (because he hates the flight – but he’d do it for Mackenzie, if she asked him to and he wouldn’t complain at all).

He just needs her to call.

He needs her.

Badly.

His life isn’t worth living if he doesn’t have her.

Chapter Text

Mackenzie takes a deep breath, and pulls open her husband’s office door. Honestly, she’s not sure this is the right time (or place) to confront him just yet, but she can’t let ‘the silent treatment’ (she’s not giving him the silent treatment) go on for much longer. She can’t because she finds it unnerving to not be in contact with him, and because she knows that it will be driving him nuts, and because she thinks that underneath it, she still needs to communicate with him about where she’s at.

She’s not sure what to expect as she goes into his office (or even if he’ll be there). She figures he’d be distracted and unhappy, but what she catches before he lifts his head and sees that it’s her, is a level of glum she’s never seen on another person before. She’s surprised by it, for a second, but then it’s quickly replaced with a nasty thought about him throwing himself a pity party, and isn’t that entirely deserved right now? How did he possibly think he could get away with not telling her for so long? And how in the hell does he justify lying to her?

“Hi,” Will says, showing surprise now, and getting to his feet.

Mackenzie swallows down the anger. She’s gone from anger to shame to anger, to hurt and anger combined, and now a numb kind of anger. She’s just so angry with him (and she’s trying really hard not to blame herself. This can’t be due to Brian can it? She thought they had got past that). “Hi,” she responds, trying to keep her tone neutral, but wanting to tell him he’s an asshole. She wants to rage. And while she was already working on keeping under control before she walked in, seeing his expression a moment ago, has her trying much harder to keep her anger under control. He’s not doing ok.

“How – are you?” Will starts coming around his desk.

“I came to say,” Mackenzie starts, taking a half step back as he gets closer. He notices, and stops where he is, at the corner of his desk, several feet away. He looks a bit like he’s been slapped (and it’s tempting to do so). “That I’m going to stay in a hotel tonight.”

Will looks alarmed. “Don’t do that.”

“Just for tonight,” Mackenzie goes on, holding his eye, despite it making her heart pound in an uncomfortable way. He lied to her. He looked her right in the eye and lied. How could he do that to her? After everything? It makes her feel sick.

“We should talk,” Will tries.

“I know, but I can’t talk to you right now. I’m afraid I’m going to say something I regret, something I can’t take back,” she gets out, her tone not even close to neutral. She’s angry, and the longer she’s there with him, the more hurt and angry and nauseated she feels. And it’s worse, because he looks so miserable she feels like her anger isn’t justified, when it totally is. But she learnt in marriage counselling (that was his fucking idea!) that her feelings are valid because they’re her feelings and she should feel them, just not take them out on someone else.

Will tries a half step towards her and she raises a hand to ward him off. It’s shaking. “I mean it, Will, so help me, don’t push this!” She says with exasperation. Will raises his hands in parley. “I’m going to stay in a hotel tonight. I don’t want to hurt you but I need space to cool off. I seriously need – I promise, we will talk tomorrow.”

Will stares at her a moment and he looks stricken, but if she’s meant to feel sorry for him, she can’t quite get there. His demeanour just pisses her off a little more, because she can hear a voice in the back of her head telling her that her husband is not well, that he needs her, and that the shitty ways he behaves sometimes aren’t really his fault. She doesn’t want to rationalise it though. She wants to be mad. That’s her right. Those are her feelings, and she’s entitled to feel them. She just hopes he’ll hold on until tomorrow.

“I’ll go stay in a hotel,” Will says softly. “You don’t have to leave.”

“No,” Mackenzie holds her hand up again in a ‘stop’ gesture. “I can’t be at home.”

Will’s eyes go a little wider with that. She’s saying: I don’t want to be around anything of you.

“We’ll talk tomorrow,” she grits out, trying to convince herself. Tomorrow, she thinks, she will have calmed down. Surely?

Will goes to his back pocket and takes out his wallet.

“I don’t need you to give me money,” Mackenzie says, exasperated again.

Will takes out his credit card.

“I have my own credit card,” Mackenzie points out, condescending.

“I know but,” he gestures the card at her, and avoids her eye. “You can get the best room. There’s a concierge.”

Oh, he means all the perks that come with the centurion card. Access to the best rooms at the last minute. A concierge service. He’s saying that even though it’s impromptu (assumes it’s an impromptu decision), she can still get something nice. She won’t have to settle for a shit room with a lumpy bed and noisy neighbours.

Mackenzie takes the card. She doesn’t snatch the card and she doesn’t huff and act like he’s been chauvinistic. She takes the card. And she says thank you (although, that was a little begrudging. She doesn’t want to soften to him just yet).

They stand in silence a moment and Mackenzie fights the urge to ask him what the hell he was thinking. Why not tell her? She was busy? What stupid ass excuse is that? She takes a steadying breath instead, trying to tamp down the anger that’s threatening to become rage the more it goes around her mind.

“Are you going to be ok?” Mackenzie asks.

“I’m fine,” Will says, not quite meeting her eye and she knows that’s a big fat whopper too. He looks miserable and he’s not hiding it anymore, but he can’t stop lying to her.

“I meant for broadcast,” she says, annoyed. “I can tell Jim you’re sick. I’m sure Sloan will cover.”

“It’s fine,” Will says.

“You could go home,” Mackenzie tries.

“I’d rather not,” Will counters.

“Fine,” Mackenzie says. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She goes to the door and leaves without saying goodnight, wishing him luck with the show, or telling him that she loves him.

She does love him though.

 

 

**********

 

Remember, when the conflict is raging, that you love each other.

Mackenzie goes back to the apartment and packs an overnight bag (normally, she’d just take her go bag, but that’s not really up to date with maternity clothing), while on the phone with the first hotel she thinks of: the Waldorf. No particular reason, it just came to her. She books a room for that night, and despite Will’s act of generosity (or penance) she doesn’t have to invoke the centurion membership of his credit card. She does charge the room to it though and she kind of likes the way the desk clerk’s eyes light up as she hands it over. There aren’t many of those things in circulation. The criteria to get one involves very high transactions of money. She doesn’t want to be impressed by her husband’s earning prowess right now.

She goes up to her room and settles in. It’s warm. And quiet, and it seemed like a good idea at the time, but now she realises she hates to be alone. Of course, if she stayed in the apartment, she’s pretty sure she would have raged at Will and made the situation so much worse. He has to know what he did was an entirely shitty thing, and she half suspects he didn’t mean to let it slip the way he did (which, actually, is a little more infuriating, because if he wasn’t going to tell her now, then when the fuck did he plan on doing it?!)

He's had a challenging life, and as a result he's developed maladaptive behaviours. And those maladaptive behaviours are no longer serving him well. But she gets caught up in them and they hurt her, and surely he realises that? She thought the last shitty thing he’d ever do was the ring (which she gave back to him. She hopes he doesn’t torture himself with that. She didn’t give the rings back because she doesn’t want them). The worse thing, still, by far, was breaking up with her after she told him about Brian though (yet she still has difficulty laying the blame at his feet, even though he didn’t listen to her). This isn’t the end for them, but she’s seriously wondering how they can go forward.

How can he take her to a marriage counsellor, citing all these things about wanting to be closer, about wanting to communicate better, about wanting to understand each other, and all along, have that, in the back of his mind?

Or was that the point?

Go to the marriage counsellor so he could tell her about this one day, and she wouldn’t completely lose her shit at him for lying, for not telling her for five freaking months?

It’s at that point that she cries a little bit. She curls up on the bed on what would be Will’s side at home (away from the windows) and feels the baby moving around inside her. She wishes, just for a moment, that she weren’t pregnant. She’d feel so much better right now. Her back hurts and her feet hurt and her internal organs are all squished. She has heartburn, and while she doesn’t feel hungry, she’ll have to eat, because she’s eating for two and she doesn’t get to be selfish about that anymore. She might not feel as emotional as she does now, without baby hormones in her system and she feels tired and wired at the same time. It would be easier if she weren’t pregnant right now.

Besides, what if they can’t put it all back together before the baby’s born? He’s two months away. That’s not long, not really.

Mackenzie orders room service and has a quick shower while she waits. She changes into her pyjamas and eats on the bed. She puts the TV on, but she doesn’t watch News Night with Will McAvoy, instead she finds something else to watch on the myriad of cable channels. She watches half of Keeping Up with the Kardashians (and is a little ashamed to admit they’re actually not that bad…) and then finds reruns of The Simpsons. Neither make her laugh, or feel remotely better, but they serve a nice distraction.

Remember, when the conflict is raging, that you love each other.

She does love him. She doesn’t have to remind herself that she loves him, she knows that she does. She loves him, so she’ll get over it. She loves him, so she’ll forgive him. And she’ll forgive him the next time something like this happens, because it probably will, and she can either climb her high horse, or she can have a marriage. He promised he’d never hurt her again, but how can anyone promise that? She never intends to hurt him either, but it happens because she miscalculates or is careless.

What Dr Johnson taught them, was not to be perfect, but to be able to fix the ruptures when they happen. So tomorrow, she’ll talk to him and they’ll make it ok again. She loves him, and that’s not a chore. And once she gets to that point in the circle, Mackenzie does start to feel a little better. She does her teeth and gets into bed. It’s too warm in the room. Will would have turned the air down for her, and huddled under the blankets. Instead, she has to take her pyjamas off. He would have liked that too and it makes her smile a little.

But she doesn’t sleep well that night.

Chapter Text

December 5th 2013

Thursday

 

“Will.”

He startles awake, a hand on his shoulder, disorientated for a moment. He’s on the wrong side of the bed. He’s not sure where he is.

“Will?”

He pushes up on a hand, orientates his body so he can turn over, and there’s Mackenzie, sitting on the edge of the mattress, in the darkness of their bedroom, looking at him curiously.

Is he dreaming?

“What are you doing on my side of the bed?” Mackenzie asks lightly.

“Smells like you,” Will answers on a mumble. He doesn’t care that it sounds pitiful. It is. And so is he.

Mackenzie’s wearing different clothes to yesterday. So, it’s finally tomorrow.

“I’m sorry to wake you so early,” she says softly, almost whispering. “But I thought we should talk. Before this whole day happens.”

Will shifts so he’s sitting. “I’m sorry.”

“I know.”

“I meant to tell you but everything was so crazy in July and then the longer I didn’t say, the harder it got.”

“I figured.”

“And, the – I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he adds, finally able to meet her eye.

“I’m sure you didn’t.”

Will blinks at her. The nightlight is on in the bathroom (and it sounds stupid, but he thought, if she came home in the night, she would need to be able to see), so despite the fact that the sun hasn’t managed to penetrate the curtains yet, Will can see her quite clearly. Her dark eyes are steady on his and gone is the angry woman from yesterday. All the fury seems to be gone, and she appears quite calm. He can’t believe it.  

“So you’re ok though? Your doctor said he wants to ‘wait and see’?” She squints at him a little, and he can see the concern etched into her features.

“Yes. The valve hasn’t failed yet.”

“But it will?”

“Probably.”

Mackenzie sucks in a breath. “And what happens then?”

“I’ll get not very well. And they’ll probably have to replace it.”

“The valve?”

“Yes.”

“What’s not very well?”

“Shortness of breath, chest pain, syncope.”

“Is there anything you can do?”

“I’m not supposed to run a marathon.”

Mackenzie blinks at him a moment. “Is that all of it?”

“Uh,” Will thinks for a moment. He doesn’t know what she means.

“How did this happen?”

Will raises his shoulders towards his ears, and then lowers them again in a slow-motion shrug. “It’s congenital.”

“Genetic?”

“I don’t think so,” he says slowly, but he honestly didn’t think to check that bit. His father died of heart failure, but as far as he knows, no one else in his family has complained of having a broken heart. “The smoking hasn’t helped.”

Mackenzie purses her lips. “How long until the valve fails?”

“Could be tomorrow or six months or a couple of years.”

“Jesus.”

“But, I’m right on the edge of the ‘moderate’ level, so I think it will be sooner rather than later.”

“You’ll have heart surgery?”

