Author's Notes: Many, many thanks go out to teanc09 who sent me a list of prompts hoping to spark an idea or two. This story grew out of one of those prompts. In my mind, this story takes place a few months after the season one finale. Still don't own The Newsroom, darn it!
Mackenzie was sure it had been written all over her face that first morning back at work. She and Will had spent the better part of a weekend arguing, then discussing, and then finally settling all their old issues. They had fallen into bed at around 3am and spent hours making up for lost time. When they just barely managed to make it to the office by 11am, they were sure the jig was up.
They could barely look each other in the eye all day, and yet they couldn't stand to be apart for more than ten minutes. It was ridiculous really. They were like a couple of teenagers who had just lost their virginity. She fully expected someone, most likely Sloan, to start shrieking and pull her into the ladies room demanding answers.
And yet, days and then weeks went by and no one said a word. At first, she was relieved. She and Will could continue in their blissful little bubble, totally untouched by the world outside. But then she started to become angry. Why the hell weren't these people noticing anything? She thought she had trained them better than that. They were journalists for God's sake!
That was, perhaps, why she and Will began to become sloppy. Dinners out, walks in the park, he even came to the airport with her to pick up her parents. Obligatory dark hat and glasses in place, but still. They were out there for any and all to see, and their co-workers were still none the wiser.
Until that rainy Monday morning, three months into their new relationship, when she heard the commotion.
She could hear him yelling from the conference room. When she pushed open his door a stapler flew by her head and hit his bathroom door.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
He shook his head. He didn't want to talk. She had learned to wait patiently for his anger to pass. It always did…he just needed a few moments to vent and then his calm, even nature would return.
She sat in one of his chairs and watched him pace around the room until finally he stopped in front of her and knelt down.
"Tell me" she whispered.
"There's a picture of us that will be in the paper tomorrow."
He nodded. "We're about to be outed. You ready?"
"What's the picture and what does it say?" she asked, almost afraid to know.
"I don't know what the picture is I just know it's us. And I don't think either of us will like what the article says."
"There's some comment about you taking back the cheating ex-girlfriend, right?" she asked, staring down at her hands numbly.
"Yeah, there is Mac. Believe me I'd stop it if I could. I tried."
"It's not your fault Billy. It's mine…all of it. The cheating and the fact that I sent a mass email out announcing it. I shouldn't expect any less."
"Hey, look at me Mackenzie" he said, tilting her head up with his hand. "We settled all this already. That article can say whatever the hell it wants, but you and I know the truth and we're the only ones that matter. This will all blow over in a few days and we go back to our life, only now everyone knows about us."
"Are you saying they did us a favor? No need to have that awkward discussion with the staff?" she asked teasingly.
"Well, that's one way to look at it. Come on, let's finish the rundown. They probably think we're killing each other in here" he told her, grabbing her hands and pulling her up out of the chair.
They tried to enjoy their last day of relationship anonymity, but all either could think about was the fact that tomorrow morning, their life together changed. They would be out there for public consumption.
She woke up in his arms and looked around the room for the remote control. She quietly switched on the television and turned the volume as low as possible. She turned on ACN Morning and waited, perched on the end of the bed.
"Tony won't mention it Mac. He's still afraid of Charlie" Will's voice grumbled from behind her.
"Good lord Will, you just about gave me a heart attack. I thought you were still asleep."
"Come here" he opened his arms to her. She crawled back up the bed and lay down next to him and begrudgingly let him pry the remote from her hand and turn off the television.
"I just wanted to be prepared" she whispered into his neck.
"What is there to be prepared for Mackenzie? We already know the gist of the article and we know it doesn't change anything between us. The rest is just details."
"Says the man who tried to pay Nina Howard $50,000 to stop a story."
"Yes I did, and we know how well that worked out. I'm too old to worry about what some trashy newspaper wants to say about me. I wish I could protect you from it too, but I can't Mac. So either we agonize over something we can't control or we move on with our lives."
"You're right, I'm sorry" she replied and burrowed into his embrace. "Maybe we could just stay home today…let it blow over."
"And then it becomes an even bigger story when I'm not on the air tonight, Mac. Come on, where's my Don Quixote? Keep tilting at those windmills, my dear. We just have to get through the next day or two of sarcastic comments and innuendo and then life goes back to normal."
From your lips to God's ears she thought. Oh Will, what have we gotten ourselves into?
Entering the AWM building through a crowd of paparazzi was the first hurdle. She did not like being the story. Hell, she didn't even like reporting the story. Mackenzie liked it behind the scenes, where she could control everything that went on. She didn't let go of that control easily.
