The sun shone in through the living room window; it was a surprisingly slow-paced morning, on a surprisingly warm winter day, and Liv was feeling moderately relaxed for the first time in months. Well, not so much relaxed as not instantly jumping out of her skin the minute she lost sight of Noah, who was having pancakes in front of the television; she really was trying to cut back on all the spoiling, but one step at a time and so on. She watched him from behind the kitchen counter and sipped her coffee, sighing contentedly as the hot dark roast made its trek and helped her muscles loosen and ease up. She had gotten four whole hours of sleep; a record lately.
Noah laughed so hard at the TV he fell dramatically to his side on the floor and Olivia chuckled before swiftly eyeing the time on her phone; they still had a good 40 minutes before they had to leave for school.
Their morning serenity was suddenly interrupted by a swift knock on the front door and Liv’s heart nearly leapt out of her chest. Noah looked back at his mother, who shot him a quizzical look to which he answered with a shrug.
A quick peek through the peephole reassured her and she sighed in annoyance with herself before pulling the door open.
“Hey, Liv,” Lucy smiled and made her way inside, “Good morning, Noah.”
“Hi, Lucy!” Noah retorted without so much as a look at his babysitter.
Looking around for a minute, Lucy stopped, and then turned to look at Liv with awe, “he’s dressed?”
Liv nodded and headed back into the kitchen to pour another cup of coffee, leaving Lucy to follow. “Amazing, isn’t it? Up and ready to go with a half hour to spare.”
“I was ready to wrestle him out of his pajamas, nice job.” Lucy lifted her hand for a high five.
Liv laughed and acquiesced; small victories and whatnot. She slid the newly poured cup over to Lucy, whose eyes immediately widened at the first taste with an appreciative ‘mm’.
“If this coffee were a person, it’d be my husband.”
“I’ll forward your rave review to Rafael. He claimed it would change my life, so. There you go.”
At the mention of his name, Lucy’s mouth turned up into a grin. She leaned in across the counter and in a more hushed tone she said, “Speaking of Rafael.”
“Yeah?” Liv asked wearily. She didn’t like when people started sentences like that. They always felt like a trap.
“I’ve noticed you haven’t had much time to spend--out--with friends . Which, I totally get because you’ve had more family drama lately than a Liam Neeson character, but it’s friday night, and maybe I can watch Noah tonight while you spend some time with-- friends .”
“Stop saying ‘friends’ like that, please. I don’t have plans tonight anyway, I just want to come home and watch a movie with my son.”
“I’m taking my niece to The Lion King tonight and my brother got Noah a ticket. Let me take him. I will pick him up from school, take him to my mom’s and I’ll have him home right after.”
Noah gasped, having caught the part of the conversation that involved him, and stared at his mother for approval.
“Come on,” Lucy continued, “I’m sure Rafael would love to meet you for friendly drinks.”
Liv rolled her eyes, looked at her son and couldn’t fight the smile at his eager face. “Fine,” she sighed. “Noah, finish your breakfast or no Lion King.”
She turned back to Lucy and asked, “since when are you so invested in my personal life?”
“No offense, Liv, but currently, I am your personal life.”
Liv’s jaw dropped in a scoff. “Excuse me! When did you get so mouthy?”
Lucy smiled; over the rim of her cup replied, “it’s this coffee. Delicious.”
She walked into the precinct an hour later. She switched the light on in her office and stood in the doorway, staring at the stack of paperwork she’d left on her desk the night before. Since returning she’d willingly taken on anything that would keep her at her desk, within reach of her phone and an easy cab ride home in case of an emergency; her nerves flip-flopped in her stomach at the thought of it, but just as the thought came, it went, replaced by Lucy’s very forward suggestion.
Noah was fine; she needed to keep reminding herself of that.
“If you’re thinking about making a run for it, I’ll bring the car around.”
She jumped at the voice behind her, yet instantly relaxed upon recognizing it. “Hey, Rafa.”
He chuckled and briefly touched her shoulder as they walked inside, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s okay. I think that coffee of yours has made me a little jumpy.”
“Weak sauce,” he teased her, smiling as he settled into a chair across Liv. “How’s Noah?”
“Good! He’s great, actually. Lucy is taking him to Lion King tonight.”
“Oh, lucky kid!”
“Yeah, he’s very excited.” Their eyes met in that way they do sometimes when neither is expecting it, and most of the time, she doesn’t ever notice it’s happening, but now, now she was thinking about what Lucy said, and she was looking at his face--not that she hadn’t noticed before, but suddenly she was keenly aware of his handsome features, that coy smile. Had it suddenly gotten very hot in her office? She cleared her throat and sat up in her chair. “I guess I have the night to myself for once.”
“Got any plans?”
“No, no, it was a last minute thing, I haven’t had time to make any. Do you want to get a drink or--dinner or something? You probably have plans.”
He seemed surprised at her suggestion and the fact made her a little sad. They’d had drinks, even had meals together, but it was never planned and any time it was close to being so, other things had gotten in the way.
“I do, unfortunately.”
“Oh,” Olivia exclaimed, a little too quickly to be believable. “That’s okay. It’s not a big deal. What are you doing? Got a hot date?”
“Oh! That’s great!” She replied, hating the way her heart had begun to race in that way it did when she was particularly pissed. But she forced a smile anyway. “Anyone I know?”
“No, I don’t think so. Old friend from college. She’s in town for the weekend, we usually--get together when she’s in town.”
