What it takes to say I love you Ch. 7
So this chapter is so different from how it started out. Sorry Katy, it's actually not as sexy as I promised. Not much, actually. Lots of angst and Will and Mac, and a lot of unintentional descriptiveness. Some Charlie too at the end. Very long though, so I hope that it makes up for it.
For KatyKat, who needs a reality check on who should be having sexual feelings for whom in this fandom ;)
Mac was sitting up on Will's bed, typing furiously away on his laptop. She had convinced Will to let her use it by pleading that she only wanted to check the headlines and her emails. As soon as he had gone out of the room to take a phone call, however, she had narrowed her eyes, listening keenly to be sure that he was walking away before she quickly opened an email from one of her old producer friends in Baghdad who had been dropping hints for weeks about doing a piece comparing Syria to Iraq. She argued to herself that it wasn't technically work, more of a correspondence between friends that happened to potentially be a project. At least that was her excuse and she would be sticking to it.
She became so engrossed by Julia's ideas for what they might tackle that she didn't even hear the soft footfalls down the corridor outside that signalled Will's return. It wasn't until his gaze became so powerful that she could feel his eyes boring into her that she looked up, her determination to argue with him about what she was doing slowly seeping out of her even as she raised her head; instead fixing a slightly pitiful, nervous look that she knew had been as effective as puppy dog eyes on him numerous times in the past. She was slightly reassured to find a bemused smile tugging at his lips as he leaned casually against the door frame.
"So…you know how I said you had to rest this morning? And that I would let you onto the laptop on the one condition that you wouldn't do any work?" He had that annoying smug tone that demonstrated just how easily he could see right through her, and which always made her feel like all of the cunning she had accumulated over the years, and which worked on just about everyone else she had ever met, was instantaneously smashed into smithereens in front of her and she was laid strangely bare. Which for some reason she found incredibly sexy.
Thinking fast, and trying to remember how the excuse she had formed in her head was supposed to go, she found herself suddenly powerless and feeling slightly guilty, like a kid that's been caught red-handed in the cookie jar as Will's smirking face held her gaze completely. Her survival instincts only kicked in when he was less than a foot away from the edge of the bed and she suddenly scrambled to close the window she had been browsing, but failed as he swooped down and snatched the laptop from her.
With the air of a teacher unfolding a note he had found her passing to her girlfriend in class, he looked mockingly down at her – and she couldn't help the small roll of her eyes and defeated smile which crossed her face as she realised that she was well and truly busted – before sliding his gaze dramatically to the screen.
"I was just replying to a friend." Mac smirked.
"Mmhmmph." Will huffed, lips together and scrolling down the email. "Yes, an excellent catch up the two of you seem to be having, which sounds like it has absolutely nothing to do with anything journalistic at all –"
"Well, as we're both journalists," Mac teased, matching is exaggerated, sarcastic tone, "It was bound to come up."
Will looked down at her, the bemused look still evident on his features, before his eyes softened and he closed the laptop, shuffling down next to her and taking her hand.
"Mac – please? Just for today, just until I get back later on, can you please just try to rest? For me? Please."
Mackenzie pouted. "You know that I've just spent like the last twelve hours sleeping, right?"
"Actually yes, I do know that. It was a rather comfy twelve hours." He teased. She smacked him playfully on the arm, only half-annoyed.
"Yeah, easy for you to say mister. You're not the one with snapped ankles." His expression immediately softened and became concerned once more. Gently tucking her hair behind her ears, he looked her over carefully – something which had become a bit of a habit since they had gotten home that morning. It was almost like he was reassuring himself that she really had gotten out of hospital relatively unscathed, even though he had been there the whole time and seen it from himself.
"How are you feeling now?" He asked softly, the thumb on the hand which was in her hair gently stroking her cheek. He loved the way it instantly relaxed her face and made her look sleepy again. He really wanted her to rest up; he didn't quite believe her earlier when she said she was just going to sleep whilst he was gone. Despite essentially not having the use of her legs, there was a significant part of him which was paranoid that she would still manage to find her way to his office computer if he left her unsupervised. Thank God Charlie had offered to come over.
"A little better." She said honestly, shooting him a gentle smile, appreciation and gratitude shining from her eyes. He smiled back.
