Author's Notes: Thank you to my beta, Olly, for helping me immensely while I wrote this. Thank you so much. This piece is dedicated to my friend, Prin, who asked for some Good Wife fic.
Disclaimer: This show belongs to several people, but I'm not even remotely close to being one of them.
By Duckie Nicks
Peter is the one who breaks all the vows he makes, but she is the one who is judged for it. It's easy to look at him, in prison and barely able to see his family, and think that he's the one who's being punished – or rather that he's the only one who's being punished by and for his behavior.
But Alicia knows differently.
She has always had a vague awareness that the women in these situations always become the focus. Yet she's never known how true that is until it happens to her. And now that fact is one she can't escape, no matter how hard she tries.
Her children look at her as though she should have shielded them from this, from his mistakes. They don't say it out loud; their recriminations are the quiet kind, come in the shape of quick glances from eyes both accusing and apologetic, scowling and saddened. Sometimes, she is sure she can hear Zach and Grace fighting about it, their voices unintentionally loud as they recite news reports and apportion blame on the deserving parent as though they alone are judge and jury here. But somehow they always manage to stop before Alicia has had a chance to catch more than a few words. And she's left with that hot feeling of shame she can't fight and the cold desire to control everything around her with an iron fist.
But if one thing has been made clear from all of this, it's that she can't control much of anything. Her children defy her; Jackie fights her on every decision she makes; Peter's in jail, and he's contrite, but it's never enough. Rumors of his infidelity persist in a hushed whisper like a soft breeze through a field of grain – not loud, strong, or present enough for anyone else to be bothered but still unpleasant nonetheless for her, the lone reed in the grass.
To be honest, she wishes it would stop, prays for the constant judgment and innuendo to die down. But Alicia knows that the chances of that happening are small. Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how many degrees she holds or cases she wins with ease. Her accomplishments, her flaws – none of it really means anything to the throngs of people who glibly consume the scandal that has rocked her family. For them, there are only a few relevant questions yet to be answered:
How could she let this happen? How could she make Peter so unhappy that he felt he needed to cheat?
And most puzzling of all, how could she not know it was going on?
Her relationship with Derrick Bond is one she doesn't understand. He's made himself her professional mentor, but Alicia is sure that he has never said a particularly kind word to her.
Of course, that's not to say that he's been cruel either. He hasn't been. He isn't. But the fact remains that conversation between them is rare, and when they do have something to discuss, she's always left with the impression that she has no clue who he is.
She won't deny that he seems nice enough. The advice he gives her is useful; where as she has always felt that she and Will were two side of the same coin, Derrick Bond is decidedly not. He's colder than she is, political enough to be good at what he does but without much moral attachment to the job at hand. And if part of her doesn't trust his cool demeanor, it's that she's had enough experience with façade to know that there is danger in what may lurk beneath.
Still, Alicia is glad that he is her mentor.
Out of everyone in the office, he is probably the best match for her. With Will, the air would have been filled with that crackling energy that always seemed to be between them. And not that she doesn't like it (she does), but she's not sure she would benefit the most from someone who is desperate for her to leave her husband.
Diane wouldn't have been much better. She, like Derrick, seems nice enough. But to be perfectly frank, Alicia is slightly put off by her political zealousness. If only because Alicia is surrounded by it at home, she would like to have this small part of her life removed from politics as much as possible.
And maybe that's why Derrick Bond is a perfect fit for her. Unlike seemingly everyone else, he doesn't look at her as Alicia Florrick. She has no doubt that he knows exactly who she is and what her husband did, but again, unlike everyone else in her life, there are no expectations that come with that.
He is firm, direct with her. He looks at her failures and accomplishments with a cold eye that allows her to receive the best advice on how to proceed.
And if she's come to like him at all, it's because he is proof – he alone, possibly, is proof that there are places even Peter Florrick's shadow cannot touch.
She doesn't want to love him.
She wants to remember all the things he's done to her – the things he's done with those other women – and be able to hate him for it.
Sometimes, unbidden images of his affairs will flash before her eyes, and the red hot sight, seared permanently into her mind, will be so overwhelming that, like fireworks bursting into the night sky, it will be all she can see for minutes at a time.
