So, writing these last two weeks has been like pulling teeth thanks to several major stress-inducing events that decided to all come along at once. It all kind of messed with my head so writing was a no-go.

Life lesson: no matter how much you love your friends, never agree to live in a flat with them unless you've inspected the flat first yourself. Everyone has different standards.


Four Weeks, two days later…

Staring at the ceiling in the dark

Same old empty feeling in your heart

'Cause love comes slow, and it goes so fast

He's fairly certain she's not coming back.

He has no evidence that she's not not coming back, but he's convinced of this anyway.

He sent her an email nine long days ago – he checks his watch – okay, nearly ten long days ago. But, nothing.

Zip. Nada. Kaput.

And it's burning his veins from the inside out.

He wonders how on earth the logic that he has always prided himself on has insisted that Mac's constant yapping at his heels and in his ear has been an annoyance, a burden, when the dull buzzing that accompanies him wherever he goes in her absence is a hundred times worse.

When he's working on his laptop late at night, the only other sound is the light whirring of the cooling fan somewhere in its bowels; he thinks that maybe this is what has happened to him. He's turned into a machine who's brain has just been automatically programmed to spew out Mac-isms during tone meetings, and follow her teachings like a monk to the ten commandments; the rest of the time he's just on countdown until the next five days are over.

A clock or a battery though? He's not sure. Clock suggests that it is counting down to something…battery just implies that when that period runs out he will shut down and die. His battered mind sees this as the prevalent version of the conundrum this evening.

She's not coming back. She would have said. Mac definitely would have said. She would have replied. It's not like her. She is not like him.

This week he's been forcing himself to read some of the five hundred plus emails she sent him whilst she was last embedded. Going through them is surreal.

She sounded like…well, she sounded like the Mac he had known before, not the Mac he knows now. Except there was something he cannot put his finger on; some extra element to her words, her emotions and her character that he cannot describe. It's like – it's like she was in transition from one Mackenzie to the next, and though some things have stayed fundamentally the same, many others changed. This Mackenzie – the Mackenzie in the emails…it's like she's not quite done yet. She's not finished. He wonders how long it actually took her to become the Mac he knows now, and whether right now in some North African desert she's changing again.

But anyway…the point is she wouldn't be a dick like him and not reply to the email.

So why hadn't she?

It was eating him up.

Was she injured? Had they been taken hostage by rebels and CNN was keeping it quiet so that they wouldn't be held for ransom, used as leverage?

Or was she really just so through with them that she wasn't answering because she wasn't coming back?

He keeps coming back to Genoa. That is, ironically, his one beacon of hope, because he knows that whatever he might have done to her, whatever Afghanistan and Pakistan and Africa have done to her, her loyalty was one of the things that had never changed about her throughout it all. She would jump, drenched in oil through blazing hoops of fire for her team and those that she loved and cared about.

He realizes that his head makes no sense right now. He's effectively arguing a moot point with himself, yet he can't kill the doubts that are tormenting him.

He keeps coming back to something Charlie said in that meeting last week – first of all the assurance that Mac was indeed coming back (and that he was still in contact with her – after the hazing his boss had given him the last time he had broached the subject of their correspondence he hadn't had the balls to ask again) but there was another line too:

Your mistake wasn't actually sleeping with Nina – although that was pretty dumb - your mistake was thinking that you and Mac were still on an uneven footing when you did.

He gets it now – he totally gets it; and he's willing to grovel, beg, do time, never look at another woman again, take a vow of chastity if he goddam has to, to make her see that he is so incredibly, unbelievably sorry for what he has done to her and done to them.

It occurs to him that she has been doing exactly that – well, most of it – and he did absolutely fuck all to acknowledge it. He grapples with his demons to keep ahold of the notion that she has always been the fairer, better person – not that she has any reason to be now.

He's lying in his bed – his large, cold, empty bed – and wonders how he has managed to so monumentally fuck this up. For over two solid, straight years, he's keep this going when there have been so many small windows of opportunity for him to change it. The move was always his to make – she made sure of that.

They play as if on a reel of film in his mind, those times, as he lies there. All those "but it can be" moments that he let pass them by.

Because she was right again, his Mackenzie.

It's not. But it can be.

He wonders if any thoughts about their relationship had crossed her mind when she was writing that, or if she was really just listening to him waffle and it simply sprouted from her producer's instincts on a whim.

All those little moments that had come and gone so fast that at the time he had been too tied up in his own dark thoughts that he had not seen the potential for what they could have been. Solutions.

