Barba had just finished putting Noah to bed and flopped onto the couch, sitting quietly while he watched Olivia responded to emails on her phone. Finally his patience ran out. "We should go dancing," he announced suddenly.
"Dancing, huh?" she parroted distractedly, still typing. "What kind of dancing?"
"Well, my repertoire is rather limited, but I'm Cuban. I've got hips for daaaays."
That got her attention. "Are you drunk?" she asked, feigning seriousness and with a critical eyebrow raised.
"No!" he insisted, laughing.
"I'm not sure 'bored' is the right word. Maybe feeling a bit restless?" This was mostly true. It had been a few weeks since he had given his notice. While there were still some things to wrap up, his responsibilities were less and less. In the beginning he HAD been bored when he wasn't obsessing or worrying. And when he wasn't distracted and comforted by Noah's antics or Olivia's steady presence; they had been inviting him over a lot, inviting him out with them to the park or to dinner or to other kid-friendly activities. But when he'd started to put out some feelers and had realized he had a lot of friends left and should be able to pick up some contract work pretty quickly once his self-imposed waiting period was over, possibilities for his future made him feel a rather unfamiliar desire to make the most of his unencumbered present.
She tossed her phone between them and gave him her full attention. "Getting tired of being a man of leisure, it would seem," she teased.
"Just itching to enjoy it," he clarified before jutting out his lip in an exaggerated pout. "But you're always working."
She scoffed and rolled her eyes at his ridiculous statement . "You know you can go out and have fun without me, right?"
"I have more fun with you."
"Guilty. Is it working?" He felt the vibration of her phone signalling a new message, and waved his hand, giving her permission to respond. This also served to give him time to formulate a new tactic to engage her. "You've got some vacation days stored up, right?"
"Rafa." Her best stern voice accompanying her best stern look.
Neither of which phased him in the least. "Oh, come on. We'd have a great time!"
Olivia could have come up with a million excuses, many of them legitimate. But seeing his earnest expression, seeing how free he looked and feeling the contrast with how weary she was, knowing she did indeed have a lot of vacation time in the bank, she was having trouble forcing her excuses from her mouth. Instead she found herself saying, "Maybe I could do a three day weekend."
"Five day weekend," he countered, not skipping a beat despite his shock that she'd folded so quickly.
"Five!" she repeated incredulously. "That's not a weekend - that's a whole week!"
"Nope. Four. Final offer."
"Ugh! Fine. You win. I'll talk to Fin tomorrow and see if I can clear my schedule. But since you're the unemployed one you have to plan it."
"I promise you won't have to think about a thing. I'll even pack your suitcases."
She huffed out a laugh. "Listen, Dapper Dan, I know in your "restless" state you think dressing me would be a fun way to pass the time, but you will stay out of my underwear drawer, capish?"
"Liv, you know I've put your laundry away more than once, right?"
"We need to talk about boundaries."
"And you need to buy more pastels."
The next afternoon he stopped into the precinct, stopping to chat briefly with Fin before heading into Liv's office.
"We've got four days," she announced from behind her desk before he could ask. "Saturday to Tuesday."
"That's excellent! No problem convincing Fin, then?"
"Honestly, he doesn't have a lot of ambition to be in charge, even temporarily. But he's been a bit of a mother hen for the past 18 years, and he's always up for me taking vacation when I can squeeze it in."
"Speaking of mother hens...I had lunch with my mother today."
"That's nice. How's she doing?"
"Well. Really well. And I, uh..." He sat down in the seat across from her. "I mentioned to her that we were thinking of taking some time and she offered to take Noah."
"Oh, I thought - I figured it would be the three of us."
"Hey, so did I," he countered, holding up his hands. "That was certainly my intention. But my dear mother misunderstood. I corrected her, but she insisted I talk to you about it before shutting it down." And he looked at her expectantly, obviously waiting for her to do just that.
When that was all she said, he found himself compelled to fill the silence. "Yeah. I mean, they'd have a great time. They certainly get along well. And if Lucy could get him to and from school on the weekdays while my mom is working he could stay at her place, or she could stay at your place, whatever you preferred. Anyway, she was quite excited by the prospect."
"Huh," Olivia said again, her expression unreadable.
"Huh," Barba repeated. And then he waited.
"Well..." Olivia began finally. "I guess we didn't tell Noah yet, so it wouldn't be like we were disappointing him."
Barba tried not to give away his surprise that she was considering it. After the whole Sheila debacle he hadn't expected Olivia to ever consent to letting Noah out of her sight for that long.
"And if he wasn't with us, we could do things at night," she continued. "Like go dancing. Which if I remember correctly was what started all of this."
"Olivia Benson," he said with exaggerated wonder. "Are you about to agree to a kid-free vacation?"
She pursed her lips, obviously torn. But he could tell the moment she committed, saw the change in her posture, her eyes. "You know what? Yes. Yes I am. Noah will be fine with your mom, and we could both use a trip out of the city to clear our heads." Then she smiled. "Let's do it."
Barba sat back in his chair with a goofy grin. "We're going dancing," he singsonged.
Olivia sighed affectionately. Kid-free vacation indeed, except for the big kid sitting in front of her. "Yes, we are," she affirmed in a placating tone she often used on Noah. "Now go away so I can work."
And just like that the feeling of restlessness left him. He had planning to do.