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Witness Prep

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The thing is, it really was about witness prep.  

It really was about witness prep, but he did stay the night.  

He stayed the night, but he didn’t sleep with her; the only time they touched was when his fingers brushed hers as she handed him a glass of Jameson.  

"I—" She drained most of her glass in a single swallow.  "I’m not really a whiskey person," she admitted.

Finn shrugged.  "It’s Saint Patrick’s day," he said.  "And I'm Irish.  Once a year, I like to embrace the clichés."

What little light was in her eyes left, then, and she tugged her knees to her chest.  "We can do this in the morning," she said. "If you want to go embrace clichés."

There was a bit of a tremor in her voice, and he got the distinct feeling that she hadn’t really been suggesting it for his benefit.  "I’m fine," he said, and he knew better than to leave her alone with whatever memories she was trying to wallow in.  He knew how that went. He had been there. Sort of. 

"Will liked whiskey."

And there it is,he thought. There was more to it, but he didn't know it. Not then, anyway. 

He stayed the night sitting on her sofa, alternating between water and whiskey, between witness prep and the whispered confessions with a grieving woman. He stayed the night and she talked about Will and, sometime just before midnight, she set her glass down on the coffee table and decided to trust him. 

"We had an affair," she admitted, voice soft in the half-darkness. "A few years ago. I hate that word."

"It covers a multitude of sins, doesn't it?" Finn asked. "Affair." He had sort of figured it out, from the intensity of her grief and the rumors that circled around the office.  The only thing that surprises him, really, is that it was past tense. Well, that, and the fact that she told him at all. In the short time he’d known her, he had figured out that when Alicia spoke unprompted, she often left the important parts out. It’s was if she expected people to hear the things that she didn’t say, hiding inside of the words that she did. She answered questions, though, if they were phrased the right way.

"It wasn’t–" she started, but Finn waved her objection away.

"I didn't mean it like that," he assured her. "I just meant--" He shook his head. "That word. Affair. It captures everything we think we should be ashamed of."

"I'm not," she said. "Ashamed of it." But he could tell that she was lying.

"Good," is what he said though. "Shame is–It's a waste of emotion."

"It keeps us in check," she countered.

"No." Finn shook his head. "Guilt keeps us in check."

Alicia reached for her glass. "I’m not sure I understand the distinction."

Finn had thought a lot about this, and he sighed. "Guilt is feeling bad for hurting other people," he said. "I feel guilty because I don’t see my son enough. I feel guilty because I didn’t answer a call from my sister and a day later she died, alone in her bathroom, with a needle in her arm." He looked down.

"Finn, I'm so sorry—" Alicia said, and she started to reach for him, but he shook his head and she retreated. "But shame is—It’s not about other people. Shame’s about punishing yourself for not being a superhero." He smiled up at her. "So it’s good," he said. "If you don’t feel ashamed."

She didn’t quite agree, and she told him as much, but that was okay with him. "Sometimes people disagree," he said, and she smiled before she refilled her glass.

"My kids don’t know," she said.

"About your affair?" he said, and he thought they probably do. "Alicia, I'm not going to tell anyone. As far as I'm concerned, privilege goes both ways."

She didn’t point out that this conversation had veered well outside the scope of privileged communications, just nodded and said, "You met with the babysitter three times, in the Mathis stabbing?"

She did that a lot, he’d noticed, turned the conversation back to work whenever things got too personal, whenever she told him something real. It was okay, really, the way she wrapped herself up in it to hide. He did that too, after Leah died, after they lost the baby, after Ann started sleeping in the unused nursery and wouldn’t let him come near her. He wondered if this is what drew her to the law to begin with, if she set out to find a profession that would let her wrap other people’s lives around her like a blanket when her own life started spinning out of control.

"You loved him," he said sometime around one.  By that point, she was apologizing every time she spoke, and he wondered, for the first time, whether she ever let herself feel anything without feeling ashamed of her own humanity.  "You don’t have to apologize for that."

"I—"  She hesitated, then.  "I never said that I loved him," she said.  She straightened her back, narrowed her eyes.

It was written all over her face, though, Finn thought.  It was written on her face, and in her tears, and I loved him reverberated in the waves of her voice.  "Alicia."  He shook his head.  "You didn’t have to say it."

"He's not your friend," she replied. "Castro. I know you know it, but you don't know it, yet. Not really."

It was witness prep, and at two he suggested that she sleep. 

"I can't sleep at night," she admitted. "Or during the day, really. I close my eyes, but–"

He nodded and refilled her glass. "Okay," he murmured, and he wanted to ask what she saw on the backs of her eyelids, but he thought she'd tell him, when she was ready. 