He was too slow. She's not coming back.

He allows his eyes to close and the darkness to completely enfold his senses.

There's a knock at the door.

Staring at the ceiling in the dark

Same old empty feeling in your heart

'Cause love comes slow, and it goes so fast

Well you see him when you fall asleep

But never to touch and never to keep

'Cause you loved him too much

And you dived too deep

It's the most comfortable seat she has sat on in days, weeks, maybe. And she's sure that this is a very bad idea. But it was instinctive, impelling, and she just had to do it before she chickened out and reverted back into the submissive, passive, excuse for a person she had been feeling like before she left. The whole reason she had left in the first place. Well, okay…not the whole reason.

She hasn't been checking the Internet much recently.

She has restricted her searches to the saved home pages of the news sites and blogs at the top of her search bar so that there is no danger of her going anywhere near Google, or typing words in that unintentionally bring up any gossip sites or celebrity news of any kind.

She also completely avoids anything that could have anything to do with Genoa.

If anyone has picked up on her swift departure from that mess, then she hasn't read about it, and no one in her team of saints has said anything to her. If she has needed anything researched then she has delegated it to someone else. But she's twitchy now.

The darkness surrounding her is mounting her nerves, making her anticipate the unknown and the possible.

She usually finds this liberating, but right now it just feels like there is a long dark road stretching before her and she can't see where she's supposed to turn off.

She knows that she is sick of thinking like this though. There have been a lot of mental images of tunnels and mazes and darkness haunting her dreams lately, interspersed with her more familiar ones that feature a little boy with silky brown locks brushing over his eyebrows as he clings, snuggled into her collarbone; a boy with impossibly blue eyes. When she's not dreaming about them, she's dreaming about him. There's no escape.

She has never been an impatient person. Sure, she could get as frustrated as the next person, but she's pretty good at being rational and being the calm one in the room – the one everybody else relies on to keep the peace. She's a fixer. Or at least she tries to be. But tonight, for the first time in recent memory, she just wants this to be over and to move on to the next thing.

She can't sleep, so here she is passing the time staring into the darkness around her, trying to ignore the noises and rustling of the silent figures here with her. She can at least be grateful that she's tucked into a corner, hidden from the few souls around her who are still awake. She wishes it were lighter, however. She's been up for nearly twenty-four hours and fighting Morpheus is becoming wearisome. But she can't.

The dreams will come back. And she knows that she makes noises in her sleep, and it will be embarrassing, and she already feels ridiculously uncertain about why she's doing this – no need to add another reason to the list. Not that she can actually change her mind now. Too late.

Four hours.

Yeah, definitely impatient.

Because what if this is all for nothing? What if it doesn't work?

She wants to believe the words she's reading in front of her, but she can't be sure. Not now. She needs – well. Yes. That's why she's here. That's why she's doing this.

One of the most rash, impulsive decisions she has ever made…one of the top three. All of which have each been caused by the other. Brian, Afghanistan…now this. Hopefully it's third time is a charm and it doesn't follow the course of the other two.

Four hours.

It's excruciating.

She genuinely believes that getting stabbed was less painless than this, although her weary mind concedes that there was more morphine involved then.

She is just...angry.

She keeps coming back to this.

She is so damn angry at him for throwing five years of hard, sometimes even painful or humiliating work on her part – only two of which he really knows about – back in her face without even letting her know that the game was up and she should fold her hand and leave the table. Instead he just let her –

She forces herself to breathe through her nose as it becomes to much again, tears prickling at the corners of her eyes.

The ever-present voice at the back of her mind tells her that he would understand all of this because she already put him through it, but right now she just wants to take that voice into a back room and strangle it.

The plane lands into a rainy JFK but she's not shivering from the wind, she's shivering from anticipation.

The baggage wheel takes and age, and an old French man standing near her keeps looking at her like he thinks she's about to faint. Or possibly explode. She wouldn't put money on either right now.

The smell of the city hits her as she steps out onto the concourse, heading for the taxi rank. It's familiar and it's comforting and it's home. And she needs that right now.

Because what if it's all for nothing?

Well you see him when you fall asleep

But never to touch and never to keep

'Cause you loved him too much

And you dived too deep

Apologies for the delay, I know this is quite short. But there is more on the way, and it's taken us five long chapters but we're nearly there! Thanks for reading! Leave a review if you have a minute - they make my day :) Ax