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The Seven Not-So-Heavenly Virtues of Rafael Barba

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Kindness

 

Carisi bounced almost nervously on his feet and threw a look at Rollins, who managed to refrain from rolling her eyes, already knowing what he was going to say. “Barba’s not gonna be happy,” Carisi warned.

Rollins did roll her eyes at that. “Barba’s never happy,” she said dismissively.

It was only mostly true.

Certainly some cases and especially some victories made the ADA happier than others, but it was a relative scale. Besides, Rollins had never cared much what Barba thought.

Carisi, however, did care what Barba thought, far more than he would ever admit, and Rollins glanced at him as he smoothed a hand down the front of his waistcoat and fiddled with his pocket square.

Carisi had never worn a waistcoat or a pocket square before Barba.

In fact, Rollins was willing to bet that if it weren't for the ADA, Carisi would still be rocking not only the ill-fitting suits he’d worn when he first started at SVU but the world’s most regrettable mustache as well.

She should probably thank Barba for that one of those days.

The elevator dinged and the door slid open, and Carisi hesitated. “Ladies first,” he said, gesturing for Rollins to get off in front of him.

“Coward,” Rollins said, hiding a smile as she stepped in front of him and led the way to Barba’s office.

Carisi rolled his eyes but also didn’t deny it.

Carmen glanced up as they approached, her expression shifting from polite neutrality to something bordering on worry. “You don’t look like you’ve got good news,” she said.

“We don’t have bad news,” Carisi assured her.

“More like no news at all,” Rollins said with a sigh.

Carmen winced. “In this case, you know as well as I do that no news is bad news.”

Carisi winced as well. “That’s what I was afraid of,” he said gloomily, holding the door open and again gesturing for Rollins to go into Barba’s office first.

“Coward,” Rollins repeated, this time under her breath.

Not that it mattered, since Barba glanced up, his eyes narrowing as he took in the sight of the two detectives standing in his doorway. “Who’s a coward?” he asked mildly, leaning back in his seat, his feet propped up on his desk.

Rollins debated telling him the truth but decided against it. Some bonds were more important than others, and besides, Barba was undoubtedly going to yell at her partner regardless of what she said. “No one,” she said dismissively, making her way towards Barba’s desk and watching with something like amusement as Carisi seemed torn between hiding behind her and perching on his usual spot on Barba’s desk.

Evidently, she wasn’t alone in noticing that, as Barba raised both eyebrows as he looked at Carisi. “Problem, Detective?” he asked mildly.

Carisi blinked, looking like a deer in the headlights. “Uh, no,” he said, still standing half behind Rollins, his shoulders slumped as if he could make himself smaller. “Just, uh…” He trailed off, gulped, and decided to bite the bullet. “We come bearing bad news.”

Barba scowled. “Let me guess,” he sighed, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Your interrogations yielded absolutely nothing worthwhile, and now we’re back at square one with absolutely nothing to go on.”

Carisi shrugged. “Something like that, anyway,” he said, glancing worriedly at Barba as if concerned the other man was going to start shouting at him. “So, uh, what do you want us to do?”

“What do I want you to do?” Barba repeated, a dangerous edge to his voice, and Carisi seemed to shrink even further behind Rollins. But then Barba took a deep breath and sighed before fixing Carisi with a look that, if Barba were a very different person and Rollins didn’t value her life, she might actually consider gentle. “You of all people know exactly what I’m looking for,” Barba said. “Besides which, you’re a good detective and all the more so because of your law expertise. Trust your instincts, go back to the crime scene, and you’ll find something.”

Rollins glanced between Barba, who was still looking at Carisi with an almost soft expression on his face, and Carisi, who had stepped out from behind her and stood up just a little bit straighter, and bit back a laugh. As if realizing that Rollins was still there watching this whole thing, Barba cleared his throat and quickly added, “And bring me a case that I can actually prosecute.”

But nothing could dim Carisi’s smile as he nodded and told Barba, his voice pitched low, “Will do, Counselor.”

Then, with one last glance at Barba, he headed out, still grinning.

“That was almost nice of you, Counselor,” Rollins remarked, grinning as well. “You feeling alright?”

Barba rolled his eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he scoffed, though he couldn’t seem to muster his usual snark, even for this. “Now get out of my office and don’t come back until you have something I can use.”

“That’s more like it,” Rollins said, her grin widening, and followed Carisi out.

Carisi glanced at her. “What’re you smirking at?”

“Absolutely nothing,” Rollins told him. “Nothing at all.”

