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Let's Play Pretend

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“Why am I here?” Rafael whispered.

“Noah insisted. He has a strong dislike for my old partner.” Olivia leaned against Rafael. They’d sequestered themselves in a corner of Fin’s place, away from everyone else. She tilted her head forward to allow her hair to cover her face. “Fin wanted him here and then told him about Elliot. I promised you’d be going with us. As my plus one.”

“Plus one to a dinner party? One that I’m fairly confident Fin didn’t want to throw in the first place?” Rafael grinned at her. “So why doesn’t Noah like Stabler? Aside from his having good taste?”

“Rafa.” Olivia knew he loved spending time with Noah and didn’t mind seeing the squad. “You’re also here because Noah’s mom is struggling and having trouble admitting it.”

“Struggling?” Rafael’s heart immediately started to beat faster. He reached up to pat her head when she rested it against his shoulder. “The letter?”

“Amongst other things.” Olivia had told him about the letter and the late-night visit. He’d been angered on her behalf. Furious, actually. “It never ends. The rollercoaster. He acts like nothing has changed. Stomps around on the little life I’ve built with Noah.”

“There’s nothing little about your life, Liv. It’s filled with love and laughter. You’ve done so good with your son. You’ve dedicated your entire being to taking care of him—taking care of others.” Rafael glanced across the room to find a pair of blue eyes glaring at him. He smirked in response. That’s right, pendejo. You’re not the man in her life, anymore. She doesn’t trust you. Not with her son. Not with her life. Not with her heart. “You know, Olivia, your Cuban boyfriend could help provide a barrier between you and your source of frustration.”

“Rafa. No.” Olivia shook her head. “We couldn’t.”

“Why not?” Rafael figured it would serve two purposes. Allow him a chance to convince her to date him and keep Stabler away from her. “Where’s the harm?”

“Rafael. Don’t you have better things to do with your time?”

“Then hang out with a beautiful woman and her brilliant son? No, not really.” He continued to stare down Stabler who shifted his attention to Noah. “Worst case scenario? Nothing changes except I get to spend time with my friend. Best case? Stabler backs off.”

“Mom?” Noah skipped over to them. He grabbed her hand and squeezed in between her and Rafael. “Can we go home now? With Uncle Rafa?”

“I thought you wanted to spend time with Uncle Fin?” Olivia crouched down, keeping her voice low. “Is something wrong?”

“Too many people.”

Rafael had a feeling Noah meant one too many people. “What’s wrong, amigo?”

Olivia ruffled Noah’s curls, frowning in concern at her son. “Why don’t you like Uncle Elliot?”

“Mr Stabler makes you sad. He was loud the other night when he came over.” Noah shifted uneasily on his feet. “I don’t like him, mom. He scared me. I had nightmares.”

Olivia eased him into a hug. “I’m so sorry, sweet boy. I didn’t realize you were awake the other night. You should’ve told me, baby. I wouldn’t have made you come. Uncle Fin can have us over another day.”

“How about I take us out for dinner?” Rafael met Olivia’s gaze, hoping she’d understand the double meaning. “What do you think Bensons?”

“Yes. Let’s do it.” Olivia stood up after giving Noah one last hug. “How about you stay with Uncle Rafa while I chat with Fin?”

“Something wrong, baby girl?” Fin threw his arm around her shoulder when she stepped over to them. “Noah seems uncomfortable.”

“He’s not feeling well.” Olivia ignored Elliot when he moved closer. “Rafa’s going to take us home.”

“I could—”

Olivia held her hand up to cut Elliot off. She couldn’t believe she was really going to do this. Fin was going to have so many questions for her later. “My boyfriend’s completely capable of getting us home safely.”

“Boyfriend?” Elliot’s eyes narrowed.

Fin choked on his beer then grabbed Elliot by the arm. “Hey man. More food for us. I’ll call you later, Liv.”

I’m sure you will.