"Breathe Mackenzie" he urged her when they made it to the elevator.
"I was breathing until I got attacked by a rabid pack of photographers."
"Yeah, well just wait for the rabid pack of co-workers" he told her taking her hand and leading her into the newsroom.
You could have heard a pin drop in there when they entered.
"Ok, you've all heard some things this morning that may have come as a surprise. We're just going to get this out in the open and move on with our jobs. Yes, Mackenzie and I are back together and have been for about three months. No, you are not getting any more than that. Our private life is just that, private. If any reporters call here for comment, you have nothing to say. Questions?" he asked the room full of unusually quiet journalists.
Sloan began to raise her hand but thought better of it when she caught the look on Will's face. She did turn to Mackenzie with a glare that let the EP know they would be talking later.
They walked into Will's office and closed the door only to find Charlie Skinner sitting at the desk.
"I'm a patient man Will. I once waited four years for an anchor man to get his head out of his ass and an EP to stop running to the other side of the world whenever the shit hit the fan. I also waited three months while two incredibly smart people tried to keep their glaringly obvious relationship a secret." Charlie leaned forward and propped his elbows on Will's desk staring pointedly at the couple.
"Now, had they come to me, I would have told them it was a lost cause and they should have let me have our public relations department handle it. But no, they decided to handle this on their own. You know, I was in a bar near the Mekong River …"
"Just now?" Will asked.
"No, in 1971. I was in this bar and I was reading a letter from my wife. She was telling me about my son's first day of school and that the plumber overcharged us for repairing the kitchen sink and I started thinking about all the things I was missing at home. That didn't change the fact that I spent another two years covering Southeast Asia. I was an idiot for letting my job ruin my marriage. That was a story about how this job can ruin everything. Don't let it."
And with that Charlie left the room.
"I told you he knew" Will said as he moved to sit in the chair Charlie had just vacated.
"Hey, I wanted to invite him over for dinner three weeks ago, but I believe that was the weekend we ordered in and never left the bedroom. Now, I have to go to my office and wait for the inevitable appearance of Sloan Sabbith" she told him, heading for the door.
"Have fun" he replied.
Sure enough, there was an economist sitting in her office when she arrived.
"Hello Sloan, what, pray tell, do you need?"
"What do I need, Mackenzie? What do I need? I need to know why the hell I found out about you and Will through Page Six?" the younger woman shouted.
"I didn't know you read the New York Post?" Mackenzie replied calmly.
"I don't, but when my email account started sending me news alerts at 6am this morning I found out that my friend is in all the gossip pages today."
"Imagine how overjoyed I am about that Sloan" Mackenzie replied sarcastically.
"I'm sure you're not, but the great sex should be making up for it right?"
Mackenzie was trying to keep a straight face, but failing miserably. "Right" she replied.
"I knew it! You guys probably have sex like you argue."
"Loudly?" Mackenzie inquired.
"Oh come on Mac, you two have been using verbal sparring as a replacement for sex for the last two years. I knew eventually one of you would crack. So, who was it?"
"Sloan, I wasn't lying when I said I didn't have many friends and I would like to consider you one. But I am not sharing intimate details of my life with Will. The man is still your boss and you will still have to look him in the eye and not burst out laughing or make an unsolicited comment. Really, I'm helping you here. You do not want to have the particulars of our sex life rattling around in your head when you're trying to discuss the debt ceiling with him on the air."
"Fine, be that way Mackenzie. I have no sex life to speak of and you deny me the joy of living vicariously through you" Sloan sulked.
"You have no sex life because you and Jim are sitting on the sidelines watching the ridiculous fiasco that is Don and Maggie. Either make your move or move on."
"Damn Kenz, when did you become Dear Abby? You suck at it by the way."
"Sorry, the paparazzi throng outside threw me a little. I'll work on my delivery. Listen, we'll have drinks over the weekend. No smirks or comments when you talk to Will, ok?" Mackenzie pleaded.
The rest of the day fell into place quickly enough. A few sly looks and quiet giggles would erupt every now and again but were swiftly crushed by a stern look from either Will or Mackenzie. They had almost forgotten the whole Page Six debacle until they had to exit the building once more. Lonny was waiting outside Will's office with a grim look on his face.
"We're going out through the back of the building Ms. McHale" the bodyguard told her.
"They're still out there?" she asked.
She entered Will's office and found him pulling on his coat and gathering newspapers.
"Hey, you ready?" he asked her.
"Yeah, I guess our routine changes for a few days, huh?"
