Barba was suspended on a Thursday, and spent Thursday night and Friday clearing his desk and passing things that couldn't wait for his return over to other ADAs. One of those ADAs was particularly sympathetic to Barba's situation and had offered him the use of his timeshare in the Hamptons. So Friday just after 5 he and his mother, whom he'd convinced to take a vacation day on Monday, were headed out of the city for a long weekend.
His choice to invite his mother was borne out of his knowledge that if he went alone he would only mope and drink too much. He also owed her some focused time and a proper explanation of what was going on.
The fact that she played a good "supportive mother" when she wasn't playing "nagging mother" or "controlling mother" may have been an expected and welcome byproduct of the invitation. By the time she left him on Monday afternoon to drive herself home, he was feeling much better and more prepared to take on the next few days alone to eat at expensive restaurants, read several books, and just generally decompress.
He hadn't seen Olivia since the night that his punishment had been handed down, when she'd joined him in his office briefly with the intention to commiserate but in the end to celebrate. A two week suspension was a slap on the wrist in the grand scheme, and considering both had feared that their working relationship was over, the mood was practically festive as her relief and happiness was infectious.
The suspension over the alternative was a relief to him, too, of course. It was the rest that angered him. He'd spent an awkward hour with Ashtonja and her grandmother, apologising profusely for the questioning and harassment the girl had endured, not apologising again for the death he had brought about those years ago because he knew they had heard it all before and didn't want those feelings brought up again anymore than they already had been by this situation, than they were each month when his money arrived in their account.
He also hated that his private business was being broadcast not quite as publicly as might have been the case, but certainly publicly enough, as his suspension was not going to be kept a secret and the rumours circulating about the reason were either too close to the truth or so far from it that either way his judgement and his character could be called into question going forward, while not in the court of law certainly in the court of semi-public opinion.
And there was also the matter of Benson herself, of how confused and disappointed she had been when he'd had to withhold the truth, when she had accused him of not trusting her.
He could still remember the look on her face when he'd said it wasn't personal and she'd replied "It is now!" He knew what she'd meant. Their Christmas Eve adventure and all that had happened in the three months since had repaired any damage left over to their dynamic that had been caused by his reaction to her dating Tucker and hiding it during his investigation. They now enjoyed an even stronger professional commitment to one another, a stronger and more effective working relationship, what they'd come to view as a partnership.
But her declaration hadn't been about that. It had been about the fact that whether something was related to work or not related to work, everything was effectively personal between them now. They'd fallen into that realisation less than two weeks before when she'd accepted his invitation for a drink apparently only so she could continue the argument that they'd been having on and off the whole day.
"I am absolutely prepared to have this out with you," Barba had eventually told her. "But this is a work fight, not a personal fight. Can we put a pin in it and just enjoy our evening?"
To his surprise this had actually led to Olivia apologising, and to a frank discussion about boundaries and how the nature of their jobs and schedules made it really hard to delineate between "work friends" and "life friends". They called attention to the habit they'd been developing of simply slipping in and out of each other's days without much acknowledgement of meetings and partings, and with no thought to what hat was being worn at any given time.
It was easy and comfortable but it effectively made everything personal. Which was fine when they were at their best, because their care and respect for each other as people and friends worked to their advantage in their professional dealings. But they were human, and so they weren't always at their best.
In any case, when he'd finally revealed the whole sordid tale, Olivia seemed to have understood and forgiven him for any offence against her. But it still made him angry that the situation had ever called his trust in her into question.
By the time he returned to Manhattan a week later, he was feeling much better overall. While effectively doing nothing for any significant period of time required a great deal of discipline for him, he could recognise that giving his mind and body an occasional rest made him better prepared for the work ahead of him.
Which was good, because considering the nature of the 'work' that Olivia put on his plate on his first day back in the city, he needed to be prepared.
"Hey. Where are you?" There was no ceremony in Olivia's greeting, as usual. While they hadn't seen each other in a week, they'd stayed connected throughout by text and the occasional phone call.
"Just dropping by my office for a few things."
"'Suspended' means you DON'T work, you get that, right?"
"Actually, in the strictest sense according to the DA, 'suspended' just means I don't get paid for any work I do," he told her. "But I'm not really working. I just had to sign some documents and run through something with Carmen. And I'm just walking out of the building now."
"How about you keep walking and head over to my office?"
