Olivia considered Lucy a treasure. Her flexibility and dependability to handle an erratic schedule was something that Olivia paid a premium for, but it was worth it for all the things she brought into their lives that money could not buy, namely the young woman's genuine love for them both, and the sense of consistency her presence gave to Noah. Lucy was like family, and the fact that Olivia could trust her completely with her son was priceless.
On the day that Lucy had just brought Noah back from the park when she received a call about a family emergency, Olivia would have been happy to drop everything so that Lucy could get where she needed to go. But Olivia wasn't answering her cell, wasn't in her office. So Lucy had no choice but to look through the list of emergency numbers on the fridge to try to find a solution herself.
The one she chose was a relatively new addition to that list, but she had no doubt that Liv would approve.
"Mr. Barba, it's Lucy. I'm sorry to bother you..."
"Lucy? What's wrong? Is Noah okay?"
"Yes, he's fine. But I can't reach Liv and..." Through her tears she briefly related what had happened. "I think Liv said she'd be in court today. Is she with you?"
"No, but she's in the building. Can you get to the courthouse?"
When she indicated that she could, he did some quick math to figure out where he'd be around the time she would arrive, and gave her instructions on how to find him and what to do if he was still tied up.
The gallery had cleared throughout the afternoon as the docket cleared, so there were only a few people left when Lucy arrived. She was carrying Noah's car seat, and the little boy had been made to promise to stay close to her side as they found the room where Barba indicated they should meet him.
Someone on their way out held the door so they could enter, and Lucy was relieved to see Barba at the front of the room. But before she could set down the car seat and take Noah's hand, he saw Barba too.
And took off running in his direction.
The case had just been announced by the bridge officer and so Lucy couldn't yell after him to stop. She quickly placed the car seat against the wall but had only made it a few steps when Noah was scooped up by a bailiff.
Noah wasn't a particularly nervous child. Shy in certain situations, but not one to simply fall apart at a moment's notice. When he was unexpectedly scared by something, however, all bets were off.
Thankfully, Barba was facing in the right direction and had seen the commotion. He watched Noah freeze as the little boy's mind raced and tried to settle on a reaction.
A few long strides and Barba was reaching over the railing to take Noah into his arms.
"Mr. Barba," the judge began.
"Just one moment, Your Honour. My apologies."
"Oh, my God. I'm so sorry." A horrified Lucy was there now, trying to extract Noah from Barba and the situation, but Noah was having none of it, keeping his arms and legs firmly locked around the man.
Barba glanced at Rita, the opposing counsel, who gave him an amused nod. He quietly spoke to the boy, who with his face pressed against Barba's neck nodded and gave unintelligible assent.
"I'll just be a few minutes, Lucy," Barba told the girl with an encouraging and sympathetic smile before he returned to his position. "Your Honour, if you wouldn't mind..."
It was obvious the judge was just happy for things to continue, as this was the last arraignment on his schedule for the day. "Ms. Calhoun?" he inquired.
"We're fine to continue, Your Honour." She and Barba had already negotiated a course of action.
"Alright then. Mr. Moran, you how do you plead?"
"Not guilty," Rita answered on his behalf.
"People on bail?"
"The People would agree to house arrest, providing Mr. Moran was required to wear an electronic monitoring device."
"In that case, Mr. Moran, you will surrender your passport and remain under house arrest with electronic monitoring until such time as your case goes to trial." With that, court was adjourned.
Barba managed to pack up his briefcase one-handed as his left arm was still holding Noah. "Thanks, Rita," he said quietly as he passed her.
"Not a problem. Looks good on you, Counselor," she teased good-naturedly.
Barba didn't take the bait, or even really register what had been said, because he noticed that Olivia had arrived. "Your mami is here," he told Noah. "You go see her while I talk to Lucy." He set the boy down and watched him run to his mother before putting an arm around Lucy's shoulders and leading her in their direction.
"I'm so sorry," she said again, tears already falling.
