It was more perfect than she could have ever imagined it.
When the idea first began to take shape, Mac's only goal was to see Will smile again. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that by the end of the night, she would be standing in the middle of the newsroom, completely enveloped in his arms.
It was Neal who had provided the initial spark. He had approached her that morning, when word first began to spread that Khalid was being released.
"Mac?" he asked quietly, knocking on the door of the conference room. Mac glanced up from the pad of paper in front of her. She had taken to hiding herself away in there for a few minutes, whenever the buzz of the newsroom got to be too much. With everything that had happened with Wade and TMI still making her feel sick to her stomach every time she thought about it, she was infinitely glad of the solitude today.
"Did corporate really pay Khalid's ransom?"
She eyed him thoughtfully. "Why do you ask?"
Neal shrugged. "It just seemed like a longshot. And then it happened so quickly. I wondered if maybe Will…"
Mac weighed her options carefully before she spoke. "I think so too," she said at last. "Will wouldn't say anything if he had, but I know him, and I would bet everything I own that he paid it."
"The thing is … I'd like to help."
Mac raised an eyebrow, so Neal rushed to explain.
"I don't have much, but … Khalid's one of us, you know? I just want to do something."
She nodded. "Let me talk to him tonight and I'll get back to you, alright?"
From there, it had spiraled almost out of control. Mac spent the rest of the morning and the better part of the afternoon being approached by her staff, all coming to her with the same request the moment they caught wind of Neal's idea. But it was something Maggie said before the rundown meeting that really made the whole plan come together. "It's not just about Khalid. It's about Will, too. To show him we were really wrong about him, or something. The two of you are our leaders, but that doesn't mean that he has to do it all on his own, you know?"
Mac's eyes widened, and she grabbed for her pad of paper and pen.
"Mac, what is it?" Maggie asked.
Mac tore off the top sheet of paper, handing it to Maggie. "Make sure that all of the staff BUT Will sees this, understand?"
Maggie glanced down at what Mac had written, a grin lighting up her face. "You got it!"
On their last Valentine's Day together, she and Will had gone skating at Rockefeller Center. In reality, they had spent more time falling, and then remaining on their hands and knees on the ice, laughing too hard to get back on their feet. Later, when they came home, they had warmed their cold and bruised bodies with mugs of hot chocolate. It had been the most wonderful day.
No, Will was not at all like those other men that Maggie had spoken of, who hated the holiday because of the 'pressure'. The life that he and Mac had shared may not have been conventionally romantic, but he had never, ever forgotten anything that mattered, and he had made sure that every Valentine's Day was full of smiles and laughter. This year, Mac was determined to give that day back to him.
She could see the exact moment that Will realized what was going on, and that she had to be the one responsible. His face softened somehow, around his eyes and his mouth, and he gave her a look that fell somewhere between rolling his eyes and beginning to cry.
"You did this," he said. It wasn't even a question.
"Happy Valentine's Day," she replied simply, her voice stopping just on the verge of cracking.
As Mac watched him take the few steps towards her, she knew exactly what was about to happen, but she couldn't quite make herself believe it. She let out a tiny gasp as his arms came around her, and then she clung to him, instinctively turning her head and pressing her face into his shoulder. Prepared for him to pull away after a few seconds, once he had come to his senses, she simply didn't know what to do when he kept holding on.
It has been three long years since Will had last held her in his arms, and she had been absolutely sure, right up until this moment, that it would never happen again. Years of emotions flooded up inside her, desperately searching for release, but she firmly stamped them down, holding herself as perfectly still as she could. Will already had a million reasons why he should let her go; she was not going to give him another.
At the first sign of his arms loosening around her, Mac detached herself from him in an instant, biting down on her lip to hold back whatever words or sounds might have been trying to escape. She crossed her arms protectively in front of her chest, looking everywhere but at the man in front of her. She tried to turn away, but was stopped by the touch of his hand on her shoulder.
"Will you have a drink with me?" he asked softly.
"What?" she gasped.
"I don't mean out somewhere, the last thing we need is to show up in another tabloid tomorrow morning. I just meant here, in my office. Will you have a drink with me?"
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
Later, when the line that had snaked all the way across the newsroom had finally dispersed, they sat down together at Will's desk, and he poured them each a glass. Neither of them spoke, and Mac stared down at the glass, grasping it tightly with both hands. It was all she could do to manage short, shallow breaths, and her vocal cords were caught in a stranglehold.
Will's hand reached out to stroke hers, forcing her eyes to lock with his. "Hey, relax," he murmured. "It's just me."
A giggle, slightly hysterical, escaped before she could control it. "Do you think I'm like this about anyone else? You're the only person who makes me crazy like this."
"But we've been working together again for months."
"Yes, working. And for the better part of those nine months, I have been doing everything I can not to say or even think anything that strays outside of working relationship territory."
"You mean like when you told me not to date anyone before the end of the commercial break?" he asked, his eyes dancing.
"I didn't say I was always successful," she grumbled.
Will chuckled. He paused for a moment, his hand still not leaving off stroking hers. Finally, he whispered, "Can we try again, Mac?"
And somehow, even though they had been building towards this moment all night, his question caught her as entirely off guard as his hug had done. When she finally found her tongue again, Mac said, "Will, you have to know that's not why I did this tonight."
"Of course it isn't," he replied. "And what you did tonight isn't the reason I'm asking. You just provided me with the opportunity to do what I've been wanting to do for months now. So can we?"
Mac fidgeted in her seat. "I think that's mostly up to you, don't you?"
"No, I think it's up to both of us. Unless … you've moved on?"
Mac rolled her eyes. "I think I've made it abundantly clear just how well I've moved on, Will."
"Yes, because I've been so much better," he returned, matching her tone. "What do you say, Mac? Can we do this? Can we try again?"
"I'd like that," she whispered. He took her hands in his much larger ones, and squeezed.
There would be no simple picking up where they had left off, when it seemed as though Mac's one mistake had ruined them forever. They would not kiss that night, nor the one after it. They would have to start over and get to know each other again, one day at a time.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this first part of my story. I love feedback and constructive criticism, so please leave a review!
The thing about me is that I *never* feel like my writing is finished – I can always find at least one more word that needs tweaking, so I know I'll need to go back and rewrite this chapter. Especially since I haven't had a chance yet to rewatch the episode, to make sure I have the timeline right.
Still. Even though I'm not entirely satisfied with this chapter, I did want to get it posted before the new episode tonight, before canon has a chance to make what I've written 'wrong'.