"Good. I'm glad." He was happy just to look at her for a moment, which meant he caught the slight crease of her brow and hitch in her breath as she clearly hesitated over saying something. "Kenz, what is it?"
She frowned at him slightly, looking suddenly nervous.
"You said Charlie was coming over?" Will nodded, confused. "Well…"
"Spill it Kenz, you know you can tell me."
"Well, I - I just don't want him to see me like this – I feel disgusting –"
"No, listen – I'm not saying I don't want him here, I'm just saying…I'm just saying that I'd like to…freshen up…first." Her speech came to a slow, juddering stop as she saw understanding flash across Will's face as it dawned on him why she was sounding suddenly nervous. She was too focussed on his answer to show it on her face, but she found the slight popping of his eyeballs to be incredible endearing. He gulped slightly.
"Uh – you weren't kidding about the bath?" He said weakly, trying to make light of what she was essentially asking from him.
"Well, what did you think Will – that I wasn't going to wash for three weeks?" she shot him a bemused look, trying to be more confident. "Look, I –"
"No, Kenz, it's okay. Come on – it's not like I haven't – you know – seen it all before." He cringed, knowing how crass that sounded, and he only felt worse after a smirk flashed across her face at his word choice. It just hadn't really occurred to him that he'd be seeing Mackenzie naked…yet. Well, not this soon anyway; but of course now that he thought about it, it seemed obvious. "I'm leaving in forty minutes, is that enough time?"
"I'm human Will, not a sponge. That's plenty of time." She grinned at him, tentatively, and he laughed nervously, his fingers twitching at his sides, which she found adorable.
"Okay. Well – let's get you off this bed, then."
He thought that it seemed pointless to wheel her less than ten feet to the bathroom - though the delight that he usually took in the fact that the journey from bed to bathroom made his groggy mornings more bearable was suddenly highly inconvenient given the rapid outpouring of sweat on his clammy hands as he stood before Mac, though he couldn't think of the reason why she was all of a sudden looking so red and staring at her feet. They had been conversing rather well not ten seconds ago.
Feeling awkward and also strangely excited - at first he felt a little disgusted with himself before it occurred to his brain that the reason he was excited was because Mac was so deeply trusting him here, and nothing more. At least not yet. They were so not there yet. Not that he hadn't wanted to be ever since he'd laid eyes on her standing in the bullpen on that fateful day in April two years ago.
Two years ago...it was a mark of how strong his conflicted feelings for her were (and in particular, how strong the negative side of that conflict was) that he had managed to keep his hands to himself all that time...that he hadn't even kissed her. It wasn't like he hadn't thought about it. A lot. But even on the rare occasion that he walked her to her door after a tipsy night at Hang Chews, he had never given in. And the disappointed flicker of light in her eyes had killed him every time. But she never mentioned it. She did him the kindness of pretending these occurances never happened; even though he knew each one was basically another twist of the knife.
He loved Mackenzie - really, he did. He always would, and though he'd denied it for the better part of five years, he always had. He loved that she was independent, and witty, and smart and funny, and yet despite all this, downright adorable...but she was also stunning. At any function they had ever gone to, she had constantly had someone in the room eyeing her up and he had always gripped her hand a little more tightly when he spotted one of these admirers - not because he was jealous or worried, but because he was so thrilled that despite all these guys around her, she wanted him. And god, had they been good together. It was impossible not to think about it. Maybe it was dirty, impure, perverted - whatever - given the crap he piled on her on a weekly - hell, daily basis - but he couldn't help himself. You never stop replaying some of the best times of your life. That's what good memories are for, and Lord only knew he needed them where he could get them; and never had he had so many than in the two glorious years he had spent glued to her side.
So, the point to all of this thinking (how had he managed to think all of that so fast? He had barely been standing here twenty seconds?) Anyway, he forgave himself the flashbacks to days gone by reminding him of what he was about to see, because he didn't regret them, and he wouldn't apologise for them, but more than that: he loved all of her...but she just so happened to be the most beautiful woman in the world in his eyes. He just really hoped she knew it.
She was still looking down at her feet, her toes doing that adorable curling movement that he could remember waking to in the morning, when his eyes would blearily open to find her staring at him with that nervous smile on her face that she would use whenever she had an idea: something she wanted to do that day, or a pitch for a story she wasn't sure he'd approve of...or just wanting him to cook her his breakfast specialty and then maybe have a lazy Sunday afternoon together.
