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Uncharted Territory

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He tossed his keys and wallet on the stand near the door as he walked into his dark apartment. He didn't even bother to turn on any of the lights, tugging his tie loose as he walked toward the bedroom. It was late. It was always late when he finally walked through that door. And that was when he didn't just crash on the couch in his office. He wasn't even sure why he paid the exorbitant rent for the Park Avenue address when he barely spent any time here.

Actually, that wasn't true. He knew why. It was the same reason he wore the best suits and drank the best scotch. Because he could. He'd made it. He came from nothing and without a prep school pedigree or a leg up from anyone he'd achieved success. And dammit he wanted people to know it. Was that so bad?

He took off his vest before shoving his suspenders off his shoulders and unbuttoning the cuffs of his shirtsleeves and a few of the buttons at his neck. He immediately felt like he could breathe a little easier. He took pride in his wardrobe, but sometimes it could be stifling.

He sighed, kicking off his shoes and sinking down onto his mattress. It was top of the line, of course. Not that it mattered. He doubted he would get much sleep tonight. A firebomb at a mosque. Just when he thought they'd made a little headway, made the smallest difference in putting the city back together, they were shoved twenty steps backward.

He and Dodds had spent the better part of an hour sitting in Olivia's office, mostly in silence. None of them sure what to say, but trying to make sense of it.

Olivia. He still wasn't sure where he stood with her after this case. He knew that he'd crossed a line, but God he'd just wanted -no, needed- the win. She of all people should have understood that. She fought harder for justice than anyone he'd ever met. But damn that moral center of hers, he thought with a shake of his head. He'd known she'd tell the truth. Before he'd even asked, he'd known that she'd never perjure herself, not again. He'd actually felt a little proud of her when she'd answered honestly, and also a little relieved. He was glad that he wouldn't be responsible for her compromising her beliefs.

He'd admitted to himself a long time ago that he'd stayed with SVU because of her. When he'd moved to Manhattan from Brooklyn he'd had no desire to stay with sex crimes. Manhattan SVU tended to be the downfall of ADA's and he had every intention of furthering his career, not blowing it up. He'd owed Captain Harris a favor and took the Adam Cain case to pay that debt. He thought that would be the end of it.

But then he met Olivia, worked alongside her, saw how much she cared about the victim and fought to not only get her justice, but also to help her heal. He knew then that he wanted to continue to fight in the trenches with her. He'd admired her so much and that admiration only continued to grow as she climbed the ladder, first to Sergeant and now Lieutenant. Sure, they butted heads now and again, this case was a prime example, but he knew that when it came down to it they had each other's back.

He'd struggled a lot with his feelings for her, whatever they were. He knew that hers was the opinion that mattered most to him, that no matter what happened in the courtroom or the squad room, his eyes searched for her to see how she was reacting to the situation, or just to get that reassuring nod that she so often gave. He knew that he was absolutely devastated when he'd found out that she was seeing Tucker and that he was equally elated when the precinct gossip mill informed him that they'd split up. He just wasn't sure what to do with that.

He wasn't naïve, he knew that their relationship went beyond that of colleagues, even beyond a friendship, but he didn't know if they should actually cross the line. If they did, then it would create a conflict of interest. He'd probably have to stop working with SVU. And wouldn't that be selfish? It might be his ego talking, but wasn't the city better off having the two of them working together?

He knew he should get some sleep, there wouldn't be any solving this tonight, but what he really wanted was that drink that he'd invited Olivia to have with him. He knew his alcohol consumption had increased since moving over to Manhattan, but everyone had their vices. He'd seen firsthand that there were much worse ones to have, so he didn't think a little scotch at the end of a long day was all that bad.

But the alcohol was on the other end of the apartment and exhaustion won out. He finished undressing, putting his tie away neatly and laying his suit over the back of a chair. His housekeeper would take it for dry cleaning.

He'd finally gotten his mind to stop racing and was just drifting off to sleep when his phone vibrated on the nightstand. His hand found the phone in the dark and he didn't even bother to open his eyes before answering. "Barba."

She walked into the bright, chaotic apartment, exhausted and emotionally drained from the day. More accurately, if she was being honest, from the year. Toys were scattered everywhere and Lucy sat on the floor putting a puzzle together with Noah. He was already in his pajamas and his hair was damp from his bath.

"Hello, sweet boy." Olivia said before scooping him up, already feeling the problems that had been weighing so heavily on her shoulders lighten significantly. "Isn't it past your bedtime?"

"He insisted on waiting for you." Lucy told her, standing.

"Insisted, huh?" Olivia chuckled. She had no doubt Lucy was telling the truth. Noah was becoming quite strong willed. She wondered where he got that from.

"Thank you so much, Lucy. Go on home. I'll get him to bed."

Once Lucy had left and she'd gotten Noah to sleep, it had only taken 3 books and 2 songs, Olivia poured a much-needed glass of wine. As the wine filled the glass it made her think of Barba. She'd turned down his drink offer yet again and she wasn't entirely sure why. They'd shared a drink after work countless times. It was just that these days when he asked it seemed…loaded somehow. Like it meant something more than colleagues blowing off steam.

And truthfully, she thought as she carried her wine glass to the bedroom, she might still be a little mad at him. It hurt her that he thought she'd lie. Even worse, that he thought he could influence her to. He knew she cared for him, they were friends, and he put her in a terrible position.

He'd almost made up for it with those sad eyes he'd thrown her in her office before Dodds had showed up.


That one word turned over in her head. If she admitted that she was a bit disenchanted by his actions did that mean admitting that she was enchanted in the first place?

She could admit that they'd grown close over the years, but was it anything more than just the side effect of working together on an almost daily basis?

Rollins and Fin regularly dropped several not-so-subtle hints that Barba had a thing for her, but she'd always brushed it off. Those two loved giving her a hard time. But what if they saw something she didn't, she thought as she picked up her bag and pulled out her detectives' reports from that day. She still needed to read through them and sign off before she could go to sleep.

She found it hard to concentrate as she tried to read through the reports. Running her interactions with Barba over in her mind to see if she had been oblivious to something that had been growing between them. Sure, there were glances here and there, some minor flirtation, but that was nothing. And she'd been devastated when the truth came out about Ashtonja Abreu and she'd thought that he'd be pulled from SVU, or worse, fired, but that was just concern for a friend, right?

Olivia jerked awake when her phone buzzed sometime later. Her light was still on and the files she'd been reading were now scattered on the bed. Her phone screen showed that it was Fin calling and she sighed. They didn't call her in the middle of the night unless it was a bad one.