Okay, so it's Christmas, and I finally have a break from constant schoolwork, and then this lovely story popped into my head. This is my take on Barba and Liv finally addressing their awkward-ness after the Tucker fiasco. Also, I took some inspiration from this song by Jon McLaughlin (it's on the Enchanted soundtrack). I am in love with this song.
Side note: for readers of even if it means I'm not, I do plan on finishing/updating that story, hopefully within the next week or so. Please don't hate me, I've been super busy and I've had some major writer's block, but I think this story should help get me going again.
So close to reaching
That famous happy end
This one's not pretend
So close, so close
And still so far
He sat at his chair, arms stretched behind his head. His eyes squeezed together as he drew a long, exaggerated breath.
"Lieutenant, this is a lost cause."
She sat opposite him, arms folded tightly over her chest, eyes narrowed toward the ADA.
"Huh," she says, "I'll have to admit, Counselor, I came down here because I thought Rollins and Carisi must've been wrong. I believed that you still had a backbone, but I guess I was wrong." Her words were pointed and venomous. She was riling him up.
The formality between them was blunt and heavy. He dropped his arms onto the desk and leaned toward her, holding his ground.
"I will not be your patsy. You have no forensics, no positive identification. I can't make a case out of nothing." He met her piercing glare, his breathing even as their eyes held, their stares locked together.
She stood up, her body rigid and yet perfectly calm. Her elbows dropped neatly on the desk in front of him, her face leaning down so that it was inches from his. He mirrored her, leaving his hands on the table as he stood to match her height.
"What about her testimony? Last I checked, that counts as evidence."
He could feel her words on his own lips, could feel her breathing.
"You think her testimony is going to hold up on the stand? She was intoxicated. She's changed her story three times. Her word isn't enough anymore."
She edged even closer to him, their foreheads nearly touching.
"And so what? She was drunk, so her rape doesn't count? Her story isn't believable enough, so we let a rapist walk?"
He faltered for the first time since she had entered his office, slunk backward slightly. She noticed.
"Barba, I get it, we might not win this one. But you let this one go, and then what? Where do you draw the line? Rapists just get a free pass because their victim was drunk?"
He broke their standoff, moving toward the window to look down on the street below. Olivia followed him.
"I never used to be like this," he says, not breaking his gaze on the busy New York avenue.
"Like what?" she says, following his stare to the yellow taxi cabs and throngs of people milling around.
"Completely powerless to your tirades."
She almost grins victoriously, but holds back, because the look on his face isn't sarcastic or witty. It's hollow and defeated.
"Barba, what's wrong?" He turns his back to her, running his fingers along the spines of the leather books on his shelf.
"I'll take the case, Olivia. You can leave now. You won."
She crosses toward him, placing her hand on his shoulder, turning his body to face hers.
"I'm not leaving until you tell me what this is all about."
He sighs, eyes downcast. "You're right, you know. I need to take this case. I shouldn't—I'm never going to win—but I need to."
He stops, eyes finally meeting hers.
"That's not why you're upset." Her hand still rests on his shoulder, her body inches away from his, once again.
"Barba, please tell me. We haven't talked—not like this—in forever."
A dry laugh escapes his lips.
"That's just it, Liv. We don't talk for weeks, then you come waltzing in here, and I crumble to every one of your petitions. I can't—I can't say no to you."
"What are you trying to say?"
"I'm saying that I can't do this anymore." Her chest tightens. She has a feeling that this conversation has long since breached the grounds of their work relationship.
"You cloud my judgment. You mean way too much to me, Liv, and I don't mean a damn thing to you. You come in here, walk all over me, and then go back to SVU and to Tucker and come back again when you need something else."
"We're in this together Barba," she defends, stammering, the knot tightening in her lungs.
"We used to be, but not anymore. We can't go on pretending like nothing has changed, Liv."
"Barba, what are you talking about?" she asks, though she has a pretty good idea she knows what he's attempting to tell her.
"This case is one thing, but pretty soon, I'll be getting you warrants that you have no right to have and calling in favors with no grounds. I've put my career on the backburner for you, Liv, but I can't do it anymore. This, my job, is all I have."
He pauses, and looks away guiltily.
"I signed my resignation in yesterday. I'm leaving at the end of the month."
And, just like that, a dagger pierces through her chest.
"I hadn't planned to tell you like this," he starts, but she doesn't let him finish.
"So this is it? You're just going to pack it all up and leave?"
"I can't operate with my professionalism compromised…"
"Stop it! Stop with the professionalism bullshit."
"What do you want me to tell you, Liv?"
Barba inhales a deep, nervous breath. He tries to turn away from her again, to focus on the bindings of his books, but she has his arm in a death grip.
"Staying here was never part of my plan. But then we found a rhythm, and it worked. You, me, the rest of the SVU squad—we were a team. We worked together. But now… we've lost our rhythm."
"What about squabbling when we're eighty-five? I thought—I thought we were in this for the long haul," she says, her voice bordering on desperate, betraying her sudden vulnerability.
He gives a dry smile. "I did too."
And she wonders why this news is affecting her so much, because it is—it's killing her.
"Barba, you're the closest thing I've had to a partner since Nick left; please don't do this to me."
Their faces are inches apart, their breathing synchronized. She knows he can hear the beating of her heart.
"Olivia, you don't need me anymore. A new ADA will start here in two weeks, and they'll take full control at the end of the month. I'll personally make sure he or she is acquainted with the role. I won't just hang you out to dry," he says, his words painfully placid.
"I don't want some new ADA; I want you!" She feels ridiculous for her childish outburst, especially when he seems to be perfectly at ease.
"I wanted it to work, I really did. For a while, I genuinely thought we would be doing this—together—until the city forced us to retire. I wanted nothing more in this life than to prosecute crimes with you, but things change, and people change, and life moves on. It's time for me to move on," his perfect composure crumbles for a second as his incredibly emotive face twists in a flash of pain and the whites of his eyes are stained red.
They stand for a second, just breathing. Then, after a split-second decision, she brings both arms around his torso and pulls him next her body. After a minute he pulls back slightly, looking directly into her eyes.
They are so close, unprofessionally close. She closes her eyes, and her lips ghost over his.
"I have to go," he says abruptly. They are so close, and yet, so far apart. His breathing is ragged as he distances himself, turning on his heels before walking out the door and leaving a speechless Olivia Benson standing, abandoned, in his office.
Let me know what you think!