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Oh, And I'm Just The Fool For You

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She’s leggy, intelligent and absolutely, positively, off-limits. Will strongly suspects the last part is going to end up fucking him over.

He’s had all the HR classes about how professors and students aren’t meant to fraternize and it’s never really been a problem for him. While he’s occasionally had a bright one here and there, there’s very little about a woman under the age of twenty five that interests him. He didn’t know who he fucking was at eighteen, much less know himself enough to date someone, and Will is too old for that shit now.

But then there’s her. She’s gorgeous but it’s in an unassuming way because MacKenzie McHale is jeans and a t-shirt, glasses and a ponytail. She has ink stains on her hand and her books have notes scribbled in the margins in addition to page after page filled in on a legal pad. He’s been lecturing about US Foreign Policy in the Cold War and her pen just hasn’t stopped. This is stuff that gets covered in the survey courses and he’d think a poli sci major would be snoozing through it (and most of them are) but not MacKenzie.

When he finishes the lecture, he sort of spaces on assigning reading and tells them all to look at the syllabus. The others peel out with the same blank expressions he’d gotten all day but MacKenzie lingers. Of course she does, because God hates him, and Will rubs the bridge of his nose a little.

“McHale. What can I do for you?” She launches into a spiel about how her father had told her that US Foreign Policy was a joke and what did he think about that and what did he think of the current war in Iraq and should the UN have sanctioned intervention in Kuwait and it all makes Will’s head spin. These are things he knows how to address, of course, but not when they’re being delivered by a leggy co-ed with messy hair and big brown eyes.

He lifts his hands. “Whoa, stop. First off, considering your father’s on the UN Security Council, I don’t think I’m the appropriate person to argue foreign policy with him. Let’s just stick to the syllabus, okay? We’re in the Cold War right now.” MacKenzie frowns and it’s just fucking adorable. He’s so screwed. So, so, so screwed.

“Well. You should be addressing it, Dr. McAvoy. I was wondering if I could write the paper on this issue instead of on the Cuban Missile Crisis?” She pairs this with a little smile and Will wonders if her father ever denied her anything as a child. He highly doubts it.

“Better stick to the assignment, McHale. I’ve got to go. Office Hours are on Tuesday afternoon.”

She turns to walk out, ponytail bouncing, and Will lights a cigarette as he watches her go. He is completely and absolutely fucked.

***

Sometimes Will likes to play gigs on the weekends and tonight he’s in a smoky little place called The Hummingbird. It’s packed full, like always, and college towns are great for tips. He doesn’t do it for the money anymore like he used to but there’s just something about playing for a room full of people that gives him a rush.

He strums his guitar and plays a few chords when he sees her. She’s in slim jeans and a shirt that has no back and there’s a creamy expanse of pale skin that he just wants to reach out and touch. Instead, he curls his fingers against the guitar and rubs them against the frets in a vain attempt to forget about her. He needs bourbon. He needs all the bourbon in Kentucky right now. Maybe that’s what drives his song choice, how he launches into a cover of “You Were Always On My Mind,” and she’s still talking with her friends until she turns halfway through and her eyes fix on his.

Jesus. He is fucked.

He sings to her. There’s no way he can lie to himself about that and he sings to her, makes every note and chord progression belong to her. He’s dimly aware of the cheers that go up but all he can focus on is MacKenzie, who is crossing the room to speak to him. Now that she’s close, he realizes she’s completely plastered and while it’s adorable, it sort of changes what he was planning to do with her tonight.

“Hi Billy,” she says, high-pitched and almost girlish and she looks impossibly young even though she’s got dark eyes and lips. He laughs at the nickname because it’s so fucking infantile and he’s pushing forty and she’s barely old enough to drink but he likes it. He likes that she feels familiar enough with him to do that and he wonders what it means. He’s already decided to fuck the rules and see where it goes but he’s not going to take advantage of her when she’s drunk. That’s just not the kind of guy he is.

“Hey, McHale. Think you’re about done for the night. You got a ride home?” She looks behind her and tries to spot her friends - they’ve mostly all cleared out without her. She shakes her head and her eyes are big and luminous in the low light of the bar. Will carefully puts his guitar back into the case and slides an arm around her, paying off her tab at the bar and taking her out to his car.

He’s headed back to the university and is navigating one of a series of one-way streets when MacKenzie pipes up from the passenger’s seat. “I think you should take me home with you.” It’s a bad idea. It’s a really shitty, piss-poor bad idea and Will’s going to do it because there’s no way he can resist her, not when he’s wanted her for the better part of two months and she’s innocent and vulnerable and the kind of bright-eyed idealist he’s always wished he could be. He turns away, heading home instead of back to the dorms, and wonders just how fucked up this is.

Once they’re at his apartment, he offers her his bed and a change of clothes. He also offers her aspirin and water because she’s going to need them in the morning; he’s surprised she’s still mostly standing up considering how much she drank and how slight she is. He is fully intending to sleep on the couch when MacKenzie pads out from his bedroom in nothing but his dress shirt, bare legs going on for miles.

Jesus fucking Christ.

“Billy? Will you sleep with me?” Will groans and pushes himself up off the couch because resisting that is useless. He keeps his clothes on (as much armor as sweatpants and a t-shirt can be) and sighs when she slides up against him, pillowing her head on his chest and slinging an arm around his waist like she belongs there.

Sadly, she really, really does.

***

“Oh shit. Shit, fuck, shit, fuck...oh God, I don’t remember...how did I get here?” Will wakes up slowly to a panicked MacKenzie who is pacing around his room and looking like she’s about to get sick. He’s not sure if that’s from the hangover or from worry and it takes him a minute to get upright so he can address both of those things.

“We didn’t sleep together. You were drunk and your friends cleared out so I brought you home. Well, I was going to take you back to the dorm but you asked to come here instead so I brought you here. But I didn’t...we didn’t fuck.”

MacKenzie’s eyes are wide but she sighs a little in what he suspects is relief. Typical. He’d read into her flirty signals from the night before and she’d really just been completely out of her mind. He gives her an apologetic smile. “Look, MacKenzie, I wouldn’t take advantage of you. You’re my student and, more importantly, you’re a woman who’s placed her trust in me. I’m not going to do anything to violate that. I know that alcohol can make you attracted to anything that moves. I wouldn’t do anything with you when you were like that, okay?”

She frowns for a moment, working that out, and Will barely has the time to duck when a pillow comes flying at his face. What? What the hell was that for? It makes no sense whatsoever since he was just telling her that he’s a good guy in spite of being stupid enough to bring a student back to his apartment in less-than-sober condition.

“You idiot! I got drunk so I’d get the courage to fuck you because I’ve never done it before! Not because I didn’t want to actually...ugh.”

Oh. That changes a lot of things, doesn’t it? MacKenzie crosses the room and straddles him; his shirt rides up her thighs and Will curls his fingers against the sheets to keep from touching her. If she hasn’t done this before, he doesn’t know that he’s the best person to introduce her to that. Then again, better that it’s him than some clumsy jock that’s not going to know what the fuck he’s doing or, worse, just not care. When she cups his face and kisses him, Will feels like there’s fireworks going off in his head and his conscience is a dim, dark reminder that he shouldn’t do this. It’s really easy to ignore.

His hands slide up her thighs and cup her ass, pressing her down against him so she can feel exactly what she does to him and MacKenzie gasps against his mouth. He wonders how she managed to get to 21 and never sleep with a guy but he guesses that MacKenzie is as choosy in this as she seems to be in everything else. She’s smart and mature for her age and he imagines that her classmates have little to offer her. He likes to think that maybe he has something she’s interested in.

She’s shimmying out of her panties when he stops her and rolls them, sliding down her body and dragging them off himself. He hasn’t been with a virgin in a long time but he knows that as much as she thinks she’s ready, she’s not, and he’s going to make it good for her before she does this. Her skin is pale and smooth and there’s a few freckles here and there; Will kisses one that’s on the inside of her left thigh before he slides his mouth higher, nuzzling at her.

“Spread for me?” he asks, looking up to meet her eyes with his and make sure this is okay. MacKenzie seems to know what he’s asking without his voicing it because she nods and while she looks nervous, she seems excited too. Good. Exactly what she needs to be for this. He inhales for a moment, nervous himself, and presses his mouth against her. He keeps it open and soft, gentle, and runs his tongue over every inch of her just to explore before he sucks lightly at her clit.

“Oh God,” MacKenzie whimpers and Will laughs against her when he feels her fingers digging into his shoulder. He bites the inside of her thigh lightly and sucks a mark there before drawing his fingers against her, gently teasing. “Relax, Mac,” he murmurs, gently working one in while he goes back to sliding his tongue against her clit. She stiffens a little at the intrusion but relaxes, sighing a bit, and Will adds another finger and crooks them gently to press against her g-spot; when she comes, she lets out a strangled little moan and she’s so fucking tight against his fingers that he’s not sure how he’s going to handle that around his cock.

She falls back to the pillow and he pushes the shirt up a little to lay a kiss against her belly. She’s gorgeous. There’s a little sweat on her forehead, enough to make her skin glow, and she’s flushed with wide eyes and messy hair. She’s propped on her elbows in his too-big shirt and he’s pretty sure he’s never wanted a woman as much as he wants this one. He undoes the buttons slowly and slides the shirt off, dipping his head to kiss her breasts and to lick, suck and tease at her nipples before he stands and slides out of his own clothes. He rolls the condom on himself, not trusting what’ll happen if he lets her do it, and stretches out beside her. He lays his hand over her belly.

“I’ll take as much time as you need,” he says, sliding his fingers down to play in the mess he’s made of her. MacKenzie nods quickly. “I don’t need any more time, I just need you.”

MacKenzie is small, so he tries to keep most of his weight on his elbows when he slides into her. She hisses a little and he stops, only for her to make a frustrated noise and grab his ass to press him closer. She’s fiesty, his MacKenzie, and while she’s a virgin she’s not a shy one. She’s so tight and hot and perfect and he keeps his hips moving slow and steady even though he wants to just fuck her. He’s a gentleman.

