Different Ways of Doing Things

Based on another prompt from Lilacmermaid: "Will pulls Mac down to sit in his lap. She is too tired or stunned to protest." Set shortly after season 1 - I'm thinking this is in the run-up to the primaries.

This is for my three petitioners of last night: KatyKat, Millie Zhang and Lilacmermaid, who were all asking for a fic. I managed this before I got to bed, so I guess it's yours ;) x

He was getting slightly concerned.

Mackenzie had been pacing up and down his office for the better part of ten minutes and she'd barely drawn breath. Not that pacing and talking at a hundred miles an hour was at all unusual for Mackenzie – that was her equivalent of breathing, or taking a relaxing stroll on the beach – but Will knew Mackenzie, knew her rants, and knew her habits: she ranted and raved but not for ten minutes straight. She did normally like to get an answer, so generally would shut up after making her point.

She hadn't noticed his change in expression because she was too focussed on talking and not walking into his desk. That was something, he supposed. Taking a closer look at her, he noticed that her eyes were more tired looking and cracked with red than usual (it took a lot for Mackenzie to start running out of steam – that generally meant everyone else would be collapsed on the floor) and she hands seemed to be permanently attached to her hair, like she was pulling her hair back to keep her eyes open.

She was also getting steadily redder in the face and he was lucky if he counted four breaths every minute. She was practically wheezing.

"So basically, the staff there are only giving us two hours, but on the day we'll need to fill 6; and the board upstairs say that because it's a day for the network and not just ours we'll need to 'comply' with some of the polling data they're getting regarding demographics and topics – seriously! These people! As if we've not made it abundantly clear that we don't – arrgh! And then Charlie's told me that we need to a segment on the three congressmen we're interviewing beforehand so we can run promos, but that needs to happen before the –"

He watched as she finally moved her hands out of her hair and over her eyes, managing to stop and at least frown into her hands as she tried to sort her thoughts out. He could see she was preparing to get started again, but without really understanding how the thought process had formed, he reached out and pulled her over to him.

She obviously wasn't expecting it, so she sort of stumbled, making it easier for him to pull her down into his lap and wrap an arm around her waist to hold her there and gently threading his fingers into her hair, pulling her head to his shoulder.

She stiffened in his arms, like she had frozen. For a split-second he felt hurt before his brain kicked in and reminded him that he'd barely touched her for two years.

"Just breathe Mac." A muffled reply came from his shoulder.

"Will – what are you doing."

"Shh. Just breathe for a minute, okay?"

There was a small croak as though she was about to start a sentence, but then all fell silent once more. A couple more seconds and he tentatively felt her relax against him. "That's it."

He rested his head gently against hers, watching the outline of their staffers in the bullpen. It was ninety minutes until the show, so everyone was busy. It seemed strangely quiet though. Mackenzie's gradually slowing breaths filled his ears, the only sound important to him in that moment. He was absentmindedly massaging her hair; if anyone had knocked on the door or looked through the glass they would probably have sworn that Will and Mackenzie had never broken up – it just looked too natural.

He wasn't exactly sure how many minutes had passed but as her breathing levelled out, Mackenzie let out a low moan of despair and turned her head closer into Will's neck, her hand finally moving to wrap around his shoulder.

"Hey, crazy lady." She mumbled something indistinguishable but decidedly pissed off back at him, and he gently nudged her head with his shoulder.

"Hey Mackenzie, come on. Look at me."

Slowly, reluctantly, she lifted her head and wearily met his eyes. Up close she looked horrific; well, as horrific as Will could ever think she would look. To him she was always gorgeous. But now, her eyes were lined, and she looked pale and clammy, and like she'd been reading for ten hours straight. He was holding her, so he could feel she was a little chilly. Her eyes darted warily between his, and it struck him that she didn't look overly comfortable sitting there – not like she used to do.

