With #cares, as always, to Trickibee xx
The sound of the rain surrounded her; the almost silent tapping on the windows to the staccato, tinny rhythm on top of the town car. The rivulets racing down the window distorted the view of the deserted parking lot and skyline but made the night lights shine brighter.
The moon casting an ethereal glow across the river made her think of elsewhere, maybe of getting out the city. A private island somewhere, uninhabited save for her and library of books. No men, no gossip, no distrust…
She had practically decided on the part of the world when the door across from her was wrenched open and a large body leant into the vehicle. She moved away in shock, her eyes wide and hands curled into fists.
"It's alright," Lonny laughed, "I'm the friendly local black man." He leant further into the back seat, checking it was only Nina in the back of the car. He stepped back and Will climbed in.
He closed the door behind himself and Lonny returned to the SUV a couple of yards away.
"This is a very elaborate booty call."
"It's not… Will…"
Any joviality disappeared from his face when he properly looked at her; though she was giving her usual calm, unaffected façade on the outside, he recognised the inner turmoil. Her jaw was set, her fingers picking at the cuticles, her toes turned towards each other. "What's wrong?"
"There's a magazine article."
"About me? Nina, I don't think it's possible for me to care less."
"…Fuck." His eyes closed, his head falling back into the seat. They had been so careful, lied to themselves so well about how they had kept their relationship clandestine enough to stay out of the papers.
She watched him process the information, the fallout, the consequences. "MacKenzie can't know, Will."
"A hundred-grand and it won't go to print?"
She nodded, "I trust him."
He scoffed, his head shaking as he pulled the cheque-book from his inside pocket. He scribbled across the paper, ripped it from the book and passed it to her. Her fingers were shaking when she took it from him, laying it across her lap as he climbed from the car without another word.
She began to cry.
"We tried to get him, Will," MacKenzie told him once she realised he had followed her from the 4pm rundown into her office. "I even had Jim handle the call but it seems he still hasn't forgiven you for giving his wife the number to the good divorce attorney…" Her smirk fell away when she watched him close the door. Her door was only closed when something was wrong or for her ears only – which generally meant something was wrong. He wouldn't be that pissed about losing the Congressman for the B Block story…
"Okay, If this is about what I think it's about," she dropped her file to the desk and sat on the edge as she thought of the advice her Dad gave her when she graduated; always be ahead of the story. "We're sorting it. Legal's working on something and Charlie knows a guy so…"
"…A guy for what?" He questioned, not sure if they were on the same page.
Her hand flew about in the air, dismissing it before she said anymore. "Nothing. What can I do for you?"
His mouth opened, trying to find the right words. Trying to sugar-coat it all felt like more of an insult than the actual act may have been, so he went for the rip-the-band-aid approach, "I slept with Nina Howard."
She faltered in her seat as if delivered a blow to the chest, her eyes widening and hazing almost instantly.
He explained everything; about how they were together the night Nina didn't print about the 9/11 show, how they met a few other times since but broke it off, whatever 'it' was. He told her about the story coming out but that he had paid them off and how Nina said she trusted the guy but how he gave trust amongst gossips the same credence as trust amongst thieves.
"Why…?" She breathed, eventually. Her arms were slack but gripping the edge of the desk, her eyes wide and threatening tears.
"She's actually a decent person when-"
"No." She heaved a breath, "Why did you tell me?" A tear escaped and slid down her porcelain cheek. She swiped it away and grabbed her bag from behind her. Her movements were slow, precise. "We're even now."
The door stayed open in her wake and he watched as she placed her file on Jim's desk, quickly and quietly announcing to him that the rest of the show was his before heading for the bank of elevators.
Sloan stepped away from Neal's desk, her attention diverted away from whatever he had been trying to show her on his computer. She and Jim exchanged confused looks before she noticed Will standing Mac's office, raking a hand over his hair. Her jaw set, practically grunted in anger and frustration as she turned on her heel and ran after MacKenzie.
