One last time
Relax, have a drink with me
One last time
Let’s take a break tonight
And then we’ll teach them how to say goodbye
To say goodbye
You and I...
Rafael opened the door and motioned for her to come inside the apartment ahead of him. “Thank you for…” He stopped mid-sentence when she plucked his full glass of scotch from his hand.
Liz walked into his kitchen and refilled the glass. “Let’s just rip off the bandaid here. You’re dumping me. Just give me the courtesy of the real reason, not some silver-tongued version of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’.” With one hand on her hip and the other lifting the glass again to her lips, she drained it.
“What in the hell are you talking about?”
“You haven’t returned a call, text, or email in three days. Your assistant tells me you’re unavailable…”
“While there was a reason for my ‘radio silence’, it’s not at all for the reason you think.” Snatching his glass back from her, he motioned for her to sit on one of the stools in the kitchen. “I was being blackmailed.”
“If they hacked your online banking, I should have been your first call,” she stated after listening to the repeat of the backstory involving Ashtonja he’d told Liv. “I’m not a cop…”
“And I’m sure you’re on a first name basis with the head of bank security? I still don’t know how you know half of the people you know, but it doesn’t matter.” Setting the glass down on the counter next to his stove, Rafael lifted her right hand and kissed her knuckles. “They not only knew that we were together but that you worked at my bank. They threatened to say that you were the one that set up the wire and were complicit in my coverup.”
“That’s blatantly false.”
“You and I both know that the story is printed on page one, and the retraction is printed on the bottom corner of page six. I’d rather risk it all than let two innocent lives get ruined.”
“You’re so noble that it hurts. Has anyone told you that?”
He laughed, silently asking for permission to hug her while standing by her side. “Not in such polite language, no.” When Liz wrapped her arms around him, he returned the gesture and rested his chin on top of her head.
“So what now? Where do we go from here?”
“Well, I go talk to the D.A. tomorrow. Best case scenario is that I get reprimanded. I-I could get fired or suspended. There’s a slim possibility I could get disbarred or face criminal charges…”
“Then ‘best case scenario’, I get you good and drunk tomorrow night,” she interjected. “In case of firing, I know of a place where you could be a good third roommate while looking for a new job. If you somehow get sent to jail, I’ll help you escape over the border into Canada. From there, we’ll take a slow boat to Cuba or something.”
“If you helped me escape, you’d end up in jail, too. It’s not like Orange is the New Black . I can’t picture you in a jumpsuit.”
“Nor I you, Rafael.”
“Even if I could, I would never ask you to do...that.”
“I know.” She smoothed his dark hair with a smile.
“Any chance you could stay tonight? I know you didn’t exactly come over here with that intent, but having you here…”
Liz bit back a smirk...unsuccessfully. “My makeup is in my bag, and I’ve got three outfits stashed in your spare room.”
He let out a bark of laughter and shook his head. “And what were you going to do if I was indeed breaking up with you?”
“Chug your scotch, grab my clothes, and book it the fuck up out of here.”
“For the record, Rafael,” she began, tugging at the hem of his tee shirt she’d borrowed for pajamas “that was a genuine offer earlier.”
He climbed into bed with a laugh. “What, your ‘booze, roommate, or Escape from Alcatraz ’ offer?”
“I was thinking more along the lines of The Rock with Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage…”
“Sweetheart, they broke into the prison in that one.”
“With the help of the only inmate that’d ever escaped and lived.” She haughtily jumped onto the bed, almost bouncing him off the other side in retaliation for his impertinence. “I’m useless at puzzles, and getting you out of prison would be a giant puzzle. Guess I’ll go on the dark web or some shit and hire me an escaped convict to get you out. Because I care.”
“Because you miss having an elevator building to escape to.”
“Because I’m in love with you,” Liz countered quietly. She let out a long, slow breath and looked over at him out of the corner of her eye.
He opened and closed his mouth a few times, but no words came out. “I… I’m sorry. You what now?”
