Dancefloor Dust

Chapter 19

"So, did Mike leave the files with you?" I ask my daughter as I get back downstairs after putting Grace down for her nap. I watch Alicia standing in the hallway, shaking her head, her gaze on the floor.

"So, who was it then, honey?" I place the baby phone on the end table and walk over to my daughter, who hasn't answered me yet.

"Are you alright?" I pat her softly on her upper arm.

"Yeah." she whispers, but I can feel her trembling as my hand still rests on her shoulder.

"Don't lie to me, Alicia. Who was at the door?" I reach for her other arm and turn her so she has to face me.

"Peter." she mumbles, her glance still not meeting mine.

"What did he want?" I push her chin up with my index finger, gently forcing her to look at me.

"I don't know. I told him I meant it as I said I never wanted to see him again and then I slammed the door."

"Is he still out there?" I glance at the door behind her but she just shrugs her shoulders.

"Don't you want to know why he's here?"

"No, Dad. I don't. It maybe is another lie." she steps back and passes by me to climb the stairs. I watch her leave and I know exactly where she's going, where she's seeking solace. I know she'll be sitting next to Grace's crib, watching her sleep and once the baby has woken up she'll take her on a long walk. Alicia has fallen into this routine nearly from day one she's been here and barely deviated from it. Today she won't go out for a walk as she'll probably suspect Peter will still be around. Maybe she'll come down and sit outside on the patio with Grace. I tried to talk to her countless times, attempting to make her at least answer the many calls she's gotten from Owen and her mother, but none of my arguments reached her.

The longer she stays here the more I get the impression she's doing what she didn't want to do when I offered her to come with me for a while - running away from everything and everyone involved in the betrayal. I am fully supportive in her attempt to divorce Will as soon as possible. There is no excuse for what he did to her and if it had been him on the door today, I would've gone out there and made it totally clear to him what I think about the way he treated my daughter.

I know from Owen that he and my ex-wife only kept quiet to protect Alicia from more pain and my guess is that Peter hid the truth from her out of the same reason. I never met him, but from what my family told me about him, he cares about my daughter. As I stand there in my hallway I realize I might have a chance to get to know the father of my grandchild, so I turn and step out of the house.

Once outside I look down the street and I see a man walking in the distance. I hurry after him but it's unlikely I will catch up with him without running, so I try another approach.

"Peter!" I call after him, but he's not stopping or turning around.

"Mr. Florrick!" I call out and this time I succeed as he stops, turning in my direction. I walk faster and soon reach him. He looks at me confused.

"Hi, I'm Richard Cavanaugh, Alicia's Dad." I extend my hand to him, but he doesn't seem to see it, backing away from me instead.

"I'm sorry for coming to your house. I'm already leaving." he tells me, turning on the spot.

"Wait!" I grab his shoulder, holding him back.

"Please, Mr. Cavanaugh, I get it. Alicia doesn't want to see me. She was very clear about that. But I had to try. I had to try at least once to see my daughter." he sighs, hanging his head.

"So, this is just about Grace?"

"I need to see her. So I had to try to talk to Alicia. I was ready to never be a part of her life as long as Alicia had no idea I was Grace's father…" he trails of, the unsaid 'but' hovering between us.

"Well, if I understand it right, you were the one who insisted not to tell her the truth. You can't blame her for being angry at you." I challenge him.

"I know that this was a mistake, but I couldn't be the one to break this to her. You weren't there. She was in no shape to handle a truth like this and I wouldn't want to ruin her happiness. I realized I've been wrong, but I can't change what's done. But I want to be there for Grace and I was hoping to make that clear to Alicia." he murmurs.

"You have no intention to try to win my daughter back?" I ask him, needing to know if his need to care for my granddaughter isn't just a cover to get back together with Alicia.

"If I'd see a chance I would try. I love Alicia but I know for a while now she never loved me. So, all I want is a relationship with my daughter, if that's possible. But to be honest, after Alicia's reaction just now, I should stop hoping for that." his glance is back at the floor and I can't help but feel sorry for him.