 

 

Charity

 

Rita Calhoun didn’t bother knocking on Barba’s office door before letting herself in. Twenty-plus years of friendship had earned her far too few perks, and the ability to go into his office whenever she felt like it was one of the few.

Barba glanced up, made a face, and looked back down at his casefile. “Go away.”

“Now, now,” Rita tutted, sitting down across from him. “Is that anyway to treat me when I’m here to invite you out for a drink? I’ll even pay for the first round.”

Barba glanced up again, his forehead creased in a scowl. “Who do you want to make a deal for?” he asked.

“I’m insulted by your insinuation,” Rita said, with something like a smirk. “Besides, for once I’m not representing anyone who you’re prosecuting.”

Barba’s eyes narrowed. “So what gossip are you hoping to get out of me, then?”

Rita put a hand over her heart in mock outrage. “Rafael, am I not allowed to just ask you to get a drink with me out of a desire to spend some quality time with one of my oldest friends?”

“You’re certainly allowed to,” Barba said evenly. “But you wouldn’t, and you aren’t.”

Rita laughed. “Fair enough,” she said easily. “And in any case, I wanted to know if you had heard anything about O’Dwyer’s divorce.”

Barba rolled his eyes so hard it looked painful. “I knew it,” he grumbled, already looked back down at the casefile in front of him. “Isn’t he a little old for you to be pursuing?”

“Who said anything about pursuing him?” Rita scoffed. “I just wanted to know how miserable of a mood he’s going to be in ahead of our pre-trial meeting on Thursday.”

“In that case, you’d be better off offering to buy him a drink than me,” Barba said dismissively. “Not, from what I hear, that it’ll do much good when his wife’s apparently threatening to keep both the apartment and the summer house in the Hamptons.”

“No,” Rita said, almost gleefully, even though that certainly didn’t bode well for her meeting with O’Dwyer to discuss a deal.

Barba shrugged nonchalantly. “Well, that’s what happens when you screw your assistant,” he murmured, marking something in the casefile. “Though you didn’t hear that from me.”

Rita’s grin sharpened. “Oh, I’m going to have a lot of fun with that,” she said. “Now, are you sure I can’t buy you a drink for your trouble?”

“As if I would ever turn down free alcohol,” Barba said with a smile of his own. “But in this case, I’m going to have to take a raincheck.”

“What, do you have better plans?” Rita asked, affronted.

“As a matter of fact, I do—” Barba started, but he was cut off by his office door opening and Det. Carisi poking his head in.

His eyes widened when he saw Rita sitting there, and Rita smirked. “Of course,” she said pleasantly, glancing back at Barba, who was scowling again. “I should have known.”

Carisi glanced between them. “Barba was, uh, just gonna help me study for the Bar,” he said, almost cautiously. “But if it’s a bad time, I can come back—”

“No, no,” Rita assured him, standing. “I was just on my way out.” She gave Barba a beatific smile, unsurprised when he avoided making eye contact with her. “Always good of you to help someone in need, Rafael. I look forward to hearing all about it later.”

“Goodbye Rita,” Barba said pointedly and Rita’s smirk widened.

She glanced at Carisi and took a step closer to him, just this side of too close, as she knew that nothing would piss Barba off more. “Enjoy yourself, Detective,” she said, her voice practically a purr, and she could all but hear Barba scowling behind her. “Have a good night, you two.”

With that, she let herself out of Barba’s office, pausing before closing the door after herself. “Do I even wanna know?” Carisi asked, settling into her now vacant seat, and Barba rolled his eyes.

“Trust me,” he said dryly, “you really, really don’t. Now, let’s get back to where we left off — mass torts, wasn’t it?”

Rita felt her smile soften as she finally let the door close behind her. Now she had a piece of gossip even better than O’Dwyer’s divorce proceedings.

After all, who would ever believe that Rafael Barba would stoop so low as to help the hapless SVU detective in studying for the Bar?

 

 

Temperance

 

Carmen watched as Det. Carisi made his way from her boss’s office and sighed, glancing at the clock on her computer and mentally counting the seconds as they ticked by.

Sure enough, almost exactly thirty seconds later, Barba came out of his office, box of Italian pastries in hand. “Det. Carisi brought these,” he told Carmen, setting the box on her desk. “You should have one.”

“Pretty sure he brought them for you—” Carmen started, but Barba ignored her, heading back inside his office, closing the door behind him.

Carmen sighed.

