Summary: A reverse chronology fic that starts with a funeral.
Notes: Beta'd by dorothydeath, with my thanks. Any remaining errors are my own responsibility. For the angst prompt 'the last tim
I always wanted to try writing a reverse chronology fic, but I never expected it to be my first foray into a new fandom, nor for it to be quite so dark in tone.
She's not listening to the sermon. She can't take her eyes from the coffin, bedecked with flowers. It's stupid, pointless, to give flowers to the dead, she thinks.
She knows some people will expect her to shed a tear (she's kind, compassionate Alicia), though if she cries, some will think her a hypocrite (Saint Alicia putting on a show). Others will expect her to maintain her composure and reserve (she's strong, and powerful, and nothing can break her), while some will scorn her for remaining dry-eyed (ruthless, heartless, showing her true colours).
She can't win. It's the story of her life. And she feels momentarily disgraced for dwelling on such thoughts, for making this about her.
Beside her, Kalinda is silent and stony-faced and Alicia wants desperately to reach out to clasp her hand, seeking both to give and receive comfort. She doesn't though, because she doesn't deserve any comfort.
I'm sorry she says, over and over in her head. I'm so sorry.
She stands in front of the mirror, looking at the plain black dress and her wan face. She can't stop thinking about it. She hopes it will get easier after the funeral but she also knows the feeling of shame won't disappear as easily as the coffin will disappear into the cold earth.
It's tragic. It's unfair. It's impossible. It's not her fault.
Had she kept her mouth shut, or merely chosen her words more carefully the last time she saw him alive, she'd feel only grief.
She's washing her hands in the hospital bathroom. The blood has long since gone but she doesn't stop, not until the water is scalding hot and her skin is aflame. She takes a deep, shuddering breath, and runs her damp hands over her hair. She can't decide if it matters that she looks like hell, if it's more disrespectful to be untidy or to be concerned with her appearance at a time like this.
"Alicia." She turns. Kalinda is there, holding the door shut behind her. Alicia begins to ask, but her lips can't seem to form the words. Kalinda just shakes her head. There's no need for her to speak.
She bites her lip hard. Kalinda moves to put one hand on her shoulder, and whether it's genuine grief or survivor's guilt or the trauma in general, somehow the moment of comfort is what makes Alicia break down and weep.
She wishes she hadn't chosen such terrible words to be the last thing he ever heard her say to him.
Probably the last words he ever heard anyone say to him.
As soon as she gets outside the courthouse she calls Will, and he commiserates with her, talks about an appeal. She slips her phone into her pocket and turns to ask Kalinda what she wants to do for lunch.
Before the second shot rings out she's on the floor, and it takes her a moment to realise that she was pushed down by Kalinda, who is even now crouched beside her, urging her to stay down. It's over in moments. She's bruised, probably, but not really hurt. She gets up, but Kalinda is already moving.
There are numerous witnesses, almost all on their cell phones already, and they're outside the goddamn courthouse of all places, so help is absolutely already on the way. But Kalinda won't be satisfied until she calls for help herself and so she's kneeling on the sidewalk, phone in hand.
"Cary," Alicia say helplessly, crouching down alongside him, but his eyes are closed, he's unconscious or dead – not dead, please God, no, not dead…
"Pressure on the wound," Kalinda snaps, and from her tone it's maybe not the first time she's said it, but this time Alicia hears and she obeys immediately. They're surrounded by onlookers and it's claustrophobic and maybe she's imagining it, but she's sure she can smell the blood. Someone from the courthouse, an actual first aider, takes over moments later but she's already bloodied.
The wails of sirens fill the air.
She's stressed and angry even before the verdict; she's had to deal with a passive-aggressive email from Peter before her morning coffee; four voicemails from Eli; a lecture about Jesus from Grace during breakfast; she had to tell Zack, no, he can't go away this weekend with his friend since she's never even met the boy's parents; then she had to deal with the fallout of a clerical error that was not her fault the moment she got into the office.
This case was supposed to be a slam-dunk. She isn't prepared for the guilty verdict. Even Kalinda has the decency to look perturbed – not shocked, not Kalinda, but there's a moment of disquiet and a raised eyebrow.
She hates to lose, regardless of the circumstances, but this is a case she shouldn't have lost – that her client didn't deserve to lose. And now she checks her phone and there are voice mails from Peter, and Eli, and Grace, and for the love of God, she can't deal with all this today. Sometimes she'd kill for five minutes of peace, of calm, some serenity.
"Better luck next time," Cary says with an insincere smile as he passes her in the hallway.
And with uncharacteristic venom she snaps, "Drop dead, Cary."