Olivia shifts uncomfortably in an attempt to not concentrate on the excruciating pain being caused by her heels and instead on the monotonous conversation in which she was supposed to be participating.
NYPD's annual fundraiser for victims of sexual assault. As much as Liv enjoyed raising awareness, she really hated having to talk to politicians about it.
How long could it possibly take Barba to retrieve drinks.
She and Barba always arrived separately but made the rounds together. It's the only thing that made the night bearable. Between playing nice with the politicos they could find time for actual conversation. Olivia and Barba thought nothing of the fact that they often spent these parties joined at the hip. After all, this was work- and that's how they worked half the time. Unbeknownst to them, however, speculation about just how close the two were was often a discreet topic of conversation around the room.
When Barba finally returns with her glass of wine, he can tell she's in considerable pain- mostly from the conversation. He can't help but snicker at her attempts to look engaged.
Barba walks up along side her to hand her the wine. She takes it graciously. Barba sips his scotch and waits patiently for a place to break into the conversation. He finds it when the Councilman opens the floor to him, "Wouldn't you agree, Mr. Barba?"
He realizes he has no real idea what their conversation is about but is determined to save Liv from it. "Indeed, Councilman Arthur. Now, if you don't mind too terribly, the Lieutenant here promised me a dance."
"By all means." The councilman flashes Barba a knowing smile. After depositing their drinks on the nearest table, Barba leads a rather agitated Olivia to the dance floor.
"I'm going to kill you" ,Olivia whispers at Barba as he pulls her around and leads her into a slow waltz.
He was a good leader- she'd give him that. Probably all of those Harvard socials.
Barba grins, "Got you out of that conversation didn't it?"
"Yes, and on to the dance floor" she says, annoyed.
They both chuckle.
"You know, I didn't get a chance to tell you how beautiful you look tonight."
A slight flush comes to Olivia's cheeks, "Thanks." She switches her gaze from his face to over his shoulder.
Shit, too far. This was a giant miscalculation. He'd spent the last 3 years attempting to tamp down his feelings for this woman so that they could maintain their friendship and now he was tempting himself by inviting her to dance.
Olivia grins and brings her eyes back to his- bingo, Noah never failed to bring a smile to her face. "He's great. He's currently a bit obsessed with the movie Frozen."
"Ah, yes, he serenaded me with a very interesting rendition of 'Let It Go' when we were working on the Gonzalez case the other night."
Liv laughs, "Yeah, interesting is an understatement."
The tension fades between them and they're both able to relax. Just two friends- attempting to avoid conversations with the rest of the room. They draw each other imperceptibly closer without even noticing.
As the song winds down, Liv looks up to see two familiar- if unwelcome- faces enter the room. "Wow, he's got some balls- I'll say that."
Barba gives her a perplexed look and- on their next turn- attempts to discern the source of her statement. He sees them instantly, Alex and Yelina Muñoz. He blanches. They spot him too and make their way across the room to the edge of the dance floor.
Thanks to some well-placed favors to the Special Prosecutor on his case, Alex had managed to get off on the charges brought against him. Now, a year and a half later- he was doing his best to work his way back into the hearts of New Yorkers with a "falsely accused" schtick that made Barba's blood boil.
Barba makes an attempt to pretend he hasn't noticed them and whispers to Olivia, "Let's just keep dancing."
"Barba, we can't just stay out here all night. And my feet are killing me."
The waltz ends and Barba reluctantly releases Olivia from his grasp. "Traitor" he whispers as they make their way to the edge of the dance floor.
Alex and Yelina make a b-line for them- fake, pleasant smiles plastered on their faces. Alex extends his hand, "Rafi!"
Barba looks as if he might not take it until Olivia puts a reassuring hand on his back. He shakes hands and then stands up a little taller- looking stoically at Alex before shifting his gaze very briefly to Yelina.
"Look, I just wanted to say hello and let you know there's no hard feelings. We realize you were just doing your job."
Barba glances over at Liv and then back to Alex. He draws in a deep breath, "Sure."
Barba had to admit- it was a good play on Alex's part. Barba wasn't going to make a scene in the middle of an event so important to he and Liv- certainly not in front of Yelina. No amount of grandstanding in the middle of a ballroom would change the verdict. He had only to accept that the courts had failed, as they sometimes do, whether he liked it or not.
Alex plasters back on his fake smile, "Well, we'd better start making the rounds. Great seeing you, Rafi. And you, Lieutenant." And with that they walk away.
Barba lets out a breath and turns back to Liv. She places a hand on his arm, "You OK?"
He nods. "Yeah, I just need some air." He grabs his jacket from a nearby chair.
"Leave your jacket."
"Liv, it's freezing outside."
"OK, then leave the cigarettes."
Barba gives her a perturbed look but draws a pack of cigarettes from his jacket pocket and deposits them in her purse. Smoking wasn't something he did often but every once in a while she'd caught him sneaking a cigarette outside a restaurant or bar when they'd meet to discuss a particularly tough case. She was the only one on the squad who knew.