This had been going on for weeks now, and if her boss kept foisting Carisi’s misguided pastries on her, she was going to have to go up a dress size. Which didn’t really bother her, except that it looked like Barba had probably lost more weight than what Carmen had gained.

And that worried her.

If there was one thing Carmen knew about Barba, it was that he didn’t eat when he was stressed. It was a lesson she’d learned over the years, and she’d taken great care in navigating his moods and getting him to eat at the right times so that he wasn’t living on coffee and scotch alone.

And, not to toot her own horn, but as Carmen helped herself to a cannoli, she had to admit she’d done an admirable job.

Up until a few weeks ago at least.

Just when she’d finally gotten Barba back onto some semblance of a schedule, just when the lingering pall that the death threats had cast had finally cleared up, Carisi had to go and almost get himself shot.

Well, that wasn’t entirely fair, but Carmen had been eating a lot of sugar recently and the sugar had apparently made her crabby.

Nonetheless, it was true: ever since Carisi had almost been shot by Tom Cole, Barba’s stress had been off the charts, and his eating habits summarily worse.

Not that Carmen could blame him.

She sighed and took another bite of cannoli, just as Carisi reappeared, apparently having doubled-back, and she choked on the bite of pastry. Carisi’s expression fell as he saw the box sitting on her desk. “Problem with the cannoli?” he asked, and Carmen hastily swallowed.

“Not at all,” she said with forced levity. “They’re delicious.”

Carisi gave her a look. “Then why isn’t Barba eating them?”

Carmen stared at him, panicked. “He’s, um, on a diet.”

“A diet,” Carisi repeated dubiously. “And why, may I ask, is Barba on a diet?” His dubious expression slipped into a scowl. “He looks fine the way he is.”

Carmen tactfully chose not to respond to that. “You know, I really don’t know why he’s on a diet,” she said lightly, though she couldn’t quite stop herself from adding, “But maybe you should tell Mr. Barba that.”

Carisi was quiet for a moment before sighing and running a hand across his face. “Barba doesn’t really want to hear anything from me anymore,” he muttered.

“Oh?” Carmen asked, her interest piqued.

“Yeah,” Carisi said, starting at Barba’s closed office door, his expression unreadable. “Not since I turned down the ADA position in Brooklyn.”

He sounded crestfallen, almost defeated, and Carmen sighed. She was tempted, so tempted to just tell him, tell him what she could see that Carisi either couldn’t — or wouldn’t — see: that Barba was worried, so worried that he wasn’t eating, not even the delicious cannoli that Carisi brought; that Barba had wanted Carisi to take the job in Brooklyn half because he thought Carisi would make a great ADA (even if he’d never admit it out loud), but also half because he wanted to keep Carisi safe.

Safe from another incident like Tom Cole.

Safe from the possibility of losing him.

But more than anything, Barba valued Carmen’s discretion above all else and so she said none of that, instead telling Carisi gently, “Give him time. He’ll come around.”

“Do you think?” Carisi asked, almost hopefully, and Carmen nodded.

“Yeah,” she said. “I know it.”

“Thanks,” Carisi told her. Carmen picked up the box of cannoli from her desk and offered it to him, and he shook his head. “Nah,” he said, “I really shouldn’t.”

“C’mon,” Carmen said, her tone turning wheedling. “Don’t make me eat alone.”

Carisi laughed and shook his head, before grabbing a cannoli. “Fine,” he relented, before adding through a mouthful of cannoli, “You know, I’m gonna get fat if I keep eating these.”

“You and me both,” Carmen groused, helping herself to a second cannoli. “You and me both.”

 

 

Patience

 

“We find the defendant not guilty.”

The victim, a young woman seated next to Fin, let out a soft cry, and Fin winced.

He’d never been as good at this as Olivia had, but the Lieu was out for the day with Noah, leaving Fin to take her place in the courtroom, and leaving him to offer what comfort he could. He patted her shoulder comfortingly, watching as Barba, straight-backed, jaw clenched, unceremoniously stuffed a few papers into his briefcase.

Then he turned and made eye contact with Fin, who shrugged.

It was a hard loss.

It had been a hard case.

Fin knew that as well as anyone, but Barba still looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders as he made his way over. “I’m sorry,” he offered in an undertone to the woman, who nodded, even though she couldn’t quite speak yet.

Together, the three of them walked out of the courtroom, joined by Carisi, who met them outside. “I heard,” he said shortly, sharing a look with Barba before turning to the victim, reaching out and gently resting a hand on her arm. “And hey, I’m so sorry — but you got to face the bastard in court, and you got to tell the world what he did. And no one can take that away from you.”

