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Out of his Depth

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Olivia strode purposefully into the bullpen, hair blowing behind her she expertly called the meeting to attention. "Alrighty guys, lets get started." Immediately idle chatter ceased as the detectives attention focused on their sergeant.

Fin and Rollins reclined comfortably in their chairs, Carisi leaning a hip casually against the desk. Amaro stood next to the white board behind Olivia, arms crossed over his chest and stance wide. The new detective- detective Charlie Blaire - seemed most intent on the meeting as she sat forward with both elbows pressed to the desk, eyes trained on Liv.

There was an air of calm focus from everyone in the room, an external comfort that was genuine for everyone except Barba. Despite his best efforts to translate his outward stoic persona to reflect inwardly, his nonchalance was as superficial as the perp the were baiting. He sat at the head of the table, legs crossed and shoulders relaxed into the chair, trying to take in every detail of the case in the event it should become useful.

Olivia was recapping everything the squad knew before delving into the plan for the undercover operation. She gestured occasionally to the board depicting each victim and the blackmail photos associated with their case.

Whilst still disturbing, their current case was far lighter than the usual horrors marring their desks. Over the past weeks, several powerful and publicly known men, often in politically sensitive positions, had been sent photos of themselves caught in compromising positions with younger women. Interestingly, none of the images were explicit, most depicted the couples in a passionate kiss. This reduced the severity of the crime while still being damning enough to extort the victims.

The tech team had determined all of the images came from the same camera phone and printer. This and the similar angles used indicated the crimes were committed by the same person. Some of the victims were able to describe a man of about 5.7 feet, pot belly and shoulder length greasy brown hair. A few of the them believed he was watching them throughout the night, thus he seemed a likely suspect.

Each couple had been caught in a night cub, photographed lip-locked in a dark corner. At first Olivia had been surprised men like this would be in such a location, but apparently most thought they wouldn't be recognised out of the context of their job and saw the clubs as an easy place to find... company.

Barba felt Nicks eyes on him as Olivia moved onto outlining their plan to catch the perpetrator red-handed. The date was set for tomorrow night at the club hit most often. The squad would monitor in a van fitted with audio and visual feed and three undercovers would be sent in.

Carisi would be wearing camera eye glasses and held the responsibility of capturing the act on video and stepping in to protect the undercover couple if needed. Detective Blaire was to play the part of the younger female, her short stature (her head reached just under Barba's nose) and tiny frame enhanced her youthful look. She was twenty-eight, but looked young for her age with her plump cheeks and pouty lips. When freed from a bun, her thick, dark brown, curly hair reached about the level of her belly button and bounced around with the energy of a child. The fact she had moved from another city and joined the team only a few weeks ago meant she wasn't likely to be recognised as a cop in this area, which was another benefit.

Then there was Barba, the only man SVU had access to that fit the bill. Being the flamboyant and high profile ADA he is, his image had graced TV news articles and papers many times. His career had undeniable political undercurrents, he understood the case and what was needed from the operation and met the age criteria. It took some time to convince Benson Barba could safely fulfil the roll, but Rollins could be very persuasive. Even after getting Olivia on board, convincing her superiors to approve was another battle.

In the end Rafael had to sign some papers and Liv had to endure the not so subtle threats from Dodds that if this went wrong, it'd be her head on the chopping block. Knowing Liv's predicament only added pressure to the situation, and inflamed Rafael's increasing anxiety about the night.

Rafael wondered how Blaire was feeling about the mission, was she masking her nervousness too? Probably not, he knew she'd been undercover many times before and this was, by all accounts, a low risk operation. Barba didn't really know her well, of course they'd been formally introduced and spoken on occasion before, but only ever briefly and about work. Barba consulted Benson mostly on the cases, and she had quite a high opinion of the new detective. She was intelligent and confident and apparently a bit of a larrikin despite her steely work ethic.

Barba felt he knew more about Blaire from the brief stories of the squad Liv had told him as they chuckled over some banana bread before court, or a drink late at night than he knew from actually being in her presence. Since this was the case, she must know next to nothing about him. How did she feel about going undercover with an untrained, inexperienced, not even a cop, stranger? Was she worried he'd screw it up or put them at risk? Did she despise him for accepting the role when he'd probably be out of his depth?

Frowning, Barba attempted to whisk these thoughts away as he adjusted his position, leaning more forward in his chair as Olivia started to predict what might happen and explain how they'd have to perform to accomplish their goal. "Barba, you'll just have to walk into the club, maybe make it look like you're checking out a few girls. Don't over play it." She warned. "Find a place on the bar and look expensive, we all know that won't be hard." She gave him a wry smile and a few chuckles escaped the room, he simply rolled his eyes and returned Olivia's smile.

"Now you don't have to do a lot of work at this point, but after Blaire finds you, you'll have to step up. We know this guy wants a male that commands and a doe eyed, giggly girl." She levelled Barba with a sober look "So once Blaire is with you, you're doing most of the talking, you're the one being forward about flirting. Now Blaire," Live turned to face the detective, still avidly listening "flirt back, make it obvious you're interested, even initiate some of the flirting but you two have to make sure Barba is the one in control." She glanced between them, taking particular note of Barba, checking his resolve.

