Was this a stand-off? Can you have a stand-off with a toddler?
He wasn’t sure, but that’s certainly what it felt like.
“Rafael, you may want to just let him have it…”
Barba indignantly bit the cake off of his fork, raising an eyebrow when Olivia tried to referee from the side. “He has some, this is mine.” His green eyes never left little Noah’s. Noah’s never faltered. He wondered when bedtime was, that may be the only way of ending this if their stubborn similarities didn’t extinguish.
“He wants yours, not his.” She sat on the other end of the couch, legs curled up between them, head propped up by her hand as she leaned against the arm of the sofa. “Just let him have a little bit,” her lip plumped into a pout when he finally turned her way. They were conspiring against him. The Benson clan.
“You give an inch, they take a mile,” Barba pointed his plastic fork at Noah, who was silently leering from the opposite side of the table. “Who’s side are you on?” Her son had been begging for a bite of his cake ever since he sat down with it, despite having his own piece on the table right in front of him. “I’m teaching a very valuable lesson here.”
Gently, and naively, he tried to distract the boy- by turning a toy train and pulling it back until it choo-choo’d across the tabletop on its own. It fell uselessly to the floor, and Noah’s eyes never wavered from the plate of sweets. Olivia’s laughter filled the room.
“And what lesson would that be?” She stretched, shamelessly laying her legs across his lap.
Barba grinned, resting his arms atop her shins. “To be satisfied with what you have.” He spoke authoritatively, as if the boy could honestly comprehend the statement.
“You’re never satisfied,” She taunted, squirming a bit so she sat closer. “Especially with what you have.”
“Not true!” He shifted, and finally took his attention off of his opponent in battle. Her close proximity was distracting, especially since she was practically in his lap at this point. “I’m satisfied with you,” he sat his plate down on the table in front of them, and lay his hands on the thighs across his legs. “I’m teaching him,” Barba shamelessly leaned in, kissing her softly and cupping her cheek in his palm. They both smiled at the modest affection, “to be satisfied with what HE has now.”
A metal kamikaze train flew over the table, hitting Barba in the chest by his right shoulder and interrupting the tender moment. As he winced, he twisted to face his assailant, only to realize Noah had successfully retrieved HIS plate and cake while he was distracted with Olivia. His jaw fell in offense. Did they plan this? Perhaps he could woo a courtroom, but he could also apparently be outsmarted by a toddler. Damn.
“Don’t bother,” Olivia advised through her vibrant laughter, and used two fingers to raise his chin and close his mouth. She pat at his shirt where the train had hit him, and he groaned childishly as if he were in immense pain. “You’ll only get hurt.” Her kiss on his cheek soothed the pain, he supposed.
“How long have you been here?” It had been a long day, but he hadn’t expected to run into her again.
Benson shrugged, shameless. “Does it matter?”
Barba perked an eyebrow at the vague answer. “How much have you had?”
“Does it matter?” Apparently she was not in the mood for an interrogation. He couldn’t blame her.
His glare narrowed, and he ordered a drink for himself while eyeing her nearly-empty glass of red wine. It had been an awful case, one they lost not because of any misdeeds on their end, but because the little girl didn’t want to testify. Sick, it made him sick to think about it. However, he had gone back to his office and drank coffee while sulking over the horror he had been through in the court room.
Olivia had gone to the bar.
“Maybe you should get a water next?” He didn’t mean to tell her how to drink, but her sour attitude was making him think she may need help with these decisions. “It’s been a rough day…”
She finished her wine and asked the hesitant bartender for another, ignoring the chirps of her conscience and his suggestion.
The silent treatment wasn’t one of his favorites, and he had no qualms with forcing his way through it. “I’m worried about you,” Barba whispered finally, and cocked his head to the side when she audibly sighed at the sentiment.
“Don’t bother,” She drank a third of her new glass in a sharp tilt. He watched with a grim expression as it slid down her throat, and even had a chance to take a sip of his own dark drink. “You’ll only get hurt.” She was good at that, she thought drunkenly; failing people.
Barba nodded slowly, she assumed in agreeance, and she wilted. On the contrary, he was accepting his fate. The moment she sat her glass back on the bar top, he quickly grabbed the stem and moved it to the other side of his seat. Out of her reach. “I like taking risks.” Very subtly, he placed his hand closest atop hers, and gave a gentle squeeze. “Olivia, let me get you home.” His drink was suddenly excessively unimportant. Everything was when she needed him, even if she didn’t realize it.
Her chin quivered, and she gathered up his offered hand in both of hers. Slowly, she raised the bundle of fingers up so she could place her lips against his fist. His sad smile greeted her when she opened her eyes again, and she nodded to show she’d cooperate. “Thank you, Rafael.”
He was already fidgeting with his wallet, pulling out bills to place on the counter top for his barely touched beverage and her previous glasses of wine. “Of course,” He winked at her, and kept a firm hold on her hand as they made their way towards the door.
It was in the little entryway, between the two sets of doors that separated the drinking hole from the dark outdoors, that he paused. She stumbled into him, having not been expecting the walking to end, and giggled as she fixed her footing. “What’s the hold up, Bar-” before she could even finish saying his name, he leaned in to kiss her. A gentle, rare, and secret show of affection- she smiled against his lips and refused to pull away until he insisted.
“You taste like Merlot,” Rafael teased before continuing their adventure, pulling her along into the busy and crowded sidewalk. He tangled his fingers with hers, and used his free hand to hail a taxi. Thankful Olivia huddled closer, laying her head against his shoulder and absorbing some of his warmth.
Thank God for him, she considered silently- and thank God he bothered.