A/N: Okay, so first and foremost I want to apologize if this fic is as terrible as I think it might be. I tried, I really did. Anyway-this is my take on the rest of the conversation between Olivia and Barba at the bar in 'October Surprise'. I really wanted it to be better than it is, but please give it a shot anyway? And as always, I love reviews to help guide me in future works. Thank you!
"You had a job to do. You did it. That's all this was."
"Was it?" He swirls the scotch in his glass and glances up to the TV. Though inaudible, Rafael is sure Alejandro is still dragging him through the mud on the steps of Hogan Place. Tell a stands firmly by his side, determined that her husband will bounce back from his scandal.
Barba rolls his eyes. Despite everything Alex had been charged with, Yelina stayed with him. Supported him. Loved him.
Rafael's scotch glass quickly became empty. He motioned to the bartender for another.
"You should go home, sergeant. I have a feeling I'm going to drink more than I should tonight, and I'd like to save what little virtue I have left."
She looks at him and the glass in his hand, already halfway depleted. Olivia doesn't miss the way his eyes won't quite meet here, or how his hands wring together whenever he sets his glass down. The ADA sitting in front of her seems to have aged years in a matter of days.
"I'm not leaving," she says.
He finally looks at her with pleading eyes, as if he's begging her to go, to leave him before he inevitably breaks down. She doesn't need to see that. He doesn't want her to see that.
"Two of your childhood friends are hanging you out to dry on television right now, and you think I'm going to just walk out and leave too? Sorry Counselor, you're stuck with me." She smiles a half smile and orders a glass of wine.
"God, you can be a pain in the ass," he says, and she smiles a real smile, because it sounds like him again. It sounded like the Barba she knew she might be missing for a little while.
He was hurt. That much was obvious. Alex and Yelina were turning their backs on Rafael when he had made major sacrifices to try and prove SVU wrong. She knew it killed him a little when he realized it was true. His face in the squadroom as her detectives joked about 'Enrique Trouble' was far from laughter.
She also knew there was more. Barba wasn't just disappointed in his friend when Amanda successfully lured Alex, he was hurt. She thought he was even angry.
"Is it your plan to stare at me for the remainder of the evening?" His voice cut her mental investigating short, and she quickly looked to the glass of wine that had been placed in front of her at some point.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to stare. I was just—"
She thinks about how she wants to finish the sentence.
Olivia thinks back to what Rafael had said about Yelina and Alex calling his actions a personal vendetta.
"I was wondering what happened, between you and Alex."
"I already gave you my backstory," he says, fidgeting with his tie. His mouth turns down in that look that says Olivia is very quickly beginning to wear on his nerves. The whole day has worn on his nerves.
"You gave me some of your backstory. But there's more. You're leaving something out, something that's hurting," she says, as she puts her hand on his arm gently. He winces a little, and she quickly yanks it back.
"I thought I was helping, but I think I'm just making it worse for you," she places cash on the bar for her drink before shifting her body out of the chair.
"Liv," he starts, looking apologetic.
"Don't be sorry. We all deal with things in our own ways. Lord knows I like to do things on my own, and you don't need my victim speech tonight." She grabs her jacket, fully intending to leave the mostly empty bar, but he grips her wrist.
"You're right, I don't need your victim speech," he looks at her, and then his scotch and then the floor. He feels uneasy. Rafael Barba is a man used to being a man on an island. Ever since he became an ADA, he found that his world was sometimes a very isolated place, and usually he didn't mind that. He could do things his own way. No one was present for the times the cases or his personal life became too much. He would never be accused of being weak and emotional if no one had proof.
Tonight was different. The loneliness was overwhelming. And, he figured, if he was going to talk to anyone, it might as well be Olivia.
His hand was still on her wrist, her body frozen in time.
"Another cabaret, please?" he tells Anthony, because Rafael can't bring himself to do it, to say outright to her that he wants her to stay. He wants her company, but he won't admit it.
Olivia reads his silent plea easily. She knows him and his need for self-preservation. They are both very similar in the fact that they hate to depend on others. She's an island, too.
He's thankful when she takes a seat and sips on the wine he's ordered for her.
"Want to talk about it?" She asks, eyebrow raised.
"Talk about what? My oldest friend can't keep it in his pants," he lets out a sad laugh, "But that shouldn't surprise me. He always had a way with women."
Something tells her that Barba is not just talking about Alejandro's sexting partners.
"Tell me about Yelina," she says gently. The look he gives her says that she's stumbled upon the rest of the story. The part he had left out earlier.
"I don't think that's a road you want to go down."
She worries for a second, scared that she's overstepped some kind of boundary and that now he's going to shut down and close himself off again.
To her pleasant surprise, he continues.
"She lived in the apartment two doors down. Moved in when I was fifteen," he takes a hesitant sip.
"I was a teenage boy, and she was a pretty girl, and so of course she became my whole world. I would try and synchronize my schedule with hers, so that I could casually walk home with her."
He smiles a half smile at the fond memories of teenage awkwardness, and she smiles too.
