Author's Notes: I think just one more chapter to go after this one folks. Thanks for hanging in with me. Thanks to LilacMermaid for beta-ing and thanks to teanc09 for some new ideas that are now swimming around in my head. Don't own The Newsroom. Enjoy the fic!
Five minutes into the broadcast and Mackenzie had already noticed two mistakes. She was sitting on the sofa tapping her foot impatiently and holding her Blackberry in a death grip. Will had been exhausted and on edge when he left for work earlier that day. She'd tried to get him to go in a little later, to sleep a little longer, but he wouldn't listen. The stress of the last few days was really beginning to show. He'd spent so much time worrying about her every need and trying to convince her to take some more time off to recuperate that he hadn't been taking care of himself. On the screen, she saw Will glancing down at his notes again. She couldn't watch this much longer. She looked longingly down at her phone.
Sloan had hung up on her when she wouldn't discuss her relationship with Will and whoever was currently holding his cell phone knew better than to answer. She was tempted to call Jim or the control room phone, but more than likely Will had told them not to take her calls.
Good Lord, was he slurring his speech now? That was it. She threw one of his coats on over her leggings and sweatshirt and headed downstairs to hail a cab. He was going to kill her, but she had to do something.
Ten minutes and fifty dollars later (it took a bit more than your average taxi fare to get the driver to run a couple of red lights) Mackenzie pushed her way into the control room.
"Give me the headset Jim…what the hell are you letting him get away with?" she questioned.
"Mac, what are you doing here?" Jim asked.
"Saving your ass. I'm surprised Charlie isn't down here already asking what the hell is wrong with Will. So I'm here several hours early. I doubt it will kill me. Now go to commercial so I can talk to him for a second."
She took a few deep breaths. God, it really was lovely to be able to do that again. She pulled her hair back into a rubber band as she waited for the commercial break to begin, and then she quietly began speaking into his earpiece.
"Will, I know you're tired but you need to pull it together here. You're slurring your speech and looking down at your notes too much. Tess is bringing you some coffee. Take a few sips and then take a few deep breaths and we're going to finish this show ok? You can do this."
"Mackenzie, what the hell! One more day Mac. What don't you understand about one more day?!" he roared into his microphone.
"Ok, nice to see you awake and alert. I have to be back here in twelve hours Will…what's the big difference? I doubt I'm any less healthy right now than I will be at 10am tomorrow. Now can we stop arguing about my immune system and finish the god damn show?!"
She watched as he took a few deep breaths and practically glared into the camera that she was viewing him on. He grabbed the coffee cup that Tess set in front of him and took a few gulps.
"Good. Now, your next lead in is the Republican debate in Florida. Straighten your tie and look into camera two please."
"This isn't over Mackenzie."
"I'm sure it's not. Camera two please Will" she responded.
The rest of the show went off smoothly. Though anyone who knew him well could tell Will was ready to bolt from his seat the moment the cameras were off.
"Well, if it isn't Mackenzie McHale! Wait, it still is McHale right? Cause for all I know you two went off and got married in the past week!" Sloan practically seethed as she entered the control room.
"I seem to remember trying like hell to get you two to fix this relationship but you said it was a lost cause. How many hours did I listen to the saga of Will and Mackenzie? And then you go and patch things up and don't tell me. I haven't felt this frustrated and unsatisfied since I watched six seasons of Lost only to find out they were dead all along!" Sloan whispered sharply to Mackenzie, seeming to realize how loud her voice was in the suddenly quiet room.
"Sloan, I'd be happy to have this argument with you another time but most of you are not going to want to be in this room in a minute so please take my advice and…" she was cut off by his yelling before she could finish.
"Mackenzie Elizabeth McHale! What is it about one week sick leave that you don't understand? Surely you, a multiple Peabody award-winning journalist, can follow a concept as simple as that, so explain to me why you are here right now!" he bellowed as he entered the room.
"Great show tonight everyone. And thank you all for picking up a few extra job duties while I have been under the weather. I've really appreciated it and so has Will. Haven't you Will?" she pushed him
"Yes, you've all been great. Now get the hell out." Will replied.