“Yes.”

Mackenzie stares at him and he can hear it in the silence ‘and you weren’t going to tell me?’

She swallows. “That’s serious.”

“I know. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“I know you are,” Mackenzie says softly. “But can you understand how royally pissed I was that you didn’t? And that you just let it slip at your therapists? And that he probably knows all about it, while I’m in the dark?”

Will nods dumbly. He knows. It’s gone around and around in his head all night. Longest night of his life. There is no way to justify it. “At the time, things were bad.”

“Did we go to see a marriage counsellor so we could have this conversation?” Mackenzie interrupts.

Will blinks at her again. “Yes,” he confesses. Mackenzie takes another deep breath. “But not like that. Because I didn’t know how to tell you, and because we weren’t – things weren’t good, Mac, in July. We weren’t in a place to –” He stops, because his throat is raw with grief and his eyes sting with tears, and he just feels so horribly that he hurt her, and knew that he was doing it, despite promising he would never do that again.

“I know,” she says. “I know, honey,” she says so gently that a sob creeps up out of Will’s chest, unbidden. She reaches for him, and he sits forward to she can hug him. She holds his head against her shoulder, and feels him tremble against her arm while he cries. She doesn’t know if the tears pour out, she suspects not (because he’s also not very good at crying, along with a host of other emotional things), but she feels his grief, and tears spring to her eyes too. She kisses the side of his head, and combs her fingers through the hair at the back of his skull, and whispers that she loves him. She knows. She loves him. And it’s ok. They’ll be ok.

“I love you,” she murmurs near his ear, crying herself as he sobs again into her shoulder, and he nods.

“I love you too,” and his voice is distraught.

He’s warm as she holds him, an awkward angle for the both of them, but neither giving it up. He smells like him, and like sleep, and she wonders if he got much last night. She sure didn’t and her eyes feel gritty. And now that she’s been crying, they’ll be puffy too.

She has to pull away. Her back is killing her, sitting like that, but she waits until she thinks Will is done. He has actual tears on his cheeks, and he reaches for the bed sheet in his lap to wipe them away. Mackenzie uses her fingers, but they end up in the same place; their mixed tears drying on the bed sheet together.

“I kind of have to go to work,” Mackenzie says, with a slight wince. “Will you be ok?”

“Yeah,” Will nods. He clears his throat. “I have an emergency appointment with Habib at two.”

Mackenzie nods, feeling her heart sink just a little bit. “He’s a good guy.”

“I’ll miss the rundown meeting.”

“That doesn’t matter,” she says immediately. “Habib called me.”

Will raises his eyebrows at her.

“Yesterday. Later in the afternoon. I guess it were between clients. He said he wanted to check up on me, seeing as – the way I left.”

Will nods, and looks mournful.

“I am glad that you have him, Will. If you can’t talk to me, then I’m glad there’s someone to help you with whatever you need,” she says, hesitant, but meaningful.

“I hope one day I won’t need him,” Will says.

“Me too,” Mackenzie offers a small smile. The ghost of the one she gets in return breaks her heart a little. “Did you get any sleep last night?”
“I think I could hear birds this morning,” Will says.

“Do you think you could try to get back to sleep now?”

“Maybe,” Will says glumly.

“I’m sorry to have woken you –”

“No,” Will grabs her hand desperately. “I’m really glad you did. Thank you,” he squeezes her fingers painfully tight. Mackenzie tugs them free, and covers it by readjusting, so that they’re holding each other’s hand. If she were still wearing her wedding rings, they would have been mashed into the bone.

“But you should try and get some sleep. It’s good for your serotonin.”

Will gives her a half amused, half unsure expression.

“You don’t have to be at work for a while,” Mackenzie coaxes. She’ll leave it there though; she doesn’t want to harass him.

“I’ll try,” Will says.

“Good,” Mackenzie gets to her feet. “I do have to get to work. Lie down,” she directs. Will obeys. She straightens out the covers over him and leans down to give him a kiss. He slides large fingers against the back of her head, but doesn’t pull on her. She straightens up. “Want to say hello to your son? He’s awake.”

Will reaches out his hand to press it against her belly. She moves her hand to where he’ll be able to feel feet and a hazy expression crosses his face. She’s not sure, but she thinks there might be tears in his eyes again. She hopes he sleeps. She hopes he gets some relief going to see Habib again. She really does mean it; she’s glad her husband has him. He’s a nice man and probably entirely the right person for helping Will.

Mackenzie stays like that, with her husband, beyond when she should leave for work. Thank God for waterproof mascara. She won’t need to redo her make-up and she doesn’t have time to. Finally, she gently removes his hand from her belly and tucks him in again. She gives him another kiss and promises to see him for dinner. Or sooner, if he needs to, and she has her phone and he can call whenever he wants, if he wants.

“Yeah,” Will says, but he sounds glum and she has honestly in her life, never seen him so low (though to be fair, she didn’t see him after they broke up the first time. She can’t imagine that was a very good time for him either). For a second, she’s worried that he won’t recover from this, but then she tells herself that that can’t possibly be true.

Will’s depression is mild. He’s doing what he needs to do to be well.

She hopes that’s accurate. She won’t be ok if she’s done this to him, even though he did it to himself. She read once, on the forum for spouses of people who are depressed, where someone had posted that depressed people aren’t pleasant to be around. The harsh truth of it. But not because they’re moody or glum and suck the life out of a room. Well, yes, those things are hard to be around all the time, but also because of the guilt the well feel for not feeling as bad as their partner does. It’s hard, but Mackenzie walks out of their bedroom and down the hall and out the door of their apartment. She doesn’t want to leave, but she can’t crawl in there with him. She feels guilty that Will feels so bad. And she feels responsible, but she also tells herself that she is not. He has an illness and that illness does things to him. It makes him feel like shit and make poor decisions and fail to deal with his emotions in healthy ways. Like his heart. That’s not her fault either. And neither is it his. It just is. And they will deal with the fallout, once it falls.

Chapter Text

Will’s not quite sure how this day is even happening. He sort of went back to sleep, but mostly dreamt bizarre images that made no sense and kept him on the edge of a restful slumber. He feels like his sleep cycles stay shallow. It might have been better to just get up, but he sticks with it, tossing and turning, because Mackenzie is right, sleep is important for depression, and Habib is right, he’s having an acute episode. He doesn’t feel better though. He showers, and shaves and gets dressed. He skips breakfast, but gets a coffee on his way to the office, and not even the caffeine seems able to jolt him out of the daze he feels like he’s in. He sits in on the first pitch meeting at eleven, so he has a vague idea of what’s going to be in the broadcast, and even though no one asks him what he’s doing there, he feels like they’re watching him, and noticing the bags under his eyes, and judging him. He can’t remember what happened in the meeting.

Mackenzie peppers him with texts throughout the day. At first, it’s things like ‘did you hear Nelson Mandela died?’ (no. Was that in the pitch meeting?) and ‘how do you feel about Derek as a name?’ (he objects). Then she goes on with ‘how’s your day going?’ (she sends that one just before lunch) and when he answers ‘ok’, she comes back with ‘I’ve gotten behind’, which he assumes means she won’t be coming down for lunch today. Every time his phone buzzes, he finds himself eager to see what she says next, and he has to admit, if this is a strategy to help make him feel better (or just help him realise that she doesn’t hate him), it might be working. But there are also periods of silence, where he assumes she’s actually working, and he knows he should be too, but he just can’t concentrate on anything. He doesn’t even feel listless and like he wants to smoke. He just feels nothing.

Just after one pm, Mackenzie texts to say she just had a Braxton Hicks contraction, but not to panic, she just wanted to share that with him. Also, it felt weird but wasn’t overly painful, and for a second, she wasn’t sure what was happening. Will thought that kind of news might trigger more of a response out of him. But no. Not even that. She might actually have to go into labour… What if he still feels this way when the baby’s born?

Jesus Christ.

Just after one thirty pm, Mackenzie texts to tell him to have a good session with Habib. And that she loves him dearly. Will texts back that he loves her too, and then leaves the office. He walks a little, because he’s left too early, but New York looks about as bleak as he feels, and soon big fat rain drops are pattering the street around him. He steps to the curb and hails a cab.

It looks like Habib is waiting for him. Will checks his watch. Habib gives him a smile. “You’re not late. I just finished my lunch.”

“You have lunch late,” Will notes.

“Some of my clients meet me in their lunch breaks. Come on in.”

They move through to the inner office, Habib closing the door behind Will. He puts a hand on Will’s shoulder briefly as he goes to take his seat, and while Will is surprised by the contact (he’s never touched him before), he doesn’t really mind it. It’s kind of comforting. Makes him feel less like a leper. “So,” Habib starts, once he’s taken his seat. Will remembers to sit. “How are you?”

“Honestly?” Will asks. Habib inclines his head. “Shit.”

Habib nods. “What happened after you left here?”

“I went home and took my meds like you said. I don’t know that they helped but I guess I haven’t killed myself, so they might have.”

“And then what?” Habib asks, moving right by that comment.

“I went back to work.”

“What happened with Mackenzie,” Habib stresses.

“She came to talk to me before broadcast,” Will says stiltedly. He doesn’t really want to rehash how angry she looked. How violently dark her eyes were.

“And what did she say?”

“She said that she was going to stay in a hotel for the night.”

“Ok,” Habib says slowly.

“She was too mad to stay,” Will adds. He looks over at the therapist. “But then, you were right. This morning she came home and we talked. I apologised and she forgave me.”

Habib raises his eyebrows at Will, looking happy. “But?”

“No ‘but’. She forgave me. Like you said she would.”

He’s not sure how it happens, but he finds tears in his eyes. He clenches his jaw tightly. He is not going to cry at his therapists. He already sobbed on his wife’s shoulder this morning, which was unexpected and a little demeaning as it was. He doesn’t tell Habib he cried either.

“Ok,” Habib says, when Will doesn’t say anything more. He totally notices the tears, but doesn’t say anything about them either. Not yet. “So that sounds like a relatively positive outcome?”

“Yeah,” Will says.

“But you don’t think so?”

“I just –” Will starts, and then stops. What is the issue? His wife forgave him. They had a cry together. She’s being super sweet to him. Oh. That. “It’s the same old shit,” Will says to Habib. “I don’t feel like I deserve her.” He stands suddenly, annoyed. “Why can’t I move past this shit? Seriously? I know in my head,” he gestures to it. “That what I did was stupid, but not relationship ending, and Mackenzie’s forgiven me. She’s more than. And I know that we’ll move past it and things will be ok again soon. And I know that because it’s happened before, and because Mackenzie will make sure it does, because she’s, well, her and she’s better at this than me. But why can’t I shut that voice up in my head that says she could do better?!”

Habib looks up at Will from his seat. He hasn’t moved, and because he was sitting on the edge of his chair, he’s leaning forward, so he really as to crane his neck up to look Will in the eye. And he says: “Because that voice in the back of your head is your father. And he tells you you’re not good enough. And you listen to him.”

“How do I stop listening to him!?” Will asks, exasperated.

“You replace him with a difference voice.”

“Great. Let’s do that,” Will says, taking his seat again. “How do I do that?”

“Would you like to try some visualisation?”

It sounds stupid, is what Will thinks. But he says ‘ok’ because at this point, it sounds better than self-lobotomising. Habib was very, very right about Mackenzie, and Will trusts him.

“Close your eyes,” Habib directs and promptly closes his.

Will shuts his eyes. Behind his lids is red.

“Your Dad was in prison right?”

“Yes,” Will answers, an image of his father swirling in his head.

“Did you go to visit him?”

“Once. My mother took us,” Will settles back in his chair, so he can rest his head on the back of the cushion.

“Ok, I want you to go back to that time you visited your father in prison.”

The image blooms in Will’s mind. He was young, maybe eight. It was his father’s third strike and he got a decent stretch, because he refused to plead out. Will was immensely relieved because it meant home was going to get normal and stable. His mother would stop crying. His siblings would stop cowering in their rooms. He wouldn’t be on alert all the time, and he could get some sleep. He might even finish working on his hut in the paddock behind the barn. It was a good time when his father went to prison.

