A/N: A booze-tinged conversation went from Shakespeare to SVU to writing… this.
Ever Fixed Mark
"Are you sure there's nothing you can do to stop this?"
Liv followed the counsellor's gaze, grimacing slightly when she spotted Rollins and Carisi performing mouth to mouth, "I'm sure. And I certainly can't do anything to stop it outside of the precinct."
Fin smirked at his two companions but neither noticed; as appalled as they both claimed to be at the sight they couldn't seem to look away, either. Personally, he was okay with the two detectives being together and, much to Liv and Barba's obvious displeasure, so were the higher ups. Rollins and Carisi held the same rank so when they'd disclosed their relationship and Liv had fed the news up the line, Chief Dodds had been, quite surprisingly, happy for things to remain as they were in the squad. However, Fin had to admit that he could quite happily live without the very public displays of affection that they, and the rest of the bar, had been forced to endure tonight. Amanda was like his little sister and no man liked to see that kind of shit. He took another gulp of beer, his attention still firmly fixed on the older couple even if it seemed as though they'd forgotten he was there.
The ADA continued to watch the other end of the bar and when he spoke again his words, this time laced with disbelief rather than disgust, were still directed entirely toward Liv, "Is he doing what I think he's doing?"
"Yes," Liv frowned, that one word perfectly mirroring Barba's reaction. "He's proposing. And it looks like she just said yes."
The words made Fin draw his gaze toward the younger couple and in time to see Carisi rising to his feet, his lanky frame quickly swamped by a beaming Amanda. Sure enough, there was something sparkling on the ring finger of her left hand and his smirk softened into a genuine smile. It did seem way too early to be popping the question - unless the whole thing had been going on for much longer than they'd claimed - but he couldn't deny that the two of them seemed to make each other very happy. Amanda deserved a good guy in her life, and her daughter's too, and despite his initial concerns, and that moustache, Carisi had turned out to be exactly that. Of course, he'd still have to warn the younger man about the consequences of breaking Amanda's heart.
Barba finally turned his gaze away from the loved up couple, fixing it once again on Liv before carrying on his conversation with her. "They're probably going to write their own vows," he griped, seemingly completely unmoved by the scene that had just played out in front of him.
"And they'll be as sickening as they are long," the Lieutenant agreed as she resettled her gaze on Barba.
Those two, Fin mused silently to himself, had to be the most cynical people he had ever met. To a certain degree he could understand Liv's reaction; he'd watched, from the sidelines, as every relationship she'd begun inevitably ended, sometimes in tears but mostly with nothing more than indifference. It was difficult to not give up on love, which was what he assumed Barba had done a long time ago. If either of them had someone to go home to he was sure that they would be a little more forgiving. Hell, they probably wouldn't be sat here now if they did; he wouldn't be sat here now if he had someone special in his life but at least he could still be happy for Amanda and Carisi.
As the newly engaged couple made their way to the table both Liv and Barba, much to Fin's continuing amusement, hastily pasted on smiles. They even managed to hold them in place as Carisi, quite unnecessarily, announced the good news as if the entire bar hadn't just witnessed the event. He had to work even harder to not laugh out loud as Liv dutifully admired Amanda's engagement ring and Barba vigorously shook Carisi's hand. It was almost sobering how well they pulled off their congratulations but a mischievous streak had him proposing a toast to the young couple just so Liv and Barba had to continue their charade a little longer.
Barba quickly downed the last of his scotch on the toast, that smile still pasted on his mouth even as he muttered both his apologies and goodbyes. Liv's smile faltered only a little in response and only as she watched the ADA leave the building.
"He's probably going back to the office," Liv commented, adding on a despairing shake of her head but there seemed to be disappointment in her voice, too. The rest of the team nodded or murmured their agreement as she rose slowly from her seat, dredging up another wide smile in the process, "I'll get another round of drinks."
Fin watched the woman he counted as one of his friends, as well as his boss, walk toward the bar, her smile already fading. The last twelve months hadn't been the easiest for her - for any of them - and about the only thing he had been able to do to help was take the Sergeant's exam, in the hopes that he could at least take some of the pressure off her shoulders on the work front. He could do nothing about her personal life, though. Liv rarely, if ever, discussed her feelings with him, especially if he enquired, and he wasn't sure she had anyone to confide in other than her shrink. And maybe Barba. As his gaze drifted back to the table, an entirely unexpected conversation had begun.