She doesn't want to picture all of the sordid details. She doesn't want to see images of her husband doing what he did with those women, doesn't want to hear in her head the words he said to them. She doesn't want to think about how he slept with them and spoke of her afterwards.
But her mind holds her captive anyway.
And Alicia wants to hate him for that, for being so deceitful and selfish that he's seized hold of her mind and turned her memory against her. She wants to wash her hands of him completely and walk away forever.
Every now and then, things will go back to the way they were before.
She'll see Peter card Zach's messy hair out of his face or say something in a gentle voice to Grace; Peter will casually leave his speech on the dresser, and Alicia will pick it up with earnest and find herself beholden to his words and the wisdom contained within. She will find herself falling in love with his mind, as damaged as it can be, all over again.
And when he comes to her that night, when he crawls [uninvited] into bed with her, she discovers that she doesn't hate him enough to part with any of the comfort he provides her. If anything, in those moments, what she realizes is that she still loves him.
Despite it all.
She still loves him.
She doesn't want to hate him.
When she looks at Peter, she still sees the man she fell in love with, the man she chose to have children with. When she looks at him, she can tell that, in spite of everything, he is still the person she always wanted to spend the rest of her life with.
But it's not the same.
The way she feels about him is not the same.
True, she still loves him. Part of her hates herself for it, but there's no denying that she loves him, that she has stayed with him for that very reason.
But there is another part of her that does not.
It spends the majority of her life silent, asleep inside her. But every now and then, it will suddenly awaken. During the middle of a joke carefully placed in his speech; while he allows his mother to fawn over him like he's a little boy getting ready for church; when Alicia gets the feeling that he's hiding something from her and has no clue what it is – the anger inside her opens its eyes, slithers awake as though it were always a separate entity just waiting to strike.
And then, when her tongue tastes adrenaline and all the insults it wishes she would hurl at him, when her fingernails bite the palms of her hands in red parentheses – then she wishes she had never stayed.
Immediately she'll remind herself that she loves him, that a future with Will was never really possible; she'll try to talk herself out of feeling the only emotion she seems capable of in those moments.
And she'll succeed.
When all is said and done, Peter will only vaguely be aware that he's done something wrong, and when he asks if she's okay, she'll say yes – and mean it. And he'll believe her. Too afraid to consider the other possibilities fully, he'll believe her, even if she'll see in his eyes a piece of him that remains doubtful.
Only she will know differently.
She's not sure when she stopped believing in herself.
She hates putting it that way, because it sounds so…
And as a woman who has spent most of her life cultivating her own strength, she hates that it makes her seem so weak.
But Alicia doesn't deny that it's true.
There's no point in doing so. Even if she wanted to, the second she puts on her suit and goes back to work, she knows that no amount of denial will erase the nerves she feels.
It won't make her suddenly feel as though she belongs there, as though it's an inevitability that Stern, Lockhart & Gardner will see her brilliance.
The very fact that she doubts she has brilliance to be demonstrated scares her, proves her point.
But she knows she can't give up. As the last several months have proven, Alicia doesn't have the option of capitulating. Right now, she is the only one holding her family together, the only reason they have made it as far as they have.
So she presses onward, forces herself to play a part she's sure she cannot succeed at. She writes the briefs, interviews the clients, does the cross examinations – all in the hope that she comes across as more competent than she feels.
And that's how it happens.
Alicia is so intent on not screwing up that understanding slowly begins to dawn on her; the more work she does, the more she begins to understand. She starts to see that, in fact, she is capable of doing the job tasked to her.
She's not perfect; there are mistakes she makes and people she can't save. But the more she does her job, the more she finds herself realizing that she's actually more gifted than she thought she could ever be. Each case brings with it a new set of challenges that she finds herself increasingly interested in solving and, more importantly, able to solve.
In her whole life, she's never had the opportunity to test herself like this. Her body thrums with adrenaline and energy; it craves being put to work, and slowly, like cold water seeping through the cracked rock, it dawns on her that she'll never be able to walk away from this. Not even if Peter goes back into politics, returns to grandeur once more, will she want to quit, she knows.
Because if there's one thing she's learned from all of this, it's that she's too good at what she does to ever take a back seat to him again.