“I want you to picture your father having to go back to his cell. Going back through to the prisoners wing, behind the shatterproof glass, back down to the cells with the big black iron bars. And I want you to imagine he walks back into his cell and the door slides shut behind him, with a large crash, and the lock clicks into place loudly and satisfyingly.”

Will even pictures the look of contempt on his father’s face. He told him, once he got home, that prison was nothing and he was a better man for having gone in. Not, prison changed him and made him think about himself and his behaviour. No, he was harder for having gone in. His fists were harder too.

“That’s where he stays,” Habib says firmly. “Forever.” Will feels something lift from his chest. Like he can breathe easier, and his heart rate has slowed. His father can’t get him while he’s in prison.

“Now,” Habib goes on. “I want you to go back to the visitor’s room. And I want you to picture yourself getting up from the table and walking to the check-in counter and handing over your ID badge. You go out through the metal detectors and down the hallways until you get outside. Turn your face up to the sky.”

Will turns his face to the ceiling.

“The clouds part and sunlight streams down onto your face and you smile.”

Will feels his face tingle.

“Someone calls your name and you look over and Mackenzie is standing there, waiting for you. She’s smiling because she’s happy to see you, so happy. And on her hip is a little boy, and he calls you Daddy.”

Will cracks. He jerks forward in his seat to drop his face to his hands, his elbows on his knees, and he cries. He just cries.

After a second, Habib speaks again. “They’re so happy to see you Will, because they love you, and they’re always going to be there, waiting for you. You said goodbye to your Dad, now it’s time to move on.”

Chapter Text

Mackenzie’s office door is open and she’s at her computer, reading glasses on, sitting very upright, her left hand on the baby, her right on a computer mouse. Will knocks on the door but stays in the doorway. She looks over and smiles when she sees it’s him. “Hi,” she greets.

“Can I talk to you a minute?” Will asks.

“Of course.”

He stays where he is, and gives a little jerk of his head. “Out here.”

“Oh, you want to show me something?” Mackenzie asks, eyebrows raised.

“Yeah,” Will indicates with his head again.

“Ok, just let me save this,” she turns back to the computer and clicks a few things, then stands and pulls off her glasses, leaving them on her desk top. She pushes her chair back further to get out from her desk and finally approaches where he’s standing. He takes her hand and starts walking through the hallways. “Where are we going?”

“Somewhere private,” Will responds. They walk by Grady’s office, but he’s on the phone, not paying attention to them. “The thing with Grady,” Will starts, shortening his pace a half step so his wife is walking next to him.

“What thing?”

“The thing between me and Grady,” Will clarifies. “I dated his sister in college.”

“What?”

“I dated Grady’s sister in college. It was serious. I was going to ask her to marry me but I ended it.” He looks over at his wife, and sure enough, she’s giving him an almighty frown, trusting him to not let her walk into anything. They get to the end of the hallway, to the exit for the stairs. Will drops a hand to the handle and pushes on it. The door opens and they step into the stair well.

“What are we doing?” Mackenzie asks.

“There aren’t any cameras in here,” Will says, moving forward to look up to the next levels, then down. He doubts anyone will be there. He can’t see anyone and he can’t hear anyone. The door swings shut behind them with a clang. “Charlie and I smoked weed in here a few times.”

“Will!” Mackenzie exclaims, eyes wide. She looks like she’s going to say something else but Will goes back to where she’s standing and cuts her off with a kiss. He places both hands on either side of her face and kisses her firmly. He feels the baby brush against his bellybutton, repositions his mouth against his wife’s and kisses her again, softly, reverently, warmly. And then he pulls back to look at her. Her eyes are still closed and her cheeks have gone pink, but the expression on her face is blissful. Her lids flutter open and she looks up at him. “What are you doing?”

“Kissing you. Thanking you, if a kiss is sufficient enough for that.”

“Depends what you’re thanking me for,” Mackenzie almost whispers, and her voice is wonderfully husky.

“For being you. For loving me. For forgiving me.”

She gives him a slight smile. “You’re welcome.”

Will drops his hands to find her fingers and squeezes them tightly. He still looks a little haunted, and definitely tired, but he seems lighter than he did yesterday, or even that morning. Gone is the mournful man suffering under a cloud of self-loathing, and before her is a man who actually seems to be excited about life.

“Will,” Mackenzie starts. And then she doesn’t really know what to say. “You seem good.”

“I feel good,” Will answers with a smile, and Mackenzie feels something lift from her chest.

“That’s good!” She enthuses softly. It’s relief, that’s what she feels. She steps closer to him, the baby bumping into him, but he doesn’t step away. “You had a good session with Habib?”

“Yeah, I did. I feel like I’ve had a breakthrough.”

“That’s amazing!” Mackenzie says, a little louder. And she doesn’t even feel jealous that it was with Habib, and not her. “I just want you to be happy.”

“I feel like I’ve taken a step closer towards that.”

Mackenzie nods. Not going to take that personally either. She might like to have heard ‘I am happy’ but she appreciates the honesty. She’d rather know he’s not, and is honest about it, than hide it from her for the rest of their lives.

“Honey,” Will says softly. “You’re going to be the voice in my head from now on.”

Mackenzie’s not sure what that means.

“I’m only going to listen to what you tell me, and believe that’s true. I’m done with my Dad.”

Mackenzie blinks at that. He’s still his Dad.

“All the bad things he said to me and all of that. It’s done,” Will says firmly.

“Well I hope so,” Mackenzie says, and she wants to believe him, but she’ll need to see it first. Not only has he said these kinds of things before, she knows from the spouse of depressed person’s website, that it can be one step forward, one step back.

And then there’s the bit where he lies.

But she squares her shoulders and gives him a smile, because she is happy that he feels better, that he’s sounding so optimistic, and that he came running up here to tell her all of this straight away.

“Ok,” Will says, a slight smile on his lips too. He reaches down to kiss her again. She really could get used to this part though. Lots more affection. “I should go do some work. I have no idea what’s happening in the news.”

Mackenzie gives him a pleased smile. “Me too. I mean, I have to get to work. Did you know I have to do performance appraisals? Not yours though. I’ll get Grady to do yours.” She pauses. “I can’t believe you dated his sister. Was she old enough?”

“He’s pissed I ended it.”

“Really? It must have a been a million years ago.”

“Protective brother thing. And there’s eleven years between you and your sister.”

“What did you do to her?”

“Nothing. I moved away. Long distance wasn’t working out. I ended it.”

“Did you break her heart?”

“I doubt it. She’s happily married with kids now.”

“You will be too,” Mackenzie says lightly, going for the door. “I can’t believe you smoked weed in here. We better not be locked in.”

“There’s no lock on the door,” Will assures her, coming up behind her. “And it was once. At a New Year’s party.”

Mackenzie stands for a moment, and then half turns to him. “Were you really going to marry her?”

“I was thinking about asking,” Will says.

“Why didn’t you?” Mackenzie asks lightly, wondering if he’ll answer.

“I didn’t love her.”

“Oh.”

“I’d like to only be married to women I love.”

Mackenzie gives a shake of her head and turns away.

 

 

**********

 

It’s not a test as such, but she does like giving Will vague dinner instructions, and seeing what he comes up with. She requested pasta for dinner. So when she comes into his office, she’s curious to see what smells so freaking good. Will’s at his desk, furiously typing with two fingers (because he never learnt to touch type), but as soon as she comes in, he’s out of his chair and coming around to give her a quick kiss, his hand resting on her stomach for a second while their lips meet. Oh yeah, she likes happier Will a lot more.

“You hungry?” He asks needlessly, and guides her to sit at the smaller table opposite his desk.

“Starving,” Mackenzie answers. She’s so hungry, she’s come down fifteen minutes earlier than she usually does, and yet, here’s dinner, already here.

“I got, beef tortellini with a tomato sauce,” Will unpacks the carryout bag that’s waiting for them. “And chicken ravioli with a white sauce, which might have cheese in it,” Will pops open both containers so Mackenzie can view them. “We can go halves if you want, or you can just have what you want,” his blue eyes are clear on hers, as he hands her a plastic spork.

“Halves,” Mackenzie decides. “But I’m starting with the tortellini, Jesus I’m hungry, and it smells so good.” She picks up that Styrofoam container and makes a start. Will moves a bottle of water closer to her, and then starts on the ravioli. Mackenzie watches him a moment. He still looks tired, but he’s moved on from haggard. That’s good. “Jim confronted me a moment ago to ask if you were ok.”

Will looks over at her, surprised.

“I told him you were fine. Just having an acute bout of something.”

Will nods as he chews. “That’s not really a lie.”

“No,” Mackenzie agrees. “But in case he says something to you, which I doubt he will, seeing as he’s a little afraid of you.”

“He’s not afraid of me,” Will says.

“He’s in awe of you,” Mackenzie corrects. “But if he does, then you can tell him the same story I told him.”

Will nods. “Ok.”

“Unless you’ve already said something?”

“No,” Will says simply.

“Ok,” Mackenzie acknowledges. “This is really good.”

“That’s good.”

“Totally what I wanted,” she goes on.

Will nods as he chews another mouthful.  He must be hungry too, because he’s eating rather quickly.

“You want to go for a walk after we eat?” Mackenzie asks.

“Sure,” Will says, eyes on her again. Even though, with the furious typing, she suspects he might be behind today.

“Especially after all the pasta.”

Will looks concerned for a second. “Maybe we shouldn’t have had pasta for dinner?”

“No, I think I’ll digest it before bed, but a walk will help.”

Will nods and scoops some of the sauce up with his spork. “You know, I never did a performance review with Charlie.”

Mackenzie gives him a surprised expression. Not because of what he said, but because he’s volunteering a Charlie story. Since his death, he’s hardly ever mentioned the man who was his best friend, mentor, and surrogate father to him.

“I don’t think he could be bothered,” Will adds.

“Mine went along the lines of ‘keep it up’,” Mackenzie says, with a fond smile. “It also involved toasting me with bourbon at ten in the morning.”

Will gives a slight smile. “He did things his own way.”

“He did,” Mackenzie agrees lightly. “He was a great big man.”

Chapter Text

December 7th 2013

Saturday

 

“Hey, just for the record, I liked the bangs,” Will says, untucking Mackenzie’s long hair from beneath the scarf he’s just put around her neck.

“Is that so?” She asks lightly. With her jacket already on, her cheeks have flushed.

“Just in case you were still on the fence about how you’re going to get your haircut,” Will adds, handing her a woollen hat.

She tucks it into her pocket. “I haven’t decided,” she says lightly. “But I like that you think you have a vote in how I wear my hair.”

“I keep my hair shorter for you, have you noticed?”
“I have,” she says, with a sly smile.

Will reaches for the door and taps his pocket to make sure he remembered his keys. He taps his other pocket in the hallway, to check for phone and wallet. All set. Mackenzie follows him out, pulling the door into the lock behind her. Will steps over to the elevator to press the call button, and Mackenzie stands close to him while they wait. She takes his hand and he holds hers tightly.

It has not been easy. It’s not been an easy fix at all. Depression is chemical, and it’s mind set, and just because he shifted his mind set in a big way doesn’t mean the chemicals in his brain kept up. He had serious trouble sleeping on Thursday night; just could not drift off. Mackenzie woke at two to use the bathroom and he was still awake (he didn’t dare talk to her; if he can’t sleep, it shouldn’t mean that she shouldn’t). Last night was better, but he slept heavily into the morning and Mackenzie woke him in the end because she was ‘afraid he was going to sleep the whole day’. She might not have been wrong.

And his mood fluctuates. Some hours he feels fine. Some hours he feels blue. He tells himself to hang in there, that he’ll even out. It has to get better. He believes that it has to.

“You know boot camp is three hours?” Will says as they head down.

“Yeah.”

“What are you going to do?” He asks, conversationally.

“After my haircut?”

“Yeah.”

“Shopping,” she gives him a grin.

Will smiles down at her, and the elevator doors ping open. They step out, Will giving Mackenzie an edge on him so they don’t try to squeeze through the doorframe at the same time (but she keeps his hand). She says hello to the doorman. Will can’t remember his name. He’s really bad at that sometimes.