I know the feeling of not being able to see my kids on a daily basis, but at least I could form a relationship with them. Peter is facing being robbed of creating this special bond with his daughter and it pains me that I can't really help him without hurting my daughter. I have tried talking to Alicia, attempting to get her to talk to Peter but she's been stubborn, not wavering in her decision to never wanting to see him again and thereby withholding his daughter from him. A decision I have trouble supporting anymore the longer I talk to Peter.

"So you're just giving up?"

"Do I have another choice? I think I have brought enough pain into Alicia's life. I shouldn't add any more, don't you think? Though it kills me that I never get to hold Grace, won't be there for her first steps or her first word. And I don't even have a picture of her."

"I don't know if you don't have another chance, Peter. Alicia is angry right now. At Will, at you, at her mother and brother. She'll hopefully never talk to Will again but just divorce him, but regarding her family and you she will eventually realize that you didn't betray her, you just tried to protect her. You just need to be patient." I try to explain my daughters emotional state, although I'm not sure I understand it myself.

"Maybe you are right." he sighs, not sounding convinced.

"Well, I can't help you with being patient, but I can definitely help you to at least see your daughter. How long are you staying?" I know that what I'm planning will get me into trouble with my daughter if she finds out, but I feel it's the right thing to do.

"My flight back is a day after tomorrow." he answers, a puzzled look in his eyes.

"Good, there is a park a few blocks down. Can you meet me there tomorrow?" I watch him and he just nods.

"Ok, now give me your cell number and I will call you about half an hour before I can meet you."

"Are you saying you'll let me see Grace tomorrow?" his voice is a mixture of hope and anxiety.

"I can't promise anything, but I will try." I tell him and suddenly I see the first smile on his face since we met.

I sit on a bench in the park that Richard told me he'd meet me with my daughter, checking my watch every other minute. I haven't slept a single second last night, too nervous to even think about closing my eyes. I spent the morning walking around, carrying my cell phone in my hand, too afraid I might miss Richard's call. And once he had called I rushed to my rental car to drive over here as fast as possible. I know it'll be a while before Richard gets here as I turn around scanning the park for a sign of him for the umpteenth time. I'm still afraid that this is all a big joke and Richard won't show up at all or at least not with my daughter. I push the thought away as I need to believe he will show up any minute. I'm reaching for the bag I brought with me, checking the disposable camera and the little teddy bear I bought this morning. I put the bag down next to me on the bench again and look around once more, finally seeing a man, pushing a baby stroller, in the distance. He's waving at me as he gets closer and I get up, breathing a sigh of relief as I recognize Richard. I slowly walk in his direction, trying to calm my racing heartbeat.

"Hi Peter." Richard greets me and extends his hand.

"Hello Richard. Thank you for making this possible." I shake his hand.

"It's the right thing to do." he smiles at me before he puts the brakes on the stroller.

"Come around and meet your daughter, Peter." he grabs my arm and pulls me around the stroller so I can look at Grace for the first time without a glass between us.

She's asleep like the first time I've seen her and I just look at her for a few moments, hardly believing how much she's grown in the last few weeks.

"She should wake up in a while. Should we go for a walk?" Richard asks me and I nod, stepping aside to let him push the stroller again.

"No, go on, Peter. This way you can see her better. Let me take this." he smiles and reaches for my bag.

I nod and return his smile before my glance wanders back to my daughter, who's still sleeping soundly. I release the brakes and start pushing the stroller.

"I really can't thank you enough for letting me see her. I hope this wasn't too difficult." I say after we have walked in silence for a while.

"It's ok, Peter. It's the least I could do. I know how you must be feeling. My kids were already grown when Veronica and I separated, so I got to see them grow up. But after the separation they would only spend every other vacation or holiday with me, because we weren't a family any longer. I Have no idea if this today will help you or make things worse, but I had to do it." he smiles at me, but I guess I can see a hint of sadness in his eyes.

I just nod at his words as I have no idea yet how this will make me feel in the days and weeks to come. For now I'm just happy that my little girl is in my reach as I look at her. We continue our walk in silence for a while until Grace opens her eyes and starts crying.