"We should set Barba up," Carisi blurted out, thankfully too quietly for anyone not at the table to hear. He took hold of Amanda's hand, twining their fingers together as he added on, "He deserves to be happy, like we are."
Amanda's smile faltered, replaced by incredulity at her fiancee's statement. "Barba? Come on! He's a confirmed bachelor. If we're going to meddle in anyone's love life then it should be Liv's. She deserves to be happy, too and she's been known to actually go out on a date from time to time."
Starting to feel like a third wheel all over again, Fin's eyes strayed back to Liv as he contemplated Amanda's words. The Lieutenant's smile had now gone completely, replaced by the frown he had become so accustomed to seeing over the years. Amanda was right: Liv deserved to be happy. Sure, Noah coming into her life had brought her so much joy but, as Amanda had pointed out, Liv still seemed to yearn for something more. Someone more. For a short while there it had seemed as though Liv had found the right man but her relationship with Tucker had crashed and burned, just like all of the others.
"Lieu would have our badges," Carisi replied, shaking his head at Rollins' suggestion.
"And Barba would talk Liv into taking our badges," Rollins countered. "You know those two are thick as thieves."
"When they're not fighting, anyway."
Although Fin found himself agreeing his co-workers' assessment of Liv and Barba's friendship, he remained silent. On a purely professional level, he liked Barba; the ADA had come through for them time after time and though he had a sharp tongue he reserved it mostly for defence counsellors or their clients. On a personal level, he barely knew the guy. The lawyer's presence tonight, to celebrate the end of a tough case (and Carisi's anniversary of joining the squad which had been delayed because of said case) was an unusual occurrence but he still hadn't managed to exchange more than a few words with the other man and most of those had been work-related. Barba was a difficult man to get to know but not everyone had that problem.
As usual, Liv had received most of Barba's attention tonight and Fin could understand that; Liv was an attractive woman with both brains and balls. If he hadn't learnt the hard way not to take anyone from the job home with him then he might look at Liv the same way Barba sometimes did. Whatever Liv saw in Barba would probably always remain a mystery, even if he could get her to explain it to him, but he trusted her judgement of the other man.
"They always manage to make up," Rollins continued.
Carisi nodded, his forehead crinkling in thought, "You don't think…?"
"That they'd be great together?"
Now that they had started finishing each other's sentences, Fin found himself silently agreeing with Liv's comment: they were kind of nauseating. He cleared his throat loudly, effectively ending the discussion, and then took another swig of beer. Amaro had once made a similar observation about Benson and Barba, albeit with disgust rather than excitement, which Fin had simply shrugged off at the time because Nick'd had a tendency to be overly protective of Liv. But the suggestion that there was something more between Liv and Barba than just their friendship had stayed with him, making itself known from time to time; whenever he noticed, through the glass of her office window, the smile that Barba had been able to elicit from Liv or like tonight, when he was sure that she was the only reason the ADA had made an appearance, he'd wonder why there wasn't something going on between them. He'd always figured that they'd work it out themselves eventually but they were taking their time. And now the whole squad had beaten them to it.
"You two need to be quiet," he warned, nodding his head toward the direction of the bar where Liv was returning with a bottle of something fizzy and expensive, and a set of equally classy glasses on a tray. His younger colleagues followed his gaze and wisely said no more but Fin figured that, caught up in their little love bubble, they were probably still thinking about it. He shook his head when the two of them grinned at each other in a way that suggested they were going to go even further than thought and actually do something. Probably something very stupid, at that. The best thing to do was shut this down completely, even if that meant pulling rank on them, because Liv would be… well, livid if she ever found out that they were even thinking about interfering in her personal life.
On the other hand, she didn't really have a personal life outside of being a cop and a Mom. Maybe he was getting carried along by the air of romance, or maybe he just didn't want Amanda and Carisi interfering in his own love life if he did put a stop to this, but he was slowly warming to the idea of a proactive approach. It would take some more thought, some careful planning, a little subtlety and a newly-promoted Sergeant's guiding hand but perhaps giving Liv and Barba a nudge in the right direction might help them figure things out. He leaned in closer to his colleagues and said lowly, "But the three of us should continue this conversation later."