"I kept trying to end it," she said, eyes focused on her glass. "Not the sex, the—I thought I could just decide and it would be over." She wrapped her arms around her body and he didn’t know if she was cold or trying to hold herself together.  He grabbed a blanket from a chair and draped it over her shoulders.

"I don't think you can just turn off emotion that," he said. "Do you?"

"No."  She didn’t look like she liked the answer. "I don't think that you can."

Finn sighed.  "I know," he said. "Kinda sucks, doesn’t it?"

"My husband thinks I'm sleeping with you," she murmured at three. 

He sounds like a real charmer, Finn thought, and I kind of figured.. "Maybe you should tell him you don't sleep at all," is what he said. 

"Maybe I should," she said, and Finn wasn’t sure if she meant that she should tell her husband or— "Maybe it would get him out of my head."

Oh.  He blinked, watched the way her lips curled into a halfhearted smile.  "I don’t think it works like that," he murmured, sadly.

"No," she agreed.  "It probably doesn’t."  The smile disappeared and Finn’s heart sunk deep into his stomach.

"We could try it, though," he offered.  "We could be wrong."  The smile returned, and he kept talking, trying to coax it into something bigger, into something real.  "I’m probably kind of useless tonight, unfortunately," he said, raising his bandaged hand to gesture at the sling.  "Though that could be fun, too," he continued.  "I mean, if you’re up for doing most of the work."

"Are you saying I’d have to… prep the witness?" she asked, arching an eyebrow at him.

It took him a moment to realize that she was playing along, and when he did he laughed, relieved.  That was, looking back, the moment that he realized just how much he liked her, how much he was looking forward to knowing her once she had healed a bit more.  "Unfortunately," he said, trying to keep his face grim and serious.  "But I’d be a good witness," he added.  "I think you’d like whatever oral testimony I gave."

That was the first time he ever heard her laugh.

"I’m not–" she started, after she finished laughing.  "I mean, I'm married."  She rolled her eyes at that, at herself, and he wondered how many times she used married to explain Will away, how often she said married and meant afraid.

"So am I," he pointed out.  "Until the divorce is finalized, anyway."  It hit the wrong notes, he thought.  Sounded like he was being serious, a minute ago, and he wasn’t.  Not really.  He’d just wanted to make her smile.  "But I'm not, either.  I mean, you’re one foxy lady, but—"

"I’m not—" 

"—I'm not going to take advantage of a grieving widow.  Woman.  I would never." He winced, at his misuse of the word, but she didn’t react. Of course, the bottle was almost empty and she’d had more of it than he had, so maybe she didn’t notice.

"I know," she said, softly, and she smiled at him.  "Thank you."

"It would be fun, though," he said, and she rolled her eyes again.

"I’ll take a raincheck," she said, and she was smiling, teasing him, and he thought okay, she’s going to be okay.

"Will you please stop apologizing?" he asked her at five.

"I just—I don’t like feeling vulnerable," she admitted, voice barely more than a tired whisper.

"Do you?" he asked her, head cocked to the side.  "Feel vulnerable?" She probably did, he realized. She probably didn’t talk about this stuff all that often. Certainly not with near-strangers.

She seemed to consider the question for a long time before she shook her head.  "No.  Not with you."  He was pretty sure she didn’t mean to say that second part.

"The thing is, I don’t really remember it," he admitted around seven. The sun was starting to rise and the Jameson was long gone.  "I mean, I remember it, but not— It’s like I remember watching it happen, but I don’t remember it happening to me."

Alicia nodded, cocooned under the blanket.  "I felt like that at Peter’s press conference," she said.  "When he resigned.  It’s not the same thing, at all, but I think it’s—I think it’s shock, maybe."

Finn nodded.  "At the hospital, they gave me a brochure about PTSD," he admitted.  "It was mostly just pictures of pretty people looking concerned, but I should try to read it."

"Maybe," she said.  "I don’t know if—I don’t know if there are many answers to be found in stock photography."

"It might not have been all pictures," he admitted.  "That part of my perception might have been the morphine."

She giggled, and he thought Twice.  I’ve made her laugh twice.

Her eyes were closed when he came back from the bathroom, a little after eight.  "Alicia," he whispered, just in case she was awake.  Her only answer was a soft snore.  "Sleep well," he murmured as he slipped out the door.

Now, his phone vibrates with a new text message and her name pops up on the screen. He glances towards the door because she only just left, and he half expects to see her still standing there.  Did you mean it?, the text says.  About more witness prep?

Reconsidering that drink? he texts back. Because I meant it.

Her response comes a moment later.  I have to call my son.  Raincheck?

He sighs and shakes his head, then his phone vibrates again.  I mean it too.