"Ok, she's up." Richard chuckles. "Let's sit down there so she can have some milk. She's surely hungry." he points at a bench and I steer the stroller in that direction. Once we arrive at the bench Richard reaches for a diaper bag, that is placed over the stroller's handle, retrieving a thermos and a baby bottle from it. I step aside as I have no idea what to do or how I could be helpful. Grace's crying gets louder and I watch her rather helpless.

"Just take her out and try to calm her until I'm finished with her bottle." Richard tells me casually and I slowly step closer to the stroller. I bend down and pull the blanket that covers her down. That seems to make her even more uncomfortable as she cries even louder. I see some tears roll down her cheeks and her eyes are squeezed shut. I push my hands softly under her back and lift her up slowly. I hold her against my chest with one hand and grab the blanket from the stroller before I move towards the bench and sit down. I'm so concentrated on not letting Grace fall to the ground that I hardly realize her crying has died down.

"How did you do that?" Richard asks me, looking up from filling Grace's bottle.

"What?" I ask him confused, while I finally hold Grace with two hands again after I placed the blanket on my lap.

"She stopped crying." he chuckles, partly about my stunned face as I hold Grace in front of me and see her looking at me, eyes open and only some wet streaks on her cheeks remind of her crying.

"Hey." I address her, smiling and once more she looks directly into my eyes just like I think she did when I went to see her in the hospital. I know that her eye-color can still change, but I see a hint of my brown in them just like I imagined our little girls eyes would look like when I first learnt Alicia was carrying my child.

"That's your Daddy, Gracie." Richards sits down next to us, tickling her stomach briefly with his index finger, which makes her smile.

"Here you go, Peter." he lifts the bottle and I shift Grace, so she lies on my left arm. I take the bottle from Richard and start feeding my daughter. She greedily sucks her milk, eyes shut tight again, her little fingers grabbing the bottle. It feels good to hold her, to feel her warmth against my chest.

"You don't have to answer me, but I have to ask, Richard. How is Alicia?" I take my glance away from Grace and look at Alicia's father. He sighs deeply, looking at the ground and I get the feeling I won't get an answer, so I resume watching my daughter.

"I guess only Alicia could answer that question. She's kept pretty much to herself since she's been with me. I assume she'll try to figure out what to do next, but right now she still seems to come over her anger and pain about what happened. She was reluctant to come here at first, telling me she couldn't run away but now it seems to me that's exactly what she's doing." he sighs again and his glance is still on the ground as I peer over and a fresh wave of guilt washes over me.

"I'm to blame for that. If I had never shown up at the hospital she still had the life she ever dreamed of. I know I can't think that way because she'd be living a lie but I sometimes think it might be preferable over the pain she's in now." I murmur, pulling Grace closer.

"Yes, you can't think that way, Peter. If anyone is to blame for all of this, then it is my soon to be ex-son-in-law. As bad as the situation is right now, not only for Alicia and yourself, it could be worse. She could have found out in years to come and I'm sure she would have. Lies as big as this one are always bound to come out. And then, in a couple of years, she would've been crushed by the broken pieces of a life lived on a betrayal like this. I don't know why Will wanted her back after she left him. I doubt it was because he loved her. You don't do what he did to someone you love." he pauses to caress Grace's head that rests in the crook of my arm.

"But I know if he stayed away, you and I wouldn't be sitting here now. Alicia would sit in my place, because I know she was happy with you before Will showed up again." he looks up at me, a half-smile on his lips.

"You're probably right about Will's lie coming out eventually, but I can't think like that. If Alicia had loved me she would've stayed with me, but she loved him. That's why she went back to him. And that's why I can't dwell on what ifs." I sigh, taking the empty bottle away from Grace.

"All I want now is to be there for Grace. I have given up on ever having a chance with Alicia again, but I can't turn my back on my daughter. I loved her from the moment I knew she was mine. So if you could try to talk to Alicia so she might agree to let me help raise her. That's really all I want."

