It's called the life effect
Post-S2; Alicia Florrick, Eli Gold, Will Gardner; Alicia/Will, Alicia/Eli
When the phone rings, Will is pushing her jacket over her shoulders.
There was so much I didn't know
So much I didn't know about you.
And so we disconnect, the room goes quiet around us
It's called the life effect
Alicia, at heart, likes to believe she is a good person. Damaged, perhaps, tarnished with someone else's indiscretions, but good nonetheless. The problem is, she's never quite sure what being good actually means.
All she does know is that the line between good and bad blurs all-too-easily until she is damned if she can tell the difference.
When the phone rings, Will is pushing her jacket over her shoulders, his lips at the base of her throat. They both freeze and he whispers for her to let it go. She pauses, thinks of this moment, thinks of bad timing, thinks she damn well deserves at least this. Her thoughts change; to Zach, to Grace, to the possibility something has happened and her throat constricts and her stomach twists. Slowly, she puts her hands against Will's chest, pushes him away. His face screams disappointment and guilt washes over her as she answers.
"Alicia." Eli's voice is dry, smooth and unemotional. "If you don't want to be tomorrow's headline, you need to get out of there."
She doesn't ask how he knows (if she were honest, she isn't at all surprised) as her eyes lock with Will's.
"There was a reporter in the lobby," Eli continues, his voice harder, "get out of there, now."
Alicia nods even as she hangs up, her free hand already at the buttons of her jacket. Will maintains his judgemental silence as she steps back, stammering apologies. Her gaze is focused on the floor, the walls, anywhere but him.
"I'm sorry," she says for the final time as she opens the door. "So, so sorry."
She sneaks home like a teenager breaking curfew. Everyone is asleep and she goes to the fridge, pours herself a glass of wine. She sits in silence, hyper-aware of every sight and sound, and allows her mind to wander to the idea of fate, of prognostications.
Wonders is 'bad timing' really means 'not meant to happen.'
Work is awkward as they avoid each other and it takes less than half-a-day for Kalinda to notice the tension between the two. She slips inside Alicia's office and sits down, her hand reaching out as if to touch Alicia's shoulder before she pulls back, keeps her hands folded in her lap.
"Are you okay?" she asks softly and Alicia thinks she may even be sincere in her concern.
She looks to the side, prepared to give a tight-lipped smile but falters as her eyes fall on Kalinda in all her finery. It was only one night, it meant nothing, Kalinda had said, but as Alicia looks at her she sees them. Sees Kalinda's legs wrapped around Peter's waist, sees sweat running down Peter's spine, hears Kalinda's voice. "Does she do this for you?"
Her throat tightens as she snaps 'yes' and turns away. She closes her eyes, willing the images away, but Kalinda's imagined voice continues to resonate through her mind.
Does she do this for you? Does she? Does she?
She sees Eli soon enough and expects him to remind her that she is now in the public eye, that there are those interested in her every move, that her every action has a possible repercussion. Instead, he talks of his job offer, the type of work she'll be doing, subtly hints at the connections she will make that will no doubt one day prove invaluable.
"Thank you," she blurts out while he is mid-sentence and he frowns, then nods sharply.
Alicia gives him a faint smile that he briefly returns before drawing her attention to her new contract.
She sits at home nursing a glass of wine and starts when the phone rings.
"Mrs Florrick? This is Anne Gourbedein-"
She sinks into the sofa, tilts her head back, listens disinterestedly as the marriage counsellor speaks of forgiveness, of mistakes, of infidelity. She thinks that Peter is laying it on thick, finds herself simultaneously irritated and amused. Her phone 'trills' in her ear and she apologises to the marriage counsellor, uses the 'call waiting' line with ease, hits 'accept.'
"Alicia," Will says, and her lips tilt upward, "sorry to call you at home..."
"No, it's fine," she interrupts, "really, it's fine."
He chuckles and her head dips down as she grins.
"This case," he continues, "I thought, maybe-"
He pauses and she waits, takes a sip of her wine.
"I'm sorry," Will says abruptly after several prolonged seconds, "I shouldn't have called. Goodnight, Alicia."
He hangs up and she lets the phone fall onto the sofa, tucks her legs beneath herself, wonders if this push-and-pull act will ever cease.
The Chicago winter makes her hands shake and she shivers as melted snow seeps through her collar. Peter sits in her office chair as if he belongs there and something inside her snaps and she finds herself shouting at him, her voice echoing until its like ten Alicia's are shouting out their lungs. Peter says nothing as he pushes across a manilla folder. In it, are details of the hotel room, of Will's credit card charges, still photos taken from CCTV footage.
"You're sleeping with him."
Cold, curt, unemotional and Alicia falters before bursting into hysterical laughter.
"You know what, Peter," she says softly, "I wish I was, I really do, but real life is so much more complicated than that."
She spins on her heel and walks away, nearly colliding with Kalinda who has, of course, come down to investigate the noise.
"Sorry," Kalinda mutters, moving to the side.
