‘You’ve been watching News Night. I’m Will Mcavoy, goodnight.’
The broadcast shuts off. The studio lights fall. Will doesn’t move.
Mackenzie stares at his silhouetted figure for a moment before squeezing her eyes shut. The room around her remains silent in hushed communion, and she fidgets, tucking an errant strand of hair behind her ear before shaking it out and huffing out an indistinct noise.
‘Thanks, guys. You did well. Go home, get some sleep, and I want you all in here early tomorrow. We’re going to make this right. Starting tomorrow.’ It’s a empty promise, but there’s a murmur of appreciation nonetheless. As everyone files out she reaches up to her headset, about to pull it off, before her eyes catch Will’s darkened figure on the monitors. He still hasn’t moved.
‘Will?’ It comes out high, uncertain. Will raises his head, making eye contact with the camera briefly before letting it fall again. ‘You too, yeah? It’s not -’
‘Don’t.’ He’s looking back up now, and she gravitates towards the monitors as he stares directly down the lens. ‘You tell them they did a good job. You tell them it’s not their fault. You say that to the guys; don’t say it to me.’
‘Fuck!’ Will hurls the coffee mug across the room. It hits the studio door, shatters, and Mackenzie’s out of the room, headset flung to the ground in haste. She bursts through the door and stands on the other side of the desk. Will’s shoulders rise and fall with every breath he’s taking and he looks up, face cold, as Mackenzie places two hands on the edge of the desk.
‘Goddammit Mac, don’t say it to me.’ But it’s a defeated sigh, the flash of vitriol lying in pieces on the floor behind them.
‘It’s not your - that’s not your job. Everything that comes into this office, comes through me. I’m the face. I’m where the buck stops. You keep your team safe. I keep -‘
He cuts himself off, and Mac’s head falls as she stares down at the desk, not seeing. Her breathing is not coming as it should - it starts and stops and stutters and she’s trying so fucking hard to keep herself under control but her vision is blurring and she is not - not - going to do this here. Whatever Will thinks about accountability - she can’t do this to him. She has a lifetime of debts to pay, and she refuses to add to them now.
She’s still not looking at him when he begins, haltingly, ‘I was - when you told us - you looked, and I - everyone - I think they expected certain things from me, and I wanted to apologise in case you expected them too - because-‘
She barks out something caught halfway between a laugh and a sob, and she thinks he would look relieved to be interrupted if he didn’t look so damn sad.
‘Don’t be stupid. If we can’t be trusted, the least we can do is be professional about it,’ she snaps, blinking back tears and shaking her head a little. But his expression doesn’t change, and his hand moves across the desk until its resting, warm, on top of hers. She draws a stuttering breath, looking down to see his hand dwarfing hers in comparison. Even now, they look good together. And that, perhaps, is what she hates most about this entire thing.
‘People talk, and I just want to make sure that they, y’know, know that I’m looking out for everyone.’
‘Billy.’ Her head tilts sideways, and the tears begin to spill over.
His hand tightens around hers, and he stands up. In three steps he’s on her side of the desk, guiding her hand (still in his) towards him, and he pulls her into an engulfing hug. Part of her wants to pull back, to untangle her hand, still trapped between them, from his and tell him it’s not his job to look after her. To make him understand that none of this would be happening if she’d spotted the edit earlier, or if she’d used different language with Valenzuela or if a million other things hadn’t gone the way they’d gone - all leading back to her. But there’s another part of her, the part of her that wants to stay here, in his embrace, forever. So she lets him hold her. Lets herself pretend, just for a moment, that this is how things are going to be. That just by him holding her, nothing bad will ever happen. And it’s the naiveté of it all that finally makes her pull away from him.
‘Thank you,’ she whispers, dabbing at her eyes in an attempt to fix up the mascara she knows will have started to run by now. ‘But I’m serious - we’ll get in early tomorrow and -‘
‘I’m going to have to resign.’ Will looks down at her, and Mackenzie’s heart drops.
‘Not just you,’ she says curtly. She’d be upset, but really, what’s the point of being a journalist if you don’t have the audience’s trust? It’s a fallacy to believe that they can just go on like nothing happened. Even the interns understand just how badly this has damaged them. But Will just sighs deeply and his chest heaves as though he’s about to say something and - then it stops, seeming to think better of it.
‘Tomorrow-’ is what he actually says. ‘We’ll deal with that tomorrow. Let’s grab a drink first.’
She lets her eyes flicker shut for a moment, and as the studio comes back into sharper focus she nods and offers him the ghost of a smile.
‘Drink first,’ she agrees.
They walk from the studio in silence, but not before she reaches down to pick up the pieces of the mug still on the floor. Will holds the door open for her as they leave, and when they reach the elevator, Mackenzie’s shoulder rubs up against his arm. They walk out of the building and in the bustle of the sidewalk, Will’s hand finds hers. She’s not entirely sure whether it’s that, or just the fresh air, but she’s starting to feel like she can breathe again.