When he comes, he buries himself deep and meets her mouth in a messy, desperate kiss with his teeth snagging her lower lip a little and MacKenzie whimpers under him. She’s perfect. So, so, so perfect.

He’s pretty sure he’s ruined.

***

When Will comes in on Monday, there’s a paper slid under his door. Fifteen pages, double-spaced - much longer than the actual assignment.

Current Foreign Policy And Operation Desert Storm by MacKenzie McHale.

Somehow he thinks he should have expected that.

Chapter Text

Will has found that his available amount of time to grade has been cut down considerably since MacKenzie has ended up in his bed and he feels like he owes her all of his nights since he can’t really acknowledge the relationship by the light of day.

She has an exam in the morning for one of her history classes and after studying dutifully for a few hours, she’s sprawled in bed beside him, face-first on the pillow and snoring lightly. It’s adorable and he’ll never tell her that she does that.

He’s smoking a cigarette, something he normally doesn’t do in bed but he doesn’t want to leave MacKenzie right now. He takes the opportunity to mark her paper while she’s out and it’s good. It’s damn good. It’s just not on topic.

For that, he takes a letter grade off what would normally be an excellent, A-worthy paper and marks a few things she could have clarified on.

McHale. Good use of resources and insightful, meaningful discussion. Not on the current topic, so I’ve given you a B. It was worthy of an A.

He stubs out his cigarette and puts the grading on the bedside table so he can concentrate on something better, which is a warm, soft MacKenzie snoozing in bed next to him. He's not really sure how this happened other than alcohol and a supreme lack of judgment on his part and he's pretty sure they're going to end up getting caught. He knows it means the end of his career, more or less, even though it's a consensual relationship.

Part of him doesn't particularly care. He was a successful attorney before taking this teaching job at Columbia and he can always go back to it. He's still a member of the New York bar and there's nothing preventing him from picking up where he left off. If things with MacKenzie get serious, he might well go back to it. It bothers him somewhat that he's already thinking it might be serious but this is such an aberration in how he normally behaves that it has to be by default.

He curls around her and when she shifts in her sleep and makes a little noise almost like she's waking up, Will kisses her neck and her shoulder to soothe her back down. They have several hours before she needs to be up and out of his apartment and he wants to enjoy them for a little while, even if it's just to sleep.

***

He wakes up to the hot, wet sensation of MacKenzie's mouth on his dick. At first, he thought he was just having a damn good dream but then he quickly realized no, actually, MacKenzie was honestly waking him up with a blowjob. He comes embarrassingly fast and hopes like hell that means she's been at it for a while. MacKenzie doesn't seem to care anyway because when she looks up at him, she's got a self-satisfied little grin on her face and her hair is adorably rumpled. Jesus.

"Morning, Will," she murmurs, squeezing his thighs lightly, and Will tugs her up close so he can kiss her. He wouldn't normally before brushing his teeth but she's just had her mouth on his dick and he thinks that makes his objections irrelevant for the time being. She kisses him back for a few long moments before spotting the stack of papers on his bedside table and then she pulls away, frowning.

"A B? It's going to tank my average!"

Will is very aware of MacKenzie's average and while it'll dip some, he doesn't think it's going to do much harm in the grand scheme. He gives her a sheepish smile. "You didn't write the paper on the actual topic, Mac. I can't reward subversion in the classroom." She makes a disgusted little face and Will can't help but catch her and kiss her again, wanting to get that frown off her face in any way that he can. He seems to be reasonably successful in that endeavor.

"Look, I can't...it was a good paper," he concedes. "Really good. And if that had been the assigned topic you would have gotten an A. I just don't want anyone suspecting that I'm showing you favoritism because then they're going to start noticing us and they'll find out about this. If anyone finds out about this, well. We're fucked. I'm going to lose my job. So it's more than just giving you a B to spite you, I promise. I'm just trying to be fair about it and I graded it like I'd grade anyone else."

With that particular explanation, MacKenzie's face softens a bit and she leans in, brushing a kiss against his cheek before whispering up against his ear. Will has always liked this kind of intimacy with a woman, sharing secrets and pretending like there's nobody else in the world and MacKenzie sort of makes him want to make rash, stupid decisions all the time. He suspects it's equal parts mid-life crisis and the throes of new love.

"I love that you expect me to be responsible for my own academics but nobody's going to find out, Will. I'm going to be so discreet in class that nobody will ever know and from now on, I'm not going to take any of your courses. I'm not going to give them a reason to notice us or, if they do, to take action on it. I wouldn't do that to you. That's not what this is."

Will fully believes her. He just thinks that her father might not be so open-minded about it.

He kisses her nose softly and swats at her hip. "Out of bed, lazybones. You've got an exam and I have office hours today. If we hurry, we can probably take a shower together?"

He thinks it's telling that she immediately drags him out of bed and he's more than eager to follow like the lovesick puppy that he is. He's so fucked and he really doesn't care, not when he has MacKenzie smiling up at him with big brown eyes and the innocence of youth before time and career has made her jaded. A couple years actually being a politician might make her change her mind on how government works but for now, he thinks he might fall for this idealistic English girl that's half his age and that, right there, is pretty fucking frightening.

He decides he'll just enjoy the moment instead of pondering how it can go wrong.

Chapter Text

The term is close to over when Will gets a call to come fill in for the regular gig at The Hummingbird since the singer just didn’t show up and left the owner high and dry. Will is more than happy to come play as long as he doesn’t have anything else going on and MacKenzie had told him that she had a paper to write and wouldn’t be coming over.

He gets his guitar and sings a few when he hears a laugh that he recognizes, a rapid-fire little giggle chased with a raspy English accent. He peers through the haze of smoke and sees MacKenzie sitting in another guy’s lap, turning her head and whispering in his ear and occasionally leaning in for a long, not-so-subtle kiss.

Will hadn’t really had a conversation with her about what they were but he did think it was more than just fucking. He’d hoped it was exclusive, too, as much as you can be exclusive with your professor that you’re just seeing on the side.

Apparently not.

He finishes his set with her favorite song, Imagine, and even though MacKenzie’s drunk, he sees her make her way over to see him. Her eyes are big and she starts stammering, presumably to offer an apology. Will doesn’t particularly want to hear one. It’s not like what they had could amount to much of anything, considering.

The guy is with her, lanky with just a shadow of stubble against his cheeks and MacKenzie introduces him with words carefully measured out and slurred with whatever cocktails she’s been downing all night.

“This is Brian! Brian’s my boyfriend from...from high school and he went to Dartmouth but he’s...he’s in the city for his winter break. They finished earlier than us. Brian, this is Dr. McAvoy.”

Brian offers a hand and Will sort of half-heartedly shakes it. He isn’t sure why he thought he could compete with her actual boyfriend who goes to Dartmouth but he does kind of wish MacKenzie had fucking said something. He has a sick sort of satisfaction that she was definitely a virgin when he slept with her the first time and that’s something Brian’s never going to get.

It’s not much of a comfort.

“I’m sure you’re great. Kenzie, you want to go home?” MacKenzie looks a little confused, as if the words are too complex for her to handle and she nods. Will catches her wrist and presses his fingers in against her pulse point, asking her to stay behind for a moment. Brian and the rest of her friends head back to their booth to collect their coats but MacKenzie stays, a stricken look on her face.

“Nice, really. You could have told me it was just fucking and not led me on.” MacKenzie shakes her head, apologies falling from her lips in a jumbled, artless mess. “We were on a break! Brian and I weren’t speaking and he’d cheated on me and I wanted to make him jealous and so I did and...but...but we were on a break and now we’re back together! We’ve been dating for a long time, Billy, and...”

Will cuts her a dark look and drops her hand. “Yeah, well, maybe you should have told me before you kept fucking me that this was all it was. Because I didn’t think it was just fucking. I thought we were keeping it quiet so I didn’t lose my goddamn job and I was actually pretty damn impressed that you’d been so good about keeping it secret. Now I know better. You were trying to keep it secret so nobody told Brian you were cheating on him.”

It’s not as satisfying to argue with her when she’s clearly drunk and miserable and Will thinks he sees tears welling up in her eyes before her friends call her away, begging her to come spend the rest of the night at someone’s apartment and not in a smoky bar with a sad singer.

Yeah. Will knew he’d end up getting fucked by this, he just didn’t think this would be the way.

***

Billy? It’s me. You’re not answering the phone and I wanted...I wanted to say I was sorry and to see if I could come over? I miss you. I never...I wanted to break up with him and I was trying to find the right time and I couldn’t really do it over the phone and then he came back and things happened and I’m so sorry. I miss you. I miss you so much. Call me back?

It’s the first of seven messages on his answering machine and Will deletes the other six without listening to them. He doesn’t have time for leggy co-eds who don’t know what the fuck they want and thinks it’s probably for the best. The last thing he fucking needed was to get caught fucking his student and MacKenzie’s taken care of that for him; he’s never touching a student again after this shit.

He’s just poured a glass of scotch and lit a joint when the phone rings again. It rings once, twice, and then he finally says fuck it and just answers. “McAvoy,” he barks out, wondering who in the fuck is calling him. It’s Christmas break, so it’s probably not a student and it sure as fuck isn’t the school. They won’t need him back until January and he’s thinking of taking a sabbatical and going back to practicing law. He liked that a hell of a lot better than this and, well, it paid more.

“Will? It’s me.” She hardly needs to introduce herself. Will almost hangs up in her face before realizing that he, unlike MacKenzie, isn’t a confused little girl and can be an adult about the breakup of a relationship. It’s not like MacKenzie has anything over at his place so Will’s not sure why she’s fucking calling him but he decides that between the pot and the alcohol, he’ll mellow out enough not to scream at her. That can only be beneficial.