Though she nodded, they were interrupted by a harsh voice. “A fat lot of good that did,” someone snapped, and Fin winced, recognizing the voice: the woman’s father, who had tried to argue against pressing charges in the first place. “You pushed her into this and now, what does she have to show for it?”

“Dad, it’s ok—” she started, but her father shook his head, stepping up to Barba and jabbing a finger at him.

“This is your fault,” he growled. “How could you let that bastard get away with it? After talking her into pressing charges — you should have just let it go! My girl’s been through enough, but no , you had to drag her through a trial, had to force her to relive that night over and over again—”

His voice rose with frustration and anger, and he jabbed his finger against Barba’s chest. In an instant, Carisi was there, grabbing the father’s arm and twisting it behind his back. “That’s enough,” he snarled, yanking the man away from Barba, who sighed.

“Carisi, it’s fine—” he started, but the father yanked his arm out of Carisi’s grip and stormed off down the hallway.

“I’ll deal with him,” Carisi said grimly, his jaw set, and he followed after him before Barba could protest.

The young woman shook her head. “I’m sorry for him,” she offered, and Barba shook his head and gave her a tight smile.

“You have nothing to apologize for,” he assured her, and she nodded and trailed after Carisi and her father. Barba turned back to Fin and sighed. “Carisi shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “The man just needed to get it off his chest. He’s not a threat. Besides…” He sighed again and shook his head. “He’s not wrong.”

Fin gave him a look. “After everything, Counselor, good luck convincing Carisi that guy wasn’t a threat,” he said. “Besides, after all this time you should know better than to take it personally. There was nothing you could’ve done.”

Barba huffed a dry, humorless laugh. “If I don’t take it personally, who will?” he mused. “That girl was denied her chance at justice, and she deserves to know that I care about more than my win record.” He paused and stared off down the hallway where Carisi had disappeared. “Besides, there’s always something more I could have done.”

Fin opened his mouth to protest, but Barba cut him off before he could, straightening his tie and squaring his shoulders. “In any case, time to go face the firing squad,” he said wryly before heading towards the doors and press inevitably waiting on the courthouse steps to talk about his latest loss.

Sighing, Fin started after him, joined halfway to the doors by Carisi, who was scowling. “What, did the dad get a way?” Fin teased lightly.

Carisi shook his head. “I decided not to charge him with assaulting an ADA,” he growled, his jaw set. “Barba shouldn’t have to deal with that shit.”

“I know,” Fin said heavily. “But you made the right call.” He clapped Carisi on the shoulder. “Now come on. We’re missing his press conference, and I know how you love to watch Barba at a press conference.”

Carisi managed a laugh. “Well, you’re not wrong,” he started, but before he could say anything more, there was the unmistakable sound of gunshots from outside the courthouse, and all the blood drained from Carisi’s face. “Barba,” he said instantly, before sprinting toward the doors, Fin close behind, both their guns drawn.

“Barba!” Carisi shouted, half-panicked, almost tripping down the steps in his haste, and Barba looked up, relief clear in his ashen face.

“I’m fine,” he said instantly, letting Carisi haul him to his feet. “The perp — he ran. To the right.”

“I got it,” Fin said, more to Barba than to Carisi, since it was clear that Carisi was in no shape to chase after anyone, his gun trembling in his hand.

He started in that direction and Barba’s voice stopped him in his tracks. “Sgt. Tutuola.” He glanced back at Barba. “I’m fine. No was injured. Keep that in mind when apprehending the perp.”

Carisi glared at him but Fin just nodded before sprinting in the direction the gunman had fled.

He was more than happy to leave Barba and his seemingly infinite patience to deal with Carisi. He had a gunman to apprehend, and despite what Barba said, he had no qualms about using any force necessary to do so.

 

 

Chastity

 

Olivia sighed and took her reading glasses off, already anticipating another late night. Between the shooting just a few days ago and both Carisi and Barba taking a few days off, things had started piling up, and while Liv certainly couldn’t blame either of them, she couldn’t help but hope that things go back to normal soon.

She picked up her cup of coffee and frowned down at it, trying to remember when she finished it. With a sigh, she stood and made her way toward the breakroom to get more coffee.

Halfway there, she caught sight of Carisi in the breakroom and she paused. She hadn’t realized he was planning on coming in today and almost called out to him before she saw who he was with and realization hit.

