A/N - I want to add finishing chapters to my other stories but I had to indulge my muse by indulging it with this... During the final music montage of ENII when Sloan and Taylor are at the news desk while Taylor coughs on the cigar I asked myself "Where's Will?" and then my imagination went crazy and thus another multi-chapter monster has been born. Enjoy!
Mac stood quietly in the chaos of the control room, absently fiddling with the ring on her previously unadorned finger and watching Will speak directly into the camera. If anyone had asked her how she was feeling at the moment she wouldn't have been able to tell them. The boys were still puffing on the cigars that Don had produced from somewhere and she could still taste the champagne that Jim had asked Lisa to bring down. Looking through the control room window she noted that the jovial atmosphere had continued on in the bull pen. She was grateful the studio was turned around for the special election night coverage, otherwise the party would have been on full display behind Will's shoulder.
It was amazing really, the difference an hour, a refusal of resignation and an engagement could make in the atmosphere of a crowd. Everything had gone from dismal to wonderful in the seeming blink of an eye and try as she might, Mackenzie could not fight the creeping fear that it was all horribly temporary. She feared Will would realize the reckless impulsiveness of his actions and she knew that despite their resolution to stand strong the Dantana suit and public pressure could still destroy them all professionally. After this euphoric high she feared the crash would be harder and more painful when she found herself back where she started; jobless, alone and wounded by the man she loved.
She bit her lip as she watched him smile at something Sloan was saying. He seemed so happy, the energy of everything infusing him with a spirit she had not seen in far too long. The idea of that spirit extinguishing again tore at her even more than the contemplation of her own pain.
Distantly she registered Herb releasing to break and she knew she should probably be focused on the business of her control room but the thoughts in her head just didn't allow space at the moment.
She watched through the monitor as Don entered the studio, offering Sloan a cigar. The economics reporter declined with a sly grin, staring for a long moment in to Don's eyes. The moment between the two was quickly broken when Taylor interrupted, "What about me? I would like a cigar."
Will chuckled and shook his head, eyes focused on sorting out the various papers strewn on the desk in front of him. Mackenzie toggled open the switch on her com but immediately closed it again before she spoke, reconsidering. She didn't want to risk upsetting their newly acquired status quo by giving voice to her doubts. She bit her lip for a long moment but the insecurities in her head were drowning her and she needed him. She toggled the com back on.
He looked to camera 1 with a smile that was so simple and genuine that Mac almost forgot what she had wanted.
Will's gaze softened and without her needing to say another word he nodded and stood from his chair, wryly instructing Sloan to hold down the fort.
Mac was slow enough removing her headset that she was able to hear Sloan huff, "It's a break; how much drama could happen during a break? Oh Right...only everything!"
By the time she Mackenzie had made it out of the control room Will was waiting for her by the studio door.
"Do you mind if we go out to the terrace? It's a million degrees in that studio." He suggested.
Mac nodded silently and turned to lead the way out. She let out a gasp of surprise when Will grasped her wrist, halting her movement.
"You don't need a jacket?" He asked, standing close.
Mackenzie wanted to tell him that she didn't think she would ever need a jacket if he kept looking at her the way he was looking at her now but she just shook her head, twisted her hand until it grasped his and lead the way outside.
Once they were out there she took a deep breath of the cool November air and silently thanked Will for suggesting they go outside. The fresh air was exactly what she needed to help reclaim some of her equilibrium.
Will stopped in front of her and looked into her face, a small smile on his lips but he remained silent, his eyes offering infinite patience, seeming to know the storm tormenting her brain and waiting for her to tell him what she needed.
The silent understanding was overwhelming and so reminiscent of how perfect she knew they could be that Mackenzie dropped her gaze from his eyes, instead focusing on their entwined fingers, reaching with her free hand to grasp his own and smiling in small delight when he wrapped her fingers in his palm and gave a small squeeze.
"Mackenzie?" He spoke quietly, "What's going on in that brain of yours?"
She bit her lip, her eyes still focused on their hands, "I always loved holding hands with you."
Will let out a short, amused breath but said nothing, waiting for her to continue.
"I just...it's hard to believe that suddenly I can. I can just put out my hand, and there yours will be." She felt the tears building as all of her fears tried to shove their way into her voice box at once. She had not cried all night even though she had plenty of good reason to and she would be damned if she started now so she took a deep breath and swallowed back the moisture in her eyes before she tilted her head up to meet Will's gaze again.
"It's wonderful and I don't ever want to not be able to hold your hand again. But I can't help but wonder...It's like whiplash, you know? Wonderful whiplash, but it's shaken everything up and the world feels all upside down and I'm afraid as to what will happen when it rights itself."
Will squeezed her hand. "Things will settle down and return to normal. We'll do our show and we'll argue about content and ratings and guests and staff assignments and story angles. I'll frustrate you and you'll exasperate me. But at the end of the day, we'll go home together and if you put out your hand, I'll always meet you with mine." He gave her hands a squeeze, emphasizing his point.
Mackenzie blinked rapidly, staring at Will in awe. "Why Will? It's been an absolute horrid day. It's been a truly terrible couple of months and a completely mussed up few years. It's not that I don't trust you but I think that may be I won't be able to believe it until I understand why..."
Will ducked his head and grimaced, "You know, I'm not as smart as people think I am."
Mac let out a smile snort of disbelief.
Will shook his head, "Really. The why is simple, because I love you and life is better when we're together and it doesn't make any sense to ignore that. I can't be all that bright if it took me this long to realize it."
Mackenzie smiled up at him. "Will, I love you too but I suspect that you've loved me since before an hour ago. So what changed? Why the sudden need to jump all in?"
