AN: Ye of little faith… trust me. Barba and Liv will get together, but when the moment is right. But, I stress, THEY WILL GET TOGETHER.
It had been three days since his visit to her apartment.
He hadn't necessarily been avoiding Liv, but he also didn't go out of his way to see her. Barba figured they could both benefit from some space.
It seemed that Murphy's Law was in effect for every piece of the trial he was prepping for. His two witnesses were a prostitute and a drug dealer, and his case was largely based on circumstantial evidence. There were two surviving victims, but neither could pick the defendant out of a lineup. The best piece of evidence he had—a DNA sample the M.E. had managed to pull—was only a partial hit, and he knew Buchanan would tear it to shreds with his lineup of expert witnesses.
He knew the defendant was guilty—there was not a doubt in his mind.
When, Barba thought, did he become so one-sided? He used to push the law to its limits, loving the challenge of trying a case that relied almost entirely on his persuasiveness and legal strategy.
Now, he was terrified to try the case. This man had killed three women, and he had assaulted two more. Seeing the dejected look on a victim's face as their attacker walked destroyed him. The thought of losing twisted his stomach. He no longer trusted the law—not since joining SVU.
He took a sip of his coffee, scowling when he realized it was cold.
"Great," he mutters, pushing it to the edge of his desk.
The trial was scheduled for the next day, and he was positively stuck. Nerves were getting the better of him.
On an impulse, he picked up the phone and dialed.
Olivia had gone to watch the summation of the trial. Her team had come up short on forensic evidence, but she had confidence in Barba.
She hadn't been talking to him lately, but she wasn't going to let a minor bump in their friendship stop her from showing her support.
As he gave his closing argument, Liv felt the hair on her skin rise. The jurors were leaning in to his every word. She loved watching his summations; the emotion in his words and in his demeanor had become so pronounced in the last few years that it was entrancing.
There was stubble on his face, and he had stripped off his suit jacket to reveal his perfectly white shirt and navy suspenders. In the courtroom he had a rawness that was rare and endearing—something she only saw when he was divested in a case or when he was interviewing witnesses. Moments like that showed how much he had begun to care about the victims he fought for. It made her breath hitch.
Barba looked back at her as he took his seat, and she realized she had been staring. Shaking herself from her reverie, she gave an imperceptible nod. She smiled when he did the same.
"The jury has been out for hours," he says, pacing back and forth outside the courthouse. It's the first time they've talked face-to-face in days, and she's glad that it feels normal again.
The happiness, however, is short-lived. Her colleague is about to rip the hair out of his head.
"You said all the right things, Barba. They know he's guilty. Trust me," she says.
He looks into her piercing eyes and knows that he trusts her, probably more than he should.
His phone buzzes, and Barba pales.
She can see his face fall from ten feet away as the jury announces their not-guilty verdict. Barba bites his tongue as the defendant embraces Buchanan with a smug smile across his face.
His suspenders feel like they've gotten tighter. He can't breathe. Barba knows she's staring at him, wondering if he's alright, but he can't deal with Liv or anyone right now.
She sees him move out of the courtroom, head down, and knows he's retreating to his office. He wants to be alone, and she isn't about to intrude. She's caused him enough problems this week.
Olivia decides to let him work through things on his own time.
He tells Carmen to clear his meetings for the rest of the day, and she doesn't prod him further. Barba closes the door to his office once he's safely inside. He sinks into the couch. The job, it's become too much. She's made him care, and it's tearing him apart.
Barba can't even muster the energy to pour himself a drink, so he just sits there, thinking he must have done something wrong to someone, somewhere. He hurts—for himself, for the victims that won't get justice, for everything.
An hour passes and he still doesn't move. It isn't until his phone rings that he gathers himself enough to stand up.
"Barba, your assistant told me to leave a message, but I finally got her to put me through," the familiar female voice says.
"I heard about the case," she continues after he doesn't respond. He still doesn't speak.
"Look, Rafael, I'm sorry. I know this case meant a lot to you," she says, treading carefully.
"I miss Brooklyn," he says, finally able to articulate.
"No, you don't. You're just upset." Barba is upset, but it's true. He misses his old job.
"This is killing me, Nat." Gone were the days of case numbers instead of faces, the days when he was more interested in new legislation than caring for a victim.
She pauses, trying to figure how best to comfort the man who had left her office years ago.
"Well, how about I indulge your nostalgia for a night, and we can get a drink. Like old times."
A part of him feels like this is a bad idea, but he's desperate for anything to yank the images of the crime scenes from his head.
"I'll meet you there."
