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Begin Again

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Olivia sighs as she approaches Forlini’s. She shouldn’t be so surprised that Peter chose this place to meet. It’s close to the courthouse and has good food and a quiet atmosphere. It’s perfect for working on their case. But still, this had been their spot. She tended to avoid it as much as possible because it made avoiding her feelings that much easier.

Still, she’d finally agreed to meet Stone here, so she quickens her step slightly and ducks into the bar. The sooner she can get out of this, the sooner she can go home to Noah and continue pretending to forget that her once best friend had so effortlessly forgotten her.

She steps into the bar and finds Stone in a booth. At least he’d stop sitting in his spot. She slides in, orders her usual, and they set to work going over details for their case. Though the first few weeks had admittedly been rocky, they can work together now with what Live describes as a “comfortable coldness.”

They get the job done, at least.

They’re about an hour in when Peter looks past Olivia’s shoulder and his eyes go wide. “You know, we can probably finish this tomorrow morning,” he says, looking back to her with an unreadable expression.

She raises an eyebrow. “What? But we’re—“ She hears a familiar voice then, calling to the bartender, and she pauses. Stone looks at her almost... sheepishly? It’s not a good look on him. Liv sets her jaw and finally looks over her shoulder. And when she sees him, time seems to slow down.

Olivia had realized she was in love with Rafael far too late. The day he told her she brought color to his life is what had cemented it. But by then he moved on. From the DA’s office, from the city, from her. He stopped answering texts. His phone went right to voicemail. And so she moved on too. They all moved on. Or they tried to, at least.

But now, staring at Rafael Barba as he settles into his usual spot in their usual bar... it all comes flooding back. The friendship, the love, and the hurt.

Mostly the hurt.

She looks back to Stone and nods. “Tomorrow then,” she says. “Um... thanks.” It’s only when she’s sliding out of the booth that she realizes with dread she’ll have to settle her bill at the bar. Any hope for slipping out unnoticed flies out the window. So after taking a moment to ready herself, she steps up to the other end of the bar from him and waves down the bartender.

He doesn’t notice her right away, and she thinks maybe she’ll be able to make a getaway after all when the bartender returns her card and the receipt. “You have a nice evening, Miss Benson,” he says kindly. “It’s good seeing you again.”

She gives a tight-lipped smile and nods once, and she can feel his eyes boring into her then. She turns to leave anyway, tries to pretend she doesn’t notice him and hurries outside when a hand catches her elbow from the door.


Olivia sighs and stops in her tracks. She turns to face him and a lump swells in her throat immediately. “Rafael.”

It’s silent between them for a moment, uncomfortable. And then he steps out after her and it’s just them on the sidewalk, and he’s staring at her, and she doesn’t know whether to hit him or hug him.

“So... you’re back,” she finally says awkwardly.

“I’m— yeah, I’m back,” he says. “I... I’m sorry.”

Liv huffs and rolls her eyes. “‘Sorry?’ That’s it? That’s all I get?”

Rafael frowns and rubs the back of his neck. “I meant to call you. I just— I had to—”

“I know,” Olivia interjects, and she can’t help the bitterness that seeps into her words. “You had to deal with what happened. You had to come to terms with it. I know that. I just... You said you had to move on, Rafael, but I didn’t think that meant from...” she hesitates.

She wants to say “From me, from the people who care about you, from everything you said and everything we could have had. You can’t just tell someone they changed your life and then leave, you moron!”

What she says instead is, “From... everything.”

Rafael frowns. “I never meant to hurt you,” he says, and damn him for being able to read her like an open book. He takes a step closer, puts a hand on her arm. “It’s the last thing I ever wanted.”

Olivia huffs. "Look, I can take it,” she says, shaking his hand off. She tries not to notice the hurt that flashes across his face. “I'm a big girl and I can handle heartache. You had to move on and so did I." She shoves her hands in her pockets and scowls. "But I'm not the only one you hurt."

"Liv, I--"

"Stop. Just... For once, Rafael, listen." She sighs and watches him for a moment as he ducks his head. She vaguely wonders if that’s shame that crosses his face, but she doesn’t spend too long on the thought.

It's hard to look at him now, this man who used to be her best friend, but a million thoughts and possibilities flit across her mind and she finds it even more difficult to look away.

The words come then, before she can stop them. "You left all of us,” she says. “The team, your family... Rafa, you hurt us. That includes my son."

Rafael snaps his head up, starts to say something when Olivia shakes her head. "Don't," She cautions. Her voice comes out little more than a whisper now, trying her best to press on despite the lump in her throat. "My son, my whole world, asked if Uncle Rafa was mad at him and that's why we couldn't see him anymore. And when I told him no, that sometimes people just have to go away for a little while, my six year old son looked at me and he told me it was okay, that he was used to it now. And that broke my heart more than you disappearing ever did."

Rafael sets his jaw and Olivia can see tears shining in his eyes, and her first instinct is to comfort him, but she squashes it immediately. "I... I'm sorry, Olivia," he says again, and she can hear his voice on the edge of breaking. "I never meant--"

"I know you didn't," she interjects. "And I know it wasn’t about me, but that's what happened. I’ll recover eventually. So will my team. But my son? That's going to take a lot of work."

She swipes at her eyes angrily, mentally cursing herself for breaking like this. “I have to go,” she finally says. “Welcome back, I guess.”