Sorry this was so late in coming. I wanted an better ending for the story but when this popped out I had to sit on it for a while before I was okay with publishing it. Thanks for reading and for your reviews I hope this is a fitting conclusion to my little story and that the story did for you what it did for me: provides some possible answers about why Charlie feels the way he does about the various characters.
Charlie didn't always come to the News Night broadcasts but Will had invited him along with some of the crew to come over after the show and watch the live feed for the Mars Rover landing. Done with his own work for the day Charlie was happy to find an unoccupied workstation in the News Night bull pen and watch his employees with fondness as they prepared for their show.
His attention was pulled by Mackenzie hitting Jim with a folder and mumbling something about gathering rosebuds. Charlie smiled as she shoved Jim off and spun to grab Will and fix his tie before he headed to the desk. He watched Will's gaze unabashedly follow Mackenzie as she left him and headed to the control room.
Charlie sighed in a rare moment of wistful reflection. Will and Mac thought they were Don Quixote and the cautionary tale for the News Night team but Charlie knew they were wrong; He was Don Quixote. He had lost his wife and partner because of his inability to save her from herself and the other woman in his life, his true and persistent Dulcinea was long gone, existing only as the facade of a woman he had to see near every day yet remain at an arms distance.
At the end of the broadcast they sent Lonnie to get the car while the rest of the crew waited for Will to change. Once he was ready and Neal signed off the blog everyone headed down together. Charlie leaned against the wall in the back of the elevator car, smiling as the staff placed bets on the likelihood of the Curiosity rover's success or failure. He made eye contact with McKenzie who was shoved up against Will and winked. He knew that she too was enjoying the simple moment.
As they exited into the lobby Will twisted to find Charlie, "Come on Charlie, you want in on this? $50 says the chute doesn't open."
Charlie shook his head and waved his hands in front of him but before he could say anything a movement caught his eye. A man stood just inside the lobby doors. He raised his arm revealing a revolver in his hand. "McAvoy! I told you I had a bullet for you!"
Lonnie and Charlie acted as one; the larger man was coming in from the street and tackled the gunman as Charlie shoved Will with the surprising strength born from fear of losing someone else he loved.
A shot rang out and Will tumbled to the floor, the rest of the crew scattering to the ground.
"Billy!" Mac dropped to Will's side, but he waved her off.
"I'm fine. I'm fine." He was obviously shaken judging by the tremor in his voice but he pushed himself up with an air of nonchalance. "Geeze Charlie, maybe warn a guy next time, eh? I think you bruised one of my ribs, and you're lucky I didn't crack my skull!"
Will grinned up at Charlie who was still standing although he leaning against a pillar, staring in confusion at his hand. It took less than a moment for everyone to realize what he was staring at was the blood coating his hand. He kept blinking but the image never changed. "Where did this blood come from?" He asked the room a second before his knees buckled.
"He's hit!" Jim was the first to articulate what everyone else couldn't process. He moved in time to catch Charlie in his arms as he collapsed and gently guided him down to the floor.
"C'mon Charlie, Lie down, easy does it."
"Will?" Charlie strained to look behind himself.
"Will's fine, he's right there. You've been shot and are going into shock. I need you to focus and stay with me." Jim frantically ripped off his jacket and pressed it to the crimson hole blossoming over Charlie's ribcage. "Someone call 911!"
"I'm on it!" Neal already had his phone to his ear and was describing the scene to someone on the other end.
"My god, Charlie!" MacKenzie broke out of whatever trance she was in and moved from where Will still sat, frozen on the ground.
"Jim, how can I help?"
"I think the bullet went through his lung, it's collapsed. We need to help make it easier for him to breath. Remove his tie and loosen his shirt then support his shoulder and head."
Jim's clinical instructions roused Will. Any hope of it being a minor injury disappeared and the fear he had been trying to ignore was allowed to run rampant.
"Will?" Charlie asked again, struggling against Jim's hands.
Will slid across the floor until he was next to next to MacKenzie on Charlie's uninjured side. He grasped the older man's hand. "I'm right here Charlie, I'm fine, you pushed me out of the way, I'm fine. You need to listen to Jim and relax, ok?"
Will could see his mentor's eyes were glassy and unfocused and he wasn't sure if Charlie heard him or not. Charlie stared at Will for a long moment.
"You know they say if you don't learn from history you're doomed to repeat it."