"I guess so Mac. It's nothing. We're not Brad and Angelina, they'll forget about us by the end of the week" he assured her.
The end of the week was a bit optimistic on his part. Just when they thought things were dying down, another picture would appear. It got to the point that they were afraid to leave the apartment. She called Sloan and told her drinks were out of the question unless they were having their little get together away from the prying eyes of a public venue.
Sloan arrived at seven on the nose on Saturday night and looked around the apartment while Mackenzie gathered a bottle of wine and some glasses.
"If I lived here with the man I loved I don't think I'd ever leave" Sloan whispered a little awestruck as she looked out the balcony doors.
"Believe me, it's been tempting the last few days. Will is used to being the center of attention. I'm not" Mackenzie replied.
"Is this where you guys lived, you know…before?" Sloan asked carefully.
"Yes, it is."
"That's not awkward at all?"
"Not any more awkward than working through all that shit and getting back together."
"Is Will here?"
"No, he's at Charlie's. We're not joined at the hip Sloan. We do function as separate human beings."
"No you don't. You suck at functioning as separate human beings. When you do that you go off to Pakistan and get stabbed and Will overdoses on anti-depressants. How exactly is that functioning well as separate human beings Mackenzie?"
"Ok, we function better when we're together as a couple. That doesn't mean he can't go play poker with Charlie and I can't have a drink with you. Besides, Will didn't want to be interrogated by you Sloan. It's his night off."
"Ok, then let's get drunk."
"Sulking about Don again?"
"Why does it have to be that way Kenz? Can't I just want to let my hair down with my girlfriend?" Sloan asked.
"It doesn't have to be that way, but it is. The only time you want to get really hammered is when the Dow plunges more than 2% or when it involves Don. The market closed up yesterday, so I'm guessing it's Don."
"He's going to ask Maggie to marry him" Sloan said sadly, causing Mackenzie to choke on her wine.
"What?! When did that happen?"
"While you and Will were happily co-habitating there were other things happening in the world Mackenzie."
"Yeah, but I didn't know one of those things was Don proposing to Maggie!"
"He hasn't actually done it yet, I just heard it's in the works, you know?"
"And since when is office gossip the gospel truth?" Mackenzie enquired softly, setting a very full glass of wine down in front of Sloan.
"It isn't, I guess. I mean you and Will sure pulled the wool over our eyes. Maybe I'm wrong."
"Well then, let's drink to that. To Sloan Sabbith being wrong" Mackenzie intoned rather seriously and lifted her glass toward Sloan. They clinked glasses and sat back in their chairs looking out over the New York skyline. They sat together quietly for some time until Sloan broke the silence.
"Seriously though, I think I'd sleep with Will just to live in this place. If, you know, he didn't sort of remind me of my father."
"Sloan! Good lord, remind me not to let you get drunk in our home anymore. And if Will reminds you of your father then what does that make me?"
"No comment Kenz. No comment."
A few hours later Mackenzie made her way unsteadily down the hall to look for a blanket to settle over Sloan, who was crumpled into a rather unceremonious heap on the sofa. Just as she tottered back toward the living room, blanket in hand, Will arrived home.
"How much wine did you have Mackenzie, you can't even walk in a straight line?" he asked his currently coordination challenged girlfriend.
"Don't you worry about that. It's not like I had to drive home. Neither does Sloan apparently. I couldn't get her off the sofa, so I gave up about ten minutes ago" Mackenzie replied settling the blanket over her friend.
"Come on Mackenzie, off to bed before you fall over something" Will told her, grabbing her arm to steady her.
"I missed you…did you miss me Will?"
"Yes Mac, I missed you. God, I forgot what you're like when you're drunk."
"Hey, I resent that! I can be a lot of fun when I'm drunk Will. Wanna have some fun with me?" she whispered, rather loudly though.
"I want you to make it to the bedroom without hurting yourself Mackenzie. I am not leaving you alone with Sloan again."
"I am not leaving you alone with Sloan. Did you know she would sleep with you in order to live here?" Mackenzie slurred indignantly.
"Do I get any say in the matter? I'm quite happy with the roommate I have" Will teased her.
She woke the next morning with a dry mouth and a pounding headache, wondering where Will was and why she was still wearing pantyhose. She trudged out to the kitchen to find him leaning against the kitchen counter drinking coffee and reading The New York Times.
"What time is it and why am I still wearing pantyhose?" she whispered.
"It's 10am and those things are nearly impossible to get off a drunk woman, believe me I tried."
"Sshh…don't yell…I can hear you."
"I'm not yelling Mackenzie. You're hungover."