“Yeah? Don’t you have a Dartmouth boy to bring home to daddy?” MacKenzie makes a soft, sad little noise on the other end of the line and he knows that he’s wounded her. What’s worse is that he doesn’t care because he spent four months falling in love with her and just found out that for her, it didn’t mean anything. She was perfectly willing to throw away what they’d started to keep things going with her long-distance boyfriend and it’s pretty fucking clear that he was just a momentary distraction from being lonely and the thrill of the chase.

“No, I broke things off with him,” MacKenzie says softly. “For good, this time. He doesn’t seem to think...he thinks I’m going to school just to pass the time before we get married and I’m not really interested in that. I’m not interested in being with someone who’s going to plan my whole life out for me and not let me have a say in it.” Will thinks that’s probably for the best but it doesn’t mean he’s taking her back. He doesn’t take kindly to being used.

“I just wanted to say I was sorry. I didn’t...I guess I didn’t realize you had feelings for me and I didn’t realize I had feelings for you until I was with Brian again and it was all wrong. I just...I’m sorry. I wanted to start again. I’m not in your class anymore?”

Yeah. He knows. She’d gotten her A out of him and had moved on to greener pastures, clearly, without letting him know in the interim.

“Yeah. Seriously, MacKenzie, do yourself a fucking favor and forget my phone number. I don’t want to see you, talk to you, acknowledge you exist.”

MacKenzie disconnects the line and all Will has to fill the quiet is a Coltrane record and the clink of ice in his glass.

***

When he gets back to work after New Years,’ there’s a study abroad application laying on his desk. The head of department has already approved it but they needed him to sign off on a few things. He skims it, everything looks good, and then he notices the name: MacKenzie.

MacKenzie wants to go to Russia for a semester to study in Moscow. Will signs off on it and shoves it in an inter-office envelope before sitting at his desk to chainsmoke a half-pack of cigarettes.

Great. He thinks it could only be better if she’d picked goddamn Siberia.

Chapter Text

When he gets back to work after New Years', there’s a study abroad application laying on his desk. The head of department has already approved it but they needed him to sign off on a few things. He skims it, everything looks good, and then he notices the name: MacKenzie.

MacKenzie wants to go to Russia for a semester to study in Moscow. Will signs off on it and shoves it in an inter-office envelope before sitting at his desk to chainsmoke a half-pack of cigarettes.

Great. He thinks it could only be better if she’d picked goddamn Siberia.

***

Hi Will. Is this the right email address? Physical mail is just so much slower even if my net is unreliable here. I really love it. My Russian is better than my English now, I’m afraid, and it’s hard to make the switch. I miss you. Did you get the card I sent? I just wanted to say hello. I tried to call but the time difference just makes it so difficult.

XOXO,

Mac

Will deletes the email without responding. It’s not that he doesn’t want to respond, he does, but there’s not much he can say to MacKenzie that doesn’t start with “fuck” and end with “you.” He doesn’t think it’s going to do much to improve relations between them and so he does not let his emotions get the best of him and fire off a response.

Instead, he starts keeping a bowl of M&Ms in his office because they’re her favorite and she is M&M.

It’s possibly the stupidest fucking thing he’s ever done.

***

Sorry, my phone is breaking up. Moscow is wonderful! Is it too late? Are you in bed, is that why you’re not picking up? Please pick up, Will. Will, I miss you. I miss you desperately. I think about you all the time and wonder what, if anything, I can do to fix this. Will you let me fix it? I love you, Will. I never told...I never said it before but I did, I fell in love with you. I want you back. Please call?

Will sits and listens to her message over and over and over. He was awake when she called, busy drafting up his resignation letter to Columbia and a response to the offer he got from a tax law firm. It’s bullshit but it pays a ridiculous amount of money and right now he’d rather be rich and miserable than moderately comfortable and miserable. Besides, if he’s billing hours out the ass, he’ll be both rich and occupied and can’t think about MacKenzie.

***

She loves Moscow, yes, but it’s damned lonely. She has barely any friends and she misses Will more than she can possibly say. She doesn’t know what to do to fix things and MacKenzie isn’t exactly sure if there is a way to fix it. She’s tried everything she can think of and none of it seems to work.

At this point, she guesses she should throw in the towel but MacKenzie’s never been that kind of girl. She fights for what she wants over and over until she gets it through sheer dogged determination and Will is no exception. She’ll get him back. She just has to keep pushing and pushing and pushing until he gives in.

It’s not much of a plan but it’s her plan.

She finishes her semester and comes back in time for graduation, only to find that Will’s apparently left the university and when she asks about him, he’s taken another job. MacKenzie can’t say she’s terribly surprised, considering he’d come from a big firm before coming to teach and now he’s gone back to it. She doesn’t think it’s entirely appropriate to visit him there, of course, but at least it means their inappropriate relationship is less so.

She busies herself with GREs and grad school applications and eventually finds a program that she likes that allows her to stay in the city. Her available time fills in with internships and papers and as busy as she is, she doesn’t think about Will nearly as much. She wonders whether or not she’ll see him but she lives in Brooklyn now and his firm’s in Midtown and there’s just very little chance of it, isn’t there?

New York, after all, is one of the biggest cities on the planet.

***

Will eases into television gradually. He starts as a legal correspondent and gets accidentally promoted to anchor when he covers 9/11 for ACN and suddenly he’s got a show every night. He’s growing an audience and everything seems encouraging even though he’s not really polarizing anyone one way or another. He has his own opinions, of course, but he thinks it’s better for the focus group numbers if he keeps them to himself.

He dates, here and there, but it’s never anything serious. The longest he’s ever had a girlfriend in his life has been about six months because any longer than that and they start sniffing out commitment, which he isn’t ready to give. MacKenzie did more damage than he’d previously thought in that regard.

It’s only when he drops in on Charlie Skinner to see he’s interviewing someone that he even thinks about MacKenzie again and that’s because she’s sitting right there in front of him. Charlie introduces them and he shakes her hand like he’s never met her but inside he just wants to scream obscenities because it makes no fucking sense why she’d want to apply to work at ACN when she fucking sees him on television every night.

“MacKenzie’s going to be your new executive producer, Will. I just offered her the job.” MacKenzie is beaming and while she looks nervous, it’s mostly excited.

Will nods and heads to his office to drink a metric fuckton of scotch. There’s not enough scotch in the world to make this clusterfuck any better.

Chapter Text

September 2005

He doesn’t speak to her. MacKenzie tries on several occasions to strike up a conversation but other than sitting sullenly in a rundown meeting that she asked him to attend, he hasn’t said anything directly to her. MacKenzie wants to try a new format and Will flatly refuses. She doesn’t have much sway so she ends up conceding a little of her high moral ground and he gives her one story a night. One story to do whatever the fuck she wants with and the rest of it is his. This is, of course, negotiated indirectly through Charlie.

The first night she’s in his ear, he tells her that he doesn’t want to hear anything unless he’s about to catch on fire. She’s blissfully silent through the whole broadcast and it’s only after they go to the second break that he realizes she’s thrown color bars up on his monitors the whole time and he’s been blithely going on like he has graphics to use. Motherfucker.

“MacKenzie? You think you can stop having a fucking technical problem back there and do your goddamn job?” It’s incredibly harsh and not the way he normally speaks to women, even MacKenzie, but he hates being made a fool of. She doesn’t say anything and he tries again, voice slightly less on edge.

“MacKenzie? Are you deaf? What the fuck is going on with my graphics?”

He finally hears her voice, smug and soft with her perfectly-rounded vowels and he wants to kick himself. Of course she’s fucking with him. Of course. It’s typical MacKenzie and, when he’s not being made to look like a dumbass on national television, one of the things he used to admire about her. Possibly still admires, of course, but he’s not admitting that to anyone.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t notice the problem and then when you addressed me, I didn’t know if I was allowed to speak to your glorious person so I erred on the side of caution. Now, are you going to allow me to do my job or are you content with colorbars for the rest of the evening? I will yank your feed and run commercials for an hour if I have to. I’m sure the fellows upstairs would love that.”

Will glares at the camera but it doesn’t feel nearly as effective when he can’t see MacKenzie’s face. He decides that it’s easier to just concede this one thing and he sighs a bit. “Just do what you need to do, MacKenzie. When am I back?”

He hears MacKenzie laugh softly and fuck, he’s done for. He’s missed the way she laughs and he can just imagine how she looks right now with her hair in a ponytail and her eyes crinkling up a bit. MacKenzie laughs and smiles with her whole body, it seems like, and he’s always loved how expressive and expansive she is. MacKenzie is a maelstrom of passion, sweeping everyone away who’s unlucky enough to be in her path. Or lucky, considering on whether or not they can weather the storm.

Will’s pretty sure he’s up the creek with no paddle.

After the broadcast, he yanks his earpiece out and marches out of the studio, heading straight to his office. He’s going to change and go straight home for a bottle of scotch but he’s only just gotten a chance to turn around to grab his street clothes when he hears his office door pull open and slam shut again. Goddamn. It’s MacKenzie.

“If you ever belittle me like that again, I will have your balls on my desk as a goddamn paperweight.” Will slowly turns around and sees MacKenzie standing there practically shaking with rage. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen her this angry. Actually, he knows he hasn’t and he’s glad of it. Over the past eight years or so, she’s filled out and grown up. She’s traded the long hair for a shoulder-length bob and she doesn’t wear glasses any longer. He wonders if it’s contacts or LASIK.

“I apologize, MacKenzie.” He can apologize for how he said what he said because it wasn’t appropriate but he still doesn’t want her yakking in his ear during the broadcast. He knows what to say and how to say it without her being pushy. “I should not have spoken to you that way in any situation but much less in a work one. Won’t happen again.”

He won’t be cordial but he can definitely be respectful. That’s no skin off his teeth. Besides, he thinks his mother might have been disappointed in him if she ever heard him speak to a woman the way he just spoke to MacKenzie.

“Good. Because I’m no longer some leggy, easily-influenced co-ed with stars in her eyes about her poli sci professor. I’m a journalist, same as you, and you will respect me in front of my peers. Do you understand?”