Deciding to let her have her moment and offer her silent support instead of trying to talk her back to reality, he slowly but gently slipped his arm under her knees, and inwardly breathed a sigh of relief as she seemed to subconsciously slip her arm around his shoulders as his slid around her waist.
She was silent as they travelled the short distance to the en suite, and Will started getting slightly worried. This had been her request and she had seemed so certain that she was okay with it; her confidence had been a comfort to him! But now he was worried that she was having second thoughts. He completely understood, but still...it would hurt if she now decided that she couldn't trust him; no matter how much he agreed with her that he might deserve it.
Gently sitting her down on the edge of the large tub, he grabbed two towels to cushion her ankles off the tiled floor. She was still out of it.
Timidly, he raised his fingers under her chin, but did not force her up to look at him; he wanted her to make that step.
"Mac?" His other hand rested gently on her knee as he tried to coax her into looking at him. Nothing. He sighed, quickly looking down at himself so that his disappointment with this turn of events would be less obvious...hopefully. "Look, Kenz. I don't want to make you uncomfortable. If you'd rather, we can figure out a different - a -" He had no clue what alternative there might be, but if it was what she wanted then he'd find it. "Another way of doing this. This is too soon - too intense for you -"
At these words her head finally snapped up and she looked at him as though she was a deer caught in on coming traffic: wild and panicked. She started shaking her head firmly, but words escaped her. He was very confused, trying to read what was going on in her head just by looking at her eyes, but obviously something was going on with her that he didn't know about. Not knowing what to do, he schooled his expression to look a little more reassuring and patient, and gently squeezed the hand on her knee to try and calm her down.
It seemed to work. After a moment her voice returned, albeit haltingly.
"I - Will - I mean - just - it's not that, okay?" This time she looked like she was trying to reassure him. "I trust you, truly. Trust you like no one else. And I know what you mean, but it's not too intense - we'll get there...I hope..."
Her ramble seemed to falter slightly as uncertainty and - was that fear? - caused her eyes to widen again. Her throat caught.
"We will get there Mac...I hope for that too." He said quietly. It was the right thing to say. A timid smile softened her features, and her hand came to rest against his cheek.
"I wasn't worried that you weren't going to be a gentlemen." She teased gently. he managed a smile at this as well. "And it's good to know that we're on the same page about...well, about us. But - it's just there's something I haven't - well, there's something we don't talk about."
Will raised his eyebrows, looking slightly incredulous. Mackenzie narrowed her eyes at him in exasperation.
"Okay, I meant except the obvious."
Will laughed. "Okay. Well, if it's not that then I'm lost. I have no idea what you're talking about."
Mac paused again.
"Mackenzie, do I really have to tell you that you can tell me anything...again?"
She took a breath. "It's just something I need to warn you about, really. Because I'm not sure if you know..."
His brain was working overdrive, trying to put the pieces together. And then it hit him. He looked up at her, annoyed that she wasn't looking at him again or else she'd have seen the look on his face and read it, and would know that he knew what she was on about.
Gripping the knee he held in one hand tighter still, and bringing his other to rest a little further up her other leg, he he steadied himself on his own knees and brought himself a little closer to her, trying to get across to her that he was not going to run from her; he wasn't going anywhere.
"Mac, I know." Her eyes snapped back to his, looking vulnerable in way he had never seen before.
He had seen her cry at her Grandmother's funeral, take a hell of a telling off from her mother, seen her come undone around him as he held her in her arms and then watched her fall fast asleep...but he'd never seen her vulnerable like this; and it nearly broke him.
"How could I not know, Mac? You think I let you walk out that door five years ago and then stopped caring about you? That I just flipped a switch? That I watched you go off to one of the bloodiest, deadliest places on Earth and didn't think about you every day, wondering if you were still alive over there?"
He could tell that she had. And now that he thought about it, now that he remembered, he understood why. God he had been a dick! The last thing he had said to her was something he wasn't proud of. Even though he'd been pissed at her, he regretted what he had said. Because it had been lies. All of it. He did love her, and he did want to see her again, and he didn't hate her - he knew even then that he'd never be able to hate her. But that was what he had told her. That was what she had taken away with her to remember him by.
