Chapter 3

The curious vacuum of silence which had filled her ears moments before returned as her world slanted.

There was an awkward jolt as they flew through the air as though they'd hit something, even though Mac knew they hadn't.

Seconds later, the capacity to think about it was momentarily denied to her as all the air inside her was knocked out as she and her protector landed hard on the tough, unforgiving carpet which covered the Newsnight floor of the ACN building.

She arched away from the ground gasping, trying to get air back into her lungs, as her hands tightened around the forearms of whoever was holding her.

She had smacked her head off the ground pretty hard before momentum carried them into the side of what she guessed might be the metal leg of a workstation, but right now she didn't care that her bruised skull was supporting the weight of her body as she struggled to breathe, panic beginning to take over her. There were white spots flashing before her eyes and she moaned pitifully as whoever was on top of her awkwardly rolled off. She could feel them curled up at her side, hissing; but her brain process wasn't clear enough for her to read any more into that. If only her head would stop pounding.

No such luck. The piercing calls of the Newsnight staffers suddenly came sharply back into focus, though it was as though someone was feeding the noise through an amp; it was painfully loud - deafening, almost; ringing shrilly through her ears. She screwed up her face against the noise and found that she herself was curling into a ball, self-preservation kicking in. She gingerly brought her arms up to her head to try and block out the noise, but she found that they seemed to weigh fifty pounds more than they should. She moaned again as footsteps approached her, seeming to sync with the pounding that was going on inside her head as the floor vibrated beneath them...or maybe it was the other way around. She couldn't tell. Rough, shaky hands grabbed at her and turned her over, a voice yelling at her, desperation evident.

Her mind told her to try and get away from the noise, that it needed quiet - she just needed to sleep. Her heart thought otherwise. It knew that voice. Another joined it seconds later. She knew that one too. It was calling her name, but she could feel it slightly to her right instead and she blearily figured that he was tending to whoever her protector had been.

"Mac! Mac! Mackenzie, please open your eyes, come on."

She so wanted to obey that voice, but she felt so sluggish right now that she didn't think she had the energy. Some distracted fraction of brain wondered why it was that she was not feeling any adrenaline right now...shouldn't that happen in exciting situations? Was she doing something wrong? The words "shock" and "concussion" seemed to float out of the dark recesses of her mind and she tried to shake them away. They were in bright, white block capitals against the deep black of her mind and it seemed to somehow be hurting her eyes...her inner eyes? Jeez, what was wrong with her?

She could feel the hands of the man above her running all over her; across her abdomen, her neck and shoulders, under her back and up her spine, down her sides, along her legs. She heard him say something anxiously to the other man and he replied sharply, but she couldn't make out what it was. Why couldn't she snap out of it already?

Deciding that it was time to stop acting like an invalid, the stubborn part of her brain - the one that promptly dismissed stupid stories in tone meetings, called Will out whenever he decided to be a wiseass, the part that had torn into Reece Lansing without a moment's hesitation - wearily lifted her hands to try and grab onto the man kneeling beside her, reassure him that he had nothing to worry about, that she just had a headache. He caught them in his own hands, and even through her confusion, she could make out a sharp sigh of relief.

"Guy's back off, okay? Give them some space!" Jim! It was Jim's voice to her right. She knew she had recognized it. And if Jim was to her right then that meant...

"Mackenzie?" Will's voice had gotten softer, become less panicked; although she could still hear concern and worry - she could even feel it coming through in his strong, yet gentle grip on her forearms. He shifted them into one hand and she instantly missed the contact of the other, but only for half a second. The other found the side of her face and as his thumb gently ran across her cheek coaxing her back to full consciousness, she felt her eyelids obeying as they fluttered open.

It took a few tries. The harsh fluorescent lights beaming down from the ceiling above them were a little too bright for her sensitive eyes, but Will leaned over her, apparently understanding why she was wincing and blocked it out.