"Think you can manage that Barba?" Her gaze was open, if there was going to be an issue she wanted it out now. There was no issue, he could flirt, he could flirt well. The fact he hadn't in a long time and would have the whole squad listening to and judging every word he said was no cause for concern. None at all. Besides, he figured he'd get back into the swing of it fairly quickly.

Sighing dramatically, Rafael gave Olivia a look he hoped communicated "obviously" in a sufficiently sassy manner. "I have engaged in the art of courting once or twice in my life, sergeant" he snarked.

"Great," Olivia clapped her hands together, angling away from him as she continued on "then this should be a breeze. Now," she hesitated a second, tone lowering slightly "you guys may get away with just a lot of flirting, he did take some pictures of victims just snuggling up to each other but..." again she glanced quickly between the two "you're probably going to have to at least kiss. If we're lucky that'll be enough but so long as you too are aware, a...ah," Olivia glanced at Barba, then down at the ground to hide her smirk "aware a make-out session may be on the cards and you're fine with it, we can proceed."

At this point she stopped and starred at Barba, waiting for an answer. Suddenly he felt intensely awkward, all the detectives were looking at him, doing a poor job of hiding their mirth, waiting for him to tell them all he's willing to snog a woman he barely knew while she was present, waiting for his answer. Hoping his blush wasn't visible, he tried to ignore the others and simply nod plainly at Liv.

Both Liv and Barba then cut their gaze to Blaire, he was surprised to see her turning to look at him, a mischievous sparkle in her eye "Well Barba, if you don't mind being my first kiss I guess I'm okay with it" she said waggling her eyebrows, a smirk touching her lips. He would have winked back in the ensuing moment of laughter if he was feeling playful. That'd make Amaro choke on his spit.

Blaire was obviously joking, but why was everyone laughing so much? The joke was funny, but surely not that funny... Did detective Blaire "get around"? She certainly was gorgeous Barba mused, surprising himself with his minds enthusiastic choice of vocabulary. Her dark olive skin and luxuriously thick, curly hair were typically attractive, as was her thick lower lip delicate jaw.

What was not typical though, was how attractive she made being small. She was shorter than Barba, and Barba was short. He'd never seen her abdomen, but he'd wager it was as toned as the arms that poked out of her singlet. Her legs were slim and tapered, that much he could tell through her tight jeans and her bum was small and round. Rafael wasn't being a pervert, he didn't spend his time visually devouring her body. He was a man, he just noticed.

He supposed she had to be this fit in her line of work, to compensate for her size. She'd be fast, but not heavy. Rafael imagined it'd be easy to pick her up. In the heat of a chase it wouldn't be hard for a man to grab her and pull her off her feet. In the heat of another situation a man could easily pick her up, her legs wrapping around his waist and her back against the wall and... well in that situation it probably would be hard... as it was for Rafael now.

Coughing slightly, he readjusted his position again, disturbed at how far his thoughts had strayed, but more concerned about what they had strayed to. She was a colleague, more than a decade younger than him and probably had New Yorks finest young men lined up for a date, if she didn't already have a man. That thought made Rafael pause, he hadn't thought about the fact tomorrow he could potentially be ravishing someone in a relationship with another man.

A horrible acid feeling bubbled up inside him. He didn't want to kiss her if she had a partner, it felt so wrong. Clearly, she didn't have a problem with it, so if she did have a man he must be fine with it also? Unfortunately, this thought didn't really console him and preemptive feelings of guilt began to rise, especially knowing the reaction his body was likely to have to her if they did have to put on a performance.

Liv was talking again and Rafael tried to centre his mind to what was being said. "Barba, you'll have a microphone on you, and maybe you too Charlie if we can hide it under what you're wearing, so we'll be able to hear you." Olivia again looked solidly back at Barba, empowering her words of reassurance. "You'll also have ear pieces in, so we'll be able to talk you through it and help out." She was nodding her head slightly now, this meeting seemed as much a briefing for everyone as a reassurance to the sergeant that it'd run smoothly.

There was a brief pause before Olivia softened her tone and relaxed her posture slightly. "I think we really have this covered guys. It's a low risk op and we've met every precaution. I'm confident there will be no trouble." She smiled, making sure to meet the eye of each person gathered there. "Any questions?" She glanced around the silent room. "No? Okay then, lets get to work finalising the preparation for tomorrow night then." With this she headed toward her office, the detectives breaking off and heading toward their desks.

Barba began to leave as well, it was getting late and he had some paperwork back in the office to do. Standing to leave his eye caught detective Blaire's, a broad grin spread across her mouth, creasing her eyes lightly. "See you tomorrow." She said, her tone almost cheeky. She ended up giving him a wink and in the second it took her to turn and walk away, Barba found himself stuck for words. Shaking his head slightly, he finally headed out of the station and if he was smirking to himself because he thought detective Blaire had been very cute just now... well no one needed to know.