It's a word laden with so many emotions that Alicia doesn't even want to think about.
The divorce papers arrive at the office the next day and Alicia shows them to David who leans back, folds his arms across his chest.
"What?" she asks, so tired she doesn't care if she's being rude.
"He's taking you for a fool," David comments.
Alicia bites her bottom lip as she tries not to smile.
"He always has."
The stories begin after only a few days as details of Peter and Alicia's upcoming divorce hits the news. Flashing camera lights and shouted questions become part of her morning routine, and Courtney is forced to field continuous calls for a statement. Alicia functions on automatic pilot, says 'no comment' more times than she cares to admit.
Eli does what he can, manages to push some reporters toward red herrings, away from her, but still others come, circling like the vultures Alicia likens them to.
She puts on her best 'poker face', takes everything one day at a time.
Someone paints 'slut' in red paint on the bonnet of her car. Kalinda cringes when she hears this, hates that anyone would think so low of Alicia. She takes the video surveillance and spends her spare time finding the culprit.
Alicia hears a week later a man has been charged, knows who has helped, but can't bring herself to say 'thank you.' Not yet in any case.
The next attack is more personal, and Alicia wakes up one morning to find a note pushed beneath her door. Made from newspaper cuttings, it would be almost funny if it weren't simultaneously terrifying.
Die, bitch, die.
Alicia's knees buckle and she rests her hand against the wall to stop herself falling. She breathes in great gulps of air, trying to keep herself calm, but all she can think is 'my children live here too.'
Diane calls Eli when she calls in sick for work.
It's a terrible idea and part of Alicia thinks it strange that her husband's campaign manager should be at her home at ten o'clock at night, talking but saying absolutely nothing at the same time.
(Another, more vindictive part, knows that he's here because he cares about her a damn sight more than he cares about Peter.)
"Am I making a mistake?" she asks suddenly.
Eli looks at her, his head tilted to the side. "I think only you can answer that, Alicia."
She nods and he leans forward, rests his hand against her forearm.
"People forget, Alicia," he says softly. "This … unpleasantness will go away."
Her eyes sting but she refuses to let another tear fall.
"I don't want to help with his campaign," she whispers. "I just... I want nothing to do with it."
('It' means 'him' and Eli knows this and understands.)
Will comes to her office one night she is working late and just kisses her. No words, no foreplay, no 'maybe, maybe not', just a hard, brutal kiss that sets her pulse racing. He pulls her from her chair and presses her to him, his hand at the small of her back, his grip almost painful. His other hand tangles in her hair and her breath catches as his lips travel to her neck, his teeth brushing over her pulse point.
She's rarely felt more alive or more vulnerable.
Her arm loops around his neck as he pushes her against her desk, stepping in between her legs, pushing up the material of her skirt until its at her waist.
Will laughs into her neck as his hand travels up her thigh. She scowls and hitches her leg higher, pulling him closer.
Neither laugh again.
Celeste Serrano struts past her office and Alicia hates her on sight.
It's irrational but the feeling only increases when the woman opens her mouth, talks of the 'good old times' with Will, of 'crushing the defence.' Alicia rolls her eyes and gets to her feet, follows Kalinda who looks similarly disgusted.
"She's awful," Kalinda comments and Alicia makes a noise of agreement deep in her throat.
It's the closest to the two woman have been in months and Alicia looks down, finds that she doesn't hate Kalinda, thinks that she never did.
The problem is Will likes the woman Kalinda nicknames 'Satan in heels' and Alicia watches them with narrowed eyes.
She hears them talking in an empty office and stops around the corner.
"You used to be more fun, Will."
Her voice is light, seductive and she imagines Will's face, can almost see him swallowing.
"That was a long time ago," he says.
Celeste laughs (Alicia's spine prickles.)
"Not that long ago."
David is a great divorce lawyer, Alicia knows that, but even she is surprised by exactly how much Peter was willing to give.
"How did-?" she begins as she reads the final agreement.
"Your ex-husband doesn't look at the finer details," David says flippantly. "It was child's play."
Alicia's throat tightens as she realises this is it.
"Will you go back to Alicia Cavanagh?" Owen asks, his arm slung around her shoulders.
Alicia shrugs, feeling for a moment like an insecure schoolgirl, unsure how to put one foot forward.
"I don't know."
Eli maintains he isn't her boss, but he definitely is and that's why she finds herself at the office at nine at night finalising a contract. Eli sits opposite her, his lips tightened into a scowl as he reads her final draft. She glares at the paper as his eyes move back and forth across the page. She knows the contract is good, knows there is no possible loopholes.
"What?" she snaps when he 'tsks' beneath his breath.
He looks across the table and his lips quirk in amusement. "This is … excellent."
Alicia stumbles for words, her cheeks red, and barely manages a smile. "Thank you."
He nods sharply and returns to the contract.
Alicia lies her head against Will's chest, eyes closed as he runs gentle fingers through her hair. She rolls onto her front, resting her hands on his shoulders, straddles his legs. Will surprises her by sitting up, and grabs her waist to stop her falling back. He holds her close, presses a kiss to her shoulder and she rests her forehead in the crook of his neck.