"I'm willing to help you here, Peter. But I can't promise you anything. You'll have to be patient." he smiles as he takes the bottle to place it into the diaper bag.

"What is in here, if I may ask?" he holds up the bag I brought and I chuckle.

"It's a little something for Grace and a disposable camera. Go ahead, take it out."

"Oh, this is cute." he retrieves the teddy bear and hands it over to me.

"Hey, Grace, do you like that?" I put the bear on her stomach and she grabs its arms, a bright smile on her face.

"She seems to love it. I will tell Alicia that I bought it for Grace and make sure it's in her bed every night." he winks at me as he gets up from the bench. I smile at him thankfully.

"And now I will leave you two alone for a while and take a walk." he smiles and retrieves another bag from under the stroller before he turns and walks away.

I play with Grace and the teddy for a little while longer before I put it in the stroller. I lift her up with both hands, letting her rest against my chest. She grabs the buttons of my shirt and I just close my eyes, enjoying holding her close. She starts to whimper after a while and I start rocking her, shifting her again, so she lies on my arm again as I stroke her stomach with my other hand. She seizes my index finger and holds on to it firmly. I lean down to place a kiss on her forehead, wishing she'd never have to let go. I continue rocking her and after a few minutes her grip on my finger loosens and she falls asleep. I keep holding her, watching her little face, her cute nose and tiny fingers.

"I'm sorry, Peter, but we need to go." Richards voice from behind startles me a little but I turn my head and nod. I carefully get up and put Grace back in her stroller, covering her with her blanket again and place the teddy next to her.

"Thank you again, Richard, for letting me see her. You have no idea how much this meant to me." I smile at him as I step back from the stroller.

"My pleasure, Peter. I'm sorry I can't stay longer, but Alicia will be back soon from the massage I sent her to get." he winks at me and I chuckle briefly.

"Goodbye, Grace." I bend down once more to place another kiss on my daughter's forehead and stroke her cheek softly.

"Oh, no. I forgot to take pictures." I exclaim as I turn and see my bag on the bench.

"Don't worry. I didn't go for a walk, I jus sat over there and made more than enough pictures of you and Grace." Richard calms me down as he opens the bag he carried away with him as he left me alone with Grace, revealing a camera.

"Thank you." I smile relieved at him.

"I'll get them to you as soon as I have them developed. And these will tide you over until then." he hands me an envelope which contains a small stack of pictures of Grace.

"Thank you, Richard, for everything." I smile at him, not knowing what else to say to express the gratitude I feel.

"My pleasure. I really need to head home now. We'll stay in touch. Take care, Peter." we shake hands and I watch him leave with Grace, the thought about when I will see her the next time creeping into my mind.

"Do you know where Grace's favorite teddy is, Dad? The one you got her a last week?" I call into the kitchen.

"I think it's in my study. I remember putting it down next to my armchair earlier." my father calls back and I head into his study.

I walk up to the chair but can't see the bear anywhere. I sigh as I hear Grace's wailing from upstairs. She doesn't seem to be able to sleep any more without that bear. I look around the room and finally walk behind my father's desk. I spot the stuffed animal behind the desk chair and bend to pick it up. I turn and in passing my glance wanders over the cluttered desktop and I stop as I see a big envelope with a Chicago address written on the front. I look closer and gasp as I read Peter's home address. I lift the envelope and a lot of photos fall out of it. I have to swallow hard and sit down as I see what's in these pictures; Peter holding my daughter in his arms. I can't believe what I see as I look through the stack. I get caught at one picture that shows him holding Grace in his arms, placing a kiss on her forehead. I feel a tear roll down my cheek but I wipe it away.

"Did you find it. Grace won't calm down." my Dad enters the room and I look up.

"Oh…." he stops in front of the desk as he sees what I'm looking at.

"Why did you do this?" I exclaim, anger and disappointment rising inside me.

"I can explain it, Alicia." he tells me, his glance wandering from the pictures to my eyes.

"I'm not sure I want to know." I yell and storm out of the room.

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