"Baked goods and crudités, huh?"
Grace grins. "It's a fancy school." She takes a chocolate chip cookie. "Want one?"
Will shakes his head, but does go for some coffee. After adding cream, he stands to the side and watches as a punk in designer jeans chats up Grace – though she doesn't seem to mind – and makes a note to ask Alicia about it later.
A woman – mid-40s, chemical redhead, in a loud suit – slides up beside Will and following his line of sight, comments, "Don't you wish you were seventeen again?"
"God no," he replies, chuckling.
"You didn't like that rush of hormones?"
The woman is standing a little too close. "I had some awkward teenage years," he answers, pretending to search for a garbage can so he could take a step back.
"Oh, I don't believe that."
Will smiles politely, but before he can move away, she's talking again.
"Is she yours?" The woman gestures at Grace.
He nods and gives the easy answer. "Yes. Grace."
"I'm Victoria Walsh." She sticks out her hand. "Jordon is mine."
Will looks to where she nods and sees a rowdy group of five, two girls, three boys. He shakes her hand. "Nice to meet you Mrs. Walsh."
"Ms." Victoria corrects with a coquettish smile.
He really doesn't want to give her his name. He glances helplessly at the door, willing Alicia to walk through it, all the while thinking how ironic it is that he can handle himself in front of powerful judges and yet remain defenseless against the wily polite company of the PTA.
It's the sixteen-year-old daughter of his girlfriend that comes to his rescue. As they walk away, Grace giggles. "You should wear a ring next time."
"What?" he asks, bewildered.
"A wedding band." Grace rolls her eyes. "That'll stop at least seventy percent of the moms from hitting on you."
"Only seventy?" Will replies, wryly.
Grace shrugs. "Mom used to get hit on by my friends' dads, even before she and my dad divorced. Now it's even worse."
Will raises his eyebrows. "Really?"
"Oh, don't worry," Grace says, all breezy and nonchalant, "She almost never flirts back."
She sends a grin over her shoulder as she goes through the door on the second floor and he can't tell if she's serious.
There are chairs lined up against the lockers outside each of the classrooms and Grace leads them to a door marked 224. "My homeroom teacher," she says, "Also my math teacher." Her voice drops to a whisper. "She's kind of a bitch."
"Grace!" he says, unsure if admonishment is the way to go. It's a tame word in the lexicon of profane vocabulary but he's probably supposed to have a problem with it, being a sort-of-parent and all.
"What?" she says, "She is."
"Right, but you don't have to call her a— um— that word." Will wonders if it could be a good thing that Grace feels comfortable enough around him now to express opinions.
"Mom doesn't care that I say 'bitch'," Grace says.
She crosses her arms and Will is reassured that, yes, he's doing the right thing. The expression on Grace's face is the one she gives Alicia when she's failed to play her parents against each other in order to get what she wants. "I'm sure she does," he says now, assertively.
Grace remains quiet and Will internally pumps his fist: today he has successfully tackled Patty Nyholm, a forty-five million dollar suit, and adolescence. Point: Gardner.
The door to the classroom opens and a couple with their son is escorted out. Grace gives a little wave to the boy before directing her attention to her teacher. "Hello Mrs. Hull."
"Hello Grace. I have you down as bringing your mother in tonight."
"Um, yeah, she's coming," Grace fidgets with her hands, "She's just running a little late."
"But she said it was okay to start without her," Will interjects. He places a reassuring hand on Grace's shoulder, an action that always seems to calm Alicia.
Mrs. Hull flicks her gaze back and forth between Grace and Will. Will immediately feels like he's being judged. "And you are…?" she asks.
Grace jumps in, undoubtedly having been instructed to introduce your parents to your teacher. "This is— he's my—"
"I'm Will." He sticks out his right hand. "Will Gardner."
The teacher seems to be waiting for additional information but he doesn't offer any more than that. She nods shortly and returns the handshake. "Nice to meet you Mr. Gardner. I'm Janet Hull."
Janet turns around to re-enter the classroom and he hears Grace exhale beside him. Turning, he bows his head a little and whispers, "Okay. You were right."
Grace giggles through some of her nerves and Will thinks this might just work.
Seven minutes into their twenty minute talk, there is a knock at the door and Alicia walks in: poised and commanding if a little breathless. "I apologise," she says. Janet has stood up from their round table and they exchange handshakes. "I got held up in court." Alicia squeezes Will's hand before placing a quick kiss on top of Grace's head and sitting down beside her.
Janet doesn't acknowledge the apology, saying instead, "We were just discussing Grace's lack of participation in class."
And then Will just watches as Alicia drives the rest of the conversation, asking the right questions and getting Grace to speak up or the teacher to back down. Alicia excels at parent-teacher conferences just as much as she excels in court. When it's all over, Grace is a happy client once again.
"A pleasure as always, Mrs. Florrick," Janet says, and then nods at Will, "It was nice to meet your—"
Will wonders if these people are genuinely curious, disapproving, or merely digging for new gossip material. He looks to Alicia, sees the fiery glint in her eye…
"Will's my little boy toy," Alicia answers. Off Janet's incredulity, Alicia pats his cheek affectionately and adds, "Love 'em and leave 'em, am I right?"
The click of the door shutting is heard before they dare to laugh out loud.
"That was awesome, mom," Grace says, "I have to text Zach." She sprints ahead to get better reception.
Alicia shakes her head in amusement and puts her coat on as they continue walking. Will gathers her hair free of the collar before pulling her to him, wrapping his arms tightly around her waist. His voice is teasing against her ear. "Really 'leesh? Little?"