She closes her eyes and bites the inside of her cheek as Will's grip tightens until she's certain he's left bruises.
It's as if he's afraid she'll leave in the dead of night without saying so much as 'goodbye.'
She refuses to admit that – if necessary – she'd do just that.
"I agree with Celeste."
Alicia's mouth falls open and she stares at Will, aware that betrayal is screaming from her every pore but unable to care. Celeste smirks and rises to her feet, smoothing out her skirt.
"That's settled then," she says, nodding towards Will.
The hell it is, Alicia thinks.
Eli frowns as she crosses out another sentence and reaches across the table, placing his hand above hers.
"Alicia," he says, "what's wrong?"
She looks at him, sees only concern in his eyes and maybe that's why she starts talking. About Peter, about Will, about Kalinda, about work, about Celeste. Eli doesn't interrupt her and when she finishes she dips her head down, suddenly embarrassed.
Eli places a hand beneath her chin and forces her to look up.
"I am so sorry," he says earnestly, "so, so sorry."
He means it, she can tell, and she lets out a shuddering breath. Her shoulders rise and fall erratically as she tries to keep her tears at bay. Eli blinks, shocked, and she isn't surprised. She's always been poised and controlled around him and now … now, she wasn't.
"I'm not going to say it will be all right," he says after a pause, "but it will get easier and you will get through it."
Alicia laughs and he thinks it's the most bitter-sweet sound he's ever heard.
She does the opposite of what she's told in the courtroom and can feel Celeste's eyes boring into the back of her black suit jacket. In the back, she catches a glimpse of Will, his eyes narrowed and gives him a grim smile he doesn't return.
Will steps into her office and slams the door shut behind him. He's angry and she notices the tendons in his necks cording, the way his jaw clenches as he controls his every breath.
"I thought we agreed on the strategy," he says eventually.
She has to give him credit, he doesn't sound nearly as angry as she knows he is; then again, not many can read him like she can. Alicia turns away from him and opens her laptop. She doesn't want to talk about it; not when it's painfully obvious to her that she's become more cut-throat (more like Will) and he doesn't seem to have changed at all. It seems oddly fitting that – yet again – she's the only one making compromises.
Will sits in her spare chair, and she listens as his breaths slow down.
"Alicia, you can't just-"
She twists to face him, leaning forward until their faces are scarcely two-feet apart.
"I made a decision, Will, one that I intend to stick by. Your strategy played on emotions and while it was good, mine was based on fact and rings true. You don't have to be Einstein to know which one a jury like that one will go for."
Will looks into her eyes as if seeing her for the first time, then looks away.
"You should have discussed it with me, first," he says.
Alicia scoffs and she sounds harsh and callous, even to herself.
"You should have listened to me when I tried."
He arrives on her doorstep later that night and steps forward, cupping her face in his hands.
"I'm sorry," he says, and she allows herself to believe him.
Deep down, where other secrets simmer, she knows she doesn't. Not really.
Her work remains excellent, but she's lost her focus, her drive. Eli notices immediately, as does Kalinda, but it's Eli who challenges her when she gives him a contract that, while good, lacks her former edge.
"Alicia, any half-decent law student could give me this," he says harshly, pushing the contract back towards her. "You're better than this."
Dark eyes glitter and she rips the contract in half and begins again.
(Part of her hates Eli in that moment; another rejoices that someone noticed.)
Will tries to kiss her that night and she turns her head to the side so his lips press against her cheek instead.
"Sorry," she whispers at his fallen expression. "I just … sorry."
He nods and pulls back, wrapping his arm around her instead. She closes her eyes and remembers how she used to shy away from Peter's kisses.
Thinks that history has a nasty habit of repeating itself.
She faces Peter in court and its like their arguments at home. They know each other's tells, know when the other is omitting facts, pushing others to the fore-front. It's exhausting and she leaves the courtroom each day physically and emotionally drained.
(She tries not to think that Peter looks more and more exhilarated the darker the shadows beneath her eyes become.)
The jury returns a not-guilty verdict and Peter slams his palm against the prosecution desk to hard she is almost surprised it doesn't split in half.
Alicia gathers her files and holds them close to her chest as she leaves the courtroom, her heels snapping against the marble floors.
Peter catches her in the hallway, his fingers wrapping around her wrist and pulls her into a small alcove.
"He's guilty," he spits.
She glares until he lets her go and takes a step back.
"The jury found him not-guilty," she retorts, keeping her voice level.
"Because you twisted the facts!"
"No, because you didn't account for every possible defence."
Peter falters and she turns sharply and walks away without looking back.
(Once outside, she turns the corner and leans against the court building and exhales a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding.)
Owen worries when he reads of her case in the newspaper and invites himself over one evening. Alicia sees through his care-free attitude and rolls her eyes as he moves around the kitchen, opening and shutting cupboards in search of wine glasses.
