In the Bleak Midwinter Ch. 11
Revelations and Resolutions.
Okay, THIS is the last one for a good few days I'm afraid, and it's posted a day early especially for KatyKat70, who has had a very long day :)
I've warped the timeline a little where Wade is concerned, but I'm sure no one cares.
Mackenzie had been surprised to say the least when Jim and Charlie had turned up at her apartment just before eleven the next evening and needled her into coming to the office New Year party. Reluctant didn't cover it for her; whilst Wade on the other hand, had managed to take in both Jim and Charlie's enthusiasm and double it. She hadn't really had a hope of getting out of it.
Had it not been for Wade making small talk in the cab ride over, it would have been incredibly awkward. Mackenzie was all but silent, and was staring vacantly down at where Wade had his hand clasped around hers to avoid the looks Jim was shooting at her through the mirror.
After handing in her resignation the day before, she felt strangely like she shouldn't belong at News Night anymore; and yet as her staffers all greeted her cheerfully – even relieved – she felt like she just fitted. Like they were all some giant jigsaw and without her there, there was a whole in the board. Mind you, you could send off to the jigsaw-makers and ask for replacement parts, couldn't you? An extreme measure, but sometimes that was what was needed.
To her relief, she couldn't see Will anywhere. Wade was chirping at her every few seconds about pitching his story on the District Attorneys being financially outmatched by millions, and he didn't seem to be taking no for answer.
After forty minutes of it, she decided she couldn't take it anymore, and excused herself saying she wanted a top up and that as the EP she needed to mingle. She did neither. She dodged everybody and headed out to the terrace which was mercifully deserted – very probably because it was well into the single figures Fahrenheit. But to her it was peaceful.
Inside she felt pressured, and like she was a traitor. All these happy, loyal people whom she adored were gathered around her, glad to have her back there; yet little did they know that she had already chosen to leave and hadn't told them. She felt like she was living a lie, almost.
It only took ten minutes for what felt like the beginnings of frost bite to settle in.
Back inside, she grabbed herself another glass of champagne and looked around for Wade, and then froze. Shit. Where was he?
She spotted Don chatting with Maggie and Sloan a few feet away and smacked a smile on her face as she dashed over to them.
"Don, have you seen Wade?"
"Yeah, he went into Will's office about five minutes ago."
Mac was sure that the sudden mix of horror and terror that she felt on her face was what was causing Don to look slightly alarmed, but she didn't really have time to care. Shouting a quick "thanks!" over her shoulder to Don, she sped off as calmly as she could (she didn't want to draw any more attention to herself) towards Will's office.
Not bothering to knock, she pushed open the door to find Will reclining in his desk chair, a cigarette in one hand and a focussed look on his face as he stared at Wade. As soon as she's in the room however, his gaze shifts immediately onto her, and as he looks her up and down Mac felt like she was on fire, or maybe just under a really, really bright spotlight.
"Hey honey, I was just telling Will about the story. You looked like you were busy; but if you'll both excuse me, I'm just going to nip out and get another glass of wine – it's nearly midnight!"
Smiling, he passed Mac on his way to the door, pressing a swift kiss on her cheek as he went; and as she heard the door swing shut again, Mac felt herself go crimson. That didn't stop her meeting Will's gaze, however. He looked very smart in a crisply pressed tux (she assumed he'd been somewhere else before coming here). He was staring back at her intensely, and she felt incredibly awkward. Should she tell him?
"You look amazing."
It came completely out of the blue – like a gust of wind physically knocking the sense out of her. She had no idea what to say.
Will could see that she looked shocked, and confused; maybe even a little hurt. She moved to leave, and he inwardly cursed himself for not starting with something easier…but he'd just said the first thing into his head. Just as she appeared to be leaving, though, she turned back to face him, and a small facet of hope came back to life inside him.
"Look I'm sorry, Will. I didn't mean to bring him here – Charlie practically dragged me." She turned to leave again, and he managed to force himself to speak before she did.
"I know, I asked him to." She froze at the door, before once more turning around to face him. This time the confusion etched on her face remained, but the shock and hurt was replaced by what he recognised as the beginning stages of a Mackenzie McHale rage.
"Will, what the hell –"
"You can't leave Mac." They're staring at each other again, as though each was daring the other to look away and give in. He gets up and moves around the desk to her, getting as close as he dares. "You are this show. And we can't do this without you. I can't do this without you."
So he knew.