"Sure," he quickly agreed. "Have you eaten? I could pick us up some lunch."
"Actually, I want you to pick up Noah from preschool."
Barba checked his watch. "It's barely 1. Is he sick?"
"No, it's nothing like that. There's a water issue at the building they are in and so they are asking parents to come early. But I just can't get away and Lucy isn't available until 3:30 on Fridays."
"Not a problem; I'm happy to do it." The words were automatic, but Barba gave himself a moment to take stock after he'd said them, and realised they were mostly true. "I'll be to you in a few minutes."
Walking through the squad room he couldn't avoid the attention of the team members gathered there.
"How is suspension treating you, Counselor?" Carisi asked him. "Bored yet?"
Barba just gave Carisi a more or less tolerant smile.
"I wouldn't mind a 2 week vacation, paid or not," Fin chimed in.
"You on vacation right now, Fin?" Liv shot from her doorway. "Because I thought you were supposed to be half way across town."
"Guilty as charged. On my way," he assured her even as she was ushering Barba into her office.
"So what do you think is going on there?" Amanda asked.
Carisi was confused. "The Lieutenant and Barba, you mean?"
"Yeah. They've been awfully chummy lately."
Sonny shrugged. "I don't know. I don't really get that vibe off of them."
"Me, neither," Fin added. Normally he wasn't one to get in on the office gossip, but in this case he had some context to add. "Kind of reminds me of how she was with her old partner, Stabler. They were together for 12 years, and they were tight."
"How tight?" Amanda asked meaningfully.
"Nothing like that. He was married with five kids, and as far as I know they never crossed any lines."
"But when you work that closely with someone for so long, you get so like you're married, just without the sex," Carisi offered.
"That's what I'm sayin'," Fin agreed. "Anyway, whatever they've got going on, I think it's good for her, and it's working for us, so I'll take it."
"Fin!" Liv chided as she reentered the squad room. "How are you still here? Get going!"
"Yes, ma'am." And he walked with Barba, who had received his instructions and Liv's spare set of keys, to the elevator. "You okay, Counselor?"
"What? Oh, yeah, fine."
"You sure? You're looking a little distracted. Everything alright?"
"Yeah. I'm just..." There was no reason NOT to tell him. "Liv needs me to pick Noah up from preschool. And kids aren't exactly my area."
Fin almost laughed at the idea of cold-as-ice, tough-as-nails ADA Barba being thrown off his game by someone barely out of diapers. But he could remember his early days as a father and so managed some sympathy. "Noah's one of the good ones. Liv's done a great job with him. You'll be fine."
"From your lips to God's ears." Barba didn't sound convinced.
The detective gripped his shoulder. "Noah is the most important person in her life, so she wouldn't have asked you if she didn't trust you. That should say something right there. Good luck, Counselor."
Fin had meant well, but his parting words had actually made things worse. By the time his Uber pulled up in front of Noah's school, Barba had resigned to consoling himself with the fact that if he could just keep Noah alive for the next two hours, that would hopefully be enough to prove Olivia's trust in him was warranted.
"Hi. I'm Rafael Barba; I'm here to pick up Noah Benson. His mother should have called." He was ready with his ID as Liv had instructed.
One of the administrators manning the door checked her list, and seeing his name gave him a smile and directed him to the corner of the gym where Noah's group was sitting in a circle with two teachers playing a game while they waited.
Barba approached without his usual confidence, wondering how Noah would react to seeing him and whether he would go with him willingly or ask for his mother or Lucy. Would he cry? Have a tantrum? Would he -?
"Mr. Barba!" Noah noticed him and his face lit up in a big grin. Apparently Barba hadn't needed to be all that worried.
"Hi, Noah," he greeted with a smile. "Your mom asked me to come and get you until Lucy's done at HER school. That okay with you?"
He nodded, but looked thoughtful as one of the teachers helped him zip up his coat and slip into his hat and mittens. "Can we go to the park?"
"Um... I guess so. Do you know where it is?"
The park would fill some time. And it was a PARK, designed for kids, so probably survivable. It seemed like a good option. "Okay, then. I guess you can lead the way."
Suddenly Barba found himself with a little wool-covered hand tucked into his. Barba gave a bit of a panicked glance at the teacher, who just smiled encouragingly as she wished Noah a fun afternoon.