"I'm fine, Owen," she says, and he looks at her, fixes her with his version of the 'Alicia-stare.'
"I don't believe you."
Alicia sighs, knowing she will not win the argument, and lets him faff around before he turns to face her, holding out a glass of wine. Alicia folds her arms across her chest and he snorts in mock-disgust, takes a sip himself.
"It would be okay if you weren't fine, you know," he says, "no one would-"
A 'knock' at the door and she nods in its direction, unable to hide a smile as Owen stomps down the hallway muttering beneath his breath about 'rude visitors' and 'terrible timing.'
"Uh, Alicia, its for you," Owen calls, sounding confused, and she looks around the corner to find Owen and Eli trying (and failing) to look comfortable with the other.
"Alicia," Eli says, and she's never heard him sound so relieved, "I had a few questions about-"
He holds up a file and she nods, recognising it immediately.
"Set up over here?" he continues.
"Wasn't he Peter's campaign manager?" Owen asks, two hours and a bottle of wine later.
She nods as she rinses the wine glasses, wiping away her lipstick from the rim.
"Then why is he here, now?" he continues, leaning against the kitchen bench.
Alicia shrugs. "He bought his business in-house with Lockhart and Gardner..."
"And of all the lawyers there, he chose you," Owen interrupts, looking insufferably smug.
"I am good at my job," she snaps, not liking his tone.
Owen chuckles and the sound grates on her nerves.
"Oh, Alicia, you're so clueless, sometimes."
Another case with her and Peter on opposite sides and he makes a crack towards her in front of the jury that is designed to make her look petty. Thankfully, years of masking her emotions hide her irritation their prying eyes, but anger floods through her at his tactics.
She remembers how her hand stung after she slapped him; thinks it would be incredibly satisfying to do so again.
Some nights, she pretends that her time with Peter was all a dream, before she hears Zach or Grace outside and is brought crashing back into reality. She doesn't hate him, she realises, but his new animosity towards her bleeds into her veins too. Deep down, despite Owen's assertions, she has always been the type to respond to others' anger with hers in turn.
"Hard case?" Will asks when she returns to Lockhart and Gardner, sitting down heavily in her chair.
She rolls her eyes and can't help but think that one of the stupidest questions she's ever heard.
It's Peter's first weekend with the kids and Alicia sits alone on the sofa, a tin of cotton candy on her lap. She remembers eating this with Kalinda and almost smiles to herself, but her smile falters when she doesn't hear Zach and Grace arguing over the computer, doesn't hear them walking through the kitchen.
She looks up at the ceiling and starts when she hears a knock.
"Alicia," Eli greets when she opens the door, "I know it's Saturday but-"
He's distracting her, she knows this; he knows she knows this, but neither say a word about it as she lets him inside and sits down at the dining room table.
She and Will attend a charity event and she opts for something a touch tighter, a touch more low-cut. Will holds her close to his side, his hand resting at her hip. She remembers attending these same events with Peter and thinks that Will holds her exactly the same way. Hands on her body, the grip tight enough that it wasn't easy to get away.
Abruptly, she excuses herself and walks away, not caring that she cuts Will off mid-sentence, just needing to get away.
Later, Eli finds her out on the balcony; her bare arms have the mottled flesh of cold, and he wonders what on earth she's doing out here.
"Alicia," he says and she looks at him briefly, before returning her gaze toward the city. "It's cold," he continues, "are you coming back inside?"
She says nothing as she turns around, not even attempting to explain what was going through her head; not when she can barely make heads or tail of it herself. Her torso twists as she steps around him and she falters at his next words.
"You look beautiful, Alicia."
Eli says it as if its a fact, one he's known for a long time, and she stands dumbly, struck mute.
(She finds that she cares more about Eli's compliment than Will's muffled 'you look great' from somewhere at the base of her throat.)
Will says 'what am I doing wrong?' and Alicia's world falls apart a little.
She swallows and opens her mouth to promise him that she is okay, that they are fine. Will watches her mouth open and looks as if he's praying for something. Her mouth snaps shut with the sound of her teeth clacking together and she reaches for him instead.
He kisses her, but his lips taste bitter-sweet.
She throws herself into her work and tries to pretend that all will be okay. Kalinda sees straight through her bravado but doesn't comment, for which Alicia is thankful. The last thing she needs is Kalinda's pity. Celeste notices as well, and Alicia hates the other woman's smirk, thinks that Kalinda might be onto something with her baseball bat.
She hears Celeste talking to Will, "All not well in paradise?" with arrogance and pity and sarcasm lacing through the tones of her voice.
Will pushes his shoulders back. "Alicia and I," he begins, "we've never been … easy together."
Celeste snorts, her long fingers floating upwards and glancing against Will's cheek.
"What did you expect, Will?" she asks pityingly.
"I don't know."
Celeste sighs and shakes her head. "You always were a hopeless romantic." Her hand snaps back quickly and she walks away.