Olivia gripped the pen in her hand so tightly it was beginning to pinch her skin. The way her blood boiled at the mere suggestion that Rafael might be having casual sex with some woman--which he probably did normally--made her realize why they had never really discussed each other’s love lives. This flirtation between them was complicated enough without blatant jealousy attached.
“I can cancel,” he said earnestly. “I’d rather hang out with you.”
She wanted to say yes, but her pride was getting the best of her and she wouldn't work up to it. “No, don’t be ridiculous. I could use a nice long uninterrupted bath anyway. Have fun.”
“Thanks.” His phone vibrated and he rolled his eyes promptly upon reading whatever message had just arrived. “I have to go. I’ll see you later?”
“Yeah, see you later.”
“Okay,” he winked on his way out.
Liv’s pen snapped in two in her hand.
At two, Lucy sent a picture of Noah, fresh out of school. Olivia smiled and then looked at the finished work on her desk. The squad room was surprisingly quiet--no one had said a word about it in fear of jinxing it. She left for home early and decided to actually have that bath.
At three, while she was cleaning up and listening to Etta james, Lucy sent her a picture of Noah sitting at the kitchen table with a brown haired little girl, bowl of macaroni and cheese sitting in front of him.
She lit candles in the bathroom, poured herself a glass of wine and then slipped into a hot bubble bath. It was unnervingly relaxing and it took her about half a glass to adjust to not having to listen out for Noah or any general sounds of distress.
She sighed and closed her eyes. For all of ten minutes she managed to keep a clear mind before it began to stray to places she didn’t need it to go.
Rafael Barba really was an immense pain in her ass.
She wondered what this woman he was seeing looked like. She didn’t recall ever seeing him with anyone, or even him mentioning someone; they didn’t do that. Now she knew why. Her eyes snapped open; she considered getting out of the tub, but made up her mind to relax if it killed her. She picked up her glass, downed the entirety of it and then picked up the bottle for a refill.
Moments later, she was warm and buzzed, and happy. Another picture of Noah came through; this time in a cab, bundled up and excited. Liv chuckled and felt a fondness for her babysitter. Lucy knew if Liv didn’t get an update on the hour she would turn the city upside down looking for Noah.
Just as she had closed the picture, her phone buzzed again; a call from Rafael.
“Figure out what to do with your newfound freedom?”
She smiled and sunk lower into the water, “Oh yeah, a nice long, hot bath.”
“Is there any other way?”
“Lieutenant, you live dangerously.”
“I know, right?” She said and splashed a little water.
“You sound--echo-ish.” She heard him take a breath before asking, “Are you in the bath right now?”
“Hell yeah, I am.”
He chuckled and she squirmed a little.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how drunk are you right now, Liv?”
“Not very. Maybe a 4.”
“Not bad. Will you call me when you hit a 7 or 8?”
“I would love to, but you’ll be on your--little date or whatever.”
“My little date ?” He laughed again, “Are you--you’re not upset with me, are you?”
She sat up, ran a wet hand down her face and brought her knees up to her chest.
“I’m going to regret this immediately after I ask it, but--you’re aware that we flirt, right?”
He was quiet for a moment before replying. “Now, you said a 4, right?”
“Rafa, come on.”
“Liv, yeah. Yes, I do know that. What do you want me to say? Of course I am aware. We flirt, we drink together, we’re friends.”
“Are you attracted to me?”
“It’s unfair that you’re asking me this while you’re in the middle of a bath, right before I go on a date.”
“Hey, you called me, remember?”
“Yeah, yeah.” He groaned and there was the sound of a door closing. “Why are you bringing this up now?”
“I finally have some free time, so I thought, why not ruin a few friendships?”
“You could never ruin our friendship. Just so we’re clear. Even if we--we’re friends first, no matter what. I care about you.”
Liv smiled. “Good.”
“And you know I’m attracted to you.” His tone was low, full of intent. “Right?”
“I do,” she admitted. “And I would really like to--with you. I just.”
“Responsibilities. You’re a mom. There’s someone else to think about now, I know.”
“I just, um, the last two people I allowed into his life are gone now. I need to be careful. I can’t risk him losing someone else because I need to scratch an itch. He likes you, he likes you coming around.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying--that, as selfish as it may sound, I want you to call off your date and come have greasy Chinese food with me so we can talk. Maybe make out with me on my couch, and I want you to promise me it won’t be weird between us after.”
There was another stretched out silence, and for a second Olivia thought maybe she had screwed everything up.
“Orange chicken and noodles?”
Liv smiled, felt suddenly giddy. “Yes, please.”
“Okay. Enjoy your bath. I’ll be there in about an hour.”
“Okay, see you soon.”
“Oh, and Liv? Chinese food and a make-out session hardly warrants gloom and doom. I meant what I said; no matter what, friends first.”
Her smile widened, and could form no reply other than, “I know.”
When she had hung up, she rested her chin on her knees and smiled, basking in the ridiculous conversation she hadn’t planned on having but couldn’t bring herself to regret just yet. Her next thought was that of her legs and when the last time was that she had shaved them.
She scrambled around for her razor and as she began shaving, all the repercussions of what they were about to do invaded her mind. They’d have to figure out what to do about work, manage to keep things underwraps for as long as possible; then there was Noah; he would notice eventually.
She was halfway to regretting everything, when her phone vibrated again. Looking over at it, she smiled at the message from him.
This is good.
And she believed it was.