one-shot; and this could actually be real
pairing: rafael barba/olivia benson
word count: 2335 words

begin

It's one of their usual days, where they're sitting together in Barba's office, going over the preparation for a fairly straightforward case, when his phone beeps with an incoming message. He picks it up and reads the message, and then he stifles a sigh, tossing his phone aside.

He looks across the table to her, tapping his pen against his file, and then he comes to a conclusion.

"Liv, I need you to do me a massive favour."

"Hmmm…?" She says absent-mindedly, her eyes trained on the case file in front of her.

"I really want you to be paying attention to me for this," he says, his tone dry as he reaches out and pluck the file from her hands.

She raises an eyebrow at him, and takes off her glasses. He looks mildly annoyed as he puts down the file, but somehow, she sensed that his annoyance isn't directed at her.

"My cousin is getting married this weekend, on Saturday. And…"

Liv tilts her head, scruntinising him, and then she grins. "I think I have an idea as to what this great big favour could be."

Barba smirks at her. "I knew there was a reason why I wanted to ask you, and only you. So, it's a yes?"

She leans back in her chair, pondering. "I supposed I could get Lucy to stay for the night, if I am literally your only back up for this thing."

"Believe me, Liv – you are it."

She fiddles with her pen, thinking. "Seriously though, Barba – isn't there someone else you can ask, someone else that might actually be a real, honest prospect?"

Unless he actually thinks of her as a prospect, but of course, that couldn't be it.

He snorts sardonically. "Yes, there are tons of women in my life, lining up, waiting for me to ask them to be my faux date. Come on, Liv. You know that you're the only one I feel comfortable enough to ask to do this. And I really want to avoid explaining my lack of a love life to three dozen of my nosy Cuban relatives."

"When you put it in such endearingly romantic terms, how can I possibly refuse?"

He flashes her a very grateful smile. "I'll pick you up at six o'clock. Hopefully we can just linger for a couple of hours, and it would be fairly painless."

"Wait, Barba, we haven't discussed the terms of my payment."

"Liv…"

"Oh don't worry, it's not going to cost you too much. I want coffee delivered to me every morning for a month."

"Deal. I'll even throw in the occasional croissant."


Barba knocks on Liv's apartment door, and steps back, waiting. She opens the door, hair done up in a chignon, emeralds sparkling on her ears. She's wearing a deep green dress with a mandarin collar, and a flowy skirt that stops just at her knees. The dress is not revealing, not even a little bit, but somehow, she still manages to look…sexy.

Really sexy, in fact.

"Barba, you're staring," she says, an eyebrow raised. "Do I not look okay?"

He gives a slight start, and collects himself. "No, no, you look fine."

"I look 'fine'. You sure know how to compliment a girl," she teases, opening the door wider. "I'm just going to say good night to Noah, then we can go."

He nods, still feeling a little loss for words. Inwardly, he kicks himself hard.

Fine, indeed.

Barba is not accustomed to a situation where he's arguably rendered speechless. It literally has never happened before.

She reappears in the foyer, shrugging on a coat and grabbing her clutch. As the door shuts behind them, she tucks her arm through his, her manner casual.

It's something that she has always done, it certainly is nothing unusual. Therefore, Barba is shocked to feel something akin to a jolt reverberating through him when her arm touches his.


The wedding is a noisy, rowdy affair, but Liv doesn't feel as out of place as she thought she would be. Barba's relatives are curious about her, but not rudely so. Quite a number of people comes up to Barba, smiles at her and lets fly a torrent of Spanish. Liv's Spanish is elementary at best, but from the little she understands, there seems to be a lot of "finallys" being thrown their way.

"Have you never brought a date to all your celebratory family occasions?" She asked him curiously as he leads her away from one of his uncles, towards to refreshment table where he picks up a glass of scotch gratefully.

"Not really," he says evasively, handing her a glass of wine. He pauses, and then he says, "Actually, once or…"

He's interrupted by a voice at his shoulder. "Rafi. Lieutenant Benson."

They turn around to see an elegantly dressed Lucia Barba, looking at them with an inquisitive expression. Barba leans forward and hugs his mother, kissing her on her cheek, and whispers in her ear. "It's not what you think, Mamì."

"Well then, I am very disappointed," she remarks, smiling at Liv and patting her hand briefly. Turning her attention back to her son, she says, "I will not blow your cover but sabes qué hacer, Rafi. No la dejes ir."

She quirks an eyebrow at Barba as Lucia melts way into the throng of relatives. Barba stares after his mother, his brow wrinkled, as a strange expression settles over his face.

"Barba?"

Before he could say anything, one of his more exuberant uncles – father of the groom – descends upon them. "Rafi! Why are you standing here like a rock? Go, take your lovely girlfriend for a spin on the dance floor!" He gestures towards the dance floor, where the band is playing an upbeat, catchy tune.

Barba starts to shake his head, but Liv grins. She takes Barba's scotch glass out of his hand, and sets it beside her wine glass on the bar.

"Come on, Barba, take me for a spin," she says, her tone teasing.

"Oh, you're so going to regret this, Benson," he mutters as he follows her reluctantly into the throng.

"Look at it this way – at least you can stop answering questions, and I can go back to playing my role as your decorative arm candy slash nosy relative repellent."

"So, after three years, am I going to find out that you're capable of burning up the dance floor?"

She snorts, and starts swaying to the music. "Hardly, but I like to think I can bust a few moves."