Alicia shakes her head and leans against the wall. There is too much crumbling now.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Good Wife; it is the property of CBS. Title taken from the song 'Life Effect' performed by Stars. What can I say about this particular fic? It's nearly killed me. This is part one of two. The rest should be up quite soon.
It's Called the Life Effect
post-S2; Alicia Florrick, Eli Gold, Will Gardner; Alicia/Will, Alicia/Eli
When the phone rings, Will is pushing her jacket over her shoulders.
And so we disconnect,
the room goes quiet around us.
Nothing left to protect,
the end has finally found us.
Grace's Christian phase has yet to die its natural death and Alicia drives her to church on Sunday morning.
“I'll be across the road,” she says, nodding towards a small cafe.
Grace says nothing as she unbuckles her seatbelt and walks across the road, not sparing her mother a second glance. Alicia falters and her attention is caught by the tall cross on the church's roof. Briefly, she wonders what she'd pray for if she were religious. This thing with Will to get better? To rewind time and hope Peter stays faithful?
She blinks quickly, bring herself back to the present. She's never been one to waste time on hopeless dreams.
Will finds her by the windowsill and hovers behind her, his hand outstretched but not touching. She doesn't show that she knows he's there and he falters, lowers his hand, steps away. She listens to his footsteps fade, ever softer, knows she is pushing him away but unable to stop herself.
“Come on, we're going for a drink,” another voice says and Alicia turns, sees Kalinda holding up both her bag and her jacket.
“Kalinda,” she dead-pans, “don't tell me you're worried about me?”
“Yes,” she responds, and that's that.
They take Kalinda's SUV to a bar Kalinda knows across town and Alicia doesn't protest when a tequila shot is pushed towards her. She grips the glass so tightly she's surprised it doesn't shatter, tilts her head back, lets the burning alcohol trickle down the back of her throat. Kalinda twists in her stool and gives her a pointed look, eyebrow arched and everything.
“What's going on with you and Will?”
Alicia can think of many things to say that would all be true, like, we're making up for lost time and we're finally having a go at things, but none of them feel like the truth.
“I don't know,” she says honestly, waving to the bar-tender to bring them both another drink.
“You're sleeping with him,” Kalinda says and Alicia falters, then nods.
“And it's not going like you imagined it would,” she continues and Alicia's eyes narrow, not liking the other woman's tone.
“Well, what did you expect?” Kalinda asks scathingly, not at all intimidated, “beds and roses and a happily-ever-after-?...”
Slapping Kalinda is not as satisfying as slapping Peter, but Kalinda lets her. Actually has the audacity to smile when she touches her lip, dabbing away the blood with her fingertips. Alicia doesn't care; all she sees is red.
“You lost any right to make judgements about my life when you fucked my husband,” Alicia snarls, sounding feral, the obscenity falling easily from her lips.
“That happened before I even knew you,” Kalinda retorts.
“Exactly,” Alicia spits back.
Kalinda drives her back to Lockhart and Gardner, playing with the radio the entire way, and Alicia squeezes her hands in her lap in an effort not to fidget. She parks and Alicia is out of the car before the engine is off, almost running to the elevator. Kalinda lets her and Alicia walks straight to Will's office, closes the door behind her.
He's sitting at his desk and looks up as she draws the curtains.
“Alicia, what-?” he begins, looking confused.
She stalks over and somehow fits herself in between his chair and his desk, her feet either side of him, her fingertips already undoing her blouse. He gets the hint, quickly, and he presses her hard against the polished wood, his breath hot and quick against her skin.
Afterward, on the way out, she catches a glimpse of Kalinda.
Feels no guilt at the still-obvious cut on her lip.
Grace says, “I liked it better when you didn't work,” for the second time and Alicia feels gutted and then angry and then blank in quick succession.
“Why?” Alicia asks after a moment, knowing they had to have this discussion at some point.
“Because you're different,” Grace answers immediately, “like, you don't really care about anything except your client and that's … that's wrong, mom.”
“Because I'm arguing against your father?” Alicia says and Grace's cheeks flush.
“He's putting bad guys away, you're getting them out,” she rebuts petulantly.
Alicia laughs, she can't help it, and wonders how her daughter could still be so naive.
She studies and practices and becomes a further force in the courtroom. She dresses with more care, heightens her heels, tailors her suits and uses the court as a stage where she is the only protagonist. Will loves it, Diane admires it, Celeste hates it and Kalinda … Kalinda says nothing, instead she simply crosses her legs and watches with knowing eyes.
Later, she walks past Kalinda's office and is surprised to see Eli in there. She hesitates, then listens at the door, peering through the crack.
“Why are you telling me this?” Eli asks, and Kalinda raises a perfectly groomed eyebrow.
“Because someone needs to keep an eye on her,” Kalinda responds, “someone who stands the slightest chance at getting through that thick skull of hers.”
Eli laughs and eyes Kalinda with amusement.
“I watched her in court today,” Eli comments, “she was … excellent.”
Kalinda scoffs and looks at Eli with her typical 'you're not worth the air I breathe' expression. “Is everyone blind?” she spits.