Will nods slowly. He doesn’t think anyone’s ever put him in his place quite like this and if he wasn’t still hurt by MacKenzie he’d be fucking impressed. He still is, a little, but he tries to hide it under being curt instead because there’s no way he’s going to let her in, even if she’s just as smart and beautiful as he remembered.

It was four months eight years ago. Why is it that fucking hard to forget about her? Damned if he knows.

MacKenzie sinks down in a chair opposite his desk and he takes that as a sign that this particular part of the conversation is over. He works on loosening his tie and after struggling with it for a moment, MacKenzie makes a disgusted noise and gets up, crossing over and sliding it loose for him. When she has the knot undone, she waits for a moment and presses her hands flat against his chest; when she looks at him like this, he almost can forget what she did all those years ago. Almost.

Their eyes meet for a long moment but MacKenzie breaks away first, looking down at her shoes as if they’re particularly interesting. The movement makes her hair slide forward over her cheek and there’s nothing that Will wants to do more than tuck it back behind her ear and brush his fingers against the soft skin of her cheek. He curls his fingers into a fist instead.

“I’ll go. Tomorrow night, then?”

Tomorrow night.

Chapter Text

The first night he lets MacKenzie really take over his show is the night that they run Katrina. Everyone’s been running the scale of the disaster, the search and rescue, but nobody’s touched the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers set up an entire city to fail. There’s evidence the levees couldn’t withstand the volume of water coming through them and, worse, that people higher up were aware of it.

It’s the kind of shit he doesn’t stand for. So he lets MacKenzie run with it.

She runs the broadcast from top to bottom and it’s tightly polished and absolutely as close to perfect as it can get. She has her fingers on the pulse of everything in the ACN control room and Will feels like their thoughts are so seamless that he barely has to think of something before she’s gone and done it. He likes that. They make one hell of a team and afterward, he wants to ask her for a drink but he’s not entirely sure how to go about doing it. He and MacKenzie had ended on bad terms all those years ago and he’s only just now started to defrost toward her. She’s standing with her summer intern (Dan? Yeah. It’s Dan. Or possibly Don.) and making a few notes before he clears his throat.

“Great job behind the scenes tonight,” he says, giving her a warm and genuine smile. MacKenzie looks a little shocked and goes back to what she’s doing; when she tucks her hair back behind her cheek, he can see that her skin is flushed a pale, soft pink. He’s gotten to her. Maybe it’s not the way he wanted to but it’s progress and he’ll take it.

MacKenzie works day and night on his show, slowly molding it into what she wants. Will notices that dedication and wants to do something but he’s not entirely sure what. He ends up taking it upon himself to submit the Katrina broadcast for Peabody consideration, paying the fee out of his own pocket. It’ll be a surprise to both her and ACN if she wins it and he doesn’t want her to know that he had a hand in the submission.

It’s mid-May when he hears a little squeal coming from her office and MacKenzie runs out, a letter in hand. “I’ve...I’ve...somehow miraculously I’ve won a Peabody. An actual Peabody. This couldn’t be better if I won a fucking Emmy!”

Will thinks it could be better if they won an Emmy, because then their ratings might come up, but he doesn’t say anything. Instead he just smiles and watches while MacKenzie spends a day floating on cloud 9 and it makes the broadcast feel almost like a party with how happy she seems behind the scenes. He’s certainly willing to keep making her happy if he can have nights that run as smoothly as tonight ran.

After the broadcast, Will goes to change and when he comes out of his bathroom, MacKenzie is standing there with the Peabody letter in her hand and a sheepish look on her face. Will gives her a quizzical look in response and even though he doesn’t say anything, he guesses that MacKenzie can decipher the question.

“I need a date. There’s apparently an actual reception following the presentation of the award and on the off chance that I actually win, I’ll need a date. I don’t really have anyone that I can ask and you’re free to say no but I thought I would take a chance?” MacKenzie seems nervous and unsure and truthfully, so is Will. Even if it’s just a favor to his executive producer, going out on a date with MacKenzie is a little more loaded than he would like it to be. Still, he isn’t going to let her look like a fool.

“I’ll be happy to do it. Just tell me when and where and I’ll show up with the suit.” MacKenzie looks visibly relieved and tells him to have a good night before she flits away, cheeks still flushed and steps still bouncing from the excitement of her nomination.

Good. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

***

The Peabody award ceremony is in the first part of June and Will has agreed to meet MacKenzie at ACN before heading over to the ceremony and reception itself. He hates wearing a tux but it’s pretty much required for something like this. He can only hope that he can keep the fidgeting at a minimum so he doesn’t make MacKenzie look like an idiot and, besides, his ratings have gone up enough that people have started recognizing him out in public. Maybe it’s stupid but being a little famous feels good, like he’s loved, and it’s not something he has a lot of experience with.

What also feels good are the few seconds he can look at MacKenzie before she notices that he’s standing there and goddamn she looks good. The dress itself is a deep green, like an emerald, and it clings to every curve. When she walks, he can see that there’s a fairly-high split and her legs look just as good as he remembers. He drags his eyes up to her face when she draws close and that doesn’t help matters much; MacKenzie has never been one to wear much makeup or do much to her hair but right now she looks fucking gorgeous and professionally done up. Damn.

“You look nice,” he says quietly, taking in the way her eyes crinkle up a bit when she smiles and trying to ignore the pang in his heart. He’d definitely loved her back then and he can see why. There’s a lot about MacKenzie that’s loveable and it’s hard to remember why he broke things off, at least for right at this moment. He’s sure the memories of Brian pawing her in the bar will come back sooner rather than later.

“Thank you. Hopefully I won’t win because I’m pretty sure I’ll trip in these shoes up to the podium.” Will laughs lightly but he’s a little worried that maybe MacKenzie hasn’t prepared for winning and she’s not exactly the best at off-the-cuff remarks. “Um, you did plan for that contingency though, right? Just in case it happens, you did plan for it?”

MacKenzie’s eyes go wide and she shakes her head. “No, I don’t think I’ll win at all so I didn’t prepare anything. Shit. Can you write me a speech just in case?”

So that’s how Will ends up writing a Peabody acceptance speech in the back of the limo on the way over and finishes it between glasses of champagne while they watch the awards for print media. When they announce MacKenzie’s category, he’s just finished writing it and he passes it to her just in time for the announcer to call her name. She looks genuinely shocked and can’t move for a moment but Will gives her a little nudge, whispering, “Go on,” into her ear to get her on the move.

She accepts the award and only flubs up once; Will calls that a rousing success. When everyone moves over to the reception hall, Will keeps his hand at MacKenzie’s lower back and is pleasantly surprised when she asks him to dance with her. He’s never actually danced with MacKenzie before, never had the chance, and he’s not surprised to see how well she fits in his arms.

“You should have known you were going to win,” he teases, hand sliding low on her back and over to cup her hip. MacKenzie laughs softly and lays her head against his shoulder. “I was being humble, Will. Besides, I’m very young. It’s a great honor that many journalists never receive, much less journalists as young as I am.”

He doesn’t think age has much to do with it but he’s willing to let it slide, especially when he has MacKenzie in his arms and she seems utterly content to be with him. When the song ends, he brushes a kiss against her hair and pulls away, deciding to quit while he’s ahead. He knows that the connection between he and MacKenzie is so strong that he’s in very real danger of falling for her again and he’d rather work on their friendship first.

Still, when she looks at him...he knows he can’t resist her. MacKenzie keeps close to him in the limo back and when the driver asks which way he should head, Will gives his own address instead of MacKenzie’s or ACN.

Fuck. So much for friendship.

Chapter Text

Will keeps his arm around MacKenzie as they ride up the elevator and his fingers brush against the silky material of her gown. She’s fucking beautiful. Will has always thought she was beautiful, whether that’s in the jeans and t-shirts of her college days or the trim business wear she wears now. This formal gown is another beast entirely and he’s pretty sure it’s going to be the end of him.

Once they’re in his apartment, he wraps his arms around her and slides one of his hands up into her hair, just holding her close for a moment. MacKenzie’s eyes are dark and hot and Will has to suppress the urge to shiver a little; fuck, he’s done for. Completely done for.

“Kiss me, Will. It’s been ages but...I think we can still figure it out, right?” Yeah, he’s pretty damn sure they can figure it out and when his lips touch hers, it’s like nothing ever changed. They might as well be back in his shitty apartment of eight years ago, long before she hurt him and he hurt her and things went bad.

MacKenzie whimpers a little and relaxes in his arms, lips parting a little further and giving him just enough access to deepen the kiss. As much as he wants to carry her back to his bed and fuck her, he’s completely content with just this because he’s been thinking about her nonstop ever since she showed up at ACN and he doesn’t know why he can’t get her out of his head. He doesn’t understand how this woman has affected him so goddamn much when it was just a brief fling almost a decade ago but she has and he guesses he just needs to go with it and stop questioning it.

When he breaks the kiss, MacKenzie’s eyes are soft and a little hazy, her cheeks are flushed and her lips are pink from kissing. God. MacKenzie is, honestly, the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen in his life and while others might not agree or might not see what he sees, Will couldn’t give a fuck. Attraction is intensely personal and while he’s been attracted to other women, both before and after MacKenzie, there’s never been one who does it for him quite like she does. She’s smart and beautiful and completely unafraid of expressing herself - the combination is intoxicating.

He brushes his fingers back against her cheek and he has to bite the inside of his to keep from groaning when she blushes and smiles deep enough that her eyes crinkle up a bit at the corners. Fuck. He’s falling in love with her again. He’s not entirely sure he ever fell out of love with her to begin with, he’d just been so angry that it had covered up every other emotion he had regarding MacKenzie McHale.

“You’re beautiful,” he says lowly, tucking her hair back behind her ear. “And I really, really want to take you to bed right now. I’m trying not to be an asshole so if I fuck it up, I’m sorry. I just thought you should know that up front.” MacKenzie shakes her head and leans in to kiss him again, her lips soft against his. She pulls away just enough to speak, lips still moving against his skin.