The park wasn't a complete disaster. There were a few other kids there from Noah's preschool with their parents or babysitters. Apparently it was a popular spot. The other adults seemed content to talk amongst themselves and leave the kids to their own devices, but Barba was too afraid of Noah hurting himself or running off to begrudge the boy's insistence that he participate in all activities. He pushed him on the swings, provided counterweight for the teeter totter, stood close as he lined up for the slide again and again. A text from Liv reminded him that he'd failed to check in, so he snapped a picture of Noah at the top of the slide and sent it to her just in time for things to fall apart.
Noah lost his footing before he could sit and position himself properly, and it surprised him enough that when he made it to the bottom he fell forward, catching himself with his outstretched hands.
No harm done. Not even a scrape since he was so bundled against the cold air. In fact, it was only Barba's immediate show of concern that made it occur to Noah to react at all, and his lower lip started to tremble.
Barba scooped him up to get him out of the way and deposited him on a nearby bench, quizzing the boy on his potential injuries, of which of course there were none. A runny nose and silent tears had Barba searching through Noah's backpack for tissues, which he thankfully located, cleaning him up the best he could.
"Want to go home, buddy?"
With a hiccough Noah wrapped his arms around the kneeling Barba's neck, obviously expecting to be carried. Barba was happy to oblige, relieved that Noah was neither injured nor did he apparently consider the man an unsuitable substitute for Liv or Lucy in his desire to be comforted.
By the time they made it to the Benson apartment, Noah seemed to have forgotten the incident altogether. He "helped" Barba unlock both sets of doors, and then shedding his outerwear and dropping his book bag took off towards his room.
After picking up the discarded items, Barba removed his own expensive peacoat, cashmere scarf and leather shoes, leaving him in dark designer jeans and a blue button down. Rolling up his sleeves, he made himself take a breath and tried to focus on the necessities of getting him through the next - he checked his watch - 68 minutes.
Bathroom. That seemed like a good place to start. "Hey, Noah," he began when the boy returned towing a little plastic wagon containing toy cars and action figures. "Do you need to use the toilet?"
"Yes!" he exclaimed, as though he was about to burst and had only been saved by Barba's reminder.
Barba stood outside the partially closed bathroom door. "Do you need any help?"
That was no small relief. A flushing sound, and then Noah reappeared. "Did you wash your hands?"
"Oops," was Noah's sheepish reply as he went to do as Barba instructed.
"Okay, so far I'm nailing this," he encouraged himself silently. And now only 64 minutes to go.
Noah emerged with dripping hands and a smile, looking at him expectantly.
"Um, alright. So... what do you and Lucy do when you first come home from school?" Barba asked.
"She looks in my backpack," Noah supplied helpfully.
"Alright, we can do that." He led the boy to the kitchen and lifted him up on the counter so they could look through the bag together, removing what remained of his snack (which Noah decided to eat right then) and a notice about an upcoming open house which Barba affixed to the refrigerator with an open magnet. 61 minutes.
"Now we play!" Noah announced, and reached for him so he could be returned to the floor. Then he grabbed Barba's hand again and led him to the living room where he dumped out his wagon and began separating his toys.
Barba sat down on the couch intending to simply observe, but Noah, who had figured out that it was apparently his job to train his inexperienced babysitter, patted the place beside him. "No, you sit here."
Chuckling as he slid down to where the boy had indicated, he listened as Noah set the scene and handed him the correct toys that would allow him to appropriately participate. And while it took him awhile, with Noah so engaged and engaging he was eventually able to settle in.
He was surprised that when he finally thought to check his watch again, and only because Noah had remembered there were several unwatched episodes of a kids show that taught Spanish waiting on the PVR and had asked if they could watch them together, that over 30 minutes had passed.
Barba had no idea if Liv had any rules about screen time. It was surprising enough that he knew parents DID often have rules about screen time. "I guess we could," he said. "But probably just one. Lucy will be here soon."
"Can't you stay?"
Barba was about to give his default answer when he realised he really had no reason NOT to stay. He was suspended, he had no plans, and that feeling of something he couldn't quite name that came from knowing that Noah wanted him there was certainly not unwelcome. "Why don't we call Lucy to see what she has to say about that."
