Rafael doesn’t like arguing with detectives, contrary to popular belief of the NYPD. Sure, he'd push detectives' buttons, come up with sarcastic remarks to everyone at some point, but he didn't like being malicious.
Sometimes, though, he had to lay down the law, even if he had headaches for hours afterward - especially with the new detective, Carisi, who never shut up about anything and thought Rafael was getting paid not only to be the ADA but also to be his personal law school tutor.
But you weren’t annoying like Carisi, at least not entirely. No, instead of talking his ear off and giving him awful legal insights, you would try and pull on heartstrings and plead with him. Didn’t you know that didn’t work on him? He has a job to do and your puppy dog eyes aren’t getting in the way of that. You were usually smarter than the way you’re acting right now, though, because usually you’d at least try and play up what evidence you did have and slip in some other information he hadn’t been privy to prior. But it’s clear you don’t have anything right now, and he holds all the cards.
He misses Olivia, not for the first time during this conversation. She would have the sense to stop arguing with him by now. Why did she have to constantly send her lackeys down here? Usually, it was Amanda, and Amanda, he could handle, although recently she’d ask about you in a way that makes him think again, there’s something more going on that he’s not being told.
But oh. You’re still standing in front of his desk talking about the godforsaken case. Forget the ibuprofen. He needs morphine today.
"I can't charge him,” he says again, tiredly. “Go do your job.”
"Why don’t you do yours? You’re telling me you can't charge him?" you ask, defiant, your hands on your hips. "Or is it that you won't charge him, Barba?”
"Get me more evidence and I'll think about it."
"Evidence? The victim--"
"Yes, the victim is going to give his testimony, lovely. We get that in most rape accusations, and I need something more and you know that. Don't play stupid with me, Detective."
"Don't be such a dick, Barba," you seethe. "There were witnesses. They saw him leave."
"You're going to come in my office insulting me? I'm not going to treat you with kid gloves just because the last case was hard on you. You know the rules. You get evidence, I charge if you get enough. If. Not just because you question a few people. You have no DNA. Nothing. Get out and go do your job."
You walk up until his desk is touching the top of your thighs, leaning over. "You want insults? You're goddamn insufferable and arrogant and it's no wonder why you're in your 40s and unmarried. No woman wants anything to do with that," you hiss.
Something possesses him to pull his chair in, his breath fanning your face. Maybe it was to show you he had the upper hand because you clearly don't get that he doesn't work for you. If anything, you work for him. "Get the hell out of my office, Detective. Now," he says sternly.
Your eyes narrow at him, but mercifully, you do turn around and leave, not bothering to say anything else, at least having the decency to not slam the door behind you.
Rafael sighs, leaning back in his chair. But what if you were right, and that was why he was alone? He doesn't know why he cares this much about what you thought of him, but he does, and what you'd said cut. You just had to go right for the jugular, didn't you? So much for even being friends with you.
Jesus, he was a fucking idiot. You'd thought he was an asshole like every other detective on the SVU, except maybe Liv. And maybe you had good reasons.
The next few times he's at the precinct, it's awkward between the two of you. He knows one of you will have to say something, but he'll be damned if it's him. His pride is still wounded.
But... one time, a week and a half later, you're outside smoking again. And he can't help himself.
"I thought you weren't going to buy cigarettes in New York," he says, a smirk playing on his lips.
You roll your eyes. "These are still the bad ones."
"Give me the pack," he says.
"You can't smoke them if you don't have them. Give it to me."
You sigh, shoving an opened and tattered box of orange American Spirits into his hand. "Happy?"
You look at him, throwing the cigarette into the ashtray and pressing it out before saying, "You know... I'm sorry, okay? I was out of line."
"Yeah... just don't come in my office like a bat out of hell and berate me again?"
"I won't. I... the last case was getting to me. I know you won, and I'm not trying to make excuses, but that's where my head was still at. I'm back in the game now. I knew the first case like that... I knew it was going to be rough."
Rafael squeezes your shoulder gently. "You did well on that case though."
"I know. I just never feel like I do enough."
"You do. Although maybe not on this case,” he teases, needing to get his edge in where he could.
You roll your eyes. “You want me to apologize again? Did I really wound you that deeply? I would think you’ve heard worse.”
"Well... maybe I have, Detective. But... Do you think that?"
"Do I think what, counselor?” you ask coyly.
"That I'm insufferable and arrogant."
“Wow, I really did strike a nerve, huh?” you taunt, smiling a little too brightly. "Sorry, Barba. I just--"
“Just answer me,” he says, trying not to let his exasperation bleed through his tone too much. God, you wound him up in the worst way.
"Well... that was a two truths and a lie game, Counselor. Because... well, as the evidence clearly suggests, you are insufferable and arrogant... but the jury's still out on why you remain single." There's a lilt in your voice as you speak, but he can tell you're nervous now from the way you fidget with your watch.
"I thought it was because of my lack of redeemable qualities and abundance of irredeemable ones."
"Well..." you drawl again, blushing slightly. "It is true, you possess a great deal of negative character traits... and it’d take a hell of a woman to sort through them all to find a positive one... but I might’ve been able to do it.”
He laughs, the smile meeting his eyes. You laugh, too, unable to keep a straight face. “So what you’d find?”
“You’re passionate about your work. You’re well-dressed. And...you’re so generous to take me out to dinner tonight. Or the next night you’re free.”
“Did you just...ask me out, detective?”
“Yeah. Take it or leave it, counselor. Deal’s going off the table in five, four, three—“
“I just laid out some damning evidence. I think you can make your case this time, Barba."
“Fine. 8:30. Tonight. I’ll pick you up here.” He thinks about what just happened in the past five minutes and he thinks he has whiplash. He’d gone from his blood boiling at the sight of you to...having a date?
“Do you have any better suggestions?”
“Down the street,” you laugh. “I don’t want SVU to see. You know, in case...”
“Agreed,” he says. He didn’t want a lecture from Olivia yet on how you were too young or damaged. He knows. But you still played him like a fiddle.
He hates you for it. He really does. He resents you.
But you’re weaseling your way in nonetheless.
“Really, though, all that you could come up with for something nice to say is that I like my job and I wear nice clothes?” he asks.
“And that you’re generous! Maybe if you play your cards right at dinner you can prove that you have some more redeeming traits,” you say, then lean in to whisper in his ear. “Besides, have you seen your ass in those dress pants? You have a good tailor, Rafael.”
“I think you’ve got it wrong. I believe you’re the insufferable one, Detective,” he says, clearing his throat, and you smile brightly as you walk back to your building.
He should hate you. Part of him does. Part of him wants to complain to Olivia that you’re being inappropriate and, well, insufferable. He could get you in a lot of trouble. End this, right here, right now, and he’d hurt you more than you had ever hurt him. You'd never speak to him again. Maybe you'd get moved to a different SVU, even.
But where’s the fun in that?
He’s met plenty detectives and none of them have gotten under his skin quite as you have. None of their insults have hurt so deep - and he’d been called arrogant, smarmy, dickhead, bastard, the list goes on. But coming from you, from your pretty strawberry-lipstick-stained mouth — it cut. He never really believed he was any of those things, (except maybe arrogant, although that was mostly a front).
And now you're making him pay for dinner? Who the hell do you think you are? Do you think he's just going to forget everything you'd said because you flirt with him?
He hates you.