A/N: Ok, I hope you guys enjoy this! It's probably going to be a 2-Shot, just FYI. I don't own SVU or its characters. ENJOY!
"Just one date."
Liv rolled her eyes and slid her glasses off her face. She threw them none too gently on the stack of witness statements she had to leaf through for Stone and glared at Amanda, who was trying the puppy dog eyes on her. Liv had no clue why…they rarely worked on anyone other than Carisi.
"Begging is beneath you, Rollins."
The blonde sighed heavily and crossed her arms over her chest, "I'm trying to get you out of this funk you've been in since Barba left. I'm your friend Liv…we all are…it's killing us seeing you sad."
Liv licked her lips, feeling the familiar stab of heartache she usually did whenever he was brought up. A month with no communication; no phone calls or text from him but plenty from her. It hurt her deeply, and she was doing her best not to let it show, but apparently, she had failed miserably if Amanda was in there trying to set her up on a date.
She had also failed miserably, it seems, in not letting the fact that she had feelings for the former A.D.A that went beyond friendship, show. His case and his leaving had dealt a hefty blow, not only to the squad, but to her personal life. She sincerely hated it. She hated that she missed him so terribly.
"I don't want to go on a date. I don't want to be set up, either. You're overstepping here a little bit, I hope you know."
"Yeah, she is!" Amanda flipped off Fin through the open office door, who was shaking his head from his desk. Liv cracked a smile, but it slipped off her face just as quickly as it came on. She wasn't in the mood for any of this. She had to finish going through these statements, face Stone, who she still wasn't entirely getting used to or necessarily liking, and then she had to go home and cuddle her son, who was turning into her only source of happiness. Him and wine, she didn't really want to admit to herself.
"Liv, what could it hurt? I know you've been spending a lot of quality time with Noah, which is important, trust me. I do. But, some adult time to yourself or spent with others is necessary as well. I heard you humming the theme song to Paw Patrol the other day when we were getting coffee."
Liv opened her mouth to defend herself, but stopped and thought better of it. She would never say, but Rollins was right. More than right. It probably wasn't healthy that she was spending so much time with her child, smothering him with attention. She had started to notice within the past week that he was becoming increasingly more annoyed with her presence, which hurt a little, but was understandable.
He needed space, too. Space she wasn't giving him.
"What parent doesn't know the theme song for that show these days," she pointed out, matter of factly. She wasn't going to let on that Amanda was making sense, or that she was slowly but surely convincing her.
"Point taken, but Liv," Amanda sat down on one of the chairs across from her desk. It was the one Rafael always sat in when he was there visiting her. Her mood, which had become more lighthearted through her bantering with Amanda, plummeted again. "When you start humming it during work hours…something has to change."
The room descended into silence and Amanda's stare was so loaded and motivated, it left Liv with no other choice but to give-in. She nodded wordlessly and the only word she could use to describe the woman's expression was elation.
"But," Liv cut in through the woman's happy laughing, "Just one date. This isn't going to turn into something more. I'm not looking for a relationship and anything along those lines. This is just so I can get out of the house, away from my five-year-old who I love more than life itself, and get a free dinner."
"Noted," Amanda smiled, "I'll get back to him and let him know you're interested. Liv…you won't regret this, I promise."
She highly doubted that. Highly. She felt…wrong. She felt like she was betraying Rafael in some twisted way, which she loathed. She couldn't betray something that had never existed.
Liv groaned, noticing the time. She had another three hours before the end of her day and the stack of statements weren't going to read themselves. Doing her best to rid herself of the feelings she so desperately wish she didn't have, she got back to work, choosing to take her mind off the decision she just made and the man that wouldn't leave her thoughts.
"How the hell did you find me?"
Carisi smiled sheepishly and pushed his way into the apartment, glad to see Barba again, even if the man wasn't so glad to see him. They all missed him, and Carisi knew the man missed them, too, even though he would never admit to it.
"I'm a detective. Plus, I bought your mother some coffee, turned on the charm, and she spilled everything."
"My mother? You tracked down my mother and flirted with her just to get my address? Do you know how fucking creepy that sounds?"
Carisi grimaced, and Rafael took some pleasure in that. He hoped the man realized just how much of a stalker he was. He deserved it. But, something in him was glad to see the guy again. He hadn't had any contact with anyone from SVU in a good, long month. A hard month.
"I know, I know. I'm not here to bother you, either. Well, maybe a little."