He found the young woman's number near the top of the emergency contact list on the fridge, though he discovered it was one Noah knew from heart when he'd taken Barba's phone from his hand and asked to be the one to dial and say hello. Lucy hadn't left school yet and seemed grateful for the chance to spend some time in the library, so she quickly gave in to Barba's request. She'd met him before more than once, knew he was a lawyer and a friend of her boss. So while she was well aware that Liv was very protective and very choosy about who she allowed to care for her son, Lucy figured if she'd trusted Barba to pick up Noah from school and watch him this long, she wouldn't have a problem with him staying a little longer.
Still, she found herself assuring Barba that if he needed help or needed to be relieved she was only a phone call away. She also informed him that Liv had asked her to have dinner on the table for all three of them at 6, and Barba promised her that he could make that happen. He grilled her about food allergies and anything Noah or Liv definitely wouldn't eat. He also requested her advice about the quality and quantity of snacks Noah was allowed to have to tide him over.
Sensing that he was a little out of his element and could use some encouragement, Lucy found herself commending Barba for asking all the right questions. He should have been annoyed, but found instead that he was grateful. And he had no shame over calling her back several minutes later to make sure Noah was allowed to watch TV in the afternoon and to get instructions on finding the right show on the PVR.
Once the screen came to life, Noah continued to play with his toys but in a less focused way, and didn't object to Barba sitting on the couch. But after a few minutes the boy joined him, tucking himself into his side. Barba froze.
But Noah, who Barba had become convinced was very intuitive for his age, seemed to take pity on him, pulling his arm from where it was extended along the back of the couch and positioning it around the boy's small body.
After a few moments, Barba let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. And he felt no compulsion to check his watch.
He DID suddenly find himself reflective. Barba's own father hadn't been the most affectionate even when times were good, and it occurred to him that he'd never really given a lot of thought to how that had shaped him. He wondered if it would have been better for him if, like Noah's, his father had been out of the picture altogether, wondering if he would have been less affected by a father's absence than he would be by the presence of someone in his life who was no real father to speak of.
Noah certainly didn't seem to be lacking anything by being a part of single parent family. But of course Liv wasn't in it alone. She had Lucy, who was devoted and who Noah obviously thought the world of. There had been Tucker, whom while he didn't know for sure he imagined had at least filled a limited role. Noah had seemed very comfortable with the members of the squad whenever he'd seen them together, which indicated that they'd taken an extended and hands-on interest.
And as Noah laughed aloud at what was happening on the screen and looked up at him to make sure he'd gotten the joke, Barba realized that maybe he had a part of play too.
Three back-to-back episodes, a snack, another trip to the toilet, a messy art project that resulted in him removing his now glue- and glitter-crusted button down and replacing it with the "Wicked" hoodie - HIS "Wicked" hoodie - that he'd found clean and folded on top of the dryer ready to be put away, and it was time to start thinking about dinner.
He suggested that Noah play in the living room, but the boy was apparently convinced that Barba would require his help with meal preparation, pulling the step stool to the sink to wash his hands without being asked. To his credit, Barba was able to create ways for Noah to be involved: shredding the lettuce, choosing the types and amounts of vegetables that would be included in the salad, using the spinner to clean and dry the pieces that Barba cut, and mixing everything together. He let the boy help butter thick slices of bread and sprinkle on the garlic before they went into the oven to bake. He also taught him to use the rotary cheese grater on the cheddar for the pasta and sauce that were heating on the stove.
Noah was doing a passable job at setting the table with surprisingly little instruction when Olivia came through the door.
"Something smells good" she exclaimed as Noah ran to her.
"Me and Barba made dinner!" he told her proudly as she lifted him into her arms.
That was when she noticed it wasn't Lucy in the kitchen. She was surprised, but she still had the wherewithal to correct him. "That's MR. Barba to you, sir," she reminded gently.
"That's okay, Liv," Barba interjected as he brought a pitcher of water to the table. "We're buddies now, aren't we, Noah? I think we can skip the "Barba" altogether and be on a first name basis, don't you?"
Liv was delighted to see Barba making such an effort with her son. "Well, in that case, little man, why don't you help Uncle Rafael finish things up here while I get changed?"
Wiggling to get down, he happily resumed his table-setting duties while the grownups talked in the kitchen.
"So this was unexpected," Liv remarked. "Where's Lucy?"
"I gave her the afternoon off," he told her, removing the garlic bread from the oven. Then it suddenly occurred to him that he probably should have asked her permission, and he turned to face her with an uncertain expression. "I hope that was okay."