"Yeah, well I'm hungover too and you guys are keeping me awake so could you keep it down out there" Sloan groaned from the sofa.
"Hey, it's my apartment and all I'm doing is quietly standing here drinking my coffee and reading the paper. You two party animals drank three bottles of Opus One Cabernet last night. I'm surprised you're awake at all. By the way Sloan, you owe me a thousand dollars. I bought those at auction two years ago" Will deadpanned.
"Hey, why just me? Your girlfriend over there drank plenty of it too!" Sloan replied indignantly, getting up and moving toward the kitchen to find caffeine.
"She can pay me back in other ways. From you, I'll need cold, hard cash."
"Oh good god…it's too early for me to be picturing the ways in which Kenzie will be paying you back. Please don't put those images in my head until I've had coffee. But after that, if you two want to discuss your sex life with me feel free."
"Don't start with her Will, she's lamenting the loss of Don and apparently part of that involves digging into the details of our life together" Mackenzie informed him from her seat at the kitchen table.
"Yeah, not going there. Sloan, I'll see you at work on Monday. Mac, I'll see you in bed after our guest leaves" Will grabbed his mug and his newspaper and left the room.
"I think that was his less than subtle way of telling me to get out so he can have sex with his girlfriend" Sloan stated.
"And they say investigative journalism is dead" Mackenzie replied.
"I'll see you on Monday Kenz. Have fun you two!" Sloan shouted as she made her way to the elevator.
Mackenzie made her way back to the bedroom, pulling off her pantyhose along the way. These things weren't all that easy to get off when you were a hungover woman either, she thought.
"Has Sloan gone?" Will asked her as she crawled back into bed.
"Yes, Sloan is gone. I think you made it perfectly clear that was what you preferred."
"I simply implied that she may not want to remain in our living room while we have sex. You're loud Mackenzie" he told her pulling her against him.
"I'm also hungover, so until I get some aspirin and begin to feel a bit more human you're out of luck pal" she told him, pulling a pillow over her head.
"Sloan is not spending another Saturday evening over here" Will grumbled and went to find some aspirin.
The following Monday found the entrance to AWM surrounded by a few less paparazzi, but they were still there. After coming in through the back of the building once again, Mackenzie made her way to her office.
"He doesn't really expect me to pay him a thousand dollars right?" Sloan asked from the chair she was perched on in the corner of the room.
"Jesus Christ Sloan! Are you trying to give me a heart attack? Whatever happened to knocking on a person's door and greeting them?" Mackenzie asked.
"This place is all glass doors and walls. I figured you already knew I was in here."
"What do you want Sloan?" Mackenzie asked falling into her chair.
"Do you really think he's going to ask her?"
"I take it we're back to Don and Maggie?"
"Well, yeah. All the gossip in this place is either about you and Will or Don and Maggie. You two are pretty much a done deal now. So unless you're going to tell me you're pregnant or about to get married, let's focus on the real gossip shall we?"
God, this place really was like high school. "Sloan, why would you think I would know anything about whether or not Don is going to propose to Maggie?"
"You're the Executive Producer. You need to be concerned with group dynamics and office morale" Sloan said as if this explained everything.
"And my interfering in their relationship will improve office morale how exactly?"
"Jim and I might be happier. And Don and Maggie too, in the long run."
"Sloan, what is it about my romantic past that screams relationship counselor to you?"
"Good point. Do you think Kendra might help me?"
"God Sloan, I don't know! I have to put together a show here. You think I could, you know, do my job now please?" Mackenzie pleaded.
"Fine. See if I help you when you need relationship advice." Sloan turned on her heel and stomped out of the room.
"Children…I'm dealing with children and trying to produce a national news broadcast!" Mackenzie ranted to herself.
Later that day as she made her way to the control room, Mackenzie looked around her at this crazy family they had cobbled together. Sloan and Don and Jim were like her lovable younger siblings and the rest…well, maybe they were her children in a way. Hers and Will's. Maybe it hadn't been fair to keep all of them in the dark about their relationship. Maybe Page Six had done them a favor.
She watched as Will walked down the hallway straightening his tie and getting ready to enter the studio. She stopped him before he could push through the doors and grabbed him by the lapels and kissed him.
"What was that for?" he asked her.
"Do I have to have a reason?"
"Never" he replied.
She entered the control room to a few stares.
"What?" she asked them all.
"Nothing. Here's your headset Mac" Jim replied.
"Thanks. Don't give up, ok Jim? Sometimes the best things in life are worth the wait. Trust me" Mackenzie told him, nodding toward Maggie and then turning her attention to the screens in front of her.
"Do it for me Will."