"I won't waste on of your time, I promise. I just came by to check on you so I can report back to the others. Amanda and Fin had a case they were working on so they couldn't make it and Liv…"
Rafael visibly flinched at the mention of her name and a slew of feelings collided in his chest. He did his best not to show just how the mere mention of her name turned him into a mess of inner turmoil and self-loathing.
God, he missed her. He missed her so bad.
"I'm fine. I'm almost done unpacking and settling into my new job."
"Never took you for the teaching type."
Rafael exhaled slowly through his nose, sending the most brutal glare he could muster towards the younger man. Carisi held his ground, but averted his gaze, taking in the number of empty, broken down boxes by the couch. Next to it, a box with the words 'Law Texts' scribbled on it, looked untouched.
"We were all worried about you," he finally said, after a moment of silence. Rafael licked his lips and nodded, sliding his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "You just…left. Disappeared. We tried calling and texting- "
"I changed my number. I had to. I was getting bombarded…and I didn't have anyone's numbers memorized…" He wouldn't tell Carisi he could have backed them up and transferred the only ones he wanted to keep. But, he didn't. The move to change his phone number…to move to a new apartment, had all been done hastily and without thought. Losing those numbers were the last thing on his mind.
He regretted not keeping Liv's though. But, he couldn't even bring himself to ever try and go to her apartment or the precinct. She didn't deserve any of what he was carrying around with him. Not one ounce of it. She deserved so much better.
"I get it. I do. I'm just glad to see you doing better. You look better. Less tired. I like the beard," Carisi smiled and Rafael cracked one of his own. He didn't smile much these days. He didn't do much period. Most of his days were spent focusing on work, which was less than what he'd been dealing with at the D.A.'s office, leaving him with too much time on his hands.
"Well…tell everyone I'm ok. Maybe…I can see them again soon."
"That would be great." Carisi lifted a finger as his phone buzzed in his pocket. Rafael shook his head and weaved through the half-unpacked moving boxes to the kitchen, where his forgotten coffee sat on the counter. He glanced back as he heard the man squeal loudly and shot him a dirty look when they locked eyes.
"Sorry. Just…uh…you know, Rafael. I know this may seem super weird and everything, especially since is the first time I've seen you in a month and you never really liked me all that much," Carisi moved over to the other side of the breakfast bar, resting his forearms against the granite. Rafael sipped his coffee, refusing to deny that allegation. "But…well, my cousin's in town and I was supposed to be hooking her up with one of my classmates from Fordham, but he cancelled last minute and I already have plans with a friend of mine…"
Rafael shook his head, already knowing where it was going. Absolutely not. He was not about to take some random woman to dinner, pretend to have fun and then come back to his empty apartment to unpack some more. Carisi must have gone insane since he last saw him.
"Can I finish?"
"No. I'm not taking out your cousin, who I've never met, to dinner. If this is your lame attempt at setting me up on a date- "
"It's not a date! It's just dinner and…friendly conversation?"
Rafael scoffed at the words, but Carisi continued, "You barely leave this place and you've eaten nothing but frozen pizzas and crappy Chinese takeout since you resigned, and you can barely sleep. I think getting out on the town, with someone you've never met, might just be good for you!"
Rafael looked at him like he grew three heads, which he was almost sure Carisi had. "How in the hell did you get my mother to tell you all of this? Really?"
"Is she wrong?"
No, she wasn't. He didn't like the fact that Carisi knew all of this shit about him either. He was going to have a serious conversation with her as soon as the man left. Which he prayed to God would be soon.
"What harm could it do? Look, I'm not about to speculate on your love life and your feelings for a certain SVU Lieutenant," Rafael opened his mouth but Carisi beat him to the punch, "But I know that it's been a long time since you've done anything for yourself. All of this…resigning…distancing yourself…that wasn't for you. It was for her."
Rafael swallowed, feeling tears beginning to well up in his eyes. He cursed himself and kept them at bay, too proud to cry in front of Carisi. His words were stingingly accurate. They slapped him across the face and it burned where they landed.
"I understand that. I truly do, Rafael. You want to move on, for her sake. So…move on yourself. Take Toni out to dinner tonight."
Rafael closed his eyes, feeling his heart constrict in his chest. He'd been trying so hard to forget about Olivia Benson. So hard. She deserved better than him and he needed to move on. To live his life…without her. That was the painful truth.
"Fine," Rafael whispered, but immediately raised a finger, "But just one dinner. This isn't going to turn into something. I don't want a relationship."
"Ok! Ok, that's fine! That's great! Oh man, you're not gonna regret this Counselor! Oh, I mean…Professor?"