Usually this sort of thinking would have brought on a tirade of inner thoughts about how she deserved it because his heart wasn't quite fixed yet, but today she looked so out of it that he just couldn't bring himself to go there. She needed food and rest, and ideally sleep; and he knew she wouldn't do it on her own.

"Mackenzie when was the last time you ate? When was the last time you stopped?"

For a second she tried to look annoyed but it was clearly a mark of how shattered she was that after a minute her eyes just closed again and she let out a deep sigh, pulling her hand away from his shoulder to pinch her nose. He gently reached out and took it away so that he could see her face properly.

"Mac, you're no use to anyone if you don't take care of yourself. What if we hadn't had this meeting, huh? And you had gone on for another two hours and fainted or something half-way through the broadcast? You think someone –"

"I'm no use to anyone? Oh thanks, Will. It's nice to know my place around here. Look! There's Mackenzie! She's useless. She's so busy running the fucking place that she's useless."

" – would come and get me?"

He could see she was angry, her eyes had suddenly become very puffy, and she obviously hadn't really heard what he'd said. Her next words knocked the air out of him.

"I get that I'm fucking useless around here Will. Okay? I get that. All I ever do is make you angry, or remind you of the past; and then I nag you, or say something and you get pissed and we argue and everyone thinks we're insane. If you want me to leave, you just need to say."

She had looked away from him before she had started talking, but he really wished that she would look up because he was finding it difficult to speak but he was pretty sure the dumbfounded expression on his face would give her some indication of how much disbelief he was feeling over what she had just said. To his dismay she did no such thing; she just started fiddling with her fingers, looking more uncomfortable by the minute, the longer his silence continued.

Eventually he managed to unstick the back of his throat and kick his brain into gear so that he regained motor function. He gently squeezed the hand he'd taken off her nose and when he spoke his voice was strangely a little hoarser than it had been moments before.

"Mac we've always argued over news, that's how we work."

"We argued differently back then." A small tear feel directly from her eye and splashed onto the silk shirt she was wearing.

"No we didn't, we still argue that way – this is just – this is just your exhaustion talking, okay?" She didn't nod her head to agree, but she didn't say anything either. With his renewed powers of movement he reached up and lifted her head under her chin so that she was looking at him again.

"Mackenzie, you coming back here is the best thing that's happened to me in four and a half years. Of course I don't want you to leave."

She just stared at him, wide-eyed, but her expression was annoyingly unreadable.

"You overdosed on anti-depressants Will. Does that sound like I'm good for you?" Again he felt like he'd been slapped. Her voice was so small and fragile, and she looked absolutely terrible now that tears and wide eyes had been added to the list of symptoms.

"Is that what you think?"

The anger managed to find its way back to the surface. This woman was impossible. "Is that what I think? No, Will, that is not what I think! That is what I know because two doctors, Lonny, Charlie, and YOU told me!" As she had so accurately described moments before, the only way to deal with her when they were like this was to argue back.

"I overdosed because of Brian's article!"

"And why did you choose Brian again?" She fired back. She somehow managed to combine angry and hurt so that they both showed on her face. "And don't give me some bullshit about him being a good journalist. You have a lot of faith in people Will, but as we both know too fucking well, once you distrust someone, that's it – it's irre-fucking-versible. So don't tell me you thought Brian was going to come here and sing your praises! You brought him here because of me.

I'm bad for you."

He didn't know what to say to convince her that she was so, so, utterly wrong. He made a start by wiping two more tears from her face as she looked like she was just about ready to crumble.

"Okay, I know you're about to yell at me for being patronising, but I'm going to say it anyway because it's true." Her eyes flared, and he tried his best to push the apprehension he was currently feeling to the back of his mind. "Rant back at me all you want to in a minute, but let me finish first. Okay, here goes.

"I don't think you actually believe what you're saying – you're obviously completely exhausted. You're the colour of paper, you look like you're about to faint, your eyes are telling me that you probably haven't had more than six hours sleep in the last three days. At least, that's what I hope the reason is – because if I've given you any reason to believe that I don't want you here, then I deeply and sincerely apologise. I admit that you may have come to the conclusion that I brought you here to torture you or punish you, and I'm sorry for that too. But I absolutely do not want you to leave. Tell me you're just saying it because you're tired?"