"I – I don't even know what to say to that. This – this isn't working. You and me –"
"Mac, if I confused you at the weekend, I am truly sorry. Please know that and forgive me any distress that I caused you. A lot had been said and I didn't know how to deal with it.
"I was late the next day because after you left, I replied to my therapist's appointment for the first time in nearly four years, because I suddenly realised that I needed to sort myself out. I needed to sort us out, because…" He broke off what he was saying and nervously reached out to take one of her hands in his, looking pleadingly at her. "…because of you – of how I feel about you. I know I have issues, and I want to sort them out –"
He was prevented from going any further in his confession by the figure of Wade pushing against the glass door with his shoulder, champagne in one hand, blackberry in the other.
"Jeez there are a lot of journalists out there. This place is crawling with them."
"Well, we are a news corporation." Will said with a tight smile.
Mackenzie looked nervously between them, now unsure about what Will would do; how civilised he was going to end up being. She was still trying to process what he had just told her. Was he serious? He had looked damn serious. So what the hell had the last week been all about? Only at the weekend – four days ago! – he had told her that he didn't think he could forgive her. He'd really changed his mind in four days?
She had lost the thread of what the men were talking about. All she had made out just then were the words 'Nina Howard'.
"The gossip columnist?" Mackenzie asked, confused.
"Yeah, she's out in the office." Wade told her. "She nailed one of my bosses to the cross a couple of months back, so she recognised me. Bitch. Said she was checking out another story about one of our press secretaries, now. According to her – so there's exactly no proof whatsoever – the guy's been leaking stuff to the tabloids because he's looking for a transfer and more pay."
"What's she even doing here? Who on Earth would invite Nina Howard?"
"Oh she's a slippery one. She probably just snuck in and is trying to use you guys for coverage. You're 'media elite' thing is pretty much a massive target for a bitchy magazine. You should warn the staff, sweetie, in case they don't know that's she's Nina Howard, TMI's finest." Will's eyes narrowed at this last part.
"Well, actually it's interesting that you mention that, because I heard a similar story this week. It was about this guy who wants to run for congress, but with too many minors on his record from college and a pretty shabby list of cases as a litigator, he had nothing to make him noticeable to the people that mattered. A pretty rubbish resumé, you might say…if he wanted to run for office, anyway.
"So he meets this woman. She works in media and she's beautiful, intelligent, funny, social gold dust, and yet tragically vulnerable. Or, in this case, easily open to being taken advantage of; she's had her heart broken, but she's idealistic and optimistic to the point of crazy, and so he asks her out. Three months later he appears on her show for the first time. By the next month he practically has a weekly slot. Seems like he's 'using her for coverage', as you put it."
He finally managed to stop speaking; a quiet fury emanating from him, his eyes blazing into those of a wide-eyed, shocked looking Wade. Subconsciously, during his speech he had moved slightly in front of Mackenzie.
There was silence in the office, yet the noise of the party eerily pounded against the glass, although it never seemed to seep through into their little bubble.
The two men were knocked out of their staring contest by the small, fractured voice that came from behind Will's shoulder.
It made Will freeze up. The anger that had been boiling through him suddenly felt like ice cold water trickling through his veins. He thought his heart might have physically sunk an inch or two.
He slowly turned to see her face, also leaving room for Mac to have a clear view of Wade. His heart broke as he saw her ashen, pale face with those brilliant but now watery hazel eyes. He twitched as if to reach out to her, but she moved forwards before he could, looking questioningly at her boyfriend, arms crossed over her chest defensively.
"You're running for congress?" Wade just looked at her gormlessly, his blue eyes wide as saucepans. "Since when?"
Wade still hadn't said anything a moment later and Will decided to step in.
"He's been having meetings with the DCCC since Thanksgiving." He spoke gently, desperate not to upset her any more than she already was – although he admittedly wasn't feeling too optimistic about his chances.
She looked from Wade to him, and he got a slight shiver as his brain annoyingly decided that this was a good moment to once again notice how beautiful she looked.
She looked between them, apparently trying to get Will to take back what he had said. When he didn't, she turned more sharply back to Wade and Will could see the anger beginning to take over the hurt.
"Come on, say something! If you're not going to be man enough to deny it, you might at least try and redeem yourself by admitting it." He looked a little scared as she stepped into his personal space. "Wade!"
It wasn't quite a shout, as her voice cracked half way through; but it also sounded like a question. He finally spluttered out a response,
"Mackenzie, I –" But this was all he managed. Mackenzie was standing slightly in front of him, so Will could not see her face any longer.