"Get out, Carisi."
Carisi nearly giggled and reached for a pen and the newspaper that was sitting open on the crossword puzzle just a foot away from him on the counter. He jotted down, sloppily, two numbers. His and Toni's.
"Here's her number. She'll be expecting a text for when and where. Also, do me a favor and flirt with her a little? She just got divorced and she's got four kids by different dad's…it's been a while since someone's taken her out. Don't say anything too risqué…she's professional and definitely wouldn't appreciate anything too sexual- "
"You have ten seconds before I change my mind. Get. Out."
"Good seeing you, Rafa! Have fun tonight!"
Rafael groaned and pushed the paper away, already feeling anxiety flare up in his chest at the thought of being out on the streets of the city with another woman on his arm. His thoughts immediately went to Liv again, unable to think about anything else for the next few hours.
Just as Liv shut out the lights to her office, her phone buzzed in her hand.
An unrecognizable number appeared on the screen with a few, short sentences giving the address of some restaurant uptown and what time their reservation was for, under the name Felipe. She looked up, seeing Amanda staring at her from her desk.
"I'm guessing you gave the mystery guy my number?"
"Uh…yeah. He insisted. Don't worry, he's not a creep who's going to bombard you with text messages or anything. It just makes things easier if he gets to you directly rather than go through me and everything."
"Uh huh," Liv said, already blowing off Amanda's flimsy excuse. Fin shook his head at the blonde again but Amanda waved him off. Liv furrowed her brows at that, but continued on walking towards the elevator. She walked all the way home slowly, silently, doing her best to keep her mind from straying elsewhere. She had a whole weekend off ahead of her and she was already making plans for various activities she could do with Noah, most of which, involved cuddling, feeding him ice cream and watching kid's movies.
It was the sad truth, but that was the only thing she could even look forward to anymore.
Her heart soared as her little man crossed the living room, slipping a little on the hard wood with his socked feet. She picked him up and kissed him, holding him against her for longer than necessary, until he squirmed in her grasp.
"Mommy, you were choking me."
"I'm sorry, baby," she cooed and set him on his feet, chuckling a little at his scrunched-up nose, "I just missed you so much."
"I didn't miss you because we spend time with each other a lot now," he said and turned on his heel, eliciting a snort from Lucy, who was in the kitchen cooking away. Liv put her stuff down on the counter, shaking her head, "Leave it to the five-year-old to give you the honest truth."
Lucy smiled, "So. A date?"
"Don't even. I'm only doing this so Noah doesn't feel like I'm smothering him and also to shut my detective up, who thinks it's her job to set me up with eligible bachelors."
"Well…I think it's a good thing. You've been down lately. You need to go out and enjoy yourself."
Liv just shrugged her shoulders and patted the woman on the arm on the way to her bedroom. She had a good two hours to kill before she had to be at the restaurant, and a shower was in order.
She did little prep in the beauty department. She shaved her legs and did her skin care routine, but that was it. Some light makeup, dressy flats and slacks and nice, shimmery blouse underneath a cardigan. She looked like she was going to work meeting rather than a date, but she couldn't bring herself to really put in the effort. Plus, it was going to be a good thirty-minute subway ride to the block where the restaurant was, and she was in no mood to deal with heels that were going to make her feet scream.
She didn't bother checking her makeup and hair in the mirror as she left. She kissed Noah on the cheek, missing him already and reminded Lucy to check-in with her every hour, like they had been doing since the Sheila fiasco.
She trekked all the way to train station, making light conversation on the ride with another woman, whose daughter accidentally stepped on her foot. Swapping stories about her kids with some random woman on the subway was probably the only good thing that was going to come from this night.
She was sure of it, as she entered the restaurant and uttered the name for the reservation. She followed behind the host, weaving through tables of other diner's, all of whom looked happy to be there with dates or family. She was not going to be amongst them, tonight. In fact, she was already making plans to head home early from this date, as soon as she slammed down a few glasses of wine. Hell, she was already planning on paying for the meal, just so she could scram and go home and not offend this poor man who was set up with her.
"Your table, miss," the host waved towards an empty seat, obscuring her view of the man at the table. When the host did move, Liv froze, locking eyes with familiar green one's and her heart nearly came to a screeching halt in her chest.
Amanda had forgotten to mention that the blind date she set her up on wasn't a blind date at all.
And it was with Rafael Barba, the man who she couldn't stop thinking about for an entire month since he vanished from the face of the Earth.
She was going to need more than wine for this.