“It’s supposed to rain later,” doorman says.

“Hopefully we get home before then,” Mackenzie says pleasantly, as she opens the outside door to go out onto the street.

“Have a good day,” doorman farewells.

“You too,” Mackenzie calls back with a smile.

A gust of wind hits Will square in the face as soon as he crosses the threshold and he holds his breath for a second from the shock of it. Grit stings his eyes and he stops moving as he squeezes them tightly shut.

“You ok?” Mackenzie asks from somewhere nearby. She can’t have gone far; they’re still holding hands.

Will rubs his eyes gently, trying to work tears up to wash the dirt away. He tries blinking a few times and eventually manages to look at his wife. She looks a little amused, but super adorable with her hat on. Her long hair sticks out from underneath, looking at though the strands are trying to fly away.

“I’m ok,” Will digs into his own pocket and pulls on his woollen hat, to keep his ears from turning into blocks of ice. Once he’s done that, Mackenzie takes his hand again and he tucks them both in the pocket of his coat. He jams his other hand into the other pocket, and they start walking towards the subway. The wind doesn’t make for easy conversation and he notices more and more, that Mackenzie allows the silences.

They head underground, and take different trains to different parts of the city, promising to meet up later for a late lunch (seeing as they had a late breakfast). Will admits to himself only, that he feels a little anxious as he walks away from her, wondering if she’ll be ok and if she’ll be able to manage her shopping bags. He hopes she’ll rest if she needs it and he doesn’t like that he’ll be so far away. And it’s silly, because she’s a grown ass woman who is more than capable of taking care of herself. But she’s his wife and she’s pregnant and his illness makes him anxious, a little paranoid, and fearful.

He’s not well, but he’s trying.

The Daddy Bootcamp class (if it is a class, it’s meant to be more like an experience) is associated with City Birth Centre, where they did their birthing classes, but it’s not held in the same building. Instead, Will has to find a community centre and then find the right room. He’s early, but he’s not the only guy there. In fact, it’s guys only and there’s not a lot of conversation going on.

They should put some beers out,’ Will thinks. That would get conversation going. He pulls his woollen hat from his head and combs down his hair. He tucks the hat into his pocket and moves further into the room. There are a few guys talking in a group, three of them are holding babies, really small babies, by the look of it. A few guys are looking at things on the wall. One guy has already taken a seat. Will goes to sit next to him. Got to make a start somewhere. “Hi,” he says.

“Hi,” the guy echoes, and straightens up a little in his chair. He has black hair, and black, thick framed glasses. He looks a lot younger than Will. But then, everyone in this room is a lot younger than Will. Not a lot of guys have their first child in their early fifties. Quite a few guys his age will be grandfathers.

“You here for Daddy Bootcamp?” Will asks (feels a little foolish). It might be an obvious question, but it’s somewhere to begin (he hates small talk).

“Yeah.”

Will nods. “When’s your partner due?”

“Twentieth of next month. You?”

“Twenty-fifth of next month.”

“Oh right,” the guy says.

“I’m Will,” he extends his hand to shake.

“Yeah. I know.”

Will gives him a surprised expression, nearly jerks his hand free.

“Sorry,” the guy apologises. “I recognise you from the news.”

Oh.

“I’m Gideon.”

Great name, Will thinks. He wonders if Mackenzie would be down with a Gideon Charlie McAvoy. Not that he wants to name his kid for this guy. Has a ring to it though.

“Nice to meet you,” Will murmurs and they finally finish shaking hands. Will looks over at the group of men standing with their babies. One guy is rocking side to side a little. Will also notices the pushchairs and carry pods and diaper bags by the door. That’s a lot of stuff. For a small person. The group breaks up, and one guy moves forward to get everyone else’s attention. They’re not in a big room, and there aren’t a lot of them. Aside from the instructor, and the three guys with their babies, there are seven others. Plus, one guy who’s walking in now, apologising for being late.

“Not at all,” the guy who Will assumes is the instructor says with a friendly tone. “Come on in. Everyone grab a seat and gather in.”

The seats are already set out in a circle that’s pretty close anyway. The late guy comes to sit next to Will.

“My name is Jon Lovett,” he introduces himself. “And I’ll be taking you through the class. With me I have Paul and Elizabeth, three months.”

Paul gives a smile. Elizabeth seems to be asleep (she’s in the crook of her father’s arm, while one of the other baby’s, who looks quite old, is sitting up against their father, staring at either Will or Gideon, or the guy who came in late).

“Ian and Miller, six months. And Michael and Adam, four months.”

They also smile in return. Their babies seem to be awake. Little Adam fusses and Michael is immediately attentive, murmuring to his son, and making happy faces at him. Will can’t see what kind of expression Michael gets in return, but Adam settles. Will has to admit (to himself only) he’s worried about not being able to get his kid to stop crying. But that looked pretty easy. So maybe it actually is.

Will also likes Miller as a name.

“So, these guys are going to talk to us about their experiences as first time dads,” Jon goes on. “I have three kids myself, the youngest is two now, but these guys were all sitting here not so long ago. Did everybody grab a booklet?” He grabs one off the table at the front of the room and holds it up. Will, Gideon and the late guy do not. Jon hands one out to each of them. “These are obviously yours for reference. Take them home, refer to them as frequently as you need, show them to your partners…”

The room nods.

“Before we get into it,” Jon puts his booklet back on the table and then turns to them again. “Show of hands, anyone adopting?”

No one raises a hand, but they all look at each other to see who will.

“Surrogacy?” Jon asks next.

Still not a hand goes up.

“Ok, well that makes things simpler. One of the things we’re going to talk about today is helping Mom. It’s one of the most important aspects of our role as Dad. Cannot stress enough: if Mom is happy, everyone else is happy.”

Paul, Ian and Michael all nod. Miller makes a loud noise.

“Miller agrees with me,” Jon quips and gets a polite laugh.

Will does not laugh. This could be a long morning.

Chapter Text

Will has Miller on his lap. The little guy can’t quite sit on his own, doesn’t quite have the balance handled, so Will has to keep a hand at the kids back, while he’s on his thigh. His dad Ian is on the floor in front of Will (they gave up on sitting on the chairs, and are all seated on the floor in a circle, or really, they’re in little groups around the babies), in case Miller or Will needs him. Gideon is holding Elizabeth and the guy next to Gideon on the other side has Adam (everyone’s awake now). They’re going to go round robin with this thing and they’re going to cover all the basics, like feeding, changing, swaddling, burping, and if anyone’s really lucky, ‘soothing’.

Will’s actually quite surprised by how jerky and uncoordinated Miller’s movements are. He has a set of plastic keys that he shakes for a second and then drops. As soon as he drops it he cries out. Will picks them up again and gives them back, and then Miller stares at him, jerks the keys around and drops them. Babies really are helpless. Not that Will expected them to come out all coordinated and fully formed. But that’s the point, they don’t come out fully formed at all, a compensation for having such giant brains (if they stayed in longer to become more physically developed, their brains would be too big to get through the birth canal).

“Quite emotional,” Ian speaks, of how his wife was in the days after she gave birth. “Not full psychotic episodes of tears or screaming matches, but I’d notice she’d be teary quite a bit.”

“I found my wife was frustrated a lot, so she’d cry then,” Michael speaks up.

“What was she frustrated about?” One of the guys in the group asks.

“A lot of things,” Michael answers. “Sometimes things that didn’t make sense to me.”

“Anything that wasn’t going the way she thought it was meant to go,” Paul adds. “Like if Elizabeth didn’t latch the first time, she’d think it were her fault and think she was a bad mother.”

Will half thinks that surely that would be an exaggeration, but then, he thinks that way too. One slip up, and he’s a bad person. It can’t just be a mistake; it has to be the fully fledged fucked up part of himself. He picks up the keys for Miller again.

“My wife was the same,” Michael says. “She’d cry if she forgot there was laundry on and take a shower. And it was, to be honest, annoying, when I could see it wasn’t a big deal. Just go pause the machine. But I get where she’s coming from.”

“I don’t get where my wife is coming from half the time,” Paul admits. “But I can understand she’s hormonal and she gave birth and I don’t know what that’s like, but I can just keep it to myself and give her a hug.”

“Lots of hugs,” Ian agrees.

“Just a lot of support,” Michael adds. “Whatever she needs. Even if it’s for you to leave the room.”
Ian laughs.

Will’s not sure if that’s funny. It sounds scary. He can’t imagine how he and Mackenzie would cope with a baby, if they were pissed off with each other, or if Mackenzie doesn’t feel like she knows what she’s doing. He relies on her. Miller drops the keys but when Will picks them up to give back he doesn’t want them. His bottom lip pouts and he looks to his father. But his father is talking about how his wife, after her c-section, was often too sore to move around the house, so if she needed space from him, he had to leave, instead of her being able to casually wander off to another room. Will hasn’t given much thought to caesareans. Miller makes an unhappy noise. Will tries jingling the plastic keys at Miller himself. Miller doesn’t like that much.

“He’s hungry,” Ian says casually. “I’ll get his bottle.”

Will was about ready to hand the kid back. Miller suddenly throws himself backward and Will barely stops the baby’s head from hitting the floor. His heart jumps to his throat and pounds uncontrollably. Miller, either having given himself a fright, or Will hurt him when he grabbed him, bursts into tears. Will feels like all eyes are on him as he rights the kid on his leg again. That’s not enough for him to stop crying.

Jesus.

Ian doesn’t hurry. At least, not to Will’s liking, and amazingly, the dads in the group just carrying on with what they’re talking about. It’s only the rookies who are all staring at the crying baby. Will feels like they’re staring at him too. Look what you did. Oh man, you ruined the status quo. Will tries jigging his leg, so that Miller bounces up and down. It works for a little while, but the kid is not happy. He looks more like he’s not sure what’s even going on. Down the row, Elizabeth starts grizzling too. Aside from noting there’s more noise, Will’s too focused on his own problem to worry about her. He has a half thought for twins. Nightmare!

Ian comes back and sits cross legged in front of Will. He explains about how warm the milk is, showing Will by pressing the bottle against the inside of his wrist. It’s really barely lukewarm. Miller, having seen the bottle, cries harder, and really kicks up on the wriggling. Will has a hard time keeping him under control. He’s strong. Way stronger than Will was expecting.

“Here,” Ian gives Will the bottle. Miller makes a grab for it and Will struggles to stop the six month old from nose diving into the carpet, and taking hold of the milk. He thinks Ian might be enjoying this a little.

Will finally brings Miller closer, against his body, so he can use his ribs as a frame and his arm to kind of pin the boy, as he brings the bottle in. Miller reaches for it again, his little hands on each side and Will let’s go a little, thinking he’s got it.

“You have to hold it for him,” Ian says, as Will notices the bottle’s going to fall to his lap, and holds it up. “And try not to let him suck on air. It’ll upset his stomach.”

“Ok,” Will acknowledges, tipping up the bottle. Miller’s head cranes back. Will drops the bottle a little, so that Miller is sitting comfortably. Crisis averted. His heart settles into a better rhythm. “Is this breast milk?”

“It’s formula,” Ian answers. “My wife, Helen, breastfeeds still but he’s hungry and she can’t keep up.”

“I thought women were supposed to produce all the breast milk they need,” Gideon says, from beside Will. He’s managed to settle Elizabeth by swinging her in his arms. Every so often he glances down at her and gives her a smile. She seems taken with him. Will shares a look with him.

“I thought that too,” Michael overhears them. “But all the Moms my wife talks to have to do top up feeds with formula. Are you using Enfamil?”

“Yeah,” Ian agrees. “The price.”

“Right?” Michael agrees. “If you buy in bulk from Costco, you can save –”

Will zones out, even though knowing what the best brand of formula is might be a good idea. He’s kind of more fascinated with Miller. The baby is sucking hard at his lunch, a little trickle of white escaping the corner of his mouth, and then he pauses to breathe. Then suck, suck, suck, suck, like he hasn’t eaten in days, and then heavy nose breathing. Funny. Plus, he’s starting at Will in a very intense way and Will wonders what’s going through the kids mind. Who’s this guy? Formula is tasty?