Will could see that she had once hand covering her face, and the other grabbed the door handle and held it open for him. Wade twitched for a second before he opened his mouth to speak again, looked at both of them in turn, before jerkily starting out the door.
Mac let the door fall closed behind the departing attorney, swaying slightly at the change in balance as she let go. Will was feeling scared again: she wasn't moving, she wasn't making a sound, and he still couldn't see her face.
"Mac?" It was barely more than a whisper, and he at last reached out and gently squeezed her shoulder. "Mackenzie?"
She spun around so fast that it was almost dizzying. Her blazing, red eyes finally met his again, tears now running down her face. "How long have you known about this?"
He blanched. Shit. He'd been so caught up in exposing Wade's deception that he hadn't realised what the whole thing would look like. He'd spent all of the previous afternoon and half of today digging around in Wade's life; but he knew that there was no way that Mac was going to listen to him right now, so he did the only thing he could think of and pulled her to him. She tried to shrug him off but he stepped into her and wrapped his arms around her, gently pressing her head into his shoulder.
She finally started crying earnestly, her small body shaking against his. He tightened his arms around her, pressing his own face into her hair and rubbing soothing circles into her back.
As her sobs subsided and she finally stilled in his arms, and he felt her hands clasp onto his lapels as she turned her head into his neck, he decided it was safe to speak.
"Maggie came to me yesterday and said that she had heard of one of Wade's friends' talking about his plans to run, and about the publicity he was getting from News Night." He spoke softly into her ear, his hands still massaging her back. "She didn't want to tell you in case it wasn't true, so she asked me to do some digging. She cares a lot about you. We all do."
He felt like he had done something wrong. He was suddenly unsure of his footing here. His other hand moved into her hair, running through the soft strands spilling onto her shoulders. She sniffed and he pulled back slightly, hand still in her hair. Resting his forehead against hers, he tried to catch her eye, but she couldn't look at him. He didn't know what else to say. Instead, he pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead, tucking a hair behind her ear which he'd displaced moments before.
"I'm never going to make up for this." For a second he thought he must have misheard her. She still wasn't looking at him, instead staring at a button on his shirt. He was taken-aback to say the least.
"Mackenzie! Hey, listen to me! Wade is the one in the wrong here! What he's been doing is despicable and disgusting, and he would never deserve you even if he spent the next century trying to make it up to you."
She still wasn't looking up at him and he caught another tear from falling off her face, before tilting his chin up with his index finger. She looked so young and vulnerable and hurt that he felt as though he never wanted to let her go again.
"Yeah, but I'm basically getting my comeuppance, right?" She smiled sadly before her lip started to wobble again.
"No." He shook his head firmly, framing her face with his hands and staring into her eyes so hard just to make sure that she didn't miss what he was saying. "You – you are –"
He couldn't find the words. Nothing seemed to fit or be good enough…his brain just wasn't working. She was now finally looking at him, almost desperately at the hint of absolution. He needed to pull it together for her.
"You are far too rare for anyone with half a brain to want to let you go. Wade Campbell might be thick enough to walk away, and maybe I was missing half a brain when I let you walk out the door four years ago, but you mean the world to me; and when I said that I was trying to sort myself out, I meant it." As if on cue, the chimes of the bells from the TV screens in the bullpen began to count down to 2011. "I want you. I want us; and I would love it if we could start the New Year on blank page – because I think we both deserve this. Don't you?"
She blinked disbelievingly at him, before pressing herself back into him, her arms wrapping so tightly around him that he was in danger of losing blood circulation. Her face curled into his neck and he laughed slightly, taking this as a good sign. He pressed a soft kiss to the crown of her head.
It reached the tenth chime, and Will once more pushed her gently back from him. It chimed twelve and they could hear the fireworks go off, signaling a new beginning.
"A Happy New Year?" A timid smile curled at her lips, mirroring his own.
"That'd be nice." She replied softly.
"Sounds like a good New Years' resolution to me." She finally let out a nervous laugh and her eyes sparkled in a way he'd missed since they'd been apart. "Happy New Year, Mackenzie."
He searched her eyes for a second and found no resistance. His heart jumped into his throat and his forehead once more rested on hers as his head dipped and his lips found hers.
The arms wrapped around his waist moved up his chest to wrap around his neck as Will pulled her flush against him, determined to never let her slip away again.
Because Will SHOULD have kissed Mac at midnight! What a wasted opportunity, Aaron.
And it's not over… One chapter to go.