“I’m in love with you.”
“Since somewhere between the third and fourth floors of this building tonight. I think the exact thought that ran through my head was ‘I’m about to get dumped again, only this time it’s by someone I love’. Don’t worry, I had the same slack-jawed look you’ve got now.” Taking his hand in hers, she kissed his cheek. “I wasn’t going to tell you tonight, but given what you’re going to do tomorrow… I changed my mind. I thought you needed to know that no matter what, you had me. But you don’t need to feel like you need to say anything…” She flinched when he reached up and pinched her lips together.
“I know this is a case of ‘pot calling the kettle black’, but you talk too much, Liz.” Rafael smiled. He removed his grip on her mouth after warning her with a look not to speak. “It’s good know that, regardless of why, the sentiment is mutual.”
When his alarm went off far too early the next morning, Rafael reached over to pull Liz closer...only to be met with an empty other side of the bed. He forced himself out of bed and followed the smell of fresh coffee into the kitchen. “There you are,” he stated through a yawn.
She put down her own mug of coffee, wrapped his bathrobe tightly around herself, and walked across the kitchen to kiss him. “Good morning.”
“At least my firing will be preceded by receiving coffee from a…” he paused, peeked down the bathrobe, and took the offered cup “...beautiful, mostly naked woman.”
“Oh good! You’re here! We should get…” The word “going” died on her lips when he let his briefcase slide out of his hand and onto the floor with a heavy thud. She’d come to know the look on his face in the thirteen months that she’d known him. Rafael Barba needed (in the following order): a hug, a stiff drink, and chicken korma carry-out with an extra piece of naan bread and saffron basmati rice. He didn’t need to be going out. Twenty-seven, after all, wasn’t any kind of milestone birthday that anyone celebrated. “I’ll cancel the reservation and call Tandur.”
“Sweetheart, don’t. It’s your birthday.” He motioned toward her red v-necked sleeveless dress and Jimmy Choo pumps. Closing his eyes, he rubbed at them tiredly. “Just give me a few minutes to change my shirt,” he promised as he loosened his tie. When Rafael opened his eyes, he saw the aforementioned nude pumps and red dress haphazardly discarded on the living room floor near where Liz had been standing. He followed the trail of clothing into their bedroom and found his other half redressed in her Slytherin pajama pants and grey Yale sweatshirt.
“The app says the food’ll be here in half an hour.”
“Remind me to tell you someday about how the only person with me on my 21st birthday was my brother. I’ll leave out how I chugged most of a bottle of Maker’s Mark and was still drunk on my first day back to class.” She helped him slip off his suit coat and tossed it onto the bed before unbuttoning his shirt. “I’m not much of one for celebrating them, so don’t feel bad that we’re having takeout in our apartment.”
Sliding his shirt off his shoulders, he leaned and kissed her. “I still got you a present. Let me give that to you at least.”
“Mmm. Maybe. Is there a 1969 GTO with the Judge package outside? And more importantly, is the band Paul Revere and the Raiders next to it to perform?”
“Your dream car is my first purchase when I win the lottery.” When she cocked an eyebrow, he chuckled. “Okay, so maybe my first purchase is a mechanic specializing in classic cars.”
“So you’re gonna start paying me? Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten just how many times I’ve fixed the Bronco in a Yale parking lot. I’ve done everything from headlight replacement to carburetor rebuilds to head gasket replacement on my own. I’m the millennial Rosie the Riveter with a fucking iPhone.”
“I know you are, and I love you for it. Thank god one of us doesn’t look at anything mechanical that’s broken and go ‘it seems to run on some sort of electricity’.”
“Easy there, Captain America,” she laughed, catching his joke. “I’m hardly Tony Stark in this scenario. The only reason I can work on my car is that it has this distinctive lack of an onboard computer.”
“You’re better than I am.” Rafael stepped past his other half and pulled an envelope from his sock drawer. “So many people are writing books about this administration that you’ll want to read that I didn’t know where to start. So I’ll let you pick,” he admitted when she pulled the Amazon gift card from the envelope.
