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The Newsroom Fic: Due North - tranquility... best achieved in chaos
phrenitis
phrenitis
The Newsroom Fic: Due North
Title: Due North
Rating: PG-13
Category: Will McAvoy/MacKenzie McHale
Spoilers: Season One, The Greater Fool
Disclaimer: Owned by others.
Author's Note: As always, this wouldn't be here without the help of friends. My thanks to the amazing four that read bits (or all) of this and gave me much needed feedback.
Summary: "It wasn't forgiveness he'd been trying to achieve, it was an encore."

==

“I haven’t forgiven you,” he tells her. Twice.

It’s accidental for the most part, words that drop out unchecked when he’s struggling for something else to say but overruled by the sudden need to send her out of his office with a dig. It’s to MacKenzie’s credit that she accepts both barbed statements with every modicum of decorum – the first in silence though he catches the barely veiled look of shame and hurt that turns everything around in an instant to kick him right in the gut; the second in acknowledgement with that curious smile he knows too well. The one that says she’s gone off and read far too deeply into it and is happy with whatever conclusion she’s managing to draw.

But truth be told, each time he says it, he’s not even sure if he’s trying to push her further away, or if he’s somehow using it as a sick reminder to keep her trying.

She drives him fucking nuts.

==

It takes a voicemail message that technically exists although it really doesn’t in the way that counts, and months of being entrenched in his head trying to ignore thinking before it makes sense and he finds some semblance of resolution, some mild consolation that he wasn’t going out of his goddamn mind.

She never got the message, which perhaps in some small way might have saved him from accidental ulcer-inducing decisions had he known, but there are very few options when it’s nearing three in the morning and he can’t get the throbbing ache of history out of his joints, or written and published words out of his head, or the phantom sound of her voice out of his ear. There was an incredible, sudden silence when she left - years of buzzing white noise that he thinks he was just starting to get used to before she showed back up with regrets as loud as he remembers.

"You should tell her," Charlie says like the message is just that simple to repeat.

"I was high," he counters.

"So maybe have a drink first."

Will knows Mac is an answers-person with any number of thoughts in her mind and far too many ways to successfully organize them, so the only surprise is how long it ends up taking before she remembers to ask him about it. He gives her the night to get it out of her system, her attempts cajoling and demanding in turn because there’s little in the way of information or gossip that she doesn’t want to know, and it’s not often she fails in her attempts to get it.

But when she says his name - the liquid sound of it quiet and loaded on her tongue, it’s never quite as intimate as before where memories of pillows and sheets, breakfasts and whispers remain. He’s thankful for that, though somehow in reality he feels hollow instead of gratified. He lacks conviction where normally everything about them is so starkly black and white, and he's always surprised when he finds himself standing with her on the same side of the line that's supposed to divide them.

She mercifully doesn’t ask about the voicemail again after that, at least not out loud, so he lauds that as a minor victory. But he’ll catch her looking at him sideways more often than not, keen and determined, or soft and wondering depending on whether he’s said something along the lines of, that’s legislation we’ll all remember, or done something asinine like agreed with her over a comment about Jim and Maggie. The latter of which he doesn’t care about in the least, and only agrees with her observation - or question, honestly he wasn’t even paying that close attention - because it’s easier to say yes to Mac than nothing at all when it’s relationship motivated. She has the temperament of a hot water kettle when it comes to these things, cold to hot in less than sixty seconds; he should know. So now he has to watch what happens in casual conversation as well, and it’s no goddamn wonder his stomach is a bleeding mess.

She never got the message, so at least he doesn’t have to try to work on forgiving her for that, too.

==

They declare war publicly on air – not with a frank apology this time, but with gathered facts stripped down to bare truths so inalienable, no one they target escapes the devastation. Everyone works enthusiastically until hours are meaningless and Will’s no longer able to tell where his paperwork ends and Mac’s begins, or if at some point he should stop and send the staff home because he’s still wearing the same suit he had on yesterday, and he’s fairly sure it’s a Saturday.

But Mac is like fuel on fire, and he can’t look away from her sometimes, caught despite himself by a side of her he’s never seen so brightly displayed. She’s in her element in a way he only knew to be possible before; she’s sharp, tireless, and fearless in her dogged pursuit of the News Night ideal she’s holding them to.

And he has to admit, it feels good. He feels alive and exultant and untouchable – charged up and on a mission to take the media world by storm once again. So together they do, and the reaction is instantaneous: ratings soar to cross the 2 million mark, and Mac takes the bullet meant for him.

