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Rafael Barba was having a good day. He'd spent most of it in court, in his element, doing what he loved. And doing it pretty damn well. Well enough that when just after 5:30 the judge had called for a recess until the next day, opposing counsel Rita Calhoun had asked him to share some takeout in his office, a working dinner that had ended with plea deal being hammered out.

He was more than ready with his closing just in case things fell through; this case had been on and off his desk for over a year through counsel changes and continuances. Either way, after tomorrow he was confident he'd be able to clear it from his workload and his mind, and that a very bad man would be going to jail for a very long time.

So Barba decided he was going to give himself the night off. He would go home and put his feet up with a good scotch and a good book. Just what the doctor ordered, considering the other cases he had on the go.

He was smiling and even whistling as he pulled his phone out of his pocket and turned on the ringer that had been silenced before court had resumed early that afternoon. But when he noticed there were 16 missed calls, he knew he wouldn't be able to fully relax until he'd cleared them. So he put in his Uber request, then headed to the elevator as he started listening from the beginning.

He wasn't whistling or smiling when he got in the back of the car and arranged a change of destination; he wouldn't be going home any time soon. He had only made it through a few of the messages when a live call from the Mayor interrupted him, and he spent the next 20 minutes in traffic wishing he'd forgotten and just kept his phone off. Or thrown it off a bridge.

He'd felt more than heard the telltale buzz indicating that another call was coming in, but he'd ignored it. Another message to prolong his ruined evening, one that would just have to wait its turn.

He was able to sign off with the Mayor just after 8 p.m. when he said he was headed into a meeting with the head of the SVU and would report back soon. Shoving the phone into his pocket, he paused only long enough make an attempt to rein in his anger - for Noah's sake and no one else's - before he knocked on Olivia's door.

"Barba!" she greeted brightly. "That was quick."

He didn't know what she was referring to, and he was so livid he didn't stop to ask. "Noah asleep?" he inquired brusquely, brushing past her.

"Yes. He just dozed off."

"Heavy sleeper?"

"Uh, currently. He'll sleep through pretty much anything these days." She sat at the table where she was half way through a salad. "Why?"

"Because there will probably be yelling." Already his jaw was set and it was taking every ounce of self-control to keep from starting his barrage right then and there.

Liv was confused. "Didn't you get my message? Isn't that why you're here?"

"I'm here because I just spent 20 minutes on the phone with the Mayor, trying to convince him that your squad hadn't gone rogue and jeopardised MONTHS invested by multiple departments. But at least I didn't have to pull all that convincing COMPLETELY out of my ass, since I'd just listened to half a dozen voicemails from the Commissioner, other units, and 1PP about what you'd been up to!"

"Oh." Busted. "If you were just talking to Mayor, he probably hasn't heard the news yet."

"What news?"

"We got him," she told him with a smile. "On video, on audio, in front of impartial witnesses. In the unlikely event he doesn't try to take a plea, there's no way a jury's not going to throw the book at him. And with what we got, he's taking his whole crew down with him. It's done."

Barba's expression didn't change during the long pause that followed. "Walk me through it," he said finally, hanging his coat over the back of a kitchen chair and sitting down heavily.

She did. And while she stressed the outcome, she couldn't avoid answering his terse questions along the way about the process used to get there. Unfortunately for her, the former didn't seem to be making a dent in his anger over the latter.

"Are you - Are you out of your mind?! That wasn't a calculated risk! It was a Hail Mary and it just as easily could have gone the other way! Months of work down the drain, and he would have walked!"

"I know."

"You put all of our jobs at risk! Of all of the - "

"I KNOW, Barba. I get it." Olivia didn't bother to defend herself, or even act defensive. And that only seemed to make him angrier.

"I don't think you do! Olivia, you NEED to loop me in on these things!"

"You were in court all day, and we had a window. I made a judgement call."

"And I used to think you had good judgement... You can't pull a stunt like that without talking to me, even if you have to pull me out of court to do it!"

"You would have said 'no'!"

"You're damn right I would have said 'no'!" And then he was off again, pacing, raving about risk, about irresponsibility, about politics and expectations and anything else he could think of.

And Olivia just sat there and took her lumps, waiting for him to tire himself out. The fact that she did so while eating her salad, which made her appear even more unconcerned than she was, didn't help the situation. But she had only just arrived home and was hungry after a long day. And despite feeling bad that it had caused him grief, she was happy over their good fortune. She was also utterly unafraid that her judgement call (or perceived lack of judgement) would mess up their friendship or working relationship, since both had survived much worse.

"Well? Don't you have anything to say?" he finally asked her, slightly out of breath.

"Maybe you should call the Mayor back and everyone else and let them all know the good news?" Liv mugged an exaggerated hopeful smile. "And I'll ignore MY missed calls until you've got it all smoothed out?"

He closed his eyes and sighed through gritted teeth. "You infuriate me."

"I know." But now her smile was big and genuine and he was already starting to forgive her. "If you'd like, we can split the calls up and each take half."

"No, you've done enough. Let me deal with it." He shrugged on his coat and opened his Uber app to request a ride. "As long as you're willing to let everyone else take the credit, I'm sure I can convince them to stand down on your...questionable methods."

"I don't care about credit. We got him, and that's all that matters."

"All that matters to YOU, maybe," he huffed as he walked toward the door and she followed.

"And all that matters to YOU, too." She reached out to adjust the collar of his coat. "Once you've gotten all the politics out of the way, you're going to be just as happy as I am."

She was right, of course. But he wasn't about to admit it, and deflected instead when he finally noticed what she was wearing - the hooded sweatshirt she'd borrowed on Christmas Day.

"I'm not going to get that sweater back any time soon, am I?"

"Nope," she told him, deliberately popping the "p". "That a problem?"


That smile again. For a moment it almost made him forget how angry he was. And when he could tell she'd picked up on that lapse by the way her smile transformed into a smirk, he just shook his head. "I hate you."

"No you don't. See you in the morning, Counselor."

He grumbled all the way to the elevator as he dialled the Mayor.