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Next to You

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AU 2x01

It was another late Friday night in New York City. Will was laid out on his balcony, with a bourbon and cigarette in hand, listening to music to try to wind down after a long day. It had been a few weeks since his scare in the hospital so he wasn’t imbibing as much, but tonight he was feeling particularly down. Because of the American Taliban broadcast, Charlie had taken him off of the 9/11 Tenth Anniversary coverage. Will was upset given how difficult September 11th, 2001 had been for him, and he wanted the opportunity to properly honor it on a momentous anniversary. Even though he trusted Elliot and Sloan, a part of him felt like they couldn’t do it justice. Will was angry at Charlie but there was nothing he could do about it, which is how he found himself in this particular scenario. He didn’t know how long he’d been sitting outside when his phone began to ring. He was half expecting it to be Charlie, and was surprised when he looked down and saw MacKenzie’s name light up his screen.

“Cats and kittens, grab your mittens. It’s Will McAvoy and Van Morrison taking you through the night and Into the Mystic.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Let’s take some calls. Who do we have on the line, Freddie? It’s MacKenzie from Midtown. You’re talking to the Nightbird.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were taken off the 9/11 anniversary?”

“What’re you doing up this late, MacKenzie from Midtown?”

“Charlie just called me to ask how you were handling it and I said handling what?”

“It was the right thing to do, caller.”

“Bullshit.”

“Freddie, you better grab that seven-second delay.”

“Knock it off.”

“Let’s not make it a big deal.”

“You’re okay with this.”

“I am. Can I go back to sleep?”

“You’re in bed?”

“It’s the middle of the night.”

“Why is there music playing?”

“Same reason your nightlight’s on right now.”

“Alright.”

“Alright.”

Will ended the call and flopped back onto the chair. He knew that Mac wasn’t convinced by the way he dodged her questions and brushed it off, but thankfully she hadn’t pressed him further and allowed him to get back to his self-flagellation. He had his music on Pandora and listened to it flow between Van Morrison, the Allman Brothers, and a few newer bands he hadn’t heard before. One such band started playing a song and the guitar intro caught his attention.

Babe I don't wanna talk right now

Stop I need a little space

Ohh, ohh

Wait

Didn't mean to say it like that

Stay

A little longer please

I sleep a little deeper when you're next to me

Will was enraptured by the music, between the faint guitar background and the alluring way the artists’ voices harmonized, he paid attention to every detail. Then he paused as the lyrics registered in his brain. This song could so perfectly be describing him and how he felt about Mac. Things had been better between them since he found out she hadn’t gotten his message. He’d been snapping at her less, but when it did happen, he immediately felt bad about it. Will found himself wanting to be around her more often, because even though she knew how to rile him up, she also calmed and centered him in a way no one else could.

Don't you know

You're the fire in my bones

You're my heart and my home, oh

And I know

I don't say it enough

I've been down on my luck

My love

But I'll be fine in the morning

Next to you

Will felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him. Mac was, without a doubt, exactly who the lyrics were describing. She’s the one who waltzed back into his life, turned it upside down, and made him want to be the anchor (and man) she knew he could be. He felt a constant gravitational pull toward her, and her unconditional devotion was proof that she felt it too. Will found himself wishing that he could get his head out of his ass and tell Mac that he loved her, because he was pretty sure she felt the same way.

Oh, think I'm losin' my mind again

Go slow

Touch me like you do

Love

Come a little closer now

I breathe a little deeper when I'm next to you

His mind was reeling with thoughts of MacKenzie. Will’s visceral reaction to the song was unexpected, and he felt as if his heart had been opened up and all he wanted to do was see her, hold her, and tell her how he feels. He was too distracted to notice that his elevator dinged. Still dressed in her tank top and yoga pants, Mac walked through the foyer and kitchen, calling for Will to alert him of her presence. She put her purse down on the counter and rounded the corner into the living room. Mac saw Will on the porch and wasn’t surprised. She knew he’d been lying when he told her he was in bed; she’d spent many nights with him to know he liked to relax outside and let Van Morrison and Glenlivet soothe whatever ailed him. Mac opened the door to the balcony slowly and stepped out, not wanting to scare Will. She noticed that he seemed to be miles away and was alarmed, thinking that he was having some sort of adverse reaction to the bourbon and cigarette she saw on the side table. She tentatively reached for his shoulder and whispered, “Will? Are you alright?” Will turned around and she gasped when she saw tear tracks down his face.

“Billy!”

She quickly sat down on the lounger next to him and pulled his face into her hands, wiping his tears with her thumbs.

“I-I-you’re here.”

“I knew you were upset about the 9/11 anniversary. I could hear it in your voice and it broke my heart so I came to see for myself that you’re okay.”

Will stared into her eyes as the chorus played through the speakers:

And don't you know

You're the fire in my bones

You're my heart and my home, oh

And I know I don't say it enough

I've been down on my luck

My love

But I'll be fine in the morning

Next to you

Mac’s eyes widened as she heard the lyrics. She quickly removed her hands from Will’s face, looking down in what he could see was shame. He took her hands into his own and squeezed, surprising her enough to raise her eyes to his. What she saw there made her heart stop.

“I never stopped loving you.”

MacKenzie squeaked. “What?”

“That’s what the message said.”

Her eyes started to water, and tears matching his own threatened to spill over.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It also said to not say anything or bring it up if you didn’t feel the same.”

Mac started to cry outright, her heart breaking for a second time that night at the thought that her Billy believed she didn’t love him.

“Why do you think I came back to ACN? Why would I put up with you, day after day, punishing me for Brian? Why I beat you senseless in the hospital as soon as I knew you were okay? Will, I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t completely, madly, irrevocably in love with you. I gave up the right to you a long time ago but that doesn’t mean my feelings changed. I just needed to be around you, any way you’d have me.”

Will couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Rationally, he knew it made sense, but he had been too afraid to allow himself to think what she’s saying was possible. He pulled her close and buried his face in her neck, desperate for contact to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. She wrapped her arms around him and felt his shoulders shaking.

“Hey, shhh. It’s okay, Billy.”

“I don’t know what’s gotten into me. I heard that song on the radio and it made me so emotional, like my heart cracked open, and I knew I had to tell you how I felt once and for all.”

“You were feeling vulnerable already from the 9/11 coverage. I’m sorry about that, Will, you know I’m on your side.”

“I do, and that’s one of the many reasons why I love you so much.”

Mac’s face erupted into a huge grin, the one she reserved only for him, that made his chest feel like it was going to explode.

“I love you too, Billy.”

She removed one hand from where it was entwined with his and again wiped his tears. Will reveled in the feeling of her warm hand on his cheek and leaned into it, kissing her palm. His free hand snaked up her arm to the nape of her neck, and he slowly pulled her to him. Mac closed her eyes and sighed when she felt Will’s lips on hers for the first time in four years. It was gentle but passionate, like they were both communicating wordlessly their love for the other, and it felt like coming home. After a few minutes, they broke apart, and Will rested his forehead on Mac’s. He never knew happiness this great, his heart feeling like it didn’t fit in his chest, and never wanted that feeling to go away.

“MacKenzie. Stay with me. Tonight and forever.”

“I’m yours, Billy. Forever.”

And don't you know

You're the fire in my bones

You're my heart and my home, oh

And I know

I don't say it enough

I've been down on my luck

My love

But I'll be fine in the morning

Next to you