an: So this is a pretty plotless drabble that I was inspired to write after watching the promo for tonight's episode. I also really love the looks that Liv and Barba share during trials, you know, the ones where he spins around and finds her and just gives her that look? Essentially, I picture this scene as Barba on the edge of a breakdown, and he finds comfort in looking to Liv—just like he always has. Also, I tried to make it as generic/potentially canon as possible (considering we haven't seen the episode yet).
"I did what I thought was right."
Trembling fingers had clasped the edges of his sleeves to his sweaty palm and his hands and eyes were damp from a raw, physiological response to sitting under the harsh lights of the courtroom. He lived and breathed by that courtroom—how many times had he stood in the exact same place as Peter Stone, paced the same floor? But the courtroom he thought he knew was distorted from this perspective on the other side of the bench. He was caged in the witness box, dead-bolted to the seat, while the eyes of his friends, co-workers, and strangers ogled him with a muddled mix of concern and judgment. He thought he could see the wheels turning in their heads, appraising him, weighing his testimony, casting their own verdicts.
Instinctively, his eyes found Liv's. She was sitting in the front row, her jacket pulled protectively around her and her hands clasped across her chest even though the room seemed to be sweltering. Her body did not move in the slightest, but her eyes locked on his with a fixed intensity. It was like he was drowning, gasping for air, for safety, and she was whispering to him desperately, "stay with me, breathe, Rafa, you're going to be okay. You're going to be okay. Just stay with me," despite her mouth remaining closed.
He always looked at her when he was in the courtroom. Sometimes it was a look of smug confidence and other times it was wounded and distressed, but he always found her. Even when she wasn't in the courtroom he would catch himself spinning around, looking for her, before he could stop the urge.
This time was different. He wasn't looking for a flash of congratulations or consolation. Before this trial—his trial—he would look at her for a brief second of clarity, for just split-second pause before he had to go back to his job, to nail whoever the bastard on trial happened to be.
The way he looked at her now, though, was like a child who had yet to develop object permanence. It felt like, if he pried his gaze away from her, that she would float away and disappear, and he could not let that happen. He needed her; God, he needed her.
The questions kept coming and he was pretty sure he was still answering but his eyes remained trained on Liv. She was rooting him in reality, grounding him in the present.
It was not an ideal situation by any means, but he made his choices and there was nothing he could or would do to change them. If he had learned anything over his six years with SVU, it was that the law does not always get it right. Sometimes what is just and what is good and what is legal lose their synonymy. He firmly believed in his choice, and from the way Olivia, even after minutes passed, still kept her eyes locked on him, he knew she believed in him too.
"No further questions, your honor."
Barba stepped down from the stand, and Liv gave him the slightest of nods. Just stay with me.
So, he nodded back and finally tore his eyes from hers, taking his seat at the defense table and trusting that she'd be there when he turned around again.