Neither had said very much once they got to Hang Chews. They had found the darkest corner and ordered a large whisky and a coke and just sat there, cradling the drinks in their hands.
MacKenzie had told Sloan in the elevator; her shocked silence lasted almost the entire journey before Sloan began to threaten Will's appendages in a slurry of words that would have made a mob boss proud.
Sloan sat in silent, seething support as MacKenzie said nothing but swiped at her cheeks angrily. She still wasn't entirely sure what she was feeling – betrayal, disappointment, rejection – and as soon as she decided on one, a voice told her she had no right to feel that emotion as she and Will weren't together and hadn't been for a long time.
She told herself Will was free to sleep with whomever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
But why her? Why Nina?
She sobbed when she realised she had spoken to Nina on their first night together. She had offered the olive branch, tried to befriend her whilst she was probably in bed with Will. They probably laughed about it when she hung up.
Poor MacKenzie, holding on to a thread of hope that Will would forgive her.
Poor MacKenzie, phoning Nina when Will's probably…probably… she couldn't finish the thought. She couldn't stomach thinking of Will doing all the things he used to do to her but to Nina.
She covered her face with a hand when the tears fell, allowing the sobs to rack her body before gulping the whisky and feeling Sloan's hand on her arm. Mac was thankful she hadn't tried to give her a pep-talk, tried to give her hope for a future together.
"You need to get back," Mac eventually said, her voice low and husky.
Sloan put her cell phone back into her pocket, "No, I don't."
"America won't crash if I don't give five minutes on the Economy today."
"No, Sloan, go. I'm-" She cut herself off when Will appeared in the doorway. He just stared at the two women, unsure whether stepping closer may result in physical injury. He could see the hurt and anger in MacKenzie's large eyes, even in the dim light.
Sloan stood up, a final squeeze on Mac's arm. She crossed the bar to Will.
"Your copy's on the desk and any information and questions you may need for the show," he told her, having arranged with her via text that she would take over for the night.
"You're an ass."
"If I didn't have to be on TV in an hour, I would take great pleasure in causing you untold physical pain right now."
Will nodded, more in hope than a promise. Sloan passed him through the door and he saw that Mac's gaze had dropped from him to her drink. He detoured to the bar before sitting across from her, placing three tumblers of whisky onto the table.
He slid one in front of her and left one in the middle of the table, explaining, "You seem to enjoy throwing drinks in my face at the moment."
She leant forward, taking the glass as he held his breath for the oncoming drenching, only now realising he had left the handful of napkins on the bar.
However, she didn't throw the drink in his face; she swallowed it down in one gulp, slamming the glass back down from where she had taken it along with her own empty glass and bringing the new drink to her lap.
He sighed, "MacKenzie…"
"She was different."
"Nina. She was different. You felt something for her."
"Every other woman you dated since I came back met you in the office or ended up on Page Six because you left a restaurant. Nina… you kept Nina a secret. You didn't flaunt her, you didn't go to restaurants, you hid her." She gulped her drink. "Why did you pay them off?"
"I didn't want to hurt you."
She laughed. "Thank you?"
"Mac, I wanted you to find out from me, not some check-out aisle tabloid."
"But you paid them off, why did you still tell me?"
"Because I didn't and don't trust that they won't just print it anyway."
She stood up, "Or because you wanted to hurt me like I hurt you? You wanted to tell me about you fucking Nina because I told you about fucking Brian? I have sat back and taken each and every punishment you have given me since I came back but… you crossed a fucking line, Will."
He'd had enough by that point. He pushed his chair back, grabbed her under the arm and began pulling her towards the back room. She wrenched her arm back after a few steps, her jaw set as she stepped ahead of him to lead the way.
As soon as the door shut behind them, Will began, "I've crossed a line? I have? "
"You're fucking a gossip columnist!"
"Fucked. Fucked. Past tense!"
"Just like I past tense fucked Brian!"
"I wasn't in a relationship when I fucked Nina though, was I?"
