“I’m you, Liv,” Rafael Barba says, staring deeply at Olivia Benson.
“And?” Liv is standing closer to Rafael than she ever has. Their hands are brushing up against each other.
“I don’t want to let that go, I don’t want to let you go,” he answers. “I need you in my life, Liv.”
“Then don’t go,” she pleads. “Stay with me and we can figure this all out together.”
“I don’t know what I want to do, where I want to go with my life,” Rafael is flustered at this point, thinking about his future. “What am I going to do?”
“We’ll figure it out, Rafa, I promise.” Olivia grabs his hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze. “You’ll figure this out, you’re the smartest man I have ever known.”
With that, the two walk away arm in arm. Rafael feels a comfort in Olivia’s presence, he sighs quietly but Olivia still notices and smiles at him to let him know it really will be okay. She knows it will be. She believes in Rafael more than anyone, he’s an incredible man who is capable of growing and thriving. He just needs someone to show him he has value, that he’s worthy. On the other side of this, Rafael’s mind is reeling. What will I do now? He thinks to himself, Who am I outside of a courtroom? What am I? He shakes his head as if it to get rid of the thought entirely. All he focuses is on is the moment he’s in, with Olivia.
The next day, Rafael shows up to Olivia’s early in the morning. “Time to get to work on this resume, I guess,” he trudges in, removing his shoes and jacket. “How do I put ‘was acquitted of killing a baby that was already legally dead’ to explain why I left my very good position as ADA?”
Olivia shoots him a glare from the kitchen, “Rafa, you can’t be so hard on yourself. That was a hard case for you. It hit way too close to home.” She walks over to him and puts her hand on his bicep to comfort him. “You did the right thing, Rafa.”
Rafael looks up at her and their eyes lock. “I just don’t know what I am going to do, Liv.” Tears are in his eyes and his lower lip is quivering. Olivia pulls him into a tight hug and lets him cry it out on her shoulder. She soothes him with a continuous mantra, “It’s going to be okay, Rafa. You’re going to be okay.” Rafael settles down after a few minutes. Olivia takes his face in her hands and wipes the tears from his cheeks. His face has become scruffy in the days after the long trial. She traces the line of facial hair on his cheeks up to his ears. “Rafa, you are going to be amazing.” He nuzzles his cheek into her hand and smiles, breathing in deeply.
The two set up shop at the dining table while Noah plays in his room. Rafael stares at a blank word document on his laptop while Olivia searches for possible options for Rafael. “What about a Prisoners’ Rights Advocate?” she suggest scrolling through an article.
“I’m don’t know,” Rafael looks up and adds “I’m sure 85% of the prisoners hate me in New York.” Olivia lets out a chuckle and continues on searching. Rafael starts with a basic resume template, adding his overview and experience. He gets to references and pauses. No one is going to let me use them as a reference, he thinks to himself, furrowing his eyebrows at his laptop screen. I killed- No, I did what was right and I got acquitted. I did what was right. But still, I can’t get a job without references. He decides to come back to that, but can’t shake the feeling of guilt he’s been carrying since that night.
“What’s wrong?’ Olivia’s voice shakes him free from his thoughts. Rafael sighs and looks up over his glasses at Olivia.
“It’s nothing, just references. You know I can’t use anyone from the DA’s Office.” He sits back and stretches his arms up over his head.
“Use me,” Olivia says quickly.
“You? Can I do that? You’re my best friend, is that appropriate?” Rafael is warmed by her quick response. She didn’t even have to think about it. She never has to think about anything when it comes to helping him.
“Yeah, I don’t see why not,” she leans over onto the table a bit. “I promise to only say good things about you.”
“Oh? Like what?” Rafael teases her, looking for validation.
“Oh you know. How dedicated you are, how you’re able to adapt to any challenge. You’re headstrong but not stubborn. You really listen to people when they talk to you. And you’re honest. Punctual.” Olivia drones on, listing Rafael’s good traits.
“Well, I already knew all those things,” Rafael smirks and winks at his friend across the table. Olivia rolls her eyes and gets back to researching job possibilities. Rafael returns to his resume, compiling as much information about him that is relevant to the jobs he is applying for.
“I think I found it,” Olivia says an hour later. “This is something you’d be amazing at, and I think you’ll like it too!”
“What is it?” Rafael looks up and cocks his head to the side at her.
“A Violence Prevention Lobbyist,” she reads from the screen. “You’ll be lobbying for bills and causes that help fight sexual violence in New York. Rafa, this is it.”
“It sounds incredible. But Liv, they’ll--”
“Look into your past, I know. But you did the right thing. These people are compassionate, they’ll understand that. Plus you were acquitted!” Olivia interjects, knowing just what Rafael will say. Noah comes out of his room after a nap and shuffles into the room. “Hey sweet boy, how’d you sleep?”
“Great! It’s just never long enough,” Noah whines as he grabs his water bottle off of the counter.
“He must’ve gotten that laziness from you, Rafa,” Olivia darts her eyes over to him. Rafael’s mouth hangs open in shock.
“Oh no he didn't! I’ve never stayed over, he hasn’t seen the lengths I will go to sleep in!” Rafael exclaims in defense. Noah giggles from his mother’s lap. Rafael can’t help but smile at the boy, his laughter is contagious.
“What’re you guys doing anyway?” Noah asks.
“Rafa’s looking for a job, sweet boy,” Olivia responds to the question. “I think I found a good one!”
“I’ll apply, but I’m not getting my hopes up,” Rafael responds. “Now, what shall we do for dinner?”