"Charlie, don't talk."
He shifted his gaze to Jim; "You may have seen a lot in your time, but I've seen more." He wheezed a shaky breath, "A man who has a chance at his last words shouldn't let that opportunity go." He wheezed again.
"Hey, hey, don't talk like that. Last words, what are you saying? Jim's right, just be still and the ambulance will be here soon."
Charlie ignored Will and looked at MacKenzie, "You were saying something to Jim tonight before the broadcast?"
Mac shook her head, tears gathering at the edge of her eyes, "Charlie I don't know what you're talking about…"
He coughed, tasting copper on his tongue. He looked at her as meaningfully as he could, "Gathering rosebuds?"
"What?" Mackenzie stared down at Charlie, unsure of his intent, "Yes, gather ye rosebuds while ye may, yes, I said that tonight, so? I say it often."
Charlie smiled and squeezed Will's hand. "Listen to her, gather ye rosebuds."
Will stared Charlie down, ignoring his words and commanding with his most authoritative voice, "Charlie you stick with us…"
Charlie smiled a small grin at Will before returning his gaze to MacKenzie, "You're story isn't over yet. Far from it. Gather ye rosebuds."
At that moment the elevator doors opened again and out walked Leona with her entourage of assistants. She was on the phone and at first didn't appear to notice the chaos in the lobby but at the sound of her assistant's gasps she took in the scene in front of her.
The phone fell from her hand. She stared at where the News Night team was kneeling around their fallen leader.
"What in Hell is going on here?" She demanded. She looked at Jim who was still pushing against the bullet hole, a look of despair on his face. She then looked to Mac and then Will who had tears openly falling down his cheeks.
"What happened?" She asked again, "He's fine, right?" she asserted even as she heard the ridiculousness of her own statement. When no one spoke she rushed forward and kneeled next to Jim, not noticing or caring about the pool of blood staining her white pantsuit.
Charlie rocked his head in her direction at the sound of her voice.
"Hi? That's what you say to me right now? Hi?!" She was confounded, absolutely unsure of how to respond to the situation.
He smiled sadly at her. "Sorry."
His eyes fluttered and she noticed the strained gasp he made with every breath.
"That is not going to cut it Charlie, come on. Stick with it Skinner!" She grasped his shoulder, as if she could lend him her strength.
"Sorry Leona." He coughed her name, blood staining his lips.
"No. No, no, no. Do you hear me?" He closed his eyes. "Charles Thomas Skinner; come on! It's me, Mindy, I'm right here, I'm not leaving you this time so don't you dare think you can leave me!" If she noticed the rest of the crew exchange glances she didn't care. "Come on, I can hear the sirens, the ambulance is almost here. We are going to get you all patched up real soon."
His chocolate eyes blinked open at the use of her old nickname and he hazily regarded her under heavy eyelids.
"Hey, do I remember right that you still have that old Buick?" She kept talking, "How about this fall you bring it down to the Hamptons? We can go cruising along the ocean road. I know of a great place that makes old fashion milkshakes. Come on Charlie, keep breathing. We can go Columbus Day weekend. You and me, Charlie and Mindy…like it was always supposed to be."
He wheezed and shuddered but managed a ghost of smile. "That….story…ended a long…time ago. I'm sorry Leona."
He closed his eyes and his hand went slack. Jim shouted "No…the paramedics are here…Charlie!"
Mac turned and buried her face into Will's chest but Leona didn't move, refusing to release his hand until Jim pulled her away.
Later, after the paramedics had taken Charlie's body away Leona stood in the corner of the lobby with her arms crossed. She watched as Maggie wiped the blood off of Jims hands and followed him into a taxi, simultaneously Will wrapped an arm around MacKenzie and guided her out into the night.
Leona thought back to the last time she talked with Charlie. They had gone out to dinner after they revealed Reese's hacking and suckered her support for the News Night mission. Charlie had regaled her with stories of the team coming together. He was endlessly entertained by how the team had debated who was Don Quixote and that Will and MacKenzie were under some self-imposed delusion that they were some tragic fairy tale.
As she stood alone in the dark lobby, blood drying on the knees of her $5,000 designer suit, Leona Melinda Roberts-Lansing knew better. She was the fool Don Quixote and she was the true cautionary tale about of what happens at the end of the story if you don't fix what you've lost.