Will hasn’t noticed, but the other fathers have got bottles ready for their babies too. Paul has breastmilk and Michael formula. A discussion begins about expressing milk and how it can be kept in the fridge. Paul, Michael and Ian all agree that being able to bottle feed their babies, even from a young age was a really special thing. It helped them feel included and helpful, because it gave their wives breasts a break. Plus, it means that they can leave the house and do things like this, without having to have their wife tag along.

One of the rookie dads asks if they were ever afraid of becoming fathers in the first place, and then new dads go quiet, as they fuss around their children for a moment, but then admit that yes, they did. All of them. And Will feels immeasurably better for hearing that, because he’s scared too.

And then Jon pipes up to explain that, from what he figures, a lot of the fear they feel as men is because they’re just not as exposed to babies as much as women are. They have had uninvolved fathers (if anyone can remember back that far), or a lack of involvement with nieces, nephews or friend’s babies. “We tend to shy away from kids until we have our own, and suddenly we’re on crash courses until our babies are born. We have to work at connecting with our children, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. It could take weeks or months,” Jon adds.

“It took me weeks,” Michael admits.  

“Me too,” the others echo.

“Sometimes I’m still convinced Miller looks at me like I’m a stranger,” Ian says and he looks a little tearful and Will has a sudden urge to comfort him, as well as his son. Weeks or months? Geeze. Ok.

“But it definitely happens,” Paul adds. “I thought it might be harder with a daughter, but it’s just as intense as the veteran dads on my boot camp said.”

“Yeah when he came out, it’s like ‘whoa’,” Ian says.

“They look awful,” Michael adds.

“Total alien,” Ian agrees.

“Gross,” Michael laughs. “But then you’re holding this little mess that’s crying out for you and he settles when he hears your voice, like he recognises you and it’s really amazing.” It’s his turn to get a little emotional.

Will feels the need to comfort him as well. He’s turning into a softy. His father would be entirely unimpressed with how frequently tears have been featuring in his life this week. ‘Real boys don’t snivel. Wipe your face and suck it up.’

Or the worst one: I didn’t hit you that hard.

Well, he’s going to cry and his son can cry all he wants. All these guys are crying and no one cares. Will full on broke down in front of Habib and the world didn’t flip on its axis (though he wonders if his father turned in his grave).

“Oh man, I think this one needs changing,” Gideon says.

“Great,” Paul answers. “Let me get you a clean diaper.

Chapter Text

“Honest to god,” Will says. “I actually enjoyed myself.”

“Wow,” Mackenzie enthuses, stealing one of his fries.

“I gave Miller his bottle, had cuddles with a milk drunk Elizabeth, and changed Adam’s diaper.”

Mackenzie gives him a happy smile as he gushes all over the table. “I’m glad.”

“Yeah,” Will reaches over to squeeze her hand briefly. She looks tired. After this, they go home to nap. Him too.

“What else happened?”

Her panini finally arrives, and she gives the waiter a smile. The waiter ignores her. Will is unimpressed.

“Uh, I learnt that testicles are poo catchers, and it’s not weird that a room of grown men are looking at a baby’s vagina.”

Mackenzie laughs, with a slight frown, and picks up her utensils.

“We watched a video about shaken baby syndrome, which was harrowing,” Will says soberly.

“I’ve seen something similar,” Mackenzie looks up at him.

Will reaches out for her hand again, “Honestly? Given my history,” he leans forward a little and lowers his voice. Although, to be fair, the testicle poo catcher comment was probably enough to put anyone off overhearing their conversation. “With my Dad,” Will adds, in case Mackenzie isn’t sure what he means by ‘history’. She nods. “I’d have to say I’m scared I could do that.”

“Do you have fits of violent rage?”

“No,” Will says sharply. “But I also haven’t had children.”

Mackenzie watches him intensely for a moment and then gives a small nod. Will wonders if she thinks he’s capable of beating their child to death. He hopes he isn’t.

“So, I think, if I feel like – if something happens, and I just get to my limit.” He stops, because he’s not sure what he’s saying.

“Come and find me,” Mackenzie jumps in. “No matter what, just hand him over. I’d rather you dump a screaming child on me than dump him out the window.”

Will blinks at her, because this is no time for joking, but she’s not laughing, and quip aside, it sounds like a good strategy. “I hope it doesn’t even get to that,” he says. “I don’t like the idea of not being able to cope.”

Mackenzie gives him a slight nod, a serious expression, she squeezes his hand, and then turns back to her food.

Will really doesn’t like the idea that he won’t be able to cope with having a baby. Never mind teaching his son to be a good man, he actually has to get through all the years that happen before that, including the basic stuff like diapering and feeding. And that seems easy compared to the incessant crying, sleepless nights and the times where babies cry for seemingly no reason. Those are the scary parts. No one really wants their child to cry because they’re in pain, or they’re uncomfortable, or not happy, and not know a thing about it.

“I’m glad it was helpful for you,” Mackenzie says, starting conversation again.

“It really was,” Will agrees. “It was worth it.”

“Good!”

“And I made friends.”

“No way!”

“Gideon. His partner is due a few days before you. We swapped numbers.” Will shrugs. “I don’t know if anything will come of it.”

“That’s great!” Mackenzie enthuses again, a lightness in her tired eyes.

“Everyone was really positive,” Will adds, picking up his cheeseburger. “And I got a pamphlet thing you can read later.”

“Cool,” Mackenzie says, giving him another smile. While he has a face full of burger, she says, “I’m really glad to see you sound positive yourself.”

“Hm,” Will considers while he chews. “Me too,” he manages quickly and then goes back to chewing.

Mackenzie watches him a moment longer and he knows there’s more to it than just being positive about impending fatherhood. She means the really, really rough week he (they) had, and he does feel better about that too. More positive, and focusing on hope, and ignoring his father’s voice in his head every time it threatens to cut through his tentative breakthrough. His father would abhor the crying. Mackenzie would applaud it. So he’ll go with what Mackenzie thinks.

“So what did you buy?” Will asks, and then takes another bite of his food.

“I’m not telling,” Mackenzie says lightly.

“Why?” Will asks around a mouthful of beef and cheese and bread.

“They’re Christmas presents,” she says loftily.

Will raises his eyebrows at her, but he’ll leave it at that for now. He hasn’t gotten her one yet. But he might check out Tiffany’s website later. “I like your hair,” he says, between his next bite. It’s almost exactly the same, just shorter.

“And I was starting to think you hadn’t noticed,” Mackenzie says, pleased. “Sorry, no bangs, but I think they’d irritate me when I’m in the delivery room.”

Will gives a shrug of his mouth. Whatever suits her.

“I did get a few presents you can have early,” Mackenzie goes on.

“Oh yeah?”

“Mh hm. Bubble bath.”

Will raises his eyebrows at that.

“And massage oil.”

Will swallows his mouthful. “These sound more like presents for you.”

“Don’t they?” Mackenzie says lightly, looking up at him from beneath her lashes as she sips at her lime soda. Will gives her a smile. Bubble bath, massage, nap.

 

 

**********

 

“Mmmm, that feels wonderful,” Mackenzie murmurs.

It’s an awkward thing, massaging her back while she’s lying on her side, but he can hardly ask her to lie on her stomach. Not at thirty-three weeks pregnant. Will starts out lightly, testing the waters, so to speak, on firmness. Mackenzie gives little hints as to which areas need the most work, if he pays attention. It’s her lower back that aches the most, her spine shifting out to make way for the baby. Really, what a woman’s body goes through to make a person is an incredible thing. And then it all bounces back into place once it’s done. Amazing.

“Thank you for having a bath with me,” Mackenzie says sweetly.

“You’re welcome,” Will says softly. It really didn’t take a lot of negotiating. Will doesn’t like a hot bath. Mackenzie has an inbuilt hot water bottle, so neither did she. That was a no brainer. Will didn’t mind the bubbles. They were vanilla. Vanilla smells like ice cream. And when they renovated, he got the biggest bath he could find. Because he knew, at some point in time, he was going to have to take a bath with his wife, and he didn’t want his ass hanging out in the breeze. So it’s large and it’s deep, and it has a million massage jets, it’s got arm rests and head rests, and will make him a cup of coffee when it’s done. It’s not as cool as his shower, but still, if he’s going to have to sit in a bath, it could have been worse.

Besides, he really can’t object to spending time with his wife when she’s naked, can he?

“I was thinking,” Mackenzie speaks again, even though Will was hoping she was drifting off to sleep. Warm bath, massage oil, him rubbing her back…

“Yeah?” Will asks at almost a whisper.

“You know how you offered to buy my parents plane tickets?”

“Yeah.”

“How about we send them over as a Christmas present?”

Will waits a beat. “Ok.”

“That way, it’s a gift from us.”

“Wasn’t it a gift before?”

“It was,” Mackenzie says slowly. “But this is a gift gift, not a different type of gift.”

Will has no idea what that means, and he doesn’t care. “Whatever you want to do.”

“And I want to pick the date. I don’t want them just showing up.”

“Ok.”

“I’m thinking maybe three weeks after the baby’s born?”

“Whatever you think.”

“I’m negotiating,” Mackenzie says lightly.

Will tests out the dimples in her back, the pressure points for pain relief. Mackenzie arches her back a little. He moves down to her hips. “I appreciate the negotiating but I don’t really know what it’s going to be like when the baby’s born. We might really appreciate some support, or we might find having too many people around suffocating.”

“See, that’s what I was thinking?” Mackenzie turns back to look at him. “I like your mind, McAvoy.”

Well, that’s the first time he’s heard that.

“The thing is, you pay someone to come and clean, so that’s ruled out. We can get groceries delivered. Or take out. I’m not sure for what we will need.”

“A babysitter?”

“Hm,” Mackenzie muses and turns back to rest her head on her pillow. “We’ll have to wing it.”

“Is your mother really going to be ok with waiting before she can come and see him?”

“Good point.”

“How about two weeks?”

“Ok,” Mackenzie agrees. “Of course, we won’t know when that starts until he’s born, and he more than likely will not be arriving on his due date.”

“Also true,” Will works his way up to her middle back. She has no shirt on. Just a bra. “You’re not cold?”

“No,” Mackenzie sighs.

“I think you’re right. Three weeks,” Will retracts his earlier comment.

“K, I’ll book them later,” Mackenzie murmurs. Will slows his movements; makes them lighter. Mackenzie’s breathing falls into a shallow rhythm. Oh good. Now he can sleep too.

His phone buzzes.

Will opens his eyes again. If Mackenzie’s here, then who’s messaging him? She doesn’t stir. He reaches for his phone on the nightstand. It’s a text from an unknown number.

 

Hey Will, it’s Gideon.

Thought I’d get this

ball rolling...

 

Hey Gideon. Glad you

text.

 

Oh cool. This is your

number? I gotta make

some Daddy friends.

My real life friends

don’t have kids!

 

You’re a regular trail

blazer. My real life

friends kids are all at

least over the age of 5.

I don’t know how much

things have changed,

but memories fade.

 

When I deliberate over

breast pumps I get

some strange looks.

 

I leave that decision up

to the person using it.

 

Good advice. She asks

what I think.

 

Then think whatever she

thinks is best.

 

True. Have to factor in cost.

Having a kid aint cheap.

 

That is, admittedly, of

less concern for us. So

can’t help on that front.

Except, best product vs.

price. How different can

they be?

 

You’d think? Apparently

vastly different. And diaper

brands? Mind blown.

 

Haven’t even thought of

that! Going to get some

paper. What else you got?

Chapter Text

It’s a six footer.

Their Christmas tree. Which means Mackenzie can reach the top, on her tiptoes, but that’s not really conducive, with her baby bump throwing off her balance anyway. She might not be doing the angel, but she can put tinsel on the uppermost branches, if she tosses it a little. Christmas is a little delayed in the McAvoy household this year. Traditionally, the tree goes up on Thanksgiving weekend (or before) but they were away and there’s no way they have time during the week. They’re doing it now, a week late, but that doesn’t matter. There’s a fire in the hearth, Christmas songs on the sound system, and the smell of a real live Christmas tree in the air.