“You’re not fucking it up. I want the same thing.” Okay. Well. That’s always a good sign. He’s nervous about being with her because it’s been so long and they have so much bad blood between them but he thinks he wants to just pretend for a little while and make love to a woman he just can’t get out of his head. Maybe if he can get past this, get her out of her system, he can move on.

He strongly suspects this is not going to work out the way he plans.

His hands roam over her back and he finds the zipper of her dress, easing it down slowly and following the path of it with his fingers. Her skin is as soft as he remembered from before and when the zipper is all the way down, MacKenzie steps out of the shimmery green gown and kicks it away. Fuck. Will leans in and kisses her again, backing her toward the bedroom and he manages to get her up against the door before he has to stop and just touch her. She’s fucking gorgeous in black lingerie and stockings and those fucking shoes and it’s like she knew when she got dressed for this ceremony that she’d be going home with him; MacKenzie has always known how to be exactly what he wants, whether it’s intentional or not.

Even though his knees are going to hate him in the morning, he can’t help but kneel down in front of her and kiss her navel, her hips, every inch of skin he can find. He brushes his fingers against the back of one of her knees and MacKenzie frowns down at him, a little confused. He laughs and nips a little at her skin. “Over my shoulder, Mac.” She slides her leg over his shoulder and the sharp point of her stiletto digs into his back a little. Fuck.

He brushes his fingers against the front of her panties and she makes a low, soft sound that Will is pretty sure has sent all the blood in his body directly south. He’s not really sure how one little whimper from MacKenzie affects him like this but he guesses he shouldn’t question it and should, instead, go with it. He tugs her panties to the side and replaces his fingers with his mouth, drawing his tongue up her slowly because he’s not in a rush. He doesn’t know if this is going to go anywhere past tonight and as much as he wants to make it good for MacKenzie (and he does, he really does) he wants to savor it for himself. MacKenzie draws in a sharp breath and he licks her again, loving the fact that she’s whimpering and squirming as much as she can manage in this position but it still isn’t putting her any closer to him.

After a few long moments of teasing, he sucks at her clit and MacKenzie curls her fingers deep into his hair, hissing a little and thrusting her hips against his mouth as close as she can manage. God. He loves her. He loves her, he never stopped, and when she starts coming he presses his mouth as close as he can, coaxing her through it and only pulling away when her fingers relax in his hair and her breath comes out in a slow, soft sigh. He eases her leg down off his shoulder and she offers her hand to help tug him up.

“Bed, right?” She nods and tugs him close, pressing her lips up against his ear. “There is nothing sexier in this world than you in a fucking tux getting me off.” Well. Good to know. Will isn’t sure if the tux is going to make a reappearance, he hates wearing them, but MacKenzie is making a strong case for it. Her fingers are quick over his clothes and she doesn’t waste any time getting him undressed; she’s wearing a whole lot less than him but he takes his time because she’s gorgeous and he just wants to savor it. He wants to remember. He’s insanely visual and he tries to memorize every curve and every freckle; maybe if this doesn’t happen again, he’ll still remember how she looks.

He draws her into bed and as much as he just wants to fuck her, he keeps it insanely gentle. He closes his eyes and groans when MacKenzie slides down on him, hot and wet and perfect, and his hands cup her hips to guide her into a slow, lazy rhythm. Even if they didn’t work out in other ways, they’ve always been fucking amazing in bed together and it doesn’t feel like eight years has changed that at all. God. He’s missed her.

He shifts his hand so his thumb can work circles over her clit and her breath catches; Will grins and keeps it up, putting a little pressure against her and his own breath catches when she comes again, tight and hot around his cock. Will draws her down into his arms and he finds that he just can’t stop touching her, light little touches against the smooth skin of her back and down to her ass.

“I love you, Will. So much.”

He does too but, inexplicably, he can’t say it back.

Chapter Text

Will wakes up before MacKenzie the next morning and just takes a moment to look at her. She’s got dark makeup smudged beneath her eyes and she sighs softly in her sleep, rolling over from her side onto her back. Her mouth’s just a little bit open, like she’s waiting for a kiss, and he runs two fingers down her neck and shoulder and marvels at just how fucking soft her skin is.

He’s always loved sharing a bed with MacKenzie, no matter how much bad blood there is between them and when she involuntarily kicks off the blankets and knocks them low enough that he can see her breasts, he decides it’s time to wake her up and pursue a few more interesting things. The sunlight dapples her skin as he kisses a line down her neck and chest, lips kissing each and every freckle before he slides his tongue against her nipple to bring it to a peak. MacKenzie sighs a little louder and he grazes his teeth against sensitive skin before kissing lower; his mouth’s just above her navel when her hips shift and her eyes flutter open.

“What are you doing?” she asks, voice muzzy from sleep and Will nuzzles her a little and trails his fingers along her thigh. “Waking you up,” he replies, grinning against her skin. “You’ve been asleep too long and I got bored.” She sighs like she’s put out but her thighs shift open just enough that he can get between them. Good.

He spreads her with his fingers and licks her slowly, keeping everything soft for the time being. MacKenzie moans up above him and one hand half-heartedly pets his hair; she’s still mostly asleep and if it wasn’t for the shift in her hips to bring her closer to his mouth, Will would think she’s out. He’s greedy now, though, and cups her hips to bring her close, sucking lightly at her clit before lightly drawing his teeth down against sensitive skin. “Fuck, Billy,” she whimpers, fingers tightening in his hair. He looks up and her eyes are open, pupils dilated and lids heavy, and he sucks the fingers he used to spread her wide for him.

“Need more,” she reminds him, rolling her hips up to punctuate the point. “Yes ma’am,” he replies and works two fingers in, adding a third when she bucks against his face. He fucks her with them for a moment before sliding one back, carefully pressing in against her ass while he crooks his other fingers against her g-spot and doesn’t let his mouth up. MacKenzie tugs his hair, hard, and slams her hips up against his face, little moans and whimpers turning into something on the high end of the decibel scale.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” she manages before her words die out and it’s just a scream, long and high-pitched and she’s clamped down tight on his fingers. He grins against her, satisfied, and keeps his mouth against her until her body relaxes. He slides his fingers out and kisses her hip lightly before she’s tugging him up close to her and she sprawls boneless against his chest.

“Fuck you,” she sighs. Will just chuckles and holds her close, fingers skimming lightly over her soft, soft skin.

“I’d like that, if you’re up to it.”

It doesn’t take her long to slide on top of him and she’s hot and wet against his dick, hips moving in a slow, rolling rhythm that’s equal parts tease and frustration. He feels like he’s racing to get there instead of enjoying the climb and MacKenzie presses her palm flat against his shoulder and tips her head back; the movement shifts her body just enough that her breasts are on perfect display.

She’s so wet that he slides out a couple times and eventually Will rolls them, hitching her leg up over his hip as he settles in for a long, slow fuck. He scrapes his teeth against the hollow of her throat hard enough to leave a little bruise. He doesn’t normally do that but he wants her to remember this and remember him and how good they are together. He buries his face against her shoulder when comes, teeth scraping hard against delicate skin.

He collapses against her for a moment and he feels MacKenzie’s hand playing lightly in his hair. He slides down just enough so he’s curled against her instead of on top of her and he pillows his head against her chest, content to listen to the staccato rhythm of her heart as they both come down. MacKenzie’s fingertips slide down and touch his ear, feather-light, and Will barely resists sighing like a goddamn fool.

Fuck, he’s in love with her. He never stopped loving her from before but his stubborn nature makes him try to deny it to himself. When that stops working, he’s careful not to let MacKenzie get a wind of it because for some reason, he isn’t sure if he can handle being in love with her again. Four months. It was just four months eight years back and yet somehow, MacKenzie’s left this indelible mark on him that somehow time and distance has been unable to remove.

Right now, he’s content to just lay with her and ignore the world for a little while longer because her sighs sound sweet and her fingers playing in his hair remind him of a time when he was a lot poorer but a fuck of a lot happier. Making seven figures doesn’t mean jack shit if he has nobody to share it with him and this is the best his bed’s ever looked, with MacKenzie sprawled in it like she belongs there.

He slides up and catches her mouth in a kiss, slow and unhurried and when it breaks, MacKenzie smiles wide enough at him that her eyes crinkle up a bit at the corners. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

“Love...love you.”

He still can’t say it back. What the fuck is wrong with him?

Chapter Text

It’s been a few days since MacKenzie stayed over with him and while she’s tried a few times to corner him, Will hasn’t let her. He still isn’t sure how he feels about having fucked her twice and heard her say she loves him and him being completely unable to say it back so he’s just avoided the issue and, by extension, MacKenzie herself.

He’s perfectly cordial during the broadcasts but he doesn’t linger and finally by Friday, she appears to have had enough because she storms into the makeup room and runs off the woman doing his hair before turning on him. There’s steel in her eyes and he knows that he’s in for a tongue lashing. He more than likely deserves it, considering.

“What the fuck is going on with you? No texts, no calls, not even a hello in the corridors? I thought Saturday night was fantastic. You could have had me over again every night this week if you’d just picked up the damn phone.”

Normally MacKenzie seems about as threatening as a wet kitten but right now, he’s not entirely sure what to expect out of her. She seems angry as hell but there’s a vulnerability in her eyes that just makes him want to wrap his arms around her and never let go; he’s not sure how this kind of dichotomy can coexist in one person but MacKenzie seems to have it mastered.

“I didn’t mean to send you mixed signals or hurt you,” he says, trying to be as diplomatic as possible about this. “Saturday night was...great. But I’m not really in a place right now to…”

Will doesn’t get to finish his sentence because MacKenzie has thwapped him against the back of his head. He’s not really into physical violence but MacKenzie seems more angry than threatening at the moment and he’s not fearing for his life. Not yet, anyway. Time will tell on that particular front.