Barba looks at her, and he takes a moment just to really look at her. She's certainly no trailblazer in dancing, but Liv moves naturally to the music. Her face is tinged red from the two drinks she had, and a few strands of hair has escaped her carefully constructed chignon. Her eyes are bright, and she's smiling at him, and suddenly, he realises that he has never seen her quite so carefree.

She moves nearer to him, bumping his hip with her own. "Move your legs, Counselor."

He bumps her back, and they both laugh. But just as he decides to move – very reluctantly, he might add – the music comes to an end. Relieved, he poises to make a clean getaway from the dance floor, but Liv grabs his arm, holding him in position.

"Oh no, you don't. You owe me a dance performance, and I am going to collect it as part of my fee," she smirks.

"Oh haha, you're hilarious, Liv," he rolls his eyes.

She's about to answer him when the band starts up again, in a lilting melody that is very obviously meant to be a slow dance. She glances at him, and he gives her a slight smirk. "Still want to collect that dance, Lieutenant?"

Liv lifts her chin, and steps closer to him. "Most definitely."

If he's surprised, he doesn't show it. He closes the space between them, curving his arm around her waist as she places her hands on his shoulders. She had chosen to wear shoes with a slightly lower heel, and that makes up for the slight height difference between them, putting her at his height, and they're looking at each other eye-to-eye.

Funny how she never notices how the green in his eyes are speckled with bits of gold, or how electrifying his gaze could be. Suddenly she feels slightly unnerved by the way his eyes are just piercing into hers. It's giving rise to a lot of feelings that she doesn't feel like articulating, feelings that she has always been clamping down whenever they surface.

On his part, he feels that he could just drown in the brown of her eyes, if he lets himself do so. But he never does, he always knows where he should stand, so he pulls himself back, averting his gaze as he holds her almost gingerly.

Suddenly, Barba wonders about the real reason he asked Liv for this favour. Did he really just want to shut his relatives up, or is there something else there?

The answer is obvious, really.

They move in silence to the music for a several moments, as Liv visibly begins to relax a little, getting used to their close proximity, almost unconsciously moving closer to him, her fingers resting on his shoulder blades, her chin resting on his shoulder.

He tightens his arms slightly around her waist, and he thinks about how it almost seem like the most natural thing in the world, the way her body seems to curve into his. The fact that it feels right is almost unnerving to him, because he can feel that he's stepping into a territory that he has never allow himself to enter.

The possibility of them.

The last strains of the music fades away, but they don't move away from each other. As the band starts playing another slow song, she murmurs in his ear. "Another dance?"

He nods, feeling the curve of her hip beneath her dress, as she laces her fingers together around the back of his neck, and moves nearer to him, closing the small gap between them.

Barba thinks about what his mother had said, and at that moment, he feels that he doesn't want to let her go.

Out of the corner of her eye, Lucia watches her son, and smiles to herself.


They offer their final congratulations to the newly wedded couple, and Barba has to duck a couple of questions from his two of his more interfering aunts before they could take their leave.

Barba takes out his phone and taps at it as Liv belts her coat.

"Shall we share an Uber?" He asks, his finger hovering on the button of the app.

She shakes her head. "Why don't we walk? I know it's a bit of a distance to my apartment, but it's a nice night. And then you can Uber from there," she finishes with a grin.

Barba shrugs and tucks away his phone. "I'm fine with that.

They start walking in companionable silence, and it hangs between them, the moments they had during the wedding, and they're just waiting for the other person to say something, to acknowledge it.

"Thanks for doing this tonight, Liv," he says, breaking the silence.

She flashes him a brief smile. "It wasn't as bad as you made it out to be. And it was really good seeing your mother again."

"Well, at least I hope this means no one in my family will see the need to comment about my commitment to relationships for foreseeable future."

"Glad I could be of service," she remarks dryly.

"Really, Liv, I'm extremely grateful."

"Well, as far as faux dates to weddings go, that was actually kind of fun."

Barba stops walking, and his fingers closes around her upper arm, breaking her stride. She turns back to look at him, and he looks at her, and it's there again, that look in his eyes.

"What if…" he begins, and then hesitates. "Can we pretend that that was real?"

Liv feels her heart doing a strange sort of flip. "What are you trying to say, Barba?"

"I think what I'm trying to say is very obvious, Liv."

It's obvious, of course, it's very obvious, and so are all the voices of reason in her head telling her that she should not be jeopardising their friendship…but in all honesty, she knows as well as he does that they can try to ignore it as much as they like, but something has irrevocably changed between them.

She can choose to be obtuse, or she can choose to take the plunge.

She takes a deep breath, and shakes her head slowly. "I don't want to pretend that was real."

A flash of hurt crosses his face, but he's a trained lawyer that is pretty damn good constructing a poker face, and he's also pretty damn good at hiding his feelings. He nods, his hand relaxing its grip on her forearm as he steps back.

"Point taken, Lieutenant."

She takes a step forward, closing the distance between them. "I don't think you actually got my point, Counselor."

Without giving him a chance to say anything, she leans forward, placing her hand on his cheek, and kisses him. His response is immediate, enthusiastic, as he kisses her back, his lips gliding upon hers, arms going around her back as he yanks her closer to him.

They pull back after a long moment, to catch their breaths. She smiles and rests her forehead against his, her fingers caressing the back of his neck.

"I don't want to pretend. There's no need for pretence. I want this to be real, and that's that."

He laughs, and presses his mouth to hers again. "Me too," he breathes against her lips, and it's real, they're real.

In fact, they suppose, it has always been real.

It just took them a very long time to see it.

end


Sabes qué hacer - You know what to do
No la dejes ir - Do not let her go

Strictly from Google Translate so please excuse the complete butchering of the Spanish language.