But, Mackenzie doesn’t quite feel Christmassy yet, despite doing some Christmas shopping earlier that day. It’s Will. Two nights ago she was sleeping in a hotel room, thinking he was dying and hadn’t bothered to tell her about it, and even though she’s (mostly) over that, there’s still the fact that he’s got a heart condition, and that he has a mental illness. It’s hard to be cheerful when she worries. It’s only been two days since the biggest meltdown of their marriage. Only two days since Will’s had the (second) biggest meltdown she’s ever seen him have.

But they’re getting there.

She’s actually caught Will singing a little and it occurs to her there’s been a distinct lack of music in the apartment. He hasn’t sung, played his guitars, or used the stereo (or maybe that’s just around her). Which she also knows is a depression thing: a lack of interest in things that usually bring pleasure.

But they’re getting there.

“I couldn’t find them,” Will comes back into the room empty handed. “Are you sure they’re in the hall cupboard?”

“I was pretty sure,” Mackenzie confesses. “But maybe they were put somewhere else.”

“Any ideas on where somewhere else?”

Mackenzie thinks for a moment. The baby’s room is only full of baby things, including in the upper reaches of the closet. That leaves the hall closets, which are for storage. So if the second box of Christmas stuff isn’t in there, where the first was, she’s a little lost. “I didn’t really keep tabs on where the movers put everything.”

Will stands with his hands on his hips. “You think they could be in the kitchen?”
“There are no more boxes in the kitchen.”

“Bathrooms? Our room?”

“There are boxes in our closet,” Mackenzie remembers. Will turns on his heel. “But I thought they were old things.” She starts to follow him out of the room. It’s markedly cooler in the hallway, and even cooler in their bedroom.

“What old things are in the closet?” Will asks, as they step into their walk-in robe.

“Liberace?”
“That’s – you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.”

“That wasn’t speaking ill,” Mackenzie muses, looking up. Along the top of the wardrobe, with the wall that is shared with their bedroom, is spare bedding for their bed and extra pillows. Mackenzie turns, while still looking up, and just about falls. Will grabs her quickly, righting her, before she sprawls into his shirts. “Geeze,” he breathes.

Mackenzie looks up at him sheepish. “Sorry.”

“Be careful,” Will instructs.

“I am!” She steadies herself and looks up again, with Will hovering nearby to make sure she doesn’t almost fall again. On the opposite side, are all the boxes of her old things, and Will’s old things. One box has no label on it at all. “That one,” she points. It’s probably the culprit. When Will takes it down, she’ll probably find that it has ‘Christmas Things’ written on the side that was facing away from them. She moves out of the way so her husband can get it down for her. She’s right. It’s the correct box.

She goes back to the living room, Will following her. He puts the box down on the coffee table and Mackenzie peels back the tape. “You’ve found all the fairy lights,” Mackenzie says happily, and starts taking them out.

“Don’t hang them over the fire this time,” Will says from the tree.

“One time!” Mackenzie protests and when she turns to look at him, he’s grinning. She shakes her head at him and goes back to the box, taking out one coil of fairy lights. “You know, I always regretted not spending that first Christmas with you.”

“I asked you to stay.”

“And I had already paid for flights home,” Mackenzie counters lightly.

After a moment’s silence Will says, “I missed you terribly.”

Mackenzie looks at him over her shoulder. His eyes are tender on hers. Those were good times back then. They were falling in love and everything seemed perfect and exciting. She hardly knew about his family history, and he didn’t know about Brian. And even when he told her about how his father was a violent drunk, she hadn’t known what it would mean for them in the future. She hadn’t known what Brian would do to them either. A simpler time, but perhaps one that wasn’t entirely real.

“That was evident in the sheer amount of messages you sent me before I’d even left the country.”

Will shakes his head at her in mock disgust, and puts another candy cane on the tree.

Mackenzie turns back to the box and separates out the white lights from the coloured. Being nomadic, she hasn’t collected a lot of permanent items over the years. The sheer thought of hauling furniture or ‘things’ with her as she moved around the country and out of it, only to come back again, hurt. So most of these decorations are actually Will’s. Or they’re the ones she made him buy when they spent the second Christmas together, because he had a horrifying lack (never mind that she had none).

“What do you tell people about us?” Mackenzie starts, coming to the tree with the coloured lights.

“Usually, that we’re married,” Will starts.

“But how long do you tell people we’ve been together? Which anniversary do you count from? When we met? Started dating? Do you count the years we were apart? Or deduct them?”

Will blinks at her a second, then reaches to take the lights. “I haven’t thought – it never comes up. No one’s mentioned it.”

Mackenzie watches him as he finds the end of the string and gives her back the loop so she can feed it out while he drapes the lights on the tree. “But if someone did ask?” Mackenzie prompts.

“I don’t know,” Will says to a stuffed Santa Clause. He turns his head to her. “I guess I would just say we’ve known each other eight years.”

“Nine years,” Mackenzie corrects.
“Sure. And we’ve been married six months.”

“Eight months,” Mackenzie amends.  

“Right,” Will agrees. He goes back to the lights and Mackenzie feeds them out, liking the way his shirt rides up a little, so that she can see skin. And a hip flexor. He looks like he might have dropped some weight. He’s still eating right? (Because loss of appetite is a depression thing.) Yes, of course, she’s witnessed it. He had a massive cheeseburger, full of calories, at lunch.

“So we’re just going to gloss over those three years we were apart?”

Will finishes with the lights and takes the power outlet from her hand. “Sure.”

“Really?”

“Well, what’s the point – who’s going to listen to that complicated story of how we were together and then not together and then together again?”

Mackenzie shakes the hair back from her face. “Ok.”

“I just don’t think it matters anymore,” Will adds with a dismissive shrug.

“Ok,” Mackenzie says softly. She’s happy though.

Will takes the power unit to the wall and plugs it in, hitting the switch. The lights come on.

“Yay!” Mackenzie enthuses.

Will comes back to stand with her, and puts an arm around her shoulder, drawing her in against his body. They stand and look at the lights and the eclectic and sparse collection of Christmas decorations, and try not to think about the Christmas’s they were apart.

“I have something for you,” Will says, remembering.

“If it’s rude, we’ll have to take it to the bedroom.”

“It’s not rude,” he digs in his pocket and takes out a little packet and gives it to his wife.

She opens it eagerly, sliding the contents out onto her palm. “It’s a chain!” She says bravely. “Is this supposed to represent the chains Marley forged in the afterlife?”

But Will’s already getting her wedding rings out of his wallet and she looks at them, then up at him. “No, it’s so you can keep wearing your rings.” Will tosses his wallet to the table and takes the silver chain from her hand. He slides the rings into the end and Mackenzie turns her back to him, lifting her hair out of the way. Will lowers the chain and rings around her neck, then fumbles with getting the clasp open to form the circle. It takes him a moment, but he manages by using his fingernail. When he’s done, he places his hands on her waist, and presses a kiss to the side of her throat. She drops her hair in his face to quickly snatch his hands, keeping him close by placing his hands over the swell of the baby.

“Thank you. It’s perfect.”

“I want you to wear them.”

“I will,” she promises softly.

“Always,” Will insists.

“Always,” Mackenzie agrees.

And in the background, someone’s singing, It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Chapter Text

December 11th 2013

Wednesday

 

“I feel a little foolish,” Mackenzie says as she takes her seat.

“Not at all,” Habib dismisses, taking his. Will sits in his usual chair.

“The way I left last week. I have to apologise,” she goes on.

“It’s fine,” Habib assures her. “Really, you’re not the first person to have a reaction to strong feelings in here.”

“I do it all the time,” Will quips, and Mackenzie affords him a small laugh. She still looks uncomfortable, but she does sit back in the leather chair a bit more.

Habib gives Will an amused smile. “I’m glad you came back though,” Habib goes on. “I felt like our session was cut short a little.”

Mackenzie gives a tight-lipped smile of acknowledgement in response to that.

“How was your week?” Habib asks, and looks between both of them, so that question isn’t particularly directed at Mackenzie. She looks over at Will and he looks at her, and he thinks ‘I’ll go’.

“Well since Thursday things have gotten a lot better,” Will thinks back. It was only a week ago, but it feels like forever. He knows that that stretched distorted sense of time, that’s related to his depression too. It seems like almost everything is.

“They have,” Mackenzie agrees.

“That’s good,” Habib says. “You were quite low.”

“I was,” Will admits, though it’s hard to do so. It makes him feel uncomfortable. But it does feel easier confessing with Mackenzie there. He can feel her eyes on him, and he glances over. She gives him a slight smile. 

“I’ve never seen you that low,” she says softly.

Will feels a prickling feeling in his eyes and knows that it’s not over. Things have gotten better, and he’s doing the things he should be, like taking his meds, leaving the house, talking to people, going to work, carrying on, the best he can. “I feel like I’m walking on eggshells,” he adds.

“You do?” Habib asks.

“Yeah.”

“Tell me about it,” Habib prompts.

“Mm I’m not sure how to put it into words,” Will says. He can feel them both looking at him, but he doesn’t feel under scrutiny. They’re listening, not judging. “I guess I feel a bit like I could suddenly fall off a cliff so I’m scared to make any sudden movements in case it sends me over.” He glances at his therapist, who nods, attentive. When he looks at Mackenzie, she looks concerned. He doesn’t like making her feel that way, but if she’s going to know these things about him, then she’ll have to get used to hearing the ugly truth. In some ways, it’s nice, to know that she’s having an emotional reaction with him, while Habib acts as the anchor, because if he wasn’t there, then Will would feel like he has to take on that role. And then he’s not really expressing himself fully.

“What kinds of things do you think might send you over?” Habib asks.

Will shrugs. “I don’t know.”

“Hence walking on eggshells,” Habib fills in.

“Yeah,” Will agrees.

“But you went to boot camp last weekend,” Mackenzie points out.

“It was booked in,” Will says.

“So you just went because you had to?”

“No, I went because it was important to do it for the baby,” Will says, gesturing to her stomach. “And I knew it was coming up, so I was mentally prepared.”

Mackenzie nods, “So no spontaneity?”

Will feels his heart rate increase and gives a shake of his head. No, nothing spontaneous. Just nice and steady, and what he’s expecting. He can cope with what he knows is coming.  “Not right now,” he says and Mackenzie nods, her eyes careful on his. But not pity. Never pity. She’s listening and probably taking mental notes, adding these things he’s saying to her knowledge of how to help him.

“That’s ok,” she says. “We’re going to have a quiet Christmas. Wait,” she turns to Habib. “I assume you won’t see Will next week?”

“No,” Habib says. “I generally take a few weeks off at the end of the year.”

“So, what happens then?” Mackenzie asks Will.

It’s a vague question, but he knows what she means. What happens if he needs to talk? “There are emergency services,” he says and she looks alarmed for a second. “People I can call. Volunteer services. Suicide hotline,” he clarifies. “But I’ll be ok for a few weeks.”

“Barring no disaster,” Mackenzie says, sounding antagonistic. Will doesn’t quite know what to say to that. “Sorry,” Mackenzie apologises. “I didn’t mean to imply that you wouldn’t – I know you wouldn’t do anything, I just mean, what if it all piles on so much and your support network isn’t there,” she gestures to Habib. “I don’t mean to say that I’m guilting you, I mean – I just – what if the worst happens?”
“There are contingencies in place to deal with the ‘worst that can happen’,” Will says gently. “If Habib’s not here, there are other people, places I can go, and more importantly, barring disaster to you, I have you.”

Mackenzie blinks at him for a moment and the silence stretches out as they hold each other’s eye. “Ok,” she says. “I trust you.”

Will gives a nod of assurance. He doesn’t want to argue that he’s fine, because he’s not. And he doesn’t want to argue that he won’t need those emergency services, because he might. So he doesn’t know really how to assure her that a few weeks without seeing his therapist, who he didn’t see for years, by the way, isn’t going to be a disaster. Yes, he’s not quite right, right now, but as Habib constantly tells him, his depression is mild and he’s doing the things he needs to do. He feels confident that it will be fine, even if he’s having an acute bout of a bit more serious depression.