“So let me get this straight. You fucked me. You let me say I loved you, more than once, and now you’re going to back out of the whole thing? Don’t you think the time to say you weren’t looking for a relationship was, oh, before you slept with your ex-girlfriend?”

Will lifts his hands. “I know, there’s no defense. One thing just led to another and I was feeling nostalgic and it happened. I’m an asshole. But I didn’t mean to hurt you, MacKenzie. I didn’t go into Saturday night thinking I’d fuck you and humiliate you because that’s not the kind of guy I am. You know that.”

MacKenzie sinks down in the chair opposite him and sighs, breath ruffling her hair lightly and making her look all of twelve instead of in her early thirties. He’s not really sure how she manages to do that, either.

“You’re a complete ass,” she reminds him. “And I didn’t consider it just a fuck because I don’t do that. Except...well. Except when I did, back then, during the thing that we don’t talk about. But that was different. I fell in love with you and just happened to be dating someone else at the time or whatever. This is...you should have known better, I think.”

Will doesn’t know what to say so he doesn’t say anything at all. MacKenzie has tipped her head down so she’s not looking at him and when she speaks again, her voice is soft and small. “I should have known better. I should have known that anything with you would mean too much to me and I should have held out until I had a better idea of what was going on.”

Will wants to say something desperately but the words stick in his throat and he can’t get them out. It’s part pride, yeah, because she did humiliate him back then once he figured out he was just the other guy and it’s part hurt. He’d honestly had a lot of complicated, deep feelings for MacKenzie and finding out he was just being used to get back at Brian wasn’t exactly the best way to resolve those feelings. Any effort they’ve made to repair their relationship since she’s come to ACN seems to be completely washed away in one night; Will’s not sure if he has the energy to start mending fences again.

He’s just about to ask her if they can start over and keep things slow when MacKenzie abruptly stands up and smooths down her skirt. She toys with her hair for a moment and catches his eyes as she stares in the mirror; Will figures it’s her way of trying to keep her distance because she has some painful news to deliver. He more than deserves it, at this point.

“I think,” she starts, biting her lower lip as she twists her hair back into a ponytail. “We should go back to our professional relationship. Not that we have ever been terribly professional but I need lines, Will. I can’t sleep with you and then be cold as ice the next day and I don’t think it’s fair to me to keep...to keep giving me hope, you know? I’m not someone who takes kindly to being used.”

There’s a lot of irony there, considering their history, but Will understands. He understands more than most men would, considering he’s been there, and he nods. He stands up and squeezes her shoulder lightly, just a fleeting touch, before moving to leave the room.

“I am sorry, MacKenzie,” he offers. It’s hardly going to cover up all his sins in this particular misstep but Will has never been afraid of offering an apology where one is due and he owes MacKenzie this. He wishes, more than anything, that he could just tell her that he loves her and that it’s all going to be all right, they just need to take it slow, but there’s something about those three words that make his normally-silver tongue turn straight to lead.

“You need to be on set. I’ll be there in a few minutes,” she responds and there’s not even a hint of a smile at the corner of her mouth. She’s set herself into firm lines, angled steel, and there’s not a lot he can really do at the moment to crack it.

He resolves to be less of a brat on camera; at least if he makes her job easier and doesn’t try to rile her in his newscaster’s form of peacock strutting, she might not be quite so irritated in days to come.

Chapter Text

Things are quiet for the next few weeks. Will does his job, and well, and he barely sees MacKenzie outside of the hour between eight and nine when he hears her in his ear. He’s got a weird fetish now that he wants to hear her voice whenever he gets a chance so he’s taken to calling her at night after they’ve gone home under the auspices of discussing the show or a story he wants to run or how he could have done something better. While part of him honestly craves and respects her feedback, it’s more that he wants to hear her voice and pretend he hasn’t fucked everything up for the time being.

MacKenzie, whatever her motivation for doing so, seems to be playing along. It’s late September and the city seems to finally be creeping into autumn when things come to a head again. Congress has just passed legislation to allow the US Military to try and detain militants in military court and, essentially, deny them due process. MacKenzie is livid about this and wants the entire A block devoted to how wrong it is but Will disagrees. He doesn’t like Bush as much as his father, no, but he thinks he’s a good president doing his best with a shit hand. He definitely thinks terrorists don’t deserve the same basic rights as citizens of this country and he’s not about to have his show turn into a shitstorm because MacKenzie has a bee in her bonnet about due process for war criminals.

So he doesn’t listen to her. She’s fired up in his ear and after the show, he walks from the studio back to his office in order to smoke a cigarette. He’s got it to his lips and the lighter in hand when MacKenzie storms in, slamming the door shut. He sees someone walk by and she decides that this isn’t enough because she pulls the vertical blinds closed and shoves a chair against the door. She apparently wants no interruptions while she’s having this argument and he guesses it’s because she doesn’t want any witnesses for his inevitable murder. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen MacKenzie this angry in his life.

“What in the actual fuck were you doing? When I tell you to fucking criticize this administration, you better fucking well do it. There is absolutely no reason why you cannot be critical of the suspension of due process and it be a support of terrorism. Yes! They’re terrorists! And they need to be tried in front of a jury of goddamn American citizens and fucking thrown in Leavenworth. The end. We don’t just lock people up without proper trials! Habeas corpus, man, you were a goddamned lawyer.”

Will values his life immensely so he will never say so when she’s in the midst of tearing him apart but there is nothing sexier on this planet than MacKenzie McHale in the middle of an argument she feels passionately about. He’d like to fucking let her have it, argue back, and have a good long fight before an even longer fuck. Jesus. He needs to not think that way. He lifts the cigarette back to his lips with shaking fingers and lights it, only for MacKenzie to yank it from his mouth mid-sentence and stub it out. He closes his fingers around her wrist.

“MacKenzie. Calm the fuck down.” He squeezes her wrist lightly and shifts to stand up, coming around the desk to where she is. MacKenzie yanks her hand away and starts up again, rattling off statistics with practiced ease. Will lightly puts his hands on her forearms to stop her flailing and he isn’t sure what, exactly, comes over him but he leans in and kisses her, hot and long and just this side of bruising. MacKenzie mumbles against his mouth for a moment before her lips part and she’s kissing him back just as desperately, teeth and tongue pressing up against his in something that’s not quite graceful and a little out of sync but undeniably fucking hot and, more importantly, them.

He backs her up against the wall between his bookshelf and the bathroom door and while the blinds are pulled shut, he still makes the point of blocking anyone’s view of her with his body. Kissing MacKenzie is private and while he would prefer not to be doing it in his goddamn office, he thinks he can make this work. He works his knee between her legs to spread them a little and MacKenzie complies, splaying her feet as much as she can in her narrow skirt. He’s still kissing her, mouth angled against hers and tongue pressing deep as his hand hikes up her skirt and his fingers brush against the front of her panties. MacKenzie tears her mouth away and gasps and he freezes.

“What the fuck are we doing?” she whispers and he starts to move his hand away when she leans in and kisses his neck hard enough that it’s not so much a kiss but a bite. They’ll have to cover that with makeup tomorrow but he doesn’t give a fuck because he’s got his fingers under the damp lace of her panties and her cunt is hot and slick. MacKenzie moves her mouth back to his and kisses him again and he slides his fingers in with one smooth movement, taking his time to feel her and know her in all the ways he’s missed over the last several years. Saturday night three months ago wasn’t nearly fucking enough for him.

He feels like it’s a race with her, thirty seconds of fucking ecstasy after weeks of buildup. He breaks out of the blocks with her only to be pulled up short and he wants a marathon instead of a sprint. He wants everything with her, to fight and to love and to pick out fucking curtains and furniture and to build a life but he’ll take this. He’ll take this any day of the week if it’s the only way he can have MacKenzie McHale in his life.

His thumb works over her clit and he slides in another finger, loving the way she lets out the softest little sigh and her eyes go completely dark. She’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever had the pleasure of knowing and while he knows he’s been with other women commonly considered gorgeous, nobody has ever fucking done it for him like MacKenzie McHale does it for him. Oh no. She’s the end all and be all of his sexual preferences in spite of the fact that he’d never admit it out loud.

Will kisses her again, softer this time, and tries to impart a little of the tenderness he always wants to give her and always ends up fucking up. MacKenzie whimpers and falls apart under his hand, body squeezing tight around his fingers, and when she relaxes he slides them away and tips his forehead against hers, breathing heavily. She presses her lips together.

“I need to...I need to go, Will. I’ve got to pack up and go home and there’s...I need to go.” He kisses her again softly, trying to put all his feelings into that one action and hoping like hell she understands.

“See you tomorrow, Mac.”

Chapter Text

Will isn’t exactly planning on much of anything when he sends the diamonds but he thinks that since his words are all fucked up, maybe he needs to send gifts instead. He sends her a beautiful necklace from Tiffany peppered with diamonds and sapphires and watches and waits over the next few days to see if she wears it. It takes two weeks but the box shows back up in his office, seemingly unopened, and Will wonders if Mac honestly held onto it that long and just looked at it. Seems like her.

He catches her before the morning rundown a few days later and pushes her office door closed, not wanting to embarrass her in front of the staff. He wouldn’t ask this at work but she hasn’t really been responding to any of his overtures and he’s not really sure where they stand. Other than a cool, calm courtesy in the control room he hasn’t really gotten anything from her and it hurts. Granted, he thinks he probably did more of the hurting this time around but he’s not sure what happened and what changed.

“Mac? What’s going on with you...with us?”

MacKenzie sighs and looks like she’s about to speak when her phone buzzes. She glances down at the screen and holds up a finger; it’s a call she intends to take. Will isn’t sure how long she’s going to be and he settles in the chair opposite her desk, trying to occupy his mind so he’s not focusing on her conversation because it hadn’t been his point to come in and eavesdrop.

“Honey, I really don’t have time to talk right now,” she says lowly, turning a bit in her chair so it’s slightly harder for Will to hear her. “No, I’ll see you tonight. Yes. Will’s here to talk about the rundown. I know. See you later.” She disconnects the call and turns back around, a faint flush on her cheeks.