Despite being the one lying on the floor, she raked across every part of him that she could see as soon as her sight came back into focus, eager to see that he was okay and unharmed. The gunshot was still ringing eerily in her ears. Unwilling though she was to look away from the caring, loving concern that she could see across every inch of Will's face, she turned to Jim, needing to know that he was okay too. His eyes met hers in a small reassuring smile.

"We get him?" She managed to croak. He nodded.

"Looks like Charlie here took a graze across the arm, but apart from that everyone's fine. The bullet missed and lodged into Tamara's desk, Lonny got the shooter. Looks like they were aiming for you."

A frown crossed his face and she watched as he raised his eyes to meet Will's, but she didn't care what they were silently discussing. Wincing once more as she turned her head so that it was laying sideways to her right she met the wearily smiling gaze of Charlie Skinner. Could anything ever stop this man from smiling? A warm feeling seemed to creep through her veins as she looked at him, sort of the like the warm, calming effect that a steaming hot chocolate gives you after you've just struggled home through a chilling wind.

She suddenly caught sight of the dark red line that was seeping through the tear in his tweed blazer. She balked, her eyes instantly burning. He had saved her life.

"It's just a graze Mackenzie." He said softly, slowly, his eyes not leaving her face. She felt his shoulder nudge hers and opening her watery eyes, she met his once more and, like Jim, he was giving her a reassuring smile whilst somehow his eyes still managed to twinkle.

She wanted to take his hand, try and thank him - but she didn't think that she could stop touching Will just yet. And she didn't think she could handle dealing with the fact that the four of them had almost just been shot because someone wanted her dead. Who wanted her dead? No. She definitely could not go there just yet.

"Someone called an ambulance?" She choked out, as her lungs finally started working properly again, trying to balance out all the shallow breaths she had been forcing through them for the last few minutes as her heart started to calm down.

"That'll be that shock kicking in then." Jim said wryly, a knowing grin sliding across his face. "Yes, Mac - Neal says they're five minutes out. What we need to know is if you are okay?"

She turned her face back to Will and felt her heart pull at the expression on his face; a mixture of concern and lingering fear. She let one of her arms slip gently through his grip until her hand was gently squeezing his wrist; her turn to do some reassuring.

"Will. I'm fine. Maybe hit my head, but -"

Before she had a chance to finish the rest of that sentence, the hand that had been resting on her cheek shot into her hair and she groaned slightly as his anxious fingers found the growing lump on the back of her skull.

"Jesus, Mac you're bleeding!" Frowning at the pressure that was now on her injury she squeezed his writs harder and forced him to look at her.

"Yeah, and Charlie's been grazed by a bullet!" He was still staring in scared fascination at the blood which now covered his fingers. She softened instantly. "Billy, look at me. It's just a cut and maybe a small concussion - I'll be fine, okay?"

"It's bleeding a lot!"

"It's a head laceration Will, they gush! Believe me it's nothing unusual." Will ignored her. She couldn't help but be a little amused.

"What do I do?" Will looked at Jim, obviously not trusting anything that was coming out of Mackenzie's mouth. Turning her head in exasperation, Mac looked back at Jim and saw the same bemusement on both his and Charlie's faces. But they humored him.

"Sit her up, it'll help ease up the blood flow. Then just keep firm pressure on it until the ambulance gets here. If she starts showing signs of shock or concussion keep her warm. But most of all just don't let her sleep." Will nodded like Jim was suddenly the wisest man on the planet and it was all Mackenzie could do not to laugh. But at the same time, given the butterfly feelings in her stomach at Will's reaction to her situation, she had absolutely no objections to Jim's instructions - she could have kissed him! She could really do with a hug from Will right now; even if it was under false pretenses. "Seriously Will, the ambulance is minutes away. Nothing is going to happen to her before then, trust me."

So I have two versions of this scenario. This story is the lighter one (and the more hastily written! :p). I'll try and post the other version before season 2 kicks off if there's enough interest. Warning, (more) fluff ahead!