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Unsettled

Chapter Text

1.

By the fourth day of headlines Kalinda’s bone-weary, her body held upright by tension alone.

She’s taken to arriving at the office at odd hours to avoid the second-year associates’ stares, and still some beer-bellied dude with a camera or hand recorder manages to pop up practically everywhere she goes. She’s scoured every inch of her car for a GPS tracker in the morning and evening, but she’s been too drained to investigate the other possibilities.

She slips into the elevator at eleven-thirty, after a particularly trying dance with a sprightly college journalist ready to pounce in the parking garage. She hasn’t experienced this kind of jumpiness in five years; it’s so foreign, so achingly familiar. She holds herself rigid in the elevator—it’s seen enough of her weaknesses already—but speeds through the glassy halls of the twenty-seventh floor and folds herself into her office chair as if into a cocoon. She opens her laptop, catching a glimpse of her reflection on the sunlit screen as she turns it on, exhaustion scratching the edge of her eyes.

Kalinda’s probably seen more images of her face in the last three days than she had in the previous six years, everywhere from the Sun-Times to TMZ. Lana clearly has a few very well-placed sources eager to publicize her leaks. The story seems to be irresistible to the public—bisexual woman with a mysterious past, creating a new identity in a post-September 11 era. (Of course all the evidence hadn’t been erased; how had Kalinda been fool enough to believe it had? Peter Florrick didn’t have that kind of power, no more than anybody else.) Half the things Kalinda’s gone through hell to hide are on display, and it’s reaching the point where she sees them in a mirror more clearly than she sees herself.

“Hey.”

Kalinda looks up, startled, swallows. “I thought you were in court,” she says.

“Settled last night. Or more precisely, this morning. At about one.” Alicia shakes her head. She’s lounging against Kalinda’s doorway, casual in a way that makes Kalinda jumpy somehow. Why should Alicia be relaxed around her, why should anyone? “He wants to work with Cary from now on, anyway—he ‘likes his attitude.’” She affects the pompous, low-pitched voice of Donald Pomeroy, who owns a dozen casinos in Indiana and has been embroiled in tangled lawsuits against the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago. The truth is Alicia probably should have recused herself a while ago.

“I’m sure he does.”

Alicia shrugs. “I remember when that would have seemed like—the death knell for my career. Now I can’t wait for Cary to take him off my hands.”

“Times change.” Kalinda attempts a smile, but she’s never been much good at that. Her voice sounds compressed.

Alicia cocks her head. “Are you doing all right?”

The compassion is like a needle at her vein. Kalinda can’t afford to bleed. “Yeah.”

Even looking a little past Alicia’s eyes, Kalinda can see them glaze, go cold. “All right. I’ll see you later. Let me know when you have the photos for the Rystock case.”

I can’t be the only one being forthcoming. Fuck. Kalinda knew the friendship was too much for her, even before her own scandal began. “Alicia. Wait.” Alicia turns on her heels at the doorway, that same stillness, the icy lines of her blue-gray blazer. “I don’t want to be—you know. It’s just …”

That’s all the words she has for this. For the last few days it’s been dangerous even to open her mouth. She watches the woman in the doorway, her suit smooth over her hips, pausing, hovering.

Then, to Kalinda’s surprise, Alicia walks back to her desk, sits down. “I know,” Alicia says. “Believe me, I understand.”

It’s memory on Alicia’s face, not sympathy, not fury, not pity, as Kalinda dares to look up. “Yeah,” she says.

“It’s that FBI agent?” Alicia says.

“Yeah.”

“Does she have anything else on you?”

“I didn’t know she had this much.”

“Someone caught you off guard? I didn’t think it was possible.”

Kalinda smiles as much as she can.

“Do you know where she’s getting it?” Alicia asks.

“Not yet.”

“None of it?”

“A bit. There’s a bit I told her,” Kalinda says. “I didn’t think …”

“That she’d take it to the press?” Alicia rolls her eyes. “You’ve obviously never made a woman angry before.”

Kalinda stares at Alicia, and soon enough Alicia smiles, confirming the joke and the memory. Kalinda laughs, and Alicia joins in, and there, in the middle of all of this, relief.

“They’re everywhere,” Kalinda says when their laughter bubbles down.

“I remember that,” Alicia says. “It’s as if the entire city … like they all turned into you, Kalinda.”

Kalinda grimaces.

“You don’t know how they find out half the things they know. Or how they figure out where you’ll be. I mean, you probably know, but I never did.” Alicia shakes her head. “I’m sorry, Kalinda. That you have to go through this.”

“Thanks.” Kalinda swallows. “Alicia.”

“Yes?”

“I …” Her finger starts tapping frantically against the edge of the desk. “This could … get to you. And, um, your family.”

Kalinda has seen it too many times now, this moment when Alicia’s face shifts, rigidifies. Even now, even in these days of shock and invasion, there’s little else that can make Kalinda’s gut twist with this kind of fear.

“Peter?” Alicia says, finally.

“Yeah.”

The silence thins the air in the room, making it difficult for Kalinda to breathe.

“Because …” Alicia is thinking. Kalinda wishes she would stop. “Because when you got … when you changed your name … Peter was part of …”

“He … helped.”

Alicia gives a crisp nod, takes in a little breath. “And so you … helped?”

“I did.”

“Oh.” It’s a small, defeated sound, and Alicia is looking over Kalinda’s shoulder, out the window, over the neighboring skyscrapers. Kalinda is going to lose her again, now when she no longer even has this name to hide behind.

Alicia refocuses, brings her gaze back to Kalinda. “Did he ask you to?”

“Sorry?” Kalinda nearly chokes on the word.

“When he … after you had your name … is that what Peter …”

Kalinda doesn’t want to answer this. The muscles in her calves tense.

Alicia arches an eyebrow, imperious. “Kalinda. Did he ask you?”

There’s forthcoming, and then there’s forthcoming. Kalinda’s not going to answer. She shifts her gaze over Alicia’s shoulder, into the hallway. Second-year associates, paralegals, Julius Kane, Cary rush by, on their way to work on something else, pretending they’re not looking in.

Alicia stands up, brushes through Kalinda's doorway without another word.