“I came in to ask you why you returned my necklace but I guess I see why,” Will says quietly, trying to keep hurt from bleeding in. He guesses he probably should have expected as much, that after MacKenzie told him that she wanted to maintain a professional relationship that she might try dating again - and not dating him. It’s expected but it’s no less hurtful just because he knew it was coming.

“Look, I appreciated the necklace and it was very beautiful but just because you decided you wanted...whatever doesn’t mean I’m going to accept gifts just because I put out. I don’t do that. And I told you I wanted to be professional and what happened a few weeks ago was just a momentary lapse in judgment. I’m dating someone now and I really, really need for you to not pressure me about this.”

Will’s a little hurt that she thinks he would ever pressure her and then he remembers fighting in her office turning into something that crossed a line and decides it’s probably not his place to be hurt about anything as far as MacKenzie’s concerned, except that everything goes back to the fact that she used him to get back at her boyfriend eight years ago. He doesn’t know why he can’t let it go. He doesn’t know why he can’t just tell her that he’s in love with her, that he never stopped, that he wants her in his bed and wearing his ring and in his life. He just can’t. It’s like every time he tries he fucking remembers and his tongue goes to lead.

“You’re dating someone. What’s he do, then?”

Will knows it isn’t an innocuous question and it’s apparent MacKenzie knows that too based on the way she sighs and rolls her eyes. “He’s an attorney with the DOJ. Financial crimes. Very successful, older than me, has it all together. Apparently I run true to type. Maybe I need to stop fucking lawyers and start fucking doctors instead.”

Will stands up and puts his hands against her desk, leaning in so he’s in her personal space. He hates himself for it because the last thing he wants is to intimidate MacKenzie but nobody gets under his skin like she does. But, unlike how his father used to yell and scream, the angrier he gets the quieter he is and his voice is barely above a whisper and carefully measured out. “You could have fucking answered my calls, you know. I didn’t intend that to just be a fuck. I am not that kind of guy and you fucking know that, MacKenzie. I wanted something with you and you didn’t take my calls. Were you already dating him when we fooled around? Needed a little palate cleanser before you went back to Mr. DOJ, esquire?”

MacKenzie flushes bright and shoves at his shoulders with her hands, pushing him away as best as she can.

“Actually, no. It was a blind date. I finally conceded to being set up because I need to fucking get over you. I’ve been trying to get over you for eight fucking years, Will McAvoy, and I’m goddamned tired of you holding it over my head that I was once an idiot and I hurt you. Fine. I used you. I fucked you to get back at my stupid boyfriend. Did it ever occur to you that I was twenty one and didn’t even know who I was? That my confidence was completely wrapped up in whose cock I was sucking at any given point? Did you ask? Did you ever think it was wrong that you fucked me when you were my teacher and I should have been able to trust you? Did you ever think about how you could have been taking advantage of me? No. You didn’t. Because it is all about fucking Will McAvoy and his precious fucking ego because he got cuckolded. Fuck you, Will. Fuck you.”

Will sighs and tries to keep his emotions in check. MacKenzie makes his temper flare up faster than anyone he’s ever met before and he suspects it’s because he feels so strongly about her. “MacKenzie, I never, ever meant to take advantage of you. I would have thought it was evident based on how I treated you, the gifts I gave you, the places I took you that I wasn’t using you. I was in love with you. I told you I was in love with you. If you honestly think our whole relationship was predicated on the fact that I wanted to fuck you then I don’t know you at all. Because, trust me, I would not put up with your shit now if I wasn’t in love with you. I would not lay my fucking heart out for you if I didn’t love you.”

MacKenzie presses her lips together and lets out a long, slow sigh, ruffling her hair a bit. “You love me?”

Her voice is soft and vulnerable and Will knows he needs to tread lightly. He’d said it in anger and he doesn’t know if he’s prepared to give it to her with sincerity yet. Not when he feels raw and opened up and overexposed.

“Yeah. I do.”

It’s not exactly the overture he’d intended.

Chapter Text

Summer edges into autumn and with it comes MacKenzie’s birthday at the top of October. It’s a little cool in the city now and Will has traded his usual t-shirts for sweaters and there’s football back on his television. Everything is good, except MacKenzie is still dating the asshole from the DOJ and he doesn’t know how to get her to come back to him instead.

He guesses telling her that he loved her while screaming at her wasn’t exactly the best idea he’s ever had.

He decides not to give her shit during the broadcast and MacKenzie is uncharacteristically quiet; Jim takes over halfway through and says MacKenzie had something come up. Will doesn’t let his surprise show and when the broadcast is over, he goes and finds MacKenzie in her office, makeup smeared beneath her eyes and phone buzzing incessantly. She doesn’t answer it. Will frowns a little and pauses in the doorway, not stepping inside any further.

“MacKenzie? What’s going on? I figured you had birthday plans.” MacKenzie looks up and seems embarrassed at having been caught crying. She wipes her eyes and presses a few buttons on her phone. “No, it’s...it’s stupid. I’m stupid.” Will abandons his principles about giving her space and steps into her office, settling in the chair opposite her desk. “Mac, come on. What’s going on?”

MacKenzie sighs and rolls her shoulders; Will sort of wishes he could rub them for her and ease out some of that tension before taking her out for her birthday. Someone ought to be, anyway, because she deserves it. A woman like MacKenzie McHale should never be alone unless she wants it.

“It seems that my boyfriend is married,” she says stiffly and Will wants to do two things: first, he wants to wrap MacKenzie in his arms and not let go and second, he wants to punch Wade Campbell in the face. He curls his hand into a fist and sighs a little. “Well, I don’t have to tell you that he’s an idiot. Nobody would hurt you if they were in their right mind.” MacKenzie gives him a dark look and he sighs. Well. Maybe that didn’t go over exactly how he intended it.

“Look, Mac, if he lied to you, that’s not your fault. You were just trying to go out with someone you liked and he fucked you over. Not your fault.” He does come around the desk now and lays a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it lightly. MacKenzie covers his hand with her own and for a few seconds, they meet eyes and Will feels a lurch in his stomach that he almost always gets when it comes to MacKenzie. Fuck.

“It still hurts, even if it’s not my fault. And it’s my birthday, too. I should have known that when he cancelled on me that it would be something like this. Apparently his wife’s gone into labor,” she says bitterly. Will rubs his thumb against her skin and the words are out of his mouth before he can think through them.

“Come out with me, Mac. You shouldn’t be alone on your birthday and definitely not because some asshole lied to you. There’s...no pressure, okay? It can just be two friends celebrating your birthday if that’s what you want.” MacKenzie looks like she’s considering it for a moment before pushing away from her desk and nodding quickly.

“Yeah, let’s go out. I need to change, we can steal something from wardrobe, right?” Will nods. He’s pretty sure that nobody is going to say anything to the executive producer of News Night and the star anchor of the entire network. MacKenzie slips out and she’s only gone a few minutes before coming back in a trim black dress that looks like it came off Sloan’s Gucci rack. Will can’t help but gape at her a little.

“You look nice,” he murmurs, putting an arm around her and escorting her out of the building. They go to a restaurant near ACN, one where Will has a standing reservation and the maitre’d is happy to get them a table. It’s a private table and Will’s ordered wine and started perusing the menu when MacKenzie finally speaks.

“Thanks, Will. You sort of salvaged it for me. It’s...it’s nice to go out and feel special,” she says and he puts down his menu and watches her carefully. This is the time where he needs to really say something meaningful and not something that can hurt her or be construed that he’s just trying to get up her skirt. While there’s nothing he’d like more than to go to bed with MacKenzie, that’s not what this is about at all.

“Look, MacKenzie. Someone should be taking you out and making you feel good about yourself every night of the week. If they’re not, you need to drop them. Anyone would be a fool to risk losing you, to hurt you, because you’re beautiful and brilliant and did I say beautiful? Because you are.”

He’s rambling now and feels like an idiot but MacKenzie seems to respond favorably because she flushes a little and looks down into her wineglass. “Thanks, Billy,” she murmurs and he can’t help but smile.

It’s the first time she’s called him Billy in longer than he can remember.

“Don’t mention it. I just wanted to show you a good time on your birthday.” There’s a little dance floor in this restaurant and as a jazz band starts to play, Will offers his hand to her. He’s actually a good dancer, which is more than he can say for most of his gender, and he likes to show off a little whenever he gets the chance. Being with a woman like MacKenzie is a rarity for him as he tends to date empty-headed arm candy more often than not. There’s nobody who can play in MacKenzie’s league and he’d rather just not even try to replace what he had.

“You’re doing a fantastic job,” she murmurs and she lays her head against his shoulder as they begin to dance. He rubs his hand along her back and slides it beneath her hair, playing lightly in the silky strands. “Good. If you feel the need to give me advice, go ahead. I’m used to having you in my ear.”

MacKenzie laughs and presses her mouth against his ear. “Take me home with you, Billy.”

He’s more than all right with that.

Chapter Text

Will is nervous. He’s never really been this nervous about MacKenzie before and it’s a new, strange feeling that swoops in his stomach and doesn’t make a lot of sense because in a lot of ways, he knows that he’s probably the standard by which she measures everyone else. Maybe he wasn’t her first relationship but he does happen to be the first guy she ever slept with and he likes to think it was memorable.

(It was memorable for him.)

He slides his arm around her as he takes her up to his apartment and even when they wait in the elevator, he doesn’t dare move it. He wants to keep as close as he can, as if somehow MacKenzie will disappear and just leave her shoe behind if he doesn’t keep a tight grip on her and thankfully she doesn’t seem to mind it. If anything, she’s clinging just as tightly to him and Will thinks that finally, things are looking up.

