Author's Notes: Once again, a story that jumps around in time a bit. Generally speaking, this takes place a few years down the road from the season one finale, but our characters will be referring back to some things that have happened in the intervening years. Major thanks again go out to LilacMermaid for her beta services…this one required a lot of effort and a huge re-write. Still don't own The Newsroom.
"Mackenzie, please tell me you don't have car keys in your hand."
"Ok, Sloan…I don't have car keys in my hand. Now get in the damn car."
"You never drive Kenz…and now you are going to be responsible for getting us to the Hamptons? And why are we driving out there alone? Is Will really still angry with me?"
"Will is stuck in a meeting with Charlie and Reese. He'll drive out later. Jim and Maggie are picking up Neal, and I believe everyone else is coming by train. And Will was never angry with you. Disappointed maybe, but never angry."
She wasn't trying to hurt her friend, but it was true. Will had been so sorry to see it all end that way. So disappointed that Sloan and Don couldn't put the news above all their personal crap and just move on.
"Kick a girl while she's down Mackenzie. I wasn't the only one who caused the disaster of a love triangle we had going on in that newsroom. Wait, was it a love triangle? There were four of us, so what would that be? A love square…a love quadratic equation…?"
"Sloan! Enough with the mathematical explanation of love. Could you please tell me which exit I want next?" Mackenzie asked her friend who was holding the directions the rental place had sent them.
"You want the Long Island Expressway, then exit 35. Turn signals, Mackenzie! Use your god damn turn signals." Sloan shouted as Mackenzie cut through two lanes of traffic to get to the exit ramp.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence Sloan. I was going to turn on the turn signal. You're as bad as Will sometimes. Just because I live and work in Manhattan and get driven to the office by a car service every morning does not mean I cannot drive! You two could be more supportive you know?"
"Kenzie, the man bought you a damn Range Rover for your birthday. How much more supportive do you want him to be?"
"He bought me a Range Rover and driving lessons, Sloan. I have been driving since I was sixteen years old. I do not need driving lessons!"
"Yeah you do Kenz, trust me. I sometimes question the man's sanity. I mean, I'm glad he's concerned for your well-being…you'll probably survive anything in this tank of a car…but what about the poor people on the streets of New York?"
"You don't think that's really why he bought me the car do you?" Mackenzie asked her friend. She had thought a car that cost more than the average American's yearly salary was a bit ridiculous for a birthday present, but she knew how much Will enjoyed spoiling her. Now she was starting to wonder if this gift had been more like he was trying to wrap her in cotton wool than spoil her. She was going to need to talk to her husband about that when she saw him.
Yes, husband. Five years ago, this possibility would have never crossed her mind. Of course, when she took Charlie's job offer a little part of her had certainly hoped for the best. Hoped she and Will could just pick up where they left off…well minus that whole affair and break up thing. But, deep down she feared the best she could pray for was a reasonably tolerable working relationship.
And for a while, that was all she got. But they really didn't do very well without each other. Will hated watching her with Wade, and she was practically chomping at the bit to chase off the veritable chorus line of showgirls he had insisted on parading through the newsroom.
By early 2012 they were back together and really, what else could anyone have expected but a quickie wedding soon to follow. They weren't exactly teenagers anymore. They had known each other for nearly a decade by that point. Had managed to build an entirely new relationship out of the total disaster that they had left behind in 2006. Once you knew there was absolutely no one else in the world for you (and no one who could put up with you) the rest was pretty much a done deal.
They had gone to London for Easter with her family and by the time they returned to work in early April she was Mackenzie McHale-McAvoy. Yeah, try saying that three times fast. Signing her name now was a real bitch.
But while she and Will had been happily ensconced in their newlywed bliss, they failed to notice the train wreck that was happening right around them. Several months after their impromptu wedding, Don and Maggie broke up for the ninth or tenth time. Who was keeping track anymore? Unfortunately, Don decided to drown his sorrows with Sloan. Many rounds of tequila later they had fallen into bed together and that had been the last straw for Maggie and Don's relationship.
The constant screaming and blame games that went on in the office tried even Charlie's patience. He made it known that they were all going to behave like adults or someone was going to be out of a job. Sloan decided to make it easier on everyone and took a job offer at Goldman Sachs.
Mackenzie hadn't been lying when she said Will had been disappointed. "I just never thought she'd take the easy way out and go back to Wall Street. It all could have been worked out. She didn't even try, Mackenzie. That's what kills me…she gave in and left." Mackenzie tried not to read too much into that statement. He once could have been speaking of her as well.
Of course, Mac would never tell her friend what Will had said. She didn't really need to, the look on his face when Sloan left spoke volumes.