Barba was coming in to make an official ID of the gunman.

Olivia hesitated, torn between wanting to say something and not wanting to interrupt as Carisi spoke to Barba in a low tone, his hands resting lightly on Barba’s arms, when her decision was made for her as Carisi took a step closer and kissed Barba’s forehead.

The move was soft, and sweet, and surprisingly intimate, and Olivia watched as Barba smiled up at Carisi. “What was that for?” he asked, just loud enough for Olivia to hear him.

“Just because,” Carisi said simply. “You’re braver than you know.”

Barba’s expression softened, but before he say anything, Carisi bent his head and kissed Barba, reaching up to cradle Barba’s jaw with his hands.

The kiss was over almost as soon as it began, Barba pushing Carisi away with a laugh. “Not here,” he scolded. “Save it for later.”

But there was a quiet understanding that seemed to pass between the two men, and Olivia had the sudden feeling that she was intruding on a private moment, a moment she wasn’t meant to witness, and she turned and headed back to her office.

She sat down at her desk and put her reading glasses back on, and she couldn’t quite stop the smile that crossed her face.

She hadn’t gotten the coffee that she had been after, but based on the warmth that spread through her as she thought of Barba and Carisi together in the breakroom, she’d found something far better.

 

 

Humility

 

Fr. Michael sighed heavily as he made his way into his office. Another long night at Confession, and he glanced at the clock hanging next to the crucifix on his wall. With any luck, he’d be able to catch the last few innings of the game.

A knock sounded on his door and Fr. Michael turned. “Can I help—” he started before stopping abruptly, recognizing the man who stood in his doorway.

They had never met, but Fr. Michael felt like he knew the man in front of him very well indeed.

“Rafael Barba,” he said, and if Barba was surprised that Fr. Michael recognized him, he didn’t show it. “Where’s Det. Carisi?”

“On a stakeout in Harlem,” Barba said, stepping into Fr. Michael’s office, his hands in the pockets of his coat.

Fr. Michael looked at him evenly. “And does he know that you’re here?”

Barba managed a small smile. “Not so much, no.”

Nodding, Fr. Michael took a seat at his desk and gestured for Barba to sit across from him. “In that case, what can I do for you, Mr. Barba?”

“Please, call me Rafael,” Barba said easily, sitting down and crossing one leg over the other.

“Ok,” Fr. Michael said, sitting back in his chair. “So Rafael, what can I do for you?”

Barba’s smile faded somewhat. “Do you know, it’s been years since I set foot in a church, let alone spoke to a priest?”  

He said it almost rhetorically, but Fr. MIchael nodded. “Based on what Det. Carisi told me, I’m not surprised by that,” he said. “So I imagine it’s taken quite a lot to bring you in here.”

“You might say that,” Barba muttered.

“And I’m sure God’s quite glad to see you back,” Fr. Michael said baldly. “After all, he who humbles himself before the Lord—”

“Oh, I didn't come here to humble myself," Barba said, his smile sharp as he glanced up at the crucifix hanging on the wall. "Humility's never been my strong suit, and in any case, He and I made our peace long ago." He looked back at Fr. Michael. "Besides, I didn't come here for me."

Fr. Michael nodded again. “Det. Carisi?” he asked, even though he didn’t need to. “How is he?”

Barba shrugged. “As well as can be expected,” he said.

“That’s good to hear,” Fr. Michael told him, honestly. “It’s been a few months since I’ve seen him.”

“I know,” Barba said quietly. “Which is why I’m here.” He hesitated as if figuring out what to say, but this time, Fr. Michael didn’t need to interrupt, letting the other man gather his thoughts. Then Barba sighed and looked at him closely. “Carisi still believes,” he said. “He still has faith, and I don’t...I honestly don’t know how he does the job he does and still finds it in him to believe. But…” He trailed off and shook his head. “It’s been hard for him, and understandably so, since he stopped going to Mass. He misses it.”

Fr. Michael nodded slowly. “For what it’s worth, he’s missed as well.”

Something tightened in Barba’s expression. “I know that,” he said. “I’m just not sure that Sonny does.” He paused and shook his head. “I don’t...faith has never been important to me. When I realized that the Church would never accept me for who I was, I left. But Sonny — he needs the Church still. He needs to believe because it’s what makes him the incredible, kind, amazing man that he is, that ability to still believe.”

Fr. Michael sat forward, resting his elbows on the top of his desk. “So what do you need from me?” he asked quietly. “Because I can’t make him come back. Not before he’s ready.”