She looked helplessly back at him. He couldn't tell if she wanted to hit him and cry in frustration or hug him before she passed out.

"When was the last time you ate Mac?" He fixed her with a look that clearly stated he would not be taking no for an answer, and waited until she lilted a little in surrender before she managed to relax.

"Last night when I got home."

"What was it?"


"How long did you sleep for?"

"I napped on the sofa."

"How long, Mackenzie?" She sighed again.

"An hour, maybe 90 minutes."

"Jesus, Mac."

She managed to stay that way for maybe another minute before she slumped in defeat against all the forces that were trying to make her stop; her body screaming out for respite. Will caught her and swiftly pulled her back into his chest, relieved when she instantly curled around him.

"This is what we're going to do, Okay? I –"

"We're doing the show Will." He actually found a laugh escaping his lips at the unbelievably forceful tone of her voice. Seconds ago she had sounded like a mouse.

"Like you could ever be stopped. I don't have a death wish. No, what we're going to do, is this: I am going to order something in – you can choose – and while we're waiting on it to arrive, you are going to spend that half hour or so having a quick sleep on the sofa in here." He immediately heard noises of protest – they were going on air in ninety minutes – but he hushed her and threaded his fingers through her hair again. "Argue all you like Mackenzie, if you don't do this then I won't be going on air tonight. I'm not going to let you do this to yourself. You pick."

She stilled and didn't move again for two and a half minutes – he was counting on the clock on his wall as he waited. She slowly pulled herself back once more, her make-up now fairly messy. It was just as well he wasn't in his dress shirt.

He gently rubbed his hands up and down her arms, trying to get her to mirror the tentative smile he was trying to fix to his face. She looked so pathetic though; so weary and done and tired that he wasn't sure she was capable of it.

Again, his though process seemed to blank for a moment as he gently leaned forward and placed a brief but soft kiss on her lips. When he pulled away, it was to find her eyes shut. When she opened them confusion was screaming from them.

"That's what the message said. Because you're wrong Mac; you didn't really see me after you left. From then to now I am much, much better…because of you."

She briefly looked down at her lap, not knowing what to say. There – he'd finally made Mackenzie McHale speechless – as rare an event as a blue moon. When she raised her head again, he thought he could see the ghost of a smile playing on her lips.

"I get to choose what we order?"

"Chinese, right?"

Now she smiled. He returned it and, feeling bold, he pressed another, just longer kiss to her lips, loving her hand coming to rest against his chest.

He pulled them both up, keeping one hand on her waist and reaching for his phone with the other.

He started to gently guide her over to the sofa. "You start to get settled here and I'll call that place over on Sixth, okay?"

Sensing there was no way she was getting out of this, and also rather liking Will's closeness right now, Mac toed her shoes off and swung herself down on to the couch, taking the throw which had been draped over it from Will. As she curled up, Will sat down next to her, gently pulling the throw further up her arms and holding the phone to his ear waiting for the dial.

She settled down, her eyes flickering closed far easier than she expected them to. It may have been something to do with the way Will was getting running the back of his hand across her forehead, ridding it of stray strands of hair.

She heard the first half of the order, but by the time he was ordering Chow Mein she was out.

Ending the call, he looked back down at her. Her face was now utterly peaceful – you wouldn't know it was the same woman who had been ranting and yelling at him for the last twenty minutes. He stayed there only briefly, because he would go and rally the team for her and pick up some of the slack so she could sleep; but before he got up to leave, he allowed himself a last kiss to her forehead and could have sworn she smiled in her sleep.

He wasn't sure how, but he dared to hope that maybe, just maybe, this last argument had finally allowed them to sort out some of their problems. Well…he supposed that everyone does it differently.