an: Just a short fic (two or three chapters) with a little Barson to keep people occupied while I write the next chapter for Enemy Fire. Reviews/follows/favorites really are important to me. Hope you like it!
"Rafi," Lucia Barba said as she took a sip of her drink, "I would like to have grandchildren before I die."
Rafael finished his whiskey in one long drink.
"So," he starts, "we're having that conversation tonight."
His mother shoots him a disapproving look when he orders another drink, and grasps his arm.
"Rafael, I'm serious. You're almost forty."
He breaks into his smirking half-grin and almost laughs. "Thank you, mamí, for reminding me."
She glances around the bar. It's a cop bar that he frequents with the SVU team. The lights are dimmer than she would like—Lord knows the things that happen in Manhattan—but she's eased by the continual presence of uniformed officers.
"What ever happened to that woman, the ADA in the Brooklyn office?"
Rafael was not drunk enough to be having this talk.
"We just went for drinks a few times. It wasn't anything." She read between the lines.
"One-night flings aren't going to find you a wife, Rafael."
"Mamí!" He says, exasperated at her incessant attempts to get him to settle down with someone who will give her grandchildren.
"Rafa, you have to put yourself out there. What will happen when I'm gone? Who will take care of you?"
He groans and rubs his temples, warding off the headache that came standard with a Cuban mother.
"I can take care of myself. I'll be fine."
Lucia pauses, a new look crossing her face. "I worry about you, Rafa." Her eyes are glassy and the wrinkles in her skin cluster together in the middle of her forehead and the corners of her eyes. He sets his glass down to reach out and embrace his mother.
"You just seem so... lonely. Especially in the last few months. It breaks my heart." Wet tears dampen the mascara coating her lower lashes, and his heart clenches in his chest.
"I don't need some woman in my life to make me happy," he says, and she smiles that smile she gets when she knows something he doesn't.
"Not just some woman, Rafi. The woman. That's who you need. I think I'm going to make one of those online profiles for you."
"Mamí, you are not putting me on eHarmony," he says, eyeing her skeptically, "or any other dating website."
She huffs a little sigh of annoyance, but she has another idea.
"How is Lieutenant Benson?"
Barba looks disdainfully at his empty cup, suddenly feeling warm in the crowded room.
"She's well, from what I can discern," he says, his words cut-and-dry, hoping she'll be satisfied and change the subject.
"She's well?" Barba's mother balks. Something is going on. "Usually she's all you ever talk about. Did something happen between the two of you?"
Rafael freezes on his stool. No, he thinks, nothing happened with Liv. Nothing that should have any bearing on his life. And yet, he can't help the tightness in his chest at the sound of her name.
Lucia is unconvinced.
"I'm not a fool, Rafael. You care for her," she says, and it's not a question. She has eyes—she's seen the way her son looks at that woman. He cared for the entire squad, that she was certain of even if he tried to hide it, but she knew he would go to hell and back for whatever Olivia asked of him.
"Of course I care for her. She's a friend," he says, but Lucia raises an eyebrow.
"You know better than to lie to your mother." The alcohol coursing through his veins and the knowing look in his mother's eyes break his resolve. He's stifled any feelings toward the Lieutenant thus far, but maybe now he can let them out and move on.
"I don't know exactly what I feel for her. I do know that I respect her, a lot, and that I care about her and Noah. She really is an amazing mother. I think about her a lot. I think I'm even starting to think like her."
There it was, the admission she'd been trying to get out of her son for months. He didn't have to say he loved her—she gathered that from the way his eyes lit up when he talked about her, like she never ceased to impress him.
"Tell her that. Before I die alone."
He groans. He's not even sure how exactly he feels about her—just that the feelings are more than professional respect.
"Even if," he starts, hesitantly, "even if I did love her, it doesn't matter. She's in a serious relationship with someone else."
Suddenly Lucia understands why Rafael has been distant for the past few months.
Rafael continues. "Liv deserves to be happy, above all else. She's earned that. And Tucker makes her happy. It wouldn't be fair to try and mess with that."
Lucia winces at the subtle break in his voice. She watches as he wrings his hands together under the table, trying to hold the emotion back. He's clearly hurting, but still trying to maintain composure. He doesn't want to admit even to himself how much Olivia's relationship with Tucker is affecting him.
"What about you, Rafael? You deserve to be happy too."
His eyes are red, and he's desperately becoming aware of his desire to be in his apartment and nursing an entire bottle of liquor.
"I had no business developing feelings for her. My barrier of professionalism came down and that's my fault."
He regrets telling his mother about his conflicted feelings for Olivia. It would have been much easier to bury them under layers of scotch.
"Rafael," she says softly, putting a hand over his on the bar.
"I want her to be happy, Mamí," he takes a deep breath and looks at the floor, "even if that means I'm not."
Lucia's face twists suddenly, her gaze locked on something behind him.
Barba spins, following her line of sight, and is mortified at the sight of his coworker standing, frozen, no more than three feet away.
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