Olivia had gotten home before five o'clock, a rare occurrence. She let Lucy off early and savored the extra time with her son.
Her plan was to call Tucker and order a pizza for a lazy night in. The problem was that she couldn't stop thinking about Barba. She was worried about him, and while she thought she was doing the right thing at the time, now she wonders if she should have let Barba go home alone.
Noah makes a squealing sound, and it instantly brings a smile to her face. She loves that little boy.
He comes running around the corner, drowning in a jacket that is several sizes too big for him.
Olivia is puzzled for a second and then remembers: she never returned Barba's coat. An idea strikes.
"Noah, sweetie, how about we go grab some ice cream and then visit Mr. Barba?" He smiles in delight, hooked at 'ice cream'.
Liv bundles him up, grabbing a bottle of scotch she had purchased for him from her pantry. She'd bought it a few days ago, and expensive peace offering for whenever the time was right.
The doorman at his apartment doesn't even bother to look up at her, and she and Noah walk in unquestioned. Olivia starts to muse that guys like him don't help to lower Manhattan's excessively high crime rate, but she stops herself. Her mind is on Barba tonight.
Drinks at his old favorite bar brought back a wave of memories. He felt younger and lighter somehow, and he hadn't realized how much he's missed Natalie.
Barba had asked her opinion on a couple of cases, including the one he'd just lost, but he'd never reached back into their personal relationship. As he laughed and reminisced with his former colleague and friend, he couldn't for the life of him imagine why.
He had forgotten how piercing her green eyes were. Somehow, it seemed that she'd hardly aged at all. Her hair was loose, the way she wore it when she didn't want to be an ADA anymore.
Already a few drinks in, her arm was slung lazily around his shoulder, and he leaned into her touch.
"So, are we going to take this back to your apartment for old times' sake?"
He checked his watch. It was still pretty early, only around nine o' clock, but he was tipsy enough to want to take her up on the offer. Still, something felt like it was holding him back.
"Come on Barba. It can't be past your bedtime already."
Whether it was the nostalgia or the way her eyes sparkled with mischief, he wasn't sure, but he found his lips pressed against hers in his apartment thirty minutes later.
They had been involved toward the end of his time in Brooklyn, and it was part of the reason he'd left. Now, he reasoned, it was no longer unprofessional.
"I brought you something," she says, pulling away for a second. Amy moves to grab her purse, and extracts a bottle of bourbon.
"It's your old favorite, remember?" And he does remember. He remembers the nights they spent in the others' offices poring over files and sipping bourbon until the case numbers melded together.
She searches his kitchen for two glasses, finally finding them and pouring them a quarter-full with the amber liquid.
"To old friends," she says, touching her glass to his. He nods, and downs the drink. It's sweeter than the scotch he's used to drinking now, but he doesn't ponder that thought for long because her lips are on his again.
Minutes or hours later-he doesn't really know-the doorbell sounds. She pulls away, releasing him to answer it.
Annoyed, he trods through the kitchen to get to the source of the interruption and nearly falls over when he opens the door.
"Liv, what are you doing here?" He asks, suddenly feeling nervous.
She mistakes his unusual demeanor as him being upset, and gives a caring smile.
"Noah and I thought we'd drop by to give your jacket back from a few nights ago," she says as Noah peeks out from behind her legs.
"And," she starts, hesitantly, "I brought this. Noah knew it was your favorite. I thought we'd try to... cheer you up." She pulls the bottle of scotch from a bag, and he smiles at the thoughtfulness of her gesture.
However, he's snapped back into reality when he remembers there is another woman in his apartment.
"Liv," he says, before his eyes shift to the little boy, "And Noah. Thank you." He grins at the child, eliciting a smile in return. But as he looks up at Liv, his expression falters.
"It means a lot, it really does," he says and she breaks into a grin.
"But, uh-" He feels like an ass.
Liv senses that something is wrong. All at once she notices the uneven buttoning of his always impeccable dress shirt, and the way his hair is tousled, and the faint redness on his lips.
"Oh," she says when she realizes what she's interrupted. "I'm sorry, Barba, I should've called. I'm-"
Her face is hot and she can't seem to find words, so she quickly shoves the bottle of scotch and the jacket in his hands and gathers Noah in her arms.
"Liv," he says, but her chest is inexplicably tight and she needs to leave.
"I've got to get Noah to bed, but I'll see you at work?" She says, not waiting for an answer before nodding to herself and power-walking down the hallway.
He almost runs after her and explains himself, but it occurs to him that there's nothing to explain.
That doesn't stop his heart from dropping or his skin from blanching as he lets her go.
I'm so excited for the next chapter, like you don't even know. Reviews, please!