==

It’s a courier, a simple lunch delivery that goes from sandwich to gun in less time than seems humanly possible. Will drops to the floor instinctively alongside MacKenzie, not even sure if he grabs her or she pulls him down, but it isn’t until he’s crawling across the floor to keep desks between himself and the shooter that he realizes Mac isn’t following.

She’s looking in his direction, but her gaze is too high, fixed somewhere above him as her brow furrows in confusion. There's no screaming, just his heart thundering in his ears while the shooter reloads and Mac refuses to move. Then he sees the way she’s leaning against a desk awkwardly, her hands tightly holding her side, and icy fear skitters through him. It seems to take forever, denial in full force until blood starts to slowly seep out from between her fingers.

She glances down at her hands with a grimace that he thinks oddly looks more like annoyance than pain, but then she's looking at him and everything stops.

"Jesus, Mac." Proper words fail him in the moment, his voice shaking on her name, and he really thought he'd be so much stronger than this.

"It's a bullet," she says as if it needs explaining. And maybe it does because his brain finally accepts the situation after hearing the word out loud, and he shifts into action.

"I'm coming."

"No," she protests. "It's just a bullet, you idiot. Stay there. Don't be a hero, Will."

He ignores her, of course, scrambles back with a loudly protesting knee and little thought of much else while peripherally aware of the action beyond them and sound returning. It's Charlie that takes down the shooter, Maggie that retrieves the gun, and Will knows now what it looks like when his world's gone completely fucking insane.

"The world's gone fucking insane," he tells her when he reaches her side.

She just looks at him in disbelief. "I specifically said, 'stay there'. Did you not hear me?"

"I heard you," he acknowledges. "Charlie tackled the shooter."

"Punched him first, actually. And where would we be if he hadn't? I told you to stay there for good reason."

"I figured. Maggie has the gun." It comes out sounding less incredulous than it probably should.

Mac nods. "She knows what she's doing."

"Fucking insane," he reminds her as he tries not to be appalled by the amount of blood that's pooling on the floor beside her, the warmth starting to soak into his pants where he kneels.

"Don't you dare make a fuss over this," she warns because she's watching him and knows his fears anyway. "Lead the paramedics here calmly, all right? No need to scare everybody."

"That's what you're worried about?"

"Are you arguing right now? This was meant to be your bullet, may I remind you."

He fights for a wry smile as emotions clash violently. "Thank you, by the way."

The bullpen is suddenly a hive of activity again when security rushes through the entrance. Will means to wave someone over, but he doesn't remember when he put his hands over hers. Irrationality over thinking she'll bleed out locks him into immobility, so he keeps his hands pressed at her side and calls out for help instead. Heads turn as those nearest register the situation, and it's just seconds before they've become the majority of the focus in the room and panic rises.

"Now you've done it," Mac sighs with exasperation, but Will can hear the way her voice has gone soft like she's on the edge of sleep.

"Hey, Mac." He struggles to find a way to keep her engaged. 25 floors and he knows it's still long minutes before the paramedics arrive. "Tell me about the Green Zone."

She looks up at him ruefully. "I had to leave."

"Had to leave?" he repeats in confusion.

"You. I had to leave you."

This isn't what he meant to discuss, but he's heartened that she's still talking. "I forced you to leave; there's a difference. It wasn't much of a choice."

"It was a choice," she argues stubbornly, and her fingers twitch involuntarily beneath his palms. "I went as far away as I could go."

"Mac-"

"It didn't matter," she continues regretfully, and then looks thoughtful. "Jim was shot there because of me, you know. I think it's come round full circle now."

Charlie makes his way through the crowd and helps to clear the space around them, his bellowing betraying his nerves. The paramedics follow, and suddenly everything is happening fast. There are too many medical words Will doesn't understand and it makes him anxious and tense. It doesn't take long before there's a gamut of devices and equipment around them - an oxygen mask and IV line set, Mac placed on a stretcher - and all the while her hand is clasped tightly in his.

No one asks him any questions, and no one attempts to separate him from MacKenzie, either because she won't let go, or because he's a sight covered in blood, wearing a day old suit, and quite obviously in no mood for discussion. So he's at her side through the elevator and ambulance ride until they're rolling into the emergency room and his panic is in overdrive. She's so pale, too pale, and he accidentally ends up leaving her with an inane comment about her importance to America that he immediately and whole-heartedly regrets.

