… … …
Finding that Will wasn't in his office, Mackenzie stepped back out of the room. It was probably best, she thought, that he had gone. It made the decision for her on whether or not her intentions were a good idea.
She paused, looking at the heart that adorned his door - the heart he had intentionally torn in two and returned. Sloan's question replayed again in her mind, as it had been doing ever since it was first posed, "Why can't it be fixed?" She had told Sloan that she had hurt Will too much; it was too much for him to forgive. But she had come to his office now hoping to learn otherwise; hoping that their hug earlier was a sign that they were growing closer - that they could grow closer; that she hadn't completely broken them forever.
She ran her fingertips along the jagged edge of the tear in the paper. She was kidding herself.
"Looking for me?"
She jumped at Will's voice, unexpected as it was. Turning, she found him walking towards her.
"Yes, but I assumed you'd gone home."
"Without saying goodnight?" he smiled, opening his office door and leading her back inside.
"It's been a long day."
He moved behind his desk, shutting things down for the night. "Did you need me?"
She shook her head. "No, I was just…" Kidding herself, and yet she really wanted to know if they might have a future. "I was wondering if you had any plans for dinner. I know it's late, but we always eat late and…"
When he looked up at her, seeming to be surprised, she remembered what day it was.
"Oh, nothing like - … I just thought we could get a pizza or Chinese and…" She wasn't doing very well with this.
"Don't you have an early start tomorrow for your panel?"
Disappointment surged through her, but she forced a smile and nodded, "I do. You're r-"
"I wasn't declining. I just wanted to ensure you couldn't blame me when you're half asleep trying to talk about the economy."
"Couldn't make it any worse," she muttered, rolling her eyes at her own inadequacies, and all the while fighting against showing how relieved she was that he had said yes.
"You couldn't have had a better teacher, you'll be fine."
"She could have had a better student. My mind wasn't completely there a lot of the time."
Will grabbed his coat and moved towards her. "Come on, I'll test you over dinner. We'll go to your place. That way you'll get to bed earlier."
He waited, to allow her to precede him out of his office, but as she moved to the door her eyes caught sight of the heart again. She stopped, mentally weighing up how much was at stake against how badly she wanted to know if she could fix it.
His voice was soft, concerned, and she turned to face him ready to force another smile - not brave enough to broach the subject she could not get out of her mind. But her lips had barely curled when his expression stopped her. It was that same look he had worn when he told her nobody in his right mind would risk losing her; the same gentle gaze with which he had assured her the daytime debacle was not a big deal. The look he had fixed on her before he stepped towards her and hugged her. The look that, for a second, she had thought was intention to kiss her. And she had wanted him to. It was a look she remembered and missed so keenly. It still made her heart skip, her breath catch. But, now, it also carried the full force of what a fool she had been to risk losing him. And, though she desperately wanted to know if their relationship was reparable, she knew she had no right to ask. He was wearing his broken heart on his sleeve - not just his door - every day with her. She knew what she had done. What right did she have to ask for forgiveness? His friendship was a lot more than she deserved, yet he was waiting patiently now to join her for dinner. He really was the perfect man. She really was a colossal idiot.
"Sorry," she told him, hoping her voice didn't sound as shaky as she now felt. She forced the smile and resolutely avoided looking at the heart as she stepped out of the office.
However, this time she was stopped by Will's hand closing around hers, gently pulling her back. Trembling anew, she frowned up at him as her heart raced, pounding in her chest.
"Earlier," he spoke quietly, stepping closer to her, "When I realised what you'd done - the 'Rudy' scene - my first instinct was to kiss you."
His other hand was trailing up and down her arm, his eyes sweeping over her face; her mind was a jumble of thoughts, none of them coherent. She felt a tear trickle down her cheek; bit her lip to try to stop it quivering.
"It's probably best that I didn't…"
She managed to nod but couldn't prevent further tears from falling. She knew he was right, but that didn't mean it hurt any less.
His hand left her arm and lightly brushed the moisture from her cheeks. She wanted to step back; to stop the ache that was growing in her chest, but she reasoned that he was entitled to inflict some pain.
"They didn't all need to see that," he continued, "It would have made them uncomfortable."
Her laugh was automatic and she surprised herself with it. He had an amazing talent for making her feel at ease, even as he delivered devestation. She nodded her agreement again, convinced that she couldn't force any words through her throat even if she could think of any to say.
He moved even closer, torturing her further as exhilarating excitement swirled though her, mingling excruciatingly with the heartbreak.
"Mac," he breathed, his voice lowered now, "That is the only reason I didn't kiss you."
"What?" That word was more like a croak, but he seemed to understand what she meant. Her look of shock possibly helped.
"In that moment, I wanted to kiss you. And I've had time to think about it since; to feel relieved that the presence of everyone else stopped me from doing something crazy…"
She was finding it hard to keep up with whether she should be feeling sad or happy now.