“It’s almost like you’re trying to inspire me back into journalism for my birthday.”
“Maybe I am. Then again, maybe I’m giving you the ability to make your student loan payments and buy all of these books you want to read. If one of those books inspires you…”
“You won’t turn down my re-entry into journalism.” Liz tossed her head back and forth a few times before looking down at the card again. “It’s like you know what I secretly want or something.”
“Do I? You’ve never said,” he joked, bumping his hip against hers.
She rolled her eyes and kissed him on the cheek anyway. “Erika Girardi, well Erika Jayne has a book coming out soon. Don’t judge me when I buy that in the same order as Michael Wolf and James Comey.”
“Wait… Erika Girardi as in…”
“The wife of the guy that sued Pacific Gas & Electric, the case that was the inspiration for Erin Brockovich ? Yes. She is a fearless bitch. I will follow her example until the bitter end.”
“Including marrying a much older lawyer?”
“Cut their age difference in half. But she’s still awesome. And unless I missed something, you and I don’t have any plans to get married.”
“If I asked?” he inquired as she made her way into the kitchen to pour drinks.
“I can’t say that I’d say no. But I can say that I have no plans on becoming a pop star.” She sighed in relief as she popped her back. “But I have no problem being in stockings, a garter belt, and lingerie in the event of a shitty day.”
“It’s the case again, isn’t it?” she inquired a few weeks later.
He rubbed his eyes tiredly and motioned for her to sit down beside him. When she did, he took her hand and put it between both of his.
“Have you ever thought about leaving? There’s all sorts of lawyering you could do that might even pay better.”
“And just what do you suggest I do, oh wise one?”
“It’s got to be tough leaving a job you’ve had since the Stone Age, but there’s private practice…”
“Been there, done that.”
“Or teaching,” she offered without missing a beat. “If you found the right program that not only knew what a gift they were being offered but was willing to work with you? With your resumé, you could have a good amount of say in writing your ticket in academia.”
Rafael lifted his glass of scotch and relaxed against the back of the sofa. “So do you have a ‘law school friend’ like you have a ‘designer dress in a pinch’ friend?”
“Maybe. And just maybe that’s a call I’ve never made. But y’know, just keep making fun of me.”
“And you’ll do what exactly?”
“I don’t exactly know yet, but you won’t like it.”
“ I have a voicemail from the dean of G.W.U.’s law school on my phone that mentions you by name and a resume I might be interested in submitting. ”
Liz’s chuckle was drowned out by the mechanical clicking of the currency counter in her bank vault. She picked her phone up from the top of the cumbersome coin machine. “ Yay! Rick said he was gonna call. So when should be expecting your email? ”
“ Rick? You know Richard Vinick well enough to call him Rick? ”
“ Considering he promised to: reject Satan, all his works, all his empty promises, and everything else Michael Corleone crossed his fingers about in the baptism scene in ‘The Godfather’? Yes. I do have a ‘law school friend’. ”
“ And if I knew he was your godfather, I would have submitted my resume on my own without attaching your name to it... ”
“ You’ll thank me when you get the job...whatever it is that he’s offering. ”
“ Elizabeth… ”
“ He offers things that end in ‘tenure’.”
“And just what are you going to do if I wind up moving?”
“They have other non-lawyer jobs in D.C. last I checked. They definitely have jobs at WaPo. ” She set her phone down long enough to pull two thousand in twenties off of the counter and strap them together. As the machine whirred and counted the next two thousand, she managed to locate and send the gif from Legally Blonde of Elle Woods tilting her head and saying “What...like it’s hard?”.
“ Packing up and leaving is hard. I know that you know that. I couldn’t ask you to. ”
“ 1 — I love you. You don’t have to ask. If you got a job and left, I would go. 2 — WaPo would be a dream job. 3 — WIthout me, you’d just revert to type and live off of takeout just as I’ve finally figured out how not to burn toast. ”