Eli rolls his eyes and goes to turn and Kalinda's hand shoots out and grabs his, squeezing so tightly his knuckles turn white.
“Listen to me,” she snaps, “I am only going to say this once, so just keep your mouth shut.”
He nods, startled, and Kalinda slowly relaxes her hold. Eli extends and flexes his fingers, watching the blood return.
“She's shutting down; it's what she does when she feels boxed in. She'll look fine, work fine, and fool nearly everyone until all of these emotions come back at the most inopportune time. You and I both understand self-destruction, Mr Gold, and Alicia is nearly there. I'm telling you to keep an eye out because I might not be...”
Alicia leaves then, knowing their conversation is nearly over, and goes into her own office, closes the door. She sits down and stares at her desk for a very long time, wondering how – after everything – Kalinda is still able to see straight through her.
She runs. She buys a treadmill and she runs.
Before work, after work, until her body hardens and her clothes hang loose. Part of her hates herself as she pushes and pushes, her legs aching, blood pounding, but the other – more dominant part – knows she would go mad if she didn't have this release.
Zach asks “what are you doing?” and Alicia, starts, hits 'stop' on the treadmill.
She falters as she looks at Zach in the doorway. In the soft light, he looks older than his sixteen years, and it hurts to see his resemblance to Peter.
“You're going to end up hurting yourself,” he continues.
“I'm fine,” she says, the lie spilling easily from her lips.
(She thinks she's never hated herself more in that moment, such a blatant lie to her child.)
“Whatever,” Zach mutters, turning his back on her and slamming the door behind him.
Alone, Alicia puts her headphones back in, and hits the 'go' button, increasing the speed.
Eli's footsteps are distinctive, quick and light, and remind her of her own against the treadmill. He doesn't break his stride as he enters her office and sits down.
“There's a rumour you're leaving Lockhart and Gardner,” he says without preamble.
Alicia leans back in her chair and exhales, her shoulders heavy.
“And where am I allegedly going?” she asks.
“To the State's Attorney's office.”
She can't help it, she laughs; then thinks that Peter really could be quite smart at times.
Suspicion follows her wherever she goes when she walks around Lockhart and Gardner, repercussions of Peter's rumour and she tries not to listen to the other associates as they hover in the tea room, around the water cooler.
Still, she hears some things and learns new descriptions of herself, none of them flattering.
Diane pulls her into her office and says “we're being audited” with anger and suspicion and hurt? lacing her voice. Alicia sits down at the other woman's behest and folds her hands in her lap, her gaze focused to the left of Diane, at the Chicago skyline.
“Are you feeding information to your husband?” Diane asks and Alicia snorts beneath her breath.
“Ex-husband,” she corrects, and to her surprise Diane stomps her foot.
Its childish and looks ridiculous but Alicia bites her tongue, doesn't say a word.
“You're treading a very fine line,” Diane warns and Alicia's eyes narrow to a glare.
“Haven't I always?”
Will's hand at her hip, pulling her close, the other tangled in her hair. She lets her head fall back as he presses his lips to her neck, his teeth scraping over her skin. She runs her hand along his jaw, loops an arm around his neck and pulls him close.
Her eyes snap open even as she presses her body against him.
When had they become this?
She wakes to Owen shaking her shoulder and blinks a few times, trying to dispel the early-morning tiredness. Owen goes into her kitchen and moves about, grinding coffee beans and getting milk from the fridge. Alicia hides a yawn behind her hand as she looks over the sofa.
“How did you get in?” she asks.
“You gave me a key,” he answers, and she frowns because she's certain that she didn't. Then she remembers that there's a key-cutter on the corner of nearly every block and Owen is … well, Owen.
“What do you want?” she says, choosing to ignore the lie.
He shrugs as he hands her a coffee mug and sits across from her and Alicia waits, knowing he'll speak first.
“Zach called me,” he admits eventually, “he's worried.”
Alicia curls her legs beneath her and cradles the mug in her hands, looking down at the floor. “About me?”
Owen rolls his eyes. “No, Alicia, he's worried about the colour of the living room walls.” He grins a bit when she laughs, a harsh jerk of her shoulders that stops almost as soon as it starts. “Of course, it's about you.”
“I'm fine,” she says, playing with the edge of the blanket she'd draped across her lap.
“You don't look fine...”
Alicia stops listening as Owen keeps talking and finds herself thinking about the past few months. She'd tried so hard to keep Zach and Grace's lives normal and it seems that she'd failed.
“Why do you do it?” Owen snaps, and Alicia jumps, startled at his tone.
“Close yourself off,” he says after a pause, when he's been glaring at her for a good minute and taken two sips of coffee. “You push everyone away, retreat into your own little world and try and please everyone and guess what, Alicia? It's not possible to please everyone, so stop trying!”
“I do my best-”
“No,” Owen interrupts, “you do what you think your best should be.”
“I didn't think you dealt in platitudes,” she snaps, bristling at his tone.
“I don't,” Owen responds, eyes narrowing.