"… But I don't. I've thought back over everything…" A brief pause and the intense look in his eyes told her exactly what that meant. He meant everything. "… And you broke my heart, you did. And when you weren't here every day I was angry at you. Because it was easy to be angry at you. And then Charlie decided to 'right the ship' and… there you were. There you've been, every day. And I've still got the scars, but I'm not angry anymore. Because I can't be angry at you. Because you feel so much worse than I'd ever imagined you would. You're so completely sorry and I -" He shook his head, but a smile formed on his lips. "I'm so completely in love with you."
She had hoped he was leading up to saying that he still wanted to kiss her; to hinting that they could try being more than friends again. This… This blindsided her.
She cleared her throat - this was going to need more than unintelligible croaks. But, when it came to it, she still couldn't find any words, apart from another, "What?"
"I'm still in love with you," he explained, patiently, "Or I'm in love with you again. Probably both."
She didn't know whether to smile or cry, so it was perhaps best that the decision was out of her hands: Her body had decided to do both.
"You're in love with me?"
"Even after everything?" She used the same emphasis he had used earlier.
"Even after everything."
She searched his eyes, his face, for any indication that he didn't mean it. She found nothing but an amused smile.
"Why?" she asked him.
He laughed. "Who knows?"
"It's huge to tell me this, Will. Do you want to take it back? Start off smaller?"
"No." He squeezed her hand. "I want you to know… You've been walking on eggshells since you came back - granted, not all the time, but whenever it comes to 'us'. There's no need to… We're moving forward. Will and Mackenzie two-point-oh."
As she laughed at his reference, she felt more tears well in her eyes and snatched her hands up to wipe her face. He was telling her he loved her and she was a mess.
"We even have three 'I's and an 'A'."
"We do?" she laughed again.
"We do… I am completely in love with you… I would love to know if you feel even slightly the same…"
His finger across her lips forestalled her abject horror at realising that she had said nothing to indicate that she returned his feelings.
"I still really want to kiss you," he whispered, leaning closer as he said the words.
"And 'A'?" she enquired teasingly.
She watched him think for a second, then he smirked, "'ave you any thoughts on the subject?"
Another darn tear escaped as she laughed once more. "Your English accent is even cuter than mine."
Still in disbelief that this was actually happening, she schooled her expression into something serious while she admitted, "I wanted you to kiss me, earlier… For a split second I actually thought you were going to. But I understood why you didn't - Or, why I thought you didn't."
"Would you have wanted me to kiss you there, in front of everyone?"
He was so close when he spoke that his breath danced across her lips. Her eyes fluttered closed and she gently sighed, "I want you to kiss me everywhere." Then realising how that sounded, her eyes shot open. "Wait! Not like that."
Will smiled at her across the very, very short distance left between them. "How about I kiss you here?" he asked softly.
"Here would be fine."
"Do you think we've built up to it enough?"
"I was giving you the opportunity to change your mind."
"I'm not going to."
"But I -"
"Yes you did. But we're moving forward."
"Yes. And what does the 'I' stand for?"
His lips were practically touching hers when she answered. "I am completely in love with you."
He smiled. "Good to know. But I meant the third 'I'."
And so he kissed her. His lips pressed against hers so tenderly, so perfectly, that for a moment she froze, taking a moment to catch up, to believe that it was real. It didn't take long. When his hands slipped round her waist, brushing against her on their path to settle at the small of her back, hers snaked round his back, pulling herself closer to him. Her lips moved to return the kiss, easily remembering their rhythm, and it was definitely several minutes before they parted again.
"I think I will be blaming you when I'm tired in the morning," Mackenzie pointed out, breathlessly, her forehead resting against his.
Will didn't respond, no doubt waiting the beat that he knew it would take her to realise how that sounded.
"No, not like that… I just mean I doubt I'll be getting much sleep tonight."
"That's not much better."
His lips were smiling when he kissed her again.
"We should find you some food and a bed," he told her.
"But, the third 'I'."
"'Is the story in -'"
"Our third 'I'."
"I know." He kissed her softly. "I promise to kiss you again before the night is out."
"That one doesn't count."
"Good," she grinned.
He held her gaze, patiently, as she just stood in his embrace looking up at him.
"Have I fallen asleep in my office again?" she asked him, still not quite believing that her uncertain - and seemingly unwise - trip to his office had turned out like this.
He lowered his lips to hers once more, slowly moving them together, gently building up a whirlwind of delight within her. Then he gradually broke it down to smaller kisses, mere touches, before pulling back slightly.
"I'll take that as a 'no'," she murmured, contentedly, as her eyes fluttered open. "Although, if it's a 'yes' I really don't mind."
"It is most certainly a 'no'," he assured her. "But we should get out of here before we fall asleep in my office."
"I need to get my coat."
"We can do that."
She was reluctant to let go, but settled for his arm around her as they left his office and walked to hers.
… … …
The next day, when Maggie was taking down the Valentine's Day decorations, she noticed that the heart on Will's door had been taped back together. Smiling to herself - and anyone else who could see her - she left it there.