“I need you to believe in him.”

Barba delivered the words simply, easily, and the stark declaration hit Fr. Michael in the gut. “I need — no, he needs someone to hold out hope for him, to keep believing.” Barba levelled a look at him. “And when he does come back, he needs your understanding, and your acceptance. Not your judgment.”

“It was never my judgment,” Fr. Michael said quietly.

Barba’s eyes narrowed. “That’s a distinction I’m not sure Sonny cares about right now.”

Fr. Michael shook his head. “And it’s not a distinction he needs to care about. But it’s...it’s a distinction that I’ve been coming to terms with, ever since he left.”

Barba nodded slowly, understanding slowly dawning across his expression. “Good,” he said, standing and smoothing the front of his coat. “That’s all I ask.”

Fr. Michael looked up at him, surprised. “That’s really all you came here for?” he asked, hurrying to stand as well, feeling oddly out of sorts.

Shrugging, Barba put his hands in his pockets. “I can’t make him come back either,” he said. “I just know that he still needs this. And it’s my job — as someone who loves him very much — to make sure that when he does come back, it’s not to get his heart broken again.”

There was a not-so-subtle warning in Barba’s tone, and Fr. Michael’s expression softened. “And I can promise that I have no intention of letting that happen.” Barba nodded and turned to leave. “Oh, and Rafael?” Barba paused and Fr. Michael gave him a measured look before telling him, "Blessed are the peacemakers—"

"—For they shall be called the children of God," Barba finished, a little surprised, before a small half-smile lifted the corners of his mouth. "Great, another parental figure to inevitably disappoint me." Fr. Michael laughed and Barba's smile widened. "Have a good night, Father."

Fr. Michael watched Barba walk away before slowly sitting back down at his desk. He hesitated before opening the top drawer of his desk and carefully lifting out the Rosary that Carisi had left on the pew all those months ago.

He hesitated once more, even though he knew what he needed to do.

Or more accurately, what he wanted to do — what his faith was telling him to do.

And so he slipped the Rosary into the pocket of his cassock.

Just in case.

 

 

Diligence

 

John Buchanan sighed and rubbed his forehead. His latest client was a complete and utter sack of shit, and as much as it pained Buchanan to lose, he was tempted to take a poor deal just to send the bastard to prison for a very long time.

Not that he’d ever admit that, of course.

It was unethical, and besides, Buchanan had more pride than that.

Of course, the idiot ADA who had stepped in while Barba was on his honeymoon would probably give him a softball deal anyway, and—

Buchanan brightened as he glanced at his desk calendar.

Barba was back from his honeymoon.

And Buchanan owed him a belated wedding gift (in addition to the particularly nice standing mixer he’d sent, with a note that he hoped Det. Carisi could make good use of it).

He grabbed his phone and dialed Barba’s cell, already smirking as he heard it ring. “This had better be good,” Barba said in lieu of a greeting, and Buchanan’s smirk widened.

“Why, Rafael, I assumed you’d be in a good mood after two weeks off of work with nothing to do but, well, your husband.”

He could practically hear Barba roll his eyes on the other end. “Classy as always, John,” Barba said dryly. “Now what could you possibly want on my first day back from my honeymoon?”

“I have a client I think you’d be interested in taking a deal on,” Buchanan said.

Barba was quiet for a moment. “And you’re offering this to me...why?”

Buchanan grinned. “Consider it a welcome home present.”

“You know that I trust you about as far as I can throw you, right?”

Chuckling, Buchanan sat back in his chair. “You wouldn’t be a good prosecutor if you didn’t,” he said comfortably. “So what do you think? Can you squeeze me in on your busy calendar to discuss a deal?”

Barba was silent again. “Maybe,” he said finally, a little distractedly. “Send the files over to my office and I’ll take a look. Now John, as fun as this has been, I have to go. My husband’s waiting for me.”

“What?” Buchanan asked, mock-hurt. “Your honeymoon has really changed you, Rafael. It used to be that there was nothing more important to you than work—”

Barba hung up and Buchanan laughed, setting his phone back down on his desk.

He glanced at the clock and stretched languidly.

A morning well spent, as far as Buchanan was concerned.

And besides, there was a small part of him, even if he’d never admit to anyone, including Barba — especially Barba — that couldn’t help but feel just a little content that Rafael Barba, workaholic to the extreme, had finally found something more important than work.

If Barba could manage it, then maybe there was hope for the rest of them.