Alicia blinks first and turns her head so she doesn't have to look at him. There's a mark on her neck where Will's teeth had latched and bruises on her arms that she knows she hasn't hid well enough, but Owen has the sense not to comment.
“Are you finished?” she asks, her gaze focused on the wall.
“No, I'm not-”
“Yes, you are.”
Her voice leaves no room for argument and she doesn't move, tries not to even breathe until the door has shut behind him.
Eli doesn't look up as she all-but-skids into his office stuttering apologies. Instead, he calmly finishes the sentence he's writing and turns the piece of paper face-down before gesturing for her to sit.
“I'm not going to tell you how to live your life, Alicia,” he begins, “but you're in the public eye now and need to be careful with your … outside activities.”
Eli looks at the ceiling briefly, as if praying for guidance. “Your relationship with Will Garner,” he says in one breath. "I don't approve or disapprove but the press will – metaphorically speaking – burn you at the stake if they find out. What's happened before? The notes under the door, etcetera? That will be child's play compared to what they'll throw at you if your relationship becomes public knowledge.”
Alicia frowns. “Wouldn't that be good for Peter's campaign?”
Eli sighs as he leans forward and clasps his hands together, resting his forehead against them for a brief moment. “In the short term? Probably.”
“Then why pull me in here at all?” she asks. “Wouldn't you prefer that the press run with the story?”
At this, Eli looks momentarily confused. “No,” he answers eventually. “It would reflect badly on Lockhart and Gardner, on you and – ultimately – on Peter.”
“But you're not denying that it would be useful here and now?” she presses.
“No, I'm not.”
She scours the newspapers for a full fortnight after her conversation with Eli but the only time her name is even mentioned is in an article about a client she's defending. Kalinda raises an eyebrow as she steps into her office and sees Alicia mid-way through the sports section.
“I didn't think you were a baseball fan,” she says sarcastically.
Alicia folds the newspaper in half and places it to the side, on top of her other paperwork. “I'm not.”
“You prefer swimmers,” Kalinda continues knowingly.
“Did you need something?” Alicia snaps, because this is too close, too familiar and Kalinda has hurt her too much to go down this road again.
Diane organises another function and Alicia does the obligatory meet-and-greets with various clients before heading toward the open bar. The first shot of tequila burns her throat but she reaches immediately for another and downs that too. The bartender grins and pushes another shot towards her and she nods her thanks.
“No problem,” he says, still grinning and Alicia's mind starts working enough to realise that he's flirting. She flushes terribly and he laughs, light and care-free.
“I'm off in ten minutes,” he says, and the invitation is clear. Come with me, forget whoever-the-hell-it-is you've got at home, live a little.
And it would be so, so easy.
She starts at the sound of her name and turns around to find Peter.
“You remember Kya Poole,” he says, nodding towards the blonde at his side.
“I do,” Alicia responds. She runs her eyes up-and-down Peter's date, noting the designer heels and dress and expensive jewellery but feels nothing.
That said, she hasn't felt much of anything for a while now, so its nothing new.
She returns to the apartment and finds Will in the hallway outside, leaning against the wall. His smile fades when she grabs his arm and pulls him around the corner, out of sight.
“The kids are inside,” she whispers. “You can't be here.”
Will's eyes narrow as he withdraws a bunch from flowers from behind his back. “I thought maybe I could meet them, you know, properly-”
“No,” Alicia interrupts, “they can't know-”
He shakes his head. “Would it really be so horrible if they knew?”
She pauses, closes her eyes. “No, but-”
She can't find an ending to the sentence and it feels as through the answer is floating around somewhere just out of reach.
Will bites, “Sometimes, Alicia, I don't think you care about me anywhere near as much as I care for you.”
The flowers fall from his hand and petals scatter everywhere as he storms out before she can snap at him for being selfish or for being right.
Grace is missing.
Grace is missing and Alicia has no idea where her daughter could be. Louis Canning stands at her shoulder as she dials Peter and then Eli and then Kalinda. All three drop what they're doing and Alicia lets herself lean against Canning's car to catch her breath, slow down her racing pulse.
“Mrs Florrick?” Canning asks and Alicia's eyes flash open.
“I'm going to walk,” she says softly. “There are a few places around here...”
He nods but Alicia has already turned and heads down the street, her eyes scanning the street searching for her daughter's bright, yellow schoolbag. Her phone rings before she's gone three blocks but its Will's personalised ringtone and she ignores it. He's probably going to say that he's heard that Grace is missing and she's not ready to have that conversation. It should surprise her that Kalinda's SUV stops right by her, but it really doesn't. She swings out the driver's seat and is by her side in less than a few seconds.
“Will said he couldn't get a hold of you, he's worried,” she says, in that voice. As if she's apologising to Alicia and is angry with her at the same time.
Alicia almost says something stupid and selfish like 'so he should be' but instead she just looks down at Kalinda. She's so small, it's hard to believe she could take on a fully-grown man and win, and says “Did he say anything about Grace?”
