For Vicki, for whom I am The Newsroom/feel enabler and damn proud! ;)
With thanks and cares to Tricki as always xx
Title taken from Jeff Daniels' 'Race You To The Horizon'. You won't regret listening to his music, trust me.
His smile was easy/his eyes were hard/he had a way of looking through her right into her heart/she hadn't had nothing in such a long long time/she was in too deep.
It was Tuesday when Will decided he was worried. He had watched her focus float away in meetings, her words die off mid-sentence, her attention only caught after multiple name calls.
He had seen her in the office before him every day, but that wasn't too unusual; it was Tuesday when he realised she was still there long after he left too. He had stuck around a bit longer than usual that night - changing, checking some polling data, waiting for Lonny to get through traffic – and had an urge to check her office. The newsroom had quickly emptied after the show, but something told him she was still there. He fought the decision to look - fought the decision to care – but found himself peeking through the horizontal decal lines of the windows.
The back of her chair was to him, her feet up on the desk, her shoes on the floor; the office was bathed in darkness as she looked out the window. He wasn't sure if his sigh was for her demeanour, or his acceptance that something was wrong and now he couldn't turn a blind eye.
He had left the office that night – despite better intentions - trying to figure out what was on her mind. Her father was in good health, it wasn't an anniversary that he could remember and she usually seemed happy in her job.
It was during Wednesday morning's briefing that he noticed that someone else was worrying about her as well: Jim Harper. Will clocked the extra glances he would throw her way, the picking-up-where-she-left-off of sentences, the hand on her shoulder as he passed. He spoke quietly to her at his desk at one point; Will watched through his office door as they talked, Jim leaning closer to speak more privately with MacKenzie shaking her head and waving him off. She seemed to be trying to reassure him, and though he would nod his acquiescence, Will could see the look of concern on his face as she walked away from him.
During the 6pm briefing, when excitement, nerves and deadlines were at their highest and tightest, Will called Jim aside as he was asking for his AP's to get him somebody's number and ensure somebody else was set up in the Los Angeles office for the interview.
"What's up?" Jim asked, his eyes flicking out to the newsroom – where he needed to be –as he sat down in the chair Tess had vacated seconds before.
Will spun his chair to him, his posture not changing. "How long have we known each other, Jim?"
"And how long have you known MacKenzie?"
His foot was tapping, "Six."
"Mmhmm. I've known her since you were in grade school and I know you know something's going on with her."
"I don't know what you mean."
"And I admire that, Jim, I do. But cut the crap, okay? She's worrying me and I don't like it when she worries me."
"Will, she's fine-"
"She is not fine and I want to know why. Now."
"You should talk to Mac."
"I probably should, yes, but instead I'm talking to you," he really needed a cigarette.
Jim sighed, scratching at the back of his head as leant forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He didn't want to talk behind Mac's back but he was concerned too and maybe Will could help. "We were driving for the Pakistani border. We'd been on the road for a couple of hours and the landscape had barely changed, just dust and rocks and heat. Mac was up front with one of our Army guys, Matthew Lorenzo. Everyone called him Renzo and he… he was a really good guy."
"We were the middle truck of a convoy of three and the lead truck blew up. Just boom, gone. Mac and Renzo were arguing Springsteen versus U2 and suddenly we were taking fire. Renzo slammed on the brakes and covered Mac, taking a bullet to the head." He took a breath, "It all happened so fast. She had to push his body off of her but when she did… there was a guy at her window with his face covered and a gun pointed at her head. She froze. I froze."
Will took in a breath, "What happened?"
"A guy in the truck behind us hadn't frozen and blew his head off."
"That was four years ago. His widow was seven months pregnant with their second child and couldn't afford the funeral costs and the impending hospital bill so Mac-"
"Paid for the funeral."
"Yeah. That was four years ago last Sunday and his wife sends her pictures of the kids on the anniversary."
"Fuck," he repeated.
"Yeah. Listen, Will, I gotta…" he gestured to the buzzing newsroom behind him, the APs with at least one phone to their ear and an eye still focused on him and Will.
"Go, go," Will waved him away, watching the Senior Producer disappear into the throng of desks and sudden onslaught of shouts, hollers and waving hands.
He left on time that night. He changed back into his jeans and sweater after the broadcast, passed his suit to the intern and walked out to Lonny with his briefcase.
He read through Kansas polling data, Alaska Mayoral candidate campaigns and New Hampshire school board elections, but his mind would always stray. He couldn't lose a mental image of MacKenzie with somebody else's blood on her face, a gun pointed to her forehead and those eyes of hers wide, surprised, terrified. He necked his tumbler of whisky and poured another, abandoning the stacks of statistics for the TV.
It didn't help. Not when he flicked onto a news report about Egypt, footage of the dead and dying, the people with guns roaming streets and killing innocents.
He left her a note on Thursday night. Dr Habib's card with his scrawl on the back: I know. Talk to him or talk to me, but please talk to someone. Will.