He punches the wall as the hospital doors swing closed between them, and it doesn't make him feel one fucking bit better.

==

It doesn't take MacKenzie getting shot to even the scales - it's never really been about the retribution.

Okay. Alright. It hasn't always been about the retribution. But somewhere between holding her job over her head each week, to buying the ring, to parading Brian around the office, he finds it wasn't forgiveness he'd been trying to achieve, it was an encore.

It takes almost getting himself shot to recognize his shortcomings in the forgiveness department. Because it might have started with wanting to punish her for the past, but it ended with believing he could push her far enough that eventually she'd do it all over again.

He's aware Mac's patient only in persistence. It's a quality that makes her remarkable at her job and terrible at pretty much everything else once she’s set her mind to something, and he knows she's been set on fixing what happened between them. At least, he's fairly sure. Maybe it's just a fucked up kind of hope. Clearly, he's never been good at deciphering their reality.

But his disdain for his own safety simply amplified her concerns. She tried harder, cared more, and he thinks that might have been the point. He wanted to believe it all mattered so he could give her every opportunity to destroy everything and remind him why it was never really going to work.

==

"America needs me?"

It's raspy and faint, but Will doesn't remember ever being happier finally hearing her voice. It hasn't been days, or even that many hours, and yet it's been an interminable wait filled with uncomfortable plastic chairs, burnt coffee, and repetitive medical forms. He had expected an argument at the hospital simply for an update on her status, but there had been no obstruction to any information. He's still unsure how he feels about being her emergency contact even all these years later.

"You could have said something beautiful and heartfelt," she continues. Her eyes are closed, but he's not surprised she knows he's there. "Would it have killed you to tell me about the message? No, I might be dying, but America needs me. That's a comfort."

"I see you're awake."

"Shh, I don't want to forget how it feels to be of national importance."

"That's just the morphine."

"Mmm. I like morphine." Her hand moves to her side as she opens her eyes and glances down at the bandages questioningly.

"It took out your spleen," he explains. "Most of it."

She blinks. "That sounds bad. Is that bad?"

"You needed a blood transfusion, but the doctors seemed very relieved."

"It could have been worse," she muses.

"Yeah." It had taken the surgeon two tries before Will had understood she wasn't dead. He clears his throat. "Might even be out of here in a few days if you don't give them any trouble."

"I'm a model patient."

He doesn't take the bait. "Charlie's in the waiting room with Jim and Sloan - I think a few of the others too; it was loud."

She looks surprised. "They're here for me?"

"You're worth the wait. I can get them."

"In a minute." She closes her eyes again as she absorbs all the information. "It's nice like this, don't you think? You and me. Did you keep the bullet?"

"You wanted the bullet?"

"It's the spoils of war!"

"That doesn't mean what you think it does."

"Whatever. It's a keepsake; my first bullet." She glances his way, and her hand reaches out though she doesn't quite touch him. "It's not your fault, Will."

In the last few hours he's thought a lot about fault. "It was meant for me."

"No. Well, yes. But you're missing the point." She waves a hand in frustration and immediately winces in pain. "Listen, all that time we were together - you never did anything wrong. You have to know that."

"I do know that."

"Okay then," she starts, stops. "Well."

"I'm working on forgiveness," he confesses. It's not exactly a lie.

Mac doesn't seem to know what to say after that, stuck somewhere between startled and pleased. "That's good. That's really good, Will."

For a moment he thinks about the voicemail message.

She might have been gone for three years, but for all intents and purposes during that time, it was like she'd never really left at all. He'd known too much what it was like to be with her - what she'd say to every question, how she'd react to every situation - and for a long while he'd tried to live his life purposely moving in the opposite direction. His efforts had been futile.

"You're always due north," he says. It's a revelation that he doesn't mean to say aloud.

"I'm... what?" She looks caught off guard by the statement. "Like on a compass?"

"Yeah, sure," he deflects. "I'll get the others."

"Will."

"Just Charlie then."

"Will."

"I went off course," he clarifies, giving in to her because it's easier this way, and maybe it's what he should have said while she was wheeled away into surgery and her hand slipped from his. "I went off course, but you were there. You point the way - like a heading. Due north. The destination."

There's a long pause, and he waits while she looks away and swallows. Sometimes he thinks he wants nothing from her. It might be the biggest lie of all.

When she finally speaks, her voice is soft. "I think you should keep the bullet."