"Eventually she started coming over to do homework or pass the time. Occasionally we'd go to the park or the bodega to get a snack. Nothing serious, but there was a comfortable rhythm to it. She was a close friend. A really close friend."
"So she was part your group, with Alex and Eddie. The three musketeers of Jerome Avenue?"
He's a little surprised that she remembered the details of their prior conversation, but of course she remembered the details. Liv was first and foremost a detective.
"Not at first. She didn't go to the same school as we did. Eddie and Alex didn't know about Yelina until they started investigating into where I was spending increasing amounts of time."
Olivia had been quietly listening to Rafael talk. Rare were the occasions that he would share intimate details about his life with her, but when those times arose she liked to soak up all the information she could. It was nice to know more about him.
"I've never been an expert in the field of relationships, but as a teenager, I was even worse. I was head over heels for her, that much I knew, but it petrified me to voice it."
"You and Yelina never dated?"
"Never officially. But I loved her. She and I would sit and talk for hours about everything. Yelina was always so smart. Too smart for el barrio."
"She sounds a lot like you."
"In some ways, yes. But in others, not at all. She got into Harvard too, on scholarship. She didn't take it," his mouth drops into that disappointed half-frown she's grown familiar with.
"I asked her why she would stay in el barrio, why she would turn down this amazing opportunity to get out of the life we had grown up in," his mouth falls a little more as he inhales. She leans in to him and rests her hand on his knee. The expression he's wearing makes it clear that the next part is going to be hard to relive.
"She told me that she couldn't go to Harvard because she wouldn't leave behind the neighborhood. Yelina said that Alex had a plan, and that he was going to fix everything, and that she couldn't give up on the place she was raised. I think that's when I knew that she loved him.
"Yelina came by to help me pack my bags before I left. She told me she loved me, but that there was someone else. She had to make a choice between the two worlds, between me and Alex, and she chose him."
"Barba-" she tries, not sure of what to say.
"She's a charmer, you know. That's why she does so well in politics."
"I don't even know when she and Alex became a thing, but I had to accept it because Yelina and I weren't exclusive. She was my first kiss, my first everything, but I don't think I meant as much to her as she did to me. I really thought she might be the one. It sucked to watch her fall in love with Alex, to feel so betrayed, but I could never be mad at her. I still can't."
"Do you still..." She trails off, not able to finish her sentence, but he knows what she's asking.
"A part of me always will, I think." His scotch has been drained for several minutes now, and her cabaret is also empty. This time Liv motions for new drinks.
"I just can't help but feel like maybe, on some subconscious level, that this case was about more than me just doing my job. Maybe, deep down, I was just trying to find the fault in Alex so that Yelina would take a second look. Not that it made any difference," he looks up at the screen. Yelina is still clinging to her husband, despite the substantiated allegations.
"She always was out of my league."
Liv takes this chance to speak up. "Frankly, I think you deserve so much better than her."
He scoffs. "Even if that is true, it's not like I'm going to find anyone at this point. I'm practically married to my job and I spent way too much of my life imagining the what-ifs of someone that I knew I'd never be with."
Damn if Olivia couldn't identify with that statement.
"I thought I was in love with my old partner for a long time. He and his wife were so on and off that I had some reserved hope that maybe one day he'd look at me and realize that I was the one."
Judging by the use of past tense and the lack of this partner in the squad room, Rafael assumed this story had a bad ending.
"I had a fantasy going on in my head and it didn't match my reality. I knew he'd never leave his wife for me. You knew Yelina would never leave Alex. But we hope anyway. We wait for things that we damn well know aren't going to happen because it's easier than admitting that you'll always be alone."
Everything she said made perfect sense, but that didn't make it easy to hear.
Olivia's hand is on his shoulder now, her thumb moving in circles on his collarbone and her lips pursed tightly together. She hadn't meant to psycho-analyze their lives and dive so far into a part of her past that she often tried to forget, but the words had escaped her mouth before she could stop them. She couldn't take them back now.
"Are we going to die alone, Olivia?" He asks, staring at the screen that had finally switched to other news. Barba does like his life of isolation, but there are times when he wished he had someone else.
"Of course not, Rafael, you have me… even if that does sound much cheesier out loud than it did in my head." The use of his first name is not taken lightly. And he'll never admit it, but her statement doesn't feel stupid, rather it feels kind of nice, like his island now has another welcome inhabitant. It's no longer quite so lonely.
She's close enough to smell the scotch on his breath, and she can't help but notice the momentary quickening of her heart. His arm wraps around her waist.
"It is overly sentimental, even for you Sargent, but I'm not going to be one to judge tonight."
Barba pays Anthony for their beverages and then steps down from his chair. Olivia quickly follows him outside.
He allows her Liv first cab, and holds the door open for her.
"You deserve better than them," she says, looking into his eyes before moving into the car.
"I know," he says. "That's why I have you." Before she can make some comment about him going soft, he closes the door. The driver takes off down the road, and Rafael watches her go.
He should be upset and angry over the past week. Instead, he's smiling to himself, because something about that damn detective makes him feel happy again. And he can't help but think that life has a funny way of righting itself sometimes. If God's way of mending Barba's emptiness is sending Olivia, by all means, he has no objections.