"Oh, I'm so sorry Kenz. I am so, so, sorry. But everything I just said was true, even if most of what I said that day was a lie. But I did -" His voice suddenly caught in his throat and he had to stop, although he was determined to hold his gaze to hers, determined not to give her any more reasons to doubt what he was saying. "I did keep an eye on you. Followed every story you covered - although it hurt, I'm not going to lie to you. But - well, one morning Charlie called me when I was just getting into the building - I hadn't even made it to the lift, let alone my office - and he told me that he needed to see me.
I didn't sleep for days, Kenz. I almost - I almost flew to Germany, but I didn't think you'd see me...and I wasn't sure if I could face you. But when you posted your next story...I was proud of you Mac. You were still the woman I fell in love with: determined, always picking yourself back up again. You even had the nerve to go after the people behind that riot - it was the first thing you did and part of me wanted to go over there and slap you for being so stupid, so reckless, but I could already hear what you'd say to me in my head."
He didn't know when he'd started smiling, but he had; and his heart swelled as he managed to pull a tearful smile from the shocked expression that had appeared on her face when he had explained to her his reaction to her stabbing.
"The other part of me was just proud. Proud in the same way that I'd always been proud you were so driven, and determined and brave." He gently palmed her cheek, his thumb wiping away a stray tear that had managed to escape from her left eye. They just stared at each other for a few moments. Mackenzie seemed to be in some sort of trance, just staring into Will's eyes like there was an invisible string between them holding her there; Will on the other hand was thinking very carefully about what he was intending to do next.
Still not breaking eye contact with her, his hands quietly moved to the bottom of her t-shirt, and gently curled around the hem before they stopped.
From the look on her face she hadn't quite been expecting it, but she slowly nodded as though she was still in that trance.
Searching her face once more to be sure that she was okay with this, he slowly lifted the shirt up and pulled it up the arms that she raised when he reached her shoulder. When her face reappeared from out of the fabric, however, her eyes hadn't seemed to move from his face.
He hoped he managed to give her what was a reassuring smile - although it was a poor excuse for a smile given how nervous he was about seeing what he knew he was about to find.
Taking a breath, he lowered his eyes from her face, letting them travelling down her neck, over her collarbone - his heart jumped a little as his eyes found the valley of skin where her breasts fell on her chests (he would not stare at them) - and then onto her flat stomach where they were drawn immediately to the left, and the new addition there that was not in his (vivid) memories from their previous relationship.
It was crooked, not a smooth line. His imagination began building the scene behind his eyes as he stared at it.
It hadn't just gone in and out. The surging of the crowd at the riot would have tugged at the incision, the firm hand of the attacker thrusting the blade into her body, the way her body must have instantly tried to get away from it. That was why it was crooked. He hadn't heard details; hadn't heard hers or Jim's version of the story, but somehow he just knew he was right.
He didn't even notice that his hand had come up to trace the scar; hadn't noticed that hers hand gently tangled itself in the tuft of hair at the bottom of his neck. Hadn't noticed that once again there were tears falling from her eyes. He just knew that something still didn't make sense.
He stared at the mark on her abdomen, trying to work it out in his head like he had before. Like before, he succeeded, but it was so ridiculous to him, so outrageous, that he quickly looked up at her again, ready to question her with his theory but was brought to a halt by the wet tracks on her face, and her trembling lip. He knew then that he didn't really need to ask. He was right. But he would ask anyway, because she needed to hear the answer.
"You thought that I'd think it was ugly? You thought that I'd think it would make you less beautiful?"
Once again, she was clearly thrown by his deductions. She just stared at him, mouth slightly open and frozen that way. He hated it.
He had known that if they were really serious about making this work then there would have to be conversations, and that those conversations wouldn't be pretty; but he hadn't expected them a) to be this soon b) to be this deep this soon c) to be this deep at all. He thought she had more confidence in his recent renewed feelings towards her. Obviously they might have a longer way to go than he thought.
He had a sinking feeling that young Habib might have himself another patient before too long. Mentally he smirked; poor guy. Together they would drive him to a level of insanity never before experienced by psychiatrists. Oh the irony.
Shhh, WIll! Focus! Mac!
