Fin's hand snaps to his handphone the second it rings – he barely even needs to check the caller ID.
"Liv?" he says, and the word's like a magnet: Carisi glances up from his laptop immediately, and Rollins is already turning from where she's halfway through pinning a new set of photos to the board, striding over in brisk steps with the casefile still in her hands.
He doesn't even bother tacking on a question. They hadn't been able to stay in the courtroom past the opening statements, not even on a rotating basis – SVU had caught two new cases just after, and it was a unanimous agreement gone unspoken, that Liv should be the one to stay for the rest of it.
The verdict had come down the grapevine almost as soon as the jury returned it, of course, through Fin's contacts and Liv's texts and too bloody many news outlets to count, but for her to be calling now... something's happened, and bad.
"Fin," his lieutenant begins in that too-calm voice of hers. "Rollins and Carisi with you?"
Carisi's gone pale as a corpse, actually, his own phone in hand, and dammit, Fin really hates it when he's right about things like this. "Yeah," he says anyway.
"Good." Liv exhales something like a sigh, though it's almost lost to the sound of traffic in the background. "Get them in my office and put me on speaker. There's something I have to tell you."
Rafael almost doesn't answer the knock on his door, at first. It's not that he doesn't want to see anyone, not even that there aren't people he still wants to see, because there are – except, well.
He's only now realising that he had assumed that leaving would come with some measure of relief, some easing of his breath, but all Rafael feels now is tired. Because that'd be too easy, wouldn't it, and easy had kicked him from the bus and driven over him a long time ago. He liked challenges a bit too much sometimes, his professors had told him, and they'd been right. Challenges had teeth that bit and tore when you weren't looking, and even lawyers had to blink sometimes.
Thank goodness he'd already transferred all of his cases before the trial began, Rafael thinks, just as whoever it is knocks at the door again. "Rafael? You in there?" he hears a familiar voice say, and god, they're both getting too predictable for their own good.
He stares at the ceiling above his couch for a while longer before pushing himself to his feet, suddenly conscious of the fact that he's still wearing the same suit that he went to trial in – and wouldn't that have been ridiculous five (six) years ago, being on the wrong side of the courtroom for once.
Rafael opens the door to find Olivia standing there, one hand raised halfway to knock again. "I didn't know you had my address," he says, because he doesn't know what else to.
"Trained detective, remember?" she answers wryly, raising an eyebrow.
It's nowhere near as impressive as his, of course, he thinks with a burst of muted amusement that fades just as quickly. Rafael only stops himself from leaning against the doorframe because she'd notice right away, and settles for crossing his arms. "Don't take this the wrong way," (not that he's sure what that is at the moment, he doesn't think), "but what are you doing here, Liv?"
Liv looks at him for a small eternity.
"Because I couldn't – we can't – just leave it at that," she says, finally. "I don't... it's selfish and it's stupid, Rafael, but I'm done with letting people walk away from me."
He keeps breathing. He's not sure he remembers how to do anything else.
"Not again, not this time," Liv whispers, fierce and blinding, and Rafael forgets even that, until –
"And I didn't want to be left explaining to Noah why he suddenly couldn't see his Uncle Rafa anymore," she adds, with the first real smile he's seen all day, and he can almost hear the air rushing to fill the sudden vacuum.
It takes him a moment to realise that he's half-smiling back, even if it's tentative and brittle around the edges.
Rafael bites back a groan, and lets himself lean against the doorframe anyway, appearances be damned. "That's emotional blackmail you're using, Lieutenant."
"Well," she says, and he wonders at how steady her words are. "Is it working, then?"
"No," lies Rafael, blatantly.
Liv's expression is edging dangerously close to a smirk, now. "Whatever you say, Rafa," she says in a passable imitation of the tone he takes with particularly ridiculous arguments, because he's clearly been a bad influence on her.
Then again, two can play at that game, Rafael thinks, narrowing his eyes. "You said we. Not the royal one, I'm assuming?"
"Can't get anything past you, can I?" she says, her grin melted into something softer.
It's obviously a rhetorical question. He shakes his head anyway. "I'm a very good lawyer, you know."
"The best," she corrects, and he almost doesn't catch the way her voice wavers, a little. "Everyone's downstairs, I told them to wait at the lobby."
For someone who's raised preparation to an art form, he's sure being blindsided a lot today. "I'm bad at goodbyes," Rafael hedges, and he gets the feeling that Liv would've rolled her eyes if this were any other situation.
"Good for you that this doesn't have to be one, then," she says instead. "But only if you want to, Rafael."
Words desert him for the hundredth time today. "Everyone?" he manages to ask.
"Well, I couldn't get Rita Calhoun to come on short notice," Liv answers.
Her tone is dry enough that it surprises a breath of laughter from him. "Please don't, she'd probably end up charging one of us for her time."
"NYPD doesn't pay enough to cover that," she agrees with a wince, but the question's still there in her eyes, and –
Rafael can't help it; he nods before he can think too much about it, before he can second-guess like he's done with too many of his decisions lately.
This won't be among the worse ones, he can only hope, but it's hard to hold on to that skepticism in the colours of Liv's brilliant smile.
Then the elevator dings, Carisi and Rollins and Fin spilling out into the corridor with Jesse and Noah and what looks suspiciously like party supplies between them (only one of whom cannonballs into his legs in a curly-haired blur and a happy scream of "Uncle Rafa!", which is just as well, since Rafael doesn't fancy getting flattened by SVU's finest), and even the last of those doubts melt away.
"Guess we might've thrown together a farewell party for our ADA," Liv says with a straight face when he looks over in askance. "You coming?"
"What, were you just planning to start without the guest of honour?" Rafael fires back on reflex, and if he's maybe blinking too hard and pretending a little that the Noah-shaped barnacle is the only thing keeping him in place then no one needs to know – but for once, for these people, Rafael finds that he doesn't mind it too much anyway.
He wouldn't have missed this for the world.