Sloan broke her from her memories. "Is Don going to be there?"
"We invited him, but I don't know Sloan. It's a big house…you two can avoid each other if you like." Mackenzie tried to reassure her.
"I'm not trying to avoid him, per se. This is supposed to be a party not a funeral. I don't want to bring the mood down. I left ACN to steer clear of exactly these types of situations, Kenz. Oh God, why did I agree to come to this thing?"
"Because you love me, and you missed my birthday, my wedding and my first two anniversaries. And you promised me you'd be here tonight. Stop avoiding everyone Sloan. You haven't seen some of these people in over a year. Hell, you and I go out to lunch almost every week but you won't come to my home because you feel like you disappointed Will. And you won't come to the office for fear of seeing Don. We all used to be like family Sloan. Do us a favor and start acting like it again."
"Hey Miss high and mighty…I missed your wedding because you and Will eloped to the clerk's office in London. I was really looking forward to Vera Wang shopping with you and you just kicked that dream to the curb for me" Sloan replied sadly.
"Oh good Lord…here we go with the wedding guilt trip again. I was nearly forty…I just couldn't picture myself in some giant white frilly concoction no matter how much you and my mother wanted it. And can I help it if I want my friends happy and gathered around me?"
"Give it a rest, Kenz. That ship sailed long ago. We don't all get happy endings." Sloan looked at her friend pointedly when she said this.
"Why not? If Will and I can work all our shit out, why can't you and Don? What's so wrong with me wanting my friends to be happy too?" Mackenzie asked sadly.
"Because we aren't all like you and Will. Believe me Kenz, we all saw that one coming a mile away. Ok, you guys shocked us with the shotgun wedding, but we all knew you two were going to end up together. Or at the very least, not with anyone else. You two can't not be together. You don't know how."
It was true, Mac thought. They really didn't know how to be apart. Quite frankly, they sucked at it. Even now, after leaving him in the City just a few hours ago, she was missing him. And honestly, she was tired of trying to hold everyone together. Trying to make sure World War III didn't break out in the control room. Trying to patch together the newsroom after Sloan left. Trying to make sure that it was Jim's shoulder Maggie leaned on after the breakup. She really needed a few days alone with her husband…a few days where, for once, she wasn't responsible for anything or anyone. Though she hated to admit it, Will could make her feel like he would take care of everything. For a woman who spent her days ordering forty or more people around and coordinating a national news broadcast watched by millions, sometimes she really just wanted to know she didn't have one single god-damn decision to make.
The rest of the trip passed quietly. Mac could tell Sloan was not in the mood for idle chit-chat. They arrived at the house just as Jim, Maggie, Neal and Kaylee were beginning to unload bags full of food and drinks. If anyone was surprised to see Sloan, they wisely said nothing.
"Hey, we did arrange a caterer you know? I think they'll be here in an hour." Mackenzie told them all as she and Sloan pulled up behind them in the driveway of the beach house she and Will had rented for the NewsNight 2.0 fifth anniversary celebration. Well actually, it was more for the two of them…once all the staffers left. They had told everyone they could join them for a celebration tonight and not worry about heading back to the city until later the next day. They just hadn't mentioned that she and Will would be spending the rest of the week there. They hadn't been able to do anything for their third wedding anniversary last month, so this was an attempt to make up for that.
Everyone began bringing things into the house. Maggie and Sloan giving each other a wide berth. As taxis began to pull up with co-workers who had taken the train out of the city, Mackenzie lost track of Sloan and began mingling with her guests.
They didn't do this every year. Sure, they always tried to mark the occasion…remember that they had all successfully managed to pull off this show for yet another season. But big celebrations like this weren't the norm. Other than that first year in Will's apartment, most of the NewsNight anniversary celebrations had been simple get-togethers at Hang Chews or maybe a quiet dinner out. Well, as quiet as dinner for forty plus journalists and their friends and family can be. This year she had wanted to do something different…something big.
"Five years deserves a party!" she had told Will.
"Yeah, well three years of marriage deserves a long holiday that involves us, champagne and room service. And not leaving the bedroom for two days. That celebration is my priority Mackenzie…not filling our apartment with the entire staff of ACN" Will had replied.
"OK, how about if I manage to combine the two?" she had asked.
"I don't want the entire staff of ACN in a hotel room with us while we celebrate our anniversary" Will told her sarcastically.
"I don't mean that literally Will. We celebrate with everyone on Saturday night and use the rest of the week for the two of us. Jane can host the show for one week. And Don can be her EP. They get along. We need some time off anyway. We never take time off" she pleaded.
"Mackenzie McHale wants to let someone else produce her show? Is that the fifth horseman of the apolcalypse?"