Doing something that he was fairly certain was well beyond any stage of intimacy that they were ready to be at just yet, Will moved forward on his knees, gently pressing his lips to the mark just under Mackenzie's left breast, fully anticipating the flinch that jolted him when she felt it. He determinately stayed there, counting at least ten seconds before he gently leaned back and met her eyes once more.
Given the shock that was in her eyes, he was honestly surprised that she hadn't passed out again. The hand at the back of his neck tightened as her mouth opened and closed a few times, as he waited patiently for her to accept what had just happened.
Eventually, all she could manage was a gulp and a surprised "Will?" He almost laughed. She was so blind. But again...he had to take some blame for that. Okay. A lot of blame.
"Mackenzie...you will always be stunning to me. This scar? This doesn't make me think you're any less beautiful than the day I met you; when you walked into that ballroom in a silk black dress and ridiculously high heels. If you walked into work in a bin bag you would still look gorgeous."
Her eyes softened and he noticed with relief that at least the tears had stopped.
"I'm so thankful for this scar, Mac. It shows you survived. It shows you're still alive. And I cannot begin to express how thankful I am for that."
HIs voice had become desperately quiet and he haven't even noticed. It was as though, despite the fact that they were the only ones in the apartment, there was a vacuum, and they were both hyper-aware of the sounds and movements of the other.
Once again, Mackenzie found herself lost for words, and all she could do was pull Will's lips gently to her own, enjoying the blissful look on his face when she pulled away, his eyes shut in an expression of complete relaxation. Curling a hand around his ear, she managed a smile.
"Okay, Billy. Let's do this."
Will was slightly flustered as he hurried to meet the sharp, rather playful sounding knock on the door, which could only mean that Charlie had arrived. Seriously, how was it possible for that man to have a 'playful' knock? A playful glint in his eye, and even a built-in spring in his step, Will just about understood, but a playful knock? The man was an enigma.
Pausing at the front door, trying to rearrange his features to look less, well, guilty, Will fidgeted with his collar before slapping a jovial smile on his face and opening his apartment door to reveal his friend and his mentor beaming happily back at him with that glowing smile that Charlie always seemed to manage, even on the worst days. It made Will's own smile turn genuine, because how could you not smile back at Charlie Skinner? The man exuded warmth. He was quite simply happily exothermic.
Charlie Skinner was also a smart man, however, and it took him all of three seconds to notice the dilated pupils, the plump lips and the fading, but still discernible sounds of someone who was attempting to breathe normally again. He smirked.
Damn. Will thought he'd managed to right himself, but this was Charlie. Nothing got past Charlie. Ever.
Charlie may not have been able to deduce that Will had literally just finished helping Mackenzie into a fresh pair of sweats and another old t-shirt (not that she'd really needed help), before getting caught up in a rather long, languid make-out session as he tried to reassure her without words that contrary to her earlier concerns, he could never be disappointed by any part of her, body, mind or soul; but he was fairly certain, given his knowing smirk, that Charlie knew they had been doing something.
Rolling his eyes, but saying nothing incriminating, he stepped back graciously to allow his friend into the room and closed the door behind him, preparing for the inevitable speech that he was about to be given.
It shocked him therefore, to turn and find Charlie hanging his overcoat on the stand next to the wall and then looking around for Mac as he bounced on the balls of his feet - there was no sign of any forthcoming verbal communication at all. He just looked expectantly at Will.
Still surprised, Will forced himself to open his mouth. "Oh, Mac's through next door. She was getting sleepy again, so she's lying down."
Silently, Charlie dutifully bustled off through the door that Will had indicated, as he frowned, puzzled, after the older man; and as a small part in the back of his brain warned him forebodingly that before the day was out Charlie would find a time to corner him.
Shaking his head, and picking up Charlie's briefcase to tuck in behind the coat stand so as to prevent anyone tripping over it, he followed Charlie back to his bedroom, but stopped in the doorway when he clapped eyes on the scene before him.
Mac was lying on the bed half-tucked under the comforter, just the way he'd left her (although she, like him, had clearly rearranged her hair hastily to how it had been before his fingers had attacked it). She was still fresh-faced and slightly shiny-looking from her bath and he thought that it gave her a certain glow. But that wasn't what was making him smile.