"No harm done, really," he assured her with a comforting squeeze. "Don't give it another thought. Any word?"
She shook her head. "I'm going to head over now."
"Nonsense. We'll get you there."
"I just got your messages. I'm so sorry, Lucy," Liv told the girl as she passed Noah back to Barba and pulled her into a hug.
"Liv, why don't you give Lucy a ride. I've still got your key; I can take Noah back to your place."
And so it was agreed.
By the time Olivia made it home, Noah had been fed, bathed, and put to bed hours before. Neither Liv nor Barba bothered to give a report, as they'd kept in touch by text about both Noah's activities and the situation at the hospital.
"Drink?" Barba suggested.
"Please. I'm going to change."
When she returned to the living room, he handed her a glass of wine before joining her on the couch with the scotch he'd already been working on.
"Thanks for today," she told him genuinely.
"Don't mention it. You know I'm happy to help."
"Now that I know you can babysit AND be in court at the same time, I may call you more often," she teased.
"Yeah, I imagine I'll be the brunt of jokes over the next few days once that makes it around...and I'm sure Rita will see that it does."
"You're tough. You can take it."
They shared a smile.
"Seriously, though, if you need help while Lucy is out, let me know," he told her. "I'm not scheduled to be in court tomorrow afternoon, so if you get stuck I can pick up Noah."
"That's good to know. I'm hoping I'll be able to get away, but if I can't I may have to take you up on that."
"In that case, I'd better go home and get some sleep so I'll be ready." He drained his glass as he stood. "I love your kid, Liv, I really do. But I'd be lying if I said he didn't tire me out."
Her words, her tone, managed to conceal the wave of emotion that came over her hearing Barba so casually express his affection for her son. "It's because you're used to working hard, but not playing hard. It takes a different energy," she explained from experience. "You'll get the hang of it."
And she had no doubt that he would. She'd seen a change in their relationship since his suspension, since the day she'd first been forced to ask him for help with Noah. Before that, he'd been kind, but far from confident, always looking to her for guidance as though he was worried he would do something wrong.
She remembered that feeling. She'd had it when she'd first brought Noah home. The difference was that she hadn't had anyone to look to, and so had been forced to figure it out.
That first day he'd spent alone with Noah had been the same for Barba. Without her to fall back on, he'd managed to figure things out.
Now he was kind, confident, and seemed actually COMFORTABLE with Noah. Seeing him hold her son in the courtroom today like it was a perfectly natural event had been an incredible, beautiful thing for her to behold. And now hearing him say he loved Noah, it was almost too much.
Barba had no idea he'd sparked this reaction in her, so he was business as usual as he knelt to put on his shoes. "Okay, so there's a plate for you in the fridge; I wasn't sure if you'd eaten. Noah had a pretty big glass of juice before bed, so you may want to wake him up to use the bathroom at some point. Oh, and Lucy had texted to ask me to switch the laundry over. I put away what I could figure out but everything else is folded on your bed." He was on his feet now, shrugging into his suit jacket. "You really lucked out with her, didn't you? I mean, with everything that's going on she still remembers the laundry."
"She's the best," Olivia confirmed. "And so are you, by the way."
"Yeah, you really lucked out all over the place," he said with a smirk. "See you tomorrow."
But as he went to turn her hand on his arm stilled him. "I mean it, you know. You really are the best."
Barba sensed it was important to her that he not simply brush off the sentiment as he often might. "I don't know about 'the best'," he said seriously, "but in case there was any question, it means a lot to me that you trust me to help out when I can."
After he had gone, Olivia took a moment to appreciate that the apartment was not only tidy but actually CLEAN. Which meant that except for the laundry to finish putting away, there was nothing for her to do but put up her feet and relax for a change.
She thought about bringing Barba lunch the next day to specifically thank him for going that extra mile, but decided against it when she acknowledged to herself that there was no more "extra mile" when it came to the part they had chosen to play in each other's lives. This was just how it was now between them.
Mind you, she still did bring him lunch. But just because that was how it was now between them, too.