"Mackenzie McHale-McAvoy…and yes, I want to let someone else produce. For just a few days. I'm tired Will. Really tired. I need this, and so do you. So are you in?"
And so here they were. Southhampton in May really was lovely. Still a bit chilly, Mackenzie thought to herself as she stood on the deck on the back of the house. She had left the partiers to it about twenty minutes ago. Tired of her ears ringing at the sounds coming from the stereo, and tired of trying to feign interest in every conversation she was pulled into.
She hadn't seen any sign of Sloan in a while. And where was her husband? He still wasn't terribly social, but he loved these people. He really did have a heart the size of a Range Rover…he would do anything for all of them. Except, apparently, show up at this party.
She was just getting ready to ring his cell phone when she felt a set of arms wrap around her from behind.
"Hello wife" he whispered in her ear. Mackenzie shivered, not from the cold, but from the feeling of pure joy that filled her whenever he would pull her close and call her his wife. Three years of marriage and she still sometimes wondered how this had happened. How in the hell did they get here after all that had transpired between them? Stop questioning and count your damn lucky stars, the voice inside her head told her. She listened to the voice and leaned back into Will's embrace.
"Hello husband. Where have you been? I was just getting ready to call."
"Charlie was all wound up about Reese's latest budget cuts. And the new girl isn't working out. He wants to start looking around for someone else. "
Will almost never referred to Sloan's replacement by name. He tended to call her the new girl or hey you. She had been there for over a year and still the poor woman didn't have a name in Will's mind. Mackenzie swore she had to whisper it into his earpiece whenever she was on NewsNight. Sometimes, when she got tired of reminding him of the damn financial analyst's name, she would whisper something suggestive in his ear and watch him squirm for the rest of the broadcast. It really was quite entertaining.
"Will, I don't think we need to look for someone else. I already have someone in mind."
"Who?" Will asked…and then he caught sight of Sloan inside the house.
"This is why you wanted this party Mac? I thought you were tired and needed a break from work, but apparently you're trying to play Cupid as well as renegotiate Sloan's contract while we're out here? " He began to pull away from her but she held his arms firmly in place.
"Hey, I'm trying to get a great financial analyst to come back to ACN and to throw a little workplace get together at the same time. And after that I intend to celebrate my anniversary with my husband. I'm an amazing multi-tasker Will."
"Multi-tasker my ass…you're an EP who likes to think she can produce everyone's life. Give it a rest Mackenzie. Jim and Maggie are together. Just let all the rest work itself out and take a night off ok?"
"Alright already, I get the point. No more talk about the office…you know, except for the fact that most of the people from the office are here with us."
"Very funny Mac. Speaking of which, if they're all in there, why are you out here?"
"I missed you. And I got tired of hearing music I couldn't identify if my life depended on it. Please tell me we have some James Taylor or Carole King somewhere around here?" she asked him.
"I'm sure I have some CD's in my car. The kids starting to make you feel old, dear?"
"You have no idea. But hey, my husband will always be nearly fifteen years older than me so I take comfort in that" she joked with him.
"I'm young at heart Mackenzie. I like to think that's part of the reason you married me….that and my charming personality, looks and affability. And that giant rock of an engagement ring I put on your finger. Hey, what was it that did the trick? Just curious…" he trailed off as she interrupted.
"Shush…you can troll for compliments later…I think that's Sloan and Don over by the beach. I wasn't sure they would even talk to each other. What do you think is happening?"
"I think whatever is happening is none of our business Mackenzie" Will told her firmly.
"Wanting to see my best friend happy is none of my business?"
"I thought I was your best friend…and no, it's none of your business" he replied.
"You are my best friend…Sloan is my best girlfriend. Come on Will, she was pulling for us. She wanted us to be happy…I just want the same for her. And I want our team back together. Is that really so bad?"
"No Kenz. It isn't so bad…but there's really nothing we can do about it. They'll either work it out or they won't. I don't think they've even been in the same room in over a year. Your little soiree here at least got them talking. Leave it at that. Now let's go get a drink and be good hosts. But tomorrow, they're all out of here by noon. I'm not sharing my beach house or my wife with them any longer than that. We have an anniversary to celebrate."
"I'll be inside in just a second. Go grab something to drink before there's nothing left. I'll meet you in there."
"Five minutes, Mackenzie. If I don't see you in five minutes I come out here and drag you back inside."
It only took three. Soon enough she saw Sloan and Don walking down the beach hand in hand.
"My work here is done. And they say romance is dead. Not in my rental house it isn't." Mackenzie turned around and headed into the house to find her husband. They had a couple of anniversaries to celebrate.