No, it was the way she was looking at Charlie, eyes crinkled with warmth and happiness as he gave her news of the staffers and what was going on in the newsroom. Everyone sent their love and well wishes, and there was something about Jim and Sloan deteriorating into a ridiculous argument over what kind of flowers to send her.
This was something he had berated himself for doing in the first several months of her return: watching her interact with other people she cared about so that he could see her laugh and smile and enjoy herself; see her make other people smile. Charlie had that warm grin back on his face again as he gently held her hand and listened to Mac telling him how helpful Will had been so far.
Charlie looked over his shoulder at the younger man, his eyebrows raised in mild amusement to which WIll just shrugged nonchalantly and spread his arms in mock outrage, "What? You look so shocked, like I'm known to be some sort of man-child, incapable of looking after people."
Charlie was the only one, other than Mac, who would understand what it took for him to make that joke; the only other person he had worked with whom he had shared his childhood with. Seeing these two people in his house, smiling and laughing together, made his toes inexplicably tingle, and a cosy heat seem to creep through his veins.
He blinked as Mac cleared her throat, completely unaware that he had even zoned out. He looked blankly at his friends, not understanding the questioning, bemused looks that they were giving him.
"Don't you have a job to be getting to, or something?" Mackenzie asked, laughter tickling at her voice.
It flooded back to him. The reason Charlie was here, is because he's supposed to be leaving; and his jacket was hanging on the back of the sofa and his bag was at the door...his mind had caught up. Knowing he was ready to go, he smiled back at his guests.
"Okay, yes - right. Um - if you want anything to eat or drink, just raid the fridge and take what you fancy. Though not you, Mac. Charlie, if this woman so much as tries to lift a leg over the side of that bed for any other reason than to use the bathroom, confiscate her laptop privileges." Charlie rolled his eyes as Mackenzie glared at Will. "I meant what I said earlier, Mac. Please just do me this one favour, okay?"
Mackenzie's eyes softened, although she sighed anyway just so that he wouldn't think she wasn't going too soft.
"Fiiiine." He smirked. "Worry not, I'm pretty sleepy, Will. I meant it when I said I'll probably spend most of the time asleep - sorry, Charlie."
Charlie tapped her hand gently, shaking his head to say he didn't mind. He'd been watching their exchange with a happy expression on his face.
Both Will and Mackenzie knew that their joint antics towards each other over the past couple of years had made their boss sad. Charlie cared about 'them' almost as much as they did. He had been their avid supporter even before they had gotten together all those years ago; he had introduced them, teamed them together on a news show, and straightened out things with HR when they started dating. They knew he cared.
"Okay. Just know that the next time you try and use the excuse 'but I've been sleeping for twelve hours so I don't need rest', I won't be buying it -"
"Always has to have the last word." Mackenzie muttered, causing both Will and Charlie to look at her with mild incredulity. She went red, knowing that at any other time it would most likely be one of them saying that to her.
"Okay. I'd better get going, but I'll call before I leave to let you know I'm heading home. Get some rest, Mac." His gaze lingered on her, as he turned slightly to leave. He so wanted to walk over there and kiss her goodbye, but for some reason, he didn't quite want to openly share what they had rekindled with anyone else just yet, even Charlie. Not that he had any doubts that before he let her doze off, their boss would give Mackenzie a decent interrogation about exactly what was going on between her and Will.
Mac was smiling softly at him as though she could read his mind, her teeth worrying her bottom lip. Charlie seemed to have a vague idea where his thoughts were as well, but didn't say anything; just looked down at Mac's hand to give the couple some privacy with that knowing smirk firmly back in place.
"See you when you get back." Mac replied gently.
With a last nod to her, and a brief smile aimed at Charlie, Will headed out into the open-plan living area, grabbing his bag and jacket on the way.
He was still a little uneasy about leaving Mackenzie after the events of the previous night, but his anxiety eased a little as he heard the sound of laughter coming from Mac and Charlie just before he pulled the apartment door shut.
This was originally supposed to be less than 2000 words but Will and Mac just kind of ran away from me. Next up, a bit of time with Mac and Charlie, and appearances from Jim and Sloan with Will.
Apologies if there were inexplicable capitalised 'I's in this, by the way...my laptop went a little weird :p