With cares to Tricki, as always xx
Charlie Skinner wore bowties for three reasons.
Firstly, it was an homage to the newsmen of yore. When men were men and the rundown was decided in a smoke-filled back room with a bottle of bourbon on the table and a promise from a lady when you got home. He learned about life from those men and what a life it had turned out to be.
Secondly, the ladies loved it. Honestly. A woman could not help but return the smile of the random gentleman holding open a door if he wore a bowtie. He had a wife and countless incredible nights thanks to that bowtie, and the likes of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire - maybe not Frank Sinatra - but that era when men were chivalrous, romantic and dapper.
Thirdly, and the reason he liked them the most, it made people underestimate him. People saw him to be eccentric, maybe a little addled. Outside of fans of some British Sci-fi-Medical-whatever-the-fuck TV show, they were a curious sight. He loved that people would talk down to him like he was an imbecile, when it was really buying him time to be seven steps ahead and deliver a verbal zinger worthy of some kind of award.
He liked it when Sloan went toe-to-toe with him; He enjoyed it when he could listen to Reece spout incomprehensible tosh before simply telling him to 'fuck off' and he especially appreciated it when he could convince Lonny, Mac and Will's doctor that the overdose was accidental, even though Charlie was ninety-nine-point-eight per cent sure it was anything but.
Will McAvoy was deeply engrossed in his newspaper as he walked through the newsroom, not paying attention to who - if anyone - bade him a good morning. He had his briefcase and paper in one hand and a coffee in the other as he followed a well-trodden path on auto-pilot, mentally creating arguments for Mac as to why the story needed more than just three minutes at the top of the B Block.
"I was in Da Nang-"
"Jesus fucking Christ!" Will exclaimed, the office door swinging closed him and a decent amount of the take-out coffee swishing over his newspaper and jeans. He spun to find Charlie stepping from behind his desk. "Why are you hiding in the shadows? You're worse than Mac!"
Will shook out his paper and pulled the scolding material from his skin as Charlie continued, "It's the by-product of war. So I was in Da Nang-"
"Have you seen MacKenzie? I need to run something past her about tonight's show."
"She went into the control room."
"How did she look?"
"I meant her mood but... Okay."
"If I was ten years younger-"
"I was in Da Nang-"
"Oh we're back to this? I thought I'd maybe got you off topic." He dropped into the table chair with a thud and a poorly hidden sigh.
"-And we were trudging through the densest forest you can imagine." He sat opposite him at the table, ignoring the exasperated look to which he was being treated. "Trees, tall grass, marsh as far as the eye could see…and I was lost. I'd separated from my troop and was, y'know, beginning to panic. I just kept walking and walking; strategizing, panicking, searching. Suddenly, explosion, explosion," he gestured to either side of him, his voice getting louder as his passion grew. "Gunfire from all directions. I jumped into a ditch and prayed to any and every deity up there that I'd get out. All I could think of was this horrible little hole of a bar over in Queens and the barmaid in there- beautiful little thing was; dark hair, dark eyes and legs stretching to Cuba..."
Will stared, half intrigued and engrossed but mostly confused – yet again - as to where the story was heading.
"Anyway, I'm in the ditch and there are explosions and gun fire and leaves falling down ripped from the trees and all I could feel was the weight of the gun in my hand. It was like I was suddenly seeing her for the first time." Charlie looked down, holding his arms out in front of him as if the rifle was back in his hands. He could almost feel it; 8lbs, 40inches of hot metal. "M16A4 with Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight. Beautiful thing; Sheila, her name. It was like it went suddenly silent - just me and Sheila." He, too, went silent. His eyes darkening as he thought back, relived. "I thought it was my only option. Death by Charlie or... Well, death by Charlie. I wanted it to be on my own terms, I didn't want them to get the satisfaction, I didn't want..." He sighed, his hands falling to his knees and rubbing across the material. "But then I got two of my guys literally jump on top of me as they shielded me from the airstrike they'd called. That was the loudest thing I'd heard in my life and I swear to God, William Duncan McAvoy if you try to end it all one more time I will break every bone in your Goddamn body! I'm a Goddamn Marine, Will! I'll do it before you can say Mother-fucking-May-I!"
"Hey, hey, it's okay," Will breathed, coaxing Charlie back to his seat. He wasn't supposed to get so riled up. "I'm not... It's not going to happen."
"You have everything, Will! You have fame! You have a full head of hair! And you have a beautiful fucking woman wanting to love you again!"
"After Leona and the magazine…and when she didn't call-"
"Goddamn it, Will, you scared the living hell out of me because MacKenzie didn't return your call?"
"It was an important call!"
"As was the one from Lonny to say you were in the hospital on a fucking life-support machine!" Charlie shook his head, his jaw set and chest heaving. "I thought you were dead. MacKenzie thought you were dead. I-I have never seen her look so scared and so … delicate as she did that night. She stayed by your side the entire time. I swear to God I saw Lonny flinch in fear when she laid into him about not telling her you were on the anti-depressants."
Will sighed, leaning forward and digging his elbows into his knees. "I didn't mean to scare anyone. I just… it got too hard."
"It's meant to be hard, William. If it wasn't hard it would be boring."
Will nodded, a faint smile on his lips despite the sodden material sticking to his legs. "I'm getting help. I'm actually seeing my therapist now. I won't… It won't happen again."
Charlie stood up, crossing over to him and laying a hand on his shoulder and a kiss in his hair. "I know. I'd kill you myself before I let you do it."
Will smiled, a soundless laugh shaking his body; Charlie may have been getting on in years but Will did not doubt his determination.
Charlie was at the door when Will called, "Charlie? Thanks."
"Thanks for what?" MacKenzie asked, swinging into the office and looking between the two. "And before you ask, you're not getting any more than three in the B. And you know how much I hate to rhyme!"
"I'll leave you two to it," Charlie laughed, slipping back into the newsroom.