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Barba wasn't particularly surprised when he was ambushed by Olivia in his office. Somehow Carmen had interpreted their deepening friendship as a free pass for Benson to come and go as she pleased. Which was a fair enough interpretation, he supposed, considering he hadn't gotten around to correcting it nor did he have any plans to.

"I won't apologise," he told her immediately. "There was no way you were going to get that warrant on the garbage your guys brought me."

"Yes, yes, you're right."

It didn't matter that Liv was distracted by her phone, in the middle of composing either an email or text. A quick concession meant she was here with bigger fish to fry. "What do you need, Lieutenant?"

"You'll be there Friday, right? You're bringing Carmen?"

"There" was the Police Foundation's biennial gala to raise money for the Manfred Pakas Scholarship Fund. Before the last event, Barba had found out that Carmen had been a recipient, her father having been killed in the line of duty while she was a teenager. So it had been very meaningful to her that he not only supported the event and the fund but had also insisted she come along.

"Actually, I decided to give my ticket to Carmen's boyfriend so they can go together."

"That's perfect. I now have an EXTRA ticket and I need you to be my date," she told him, as though the matter was already settled.

Which, in his mind, it most definitely was NOT. "Wait. What happened to... Parker, was it? The captain at the 9th?"

She huffed in annoyance, still focused on her phone. "The idiot went and got himself shot!"

He blinked at her uncharacteristic callousness. "Wow..."

She rolled her eyes at him. "Rubber bullet. He's going to be fine. He caught a friendly-fire ricochet in a training exercise, but his leg is pretty bruised up. I'm convinced he let it happen specifically to get out of going." Her phone rang in her hand. "Benson. Yeah, hey Fin. Where are we at?" She gave Barba a pleading look.

"Liv, you know how much I hate these things," he hissed.

"You're great at these things!" she reminded him, before speaking back into the phone. "Have Carisi pick me up in front of Barba's office."

"A lot of people are good at things they hate doing," he told her when she paused to listen to Fin's reply. "That doesn't mean they should be forced to do them."

"Hang on one second, Fin." She covered the receiver with her hand. "Please? Please don't make me go to this alone."

"Oh, for the love - Fine, Olivia," he surrendered, knowing instinctively that this was an argument he wasn't going to win. "But wear flats, not those stilts you're so fond of when you're all dressed up. I don't want to spend the night staring at your neck, as lovely as it may be."

"Thank you so much! I'll call you later!" She gave a happy little wave and showed herself out. "I'm on my way out now, Fin. What's Carisi's ETA?"

Barba just shook his head. The things he did for this infuriating woman.

The event was pretty standard: Fancy dinner, keynote speaker, an invitation for those that were able to open their cheque books and give beyond the $500 a plate ticket fee. Then came the schmoozing, where the city's elite made sure they were seen by the people and press representatives that mattered. And for those who were blissfully there with little or nothing to prove, there was dancing and a cash bar.

Both Benson and Barba were happy to support the cause; it was the schmoozing they were expected to do by their respective bosses - the DA and Dobbs, also in attendance - that they could take or leave.

At least when she was on his arm they could tag team these political encounters, sharing the conversational load and playing off of each other. And when Olivia skillfully diffused a state senator's stump speech ramp-up, Barba pulled her onto the dance floor in celebration, speaking low and close to her ear, "We need to team up for these things more often."

Her sensible shoes gave him about a half-inch height advantage, allowing them to fit comfortably together as they swayed to the slow music. "So what do you think?" she asked conspiratorially. "Have we put in our time? Is there anyone left we need to smile at before we can get out of here?"

"Am I really such terrible company?" he teased, his hand tightening at her waist.

"If it's any consolation, this part isn't so bad," she said with a smile before pressing her cheek to his.

"Just don't look like you're having TOO much fun. Half the people here have enough clout to get us transferred or fired. The last thing we need is for one of tomorrow's gossip headlines to read "Conflict of interest in the DA's office"."

She hummed in annoyed agreement. "If you're worried, maybe we should divide and conquer for awhile," she suggested, putting some more space between them.

At a swell in the music, Barba spun her out before drawing her back in even closer than before. "I'm not THAT worried."