"Of course," she immediately soothed. "I'm sure she was grateful. She has a big project due at midnight that she wasn't quite finished; it's actually why I made sure to get home early tonight." She peered over his shoulder. "This all looks terrific."
"Everything's ready. You go change and I'll serve it up for us."
"Alright; I'll be quick." Then she noticed something particularly interesting. "You've got glitter on your jeans, Counselor. It's a good look for you."
"I got glitter on everything, hence the wardrobe change. But don't worry, I'm not taking the sweater back. It looks better on you anyway."
She squeezed his arm and headed toward her bedroom.
The meal was a festive affair. After filling in his mother on what seemed to be every second of their time together EXCEPT, blessedly, for Barba's overreaction at the playground, Noah finally quieted enough to eat more dinner than Barba would have guessed could fit in such a small person. He even ate the salad, which Liv had never been able to convince him to do before. When questioned about it, he simply indicated that he wanted to eat it because he had made it. Liv vowed to remember that the next time she needed him to try something healthy, and to thank Barba for happening upon that strategy if it did in fact work again.
"So what do you have planned for the weekend, Barba?"
"Rafael," Noah corrected her through a mouthful of pasta.
"Manners please," his mother reminded him, trying to hide a grin.
"Nothing too exciting," Barba told her. "I'm headed to my mother's first thing in the morning to help her with something at the school and a few things around the apartment. She was rather explicit that my vacation has been long enough."
"So what your saying is that your mother is giving you a "honey-do" list."
He chuckled. "Pretty much. But I figure I owe her. I haven't exactly had a lot of time in the last several years to help out the way a son probably should."
"You hearing this, Noah? Rafael says that good sons do chores for their mommies."
For his part, Noah just shrugged and kept eating.
But despite her announcement, Liv let Noah out of any chore duty as Barba worked with her instead on clearing the table and dealing with the dishes. And it was over the sink washing the pots and pans that Liv finally let on that when he'd gone to her office to pick up the keys she had clocked his nervousness about watching Noah. "So was it as terrifying as you thought it would be? Being in charge of another human being?"
"No," he said confidently, though when she scoffed he went on to admit, "it was even MORE terrifying than I thought."
"You decided to stay, so it couldn't have been all that bad." She gave the counter a final swipe with a wet dishrag before hanging it over the faucet. "So why DID you decide to stay?"
"Well..." He took a moment to consider. "I guess because Noah asked me to."
His honest and earnest answer brought a genuine smile to her face, which he couldn't help but return.
Noah joined them in the kitchen and tugged Barba's pant leg. "Time to play?"
"Sorry, kiddo." It was his mother that said it, though Barba suspected it was actually to give him an easy out. "I think we need to move bath night to tonight to see if we can get some of that glitter out of your hair." She addressed Barba. "We might be awhile but you ARE welcome to stay. We can grab a drink once Noah's asleep."
"That's alright; I'll leave you guys to it." He crouched down to address Noah. "But maybe I can come over and play another day? Would that be alright?"
He took Noah's arms wound tightly around his neck as a 'yes'.
It was Tuesday that the opportunity came. A text from Olivia caused him to look up from his book: "Have you eaten?"
Barba glanced at the clock in surprise, not having realized how late it had gotten. He was in full vacation (okay, suspension) mode now and had sprawled on the couch in the middle of the day to enjoy a good murder mystery which had apparently been more engrossing that he expected. "No, not yet," he texted back.
A moment later his phone rang, and seeing her number on the call display, he answered with a simple, "Hey."
But it wasn't her voice that responded. "Hi! Can you come over for dinner?"
"Well, hello, Noah! Thanks so much for asking; I would love to!" There was a rustling as Noah reported his agreement to his mother and passed her the phone.
"Don't get your hopes up, Barba," Olivia told him, and he could hear Noah not quite whispering helpfully, "Rafael, mama!" before she shushed him. "We aren't all men of leisure like you with time to make a home cooked meal. But Chinese takeout will be arriving in about a half an hour, and Noah was pretty insistent that you join us."
He took her teasing in stride, all the while trying not to reveal in his voice just how touched he felt over Noah's invitation.
He arrived at their door prepared with a hostess gift of sorts. He handed her back the freshly laundered sweat shirt he'd worn home on Friday with a bit of a ceremonious flourish. "Where's Noah?" he asked as he stepped inside.
"Just in the washroom. He's been asking to invite you over all weekend, and I finally couldn't hold him off anymore. Sorry to interrupt your 'vacation'."