==

He puts it in an empty whiskey bottle and displays it on his desk.

"I'm working on forgiveness," he says to anyone that asks.

Mac smiles, and everyone else nods politely.


-Fin

Tags: ,

13 whispers :: tell me a secret
Comments
just_liv From: just_liv Date: January 31st, 2013 06:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Haven't read it yet, but must share: Mac & Will?? <3³

And on the same note: HOW DARE YOU?!

Honestly - and now is the time to come clean - am I John Malkovich? And if so, are you living inside my head?

Wait. Don't answer that.

I shall read it now.
phrenitis From: phrenitis Date: February 1st, 2013 12:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Omg omg - can we talk Will/Mac? Because I only just watched the first time over Christmas AND I AM OBSESSED NOW. I have so many feeeeeeeeeeeelings.

And how excited am I that we get to share this fandom too? Because this is joyous. I'm GRINNING.
firstofoct From: firstofoct Date: January 31st, 2013 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
AHHHHHH. Jen!!!

I love it! Their voices are so them and I love the way you wrote in the underlying panic when the shooter shows up. Now I really want to see Charlie punching a gunman.

I also really love the part when Will's just a tony bit bitter that he leaves her with a compliment when she's off to surgery.

This really needs to happen on the show. Like now.
phrenitis From: phrenitis Date: February 1st, 2013 12:37 am (UTC) (Link)
*HEARTS* Thank you so much for your thoughts on the first half too - helped convince me I wasn't totally off track with the characterizations. <3

AND WILL/MAC. I AM DEAD WITH LOVE. I so need a S2 episode titled, "What Kind Of Day Has It Been?" that has the death threat realized in some way, and is also a flashback episode where we see how they were as a couple. I NEED THIS LIKE I NEED BREATHING.
firstofoct From: firstofoct Date: February 1st, 2013 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)
No problem! I am such a whore for fic. Seriously if you ever want to send me bits or lines or anything, I'll give you feedback! And I could probably meta about anything for days on one of my shows.

I NEED THAT EPISODE SO BADLY I CANNOT FORM WORDS JEN. SO BADLY.
phrenitis From: phrenitis Date: February 8th, 2013 01:02 am (UTC) (Link)
LOL. I will very likely take you up on that. I really want to write a Mac POV fic now that I'm a little more comfortable with her voice.

AND I UNDERSTAND. I SPENT 30 MINUTES JUST LOOKING AT THE BACK OF THE DVD BOXSET TODAY ON AMAZON. THIS DELAY IS UNACCEPTABLE
firstofoct From: firstofoct Date: February 8th, 2013 02:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Omg I haven't looked at the back yet!!!

Ps you should totally get on aim or something when I get off work in an hour or so. Suits tonight!!!
phrenitis From: phrenitis Date: February 8th, 2013 02:58 am (UTC) (Link)
THE BIG PICTURE IS WILL/MAC OF COURSE. BEST.

And whee! I'm on! SUITS IN TWO MINUTES OMG.
catteo From: catteo Date: February 2nd, 2013 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I really enjoyed this. I thought that it was perfectly in character from both of them and I could totally see it happening on the show. Fingers crossed!
phrenitis From: phrenitis Date: February 8th, 2013 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Eee, thank you! I am madly in love with these two and desperately wanted to do them justice. I really appreciate the comments!

AND THIS SHOW NEEDS TO COME BACK NOW. This wait is insanity.
lizook12 From: lizook12 Date: February 4th, 2013 04:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm late to the party, as usual, but holy crap was this amazing.

I find it so hard to believe this is your first fic for them; their voices (Mac's especially) are spot on and the conversational flow is just right as well.

I thought this image was particularly nice: But he’ll catch her looking at him sideways more often than not, keen and determined, or soft and wondering depending on whether he’s said something along the lines of, that’s legislation we’ll all remember, or done something asinine like agreed with her over a comment about Jim and Maggie.

Nicely done!
phrenitis From: phrenitis Date: February 8th, 2013 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)
*LOVES* It took me forever to get the voices. I've been writing and rewriting the lines in an obsessive way I didn't think possible, lmao. THANK YOU. <3
(Deleted comment)
phrenitis From: phrenitis Date: June 14th, 2013 09:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
OMG you recced this? *flail hands*

You are so sweet. Thank you, hon. This has to be the fic I was most insecure about writing because SORKIN and NEWSROOM. You've made me so happy! <3
13 whispers :: tell me a secret