“Can we talk about Charlie?” Mackenzie asks.

Will sighs.

“I’m glad you brought that up again Mackenzie,” Habib speaks up. “Because I think it’s important that we all have a conversation about it.”

“Me too,” Mackenzie says with finality. Will supresses the urge to sigh again.

“Will’s right,” Habib starts.

“What?” Mackenzie asks, surprised.

“There is no set way for him to grieve, and we can’t tell him what’s right and what’s wrong.”

“I thought there was a process?” Mackenzie asks tritely.

“There is, but it’s a process that only Will can go through, at his own pace,” Habib says gently.

“But, aren’t there stages of grief you’re supposed to go through?” Mackenzie asks him, while Will just sits back and listens.

“Again, yes and no. Or maybe some of them but not all of them, or maybe none at all.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so wrong about things in my life as I have been this year,” Mackenzie says. She looks over at Will and he raises his eyebrows at her a little. Yeah, it’s a hard thing to hear: you’re wrong. But still, when they leave this session and get out onto the street, she takes his hand and turns to him and says ‘it was a good session’ and laments in positive ways about the things they talked about and what she’s learnt. She’s turned into an endless optimist, or maybe that it’s Will hasn’t noticed before how optimistic she can be. Or maybe, it’s that right now, he really needs her to be.

“However,” Habib goes on. “I don’t think you are grieving, Will.”

Will looks over at him. Damn, he thought Habib might be being an ally on this.

“I think you’re still at the stage where you’re repressing how you feel, because not coping with it is easier than dealing with it.”

“I don’t feel anything,” Will tries.

“That’s kind of my point,” Habib says gently.

“How can I feel something if I don’t feel it? I know everyone thinks I’m supposed to break down in tears because my best friend died, but, there’s no bargaining. He drank too much, it put pressure on his heart. He was going to die at some point.” He gives a dismissive pout of his mouth, and out of the corner of his eye, he can see Mackenzie’s unhappy expression. “Am I sad he’s gone? Yeah. But I can’t bring him back, so?”

He pauses and Habib just watches him. Will doesn’t look at Mackenzie (because he’s pretty sure if he does, then he’ll see she’s crying or something and that will probably make him cry).

“Do I wish he was still here? Yes of course. And don’t get me wrong,” he glances to his wife, without really looking at her. “I think you’re great at your job, and you’re doing a damn fine at it, but I wish Charlie were still there so I could talk to him. Maybe he could have just retired, instead of dying,” he adds and feels a stinging in his eyes again. He takes several seconds to get hold of himself again. Habib just watches on, and Mackenzie, well Will’s pretty sure he shouldn’t look in her direction.

“And I guess a part of me does regret that I didn’t get to say goodbye or something like that,” Will goes on softly. “Not that anyone really got a chance to say goodbye, but yeah, one last conversation that didn’t occur in a visitor’s room would have been –” He feels his throat close up and he has to stop. He can’t look at Habib anymore either. “Or if I had just been there,” he adds and then fuck it, he can’t get the words out anymore. He’s crying, again, something his father would have – and Charlie died the same way his father did. Suddenly, and with his heart giving out, and without giving Will a chance to say just one last thing to either man who played such pivotal roles in his life. So yeah, he gets it. He can see the parallels, and that maybe these tears aren’t just for Charlie, his mentor, best friend and surrogate father, but for his actual father as well. (And maybe there’s some fear of parallels with his own heart giving out on him too.)

Maybe these tears are a farewell for both of them.

Mackenzie brings him a tissue.

Chapter Text

December 24th 2013

Tuesday

 

“Good morning.”

Mackenzie looks over to her office door. Pruit is coming in, giving her a smile in greeting. She’s just walked in and was nudging her computer to life. “Good morning,” she returns. “I thought you were already gone.”

“I am. Just called in to check on something.”

“Ah,” Mackenzie says, and waits for it.

“How’s things going with the Ukraine Maiden?”

“It’s Maidan, like ‘oh darn’ not maiden, like Ironmaiden,” Mackenzie corrects. Pruit takes that in his stride. “And they’re still going, as far as we can tell.”

“It’s fascinating,” Pruit says happily.

“Sure,” Mackenzie agrees. “Was that the thing you came in to check up on?”

“No,” Pruit says, with good humour. “But I saw you come in and thought I’d come ask.”

“Oh sure,” Mackenzie says with a smile. “Are you headed home for Christmas? To your family, I mean. Your parents.”

“No, I’m heading to Vanuatu.”

“Oh, Christmas in the tropics. That will be different.”

“Beats the snow,” Pruit says.

Mackenzie looks to the window, but no, no snow yet. “I kind of like it,” she says. “It’s strange when it’s warm at Christmas.”

Pruit gives a ‘consideration’ expression. “Actually, I came by to see if you’d taken a look at the app proposal.”

“Ah no,” Mackenzie groans. “It’s in there somewhere,” she gestures to the mass of paper on her desk, the stack of folders and loose sheets. “But I swear I will get to it –”

“It’s ok,” Pruit waves her off. “We’ll talk about it in the New Year.”

“Sure,” Mackenzie agrees. She’ll take that reprieve.
“Definitely before you go,” he inclines his head to her stomach.
“I’ll make sure of it,” Mackenzie agrees, placing a hand to the side of the baby. “Still plenty of time.”

Pruit nods, but he still looks happy. “I should take off.”

“Have a nice Christmas,” Mackenzie offers.

“You too.”

“Will you be here for the New Year’s party?”

“I’ll call in, if I’m in the city,” he responds.

“Well, maybe we’ll see you,” Mackenzie says lightly. Pruit almost wiggles his eyebrows at her as he departs, but that would be too weirdly familiar for them, even though they seem to have a new found quasi-but-still-professional-friendship thing going on. She sits at her desk and starts searching for the app proposal someone gave to her at least a week ago. She didn’t see it coming, but it makes sense, moving the entire news division to an app as well as the website and their broadcast. At least with the website acting as a base, she won’t have to fight so hard to get Pruit to see her vision for how news should be reported. And she does have to concede, having an app for something can be much handier than having to bring up a web browser. Especially on a tablet. She doesn’t have apps on her phone, but she can see that they’re handy on other platforms.

She’s going to need to get a new phone though.

 

 

**********

 

The newsroom is quiet when Mackenzie gets off the elevator, but it’s two, so they’re all in the conference room for the rundown meeting, except for most of the ACN Digital staff, and one of the producers sitting on the alerts desk. Will spots her approaching, and gets to his feet, so by the time she pushes on the door to go in, everyone has stopped talking and are looking at her. “Hi,” she greets and walks around to where Will has given up his seat for her. She squeezes his hand on her way by. Jenna, being the most junior at the table, gives up her seat for Will, and goes to stand against one of the glass walls, and he sits next to Neal.

“Carry on,” Mackenzie says to Jim, who knows he can hardly hold the room once she’s walked into it.

“What the fuck is that?” Gary asks suddenly, and loudly. He’s staring at Mackenzie (who he’s now sitting next to), so everyone else does. The baby is shifting inside her, a large protrusion sticking out from her belly, just under her ribs, as he finds a more comfortable position.

Will leans over to put his hand over the lump. “Feels like an elbow.”

“I’d say that’s a good guess,” Mackenzie tells him with a smile.

“Is that your baby?” Gary asks.

“That’s freaky,” Martin breathes.

“I want to feel!” Tamara leans over Martin to get to Mackenzie. Will moves his hand so she can put hers there instead.

“Me too!” Tess gets up from next to Neal and comes around the table.

“Is that normal?” Neal asks.

“Is it normal that our kid has an elbow?” Will asks him.

Neal looks abashed. “What I meant was –”

“Yeah, that’s normal,” Will answers. “The baby’s this big,” he holds up his hands, so they’re indicating the size of a football. “And she’s right beneath the surface of Mackenzie’s skin, so –”

“It’s a girl?” Tamara asks, eyes wide.

“Or he,” Mackenzie corrects, shooting Will a ‘look’.

“Right, he or she,” Will says, trying not to smile at his wife as he teases the staff. “Either way, there’s not a lot of room in there.”

“Aren’t you due in like another month?” Gary asks.

“Yes,” Mackenzie says slowly, as Tess takes her turn to feel the lump. The lump disappears.

“Oh,” Tess complains.

“So is your kid going to be really small, or are you going to get a lot bigger?”

“A lot bigger,” Will answers.

Mackenzie aims a kick at him that misses.

“That’s supposed to happen,” he tells her gently.

“I’m sure Jim would like to get back to his meeting,” Mackenzie announces as Tess takes her seat again.

“Next time the baby’s kicking, I get first dibs,” she tells the room, warning them all off.

“Hiccoughs are pretty interesting,” Kelli speaks up.

“What happens with hiccoughs,” Gary asks, leaning on the table to see her.

“The whole uterus jumps,” Kelli answers.

The guys in the room, sans Will, give slightly disgusted or weirded out expressions, while the women, who haven’t witnessed that before, look impressed or interested.

“Seriously, the meeting?” Mackenzie almost winces.

“Why are you down here?” Will asks.

“I can’t come to visit you?” Mackenzie asks lightly. Will gives a little shrug of his mouth.

“Ok, back to Pylypets,” Jim says.

“Stabbed twelve times,” Tamara responds.

“Jesus,” Mackenzie utters.

“Do we know if he’s still alive?” Kelli asks.

“We haven’t heard,” Tamara answers.

“Who’s Pylypets again?” Mackenzie asks.

“He’s one of the co-organizers for today’s protest in Kharkiv,” Will answers her.

“You pronounced that so beautifully,” Mackenzie gives him a slight smile.

“I practice,” Will tells her, as if she should be impressed.

“Can we try to get confirmation on his status,” Jim asks Tamara and she gives a nod.

“Do we know who stabbed him?” Mackenzie asks.

“That information is also sketchy,” Tamara informs her.

“Probably Russians,” Kendra says cynically.

“Anything else? Neal?” Jim asks him.

“We’re good,” he says, speaking on behalf of the ACN Digital team. Kendra confirms that.

“Mac?” Jim throws it to her.

“I just came down to wish everyone a happy Christmas,” she says. “And to thank you for the last six months. Lots of changes and upheavals and I’m really glad to have you guys on my team.”

There are happy smiles around the table and they break into applause. Will looks over at her, gauging her reaction. “I’m not going to cry,” she tells him softly.

“I can’t be sure these days,” he responds.

 

 

**********

 

“Do you think after the baby’s born, he’s going to be vegetarian?”

“Why would you think that?” Will asks, almost choking on his rice.

“I’ve been craving so much beef, isn’t that how it works? You crave peanut butter and then the baby comes out with a peanut allergy?”

“Actually, it’s the opposite. If you don’t eat peanuts during your pregnancy, the baby comes out with a nut allergy.”

Mackenzie blinks at him. “Seriously? I haven’t eaten any nuts. And don’t smirk at me, our lack of sex life is your own fault.”

Will holds up a hand in parley, an innocent expression on his face. “Have some PB and J’s.”

“Ew,” Mackenzie turns her nose up at him. “Peanut butter or jam sandwiches, not together. That’s weird.”

“I thought you were American.”

“I am, but I still have taste.”

“Burn,” Will mutters and reaches for his water.

“I know you’re coming right, because the pithy comebacks have returned,” Mackenzie says matter-of-factly. Will looks over and gives her a slight smile. “I am concerned now about the peanuts,” she adds seriously.

Will screws the lid back on his water and puts it down, while taking out his phone. Mackenzie stops eating while she waits for him to find an answer. “If you have someone in your immediate family with a peanut or tree nut allergy,” Will reads. “Then your baby may have a higher chance of being born with a severe nut allergy. Otherwise, research indicates there is no link between not eating or eating peanuts during pregnancy and the incident rate of allergies in babies. It’s recommended to eat a balanced diet, including milk, eggs and nuts, during pregnancy.” He looks up from his phone. “Is there anyone in your family with a severe nut allergy?”