Kalinda's infinitesimal shake of the head is what finally brings forth the tears and when they start falling, she can't seem to be able to stop. Kalinda steps forward and Alicia falls into her, clinging to the other woman like a life-ring.
Kalinda leads Alicia into the car and takes her into Lockhart and Gardner. Alicia rides the elevator alone while Kalinda goes back out in search of Grace and tries to wipe the tell-tale tears in her eyes away. Both Peter and Will intercept her in the corridor and drag her into Will's office. His secretary and Diane are silent, listening, but Peter closes the door behind them. Nobody wants this heard.
“Oh, god, I'm sorry,” she whispers, resting her forehead against the nearest thing (which happens to be Peter's shoulder but Will refuses to think that's anything but coincidental.) “I'm so sorry.”
Peter holds her close and presses his lips to the top of her head, his jaw tightly clenched.
Forever bonded, Will thinks, and he wonders if he fits into any of this.
Eventually, Peter takes Alicia back to her apartment and she takes to pacing the kitchen. Her phone sits on the bench, waiting for someone to call but it stays resolutely silent.
“Peter, what if-?” she begins, but he shakes his head sharply, cutting her off.
“It's only been a few hours.”
Both turn as they hear the door open and Alicia rushes into the hallway as Grace enters, looking sullen, followed closely by Eli. Alicia has her arms around her daughter almost immediately, holding her close as silent tears of relief run down her cheeks. Too soon, Grace pulls away and walks past Alicia into the kitchen. She wipes the tears away with the back of her hand and attempts a smile.
“Where was she?” she asks, choking mid-sentence.
“At a church in Southside.”
Alicia frowns. “How did you know-?”
“My daughter, when she was angry with me, decided to go to a synagogue in an area she knew I would … disapprove about. And contrary to their beliefs, adolescent girls often think alike,” Eli says, answering her unfinished question.
She laughs but it comes out more like a hysterical hiccup. “Thank you.”
Eli gives a half-smile as he reaches out and cups her cheek, wiping a stray tear away with his thumb.
Oddly enough, its Grace's brief disappearance that forces Alicia and Kalinda to truly acknowledge each other again. They sit at another bar Kalinda knows and the barman brings them their drinks without asking. They've barely been seated a few minutes when Kalinda's phone rings and both look at the flashing screen.
Kalinda answers and Alicia listens to one-side of the conversation. But it's enough. A client has been found in the same room as a dead girl and been charged with first-degree murder.
“It never seems to end, does it?” Kalinda asks as she hits disconnect.
“No,” Alicia agrees.
Harlan Marx - their latest client - is as guilty as sin, Alicia thinks. Maybe that's why she doesn't blame the girl's father when he unloads a bullet into Marx's brain. Alicia doesn't scream as she watches Marx fall to the ground with half his skill blown away, or when she drops to her knees to try and do something. Blood soaks into her skirt, spills over her hands and she thinks she's never seen anything as red.
Soon enough, she's pulled away from Marx by the police and taken to the hospital to be treated for shock.
'I'm fine,' she protests, but the doctors and the detectives don't listen and tread around her as if walking on eggshells.
That night, when she wakes up screaming, the sheets soaked with sweat, Will places a careful hand on her shoulder and she throws it away and skirts to other side of the bed, knees drawn to her chest.
“Leave me alone,” someone whispers. It takes her a moment to realise it's her voice, her words, her request.
“Alicia,” Will says softly, “don't-”
“Now,” she interrupts, and there's an edge to her voice.
His eyes narrow and he doesn't speak as he gets dressed and leaves her bedroom, slamming the door behind him. Now alone, Alicia leans her head forward to rest against her knees, and exhales a shaky breath.
Eli sits with her a week later. Rain buffets against the windows, making the glass shake in its panes and she watches as an inside-out umbrella as it bounces against the pavement, only to be run over by a bus.
“Alicia?” he says softly, as if not to startle her, and she looks at him, her eyes painfully sad.
“Do you ever feel like you have no idea what you're doing?” she asks.
He nods. “All the time.”
She laughs. “David Lee said I liked lists...”
Eli, unsure where she is heading, waits for her to continue.
“...I wouldn't know where to start with this one.”
He sighs, and reaches out, his hand on her shoulder. She blinks, but doesn't draw away. Eventually, she reaches up and threads her fingers through his, grateful for a physical anchor. She closes her eyes as he squeezes, just for a moment. It frightens her, sometimes, that he can read her so easily. She's all-but given Will a manual and he still can't figure out that she doesn't feel secure or attractive or smart so he should probably tell her that she is.
Eli just acts like it's a perfectly normal thing to do.
Disclaimer: I do not own 'The Good Wife.' It is the property of CBS. A quick admission, I haven't kept up-to-date with the third series so I've probably missed quite a few plot-lines from the show. That said, I've also taken a few from the few episodes I have seen so I guess we could call it even. Just consider everything to be AU. I thought this would be a two-part story but it looks like they'll be at least one more chapter.