Everyone, even Sloan, took one look at his face and quickly headed for the exit. At the moment, Mackenzie was tempted to follow them. She was never afraid of Will, but she knew that tone of voice. It left no room for argument.
"Will, you were barely five minutes into the show and it was going off the rails. I was just trying to help and I have been off work for a week. I have to be here in a matter of hours. I didn't see how it could hurt" she finished this last part quietly. He was giving her that look, the one that said stop before you dig yourself in any further.
"Get your coat Mackenzie. We're going home."
His voice was quiet and low and dangerous. If you asked any of their young staff members they would probably say that Will's loud, angry outbursts were what they feared. But she knew that was all just for show. He only shouted when he felt he had the better argument. He shouted because he enjoyed intelligent debate. No, this low, even tone was what she dreaded. She grabbed the trench coat she had worn here and followed him out the door. The newsroom was quiet as they made their way toward the elevator, Lonny following them.
The car ride home was oppressively silent. She was tempted to make a joke just to break the tension, but one look at his face told her that would be a really bad idea.
She followed him into the building and through the apartment and watched as he made his way over to the bar and poured himself a scotch.
"Have you taken your medication Mackenzie?" he asked evenly.
"Yes" she responded quietly. "Will…" she began, but he cut her off.
"Are you in?" he asked sharply.
"Are you in?" he repeated. "I'm not going to do this Mackenzie if you're just going to jump right back into work and let this happen all over again. I can't watch that Mac. I can't let this happen between you and me again and watch you work yourself into an early grave."
Oh, she understood now. He wasn't angry…he was scared.
"You're all in this time Mackenzie. I don't give a shit if we ever get married or have kids or buy a house in the suburbs, but if we're doing this Mac, it's for better or worse, in sickness and in health and everything else. And that means you give a shit about your own well-being."
He dropped onto the sofa as he finished saying this and took a long swig from his glass.
She carefully made her way over to him and pulled the drink from his hand and sat in his lap.
"I'm sorry. I'm not used to thinking about someone else's feelings. That doesn't mean I don't want this Will. Give me some time to adjust, ok? I'm learning how to take better care of myself and of us" she said running her fingers along his jaw and pulling him to her for a kiss.
He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him.
"I can't lose you Mac. Not this time" he whispered into her ear.
"I know and you won't Will. I promise." He dropped his head onto her shoulder and shuddered deeply.
"Come on, you're exhausted. Let's get you to bed, ok?" she said, pulling him up to follow her.
She helped him pull his clothes and shoes off and watched as he moved slowly to settle under the covers in bed.
She started to leave the room, but she heard his breath quicken.
"I'm just going to change out of my clothes, I'll be right back" she assured him. His eyes followed her until she finally returned from the bathroom in her nightgown and sank into bed.
He looked exhausted and yet so tense he wasn't likely to fall asleep any time soon.
"Come here" she beckoned and settled herself against her pillows and opened her arms to him. He paused for just a moment before curling up against her side and resting his head on her chest. He wrapped his arm around her waist and held on for dear life.
"I'm not going anywhere Will. I promise you. You're stuck with me ok?" she assured him as she began running her fingers through his hair. Ever so slowly she began to feel the tension leave his body. He took a long, deep breath and she felt him exhale against her.
"I love you Mackenzie" he whispered.
"I know you do. You show me every day, even when I don't deserve it. Now let me take care of you for a while, ok Billy?"
"You deserve it every day Mackenzie, every day."
She wanted to weep with the relief of hearing those words. He really never had stopped loving her and how does she repay him? She scares him half to death. She had to remember she held in her hands the heart of a man who could so easily be broken. He had been through too much hurt and pain and betrayal in his life already. If she wasn't going to break him again, this time it was about making sure she was there for him for the rest of their lives.
He was no longer afraid of her betrayal. He was afraid of how easily she could be taken from him. By a religious protest that got out of hand or by some microscopic virus.
"Sleep Will. You're exhausted."
She felt him relax and settle his ear just over her heart. "I love you too Will, so much."