Once they get inside his place, he nods toward the bar and asks if she wants a drink. MacKenzie shakes her head quickly and fingers along the edge of his silk tie, a little smirk playing at her lips. She has this uncanny ability to be fucking sexy and innocent looking at the same time and she’s doing it now; Will’s pretty sure it’s not something she achieves on purpose as MacKenzie isn’t quite the cool, confident creature she wants the world to think she is. MacKenzie is refreshingly honest, especially in a sea of sleek Manhattan social climbers looking to gain a rung or two by fucking him and there’s nobody he’d rather be with than her, his MacKenzie.

His MacKenzie, even after all this time.

“No, I’ve got something else in mind,” MacKenzie assures him, deftly untying his tie and tossing it down to the floor beneath their feet. She works over his buttons just as nimbly and parts his shirt with both her hands, just laying them flat against his chest. It’s not exactly the sexiest thing but it’s very intimate and there’s nothing Will wants more than intimacy. He isn’t exactly expecting MacKenzie to sink to her knees and it’s only when her fingers have his fly undone that he manages to say something.

“Uh, Mac? It’s your birthday,” he stammers, realizing it’s stupid as fuck, and Mac just laughs. “Honey, if I want to suck your cock for my birthday, I’m going to do it.” MacKenzie always sounds a little strange when trying to talk sexy but this time it comes off without being weird and Will chalks that up to the fact that she didn’t exactly plan it. It also doesn’t hurt that her hands are gliding along his cock and practically making his eyes roll back in his head.

Her mouth is hot and tight against his cock and Will lets out a strangled little moan before threading his fingers in her hair. He doesn’t push or pull, because that’s just fucking rude and not something you do to a woman unless she asks for it, but he definitely wants her to know that he likes what she’s doing. And oh, he likes it. He better than likes it. He pretty much wants her to marry him on the spot and it’s not just because she’s fucking amazing at giving head.

He thrusts just enough that he brushes against the back of her throat and MacKenzie relaxes enough to take him, really take him, and he’s so close to coming that he has to pull away or he’s going to ruin the rest of the night. He manages, but only just, and it takes him a second or two before he can look down at MacKenzie and not just spontaneously ejaculate. She looks gorgeous. The straps of her dress have slid down her shoulders some and there’s plenty of cleavage because as petite as MacKenzie is, she’s got curves in all the right places. Her mouth is pink and full, swollen a little from sucking his cock and kissing his mouth and Jesus, he wants her mouth on him again. He settles for shucking his pants and boxers and kicking off his shoes before extending his hand down to her to tug her to her feet.

MacKenzie pushes his shirt off his shoulders and turns around so he can unzip her gown. It joins the little pile of their clothes on the floor and as stupid as it is with his bad knees, he scoops her up in his arms and carries her the rest of the way to the bedroom. MacKenzie giggles lightly and busies herself with kissing his neck, soft little kisses all along his skin, and by the time he deposits her on the bed he’s panting again. He lays flat on his back and motions her close; MacKenzie obliges him by straddling his hips.

That’s not exactly what he wants. He cups her hips and pulls her forward until MacKenzie gets the hint and straddles his shoulders instead. “Should I?” she asks, tentative, and Will rubs one hand along her thigh. “Grip the headboard,” he suggests. He’s never actually done this before but it’s not that out of the ordinary and it’s going to be a lot better on his back than trying to go down on her if she’s laying down. They’re just accommodating him at the moment. He grabs her hips again and pulls her down, taking a moment to just inhale and wrap his brain around the fact that MacKenzie is here with him and not out with that asshole anymore. Maybe they’re fixing this. Maybe.

Will takes his time. There’s a lot more to sex than just the end result and it’s been a long time since he’s been able to take his time with MacKenzie. He rubs his hands along her back and hips and ass as he kisses her, keeping his mouth so soft and unsubstantial against her cunt that any shyness that MacKenzie had about sitting on his face is gone when she starts grinding down against him to get more. Will grips her hips tighter and holds her in place, sliding his tongue against her in long, sure strokes and dipping inside her occasionally. He avoids her clit for the moment, which gets her frustrated; MacKenzie is nothing if not impatient.

When she lets out a strangled little cry, he sucks at her clit with purpose, not letting up until her cries get louder and louder and the headboard rattles enough that he knows her hands must be trembling. Good. She needs to be trembling. When she comes, there’s a litany of curses that Will wasn’t sure actually existed in those combinations and he flicks his tongue against her one last time before easing her off his face.

MacKenzie is flushed and her hair is sticking a little to her forehead. He’s never seen her more beautiful than she is right now: breasts full and heavy, nipples hard, cheeks and chest flushed pink from exertion and arousal. He guesses he has a stupid look on his face because MacKenzie sprawls on top of him and kisses him, not minding that he’s wet with her from nose to chin. He sure as fuck doesn’t mind the taste and neither does she.

When she gets her fill of kissing him (Will doesn’t think he can ever get his fill of kissing her, not now and not ever), she slides down so she’s straddling his hips again. Her fingers are a little clumsy as she guides him inside her but once he’s there, Will can’t help but thrust up into her a little, hitting her deep. They keep it slow. It’s been ages since they’ve been together, not since the Peabody awards, and if this is the last time he gets her for months and months, he wants to make it last.

He keeps his eyes open and on hers, letting his focus narrow down to just this one thing but he can’t hold out for long. She’s got him too worked up from the blow job and everything else and Will only has so much control. He grips her hips tight when he comes and when he eases his hands away, there’s little red marks against her hips. MacKenzie doesn’t seem to mind.

When she curls up against him and pillows her head against his chest, the only thing he can manage to say is “don’t go,” even though he knows she deserves a hell of a lot more than that. MacKenzie sighs and nuzzles against his neck.

If anything, she just got closer.

Chapter Text

In these past months since MacKenzie has been his EP, Will has slowly come to the realization that even though he’s hurt by what she did all those years ago, he can’t really live without her. It was shocking at first and something he wanted to reject, violently if necessary, but he couldn’t erase it. He couldn’t even start to erase the place that MacKenzie held in his heart.

So he bought a ring. Will is aware it’s stupid to buy an engagement ring for a woman you’re not even on regular speaking terms with but there’s nothing logical about his relationship with MacKenzie McHale. She’s like fire and even though he gets burned when he touches her, he can’t help but draw as close as possible, lured in by her warmth. He’s found that if he tries to hold on too tight, he gets hurt and she gets away, but now he thinks they have the beginning of something new.

She’s still asleep in bed when he wakes and he brushes a lock of hair off her cheek before kissing her softly and sliding out of bed. It’s just a few steps to his dresser and there, tucked in with his watches and tie pins and cufflinks is a little blue box from Tiffany. He opens it and turns a little when he hears MacKenzie sigh; she rolls over to her back and the sheet has slipped down just enough to reveal her bare breasts. There’s nobody more beautiful than MacKenzie and especially now when the sun’s streaming into his bedroom and she looks completely and utterly relaxed.

He opens the box and pulls out a ring that could buy a better-than-nice house in most parts of America, watching as the morning sunlight catches the diamond and scatters rainbows across the room. It’s a perfect diamond, beautiful setting - a ring any woman would die for. Still, Will worries that MacKenzie will say no. He doesn’t know how he’ll react if she does but he does think that he can’t hold it against her. There’s been a lot of hurt between them in the last eight years and it’s stupid to think it will all go away overnight.

Will doesn’t want another day without MacKenzie wearing his ring.

He slides back into bed and eases the ring on her finger, kissing her softly when she starts to stir. MacKenzie is a little slow in the mornings and it takes her a moment to get her bearings; she blinks owlishly before her face breaks into one of the most beautiful smiles he’s ever seen. Jesus, he loves this woman. It takes her a few more moments before she notices the ring and when she does, her mouth drops open and she looks at him in utter shock.

“What...what is this? What’s going on?”

Now it’s time to do or die. Will always thought that when he proposed to a woman, he’d have a speech prepared. They’d be in a fine restaurant with her favorite song playing and their favorite foods laid out on the table in front of them and he’d get down on one knee and give her a beautiful speech with the appropriate literary allusions. Instead, he’s doing this in bed on a lazy morning and MacKenzie seems more like a fish out of water than madly in love but there’s just no way he can spend another second without knowing whether or not she’ll marry him.

“I know you think this is sudden but I’ve...I went to buy that ring when you first came to work here. I don’t know why I bought it. I just walked into Tiffany and bought it and tore up the receipt. I wanted to give it to you months ago, after the Peabodys, but I didn’t know how to ask and I was stumbling over my words and I couldn’t tell you the things you deserved to hear. Then, later, I was an asshole.”

MacKenzie opens her mouth as if to protest and Will presses his fingers against her lips. He’s got to get all of this out in one fell swoop or he’s never going to and she needs to hear it. More than that, he needs her to hear it. He needs to know that MacKenzie has absolved him of his sins because she heard them all named and not just because she wants to forgive and forget like he tried, and failed, to do with her.

“I was, don’t soften it. I was so afraid I was losing you again, Mac, and I just...I love you. I want to marry you. I never stopped loving you and there’s not a day that will come that I won’t love you and if you want...if you want to give it a shot and forgive me, please…” He tries to catch his breath and keep from rambling so much and it’s only mildly successful.

“I will never, ever hurt you again. I will never blame you for what you did when you were younger. I think you did it innocently, that you didn’t know, and that there wasn’t any malice. I was so hurt for so long that it made me blind to that but somewhere along the way I realized that not having you hurt me more than anything you’d actually done to me. So uh, you have plenty of time to think it over but if you want to marry me, I’d love to mar---”

He doesn’t finish the sentence because MacKenzie has thrown herself into his lap, her arms around his neck, and her lips are pressed against his. It’s a desperate, messy kiss as if she’s trying to compress all the time they’ve spent apart into nothing, to erase it entirely. Will is more than all right with that. He pulls away just enough to breathe and MacKenzie whispers “yes,” against his skin over and over and over again.

It’s not picture perfect. It’s messy and fucked up and complicated and they still have a ton of things to work out but it’s them and there’s nothing else that fits better.

He’s a fool for her, and always will be, but now he suspects MacKenzie might just be a fool for him.