"I'm very happy to be interrupted," he assured her.
"I'm glad to hear it. Fair warning though, Rafael; you will probably be getting quite a few invitations moving forward. You are officially Noah's new obsession."
Barba found he was strangely okay with that.
He noted that the shirt he'd left there before the weekend was hanging by the door. "No more glitter," he noted with thanks. "Oh, before I forget." He held out her spare keys. "I should probably give these back."
She reached out to take them but her hand stilled for a moment when it touched his. "Actually, why don't you keep them? In case of emergencies."
"You mean in case you want to use me again for my babysitting skills," he smirked.
"Yeah, maybe that too."
Regardless of her motive, he was happy to return the keys to his pocket before he hung up his coat.
Then Noah was practically climbing him like a tree, much to his mother's chagrin and Barba's delight. The food had arrived just before him so Barba carried the boy to the table and deposited him into his chair.
Noah had apparently decided that he needed to know every little thing about his new best friend, and so the meal was spent with Barba feeling like he was on the witness stand. And loving it.
All through dinner and continuing into the living room where Barba, in jeans and a comfortable tee-shirt, laid on his stomach on the floor to help her son build a Lego set, she felt like a spectator. She could barely get a word in edgewise and it seemed at times they had forgotten she was even there. It couldn't have made her happier to be ignored under these circumstances, so she just watched and listened between answering emails and browsing her news feed.
"Uncle Rafa," Noah began not long after Liv had given a 15 minute warning. Barba's preferred nickname had come to light during the dinnertime interrogation and had stuck. "Can you put me to bed?"
Olivia was expecting Barba to look to her for guidance or rescue as he had the few times in the past when her son had made an overture of connection. But tonight he didn't even spare her a glance, saying instead directly to Noah, "I'm not sure I know how to do that. Help me out?"
Noah was only too happy to explain his bedtime routine, and gave a little cheer when Barba agreed.
It was only then that it occurred to Barba to check in with Olivia and make sure she was okay with it. He guessed by the way she was pretending to ignore him and smiling into her coffee cup that she was.
Not wanting to undermine his growing confidence, Olivia didn't even leave the couch while Barba helped her son clean up the toys, get a final drink of juice, get into his pajamas, and brush his teeth. It was only when Noah came to give her a kiss goodnight that she offered some advice. "He's going to ask for the cat book, Barba, but no matter what he says let me assure you it's very long and very terrible. Just tell him you're allergic to cats and pick something else."
She was right about the request, and Noah was so passionate about the offending cat book that Barba almost gave in. But then it occurred to him to convince Noah that they should read Spanish books when they were together. Crisis averted.
"So why don't you just get rid of the cat book if it's so terrible?" Barba asked as he lowered himself heavily onto the couch beside her after Noah had finally nodded off in the middle of story #3.
"I would if I could, trust me, Rafa," she told him, the nickname understandably slipping out after hearing it regularly for the last two hours. "Sorry; that was kind of weird."
"Not to worry. Just try to refrain from calling me "uncle" while you're on the stand." They shared a smile.
"So, you look like you could use a drink," Liv suggested. "Scotch?"
"Actually, I need to get going. A friend of mine out of a legal clinic in the Bronx caught wind of my suspension and asked if I could consult on a case he's working on. He's bringing over some files in about an hour for me to go through with him."
"As long as he's not trying to poach you, I guess I'll allow it, Counselor."
"You're not going to get rid of me THAT easily."
After a few more minutes of conversation and catching up, Barba had to get ready to leave. He had just finished tying his sneakers and had reclaimed his freshly cleaned blue button down when Noah approached, rubbing his eyes and holding something Barba recognised. "What are you doing out of bed?" Barba asked him kindly.
"I forgot," the boy told him simply, thrusting the craft they had made together on Friday afternoon into Barba's hands before heading back to his room.
At the look on Barba's face, Olivia couldn't help but tease him yet again. "You are so sunk. That kid has you wrapped around his little finger."
"I'm well aware, Lieutenant," he admitted, sheepish. "He is his mother's son." And not leaving her any time to unpack that statement, he gave a little wave and let himself out.
When Barba got home he searched for magnets with enough strength to affix Noah's masterpiece to his fridge. And he was proud to show it off when his friend arrived to work and couldn't help but question why his clothes were covered in glitter.