"No, and how many times are you going to throw that in my face? How many times can I apologise before you realise that it was the worst mistake of life?"
"No, alright, do you not see my life right now? My life since I fucked up and slept with Brian? I went to Afghanistan, Will, and then I came back to New York and worked with you and, I mean it when I say this, I don't know which has been harder. I have spent three years around you knowing that you hate me, that you can't look at me, that you only see him… So I work, right? I-I hate to be alone so I spend eighteen to twenty hours a day at work so I don't have to go home, be on my own, where I can't sleep anyway because I have dreams about bombs and friends that died and how much you hate me. I thought we'd been getting closer, that maybe you were beginning to hate me less but... you'll always hate me, won't you? Even high on pot cookies you hate me, can only compliment my performance at work. You-"
"What are you-"
"I know what the message said. Nina told me. While she was in bed with you, probably."
"What did she tell you?"
"You were there, Will. Don't insult me."
"MacKenzie, I wasn't there. I don't know what she told you. What did she say?"
He grabbed hold of her arms, held her and them still. "Because if you still think I hate you, she didn't tell you the full message."
She could smell his cologne, see every eyelash flutter against his cheek as he blinked. Something had changed, her heart was hammering against her chest. "What did it say?"
"It did compliment your performance. I believe I called you 'spectacular'." He swallowed, "I also said I love you."
Six years of waiting to hear him say it again – those three words her memory could never do justice – was almost bittersweet. Her eyes closed, her hands resting against his chest, savouring the long-awaited moment. She sighed, contentedly, before thumping her hands against him as hard as she could, "I've been asking you for months, why the hell didn't you tell me that?"
He grabbed her arms again – she may be tiny but she had some power behind her fists, "I've never stopped, MacKenzie, as hard as I've tried. But I... I can't..."
They breathed, a soothing intake to calm them both and settle the complete change the day had taken. As if on cue, the television on the wall behind MacKenzie began with the News Night theme tune and credits before Sloan appeared on screen. "Hello, I'm Sloan Sabbith. Will McAvoy is ill tonight and I can only hope in a lot of pain to miss the guests and panels we have for you on the show. President Obama, this morning-"
Will smirked, "She's a good girl." MacKenzie had turned in his grasp and he had to fight the urge to pull her into his chest and wrap his arms around her waist. He settled for a subtle intake of breath, the scent of her shampoo and perfume tingling at his senses.
Part of MacKenzie was mortified that Sloan had just said that to 1.2million viewers but she was also very amused and thankful to have someone so loyal on her 'side'.
Will guided her to the couch, his hand smoothing down to the small of her back.
"So, you still love me?"
"Against my better judgement."
"Do you think you could get to a place where you can say it without making me feel like a shit?"
"I understand why you do it but-"
Will kissed her. It took her a beat to realise, to process that his lips were on hers again after all this time. He was tentative, apprehensive, but it grew in passion quickly; her hand found his thigh, his hand threaded in her hair before he pulled back.
He had to disentangle himself, because as much as he wants this – and God he wants this - he's scared; scared of the sheer depth of his desire and feelings for her. How far he fell into shock and depression when she confessed damn near killed him and he vowed he would never be hurt like that again; never love someone so much that it would be physically painful when they left.
He didn't want to rush into whatever this may be. He wanted to build that trust, ensure he could do enough and be enough to keep her this time. He couldn't love her like he used to only to lose her again.
"Can we get something to eat? Go somewhere?"
She nodded, willing to do anything if it meant what she thought it meant. He gestured to the door to while she led the way, leaving Sloan to speak to the empty back-room.
"Wait," Mac spun on her heel, "Sloan just told America you're in pain. You have to limp or something."
"Limp? Why would a limp stop me sitting behind a desk?"
"Want me to sock you in the jaw? That'd stop you," she smirked.
"You've resisted for three years, let's keep that going, eh?" he laughed. "Take-out at mine?"
She smiled, "I could live with that." She quickly led the way through the bar and into Lonny's waiting town car outside.