“No. You?”

“No.”

“Ok,” Mackenzie goes back to her dinner.

 

 

**********

 

Mackenzie swirls water around her mouth and then swallows it, while she watches her husband change for that night’s broadcast. She loves that he checks the buttons as he does them, but then checks again. No one would even notice if he managed to line up the wrong button to hole, given that he wears a tie, and has his jacket buttoned, but he checks all the same. She drops her empty water bottle to the trash next to where she’s sitting on the vanity of his bathroom sink.

Will finishes with his shirt and reaches for his tie. He pads over to where she’s sitting carefully, in his socks on the tiles, and gives her the tie. She smiles and reaches up to loop it around his neck, and he leans in so she doesn’t have to reach so far. She lifts the collar of his shirt and lines up the tie lengths, then starts moving them around each other. Will lifts his chin so she can form the knot and when she’s done, she leaves it loose, so he can tighten it against his throat himself. She reaches up to turn down his collar though and notices he’s watching her intently.

He leans forward and kisses her, just a press of his mouth against hers, but she smiles into it, scratching her fingers into the hair at the base of his skull where it’s short and soft. Will steps closer, between her thighs, places his hands on her waist, and parts her lips softly to kiss her a little deeper.

“Uh Will?”

He pulls his mouth away from his wife noiselessly, but keeps his hands on her, and so does she. “Yeah?”

“It was four times and he’s fine,” Tamara calls to him from the other room. “He’s already speaking to the press.”

“Thank you,” Will calls back. He turns back to his wife and she gives him a sweet smile, her fingers still curling through his hair.

“That was a close one,” she says, her tone teasing.

“Hm,” Will agrees and kisses her again, completely unashamedly sweeping his tongue into her mouth hotly. He pulls away before she can react and goes to finish getting ready.

Mackenzie has to take a second to get over the thud of her heart (and her groin). “Is that a preclude to what’s happening later tonight?”

“Definitely,” Will says, looking up at her as he stoops to put on his shoes.

Chapter Text

“Jim,” she gives him a hug. “Have a happy Christmas.”

“You too.”

“Great six months,” she says when she pulls back.

“Yeah,” he breathes, in a way that suggests it’s also been an intense or difficult six months, and Mackenzie remembers that while she’s been holding back the shit storm from above, Jim’s been breaking in his tenure as the executive producer of his own show. Which would be the equivalent of his own shit storm. Perspective. She has really learnt perspective this year.

“Do actually enjoy your week off,” Mackenzie instructs. “No putting together the show for next year or anything.”

Jim gives a slight smile. “I’ll try.”

“Are you going to see Maggie?”

“Of course.”

“I meant to ask, are you spending Christmas with Maggie?”

“She’s going to come home,” Jim says, his eyes lighting up in the subtle way that Jim Harper’s eyes light up.

Mackenzie gives him a happy-for-him smile. “Have a good week Jim.”

“You too,” he says again and turns to Will. “Merry Christmas.”

“Same to you,” Will says and steps in with an arm half raised, so they can have a half, manly, hug. Will slaps the younger man on the back. “Great show this year.”

Jim gives a nod. “You too. It’s been… different.”

“I think that means I’m a pain in the ass,” Will turns to Mackenzie.

“I’m pretty sure it does,” she agrees lightly. She sees something in Will’s eye. “Anyway, we should go,” she says to Jim. “Seriously, don’t come in. I’ll call security and let them know to revoke your pass.”

“I swear,” Jim says, raising his hands.

“Good night,” Mackenzie offers and starts to turn away.

“Night,” Jim echoes.

Mackenzie takes her husband’s hand and starts to walk off. She says goodnight to a few other strays as they head for the elevators. Will steps forward to press the call button and they stand and wait, looking up at the lights to see which car will light up first.

“Were we saying goodbye to Jim because we’re taking a week off, or he is?”

“He is,” Mackenzie says. A ding sounds behind them and they turn to enter the arriving elevator. “I’m making him because I can’t remember the last time he took a day off.”

The doors close and Will hits the button to go down. “Who’s taking over from Jim?”

“Kelli will handle it.”

Will nods to the wall.

“It’ll be fine,” Mackenzie adds.

“I didn’t say anything.”

They head down to the street. It’s cold and it’s late and it’s Christmas Eve. There’s a black car waiting at the curb, and Will walks towards it, his wife at his side. He opens the door for her and she slides in, and he requests of the driver that they be taken home. The city is bright with lights, the usual and all the Christmas flare. Mackenzie cuddles up against his side as they’re driven, and it feels good.

Home is not far away. As they step out of the vehicle, they can hear carols somewhere in the distance. Their doorman meets them at the door, pulling it open for them. “Good evening,” he says. And Will remembers his name.

“Merry Christmas,” Mackenzie says in greeting.

“Same to you,” he closes the door behind them.

“Here,” Will stops to take an envelope from his coat pocket. “Merry Christmas Peter.”

“Thank you sir,” Peter says enthusiastically.
“Don’t call me Sir,” Will corrects gently. “Will’s fine.”

“Thank you,” Peter repeats, deliberately not using his name, or the title. “Do you have family coming tomorrow?”

“No,” Will says, as they start to walk away. “It’s just us tomorrow.”

Peter gives them a nod. “Have a good day.”

“You too Peter,” Mackenzie says, pressing the button to call the elevator. It’s waiting. The doors open immediately and Mackenzie goes in, pressing the button for their floor. When the doors close, she sighs. “I find myself exhausted.”

“Hm?” Will looks down at her. She’s leaning against the wall of the car. “Straight to bed?”

“I think so.”

“Ok.”

“Sorry, did you want to have sex tonight?”

“Only if you want to,” Will gives a half shrug.

“I don’t think I can make it,” Mackenzie sighs. “Rain cheque?”

“For sure,” Will says, as the car stops at their floor. He keeps a hand over the elevator doors to stop them trying to close on them as he lets Mackenzie go before him. Now that she’s mentioned it, she is walking slowly, a sure sign that she’s slowing down. Will unlocks their apartment, and ushers his wife inside. He reaches to take her coat from her shoulders and she dumps her bag to the floor, kicking off her shoes and stepping forward into the hallway. Will hangs her jacket, stoops to pick the bag up and shoves her shoes to the side so he doesn’t trip over them. Then he shrugs out of his coat and hangs it on one of the hooks behind the door.

He’s not sure where his wife went, but when he sticks his head into the living room and she’s not there, he thinks ‘good’. Maybe she went to bed. He’s close. She made it to the bed, but she’s still dressed. She’s lying on the mattress, her back to the door and she’s clearly fading fast. “Hey,” he says coming into the bedroom. “Come on. Don’t go to sleep yet.”

“Mm I’m tired,” Mackenzie sighs.  

“I know,” Will cajoles, coming to sit behind her. He puts a hand to her back and starts rubbing. Mackenzie gives another sigh. “But how about teeth and PJ’s and I’ll rub your back while you open one of your presents?”

Mackenzie turns slightly so she can look at him, her eyes dark in the low light of her bedside lamp. “It’s not midnight.”

“We’ll pretend,” Will says. “But only if you’re good.”

Mackenzie gives a slight laugh, frowns at him but starts to move. He gets up and offers her a hand for balance. Before she walks away to the bathroom, she gives his fingers a tight squeeze. He goes to the living room and picks out one of her presents from him. An envelope. Then he goes back to the bedroom and starts taking his clothes off. He can hear water in the sink as Mackenzie brushes her teeth. If she weren’t half asleep already, he’d suggest sitting by the fire and having cocoa while they wait for the clock to tick over to Christmas Day. And then they’d unwrap their one present and cuddle in bed. But she’s pregnant and she’s tired, so that will wait for tomorrow morning proper.

Will leaves his present under his pillow and they swap places, him using the bathroom while she changes. When he’s done, Will puts the night light on, and heads back into the bedroom, pulling the bathroom door almost closed. Mackenzie’s sitting up in bed, waiting for him, and checking something on her phone. He closes their bedroom door too and goes around to get into bed. Mackenzie puts her phone down, so when he sits cross legged, facing her, she’s expectant.

“Want to go first?” She asks, seeming much more alert; her dark eyes glint.

“Sure,” Will says and reaches beneath his pillow for the envelope. He hands it over and Mackenzie gives him a curious expression.

“Thank you,” she says, neutral, and turns the envelope over. It’s sealed, so she turns to the end and tears it open, then digs in to withdraw a gift certificate to a day spa.

“They specialise in Moms-to-be,” Will says. “So you can get a massage safely, and get a pedicure and manicure, or take a scented bath or, whatever you want to do. It’s all safe for the baby.”

Mackenzie looks up at him, with a happy expression. “I’ve heard amazing things about this place.”

She should have. Will has, of course, found the best place in the city and loaded up the gift card with several hundred dollars’ worth of credit, so she can be pampered in anyway her heart so desires.

“Merry Christmas,” Will offers.

“Thank you,” Mackenzie says. “This is really nice.”

“I think they could do a better job with the back rubs than me.”

“You do a great job,” she gives him a smile. She moves so she can give him a kiss, and he meets her half way. “Thank you,” she says against his mouth, and kisses him again. “I’m going to save it for when my back is killing me. So you’re still on duty until then,” she points the certificate at him with her warning, then slides it back into the envelope and moves to put it on her nightstand. Every movement is full body. There’s no more leaning over or reaching. She opens the drawer on her nightstand and produces a little blue box, then moves to sit in front of Will, her legs also crossed. “Merry Christmas,” she says as she offers him the box.

Will takes it, curious as hell. He doesn’t think he can pull off jewellery (aside from his wedding ring) so wonders what she could have got him from Tiffany’s.

“It was meant to be your grooms gift,” Mackenzie says as he pops open the lid.

He stops to look at her. “I hadn’t got your bride’s gift yet.”

“That’s ok,” Mackenzie dismisses. “I’m kind of cheating, re-gifting them to you now, but – I didn’t have time to come back and get them before we actually got married, and then… one thing after the other. I was holding on to them to give to you some other time, and now I find ourselves all the way at Christmas, and I still had them.”

So ‘it’s’ a ‘them’ then. He upends the box into his palm and picks up the velvet clam case inside. He turns it around to face him, even more curious about what she would have wanted to give him before they got married, and pops it open.

Cuff links.

Ok, he wasn’t expecting that.

“They’re eternity symbols,” Mackenzie narrates.

They’re silver, with rounded edges, so that they’re three-dimensional, rather than on a flat plane.

“Which I know is a little hokey and cliché, but I thought it might be nice that – they would have been something just for us, on our wedding day, with all those guests and everyone around. Just you and I would have known what they meant, if anyone else even noticed you were wearing them at all.”

Will looks up at her. She thought about that?

“And on the back,” she leans forward a little (the baby bump doesn’t let her get far) and moves his wrist so that she can take the cuff links out of their padded bed. She shows him the back, where the back clasp, which is a solid bar, is engraved with a tiny M over a W. “I got them engraved with our initials, and I’m really glad now I didn’t go for our wedding date.” She looks up at him, “Because that would be slightly embarrassing now.”

Will finds himself at a loss for words. Sure, the gesture isn’t overly dramatic, or even particularly specific to him, or their relationship. She could have found cufflinks that were coffee cups or something, because the very first thing she ever bought him was a coffee – or find something that would represent their first date – something along those lines. But the eternity symbol, or what the cufflinks represent really, are still very personal in their own way, and it apparently means more to him than he realised. He’s a little stunned. They’re a sweet gesture and he wishes that he had been able to wear them at their wedding.

“Thank you,” Will says, his voice a little rough.

Mackenzie watches him intently, curious but also unsure. “Are they ok?”

“They’re great,” Will says seriously.

“You don’t really have to ever wear them –”

“I’ll wear them every night,” he promises.

Mackenzie gives him a slow adorable smile and he realises in that moment, that that would mean the world to her. To know that he was wearing them, and that only the two of them would know about the engraving, and the story, and know what they really meant.

“Merry Christmas,” Will says softly.

“Merry Christmas,” Mackenzie repeats.