He looked away taking a long deep breath before looking back at her, "Genoa. This whole thing. Look, it was a mistake. A really big mistake. But it wasn't done intentionally and for the most part we actually did everything unbelievably right. It's going to be really rocky for a while but it's worth going through it because what we have here, the whole News Night 2.0 thing? It's too important to let it go because of one fuck up. If we just give up on it then that's giving that prick Dantana power over us that he doesn't deserve. Fuck him."
Mackenzie shook her head, "Will, what does..."
He held up a hand, silencing her, "Tonight, Charlie was going off about how he didn't think we should resign because of all of that. I was sitting there and listening but my mind was all wrapped up in what had been said between the two of us all night. So I was thinking about you when I answered Charlie, acknowledging aside from what we did wrong we did everything right and I couldn't stand that you felt like you needed to take all the blame and just then it hit me, and I hate myself for how long it took me to realize it. You and me are the same thing. You made a big mistake a long time ago. But the mistake was done without malice and you've done everything else right, everything. And you've shouldered the blame the whole time, and I let you."
"Of course you did. You should have." Mac counter-pointed.
Will shook his head, "No, I shouldn't have, the same way I shouldn't have let you goad me into firing you earlier tonight. Back before, when you told me about Brian? I had cause to be angry at you for sure but I allowed that anger to justify giving up on everything and that was the bigger mistake. You were right tonight about me not returning your calls or emails. I shouldn't have shut down like I did. I let that prick of a human being tear down everything good we had built. I wasted 6 years of our lives. 6 years that could have been amazing. I should have found a way to fight through the anger and the hurt because you're too amazing to give up on and all I've done is hurt us both and waste time for 6 years. As soon as that realization crossed my mind I couldn't stand to waste another 6 seconds never mind the 60 it took for me to find you in this rat maze of a studio.
Mackenzie let out a strangled little laugh.
His thumb fiddled with the ring sitting on her finger, "But I found you, and you said yes and none of that is going to change now." He moved his hands to hold her shoulders, "Mackenzie, I love you. I never stopped loving you and I'm never going to stop. I can't apologize enough for what I've allowed to be taken from us or the hurt that I've caused both of us but this is real and not going to change, I won't let it. Even if you change your mind, I'm done sitting back and playing the victim, I'll fight for you."
She nodded, biting her lip, her hands slowly coming up to lay on his chest.
"You believe me right?" He tilted his head and bent his knees an inch, trying to hit eye level.
She nodded, "Yes I do. I absolutely do."
He smiled and her hands slid up to his shoulders and back down to his chest again, "It's just so surreal that I get to do this again."
He furrowed his brow, "Do what?"
Her hands stilled, her right palm over his heart. She looked up at him with intensity, "Do you have any idea how hard it's been to see you every day and not allow myself to touch you?"
Will's pupils dilated and he smirked, a hand coming up to gently stroke the skin on Mackenzie's neck, "Yeah, actually, I think I do."
Mac grabbed his tie and pulled him to her, their lips meeting in a fiery kiss. Mac's hands wound their way around his neck as Will's arms reached around her, one burying into her hair, the other wrapped around the small of her back, pulling her closer to him.
"Don's looking for you Mac, you're back in..oh, um. Sorry?"
Will reluctantly pulled back, an action made even more reluctant at the whimper that escaped Mackenzie's lips when he broke away from the kiss.
"Jim, come on back." He called to the young man who had already made his hasty exit.
Mackenzie furrowed her brow as Jim reappeared at the door, "How did you know he was out there?" she asked Will.
Will laughed, "You didn't hear him? He was just out here saying Don was looking for you..."
Mackenzie's hands flew from Will's neck "Oh! The broadcast! We still...!"
She spun out of Will's grasp, and hurried past Jim and out the door leaving Will and Jim to stare after her before making eye contact with one another and smiling in amusement.
"How much time were you saying Jim?" Will asked, straightening his tie and collar.
"Well, it was 3 minutes when I was in the control room, it's probably under 2 by now."
Will nodded, "Okay, thanks." He stepped toward the door but was stopped by Jim calling his name.
He turned and looked at Mackenzie's senior producer, silently inviting him to continue.
Jim's eyes darted across the skyline and he rolled his lips before taking a deep breath, "You know I respect you an unbelievable amount, right?"
Will opened his mouth and then shut it again. He knew that it shouldn't be a revelation but he was still a little awestruck from the senior staff's display of loyalty earlier in the evening.
Jim tilted his head, regarding Will with the analytic gaze of a reporter piecing something together, "Huh. Perhaps you don't?" He commented mostly to himself. "I'm sorry if that's something you never knew. But I do."
Will nodded mutely, still unsure where this was going.
Jim locked eyes with him with an intensity which seemed to erase the differences in their height, age, experience, notoriety and power, "I do respect you Will, but you need to know I love Mac more and I've watched you and her and your twisted dance for almost 3 years now and I've seen her in pain. I don't ever want to see that again."
Will bit the inside of his lower lip to keep from smiling as he stared at Jim. He suddenly found himself eternally grateful that this young man was in Mackenzie's life and that no matter the shit that she had been through, she had never been alone.
He took two steps forward so that he was standing directly in front of Jim, staring at him intently. He held out his hand and when Jim accepted the handshake Will held firm, "Thank you Jim."
Jim swallowed and nodded 2 quick nods before breaking the contact and stepping back, "You, uh, should probably get back in the studio before Mac flips a gasket."
Will smirked, "Well...we wouldn't want that, would we?"