She takes a seat to rest her feet as he makes his way out the side door. Olivia doesn't see Alex walk out after him.
Seconds after bumming a smoke from the valet, Barba is joined by Alex. He doesn't acknowledge his presence- just stares ahead.
"You still sneaking cigarettes?" Alex comes up to stand beside him- all the cheerful forgiveness from moments ago now replaced with disgusted animosity. Pressed politician to barrio brawler in no time flat. "You know what I find most ridiculous about this whole thing, Rafi? You, my oldest friend couldn't cut me a break. I had to go to that special prosecutor of yours to get a favor."
Barba can't believe what he's hearing. This idiot still doesn't think he did anything wrong.
He shakes his head and draws in breath- steady in his resolve not to engage.
"Got you in better with the gringos though didn't it? Hell you're even fucking one now."
Barba tenses. He takes another long drag of his cigarette.
Alex sees him tense up. Registers that he's hit a cord. "I heard you tried to put a man in prison just so she could keep her baby. That what you do now, Rafi? Put people in prison to get what you want?"
Barba can't take it anymore. It's one thing to berate him- but dragging Liv through the mud is a whole different story. "Lieutenant Benson and I are colleagues. Nothing more. And the man you're referring to was a vicious sex trafficker." He spits out.
"Wow, after all that, she still wouldn't fuck you? That's rough. You'd think she'd be an easy mark too- middle-aged single woman with a kid. I mean don't get me wrong, she's hot but-"
And that was it- that was when Barba could take no more. He shuts Alex up with a swift right hook. The punch lands perfectly but Alex stays standing and Barba realizes immediately what a massive mistake he's just made. Barba was never the fighter in the group and Alex is nearly twice his size.
Barba manages to block Alex's first attempt at retaliation but the next punch hits him in the ribs- doubling him over. A second blow to the face puts Barba on the ground. Barba's already disoriented when Alex grabs him by the shirt collar and begins pummeling him repeatedly on the left side of his face.
Fin, who'd been walking to his car just before the fight broke out, had come rushing back when he saw Barba throw the first punch. He gets back to the scene just as a Uni does. Fin pulls Alex off of Barba.
The Uni- recognizing Alex, straightens up, "Mr. Muñoz!"
Alex had spent a great deal of time buddying up to police force and here it pays off. The Uni reaches down and cuffs Barba- then pulls him to his feet. Fin finds his badge and flashes it, "Whoa, whoa, hold up, Youngblood. What're you doing?"
"I saw this man attack Mr. Muñoz."
"Looks like Mr. Muñoz is able to take care of himself."
At this point the commotion has draw a few people from inside. Olivia and Yelina manage to push through to get to Fin and Barba.
Olivia takes one look at Barba- in cuffs, his left eye swollen almost completely shut, blood trickling down onto his disheveled shirt- and goes into Lt. mode. "What the hell is going on here?"
Alex- arrogant as ever- answers, "ADA Barba here tried to attack me." He stands holding the small cut that Barba's fist left under his eye in an attempt to gain sympathy.
"And then what? Beat the shit out of himself?!"
Barba stands to the side with the Uni refusing to make eye contact with anyone. His shame grows more with every person who steps out of the ballroom to watch the scene. Shame that he resorted to fighting as much as shame that he was beaten. He'd always fought for Liv- even before Lewis. But after Lewis- he found he had an almost visceral reaction to any ill-will aimed toward her. Up until now though- he'd always fought for her with the law between him and his opponent.
Fin steps up to try and calm things down. He holds a hand out to Liv to get her out of Muñoz's face. "Come on, man. You can't tell me you're gonna press charges. You really want his face in the paper like that tomorrow- people sayin' you did that?"
Alex reflects on Fin's statement for a second and the nods reluctantly at the Uni, who releases Barba.
The crowd starts to dissipate and Olivia goes to Barba- inspecting the face. "Come on, I'll get you to the hospital."
Barba holds up his hands between them, annoyed. "No, I just-"
"You could have a concussion, Barba!"
He's nearly pleading with her now in a low whisper, "Liv, I just wanna go home right now. Please."
Olivia nods reluctantly, "OK. I'll get my car." And then to Fin, "Sit with him a minute?"
Fin nods and Olivia takes off down the street- as fast as she can in an evening gown.
"It's OK, I don't need a babysitter." Fin just looks at Barba. After a moment, Barba takes a seat on the curb and Fin joins him. They sit in silence for a moment.
Fin looks over at Barba's bloody face and lets out a little chuckle, "You know, Counselor, I never figured you to start a fight, but I gotta say- if he was saying those things he said about her to me, I'd have thrown the first punch too."
Barba snorts out a short breath and finally looks at Fin, "Yeah, but you'd have finished it."
"Maybe, but I'd have thought if Liv's taught you anything- it's that it's not always the winning that matters."
Liv pulls up and Fin makes sure he gets safely into the passengers seat- bidding them both goodnight.
When Barba finally gets up the courage to look over at Liv- she's visibly angry. They ride back to his apartment in silence.